Sunday, December 11, 2011

30 is the new....

In the week leading up to my 30th birthday, I was given wonderful advice on how to approach the impending day! It's neat to see so many different perspectives on the topic of age.  Taking jabs at myself, and my new "old" factor, was more in lighthearted nature than anything else, as I love where I am. So as the passengers of the "30 is the new 20 ship" take off, I'm going to hang out and let 30 just be 30.  No reason to go down the road of the 20's again, once was enough thank you! Wrapping up a decade gives time to reflect on the MAJOR (ten years in the making) todo list.  Checking off graduate school, starting a career, meeting- crushing on- dating- and then marrying my soul mate, selling a house in a depressed market and moving out to the country, rescuing 3 amazing animals, making new lifelong girlfriends and spending time with my 'oldest' friends, taking better care of myself, hiking mountains and sleeping on top of them, discovering our own ocean front oasis, and so much more.  So much accomplished, and even more left to be discovered. So I welcome 30, it's challenges, excitement, and mundane moments!

To kick off my new year, we met up with my family at Tarrant's for dinner.  With a wide selections of food and beer everyone's tastes would be met!  The service was AWESOME, and the food was perfect. There was no rush to the evening, but no lag either. We sampled appetizers, ordered our entrees, and finished with desserts!  I couldn't leave 29 behind without a chocolate covered canoli!

It was such a special night, to wine- and dine with the people I love the most. After dinner, and hugging my parents goodbye, hubs, sister +1, and I went to Pennylane. Another instittution of the 20's that will always be a mainstay!  We enjoyed another pint before heading home!
Friday's dinner was the kind of night where everything fits together so perfect, you wake up the next morning still glowing from the warmth of love that surrounded you!

Saturday's celebration brought on a romantic dinner for two at our favorite spot- no reservations needed! I was kicked out of the kitchen while hubby took care of everything. After a quick TRX fix, I jumped back into the book I was reading on my new Kindle Fire!  I was invited back downstairs for the 1st of 3 courses!  Grilled eggplant with parmesan. Simple and heavenly with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. My wine glass was never empty, and the service was extra good looking :)  
Following the eggplant was a bowl of homemade Maryland Rockfish and Seafood soup.  With fresh rockfish in the fridge, thanks to my FIL's recent Chesapeake Bay fishing trip,  Steve created a soul warming bowl of seafood, veggies, and broth that I hope will be replecated many, MANY, times to come.

I was completely satisfied, and even still he hit me with a 3rd course. This time the rockfish fillets were marniated in olive oil and lime juice, before being grilled. They were accompanied by Israeli cous couse, with veggies and a garlic basil butter. The butter was not needed, but I couldn't stop from taking dips.  The rockfish by itself was unbelievable!

We cranked up all of the Christmas lights- all 2000 outdoor twinkling bulbs- and headed outside to toast my birthday, and celebrate with a few more surprises! 

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect welcoming into my 30th year! Being able to spend time with the people I love was the most perfect gift ever!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

time to make the doughnuts...

I am pretty late to the doughnut pan party, but I have arrived none the less!! I am so glad I added this $10.00 bed bath and beyond addition to my mini muffin tin, mini bread loaf, mini tart collection of bakeware.  I do not pride myself in baking, but will on occasion create a healthier version of the good stuff that doesn't resemble cardboard. 

Enter the doughnut.

Traditional fried doughnuts glazed in sugar are fantastic, however as I creep closer to 30 (20 more days!!!) I need not be reminded of every naughty nibble.... hello metabolism melt down!!!


If you're a fan of the Lindt dark chocolate bar with sea salt, then make these as is. If salt and chocolate aren't your thing, cut the salt back. 

Baked Dark Chocolate Doughnuts

1 cup white wheat flour
1/4 cup agave nectar (won't make it too sweet- add more if you like but balance with a touch of extra flour)
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder (1 Tbsp Hershey's special Dark Chocolate and 1 Tbsp regular Cocoa powder next time I'm going for 100% dark chocolate!!!)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt (less if you aren't a fan of the salty chocolate combo)
2 Tbsp cocunut oil
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix dry ingredients (if you are using sugar instead of agave nectar, mix it in with the dry. I mixed the agave with the wet ingredients.)
Beat in room temp coconut oil.  Mix all wet ingredients together and combine everything in mixer.  Stir ingredients until just mixed. No need to overdo it and make a chewy doughnut. 

