Brown Bag Asparagus

Weeknight vegetables are supposed to be quick. simple. healthy. & satisfying.  

Period.

I try not to spend more than 30 minutes on a side dish for dinner.  This timing gives Brandon or myself time to heat the grill, grill the protein and let it rest (if need be).  It also gives me a few minutes to set the table, pour drinks and not feel super rushed.

Asparagus.  A staple vegetable in our fridge.  One reason why I love asparagus so much, not only for it’s health benefits, but also because it lasts in my fridge longer than leafy greens.  I place the bottom of the asparagus in a cup with a shallow bit of cold water to store in the fridge.  It will keep fresh for up to a few days.

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This asparagus recipe is about as easy as it gets – therefore it requires minimal ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen.  Thank you, Tyler Florence.  

Salmon and asparagus pair beautifully together (along with a crisp cold glass of white wine šŸ˜‰ ), hence, I serve this with honey mustard and toasted pecan topped salmon, which was oh-so-satisfying. 

recipes below.

xo, Jenn

Asparagus Steamed in Brown Bag
Serves 4
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed
  2. Extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1/2 lemon, sliced very thin
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F
  2. Using a brown paper lunch bag, place asparagus in bag. Add lemon slices, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Close bag, folding edge multiple times to seal closed to hold steam in.
  3. Place closed bag on baking sheet. Drizzle bag with olive oil to prevent bag burning.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven. Using a pairing knife, slice bag open on top. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil.
  6. Serve hot.
a toast to the good life http://atoasttothegoodlife.com/
Honey Mustard & Toasted Pecan Topped Salmon
Serves 2
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 6-ounce portions of fresh salmon
  2. honey mustard
  3. chopped pecans
  4. kosher salt
  5. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat the grill to a medium-high heat - roughly 400*F
Prep the fish while the grill is heating
  1. - Rinse and pat salmon filets dry, and place on small greased grill pan (the grill pan will get placed directly on the grill to avoid losing fish and topping down the grates on the grill)
  2. - Drizzle with olive oil
  3. - Season with a sprinkling of kosher salt
  4. - Smear top of salmon with honey mustard
  5. - Sprinkle with chopped pecans
  6. - Add one more light pinch of salmon
  7. Place on hot grill until internal temperature reaches 145*F
  8. Remove from grill and serve hot
a toast to the good life http://atoasttothegoodlife.com/
 

 

Grilled Salmon w/ Cucumber Dill Sauce

I could eat grilled salmon every day.  It is my favorite protein and something I cook a couple times a week. Lately, I have been on a kick of serving it over either a bed of lettuce or pearl couscous.  And this cucumber dill sauce that I quickly toss together to pour on top of it is AH-MAZE-ING… (and so simple!) 

A sauce with only 5 ingredients that takes 5 minutes to make, that brings life to your dinner – we can all handle that.  

Here’s the breakdown… recipe is at the bottom:

Get your grill nice and toasty.  Drizzle your salmon with olive oil – both sides – and a sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper.  Sear the salmon skin side up on the grill until it is golden.  Then flip the salmon over, skin side down, to continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 135*F.  While this is grilling, cook your pearl couscous on the stovetop.  (Any type of pearl couscous – there are plenty of boxed versions of this.  Follow their cooking instructions, and plot out your time accordingly so the salmon and the couscous finish at a similar time.)  

Once both the couscous and the salmon are done, plate.  Scoop a big helping of the couscous in the center of your plate.  Using a thin spatula, shimmy the salmon off of the skin (leaving the skin behind) and place on top of the couscous.  Top with that oh-so-yummy dill cucumber sauce.  Serve and enjoy warm.

