Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Litte Taste of Cuba: Ropa Vieja

I tried out a new recipe for you today! 

Aileen and I have been eating at a tasty Cuban restaurant in Louisville, Havana Rumba, since we both moved here for college. It is a wonderful place and everything on the menu is superb (especially their red sangria). Cuban food makes me a happy man.

One of their most popular entrees is a traditional dish called Ropa Vieja, which is translated as "old clothes." I know, that doesn't sound very appetizing at all. However, it is an accurate visual description: it sort of resembles a colorful pile of woven fibers in muddy water. Please, try to stop salivating. 

The dish is really shredded beef in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, garlic, bell peppers, and spices. It has the consistency of a very thick stew or chili. It is such a wonderful creation: the sauce simmers for an hour, making the beef fall apart into the sauce. The flavors of all of the ingredients combine into each other, with each bite becoming a taste of beefy-tomato-y heaven. So, I embarked upon a journey to make this dish in my kitchen...

It really wasn't very hard to prepare, so you should go make it for your loved ones... 

They will be impressed.

Ropa Vieja: 
(Serves 2)
1lb flank steak, cut into strips
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 small bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
dash of white wine or sherry
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water 

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, browning the meat on all sides. Remove it from the skillet, and add the remaining oil to skillet. Stir in the garlic, onion, and green pepper and cook until the onion is translucent. Stir in the browned meat, tomato sauce, water, wine, and spices. Simmer until the meat is tender and shreds easily, about 1 hour. Serve atop white rice. 

Enjoy. Every. Bite.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm Listening To: The Commonwealth

Two music posts in a row? I hope you don't mind!

image from:

I went to high school with a very talented musician/artist, Andy Kuhar. His band, The Commonwealth, recently released a new album, Emerald City Blues, and I've been listening to it over the past week. They have been getting some radio-play in the Cleveland area and have been playing gigs there as well for some time now. Their sound has been compared to rock acts such as The National, Radiohead, the Black Keys, and Iron and Wine, but I think they also possess a very original sound. Their sound is reverb-heavy, including the vocals, which provides a sort of flowing, haunting, earthy aura. They also sound very gritty and raw, much like the Black Keys, which is refreshing as so much music these days comes across as over-processed and over-perfected. I have yet to see them live, as I live in Kentucky, but I hope to match up a Cleveland visit with a live show of theirs in the future. In the meantime, I'll keep listening! Here is a link to their music, which is the featured streaming album on right now. Here is their facebook page, and here is their bandcamp page (you can buy their music from bandcamp). I hope you check them out, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm Listening To: Emeli Sandé

Many people thought that NBC's coverage of the Thirtieth Olympiad was not the greatest. In fact, many people were unhappy enough to tweet about it. It all started during the opening ceremonies when NBC aired a taped interview of Michael Phelps in the middle of the program. The problem was not the interview itself, but the fact that NBC aired this interview in place of a particularly moving artistic number that paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks that occurred in 2005 in London. One can debate why they did this, however it does not change the fact that NBC's audience missed out on a truly moving international moment. It is very hard to find a video of the performance, as the Olympics are strictly copyright protected, but here is a story about what happened.

Aside from the US audience missing this tribute, they also missed out on the international debut of Emeli Sandé. She is the Scottish vocalist that performed "Abide With Me" as part of that tribute. She has been an active artist in the UK for several years now, but I think that her performance at the Olympics has really introduced her to listeners around the globe. Her soulful, strong, and moving voice is truly not one to miss. I thought that I would share her with you, as I just discovered her myself.

Emeli Sandé performing "My Kind of Love"

Emeli Sandé performing"Next to Me"

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Hello again! Twice in as many weeks? I know, you probably didn't believe me when I said I was going to write weekly, but I am!


I've been trying to convince myself to get into a regular exercise routine for about four years now, and today I started my most serious attempt to date. Today was day one for me using the Couch-to-5K running plan! The way that the program works is that it focuses on gradually increasing the amount you are running each day that you run so that by the end of the eight week program, you can run for five kilometers! You have to run three days a week with a rest day between each run day. Each run is approximately 30 minutes in length with a warm up and a cool down.

