10 Host Gifts for Real People

Esquire Vintage Dinner Party

I love it when I read articles on great host gifts. I love it when people like Martha Stewart, Emily Schuman, Ina Garten, and the editors at Real Simple tell me how great glitter pens are, and how hand weaving a basket out of found rustic twigs filled with artisanal jams and chutneys is so easy, so chic, and SO necessary. I mean, our hosts have done so much work! So not only do we have to bend over backwards, (having taken a japanese bonsai pruning class, obviously) making sure to honor their expenditures, but we must do so with things that they cannot possibly use and probably don’t want. Having been on the receiving end of some of these gifts, I can happily say I have several jars of mystery spreads expiring in my cabinet. One can in fact, have too many tapenades. So what is a guest to do? I’ve already discussed one of my favorite host gifts, flowers, what else can we add to that list? There are a bevy of great offerings to grace your host with. And they don’t have to be complicated, they don’t have to be expensive, and they definitely don’t require a certification in competitive scrapbooking. Here are some idea’s that I particularly like:

Music1. Make a playlist- this sounds vaguely juvenile, but hear me out. If you are the kind of person who has genuinely great taste in music then maybe offering up your egalitarian ear is the way to go. Now, this means you have to have a truly crowd pleasing taste in music. I don’t mean you have great taste in music that you are so pretentious everyone will be raising their eyebrows all night at your obscure cover of Bright Eyes, and I don’t mean you are a top 40 aficionado. YOU can please a mixed crowd. You’ve got oldies peppered between the ubiquitous, followed up with a mellow indie tune, and a great sense of how to set the mood. If you are this person, offer to make a playlist/play DJ for your host. One less thing for them to think about, and one nice thing you can do for them. (Just make sure you make this offer before you arrive, no one likes the ipod hog when uninvited.)

2. Flowers- I’ve talked about it here. But they do wonders. Cheap, simple, lovely.

Libations3. Libations- whether it’s a bottle of wine, a bottle of Jack, or a bottle of beer (well maybe a few bottles of beer…) taking drinks off the host’s hands can be super helpful. Check in with your host ahead of time and ask what kind of beverage you can add to the equation. Don’t ask if you should bring, ask what you should bring. If this is your offering just tell your host that you’d like to bring some drinks, and what works well. Red wine is less graceful next to street tacos and fried chicken, bottles of Heineken seem uncouth next to duck confit, and a bottle of tequila is useless if they’re planning on making old fashioneds. Have a quick chat and then feel good about playing Bacchus.

Dishes4. Do the dishes- We have a family friend who does the dishes every year at Christmas. It’s this crazy knack she has. She claims her trick is searing hot water and rubber gloves. Regardless of the magical power she harnesses, I commend her. If you’re the kind of person who would rather clean up than cook, this is your moment! Offer to help out with the dishes after hours. Don’t offer if you feel like you’re being held hostage after shorting the bill, but if this is something you enjoy and feel like you can contribute, go for it!

5.  Sweets- A little confection goes a long way. Whether you baked a batch of cookies, or picked up a small box of chocolates, sugar is often welcome at the end of a party. Heck, I’ve seen a bag of dark chocolate Hershey kisses be the highlight of a soiree. They are always appreciated, they are always delicious, and there’s something incredibly charming about dessert. One of my favorite after dinner treats at a particularly fancy restaurants is a pint sized bowl of brown sugar cubes they serve with coffee. I could care less about the caffeine, but those tiny condensed brown sugar cubes are my heaven.


6. When in doubt, put it in a mason jar- Mason jars are cheap, and they can hold a bounty of fun things. I’m half kidding about this, except that it’s completely true. I’m pretty sure you could fill a mason jar with marbles and offer it up as new pie weights (hey, some people need pie weights!) and your host would be over the moon. Unless they are totally not that kind of person, in which case maybe you put a nice candle in the mason jar, the pinterest favorite of “all-but-the-liquids” mixes (hint…it’s either hot cocoa powder scooped in with marshmallows, or a box of cake mix),  or a goldfish. Get creative, stick it in a jar, call it a rustic trip on the whimsy train.

