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BLUE BIRD BRUNCH plus a Le Creuset giveaway

Is there anything better than a warm weather brunch? The sun is out, every one is in a good mood, the champagne is flowing – it’s just magic all around. As you know, I love any (and all) excuses to throw a get together and hosting a brunch around a fabulous new serving dish is right up my alley. This weekend it was all about this gorgeous new Fleur Cocotte from Le Creuset.

Normally, I am very minimal and utilitarian about my dishes, but there is something about the embossed flowers on the lid and base of the cocotte that I couldn’t resist. Plus, it has a lovely matte finish that makes me feel all sexy and European when I am cooking.

IN FACT, I love it so much we are going to GIVE ONE AWAY!! Hop on over to @Lauren_Kelp and enter to win.

That way we can be cooking twinzies and make all sorts of delicious fun things in our fancy new Fleur Cocotte

Speaking of delicious things, have you tried a carrot ginger soup? Sister, I am hooked! We made one a few months ago and they have been on steady repeat ever since. I love this recipe (don’t worry, it’s below) because it’s light, fresh, super good for you, and wildly easy to make. PLUS, it is a dream for entertaining. It’s pretty and tasty – what could be better?

Keep scrollin’ on down for the recipe…

CARROT & GINGER SOUP
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Recipe type: SOUP
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 pound carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives
Instructions
  1. Heat ½ cup broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in ginger, carrots, potato and remaining broth and heat to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  4. In batches, carefully puree in a blender.
  5. Add water or broth if needed to thin to desired consistency.
  6. Reheat soup if necessary. Stir in lemon juice and garnish with chives.

Are you convinced yet that you need the Fleur Cocotte in your life? Don’t forget to head over to @Lauren_Kelp for your chance to win one! Giveaway is open to US only (sorry!) and we will be picking the winner tomorrow!

SHOP THE BRUNCH

thank you Le Creuset for sponsoring this post. all thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own

BIG GIRL SITE someone got a fancy new makeover

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There comes a time in every website’s life when the bubble-gummed & bootstrapped, “I did it myself!” look no  longer cuts it. We had one of those moments at the end of 2015 & decided that if we were going to be taken seriously as website full of thoughtful living pieces, entertaining tips, and killer cocktails, it’s time we started looking the part!

So, like every good creative, we decided to re-create ourself. We ditched the blog-like layout, changed our color palette, revamped the home page, & swapped out our flats for a shiny new pair of gold metallic wedges.

HERE ARE SOME FUN NEW THINGS TO EXPLORE:

– Recipes to impress your Mother-in-Law

– EXPLORE categories

– Meet the team in our ABOUT section

– Easter entertaining essentials

Shout out to the web design wizards, Kelly & Andra of With Grace and Gold. They are fabulous design unicorns that dreamt up the new website look and executed it like a dream. While not only a joy to work with, these girls are freakishly talented and very well priced. If you are in the market for branding, website design, or brand strategy, I couldn’t recommend anyone else more highly!


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SUMMER ROOFTOP DINNER PARTY

ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0041Howdy, folks! Lauren here and I don’t know about you, but I feel like our Summer days are numbered. Not that I am sad to see the sticky summer days go, but I will miss the lazy afternoons spent on rooftops, taking in the sights, nowhere else to be but with your friends drinking rosé.

Chicago is full of rooftop decks that are in prime form in the summer. A nice city breeze, great people watching, not to mention a killer view whilst grilling. It’s basically the best way to dine outside with friends while drinking and eating all you want with you friends. So, that’s exactly what we did!
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Schedules are nuts in the summer, so the promise of good food and a rooftop hang usually helps people clear their schedules pretty quick. We rounded up some good friends, asked them to bring their favorite adult beverage, and gave them the address for where to meet us.
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We whipped up a few of our favorite low-key, slam-dunk meals and picked up some protein to throw on the grill from Whole Foods. Plus, we found these ADORABLE eco-friendly bamboo plates and silverware from Whole Foods and they are perfect for a picnic or a no-cleanup dinner party (which is totally something I can get behind). ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0013ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0015