Use a spatula to move batter into a large plastic bag, snip off the end and pipe into the greased doughnut pan.  *** I have a tall coffee mug I put a quart sized plastic bag in and fold the top around the edge of the mug. It makes the transfer much easier.  I make a small snip on the bottom corner of the bag and pipe around once for each doughnut.  I fill between 1/2 and 3/4 of each mold.

Bake for 8-10 minutes and let cool slightly before removing from pan. Grease again and make any remaining doughnuts.  This made 9 total for us. 

I drizzled organic maple syrup over mine before dusting with unsweetened organic coconut. 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet Tooth

I have a weakness, my sweet achilles heal, if you will! I am a sucker for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I also have super strong will power, and can usually avoid a full on chocolate peanut butter binge. When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to make it. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter balls....oh yes!

Mix 1 cup all Natural Organic Peanut Butter
1/4 cup organic maple syrup
1/2 cup Brown rice cereal

Roll into 2 Tbsp sized balls, and drizzle with melted chocolate.

Place in freezer until set (or store in freezer).  When ready to eat, let them sit out for about 10 minutes!

There are no words....

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Monday, October 24, 2011

My newest obsession.. one of them

I have completely fallen in love with making granola bars. Every Sunday I look ahead at the week to see what kinds of food we have in the fridge, and plan a couple of meals for those nights when my brain cells are minimal.  I also throw together a batch of granola for quick easy breakfasts or snacks.  With anything, it gets  better with time and each batch is tastier than the last. The base is always the same, however each kind definitely has its own unique flavor and texture. Pumpkin Granola is soft- almost like a cookie. Cocoa Coffee granola is crunchy. Fruit and nut is pretty standard chewy granola.  No matter what flavor variety or texture it is awesome knowing what each ingredient is (and how to pronounce it).  
The base for it all starts with

3  cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups Brown Rice Cereal- think  Rice Crispies but Brown.
1 1/2 cups Millet cereal
1/2 chopped almonds/ raw unsalted cashew mix
1 cup dried fruit (cherries are awesome!)
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup + an extra tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup (extra full) brown rice syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon cinnamon (I love cinnamon, if you aren't a fan use less)
dusting of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.  Mix 1st 7 ingredients in mixer.  Heat and stir together remaining ingredients, and add to the dry ingredients.  Press evenly  into pan, and bake for 20-23 minutes.  Once finished, let it cool and cut into squares.

For different variations add ingredients to either dry mix or the melted mixture.  Make them your own! You can change up the nuts, dried fruits, and flavors to create any combo you'd like!

Cocoa coffee- I added 2 Tbsp Dark chocolate cocoa powder and 1/4 cup decaf instant coffee into melted mixture before pouring it on. I LOVED them, however hubby wasn't as big of a fan. I could munch on chocolate covered espresso beans all day though.

Peanut butter granola- I added a 1/2 cup of peanut butter, and cut the almond butter down to 1/4 cup.  It was very tasty, but very crumbly.

Pumpkin- add 1/4 cup pumpkin puree to melted ingredients.  Make sure to add 1/2 cup extra oats to dry ingredients to help balance out the wetness of the pumpkin.

I store these in an air tight container on the counter for the week. We are lucky if they aren't all gone by Friday!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soup Kitchen

Soup is one of the most seasonal foods around. No matter what vegetables (or fruits!!) the season is producing, it is guaranteed to make a phenomenal soup.  Spring's asparagus soup, summer's gazpacho, and winters hearty beef stews can be joined by fall's roasted root veggie soup.  This creation was simple, and perfect for the first night of 30 something degree temps.  Add 1 fireplace, a few glasses of wine (or Oktoberfest!) and you have yourself the recipe for a cozy evening.

1 small sweet potato
2 celery stalk
3 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
1 large parsnip
1/2 white onion
1/2 large fennel
1 leek
Fresh Tarragon
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne pepper
Veggie Stock (4 cups)
water (about 3 or 4 cups)
1 cup white wine