Towels7. Kitchen Towels- It’s kind of cliche, and many-a-domestic diva will tell you to hand embroider them, or make them out of antique sheets or vintage dresses. And sure, you can totally do that. But I’d also say picking up some cute kitchen towels that are befitting to your host’s taste is a pretty clutch move. Dish towels are one of those things that you always seem to need more of, and its thoughtful, but not insane. Plus they’re easy to find, make some fancy rustic ones out of burlap or do the more realistic thing and pick some up anywhere- from Target to William Sonoma.

8. Pie Weights- So hey, remember how I mentioned marbles in mason jars earlier? Well, here’s a funny thing: pie weights can be pretty much anything. Pennies, dried beans, marbles….anything that can be put in the oven in high heat can be turned into a pie weight. So just don’t use legos. But you can toss your choice of weights in a jar of some kind, tie a bow around it and offer up your pie weights. They make you sound like a domestic genius, and have genuine use. Pretty nifty, eh?

9. Game Master- Easy games can be the winning move to a successful party. Many dull dinner parties have been saved by a rousing game of charades. You can roll your eyes or gag over this, but there’s a reason this game that needs no board, and can be played with virtually any amount of people is still so beloved. But hey, there are plenty of great group games, and if you’re that kind of person, offer your skills up! Bring the board games, the latest handheld word stumper, trivia cards, a big white board, or just some pens, a pad of paper, and a big hat. Get the game stuff together, and let your host focus on the food.


10. The “F*!& It Bucket”- This is just a great gift. Period. Invented by the hilarious Amy Sedaris in her hosting book “I Like You” which I highly recommend reading. This has been my favorite gift to give people for years. You begin with a receptacle of any kind, preferably one with a lid that’s also opaque. Painted jars are good, but I’ve used old peanut tins or even children’s toy buckets. Fill said receptacle up with candy and treats. Things you wouldn’t eat on the everyday and preferably things that don’t quickly expire. Replace the lid and using whatever tools you have (chalk paint and chalk, hi my name is labels and a sharpie, it doesn’t matter!) write the phrase “F*!% It!”. When your friend is having a bad day, you can say F-it, and take a piece of candy. Everyone has a day where they need the bucket.

The F!*% It Bucket


Date Pecan Scones

Autumnal flavors and baked breakfast treats? I mean, is there a better pairing? I am proud to say that when I presented my friend Maddy with one of these plump tender mini loaves of joy, she stuck her face in the bag and started a, rather poetic, rant about how THIS IS AUTUMN IN A PASTRY! Not so humble brag. What can I say?

date scones

Scones just make me feel warm and fuzzy. And albeit, they’re not as quick to whip up as say pancakes, they definitely bring the noise as far as breakfast pastries go. I was feeling like I needed a morning pick me up (at 9pm one night, because that’s the thing about breakfast: it’s even better at night) and after scoping out my pantry I decided to forgo things like glaze in favor of already naturally sweet and super delicious dates, warm and crunchy pecans, and a fistful of cinnamon and cloves! I lightened these guys up a tad from some of the more rich ingredients of my blueberry scones recipes, but feel free to amp this guy up if you’re feeling decadent.

Date Pecan Scones


1/2 Cup of Butter, cubed and very cold 

Butter 2 Tablespoons butter melted

1/2 Cup Almond Milk (or regular milk)

1/2 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt 

2 Cups Gluten Free Flour (C4C, Better Batter)

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

2 Teaspoons Baking Powder

1/4 Teaspoons Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar

8 Large Dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 Cup Pecans, chopped

preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together Flour, Sugar, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt in a bowl, until well combined.

Cut cold butter into the flour mixture until it forms the consistency of wet sand. The butter should remain cold, and there doesn’t have to be a perfect uniformity of butter chunks.

Cutting Butter

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the Almond Milk and Greek Yogurt. Pour liquid mixture into the dough and very gently mix with a large spoon until just combined. (I used my hands for this step, but just know it WILL get messy)

Scone dough

Once dough is just combined, place onto a well floured surface and knead dough until it just comes together.

Scone Dough

Roll out and fold into thirds. Place in the Freezer for 5 minutes.

Remove dough from freezer. Roll out into a 12 inch rectangle.

Rolled Out Scone Dough

Gently push Dates and Pecans into the dough.