In a time crunch?  Make the sauce ahead!  This sauce can stay in your fridge for up to 24-hours.  Just give it a good stir before serving… I make EVERYTHING I possibly can ahead of time.  This includes chopping up any veggies, etc. that I may be using in my dish that evening. 

xoxo, Jenn

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Cucumber Dill Sauce
Serves 4
The only sauce you need for salmon.
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 seedless cucumber, diced
  2. 2 Tbl. fresh dill, chopped
  3. 2 Tbl. minced red onion
  4. 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  5. 1 tsp. skim milk
  6. kosher salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together creme fraiche and milk. In a separate bowl, fold together diced cucumber, onion and dill. Add milk mixture slowly - only pouring in desired amount to reach the consistency you prefer. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Serve over warm grilled salmon. Enjoy.
a toast to the good life http://atoasttothegoodlife.com/

Settling In w/ Baby Tess

Almost 6 months have passed since our baby girl made her debut.  Sweet Baby Tess arrived 3 weeks early, stealing our hearts completely!  Ever since, life has been one wonderful whirlwind. (albeit, with a lot less sleep). 

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(You can see a few updates of Miss Tess from my instagram account.)

Over the past few months, our lives haven’t been on quite the schedule we are used to.  But baby Tess has been training us well and is starting to get on her own napping, eating and sleeping schedule. (Enter ‘hands up celebrating’ emoji here.)  During the quiet moments in our condo when our sweet little lady is getting her beauty sleep, I have been able to find time to focus back on “A Toast…” as well as occasionally hop on the treadmill, and work on a few other fun home projects. 

My love of cooking and entertaining has been recharged during my hiatus! Therefore, you’ll see a few changes to my approach of cooking and executing a dish/evening.

To name a few, I have been:

  • learning to prep things on Sunday and when I have time during the week (i.e. when some little girl is napping)
  • utilizing the grill as much as possible
  • being very selective with what I pick up from the grocery, as I now have a little travel buddy coming along with me (and pushing a stroller AND a grocery cart isn’t possible). 
  • keeping my grocery bill on a tight budget and being creative with the ingredients I currently have at home – what’s in the freezer/pantry/in my vegetable drawer
  • from time to time, use recipes that a few of my favorite chefs and publications have perfected to make my life easier
  • planting and maintaining fresh herbs that I have planted out back of our home for easy access and to save money

More to come:

  • Cooking tips and quick toss together recipes for busy moms and those who are tired of spending too much time in the kitchen
  • Simple yet elegant entertaining tips that won’t consume your entire day with prep
  • Childrenā€™s meal recipes

To sum it up, I’m focusing more on efficiency and the end result, so I have more time to toast to the good life with the people I love the most.

Ok, I’m off!

xoxo, Jenn

Everything Bagels

This recipe for Everything Bagels is my favorite.  I added a sprinkling of dried herbs to the topping, and oh-my, these are a must try.

Growing up 20 miles outside Manhattan in Northern New Jersey, I was fortunate to overindulge on AH-MAZE-ING bagels.  The rumors are true: there is nothing like an east coast/New York City bagel.  

breakfast spread

Bagels and pizza are two of New York’s staples.  And two things I miss from home.  Whenever I’m back home, I make every effort to stop into my favorite local bagel shop to pick up a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a fresh everything bagel. {toasted and scooped out, please}

One morning recently in Chicago, a strong craving for bagels got the best of me {thank you pregnancy cravings} and I decided to give homemade everything bagels a whirl.  {It also didn’t help that it was a snowy winter morning, and I was looking for an excuse to stay snug in my apartment.} These babies turned out SO GOOD. And surprisingly, the recipe was simple!  

Give these beauties a try for your next brunch.  Serve them with a variety of cream cheeses, a good smear of jam, or {my personal favorite} a fried egg, a slice of American cheese and crispy bacon.

