Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mardi Gras Ball Weekend in Mobile

There's something special about having your family nearby that makes your heart feel warm and fuzzy, especially when you literally live across the country from them! I've been looking forward to having my sister Becca here for WEEKS, and even though I can't believe her vaca has already come and gone, it was so wonderful to see her and her hubby. While they were here, I thought it would be fun to do a little photo shoot for them, especially since they were going to be dressed up for a Mardi Gras ball. (Living in Mobile for a few years now, I think I've forgotten how unique that tradition is and how fun it can be to dress up in a ball gown and dance the night away!)

For their pictures, we drove around the city to a few locations I had in mind...the sun was starting to set which meant the lighting was just right to capture some neat shots. I wanted to share a few of my favorites, but honestly with these two beautiful people, I think they all turned out fabulous! I was also pretty excited that they turned out to well since they were taken with my phone (confession...I don't yet own a DSLR!)

It was such a fun weekend and I'm so happy they made the trip in! Happy Mardi Gras!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Breakfast - Apple Crescent Roll Dumplings

It never fails that halfway through the work week, my mind begins to drift towards the weekend and what sorts of fun activities I can look forward is no exception since my "little" sister (I use the term ironically since she's two years younger than me but about four inches taller!) and her husband are coming in town!!! YAY!!! Words cannot express how excited I am! But I digress...

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, my hubby has a new work schedule this year that causes him to have to work on Saturday mornings. And while yesssss it's a bummer when it comes to planning weekend getaways, it's amazing when it comes to the "me" time I have to cook fun foods, do laundry, and clean up the house!! Hence my post last weekend about my cleaning frenzy!

Well this weekend was no exception in waking up and making myself a tasty breakfast, but this week I made a throwback meal to one my mom used to make when I was younger, where she would wrap apple pieces in biscuit dough and cook them in a muffin pan with butter and brown sugar (can I say YUM any louder?!). For my recipe, I used two very simple ingredients that I had in my fridge and tried to recreate as best I could.

First, I peeled, cored, and cut the apple into eight equal pieces. 

I squeezed about a tsp of lemon juice on them to keep them from browning, as well as added about a tsp of vanilla extract for flavor and additional moisture to grab the sugar coating. To make the sugar coating/dough filling, I used 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 Tbs flour, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

I added half the sugar mixture to the apples and tossed them until they were fully coated with sugary yumminess.

Once I popped the roll of crescent dough and separated the pieces, I started constructing my dumplings!

(Cooking Tip: Since the dough can be fairly sticky, I used a piece of wax paper to roll my dumplings...was easier than trying to grease a pan and much faster cleanup!!)

First,  I sprinkled a heaping tsp of the sugar filling onto one triangle of the crescent roll dough...

...and then added one wedge of apple. 

To roll the dough, I simply rolled it from bottom to top as the instructions said, and then folded in the sides and pinched all the seams so no sugar could leak out.

From there it was just sprinkle, roll, repeat until all 8 rolls were ready to be baked!

I baked them according to the instructions on the package and just used the max time recommended, since I knew the apples inside would slow down the cooking process.

As you can see I wasn't as effective in pinching all the seams as I'd thought, but oh well it just meant I had some crispy caramel to eat with my rolls!

I also made a quick glaze which wasn't really necessary but definitely yummy...for the glaze I used 2 Tbs. powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. milk (or in my case caramel macchiato flavored coffee creamer since as I've said before we never have milk in our house), and 1 tsp. maple syrup. I drizzled this all over the hot rolls and forced myself to wait at least two minutes so it could set and harden a teeny bit. 

Such a wonderful start to my day. Now just to make it through the next two days so can have a YUMMY breakfast with my family :) 

Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Weekend Breakfast - Pumpkin Waffles

Do you ever have one of those weekends where you wake up early on a Saturday morning, sun is shining, and all you want to do is....clean? Well that was me this weekend, and not only did I clean but I deeeeeeep cleaned...talking steam cleaned the couch, scrubbed kitchen floors, wiped down windows and baseboards, and did all the laundry (and put it away!!!). I thought because I'd worked so hard, I deserved a little treat for breakfast...AND since I had half a can of pumpkin puree left from my puppy birthday treats last week, AND since I got a waffle maker for Christmas that I hadn't gotten the chance to use yet, I thought what better combination than to make pumpkin waffles?!? Now...I know that technically the fall pumpkin trend is past and really when the pumpkin is substituted for oil it actually makes the waffles healthier, but it was still an amazing breakfast and made me ready to tackle the day!

I started out using Martha Stewart's Classic Waffle Recipe I found online here, but instead of the oil I added pumpkin puree, as well as about 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (I could've also just used pumpkin pie spice if I'd had any!). 

For the milk, I also made a little substitute that I like to do in baking and use dry milk instead of regular milk...because I'm the only person who drinks milk at my house, it ALWAYS ends up going bad if I keep a gallon or even half gallon around. I've found that keeping a box of dry milk in the pantry works well in a pinch, and even though I don't know that I'd want to drink a glass, it works just fine in recipes! The recipe on the back is for a whole quart, but I find that 1/4 cup of dry milk to 1 cup water is about perfect!

After I added all the ingredients and mixed the batter, I just had to wait for my waffle iron to heat up!

Once the waffle iron was heated up, I "poured an amount of batter into the waffle maker per manufacturer's recommendations"...