Dates and Pecans

Roll the dough into a log.

Log of Scone

Gently roll the log out until it becomes a fat thick rectangle. Basically you’re just flattening out this log.

Rolled Out Scone Dough

Slice the log into four equal pieces. Then slice each quarter in half diagonally. Lightly brush each triangle with butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place scones on covered baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Uncooked Date Pecan Scones

Remove and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then Serve those bad boys UP!

Date Pecan Scones

Bourbon Chestnut Pumpkin Pie

Has fall flown by or what? The time is nearly here. Time to take off our witches hats and put on those cable knit sweaters. We are an eyelash bat away from November, and November means one thing: Thanksgiving. Now for many, Thanksgiving is a paradoxical time of the year. A time when you eat, drink, and be merry. Stuffing your face with an offensive amount of rich cuisine and not even feeling the slightest bit bad about it. Yet Thanksgiving is also a time when you sit at a table with your family. Someone’s probably going to indulge a tad too much in the libations. Someone is going to ask you one too many times why you aren’t on track to having the best career ever/best spouse ever/best real estate purchase ever/best baby ever/best nobel prize winner ever. Well, my wonderful friends, I can’t really help you there. (I will be toasting you with a big fat glass of something strong whilst I inevitably take the hit of this verbal cavity search.) I CAN, however,  help you be the best pie maker! Bringing us to this damn fancy pumpkin pie! It’s a twist on a classic. And one that is a simple recipe which ends up layering warm rich flavor after flavor to create the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever had!

Bourbon Chestnut Pumpkin Pie

I’ve developed this recipe to be as easy as possible for you! That means, if making crust isn’t your thing: use store bought. Marcellus Wallace ain’t got no time to roast a real sugar pumpkin? Use canned. (Obviously the most ideal will be to make a pie crust, and roast your own sugar pumpkin, because it does make for a damn delicious pie.) I’ve developed the flavor of this filling so that it is so out of this world, you can cheat a little on the rest. Now in this recipe I didn’t include the recipe for the crust. Instead I will reference you here, here, and here! All great options. And you can always use the super lazy-town method of toss and blend using a high quality blender. Enjoy the awesome warmth of chestnut, and that great hit of bourbon from this pie! Happy almost November, kids.

Bourbon Chestnut Pumpkin Pie


2 Large Eggs

3/4 Cup Chestnut Spread (like Clement Faugier)

2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon Bourbon

1 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg (fresh is ideal)

1 1/2 Cups Pureed Pumpkin (fresh or canned)

1 1/2 Cups Milk (Whole milk will bring an incredible rich creamy flavor, but almond milk works very well too.)

1 Pie Crust

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the Eggs until smooth, then add Chestnut Spread, Brown Sugar, Bourbon, and Spices. Mix until a well combined and ribboning from the end of the whisk in an even stream.

Ribboning Sugar and Eggs

Whisk in Pureed Pumpkin slowly until fully combined.


Slowly pour in the milk, and whisk gently until fully combined. Making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go, to evenly incorporate all ingredients.

Milk and Pumpkin Custard

Have a pie shell prepared, and pour the pumpkin custard mixture into the shell.

Pie Shell and Custard

Using 1 whisked egg or some milk and a pastry brush, gently brush the edges of the pie crust (this helps the pie crust brown.)

Pumpkin Pie and Egg Wash

Place in the oven for 15 minutes on 425. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour. Or until pie is firm to the touch, but still jiggles slightly when shaken. Remove and allow to cool.

Finished Bourbon Chestnut Pumpkin Pie

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla frozen yogurt (so much more delicious than you think!) and a shot of bourbon. What? It’s a nightcap.

Pumpkin Pie with a shot of Bourbon

Pantry Staples

I don’t know if you guy’s noticed, but I kind of dig cooking. It’s sort of my thing. Kind of. A little. Not that much. TOTALLY! But one of the things that makes cooking for myself on a day to day basis difficult is the idea of having to go to the grocery store. The market can be a lovely lively place when you’re in the mood. On the afternoons or evenings when you’re bright and shiny with a spring in your step because YOU are going to make the most awesome special meal (LOOK AT THIS PHOTO!) and you’re so fabulous why hasn’t food network called YOU to host a show yet?! Jeez!

