good reads

the lies that bind by emily giffin

I have read every single one of Emily Giffin’s novels starting from her first book Something Borrowed. I loved that series and the movie as well. She has the ability to write a book that makes it seem like you’re reading a romantic comedy. There isn’t anything deep about her writing style but I think that’s the point- it’s that escape from reality, beach/vacation/pool summer read. Needless to say when her latest novel came out, I had to pre-order it. Well I devoured it in less than a week which is saying a lot for me, an incredibly slow reader!

I loved it so much that the minute I finished reading I ordered one for my sister. This book has a little bit of everything- romance, drama, suspense and made me oh so nostalgic for my New York City days. I loved all the city references from the restaurants to the shops to the neighborhoods.

If you’re looking for a light yet gripping read- definitely pick this up!

What are you currently reading?

Sincerely,

Surleen

Uncategorized

skillet ravioli with spinach

You will not even believe how easy this is to make- and how delicious. We all loved it, including our toddler- pasta and cheese, what is there not to like??

The next time you need a dinner on the table in TEN MINUTES, pull this recipe out and give it a try!

recipe courtesy: smitten kitchen 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 ounces baby spinach (from a salad-ready container)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 18 ounces refrigerated or frozen ravioli
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

Heat broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the heat source, if you can make adjustments.

In medium-large (mine is 10 inches) ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil and add garlic. Cook until garlic is barely golden, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add spinach and few pinches of salt, and cook until spinach is wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste. Use tongs or a spoon to transfer garlic and spinach to a bowl.

Place cold ravioli and 1/2 cup water, and a few more pinches of salt in the skillet and bring to a boil over high, then reduce heat to medium. Place a lid (any lid will do) on top and let steam for 3 to 5 minutes (the longer time for frozen). Check a piece of ravioli to see that it’s heated through and tender.

Spoon the mascarpone in tiny dollops around the ravioli, which is very fragile right now and doesn’t like to be moved a lot, but give it a gentle turn or two. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach back, and do the same. Sprinkle the top of the pan with parmesan and broil until the ravioli are browned in places, anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes, depending on how robust your broiler is.

Eat right away. Leave leftovers in skillet and rewarm in oven.

Note- I didn’t think half a cup of water would be enough to cook the ravioli so I added another half cup and ended up with too much water once everything was done baking. So don’t make the same mistake I made- half a cup is enough!

Sincerely,

Surleen

 

food

our favorite chocolate chip cookies

Last week I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which we both love but Maya isn’t a fan of oatmeal just yet so today I decided to make these- and they were a huge hit! She kept running into the kitchen pointing to the cookie sheets saying “more cookie”!

I hope you try making these with your loved ones. They will be sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.

 

recipe courtesy: smitten kitchen

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Deb option)
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.

Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

Sincerely,

Surleen IMG_7275

 

food

taco salad with avocado lime dressing

I recently purchased this cookbook since I love all the recipes from her blog. It’s no surprise that every recipe we’ve tried so far is delicious!

 

This salad was an instant hit in our home! Even our 20 month old loves it, but that’s no surprise since she is a huge salad lover. This salad is delicious and hearty, one of our new weekly favorites. I like to serve this salad with some bean and cheese quesadillas or veggie tacos!

 

YIELD
Makes 4 large salads

INGREDIENTS

  1. Taco filling:
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
  2. Crispy tortilla strips:
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 corn tortillas, cut into 2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-wide strips
    • Fine sea salt
  3. Creamy Avocado-Lime Dressing:
    • 1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 limes)
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon water- (we had to add much more than this)
    • 1/2 medium-large avocado, pitted
    • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro (some stems are okay)
    • 1 small-medium jalapeño, seeded, deribbed, and roughly chopped (we skipped)
    • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  4. Salad:
    • 1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped (or 5 ounces chopped romaine)
    • 3 cups packed baby arugula (about 3 ounces)
    • 1 cup thinly sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
    • 1/3 cup thinly sliced and roughly chopped radishes (3 to 4), or chopped red onion
    • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)
    • 1/2 medium-large avocado