Set oven at 425. Roast garlic in skin, in olive oil- I do the foil pocket with enough oil to cover for about 15/20 ish minutes. Once it's done is soft, sticky, and squeezes out of the paper. I LOVE the softer flavor of roasted garlic.
Cut all other veggies into cubes/ pieces roughly  1-2 inches big.  Onion can remain bigger.
Roast veggies for 30 minutes. 
Place veggies and garlic in a food processor (I ended up doing 2 batches in the food processor).  Pulse until smooth. It gets thick, so begin adding the veggie stock while in the processor.  Once it's your desired consistency (chunky or creamy smooth- my favorite!) put it in a large dutch oven. Once all veggies are blended, and in the dutch oven add any remaining veggie stock and wine.  My soup was super think, so I began watering it down to the perfect consistency for us.  It took about 3 cups of water, but add it to your taste.  Add fresh tarragon, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.  I would say we used about  1 1/2 Teaspoon of sea salt, loads of black pepper- and 1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne.  Tarragon was added while cooking, and as a garnish.  The fluffy fennel fur made a perfect garnish as well!  This soup is a welcome addition to my recipe collection, and I can not wait to make it again ... perhaps on Thanksgiving!! Pin It

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

will work for nachos!

Hubby and I are distinctly different in the kitchen. He cleans as he cooks, leaving minimal work to do after dinner. I pull out and use everything, and leave it for after dinner.  Double bonus when he cooks... and cleans... The other night Steve sent me out of the kitchen, and set to work on creating a dinner worthy of posting! I took a hint, and a nap on the couch, and patiently waited!  I have a bad habit of trying to control  help out... only to get in the way! Steve's creation was perfect in every way- just looking at the pictures makes my mouth water! I can't wait to be kicked out of the kitchen again!

Seafood Nachos

6 or so Large deveined shrimp
4 large scallops
2 pieces of flounder
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
homemade Pico de Gallo (his secret, not mine)
diced veggies (onion, red and green pepper, tomatoes)
tortilla chips

Lightly season flounder fillets (salt, pepper, garlic) and bake for 8 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Fish will flake when done!  When cooked, shred fish into flakes.  Saute scallops and shrimp- cut into small pieces.  Build nachos, layering cheese and veggies. Add seafood on top and bake until cheese melts.  Add pico on top and enjoy!

*** Update- I misspoke Hubs grilled everything!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The remedy

My houses some of my most prized possessions- a Kitchen Aid stand up mixer, a red cast iron dutch oven, a refrigerator filled with fresh foods, and my wine glasses. Not only does it hold my treasures, it leads to the deck!  A girl has to have priorities- hubby tries very hard to win my girly side over with jewelery. While I appreciate his effort, I am not the normal girl- I squeal with delight in my espresso maker and full size food processor.  So when our state was rocked with an earthquake and hurricane within a 5 day span I retreated to the kitchen (and grill). Nothing warms my soul more than spending time in the center of our home.

Enter juicy Steve-burgers (grilled during and after a pretty ginormous Thunderstorm)
1 lb 90/10 ground beef
heavy splashes of Worcestershire
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
black pepper and sea salt
dried spices for rolling

Mix beef, Worcestershire, garlic, salt and pepper together and form 4 balls. Flatten slightly and roll the edges in a mix of pepper and spices to taste ( I am partial to spicy mixes with lots of course pepper). Depress the middle of the burger and grill on medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes per side. Add cheese as necessary. 
Steve won my heart and stomach by grilling me hamburgers early in our relationship. While we share the grilling duties these days, we often reminisce over the early days with every bite (he still outgrills me- and his burgers are hands down the best I've ever had!)

Nothing calms earthquake shocked nerves like juicy burgers with grilled potato wedges!

To soothe the pre-hurricane anxiety, pulled pork sandwiches are a must!  Whole wheat buns hold the perfect combination of spicy pork with broccoli slaw. 
My slow cooker did all the work in making the pork fork shreddable.  Low heat for 6 1/2 hours left a 5lb pork loin  perfect (and ready for sauce).  There's no use rewriting perfection- epicurious has it taken care of here.  Topped off with broccoli slaw, bbq is the answer to many ailments and anxieties.  I like my slaw more peppery and vinegary, and would dare judge anyone in their slaw consistency preferences. To my broccoli mix (lame- store bought in a bag!!! It was a hurricane after all)  I added 1/4 cup olive oil mayo (I'm hell bent on making my own mayo, just not today), small swirl of agave nectar, 2 Tbsp milk, and 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, heavy doses of pepper.

And if that hasn't taken care of restoring wrecked nerves, go here and make these.  I wouldn't dream of changing one of Jenna's masterful recipes. She is a bloggin' kitchen all star.  With trees dancing dangerously with each other- and a few tree casualties on our property- there was no sense in leaving the house yesterday.  Five hours spent baking bread did not seem unreasonable, and after 1 bite I began planning the next all day bake session!

