a simpler sound.

Simple dinner staples: Red Lentils with ras el hanout and rainbow carrots.

Yes, this may look like baby food to the untrained eye.

But in reality, in this mush of food lies a perfect combination of red lentils, rainbow carrots, onion, garlic, and ras el hanout.  The last ingredient has become one of my most coveted ingredients [thanks to this guy], mostly because it turns any blah dish into a thing of beauty [and tastiness].

I threw this together one late night midweek, when I wasn't in the mood to cook, but also had no interest in just eating chips and salsa for dinner.  Out came a completely simple, but hearty dish [or side accompaniment to grilled chicken, pork, fish, etc. etc.].  I highly recommend trying this the next time you need to throw something together quickly, or just have a hankering for something left of center. Also, I can't say this enough...absolutely invest in ras el hanout- it's essential for this dish!


1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup diced carrots [I love using rainbow carrots, mainly for their color, but also for their sweetness]
1/4 cup diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout [or more to your preference]
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small pot, heat the olive oil over medium and cook the onions and garlic, for a couple minutes until softened. Add the ras el hanout, and water and heat.  Once simmering, add the lentils and bring to a boil.  Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in your favorite bowl.

Serves 4

Designing my new office: DIY Tack Board.

Now that I'm seriously getting into the design business, I need a dedicated space to work on projects, and one day [fingers crossed!] meet with clients.  The third bedroom of my house is located right off the front door, and is wide open to the street and our parking pad.  I can't ever legitimately using the space as a bedroom, but it makes the perfect spot for a home office.

I'm far from finished, since I still need to space plan and figure out creative ways to organize samples [fabric, buttons, countertops, and other goodies] as well as paperwork.  One thing I knew I wanted was a simple tack board to pin any important notes or samples, and have it easily accessible to my desk.

Just because I need a simple tack board in no way means it should look simple.  I thought it might be fun to try and create one myself, since even a plain old cork board can be a bit pricey [$30+ and not so attractive].  I don't have photos of the process [I threw it together so quickly, I completely forgot to document how completed it!] but here's a rundown of how to create this yourself!

Fabric Tack Board

Wood Frame: $5 [I found mine at a thrift store and it has such great vintage character]
Cardboard: FREE! [this needs to at least the size of the frame, or slightly larger.  I used a box from a mirror I ordered, but you can also find free cardboard boxes at your local liquor store]
Fabric $5 [I found this bold, graphic fabric at a great deal at Lewis & Sheron, and only needed about a half yard
Industrial Stapler $20 [of course you don't need to factor in this cost if you already own one, but I HIGHLY recommend having one of these around- they can be used for a million different projects]
nails [you likely have these around the house, and they're just pennies anyway, so no cost factor necessary here]
Hammer [I imagine you have one of these too!]

Cut 2-3 panels of cardboard to fit just beyond the opening of the frame, about a quarter inch.  This will give you enough room to attach the cardboard to the wood frame at the end.  

Cut the fabric larger than the cardboard, allowing for at least 3 inches excess on each side.

Lay your cardboard panels and fabric on top of additional cardboard or on a work surface that can take a beating [sometimes staples will make their way too far through the layers of cardboard, and could puncture your work surface, so be careful!]

Start with one corner and pull fabric taught and staple as close to the edge of the cardboard [this will ensure that if any staples punch through, this won't be visible once the board is attached to the frame]

You don't need to overdo it on the staples, maybe just one every 3 or 4 inches until you've made your way around the entire board. 

Once the board is completely covered, all that's left is to lay the board on top of the back side of the frame, and nail each corner [and a couple additional nails depending on the size of your board- for mine I used 8 nails total]

And there you have it, a beautiful, functional backboard that's customized to your exact design aesthetic! This took me only 30 minutes, and has already made such a difference in my office.

Memorial Day Weekend Grilling: Skirt Steak with Zucchini and Squash.

This Memorial Day weekend, I'm staying in Atlanta. All I want to do is lay out in the sun, swim, and smell charcoal perfuming the air.  Yes, I love to grill.  I'm particularly partial to cooking two things: my mom's famous filipino chicken kebabs [will post this recipe at a later date!] and grilled steak.  Normally, I love a good rib eye with nothing else but salt, pepper and some canola oil.

Last week, I decided to try my hand at a cheaper cut of meat, the skirt steak.  I've heard this is amazing on the grill, but it absolutely requires a lengthy time marinating to achieve that tender, juicy bite. 

I decided this fairly last minute, so rather than concoct my own marinade, I used this one.  I've had Stubbs BBQ when I've been to Austin and there's a reason it's a Texas staple.  Everything I've ever purchased from their line of sauces and marinades has been pitch perfect with anything I cook. 

For this recipe, I just threw the skirt steak in a ziplock bag with a few glugs of the marinade, and let it sit for several hours [around 3 to 4].  Since I know Stubbs tends to have a spicy marinade, I lightly rinsed the meat afterwards and patted it off with paper towels.  Even with doing this, the meat will still retain all that flavor imparted from the marinade. 

I used some of the remaining marinade and mixed it with canola oil and spread that on sliced zucchini and yellow squash.  The steak took hardly any time at all, about 4-5 on the first side and only 2-3 on the second.  I lowered the heat for the veggies, so they took a bit longer to get that nice, charred exterior. 

Another key to great skirt steak is to allow it to rest for at least 10-15 minutes and then cut it on a bias, or against the grain.  For some reason, this allows the meat to melt in your mouth, to the point where you don't really even need a knife for it.  The family I cook for absolutely loved this steak and since it was so simple, I'm planning on grilling more up this weekend.  

Simple [and healthy!] Recipe: pasta with pancetta and garbanzo beans.

I love how simple Italian cooking can be.  It's so ingredient-focused, and takes advantage of what's fresh and in season. I could cook most dishes with five ingredients or less and still have a meal full of depth and flavor.  This quick recipe has a few more than five, but the key ingredients for my sauce are shown above.  
Pancetta, sometimes known as 'Italian bacon' is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with.  It's leaner than your usual bacon and isn't smoked, so the flavor is a bit more clean, but still has that salty, savory bite. [Check out this simple recipe too for another great way to use pancetta].

For this pasta dish, get your large pot filled with water and bring to a boil.  While you wait for the water, all you need to do is brown the pancetta until it crisps up, then add a bit of olive oil [no more than a tablespoon] if you need it, but usually the pancetta will impart enough fat to coat enough of the bottom of your pan.  Add your garlic and chickpeas, just lightly sautéing, making sure not to brown the garlic.  Add your tomatoes, and one cup of homemade chicken stock [I always keep some in my fridge and freezer, since it makes such a difference in so many recipes]. This will deglaze any brown bits from the bottom of your pan.  You can pull up anything that sticks to the pan with your wooden spoon [this is Italian cooking after all, a wooden spoon is essential!]. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper accordingly.  I also like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little spice. Let the sauce simmer while your pasta cooks [for this recipe I used about a half pound of whole wheat penne].

Once your pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving a bit of pasta water. Add your basil in at the last minute to the sauce, and then add your pasta with a few tablespoons of the pasta water.  

This recipe is a perfect one to whip up at the last minute.  You could easily use canned tomatoes, and dried basil [but fresh is always best with this sort of thing] if you haven't had time to head out for fresh produce. I've never used garbanzo beans [aka- chick peas] in my pasta before, but it added a nice heartiness to the meal. Chopped artichokes, olives, and peppers all make easy additions to pasta.  Once you have the basics down, putting together a quick pasta sauce becomes second nature.