My first run today was mostly walking. It mainly alternated 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking over a half hour. In this way, your heart rate stays elevated for the entire half hour work out, which is the goal of cardiovascular exercise. By the end of the program, there will be no walking at all. I am excited to get back in shape, but also terrified: I have never been good at sticking with an exercise routine and I absolutely HATE running. I am doing this, however, because I want to be in good enough shape so that I can ride my bike to work a couple of times a week without collapsing from exhaustion. So, wish me luck and periodically ask me how I am doing with my running (to guilt me in to sticking with the program). 

iPod motivational random surprise song of the run:
Sonique - World of Change

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I'm BACK... with a new recipe for summer garden Tostadas!

I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf... I plan to write a bit more frequently now, at least once a week! More than four months since my last post is a bit too long... *gulp

My first new post in a million years is a new recipe for you to try at home. It's fairly simple to put together and is also quite nutritious (and delicious) as it utilizes many fresh ingredients that happen to be in season in my neck of the woods right now. I cook a lot of Mexican/Tex-Mex this time of the year for these reasons. I came up with this recipe using two sources:
(three if you count my creative brain)
1) this recipe from (my new favorite website)
2) the August 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine (p.74)

NOTE: I decided to toast the tostadas instead of fry them so as to save my cardiovascular system a little stress and also to save time in cleaning up the kitchen.

Summer Garden Tostadas with Cilantro Dressing!

First off, the ingredients list:

For the Cilantro Dressing:
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup Greek yogurt
a pinch of salt to taste (just a tiny bit)
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

For the Tostadas:
1 can of black beans (can use 2 cups prepared dry black beans instead)
2 ears of shucked corn (can substitute 2 cups frozen or canned, but it just won't be the same)   :(
1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes halved (quartered if larger)
1/2 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons of butter/bacon grease
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup of water
extra fresh cilantro
~6 tortillas (6 inch size)

Secondly, the instructions:

First, prepare the shucked corn by slicing off the kernels with a sharp knife and setting them aside. The kernels tend to fly all over the kitchen when you are slicing, so I recommend doing this over a bowl. I learned this the hard way, and ended up spending ten minutes hunting down the escapees across the kitchen floor. Second, prepare the dressing by combining all of the ingredients except the oil and salt in a food processor until mixed (the cilantro shouldn't be liquified, just chopped). Add the oil a little at a time while processing and then finish by adding the salt to taste. The consistency should be similar to tzatziki: kind of lumpy (even though it is not a very 'yummy' word). Preheat the oven to a low heat (~250 degrees F/ ~120 degrees C).

Next, melt the butter/bacon grease in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. When it has fully melted, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, and lime juice and stir to combine. After a minute, you have to decide whether you want to have the corn warm mixed with the beans or to have them raw sprinkled on top of the tostadas: YOU GET TO CHOOSE! Either way is fine, but they will be more crisp raw. If you choose to add them to the beans, add them to the onions now. Then, stir the beans and water into the onions and cook uncovered until the water is gone, mashing them a little with the back of a spoon or spatula (5-10 minutes). Remove from the heat.

Warm the tortillas in the oven on a baking sheet for 2-3 minutes per side, flipping halfway through (longer if you would prefer them more toasted). Finally, triumphantly top the twice-toasted tortillas with the bean mixture, corn, tomatoes, cilantro and the cilantro dressing. You can also add crumbled queso fresco or shredded monterey jack cheese if you'd like, and if you are feeling AWESOME you can add a fried egg on top to seal the deal. Now you can EAT THE FOOD!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! It is something that is easy to whip up on a weeknight and lends itself to innumerable variations. If you don't like cilantro, substitute any type of salsa for the dressing. If you are not a bean-and-corn person, try guacamole with fire-roasted peppers instead! There are so many possibilities: that is why I really enjoy cooking!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hair Inspiration

I have an appointment for a haircut coming up soon, and I am having trouble deciding what to do next. In October I cut 6 inches off my hair and it was the shortest I've had it in a very long time. I liked having it short and was ready to keep it that way for a while, and I pinned this photo for inspiration for my next cut:
If I did this, it would be the shortest I've ever had my hair, but I think I would like it, especially with those longer pieces in the front.