Today brings sunshine and relaxation- time to enjoy it!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

when in doubt...

...make your own hummus! This post lacks pictures- and while I apologize, I most certainly do not feel sorry for every carrot dipped, hummus covered, pita lovin' bite I ate! Nope, not one lil' bit!! So let your imagination guide the picture- and follow closely!  I promise home made hummus is better than anything you've ever bought- and worth the hours of soaking required.

Soak 2 cups of chickpeas overnight (OR speed it up by boiling them for 2 minutes, turning off heat, and covering for 1 hour)
Simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours
Use a food processor- and whirl together for 2+  minutes with the following.
1/3 cup tahini
2 Tbsp olive oil (I usually add more, depending on desired creaminess- but start with 2)
2 giant cloves of garlic (extra gaaaah-licky)
sea salt to taste!
3 Tbsp lemon juice
dash(es) of Cayenne pepper- I lurve the Cayenne pepper!

Then have fun and add whatever floats your boat- roasted red peppers, pickles (my hubbies fave!!), goat cheese (ummm honey can I have a goat?!), and enjoy with your favorite veggies and pitas.

I have doomed myself, and store bought hummus will no longer due.... thank goodness its easy as P.I.E. (which I have a long sordid history with.... damn you pecan pie!!!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peachy BBQ Burgers

Summer is quickly slipping by and each day I grasp at my last little bit of freedom before heading back to my j.o.b.  I LOVE my job, but need my summers off to rejuvenate  study innovative new approaches of reaching students from different demographics while preparing them for future tests, AND instilling them with skills to be critical thinkers, and leaders of the future.  Just kidding- they teach you all that and more at COLLEGE!!! 
Summer can KEEP it's humidity and 90+ degree days... this teacher doesn't want to go out for recess and need a shower afterwards- but I'll take the laid back evening of grilling (any night of the week). This week's grilled deliciousness is dedicated to my friend Marcee. She makes amazing chicken burgers with feta and spinach mixed it... and strawberry secret sangria. I'm not sure if it's truly a secret or if she just forgets how she does it each time. Either way I could eat/drink at her house everyday in the summertime... thankfully we share the same schedule! Now put down your best practices guide book, and turn on the grill!

Barbecue Chicken Burgers

1 lb. ground chicken- the lean stuff
mass amounts of black pepper and garlic- according to your taste! Just don't try and kiss me after eating one of my burgers or you'll be sorry!
red pepper flakes- gives it fire
bbq sauce- store bought or home made
goat cheese
peaches-cut in 1/2 with pits removed
onion- 1/2 large white onion, sliced
olive oil
burger buns

Fire up the grill and get it nice and hot! Mix in salt, pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes well with ground chicken. Form 4 patties from the meat.  Oil grill grates, once hot! Put burgers down and grill accordingly. I do a few minutes each side before flipping.  Baste burgers in bbq sauce make sure it coats each side nicely- the sugars in the sauce should thicken and make it extra sticky on the outside of the burger.  Meanwhile, cook onions in oil on medium heat for about 20 minutes. They will start to turn light brown. The longer you cook them the better- caramelizing onions is a low and slow process. I always rush it with a higher heat- thus not TRUE caramelized onions. If you have the patience go all out! I use a meat thermometer to make sure my burgers are cooked all the way, a few minutes before pulling them off put peach halves on the grill.  Grill on each side- giving nice char marks.  Once everything is ready, assemble your burgers!  Top bbq burgers with a bit of goat cheese, onions, and sliced peaches. 

Enjoy- a perfect edible representation of summer flavors!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Marry Your Best Friend

Lesson 3 is the most important. Should you leave your campsite messy before having to move it- it will just make your move a bigger pain.  Should you forget Benadryl... well you may be totally screwed.  But make sure you are married to your best friend- if they aren't then you better start making them your bestie!  I will not convince Steve that a couples massage and pedi  are a great bonding experience... or that white wine is perfect in the Summertime.