Casual get-togethers are my absolute favorite. You round up whatever bowl, pan, or serving container can hold your dish and somehow it all comes together looking fabulous. Grab some dollar store candles, your favorite blooms, and set a table with love and full of friends and you can’t beat it!
3ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0025ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS00304I look like I am about to devour him, but let’s just take a moment to check out my hubs. I mean, such a hunk!ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS00455ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0039So, there you have it! Nothing beats a good rooftop dinner party hang with great friends. Grab a night (probably soon), text your friends, and make it happen. Summer is coming to a close and you should probably have a least a few of these rooftop dinners under your belt.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be fancy, it just has to be honest. When you throw a get together, tag us! We would love to see your dinner and celebrate the good times with you.

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THE PERFECT SUMMER SLIDERS: THREE WAYS

sliders0003Hello, summer people! Hopefully your weekend was full of friends, good food, and lots of summer fun. We’ve been crushing these summer sliders are season long and thought it was high time we share out favorite combos with you. Get ready for the BAT (Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato), the Pulled Pork, and, of course, the Classic Slider! Mix, match, have a slider bar – go crazy!

sliders0002INGREDIENTS FOR PULLED PORK:

pulled pork (we’ve got the perfect recipe!)

– pickled radish

– spicy barbeque sauce

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INGREDIENTS FOR B(acon)-A(vocado)-T(omato):

– peppered bacon

– avocado

– heirloom tomato

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INGREDIENTS FOR THE CLASSIC SLIDER

-grilled ground beef patty

-cheddar cheese

-stone ground mustard

-iceberg lettuce

-red onion

-heirloom tomato

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THE PERFECT SUMMER STRAWBERRY SALAD

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 Hello, hello, & Happy Monday! Hoping you all had a wonderful weekend full of fabulous summer things. If you are like us and constantly wanting to be outside in the summer, it helps to have a few recipes in your back pocket for quick beach snacks, summer potlucks, or outdoor dinner parties. No one wants to spend time in the kitchen, especially in the summer, so we’ve whipped up this easy, breezy summer salad & it will make your heart sing it’s so good!
It’s the perfect summer strawberry salad as it’s main ingredients are your favorite summer fruits! Add a bit of mint, a hint of this, and a dash of that & voila! You look like a total health nut and a pro because it only took you 15 minutes to whip up this delicious dish. Enjoy & tag us if you try it!

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INGREDIENTS:

– Juice from 3 lemons
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
– 1 large handful (~15-20 leaves) fresh basil, chopped
– 1 medium sized watermelon
– 2 lbs strawberries

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INSTRUCTIONS:

– In a large mixing bowl, mix lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.
– Add basil and muddle.
– Cut watermelon into small cubes and halve strawberries
– Add watermelon and strawberries to mixing bowl and gently stir fruit until evenly covered with lemon basil mixture
– Serve and enjoy

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DINNER WITH FRIENDS | THE WHISKING KITCHEN

23Meet Elizabeth! The voice  behind The Whisking Kitchen or you might recognize her as the College Housewife! Either way, if you don’t know her yet, let me introduce you to your new favorite food blogger. Her style is approachable, her recipes are divine, and she is all about feeding the people she loves — sounds like a girl out for our own heart. Ooh, the kicker? She is in college. I can (maybe not so proudly) say that when I was 22, I was feeding myself on ramen and boxed wine, not these beautiful pies or omelettes she whips up!

We get to go behind the scenes with Elizabeth today and see how she entertains, what ‘good food’ means to her, and hear a little about more about the gal behind the blog. So cozy up because this is a Dinner With Friends you surely don’t want to miss!
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What does entertaining mean to you?