PREPARATION

  1. To make the taco filling:
    1. In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another minute, stirring constantly. Add the rinsed quinoa and water, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes (the quinoa might not be fluffy yet, but don’t worry).
    2. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Then, uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Gently stir in the black beans and salt. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt, if necessary. Cover and set aside for a couple of minutes to warm up the beans.
  2. To make the tortilla strips:
    1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Toss in the tortilla strips, sprinkle them with salt, and stir. Cook until the strips are crispy and turning golden, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the tortilla strips on a plate covered with a piece of paper towel.
  3. To make the dressing:
    1. In a small food processor or blender, combine the lime juice, olive oil, and water. Using a spoon, scoop in the half avocado and add the cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, and salt. Process until the dressing is nice and smooth. The dressing should be zippy, but if it’s unpleasantly tart or difficult to blend, dilute it with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and blend again.
  4. To assemble the salads:
    1. Combine the romaine and arugula in a large bowl. Wait to dress the salad until you are ready to serve, as the greens wilt fairly quickly once dressed. (If you won’t be consuming all 4 servings of this salad right away, portion off the greens you’d like to save for later, and dress only the greens you intend to eat now.)
    2. When you’re ready, drizzle the mixture with just enough dressing to lightly coat the greens (you might have extra). Toss until the dressing is evenly distributed.
    3. Arrange the dressed greens in 4 individual salad bowls (or dinner plates, if your bowls are on the small side). Top each salad with taco filling, tomatoes, radishes, crispy tortilla strips, and feta. Slice the remaining avocado half into long strips and place a couple of strips on each salad. Serve immediately.
    4. If you have leftover dressing, press plastic wrap against the surface to prevent browning and store it in the refrigerator for later. Leftover tortilla strips tend to become unpalatably tough within a couple of hours, so you might want to skip those and add a few crushed tortilla chips to leftovers.
Ingredient Note
If you’re in a hurry, you can replace the crispy tortilla strips with a small handful of crumbled tortilla chips. Sprinkle them over the salads just before serving.
recipe from Love Real Food
Look out for more posts from this cookbook!
Sincerely,
Surleen
beauty

updated skincare routine- transitional weather

I thought I would do an updated skincare routine as we approach transitional weather. My skin gets super dehydrated this time of year, sometimes even more than in the middle of winter so I love use hydrating products like Moisture Surge and Kiehl’s midnight recovery oil. Here is my current morning and evening routine:

AM Routine- 

I cleanse morning and evening with this Lancome cleansing milk pretty much throughout the year. I love how hydrating and gentle it is. I have purchased so many of these and don’t see myself ever using something different. After cleansing I give my skin a quick spritz withthis Fresh toning mist and I feel like it wakes my skin right up. Another repeat purchase! I finish off my morning routine with this SPF serum which I swear by. Ive been using this for around two years now and it sits beautifully under makeup. On days I don’t wear makeup I find this is enough and I don’t need an extra moisturizer.

PM Routine- 

I start my evening skincare routine with removing my makeup with a cleansing oil. I am currently almost out ofthis Tatcha one which I’ve been enjoying but I prefer this one by Kiehl’s.  After this I use the Lancome cleansing milk.

A few times a week I exfoliate with either the Caudalie scrubor the Dermalogica. I just reach for whichever one is in the shower at the time.

For toner I love this one by Lancome because it’s so hydrating and smells amazing. After toner I use a serum. Currently I have a glycolic acid toner recommended to me by my facialist which is a no frills gets the job done kind of serum. If I’m in the mood for something fancier, I go in with the Estee Luader ANR. It’s an oldie but a goodie!

I then apply an eye cream and have finally found my favorite eye cream of all time! It’s this one by Belif- I love how thick and hydrating it is, yet it’s lightweight and doesn’t just sit on my under eye area. It absorbs really well. Once that is on I use a moisturizer or oil. I am currently rotating between the Kiehl’s Midnight oil and Moisture Surge. I love them both. If my skin is feeling extra dry I will layer them.

