4 Summer Salads + My Brother’s Nashville Video

summer salads

Did you know May is National Salad Month? To celebrate, Tim and I will be spending the next few days at the DOLE Salad’tude Bloggers Summit* in Monterey, California (yay!). We’re actually up in the air as this post publishes, looking forward to what the next day or so will bring. You can expect photos and stories of the trip to be posted here soon!

But meanwhile, we thought you might like to celebrate, too—say with some delicious summer salad recipes? Here is a roundup of four of our favorite summer salads, all previously posted at Food Loves Writing. Plus, as an extra-special, first-ever-of-its-kind bonus here at the blog, we’ve got a video, made by my super savvy film-making brother. He and my friend Jackie visited last month and he made this fun and food-centric for one of his classes. Enjoy!

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Night in Atlanta + Amaranth Porridge

Tim and I spent last Monday night in Atlanta—just a quick one-night getaway to the biggest city four hours from our home, made possible by a wedding gift from our friend Kim. After a rainy drive down that turned into a sunny stop at IKEA, we arrived at Stonehurst Place, our bed and breakfast for the night.

stonehurst front stonehurst front windows

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Stonehurst is a stunning estate built in 1896 and totally renovated in 2007-08. Our room, the Farnsworth, overlooked the screened-in back porch and was decorated with a Hollywood glam theme. It featured its own fireplace, a queen-sized bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, a marble bathroom and a full walk-in closet.

stonehurst room

stonehurst patio

stonehurst room water in the room

One of the last times I’d stayed in a B & B was in Maine, a place whose quaint little towns often make it hard not to stay in a B & B, and the thing I’ve always liked most about them is the extra amenities: at Stonehurst, we had access to an upstairs sitting room with a Keurig coffee/tea maker, fresh organic fruit and baked goods in the dining room, an open front porch overlooking the streets of Midtown—not to mention, breakfast the next morning was a gourmet spread of hot coffee or tea; organic yogurt with berries; and toasted sourdough topped with ricotta, kale and eggs cooked the way we like.

stonehurst sitting area stonehurst upstairs

fun decor at stonehurst

stonehurst upstairs stonehurst bookcases

stonehurst front patio

stonehurst tree

Even though we were in Atlanta for under 24 hours, we managed to fit in a lot of stops, from driving through Buckhead to shopping in the Virginia Highlands (and sipping on fresh-squeezed orange juice from artisanal chocolatier Cacao, a shop recommended by our Innkeeper, Sarah):

cacao in atlanta
fresh-squeezed OJ at cacao

to dinner at Yeah! Burger, a surprisingly impressive burger joint that may look like your standard eat-in fast-food place but inside is actually the adept maker of a spread like this: fresh-squeezed orange juice (we’re obsessed!), fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, a bunless grass-fed burger with goat cheese and sauteed onions, a breadless portabella sandwich with goat cheese and tomato jam, Brussels sprouts and salad.

yeah burger
yeah burger dinner

But it was our final destination that wowed us most: the DeKalb Farmers Market, which is like Costco meets Whole Foods meets an international grocery store, the one-stop-shop for every kind of specialized food ingredient and fresh produce you could ask for. Sucanat for $2.50 a pound. Organic cacao nibs for half the normal price. Fresh-baked spelt sourdough bread. Spelt cherry pistachio bread. Kamut hazelnut fig bread (!!).

We were overwhelmed.

dekalb farmers market
fresh unpasteurized OJ
dekalb farmers market bread
dekalb farmers market kumquats

When we finally left, bags and bags of groceries in our cart, this was just some of our loot:
loot from dekalb farmers market

And among that hoard was organic amaranth (at $2.99 a pound), the increasingly popular nutritional powerhouse related to spinach, beets, Swiss chard and quinoa.