BUT I can't do it just yet. I am in a friend's wedding in November, and I really want/need to have long hair for that. I am planning on doing my own hair for the wedding, and if there's any chance of it looking good, I'm going to need it to be longer. (Don't worry Ashtin, I'll be sure to practice so I don't ruin your wedding pictures!) I'm thinking either something curly and down or a simple bun:
Left via; Right via
So I'm filing away the top picture for sometime in the future and finding some other hairstyles that I can do while I'm transitioning from short to long. Here are a few things that I've pinned or found on other pinners' boards:
My pin via
Pinned here via
Pinned here via musings in femininity
Pinned here
Pinned here via
What do you guys think? Do you have any other suggestions for me? 
Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Derby is Here!

Louisville is so alive right now with all of the Kentucky Derby festivities happening this week. One of my favorite things about Louisville in the early spring is seeing all of the local boutiques and department stores putting their "derby hats" on display. I'm not going to Churchill Downs for any races this year, but I have certainly daydreamed about what I might wear if I ever get to attend (NOT in the infield!). So I put together three dream outfits, none of which I can remotely afford, just for fun!

Shoes: Viktor & Rolf and Tibi; Dress: Alice + Olivia; Hat: Giovannio Bridgette

Hat: Luna Boutique; Dress: Rebecca Taylor; Shoes: Sam Edelman and KORS Michael Kors

Dress: Shoshanna; Shoes: Viktor & Rolf and Sigerson Morrison; Hat: Luna Boutique
As you can see, I have a slight shoe problem and could not decide between multiple pairs. In real life, if I had all of these shoes, I wouldn't be able to decide until the last minute which to wear either! Luckily, I don't have to make these kinds of tough decisions on a regular basis. ;)

Happy Oaks Day!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Derby Day as well!
What are your plans for the weekend???

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Date Night: Bourbons Bistro

Monday night for our anniversary dinner, Sean and I decided to try a new place and went to Bourbons Bistro to celebrate. It's just down the road from our apartment, and we both love bourbon so it was a no-brainer!

We were both starving when Sean got home from work, (it's been a while since our last trip to the grocery...) so we went early around 5:45. There was a couple at the bar and only one other seated table.

Our waitress gave us a little extra time to peruse the extensive drink menu that includes over 130 bourbons. We were thinking of trying a bourbon flight (they offer several types or you can create your own), but we didn't really know where to start in choosing bourbons from the huge list. In the end, I settled on an Old Fashioned cocktail made with the well bourbon, Old Grandad 114 and Sean ordered a glass of Booker's, neat.

My Old Fashioned was refreshing and tasted great with the fried green tomatoes we ordered to start. Served with a tomatillo scallion aioli and lemon caper relish, they were the perfect treat to hold us over until dinner. They were fried to perfection and easy to eat, and not too soggy/messy like some fried green tomatoes can be.

Fried green tomatoes, Sean's Booker's, and my Old Fashioned

We ordered the Mixed Greens Salad to share, and the mixture of the candied walnuts, goat cheese, and bourbon apple cider vinaigrette was a great combination and excellent start to the meal. Sean even liked it, and he's not a big fan of fruit in his salad.

Sadly, the experience took a bit of a dive at this point in the meal. As we waited for our food, I couldn't help but notice the pounding and stomping coming from just above us on the second floor. Maybe they were bowling with bourbon barrels up there or something (???), but for me, it really took away from the atmosphere. (If any of you Louisvillians are familiar with the Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen at Taylorsville and Bardstown, it sounded like it does there when they have a dance class going on in the studio above... Yikes!)

