Friday, April 24, 2015

Belated Earth Day

So I know I'm a couple days late, but Happy Earth Day!  Better late than never right?  Since most of us seem to be chained to our 9-5 (or 6, or 7, or 8...), I thought of a great earth-friendly activity that you guys can do this weekend since you probably missed out on Wednesday.   Head on over to the Mellow Mushroom for a tasty lunch, and then hike it off in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation afterwards!  Well, okay, the Mellow Mushroom may not be the most organic, earth-friendly place in town.  BUT they do have a pretty earth-friendly name, tons of vegan and gluten free options AND extremely good pizza with some crazy flavor combinations.  Howie and I were being ourselves a.k.a. extremely indecisive when it comes to ordering food, and sprung for a half Red Skin Potato Pie (hello loaded baked potato pizza!) and half Kosmic Karma, which is topped with sundried tomatoes, pesto and feta cheese.  Not necessarily vouching that the two types went hand in hand in terms of pairing, but we did try both ends of the spectrum, right?  They were goooood!  And while you're there, definitely order a side Caesar salad as an appetizer- it was one of the best I've ever had...the homemade croutons were the bomb.  After we finished our leisurely lunch, we drove a mile or 2 down the road to the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation to catch the first glimpse of green this spring.  If my estimations are correct, you might see some baby leaves on the trees this week because the buds were sprouting last weekend.  Summer's just around the corner!

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 20, 2015

Oven-Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I know what I'm about to say might spark some controversy...but Italian food is the best food.  Hands down.  I crave it each and every day and probably even dream about it at night and just don't remember.  Well, yesterday, I was at the 5-mile mark on my run and had an epiphany that I wanted Eggplant Parmesan for dinner.  Because who doesn't think about what they're going eat later with the calories they're currently burning?  That's a thing, right?  Except the more I thought about it, the more I really didn't want to spend my relaxing Sunday evening babysitting 20 pieces of eggplant on a super hot and oily stove.  So I put my thinking cap on and decided to invent an easier Oven-Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe that tastes just as good as the real deal, but is literally half the effort and saves big-time on calories since it's baked rather than fried.  YUM!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Platform Beer Co.

The sun's shining, it's Saturday and it's debatable whether or not you need to wear a jacket today - stop what you're doing and head to Platform Beer Co.'s patio immediately.  I visited for the first time last night and will DEFINITELY be making my return trip as soon as possible; I think it just might be my new favorite spot in Ohio City.  I loved the industrial feel of the interior, the laid-back staff, the young(er) crowd and, of course, the outdoor patio that seems to have been built for people like me that want to bask in that warm orangey-yellow evening sunlight with a cold beer in hand.  On the hipster scale, it's probably the closest you can get to Portland without physically being there.  But hey, we all know that embracing our hipster side is what's finally making Cleveland "cool" to people who don't actually live here. Though we were planning on only staying for happy hour, we ended up ordering dinner from the Cleveland Pickle, which sets up shop there on Friday nights.  Since they don't have a kitchen, Platform brings in different Cleveland foodie favorites each day of the week that offer a condensed version of their regular menu.  Kind of a like a food truck, but minus the truck and inside instead of on the street.  I must say my Clevelander sub and kettle chips were a perfect match with the Platform Speed Merchant IPA.  Now what are you doing still reading this?  Go, as you are, right now.

Platform Beer Co. on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Strawberry Cake

You guys...this is one of my FAVORITE dessert recipes.  I love it oh so much that I've requested it for every single one of my birthdays for as long as I can remember.  It's called Strawberry Cake, and it's the the simplest and most fabulously delicious cake I can think of.  Infused with sweetened frozen strawberries and topped with a light and fluffy frosting I make out of vanilla pudding and cool whip, this cake DEFINITELY elevates a ho-hum boxed cake mix to new levels.  I'm sure you can muster up an excuse to make this 5 ingredient dessert!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Gervasi Vineyard