Whole Roasted Chicken

Most days it’s more of a battle royale from the Hunger Games. You’re fighting with people in the Trader Joe’s parking lot (you know what I’m talking about.) You’re standing in line counting every minute that passes realizing that means you are eating one minute later from that very moment…and you’ve counted above and beyond 15. So this year I’m trying desperately to keep a pantry stocked with staples that I can pull from on a regular basis so that I don’t have to hem and haw over a grocery list! Here’s what and why I’m picking up these stock items to keep myself from ordering pizza, or ripping my hair out in Whole Foods. (Bonus round: These are basics that every kitchen should have, but did you notice that these ingredients all lay the ground work for healthy, gluten-free, vegan, and sometimes even RAW meals? Yeah…restricted diets don’t have to be outside your comfort zone…interesting, huh?)


Dry Goods: Pretty much all of these can quickly become the foundation to a million delicious dinners. All of these add bulk and heartiness to a plate of veggies. Quinoa and eggs, lentil soup, quinoa lentil salad, risotto, polenta, a white bean stew. Pasta accommodates a plethora of sauces, corn starch to give viscosity, and flour for a good round of pancakes….you’ve got the starting ground for a lot of dinners.


lentilsDry Pasta


Coarse Corn Meal

Rice (brown or white)

Canelini Beans

Flour (C4C for us celiacs!)

Rolled Oats (for those of you who can digest them comfortably)

Corn Starch

Dried Herbs

Canned Goods: Canned tomatoes are a MUST! They are a ubiquitous ingredient in stews, soups, and braises. Plus they are the beginnings of many sauces and curries. Black beans give you lean protein and latin flair. Chickpeas can give you fresh hummus in seconds plus delicious and meaty protein needed in your meatless Mondays. Coconut milk may seem weird, but it creates curry in minutes, and adds creaminess and pizazz to vegan dishes.

Canned GoodsWhole Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

Black Beans

Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas

Coconut Milk

Freezer: Utilize your freezer! It is your pantry BFF and not for frozen dinners (although freezing leftover stews and such is brilliant.) Keeping a smattering of frozen fruits and veggies allows for easy access to produce you may not have on hand. Frozen edamame makes for an easy snack tossed in the microwave. Green beans and spinach add much needed green to a plate on days when your fresh veggies are looking sad, wilted, and un-edible. Frozen berries are the key ingredient to creamy delicious smoothies in the morning, and scrumptious fruity desserts on the fly. Keep that freezer stocked, and there is never an excuse for nutrient deficient meals.

Frozen VegetablesPeas


Green Beans



Whole Kernel Corn

Lima Beans

Liquids: Keeping at least chicken or vegetable stock on hand allows for easy soups and beyond. You’ll find leaps and bounds more flavor from a good stock than water. Olive oil is a pretty obvious staple, but hey, just in case. Balsamic vinegar is the same, but you can also add it to marinades, braises, stews, and dressings for a kapow of tangy flavor explosion. Dijon mustard…same deal. For the perfect salad dressing you only need those three ingredients (oil, vinegar, mustard. boom.), plus you can make beautiful meat crusts, sauces, and obvious sandwich spread. Wine. ‘Nough said. Honey has a cornucopia of uses from desserts, yogurt toppings, sauces, sweet/savory marinades, and a spiffy addition to a sore throat tea concoction.

OilsChicken/Beef/Vegetable Stock (I like using Better Than Bouillon paste, it’s easier to keep around, less cumbersome to handle, and all around handier)

Olive Oil

Canola Oil, Safflower Oil, or Grapeseed Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Dijon Mustard

Wine (red and white)


Now tell me, you have nothing to eat. Because now you can make stuff like….THIS:

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk

Porridge: Why Goldie Locks Got it Right

By Ryan:

Well, I mentioned in my first post that I will follow wherever the food spirit leads me. Well, today the spirit has moved me towards a topic near and dear to my heart: porridge. I know that you’re all thinking about a certain old story featuring a very presumptuous little girl and three bears magically gifted with speech, but porridge is SO much more than that. In other countries, porridge is essentially any breakfast item categorized by a certain, and excuse my incredibly sophisticated culinary term, mushiness. My handy dandy dictionary.com app defines porridge as “a food made of oatmeal, or some other meal or cereal, boiled to a thick consistency in water or milk.”