Happy Weekend!

xoxo, Jenn

everything bagels

everything bagels

brunch spread

everything bagels

 

Everything Bagels
Yields 8
Perfect for your next brunch
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Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
2 hr
Dough
  1. 1 and 1/2 cups warm water - heated to 110*F (this exact temperature is important. if the water is too cool, it won't activate the yeast; if it's too hot, it'll burn the yeast. use a kitchen thermometer for this)
  2. 2 and 2/3 tsp Red StarĀ® Quick-riseā„¢ yeast
  3. 4 cups bread flour, and more for dusting and rolling the dough
  4. 1 Tbl light brown sugar
  5. 2 tsp kosher salt
  6. 1 Tbl olive oil
Water Bath
  1. water
  2. 1/3 cup honey
Egg wash
  1. 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbl. water
Topping
  1. 2 Tbl poppy seeds
  2. 2 Tbl sesame seeds
  3. 1 Tbl dried minced onion
  4. 1 tsp dried garlic salt
  5. 2 tsp dried herbs
  6. 1 Tbl kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425*F
Dough
  1. In a glass bowl, heat 1 1/2 cups water to 110*F. Once water is 110*F, whisk in yeast until dissolved. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. In standing mixer, using dough hook attachment, mix together bread flour, brown sugar and salt until blended. Slowly add yeast mixture to dry bread mixture, making sure to scrap sides of bowl to incorporate all of the yeast.
  3. Turn speed of mixer to medium and beat for 8 minutes, letting the dough become dry and more stiff.
  4. Turn dough onto light floured surface and roll into a ball. Drizzle a glass bowl with 1 Tbl of olive oil, grease all sides of bowl. Place ball of dough in greased glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 60-90 minutes; until dough has doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, make the topping. Combine all topping ingredients listed above in a glass bowl.
  6. Bring a large skillet filled with water to a soft boil. Whisk in honey until dissolved.
  7. Turn dough out on floured surface. Cut ball in half, then cut each half into 4 pieces; you should have 8 pieces total. Form each piece into a ball, poke your finger thru the middle, and create a donut/bagel shape. Repeat with all 8 pieces. Gentle place bagels into simmering water (roughly 2 or 3 at a time). Let simmer on each side for 1 minute, then turn bagel over to simmer on other side for a minute. Remove from water and place on dish. Repeat with all 8 bagels.
  8. Using a pastry brush, brush tops and sides of each bagel with egg wash. Dip each back into topping mixture. Place on parchment paper, topping side up, and pop in oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until bagels are toasted.
  9. Remove from oven and serve warm with favorite cream cheese spreads, jams, or a fried egg, slice of cheese and crispy bacon.
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addition
a toast to the good life http://atoasttothegoodlife.com/

Nursery Planning

How is it Monday already? Let alone February!

I flew home this past weekend to spend time with Mom and Dad. {oh!  and Rexy too! Our 100 lb yellow lab.}  It was wonderful and productive.

And yes, I cried thru security at the airport after saying goodbye.  Even after living in Chicago for 8 years, leaving home hasn’t gotten any easier; and with the baby on the way, I have a sneaking suspicion that won’t change.

gray nursery 3d interior composition

With CBH and I moving in just a couple short weeks and this baby due in May, Mom and I had a lot of errands to run.  We finalized the rocker and the dresser for the baby’s room, taking advantage of one of the Pottery Barn Kids’ sales.  {They’ve been having some great sales lately!  And with today’s sale of free shipping, I plan on ordering our crib.}  With a quick trip to Home Depot, we also finalized paint colors for our condo as well.  Our kitchen will be predominately white with white quartz countertops that have a little bit of grey veining, therefore I’d like our living room and bedrooms to be subtle gray with white trim, as the kitchen opens up into the living room.  

My goodness did I learn a lot about different colors!  Fabrics and countertops pull so many different hues, depending on what you are looking for, you have to lay everything out to see the big picture and make the right decisions.  The color palate I am trying to create is focused more on warm grays, but not wanting to drift towards beige, therefore I had to hunt thru lots of colors to get the right palate.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend filled with long walks and casual evenings sitting by a warm fire with Mom, Dad and the pup, catching up with some of my favorite girlfriends over brunch, a visit with my brother and sister-in-law (who are due with their first baby just 10 days before CBH and I are due), oh yes, and fabulous food.

Back to Chicago I go, to buckle down for a busy week, filled with work, packing, and weeding out.  

 xoxo, Jenn