When our food arrived, neither one of us was really impressed with what we had ordered. I had the Pan-Seared Pork Chop, which was stuffed with chorizo and came with mashed potatoes and asparagus.  The bacon, cabernet, veal reduction over the pork chop was just too rich for my taste, and the asparagus  was a bit over-cooked. Sean's entree, the Ruby Red Trout and Prawn, was just ok in his opinion, and he thought the prawn was especially bland.

But Bourbons Bistro redeemed themselves when it came to dessert. We decided to try the bourbon truffles, a fairly new item on their menu. We were served three truffles that had different bourbons in their centers. I'm sorry I left the tasting notes on the table, or else I could describe them better for you, but they were absolutely delicious combining two of my loves: bourbon and chocolate. They were a perfect final touch to our bourbon-themed dinner!

In the end, I think we will definitely visit again, but maybe just for drinks at the bar and an appetizer or salad. I'd also like to get my hands on those dessert truffles again! :) I think the bartenders might be more knowledgeable on the bourbons they offer and would be able to help us more than our waitress did with choosing a drink. I definitely want to go back and sample some of the bourbons as they offer flights for $10 with your choice of three bourbons. Sean said (and I agree), it would be a great place to stop for happy hour at the start of a night out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Two Years

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of our wedding. It seems like it's flown by, but then again, it feels like we've been married forever. (In a good way!) 

One of our favorite shots at the end of an amazing evening: 4/23/2010

In the past two years together we've experienced:

-visits to Florida, Las Vegas, New York City
-countless road trips to Cleveland, Northern Kentucky, and Charlotte
-new jobs
-7 weddings of friends and family members (plus more to come soon)
-loss of family members
-gaining family members
-turning 25
-nights out on the town with friends

Mostly good, some bad, but through it all we've been together, and I can't wait to see what's next for us in our lives together.

A shot from this past weekend at a Bats game
Happy 2nd Anniversary Sean! I love you!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Louisville's Own James Gordon?!?

So, Louisville just swore in its new police chief, Steve Conrad, and I wanted to pose this question to you, the reader:

Is it just me, or does he look very much like Gary Oldman as
Gotham City Police Chief James Gordon in The Dark Knight (at least in this photo)? 
(Just add an amazing mustache)

Steve Conrad

James Gordon (Gary Oldman)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition

Esa-Pekka Salonen
   The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education and religion from the University of Louisville. The music award is one of the world's most prestigious music composition awards. On Monday, I went to the 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition talk. This year's winner was Esa-Pekka Salonen, an accomplished composer and conductor from Finland who has worked extensively in the United States. His winning composition, Violin Concerto, was completed in 2009 at the end of Salonen's 17-year tenure as the music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
   The program began with Salonen receiving the award. He then read some prepared remarks regarding inspiration and creativity through the example of music composition. He emphasized how music is something that is emotional, raw, and organic and cannot be based on music theory or mathematical formulas alone.

Leila Josefowicz
   Next, a film of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France performing Violin Concerto was shown in it's entirety. Salonen conducted the performance and it featured the soloist Leila Josefowicz, who was the original performer of the solo part and inspired and encouraged Salonen's composing of the piece. Her virtuosity and dedication (she memorized the entire solo part for her performances of the piece) are truly amazing. The solo part is extremely fast and complicated, utilizing the violin in ways that I had never seen before. The concerto is truly an intricate masterpiece and well deserved of the Grawemeyer Award.

   After the film, Salonen took several questions from the audience. One person asked him what it is like for him to conduct his own new compositions, and he responded by relating how difficult first rehearsals of any new works are for even experienced and renowned music groups. He then related some words of wisdom that a music teacher of his had told him regarding this subject, that a conductor should never go to the first rehearsal, but if he does, he should not go sober. In response to another question, he emphasized that music cannot be created in a vacuum but is inherently influenced by all the music that has come before it. In this way, 'old' music is very integral to the creation of new music. He concluded the talk by relating how commissioning is so essential for music composers in that such a great deal of time goes into the creation of a single piece of music that very little music can be created without it. It is essential to the continued creation of new music, and monetary awards like the Grawemeyer Award are also extremely important for the same reason.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Style Icon: Michelle Obama