Porridge may include things such as Malt-O-Meal, Cream of Wheat, grits, polenta, gruel and oatmeal. But today we are going to “deconstruct” porridge…and I use that bougie term in a very loose manner. Most people are aware of my obsession with oatmeal (I have somewhat seriously thought about an all-oatmeal themed restaurant). Now…We have the fairly standard oatmeal, with brown sugar, a little milk, perhaps some fruit, and if we’re really getting cray, some nuts. But, to me, oatmeal is essentially a vehicle in which delicious food items can be prominently featured. By itself, it doesn’t have much flavor. But ohmygoodness, allow me to bestow upon you my favorite oatmeal accoutrements and tips that have ordained my breakfast mush over the past years:

perfectingredients1). Hot apples cooked with cinnamon and almond milk.

2). Pureed banana, folded into the warm oatmeal.

3). Butter (it’s crazy, but someone told me to do it once…I mean, it’s butter. How wrong can it be?)

4). Shaved coconut.

5). Apple sauce.

6). Greek yogurt. This is a game changer. It adds such a hearty and creamy element to the oatmeal. Once I started I never looked back.

7). Whey protein. I use the vanilla kind…It adds a nice flavor, and protein is always good, right?

8). Assorted nuts (particularly pecans and walnuts).

9). Strawberries, of course.

10). Cinnamon (a must, no question about it), and other spices (nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, etc.)

11). Flax seeds.

12). Okay…This one is weird, but I can’t not mention it. Baby food. Well, it’s not baby food. It’s a German/Czech hot cereal for babies, called kasha (in Czech). It’s essentially an incredibly sweet and amazing version of Cream of Wheat. It comes in powder form and you mix it with milk. I added some in my oatmeal and my life will never be the same.

I’d recommend any combination of the aforementioned, truly. Go crazy. I have never had oatmeal with ALL of those items, but I’ve gotten super close. And it’s just life changing, and super healthy!

Speaking of healthy, I was recently introduced (by none other than Miss Kristina Geddes) to chia seed pudding. I tried this at her house, and had it for breakfast the very next morning, no joke. What started as a simple breakfast has ended up as a huge cluster cuss of a delicious whirlwind of healthy foods. Chia seed pudding is, well, a pudding of sorts, but I am calling this a Chia Seed Porridge (though it’s not hot…If you have a better name, I am taking suggestions). As per Kristina’s recipe for chia seed pudding, you soak the chia seeds overnight (about ¼ cup) in some almond milk (or I just do it at least two hours before consumption, being sure to stir periodically or else they become this huge gelatinous blob).


The amount of almond milk is up to you. I’d say ¾ of a cup to one cup should be fine. You kind of have to test the waters with the consistency of the porridge. Then I add the following (keep in mind these measurements are not exact and you may play with the flavors as you see fit). You’ll see a lot of repeat ingredients from before:


Spicing-Cinnamon and spices to taste (I add copious amounts, though if you’re preggers, beware of cinnamon, says the internet and an informed German)

-1 scoop of whey protein

-A heaping ¼ cup of Greek yogurt

-1/2 cup of quinoa (cooked)

-2-3 dried figs, diced

-1/4 cup of frozen mixed berries, stuffed in the microwave for a good 35 seconds, and folded into the porridge (this turns the porridge a lovely hue of blue/purple and sweetens it as well)

-1/4 cup muesli 

-1 teaspoon vanilla

-Stevia/honey/agave/sugar to taste

I mix all of these ingredients together and add about ¼ cup of muesli on the top, for a delightful crunch. You can change it up with any fruits, nuts, milk/non-dairy products that you want, but this is what I’ve found to be delicious.


This is such a fulfilling, healthy, and delicious meal. It provides lasting energy and fullness for a jam-packed day of productivity. Enjoy!