When I think of entertaining my goal is that people leave with that warm fuzzy feeling inside because of one: delicious food and two: delicious company. When you gather friends and family together for a night in your home you have such an opportunity for a wonderful evening. There is something so intimate about having new and old friends over and hearing people share stories, laughs and great conversation.

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How do you like to make people feel welcome when they come over?

I try and have appetizers and a pitcher of cocktails ready for when people walk through the door. People usually come to a dinner party pretty hungry. Music also keeps a great vibe when entertaining. Parties can keep both my hands full but I do my best to take a few moments and speak to everyone. Just a quick “how’s life” goes a long way and makes them feel welcome.

8What is your favorite “go-to”? 

 Margaritas! Doesn’t everyone love margaritas?!

22What makes you nervous about having people over?

Time! The hour before I have people over can become a little frantic at times. I’ve got my curling iron in one hand and the oven timer going off in the other. Its nuts! I prep everything I can the night before, I mean EVERYTHING. Anything that can be chopped, marinated, or prepared is done the night before.

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Tell us about tonight? How did you plan? How did you come up with the recipes, etc?

It’s summer time so I knew I wanted fresh flavors! Lemon orzo salad, fresh fruit salad and shish kabobs! Talk with your guests! Maybe they have been really craving something that you can make for them. One of my friends suggested an orzo salad and it ended up being the favorite of the night. Get outside! I try to plan most of my dinners outside just because people spend waaaay too much time indoors these days.

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Give us your favorite entertaining tip!

Set the table! I know it’s so simple to set up everything buffet style but a well-dressed table is an amazing centerpiece. People walk in and they instantly feel important and makes your space look so charming.

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Any other pro tips?

 My first few dinner parties I was a little all over the place trying to perfect everything. My boyfriend was always fixing my plate of food and making me sit down and eat because I was trying to clean or get something else together. I’ve realized that its so much more important to leave the dishes in the sink and have a glass of wine with everyone and enjoy the evening, as well as planning it.

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 LEMON ORZO SALAD!

INGREDIENTS

  • 20 Oz of orzo
  • ½ Cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ Cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced basil
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced flat parsley
  • 2 Teaspoons of black pepper
  • 2 Cups of quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus, sliced
  • ¾ Cup of sliced almonds

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to rolling boil with ¼ cup of salt added. Add orzo and cook for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. The salt from the water is enough for the orzo you won’t need to add extra to the salad! Drain and do not rinse.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add sliced asparagus, cook 4-5 minutes. Transfer asparagus to an ice bath (equal parts water and ice). This stops the cooking and keeps your asparagus bright and green.
  3. In a large mixing bowl mix together all ingredients. Garnish with basil or parsley and fresh lemon slices. You can serve this salad warm, room temp or cold. I personally like it cold!

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RED CHILE GINGER STEAK KABOBS

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ Cup of Red Chile sauce
  • ½ Cup of Soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh minced ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh minced garlic
  • 2 Pounds of steak cubed

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Mix all marinade ingredients together and then mix thoroughly with cubed steak. Marinate overnight or at least 6 hours before grilling.

*If using wooden skewers make sure to soak them in water for an hour so they wont burn on the grill!

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SUMMER SALAD | GRAPEFRUIT & FENNEL

SUMMER GRAPEFRUIT & FENNEL SALAD

Ooh, the summer salad. To me, summer is when a salad is in prime form. Ripe strawberries, fresh mint, oranges and grapefruit straight from the farmer’s market – yes, please! It’s not that I don’t like salads every other time of the year (except winter, I don’t really like them then), I just mean that when the sun is out and with an abundance of delicious fruit to choose from, salads are in prime form.

Today we are whipping up this perfectly delicious grapefruit & fennel salad. I know that we say- “it’s so easy!”-with most of the recipes that we feature, but it’s true! No one has time to spend hours in the kitchen, especially when the weather is so nice outside! These days, I am all about simple meals that are packed full of healthy ingredients. Doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated, just honest & good.