I’ve never cooked with amaranth before, but I’ve wanted to ever since I noticed it in the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Like quinoa and millet, amaranth is not actually a grain, but as any gluten-free cook could tell you, it’s often referred to as a grain because it can behave like one, yet with none of the gluten and way more health benefits.

soaked amaranth
scooping out amaranth cereal

Amaranth is rich in amino acid and proteins, and it has four times more calcium than wheat and twice as much magnesium and iron. Research has linked it with fighting cancer, inflammation and heart disease.

amaranth porridge #1
amaranth porridge with bananas

While the seeds can be eaten like couscous/rice or ground into flour for baking, one of their most well-known uses is as a breakfast porridge—something akin to Cream of Wheat or another hot cereal—so when we returned from our fast getaway, the following Sunday morning, we had amaranth for breakfast, in porridge form. It didn’t officially extend our vacation but, hot and creamy, sweet and comforting, it was the next best thing.

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Saturday at the Nashville Flea Market

jewelry at the nashville flea

Tim and I are still enough of newlyweds to regularly look at each other and say, Can you believe we’re married? Remember what it was like when we weren’t? and, on days like this last Saturday, where we went to a flea market we’ve been hearing about since before I moved to Nashville, Remember back then? Back when we didn’t even live in the same state?

Sometimes I can’t even believe we used to just talk on the phone every night, with Tim in Tennessee and me in Chicago. The days of driving eight hours to spend time with him seem like such a long time ago, back when I’d stay a few days and we’d go to Las Paletas and Sevier Park and bake things like pear custard pie at his house.

glass milk jugs at nashville flea

But I’ve been living in Nashville for ten and a half months. Ten and a half months! It’s not home in the same way the Chicago suburbs are—we still visit my family and everything feels so familiar and normal that it’s like where I belong—but yet it is home, too.

old books at the nashville flea

We have Tennessee license plates and library cards and a church family and friends down the street to eat dinner with on Sunday nights. We have our little house, a place that’s gone from an empty living room with an air mattress to watch TV from to a cute space with our pictures on bookshelves and our stockings on the fireplace and our curtains on the windows.


One of the things I’ve loved most about living with Tim is setting up our place, together: making Christmas traditions, cooking dinner after we work all day side by side, having friends over, decorating.

$3 DVDs

Just like when we were planning our wedding, we’ve become sort of partners in finding old things we like for our house—moving from the days of scouring antique shops for vintage reception plates to the weeks of nabbing $5 chairs from thrift stores. We love fixing things up and making them our own.

ceramic pots at the nashville flea market

And that’s why I really can’t say why it took us so long to hit up the Nashville Flea Market, which is just ten minutes from us and happens on the fourth weekend of every month—or the third weekend in December.

table display at nashville flea market

We headed to the state fairgrounds last Saturday, arriving in the afternoon, bundled up for chilly air (that is so much warmer than it is in Illinois, I know, I know), after hearing about this event from everyone from my old roommate to an article my brother forwarded me last week.

vintage napkins and vintage suitcases

Personally, I’ve only been to one other flea market that I can compare it to, but from what I’ve been told, the Nashville Flea is like a lot of others: big, loaded with vendors, filled with everything from tables of athletic socks and piles of discounted bed sheets to gorgeous homemade quilts and unique handcrafted tables.

chairscowboy boots

It’s part craft show, part garage sale, part antique mall—a fun place to get new decorating ideas and an addicting way to find little treasures. There were booths of cowboy boots (hello, Nashville!) and a vendor with all animal skins; fresh barbecue and shelves of individually wrapped, candy-covered caramel apples; tables filled with mason jars; lawn ornaments; burlap-covered chairs and ottomans; bags; clothes; all kinds of nick-knacks.

gold mason jar

Some of the market is inside, spread amongst a couple buildings and rooms, and some is outside, beneath tents and awnings and stretching all over the fairgrounds.

shabby chic furniture

As for me and Tim, we came away with a solid, heavy $10 wooden chair that Tim sanded down and painted white, ready to be paired with our other mismatched, much loved dining chairs. The man who sold it to us said it came from a Chicago insane assylum—which we just say adds character.