Boozy Strawberry Almond Trifle with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

OK. So it’s October 1st. Autumn’s here, which really means the only ingredients I should be working with are pumpkin, cinnamon, apples, cloves, and anything that can be correlated with “cozy”. Well, whoops….I used Strawberries. Now part of my thought about this is that ultimately this cake is just a brilliant set of newsworthy ingredients. This cake/trifle/whatever you want to call it, spoke to me. What did it say? Whip cream and then whip cream cheese, and then whip those together. What? Am I crazy? Yes. Crazy for this decadent mousse that happens. Toss it on top of my favorite vanilla cake, and then cover it with fresh berries of your choice…Oh! And don’t forget to drench the cake in a little Amaretto….like just enough until the entire cake is soaked through. Go to town. You deserve it. (I also feel that this might have a future with spiced baked apples, and pumpkin pie filling..hmmm)

Boozy Trifle

Boozy Strawberry Almond Trifle with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Adapted from The Kitchn’s Red, White, and Blue Trifle


The Ultimate Vanilla Cake

1-2 Cups Almond Liqueur 

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream:

16 oz. Cream Cheese 

1 Pint Heavy Cream

1 Tablespoon Sugar 

4 Cups Chopped Strawberries

Once cake has cooled, poke holes all over the cake using a large toothpick. (consider it your art project? go nuts, just don’t tear the cake apart)

Holes in My Cake

Evenly pour the Almond Liqueur over the cake, it should be seriously moist. Like brimming. Go nuts. Considering this your ultimate cheat meal. Set aside and allow to fully absorb.

Boozy Cake

In a separate bowl beat cream cheese until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes on high). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the whipping cream. Beat slowly until well combined, then turn up the speed and beat until fully and fluffy (3-4 minutes on high) add sugar, and beat for 30 seconds.

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Spread a layer of strawberries (or any fruit you’re feeling fancy with!) over the cake.


Cover over those berries with a thick layer of cream cheese whipped cream. Think of it like grouting the strawberries.

Cream Cheese Grouted Strawberries

Thick Layers

Finish the cake with a smattering of large slices of strawberries on top.

Serve like a boss. No cocktail necessary.

Meet Ryan.

My wonderful readers, as I’m sure you have noticed my posting has slackened a bit. Not because I don’t love you, or food, or cooking, or baking…but mostly because I’ve been SO BUSY! Busy is good. It’s wonderful in fact! But it does leave little time to prep, make, photograph, and blog about all of these delicious delectable goodies. How does a girl keep up?! Well the answer is this: my wonderful darling friend Ryan is going to be guest posting from time to time to keep our posts full and fun! I’ll wrap this up, and let you get to know him now…but first let me just say this. Ryan has traveled the world, tasting, and cooking, and learning tricks of the trade that I can scarcely stand they’re so tasty! He is the light of any room, and his passion for food (and his incredible good looks, hilarious sense of humor, wonderful heart, etc. etc. best human in the world-ness) makes him the perfect candidate! So without further adieu, I welcome my friend Ryan and his first guest post here on Pragmatic Pin-Up! -Kristina

Meet Ryan

Meet Ryan:

There is one thing about me that nearly every human being that has come in contact with me in even the slightest of ways is aware of: I am obsessed with food. Notice how I didn’t say “I like food” or even “I love food” or “FOOD IS THE BEST!” (which it is but that’s beside the point); I said, and I quote, “I am obsessed with food”. With that said, it is only natural for one’s obsession to find itself manifesting as some sort of an interesting something, whether it be an in-depth memoir, blog, Youtube video, tweet, passenger pigeon, detailed letter, what have you. So, here I am, joining the army of quick-witted foodies, culinary school stars, vegan/organic farmers, and gluten-free baking wizards. I am…none of those things. I just have a ridiculous infatuation with sustenance and its many forms.

Ryan at Lauderee

My love affair with food has been a slow process; one without a specific point of origin. But I would say I got to the “audibly moaning when eating fig and goat cheese” point about two years ago, and progressed to the “spending hours Yelping, looking up recipes, and brainstorming delicious concoctions” point within the last year. Within this year, I traveled through Europe, trying and tasting and inquiring about all different sorts of food. This was a revolution for me, and I returned with a newfound desire to spread the love of food to everyone that will let me cook for them.