So with that, let me introduce you to your favorite new summer salad: the grapefruit & fennel!

SUMMER GRAPEFRUIT & FENNEL SALAD

INGREDIENTS FOR THIS SUMMER SALAD:

-2 oranges, peeled and split into wedges

-2 grapefruits, peeled and split into wedges

-1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

-8 radishes, thinly sliced

-1 large yellow pepper, thinly sliced

-8 oz. crumbled goat cheese

SUMMER GRAPEFRUIT & FENNEL SALAD

INSTRUCTIONS:

– Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

– The juice from the citrus should dress the salad completely.

– Serve & enjoy!

SUMMER GRAPEFRUIT & FENNEL SALAD


Recipe adapted from The Paleo Fix

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FOURTH OF JULY BBQ the perfect backyard bash

FOURTH0001Hooray for the ultimate summer holiday – the 4th of July! It doesn’t get much better than lake days, grilling out, and fireworks. There is something so fun & Americana about the parades, the festivities, and, of course, the food!

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This year we are focusing on the guests rather than the décor. Now, hear me out. I know that sounds nuts because 4th of July parties are known for their kitsch red, white, and blue decorations – it’s almost ‘the more kitsch, the better!’ – but this year we are going in a different direction.

Hosting a get-together, let alone a 4th of July bash, can be hectic, so we want to take a little pressure off & say “who cares?!” Don’t have the mile high patriotic centerpieces this year? Don’t sweat it. To us, these holidays are all about celebrating the people you love & being thankful for the men & woman that got you here.

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So, if the pressure is off for crazy decorations, we’ve got to bring you’re A-game with the food! Luckily, we’ve whipped up these grilled pizzas that are not only suuuuper affordable, they are easy, and can be customized depending on the person, food preference, or allergy. Don’t want to make several dishes to please your meat eater friend, token vegetarian, and paleo dieter of the bunch? These pizzas are your answer! Big enough to share, but small enough to make them individualized. Plus, if it’s a kid friendly party, you’ve got a utensil free food that is safe for little ones to eat.

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INGREDIENTS FOR WHEAT DOUGH:

-2 cups whole wheat flour

-1 tbsp of active dry yeast

-3/4 tsp salt

-1 cup warm water

-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

-1 tsp honey

FOURTH0007FOURTH012INSTRUCTIONS:

-Pour flour into a large mixing bowl.

-Add yeast and salt. Mix well.

-Add water, oil and honey. Mix well.

-Cover dough with a moist cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.

-Place dough on lightly floured surface, and slowly spread and press dough into desired thickness and shape.

-Drizzle dough with olive oil and grill on both sides for 3-5 minutes.

-Remove flatbread from grill and add desired toppings.

-Return flatbread to grill for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

-Remove flatbread and serve.

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Curious about this gorgeous salad below? Let me introduce you to the best summer salad combo – grapefruit & fennel!

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Pair this perfect summer meal with some local(or patriotically canned) brew & it’s a match made in heaven! Nay-sayers be damned, there is something quintessentially ‘summer’ about pizza and beer.

Have a favorite pizza pairing or pro grill tip? We would love to see! Instagram us, tag us on Facebook, or tweet us with your grilled pizza pairings, summer-time favorites, or anything really. We always love to hear how you improve upon our recipes!

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CAPRESE SALAD WITH LEMON BALSAMIC REDUCTION

CAPRESE SALAD - Lauren Kelp

Happy Monday! Constance here and we are going to kick this week off with a little confession: I got married when I was 23, and I entered marriage with sub par cooking skills. Translation: I had absolutely no idea how to even scramble an egg, had never boiled pasta, and anything involving an oven……forget it.

Thankfully, my ever patient husband practically grew up in the kitchen and is a true culinary artist….in my opinion. He not only walked me through the basic of basics, he suffered through some of the worst concoctions ever made in order to give me some sort of confidence in my new quest. The poor guy once ate four servings of green beans that were so over salted that they tasted like they were scraped right off of the ocean floor, just to convince me it wasn’t a total fail (luckily, he also has a stomach of made of steel).