Epitome of manliness
And while he tries, he'll never teach me about the trajectory of bullets and whatnot.... or that a ceramic dragon would look cool in ANY room of the house.. well maybe the garage.
Nothing says "Welcome to Our Home" like a dragon....
What makes him my best friend is that in ANY situation, I know that together we are capable of succeeding. Small tasks like cooking dinner together started our relationship off in the right direction. Small tasks turned into larger ones- purchasing a house, combining different tastes and redefining OUR combined style, taking care of our 4 legged fur babies, and being able to STILL have fun on a trip that went south just a few days into it!
Random acts of Beach Yoga
We mentioned packing it up and heading home- SHOULD the pups need a trip to the emergency vet. A decision not to take lightly, as we were on an island and would have had to call in the privately run ferry to pick us up.
please get me out of here
 Our trip may sound like a nightmare to some- and believe me parts of it were!

Boy, I'm not taking you home til you catch me a tuna
 We were also able to have a blast together, once we knew the pups were going to be fine.  We goofed off in the ocean, spent hours catching fish, spotted sharks feeding REALLY close to the beach, saw the most amazing stars, cooked world class dinners, drank incredible craft beer, listened to soul stirring music, and fell more in love! 

Fly Venom has been known to have this effect of people... true story

nom nom nom
 Inspite of less than desirable circumstances, we were able to enjoy moments of bug relief- with an optimistic approach.

Beautiful sunset = flies gone, enter mosquitoes
  Lesson #3- It's not about where you are, but who you're with. If the person you married becomes your best friend, you are good to go!

just like our first date.. only we're married!

Lesson 2- PPP

So if you read the previous post, you have our PI history, our campsite fails, and a brief version of the bug attack.  Far too much info for 1 post to recap our trip- the lessons learned in this trip will require multiple postings (happy reading!).
A year ago we took Blitzie on her last camping trip, and started a new tradition with the Black Dog and the Gray Bear. 
Blitzie on Portsmouth Island in 2010

Marking our 1 year adoption with Whiskey, we were pumped to let them chase crabbies and play in the surf. 
Whiskey Girl

Ramsey making her presence known
 When we woke up with no wind, Thursday morning, we of course felt the lil' ninjas munching away on our ankles. It wasn't until the pups started running around in circles, nipping at anything, and pleading to us with their sad puppy eyes that we knew we were in trouble.  Hubby stuck the dogs in the truck- blasting AC, ya know because what's better than being bit by bugs in 90+ heat!?  We started the move. I checked on the ladies refilling water bowls, and making sure they were ok.  Whiskey took the brunt of the bites and had HUNDREDS of little whelps forming from her paws to her snout. In the 10 or so minutes we were outside, she had been attacked and was starting to puff up with an allergic reaction.  Steve asked me how she was doing, and all I could say was it was getting worse! My dude is pretty awesome under pressure. Both of us garnish a take charge, clear and concise mentality- and don't let direct orders cause our feelings to be hurt. So when I directly "requested" Benadryl- he was there. Water refills- all over it. And when he said we had to move, we moved. While our ankles provided lunch for the black flies, we carried our campsite out to open beach-by this time it was at least 96 degrees outside. The silver lining?! There was none!  It was a craptastic situation- not to mention our minds were constantly worrying about the dogs and if the benadryl would even help! Forty five minutes of hell gave the antihistamines time to do their magic, and Whiskey started to look like herself again. Our campsite was up, in it's new location, and God blessed us with gusts of wind strong enough to take the black flies back to the dunes- leaving us the green headed suckers to deal with (they at least won't bother you if you reapply bug spray every 30 minutes.) Both pups spent the day in a Benadryl induced intoxication, and woke up the next morning feeling better.

Fully recovered

Whiskey on her crab hunt
 Lesson #2- Pack Pink Pills.

Welcoming Party

For the past three years we have set aside time to venture down to Portsmouth Island. Just south of Ocracoke, NC, PI was once occupied by a small fishing village.  The village still stands, however the people have since moved off the island.   We found PI in a small Outside magazine article a few years ago- the rest is history! Each trip has been marked by 'events' out of our control. The first trip- the mildest- was in June of '09. It was a great intro, and lured us into planning another.
I could do this every summer...
April of 2010 brought WIND. Sandblasting wind that shot down the beach- making fishing terrible, and ushering us into the safety of the dunes to retreat from it's fury. 