Ryan Eats Paris

I want my passion and drive for cooking to inspire others to want to try new things; things that may make you initially question my capacity for clear thought, but will eventually lead you to something you’d never thought of before. I want to divulge the secret (well, maybe just “less well-known”) dishes that have blown my mind and where to get them; anything from vegan thai food to ricotta fritters with a strawberry/rhubarb cream sauce to a chicken burger with plantains. Maybe one day I will talk about my newest quest to fool my father into eating healthy. It’s all on the table, and I’ll follow wherever the spirit moves me.

Carrot Zucchini Fettucini with Asparagus Pesto

Sometimes you just need a meatless monday. Heck, sometimes I need a meatless Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Sometimes I need as many vegetables as I can squeeze into one dish. And although there are many veggie heavy meals I make on the regular, they’re not always transformative. This dish is one of my favorites because it’s deceptively veggie packed! Because all of the pasta isn’t pasta….it’s long ribbons of carrot and zucchini! Using a peeler, make long pasta like strips of carrot and zucchini, and watch everyone go bananas over that flavorful pasta! It’s so good, that I almost forgot to take pictures while making it…hence why they’re phone pictures! It was too good to not photograph! But scouts honor, no more forgetting my camera!

Carrot Zucchini Ribbon Pasta with Asparagus Pesto

This recipe seems a little intimidating at first, but I promise you that after your first time making it, you will whip this dish up on the fly after every farmers market excursion! Below, I’m listing the basic recipe. I’ve been known to add sugar snap peas, caramelized onions, and whatever else is around. Throw in what’s fresh, or keep it simple. Have a wonderful end of summer meal, guys!!!

Zucchini RibbonsCarrot Zucchini Fettucini with Asparagus Pesto


3 Large Carrots (peeled into thin, long strips)

4 Large Zucchinis (peeled into thin, long strips, avoiding the “fuzzy” core)

1 Package Fettucini Noodles (you can add more or less to taste)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Bunch Asparagus, coarsely chopped (trimmed)

1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

Cook pasta according to directions on package (these will differ if you buy fresh or dried pasta, time accordingly)

Place Asparagus in a large pot of boiling water, cook for 1-2 minutes. Once bright green and barely tender, drain.


Immediately place drained asparagus into food processor or blender (those crazy cheap ninja blenders are actually amazing for this!) add in Olive Oil, Parmesan, and Lemon Juice. Puree until smooth and creamy in consistency. It will look a bit like baby food and taste like creamy asparagus heaven. (If mixture seems thick, add in more olive oil or pasta water).

Asparagus Pesto

In a large sauce pan heat 1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil over medium heat. Add Carrot and Zucchini ribbons, and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. 5-6 minutes. Once al dente remove from heat.

Carrot Zucchini Ribbons

Toss cooked Pasta, Carrot ribbons, Zucchini ribbons, and Asparagus pesto together until well combined and fully coated. Top with a pinch of parmesan and serve!

Pasta Carrot Zucchini

Carrot Zucchini Fettucini with Asparagus Pesto

Enjoy and beam, you (happily) survived meatless Monday!

Beach Days

Across the country fall is just starting to creep in. Little tinges of orange leaves and light breezes transition into chilly nights. Here in Southern California, however, temperatures are hitting record highs. Every man, woman, dog, and child is melting. We are all just trying to catch a break. I mean, helloooooo! Didn’t you get the memo, Mother Nature? It’s time for fall. I mean, Target already has Christmas gear out. (Which honestly, Mother Nature, I’m with you on that being positively ridiculous.) Let’s get these temps down already!!! While these temperatures are just raring to go, we can at least enjoy a few more days at the beach!

Great Beach Days

Quite a while back (eek! Where did this summer go?! Where did this MONTH GO?!) we celebrated Max’s birthday with a beach day. We started with paddle boarding in the marina, then took a nice long stroll through the Venice canals, stopped for refreshing margs in Venice, and topped it off with gelato on Abbot Kinney. It was a BIRTHDAY after all! It was a lovely day, and now that it’s so hot out again, I’m thinking another beach day is up for grabs! Here are some fun ways to beat the heat by the coast!

Paddle Boarding at PHINS: Sadly, I have no photos of us on actual paddle boards….because me plus technology plus water sounds like an instantaneous disaster. But this was the most fun! Check this little shack on the boardwalk out, for a super fun day on the water. Paddle board or kayak, get your workout in, enjoy the water, and all for a super affordable day of fun :).