Over the last few weeks, I've seen Michelle Obama appear on talk shows and at various campaign events, and I'm loving her style. She always looks so professional, but she adds a touch of her own flair and lets it shine through. Here are a few outfits I've seen her in and have been loving lately:

Today on The Ellen Show
I love the flower pins she's wearing above and below. They add an extra little something to her basic sheath dresses.
Last week on The Colbert Report
She perfected the color blocking trend for Easter at the White House this year (Sasha and Malia look cute too):
At the White House Easter Egg Roll
At the Kid's Choice Awards, the First Lady got glitzy with some sparkly jeans and a fun top... I think she looks so fun and fresh for a casual event:
Kid's Choice Awards
A bright pop of color for spring:
Wearing L'Wren Scott
She always looks great for formal events... I'm loving the piles of necklaces she's wearing too:
Wearing Marchesa
*All photos via

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Friday!

Sean and the Lemur ;)
The Elephants are always my favorite!
We went to the zoo yesterday to cap off our great week spent with the Campbells (Sean's Mom, Dad and sister were in town for the week). It was the perfect day for the zoo: just the right temperature and we got to see a lot of the animals! Hope everyone out there has a great weekend planned! See you next week!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Travel Tuesday: My 4th Grade Dream... Frankfort, KY

You guys, I have a confession to make: I have lived in Kentucky for my whole life and have never visited our capital in Frankfort... UNTIL NOW! :)

In Kentucky schools, fourth and/or fifth graders take a course in Kentucky history which usually culminates in a field trip to the state capital. Well, I can't remember why, but my class's field trip got cancelled and was never re-scheduled so I missed out! I finally had the opportunity last week to visit, and we had such a great day.

I was the first one to arrive in the morning, so I snapped this shot.

I told you yesterday that I met my mom, aunts and uncle, and our Irish friends on Thursday morning in Frankfort. Our first stop on the agenda was a tour of the Governor's Mansion. It is a beautiful home, built in 1914 and transforming through the years with its inhabitants. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and he had lots of fun facts to tell us about each room that we saw. There is a lot of French influence in the decor and there are even a few pieces there that once belonged to Louis XIV and Louis XVI. We only toured the rooms on the first floor, as the upper floors are where the Governor and his family actually live. Here are a few shots:

First stop: the Ballroom
Dining Room: The lights lining the ceiling were so pretty.
Also, the current First Lady has placed several modern pieces from
various KY artists around the mansion (like the one on the table).
Originally an office, this room is now more of a sitting room. 
A rare French breakfront (from either Louis XIV or Louis XVI... I can't remember!)

After that we took a break for lunch at Sage Garden Cafe, and walked around their greenhouse and garden shop after our meal. Next, we had an appointment at the Capitol Building for a tour. We lucked out too because we were supposed to be on a tour with a group of fourth graders but they were running late, so our tour guide took us on a special tour for just our small group. Our tour guide there was also very friendly and knowledgeable. Brendan, one of our visiting friends, is a member of Irish Parliament, so we had fun talking with our tour guide about the differences between the Irish system and our own.

"The Aunts" and my Momma striking the
"sorority girl pose" with Abe :)
The Capitol Dome... you can't see it here, but it has LED lights that change color!
Mural of Daniel Boone standing above the Kentucky River
French-inspired reception room
Outside on the steps after our tour
After our tour, we headed to the Frankfort Cemetery which is a beautiful place overlooking the Kentucky River and downtown Frankfort.

There's the Capitol Building in the distance.
Daniel Boone's grave in the Frankfort Cemetery
Downtown Frankfort

Finally, we headed over to Buffalo Trace for a quick bourbon tasting (we were too late to take a tour). We had a delightful day in our state capital, and I would love to return again sometime with Sean for a little day trip!

I hope you enjoyed this special Travel Tuesday! Have any of you ever been to Frankfort? What are some of your favorite Kentucky landmarks?