lamps at nashville flea

And I know I also came away with a desire to make this flea market a regular practice in my Nashville life, if only for the excitement of never knowing what you’ll find or what a great price you’ll get it for—the vendors welcome bargaining, and, as any antiquer or thrifter will tell you: that’s half the fun.

coca cola sign at nashville flea

So Nashville Flea, I hope to see you again in January, post-Christmas, post-New Year’s, post all the hub-bub of the holidays—and that goes for you too, dear readers, whom I hope to see again next year. Merry Christmas, may your holidays be lovely. I’ll see you soon!

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Honeymoon in (Kauai,) Hawaii!


The first evening of our married life may have been all crisp October air and gorgeous golden leaves and a giant tent filled with our closest friends and family, but that first week was something altogether different. The morning after the wedding, we flew to what felt like worlds away from Chicago or Nashville or anything we knew and went from a night of grass-fed filet mignon, roasted potatoes, homemade cookies from friends and family and pumpkin wedding cake made by my mom, to eight beautiful nights in a land of avocados, starfruit, apple bananas and coconuts that you crack open and drink with a straw.


We honeymooned in Hawaii: seven nights in a fully equipped condo on the island of Kauai’s north shore and one last night in a beachfront hotel in the Waikiki Beach area of Honolulu on Oahu. And while I loved what Hawaii was—tropical, relaxed, with both jungles and canyons, sandy beaches and rugged coastlines—I loved most what it wasn’t: no more emails or phone calls, no work, nothing left to plan. People ask us what we did there, and there’s not much to say—not much besides drive around in our hard-top jeep convertible, find things to eat, lay by the water, get used to each other in our new life as man and wife.


So first, there was Kauai, an island that at least four other couples have recently told us was their honeymoon destination as well, chosen for its Jurassic Park-level beauty, lesser commercialization, rich topography and jaw-dropping Napali Coast.

For us, Kauai was a destination chosen more by accident. We had talked about Italy, but it’s expensive, and when I go to Italy, I want to go to Italy, which would be hard when you’re already so exhausted you can’t remember your name (let alone that it just changed!). Then we’d toyed with the East Coast: I’ve always wanted to visit Cape Cod, and there was a farmhouse rental with a gorgeous kitchen and real sheep (!!) that almost won our hearts, but it would be cold there in October, and that made us think about a beach in North Carolina, but North Carolina’s not very far, and we could probably go there in the next few years, and then, one day, I thought, what about our friends’ condo? It’s in Hawaii! And we asked, and they offered a great rate, and we booked it. Learning about Kauai came later.


So here’s what we now know: Kauai’s beautiful—like, crazy beautiful. Of Hawaii’s islands, it’s the most private and rugged, with no buildings anywhere that are taller than a palm tree, and it’s also diverse: here a tropical rainforest, there a hot beach beneath clear blue skies.


This time of year, the beaches on the north shore can be a little breezy and overcast, and several spots are pretty rocky, enough so that I started to wonder if all Hawaii beaches would require a sweater with my bathing suit, no kidding, but the south shore (we especially liked Poipu Beach) was amazing: hot weather! soft sand! crystal clear water!


While I’d soak up sun on a towel, Tim would take out the snorkel mask and go exploring, and every time he’d come back to me, his eyes would be a little wider and more excited about the fish he’d seen.


And at the risk of killing you with sappiness, I’ll go ahead and tell you we called this place, this trip, this island, our own little love bubble, away from everything and everyone, where we were free to process everything that had happened in the last few days and imagine what would come in the next, and we honestly felt like we’d pulled off some great escape. I’d look at Tim driving the car, and he’d have this huge, goofy smile on his face, like he was so happy he couldn’t hide it, and I’d just want to freeze time right there.

Then there was the food.


I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you: it’s expensive to eat well in Hawaii, much more than it is here. However, we found some good options: The best deals were on produce at farmer’s markets. We bought ten kumquats for $1, avocados for $0.25 each, passionfruit and starfruit and apple bananas for hardly anything.