Cocktails at James Beach: Want a little more upscale space to get a refreshment? This is the place. Tucked right off the Venice boardwalk, James Beach is an bougie beach staple. Grab a margarita, or a scrumptious nibble off their massive menu to refuel for your adventurous day along the sand.


Cruise Abbot Kinney: Stroll the gentrified streets of Venice for cool craft beers, delicious ice cream, hip boutiques, and a slew of rad typography. But mostly….there will be lots of air conditioned venues. Find your oasis.



Meander Venice Canals: Though these days it may be just a tad too hot, it’s an awesome leisurely walking spot. You’ll be transported from the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk to everyones dream neighborhood….or maybe that’s just me.

Peach Blackberry Cobbler, and the story of non-judgemental desserts

You know what? Sometimes stuff just shakes you up. Sometimes you just need to take a step back, blink away a few tears, step outside of your body for a minute, and have a little dance party. Sometimes you are actually crying during that dance party. Are they sad tears? Are they happy tears? Are they just discombobulated droplets of salt water leaking out of your eyeballs and you can’t quite place what they are doing right now? I don’t know. But sometimes it’s just what you have to do. In the spirit of throwing out those preconceived judgements we put on ourself (ie. why am I crying? Crying is for sad people. Crying means I’ve lost. Crying means I have something to celebrate. What the hell is happening to me?!) I decided to make a cobbler that didn’t need to have all of those presumptions of what baking is supposed to be. To hell with what it’s all supposed to be. Right? RIGHT! Sometimes you just have to bake and take photos with your phone. Because it’s just what it’s gonna be.

Peach Blackberry Cobbler

The amazing thing about this cobbler is that it’s so ridiculously flexible, that you don’t even really need to follow this recipe. This recipe is a guideline for you to tell whatever story you feel like. Even if you’re a complete disaster in the kitchen, you are the hot mess of baking, you can kill this dessert. And you know what? It’ll be just as homey and tasty. It’s ideal for a farmers market day, or maybe for that fruit that you got way too excited about at Trader Joe’s and now you have no idea what to do with it. You put it in a cobbler. If your fruit is sweet enough you don’t even need to add sugar to the filling. In fact all the filling is, is fruit. How ’bout them apples?…um…I mean peaches? Make this, fill your heart with warmth and joy, and relax. You gotta do you.

Peach Blackberry Cobbler

recipe adapted from The Kitchn’s Foolproof Cobbler


8 Ripe Peaches (skinned, and coarsely chopped, or just sliced if you like bigger pieces)

1 Pint Ripe Blackberries (washed)

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar (you can use white sugar too, I find brown sugar brings more to the table)

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1 1/2 Cups Flour (ANY gluten free flour mix. I used Pamela’s baking mix. It was delicious. C4C, Better Batter, King Arthurs, they’ll all work.)

1 1/2 Cups Brown Sugar (again, white sugar can be used. Brown sugar just makes me happier)

1 Stick Butter (Melted)

2 Tablespoons Almond Milk (it just means less butter. by all means, just add more butter if you’d like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large baking dish place Peaches and Blackberries so they come up about 2 inches in the dish(or 4 cups of whatever fruit is tickling your fancy), and sprinkle with Cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar (to taste. My blackberries were quite tart, hence the sugar. But if it had just been the peaches I wouldn’t have needed the extra sugar in the filling)


In a large bowl, whisk together the Flour and remaining Sugar. Slowly drizzle in the Melted Butter and the almond milk until it’s well combined and the dough is the consistency of wet sand. (full disclosure this is the most delicious dough to eat ever in the history of the world. I don’t even recommend tasting it because you wont be able to stop. So seriously, don’t do it….do it.)

Cobbler Dough

Gently pack the Dough mixture over the top of the fruit. Think of it like making a sand castle. Don’t be scared, just gently push the crumbly dough so it’s fully covering the top and there’s an even amount packed on the entire surface.

Packed Cobbler DoughPacked Cobbler Dough


Baked Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve warm with ice cream, or cover and refrigerate until the next morning to eat cold with a fat cup of coffee. Eat and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re awesome.