Our desires of the PI experience were not met, so we again traveled back in 2010, this time bridging the last week of June, into the first week of July.  The wind was much calmer, but still present.  Thunderstorms rained down destroying  our metal awning frame (basically palmed it flat onto the beach.)  We retreated to the dunes...again.  After a few enjoyable days of sunshine, we were set to head home. We packed up a majority of our campsite- leaving only the tent and some clothes to take care of in the morning.  Thunderstorms again came through this time raging against our tent (a glorious North Face Tent, purchased as a Christmas Gift for hubby, on our 1st Christmas!)  Poles broke, rain fly ripped, tent failed. We slept in the truck. 
The Thunderstorm that ate our campsite

With high spirits we set out for our 4th adventure on PI, this time with 2 pups! We caught the ferry, drove up the beach to find our spot and set up camp, this time close to the dunes, so we wouldn't have to move it!

Wednesday and Thursday were warm, breezy, beautiful beach days.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were hot, dead calm days. Have you ever seen the Atlantic Ocean look like a lake?! It was scary calm. There were NO waves, NO wind and NO relief from these guys. 


Black flies, unassuming as they appear, are the ninjas of the bug kingdom. Swarming in from the dunes (because there was no wind to keep them at bay), they attacked both hubs and myself- as well as the dogs.  We quickly made the decision to move our campsite closer to the water- to no avail, they just followed us. They laughed at our bug spray- 100% deet- and kept on mounting attacks at our ankles.  The wind picked up, the bugs went back to the dunes, and we were finally safe from their onslaught.  Lesson #1- you will ALWAYS move your campsite on PI, so keep it clean.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stuff Your (face) Tomatoes

Even though my garden isn't aplenty... my neighbor's is! Lucky for us we have neighbors that know how to grow some tasty veggies. This week we were blessed with a delivery of ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, from a very welcoming neighbor (who knows his way around a garden).  We've been slicing tomatoes nightly as an extra veggie in addition to our dinners, but tonight the tomatoes were the centerpiece of dinner.  Stuffed with pulled chicken, basil, garlic, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, olive oil, and topped with fresh parmesan, these were the perfect way to showcase tomatoes in a slightly different way.  Arugula laid the bed, and summer squash with veggie marinara set to the side of each tomato.  A glass of red wine, and dinner was served.  While I wait and decide if I should dig into another one....the dark chocolate is eyeing me from across the room!

Preheat Oven to 375.
Remove the seeds and flesh of the tomatoes.
Save flesh, and discard seeds.
Roughly chop and mix flesh with cooked pulled chicken (this was from a previous dinner- slow cooked chicken breasts).
Mix with spices (minced garlic, basil, red pepper flakes).
Mix in bread crumbs and olive oil- and stuff each tomato.
Cook in oven for 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If you're on my deck...

... you have to talk like a pirate.

With perfect low heat and low humidity- a July rarity in Va- we set up the deck for a 2 person party. The music was loud enough, the beer was extra cold, and dinner was a partial redo of a previous failed attempt! I sent my hubs a text earlier in the day asking him to make grilled apples for me!  He is modest about his culinary ability and I am a kitchen hog- but I do love when he cooks for me.  He is set on grilling everything (a personal goal perhaps?!)  Apples (Granny Smiths)- while not the first thing that comes to mind when you fire up a grill- are pretty amazing when topped with goat cheese, agave nectar, and grill roasted pecans.  It could double as a dessert, but we started our party off perfectly with them. 

A few weeks ago we picked up beef marketed as "great for Kabobs"- they looked pretty... but they were so tough and chewy, we ended up with assorted grilled veggies for dinner. This time I went with beef tenderloin- finding a package that had 3 smaller steaks (each steak was roughly 3 ounces.) I cut them in to kabob sized pieces and marinated them in olive oil, garlic and splashes of Worcestershire- for maybe 30 minutes. I strung through peppers, onion, and baby portabellas, with a 2 pieces of beef on each skewer. They sat on a hot grill for just shy of 5 minutes and were grilled to perfection- no knife needed!  

We stayed up late, listened to music, and had way too much fun to be classified as "adults."

Corn with a C...

... not a K-that would be the 90's band who I listened to in high school... and for some reason had a crush on Munky... my poor, poor parents!

This corn is much quieter!

My main focus in the kitchen this summer has been to remove **as much** processed foods as I can- with exceptions! We are not a couple of hard charging purist who refuse ice cream... beer... wine.. or any other of life's lil' luxuries.  Our food philosophy is simple- if listed ingredients are unrecognizable we tend to stay away, and try to recreate a cleaner version using real and whole foods- tend to being the key words... we are human after all!  With that being said, this week was full of some extra tasty meals- created simply with fresh ingredients!