 

What is your current skincare routine? What’s been working for you? If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I don’t tend to try new skincare products. Over the years I’ve put in research and now know what works for my skin. These products never let me down!

 

Sincerely,

Surleen

beauty

skincare for beginners

Recently I was having a conversation with my cousin about skincare and I realized how overwhelming it can be for a beginner like her to know where to begin. There are so many options out there and it’s difficult to get started with a routine that is simple yet effective.

So I thought it would be helpful to give you some information about various steps in a routine- why they are needed, which ones work for me and will hopefully work for you, and in what order to use them.

  1. Let’s start with cleansing the skin–why is a cleanser needed? We need to cleanse our skin to remove the impurities that eventually lead to dullness, blackheads and even worse wrinkles and breakouts. Think of your skin as a blank canvas- the cleanser gives you a clean fresh canvas to work with. This is the first step in my skincare routine and some of my favorite cleansers are listed here and here . I am currently using the Lancome oneand love it because it is milky, not foaming which does not strip my face of its natural oils and helps to keep my skin hydrated. Other cleansers to try for sensitive skin are those made by Cerave and Cetaphil. I used these for years when I was using medication for my breakouts because of how gentle they are.

2. Toners help balance the PH of skin and add extra hydration if needed, as well as help to remove every last bit of makeup that your skin may have missed. I like to use hydrating toners especially in the winter. Some of my favorites include the Fresh Rose toner and the Lancome confort toner. I also love the Fresh vitamin nectar mist in the mornings- it’s so refreshing and I don’t have to bother with a cotton pad. Thayer’s witch hazel is great for oilier skin or in the warmer months.

 

3. Moisturize- Moisturizer is important because if our skin isn’t kept hydrated and supple, it loses its elasticity and causes dryness which leads to premature wrinkles. Personally, I hate the way my face feels without moisturizer. As soon as I moisturize my skin, I feel like I just gave my skin a tall glass of water! My favorite moisturizers include Moisture Surge by Clinique, Fresh rose cream and the Kiehls midnight recovery oil.

 

This is as simple as a skincare routine can get- cleanse, tone and moisturize. I would start here and then build by adding serums, eye creams, face masks, face scrubs, etc. It’s also important to note that if you’re starting a new product, only use one new product for a few days at a time. Don’t add too many new things at once. This way you will be able to identify which product is causing a negative reaction- and which one is actually working for your skin.

 

Please let me know if you have questions! What is your current skincare routine?

Sincerely,

Surleen 

beauty · food · good reads · lifestyle

currently loving

You think it I’ll say it-  This collection of short stories was a refreshing read and a great start to the new school year. I didn’t want each of the stories to end and was left wanting more. I wonder if the author will turn any of them into a novel! I also highly recommend Prep as well (same author).

Official Secrets- My husband and I walked into a nearly empty movie theatre on a rainy day not knowing what to expect. I was just happy we made it to the movies ( it’s no surprise I’m in it for the popcorn). This movie though, was really well written, acted and the story itself was very gripping. Not a genre that I usually enjoy, but I really enjoyed this one!

Marc Jacobs foundation- I recently picked this foundation up online at Sephora. From the color match to the coverage, it’s an easily my new favorite. I just wish it was longer wearing but that’s nothing a little powder on top can’t fix! Oh and it’s on sale.

Burrata- We have been loving this pizzeria, known for their wood fired pizza served as personal sized pies. The arancini is incredible too. It’s a great place to go fo lunch or date night, and they happen to be great with babies, thankfully. Here’s the menu. The J. Sexton pie is not to be missed! It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had.

What have you been loving lately?

Sincerely,

Surleen

 

beauty

current skincare routine

I wanted to post an updated skincare routine now that we are in this transitional weather here in New York, and I’ve been really happy with the products I’ve been using lately.