Since the condo had a full kitchen, we ate most breakfasts at home, including one giant omelet morning Tim was in charge of on our one-week anniversary.


Here are a few other highlights:

Dinner at Postcards, Dessert at Postcards, 5-5075 Kuhio Hwy Kalihiwai, HI 96754:
In a cute little cottage-style building in Hanalei, Postcards was one of our favorite restaurants in Kauai. Lots of fresh, organic ingredients. No refined sugar in the desserts. We liked it so much, we went twice!



Lunch at Living Foods Market in Poipu Beach, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka #24, Koloa, Hawai‘i, 96756:
We accidentally happened upon Living Foods Market while looking for another restaurant, but as soon as we stepped inside, we knew we’d found something good. Kind of like Whole Foods but smaller and with a large cafe/bakery section, it was an excellent lunch stop: margherita pizza and a big salad.


(Splurge!) breakfast at the St. Regis, 5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville, Kauai:
This hotel was (long-)walking distance from our condo, and with its window-filled lobby, made a great spot for catching ocean/mountain views. One morning, we treated ourselves to breakfast on the patio, which, at about $50 total(!!!), was a huge splurge, but a great memory. Organic blueberry pancakes, organic banana walnut pancakes, fresh coffee and homemade grapefruit juice.

An amazing dinner at Mediterranean Grill, 5-7132 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei Colony Resort, Hanalei, Kauai:
Tim gets all the credit for finding this place, which was my all-time favorite from the trip. Our oceanfront meal included rainbow beet salad, spinach fatayers and rosemary rack of lamb.


Crispy avocado tacos at Merriman’s, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Street #G-149, Koloa, Kauai:
After chips and guacamole, I got the crispy avocado tacos, and Tim got the fish of the day: blue striped marlin. I let my meal’s picture speak for itself.

And after Kauai, we spent one quick night on Oahu, where credit card rewards meant FREE hotel (and we got ugpraded to an ocean view!) and FREE car. Loved that.

We visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial Site:

And had one last excellent meal, at Downtown at the Hisam, located in the Hawaii State Art Museum, 250 Hotel Street, 1st Floor, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96813:

We were talking this past weekend about our honeymoon, just as we officially hit four full weeks of marriage, and remembering the food and the condo and how we’d watched a sunset together, sitting on a concrete wall by the ocean. It was such a nice love bubble there, it really was, and now it already feels so long ago, almost like it never happened, and that makes me a little sad.

But then I look at Tim, driving us around Nashville, with that same silly, happy grin on his face, and I wake up next to him every morning, and I share life with him every day, and I remember: honestly, the best part of Hawaii is something that hasn’t changed. The best part of Hawaii was him.

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A Weekend with Travel Oregon

You could go to Oregon for the natural beauty—the majestic mountains, the thick woods, the rivers, the flowers, the waterfalls, the streams.

Oregon trees

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

black-eyed susans


You could go for the history—maybe to see the Timberline Lodge, a towering structure built in the 1930s as a product of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, and to stand under its 98-foot-tall fireplace constructed mostly by Italian immigrants.
timberline lodge
fireplace at Timberline Lodge

You could go, as part of a blogger weekend, to meet new people—to hear about their passions; to be exposed to new stories; and to then come home, after a few days with them, with a whole list of new blogs to read, while you think more about the world of blogging and bloggers and how/when/why you want to continue yourself.