While this cooking journey of mine hasn’t been what I would call smooth sailing (it may or may not have been then cause of some occasional marital discord), it has truly been so. much. fun. Cooking (and of course eating!) has become one of our favorite things to do together, and consequently we’ve discovered a serious love for entertaining. We’ve always loved having people in our home, but my growing confidence in my ability to actually feed these people I love so dearly a decent meal has made entertaining much less stressful.

We’ve come up with a few dishes that involve my new found culinary skills, there are just some college go-to’s that I can’t let go of. Cue: the ever amazing an oh so simple Caprese Salad! I fell in love with this gem when I was studying abroad, and I just can’t quit it.

Seeing as my sweet husband has taught me so much since then combined with the fact that I’m rapidly approaching the big 3-0, I decided I could dress it up a bit and find a more grown up version to fall back on. This, friends, is my attempt. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have……everyday for the past 2 weeks. It’s perfect for lunch or for those summer night patio dinners!

Side note: does anyone else have a truly difficult time actually dicing heirlooms? They’re just too beautiful!

CAPRESE SALAD - Lauren Kelp

INGREDIENTS:

-8-10 heirloom tomatoes

-1 large handful of fresh basil

-12 oz. mozzarella

-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

-1/2 cup, crisp light-bodied white wine

-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

-2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

-fresh cracked pepper

-sea salt

CAPRESE SALAD - Lauren Kelp

INSTRUCTIONS:

-Using a tomato knife, cut tomatoes into medium sized wedges and place into a medium to large serving bowl.

-Tear fresh basil leaves into halves or thirds and sprinkle over tomatoes.

-Crumble mozzarella and sprinkle over tomatoes and basil.

-Combine balsamic vinegar, white wine, lemon juice, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

-Cook uncovered on high heat until the mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes.

-Remove mixture from heat and let cool.

-Drizzle balsamic mixture over the tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.

-Serve and enjoy!

 

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THE BEST RED SANGRIA RECIPE

RED SANGRIA - Lauren Kelp

Sangria is an absolute summer staple. There is nothing quite like a cold glass full of ripe fruit to get you through those balmy July days and cooler August nights. Sangria meets everyone’s needs – the wine drinker loves it, the beer drinker enjoys it too, and for the gal that only drinks cocktails, she can’t say ‘no’ either. But with so many recipes and various iterations of this summer classic, how do you find the best one? Luckily, we’ve been hard at work here in the LK test kitchen, making batches to test-taste and perfect. Thanks to all this “hard work” we’ve found the best red sangria recipe there ever was. It’s the right amount of sweet, the perfect mélange of fruit, and it has been stamped with approval by many a summer party goer. Don’t trust us? Try for yourself. We promise – you’ll love it!

RED SANGRIA - Lauren Kelp

INGREDIENTS:

– 2 bottles of red Spanish table wine

– 1 cup of Brandy

– 1/2 cup of Triple Sec

– 1 cup of orange juice

– 1 cup of pomegranate juice

– 1/2 cup of Simple Syrup (see below)

– Orange slices

– Apple slices

– Blackberries

– Pomegranate seeds


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DIRECTIONS:

1. SIMPLE SYRUP – Mix equal parts sugar and water in a sauce pan. Heat on medium high until sugar dissolves. Remove from burner and let the syrup cool

2. Grab a few oranges & apples (amount depends on how fruity you like your sangria and/or how many people you want to serve) and cut long-ways. Don’t think soccer practice wedges, think thinner slices.

3. Mix all ingredients together and let stand in a tightly sealed container or pitcher for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

4. Grab your favorite glasses, drop in a few ice cubes, and voila! The best sangria there ever was!

RED SANGRIA - Lauren Kelp


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