If you're looking for a quick day trip to get out of the city for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, I have the perfect place!  Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, OH is a incredibly scenic, well-kept and delicious local winery that's located only an hour drive from Cleveland.  Howie took me for the afternoon on Saturday, and we had the best time walking around on the sunny trails, admiring the first signs of green on the willow trees, learning about the wine-making process and partaking in an incredible wine and food pairing at Crush House.  It's amazing how a half-day getaway can make you feel like you've just gone on vacation...especially considering the fact that the entire Gervasi Vineyard complex -restaurants, outdoor pavilions, winery and villas - is adorned in a Tuscan-style architecture.  We're definitely planning to head back once the summer foliage fills in more!  I can't imagine anything more relaxing than sipping on a glass of their Cabernet on the patio, overlooking the lake at sunset while listening to live music -which I hear takes place 6 nights a week in the summer!  If you want to turn the day trip into a romantic evening, the "villa" hotel rooms are absolutely gorgeous.  It's definitely worth the trip, and I know I'll be heading back to Gervasi Vineyard soon!

Gervasi Vineyard and Italian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes

In case you haven't noticed, I decided to take a week-long break from blogging and social media to do something that rarely fits into my calendar: relaxing!  And let me tell you it was glorious to unplug from my laptop and enjoy every minute of my Easter weekend in Pittsburgh and the start of my 25th birthday week.  Yay for turning a quarter of a century TODAY!  What birthday would be complete without sweets?  Not mine!  Luckily, my office isn't too far from Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes in Avon Lake, my favorite cupcake shop in all of Cleveland!  I've pretty much tried all of the shops around town, and I swear on my life that Kelsey does THE best job of balancing elaborate flavors with the lightest, melt-in-your-mouth texture.  Besides the day-to-day cupcakes (which are always changing!), she also makes macarons, cookie sandwiches, birthday cakes and wedding cakes.  All you brides out there - be sure to check out her sugar flowers.  I posted a few photos from her portfolio below - the flowers look so unbelievably real - and last time I checked she was the only cake shop in Cleveland that could offer them!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Funfetti Flower Cookies

Happy Easter Weekend! I love getting into the spirit of any holiday, and my baked goods always have to reflect the occasion! A few weeks back, a friend sent me the cutest how-to video for making flowers out of jumbo jet-puff marshmallows, and I knew I had to incorporate it into one of my Easter treats! It didn't even take me 10 seconds of thinking before my mind jumped to Pillsbury Funfetti Cookies. Have you ever tried them? They're super soft, melt-in-your-mouth cookies that taste exactly like cake, but get even better after you top 'em topped with creamy, colorful frosting. Can you say "perfect background for marshmallow daisies?!" If you watch the video below, the baker uses aerosol food dye to make the flowers different colors - I don't know where the heck that baker found it because I scoured the grocery stores around my town with no luck! After a failed test attempt to dye the flowers with regular food dye (which Howie deemed "scary-looking"), white daisies became the goal. Ya know, minimalist? I still think they're really cute! Try making Funfetti Flower Cookies this weekend for Easter, or even for your next birthday, bridal or baby shower!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sweet and Smoky Dry-Rubbed Steak

There's nothing I love more than a big piece of steak.  I'm assuming the feeling is mutual on this one?  Sure I drink smoothies for breakfast and eat girly salads for lunch, but I'm a total carnivore at heart!  So when Howie said that he wanted to stay in and cook strip steaks with homemade sweet potato fries and salad for his 25th birthday instead of going out to eat, I was a happy camper.  While I was whipping up the sweet potato fries, he made an awesome sweet and smoky dry rub that infused a ton of flavor into the steak!  It only took a few minutes to prep, but the flavor combination was so complex that each bite was a little sweet, a little salty and a little spicy - all at the same time!  Not to mention it was extra extra juicy from the caramelization of the brown sugar on the outer edges.  Seriously though, do you see the "final product" picture?  We didn't even use a grill and it came out this good!  Heaven on earth.