People like:

Kind and friendly Andrew from Eating Rules
andrew from eating rules

Fascinating and inspiring chef/traveler/urban gardener Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes
Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes

The always lovely Danielle from Beyond the Plate (aka, the most beautiful blog ever)
danielle from beyond the plate

Charming Bea from La Tartine Gourmand
beatrice from la tartine gourmand

Paula from bell’alimento (left) and Carolyn Jung from Food Gal (right)
paula and carolyn

The best travel buds you could ask for, Cheryl of 5 Second Rule and Leela of Apartment Therapy

cheryl of 5 second rule
leela cyd of apartment therapy

(And others: Rika of Bella Bonito // Gwen of Bunky Cooks // Nick of Departures // Stefanie of Endless Simmer // Georgia of GeorgiaPellegrini.com // Nicole of Pinch my Salt // Sean of Punk Domestics and Hedonia // Tami of Running with Tweezers // Linda of Salty Seattle // Debra of Smith Bites // Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy // Helene of Tartelette // Richard of The Passionate Foodie // Liz from The Toronto Star // and Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking?)

You could go because you’d always wanted to see Portland.

You could go because it’s a break from wedding planning.

You could go, mostly, for the food.

Oh, the food.

This post, you’ve probably gathered, is about the recent long weekend I spent in Portland, Oregon, and the areas surrounding it, on a press trip for Travel Oregon. (Here comes the disclosure: All elements of my trip were hosted and arranged by Travel Oregon. While I was not paid for going on this trip, everything I experienced and participated in was covered for me.) While we did a lot of touring and sightseeing, the predominant theme all weekend was food—lots and lots of food. Food at wineries, food on city rooftops. Food classes, food demonstrations. And every one of the photos I took is from my iPhone because, WouldYouBelieveThis!, my camera is broken. Broken. I found out the first night there.


Thankfully, not even a broken camera could ruin Oregon’s bounty though, especially the way the Travel Oregon people chose to show it off.

Here are some highlights:

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Pizza at Porta Via Italian Kitchen

porta via
Sunday night, Tim and I got the opportunity to attend a private event at Porta Via Italian Kitchen—Nashville’s source of authentic Neapolitan pizza (and you know how much I love that, whether in Chicago, in Seattle, in Chattanooga, or now here at home).

Porta Via atmosphere

For us, the event came at a pretty perfect time, too, because, take my advice, everyone should get a night of free pizza and wine in the weeks immediately following their engagement (i.e., the weeks following a realization that now you have to plan a wedding!). With the flurry of emails and inquiries lately (which, I know, are the things many girls dream of), the very thing we needed, I think, was a chance to sit down and eat the food we both called our favorite before we’d even met.


Sunday’s event was arranged to celebrate Porta Via’s recently acquired official VPN certification, something you can read more about here, which essentially means proof that their Neapolitan pizza is the real deal: made with the high-quality Italian ingredients, flash-baked in a white-hot brick oven, created without any mechanic preparation—just human hands tossing and pressing the dough.

i love that he loves pizza

There were pizzas with caramelized onions, pizzas with mushrooms and green peppers, a traditional margherita the moment Tim asked about one. Oh, and when we first walked in, we tried a couple slices without red sauce, which were topped with sprigs of rosemary and salt; these became my new favorite, and not just because we’ve been loving rosemary ever since the sourdough we ate in the park.

pizza at Porta Via

As is typical of Neapolitan pizza, Porta Via’s crusts are chewy and charred, very thin (although not as thin as what you’d find at Chicago’s Spacca Napoli or Nashville’s City House), bearing the marks of dough that’s been thrust into a wood-fire oven more than 700 degrees hot.

counter at porta via

And after we’d eaten our fill of pizza (which for me meant five slices—yes, five), we were given a glass dish of coffee gelato from the gelato bar right by the entrance.

coffee gelato

coffee gelato on a spoon

It was a simple night—just a bunch of pizza lovers gathered together, in a restaurant tucked away in an unassuming strip mall, with live music and free samples and a couple announcements—but it was a simple night we were glad to have, glad to be given.

menu at Porta Via

It was the kind of night that made me wish we could just have pizza at our wedding.

Oh, and for those of you who like hearing these things, we have a date! (look out, October!) We almost have a photographer! and once we figure out the little details of location and food, we’ll be well on our way. Chicago-area outdoor venue ideas are welcome!

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