I grabbed a few ears of corn at the grocery store with every intention on grilling it as a side with dinner.  When I started out in the kitchen, I went a different route, mainly because I didn't feel like gnawing on a corn cob!  So with other veggies being chopped up, I let my corn boil for 10 minutes and then placed it on a hot grill- just long enough to get char marks around it!  I cut it from the cob and mixed it in a bowl with the following:

1/2 chopped red pepper
1/2 chopped green pepper
1 clove minced garlic
1 chopped jalapeno pepper
1/2 avocado
1/2 small red onion- grilled
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

I mixed, tasted, and adjusted the salt and pepper.  It was so simple, so sweet, and gone so quick!  We paired it up next to a mixed green salad- with salsa instead of dressing ( I am IN LOVE with Costco's medium organic salsa.... pretty much the only reason I go there!) and spiced and sliced grilled chicken breasts. I know  I've done right when my guy closes his eyes and smiles after the first bite!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Squash coming out of your ears?!

With an abundance of summer squash from family and neighbors I took to my favorite search engine to find creative new ways to use our bounty!  The first recipe that caught my eye was from My Little Kitchen.  I tweaked it by using 1/2 cup  of bread crumbs, and 1/2 cup cornmeal- instead of the spelt bread crumbs.   I nixed the tomato sauce, but think it would have been a great addition! 

The second squash creation was a creamy summer squash soup- perfect even on a 90 degree day!  Into the Dutch oven (which feels out of place in summer cooking) went 1/2 of a white onion roughly chopped, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 3 chopped up carrots, 3 large yellow squash- peeled and cubed- and about a TBSP olive oil.  Let it cook for 5 or so minutes until the squash is getting brown edges and the onion is getting soft.  Add 4 cups of chicken stock - or veggie, but I used what was available- 1/2 cup (or more!!!) white wine. We were out of cooking wine, so in went some Chardonnay!  Let it simmer until the carrots are soft- 10ish minutes...maybe?!.  Add mixture into blender or food processor in small batches- or you will end up with soup me!  I whirl mine for a while... making it extra creamy!  Put it back in the Dutch oven on a low setting and add 1 cup milk- I use 1%.  To season the soup I add a variety of spices to taste.  It started with salt and pepper, tumeric, and chili seasoning.  After tasting, it needed cayenne pepper (a healthy dose!) and more salt. 

Now I'm waiting for the next batch of squash to come in.... if only my green thumb was as successful as my kitchen creations!

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th Festivities

Happy Fourth of July! True to form we spent the weekend at the grill- be it holiday or snow day we can usually be found grilling out!  Hubs sipped a Bells Lager, in the ever so patriotic American Amber Ale glass while grilling out some sliders and dogs.

I kicked off the evening with oven "Fried" green 'maters- they were dusted in cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. I lightly spritzed them with olive oil before cooking in a 400 degree oven.  They were totally edible!

With them we had peppers stuffed with goat and cream cheese, garlic, chili flakes (just a pinch) and hot sauce. These little beasts had a fiery kick for being as cute as they looked!  They went into the same oven as the tomatoes, for about 20 minutes. 

The pups enjoyed some quality deck time....

.... and hammed it up for the mama!!

After all was grilled we assembled the sliders- cut the hot dogs in half and topped them with everything from avocado, to pineapple...  Hubby made multiple types of sliders! The options were awesome..

a. the Texas slider with pepper jack cheese, and BBQ sauce
b.  bacon, blue with mushrooms and onions

There was no way to favor one over the other... so I had both!

Thank goodness they were bite size, we had to keep some room open for the grilled pineapple slices!

Our two person party ended up on the front porch, for the most amazing thunderstorm! The lightning was intense, and we were pretty insane for staying out in it!  How could we not chill out and enjoy the light show provided for us... I mean it is the 4th after all!

The gratuitous patriotic Flag shot between moments of a pitch black and an electric silver sky ..

Morning brought a groggy couple down for coffee and coffee initiated the conversation on today's list of  things to do...
1st up a RUN!  We took off for a relatively nearby park.  We haven't been to Poor Farm since the demolition of the beloved "flats" began...

So long sweet single track...

We managed to squeeze in a humid hour long, sweat inducing run! Most of the time we were laughing like children stomping through the puddles, jumping over downed branches- evidence of last nights intensity- and chasing each other through the twists and bends in the trail!

I'm most grateful for a long weekend with my dude, to close out a superb vacation!  Blessed to have amazing family and friends... and honored there are individuals who have given their lives to ensure my safety!