One of the most important things I can do for my skin is to keep my routine consistent. If I try a bunch of new products my skin reacts negatively and then I end up trying to fix my skin for weeks. I do, however, keep products in rotation. This is because I know that switching things up, for example, one night a facial oil and the following night a moisturizer, keeps my skin looking its best.

In other words, I like to keep my routine consistent, but within those products that work well for me, I rotate them daily.

Here is a breakdown of what I use and why it works for me!

Morning:

Cleanserlancome LAIT GALATÉE CONFORT- COMFORTING MAKEUP REMOVER MILK WITH HONEY AND SWEET ALMOND OIL FOR DRY SKIN

I prefer this cleanser over foaming cleansers because those tend to strip my skin of its natural oils. I never use a cleanser that foams or suds up, they are way too harsh for my skin and unnecessary especially since I double cleanse (in the evenings I use a separate makeup removing oil).

TonerFRESH  Vitamin Nectar Antioxidant Face Mist

I give myself a generous spritz of this toning spray and it leaves my skin feeling refreshed and ready for the day. It wakes me up with its lovely citrus scent. No cotton pad needed, which is helpful for mornings- one less step. I just love breathing it in- the scent is intoxicating.

Serum- ANTHELIOS AOX ANTIOXIDANT SERUM SPF 50- Daily Antioxidant Serum with Sunscreen

This is genius! A serum and sunscreen combined. I apply this every morning and don’t have to worry about whether my foundation has SPF in it or not. It sinks right into my skin, leaves no residue at all. In fact, it smooths out my skin as if I applied a primer. New find, but it’s here to stay!

I find this hydrating enough that I don’t need to apply a separate moisturizer in the mornings. If my skin is feeling dehydrated that morning, I will reach for this or this.

Evening:

Remove makeup:

I like to remove my makeup as soon as I get home from work and I usually one of these to do so FARMACY  Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm  

or  AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Cleansing Oil Face & Eyes

These both work brilliantly at removing my makeup, even all my stubborn mascara and eye liner. I reach for whichever one I am in the mood for. I love them both!

Cleanser: I use the same cleanser as in the mornings.

Scrub- Every other night I use this scrub. I love the texture and it leaves my skin super clean and soft.

Toner- I will use one of these two toners. They are both very hydrating which is what my skin needs, especially in the evenings.

KIEHL’S SINCE 1851 Ultra Facial Toner

OR

LANCÔME Tonique Confort Re-Hydrating Comforting Toner with Acacia Honey

Serum- After toner I like to use one of the following serums:

CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Radiance Serum- This is quite hydrating and I find it brightens my complexion as well. 

OR

ESTÉE LAUDER Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II- It’s no wonder this has been a cult favorite for so long. This serum is an anti aging magic potion. My mom uses it. My sister uses it. I use it. Maybe one day my daughter will use it. 

Eye cream-FRESH Rose Hydrating Eye Gel Cream

I am on my third little tub of this stuff and I can’t find a thing I don’t like about it. This is the best eye cream I’ve come across.

Moisturizer/ Night cream– For my night cream I am looking for something that deeply hydrates so I tend to use a facial oil or a cream. I love these:

Tatcha the water cream- see my review here 

Kiehl’s midnight recovery oil- see my review here 

Other moisturizers I love include Kiehl’s ultra facial cream, Fresh Rose cream and Clinique Moisture Surge.

 

What is your current skincare routine or what are some products that are staples in your routine?

Sincerely,

Surleen

 

beauty

tatcha the water cream

I am usually not a sucker for packaging and didn’t even know how nice the packaging was for this product, but oh my goodness!! This is probably the most beautifully packaged beauty product I have ever purchased. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it applies like a dream and leaves my skin smooth and soft. I enjoy the subtle rose scent and the anti aging ingredients and superfoods make this a staple in my beauty vanity.

This is my first Tatcha purchase but definitely not my last.

What’s the most beautifully packaged item you’ve ever received?

IMG_4395-2.jpg

Sincerely,

Surleen