Disclaimer: I am aware this is NOT manufacturer's guidelines on how much batter to add to the waffle iron, but I like my waffles a little softer than those little bits on the side are perfect to peel off and munch on :)

Once the waffles were ready, I served them with some leftover honey butter I made a few weeks ago (you can check out that recipe here), sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with organic REAL maple syrup, and fueled up for a long day of cleaning!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wine Wednesday

So the title of this post is a bit deceiving since I have not in fact had a glass of wine tonight, but rather I wanted to post about an amazing dinner we made a couple nights ago in honor of our normal Wednesday night tradition. Because of Andrew's job schedule, Wednesday has always been the first night he isn't working late, so between that and the fact that it's usually worth a celebration to make it though the first half of a work week, we typically will go to Red or White, which is one of our favorite Mobile restaurants (that's conveniently about a quarter mile from our house!) Unfortunately though, a new year means a new schedule for my hubby, so we've decided to try out wine night on Monday...and this week was a success! We didn't do Red or White since they're actually closed for dinner on Mondays, but we didn't miss out on any of the amazing flavors we normally have!

We started the night with a cheese board and a glass of Apothic Red, which is a semi-dry table wine and one of my favorites! The board we made had a spicy capocollo meat, apricot fruit paste, roasted nuts, goat cheese, cheddar, and camembert. Andrew also toasted a french bread loaf in a little olive oil which is the perfect compliment to any cheese!

To make the roasted nuts, we heated 2 tablespoons of honey over low heat until it had thinned out, and then we added 1/2 cup each pecans and walnuts, and cooked for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Once done we laid them out on a sheet of wax paper to cool.

(Credit the snazzy slate cheese board to my hubby who despite tsk-ing at my shopping habits has extremely good taste in design and decor!)

As we munched on our tasty cheese board, we assembled our pizzas. Now, in true Red or White fashion, we didn't want to make a "normal" pizza that we could order just anywhere, so we made what I called a "rustic farmhouse" pizza featuring a pesto base and topped with roasted chicken, fresh corn, red peppers, roasted garlic, and parmesan cheese. We used pre-made flat breads which made the process much easier and faster too!

Once all three pizzas were perfectly topped, we put them in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the crust had turned golden and the cheese had melted.

Based on how delicious and fun this meal was to make, I have a feeling that Mondays may just have to be our new date night. And to that, I'll raise my glass....and maybe go pour myself one :)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Puppy Son!

Today was Mav's birthday, so I thought I should keep with the tradition of testing out homemade puppy food recipes on him....I'm thinking this year's looked much better than the pureed chicken cake I made last year (see the recipe here), and they almost smelled good enough while baking to try one myself.....almost. :)

I started with 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, an egg, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 cup water.

I added the ingredients to a large bowl...

...and mixed together until combined.

I then spooned about 2 tablespoons of the batter evenly into a greased muffin tin and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 17-20 minutes.

...I'm sad to say, the treats really didn't rise at all, so next time I would make a bigger effort to shape the treats BEFORE baking them. I think it would've helped them be much prettier and not look like something that just came UP from a dog's stomach! Hehehe

Once cooled, I removed the treats from the muffin tin for consumption! I only gave each pup one treat so it wouldn't upset their stomach...even though pumpkin and peanut butter are pretty mild, I didn't want to risk it! I put the rest in the fridge since the batter is made with an egg and I didn't want them going bad.

As you can see, I have two very excited Aussies :)
Happy birthday baby boy!!

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lunch - Power Salad!

Now that I've been back in Mobile for a few days and getting past the holiday slump, I thought it would be fun to recreate one of the AMAZING meals I had during our time in Indianapolis to reminisce about our fun holiday trip to the Midwest to see our friends and family. It was a quaint foodie the Keystone Fashion Mall no less! You can check out their menu online here, which features a number of salads and pizzas I plan to try my hand at :) 

I called this meal a power salad because it was full of nutrient rich veggies that left me feeling full and energized, and with a couple add-on's of my own, it was a wonderful lunch during my work day! The salad features kale, roasted brussels sprouts, and roasted sweet potatoes, along with a few other tasty and colorful veggies...I will definitely be making this meal again!!

I started out roasting a medium sweet potato, which I peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes, and about 2 cups of brussels sprouts that I cut in half. (The ones I had at the the restaurant were much more thinly sliced, borderline shredded, so you could easily run them through a food processor if you're not a fan of brussels sprout texture!)

I tossed the sweet potato and brussels sprouts together in a large bowl with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper, and then laid them on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper. 

I baked them in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, turning them mid-way through so they could brown evenly on all sides. I also took that opportunity to cook a few pieces of bacon on a cookie sheet...could certainly be done in a skillet on the stove but is much easier in an already-hot oven!

While the veggies were roasting, I prepared my other ingredients, including kale...

...and radishes...

...and green onions, and red cabbage, and toasted almonds....all which are not pictured here :)

For the dressing, I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette with one part vinegar, two parts olive oil, salt, and pepper. I like to make my dressings in a small container that can have a lid put on it and be shaken up....much easier than trying to whisk oil and vinegar together by hand!

Once the veggies were done roasting, I added them to my salad, sprinkled with some goat cheese, crushed up the bacon, and added the vinagrette (and yes I reuse Chick-Fil-A salad not judge). It smelled heavenly and tasted out of this world!

I made enough for three extra salads, which will be a wonderful lunch/dinner for me and my hubster, who was hesitant about the lack of meat but agreed that it was very tasty and filling! Recreation = Success!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Dinner - Beef & Broccoli

Happy 2016! Can you believe it?! I was just looking at my posts from this past year (which I admit became a bit pitiful there for awhile) and couldn't agree more with my 2015 self that the past 365 days have absolutely flown by. And while I could take this time to reflect on the fun times I had last year and the vows I've made to make this year even better, I thought it would be more fun to talk about my dinner tonight :) Now before I go too much further, I know everyone is on the health craze so this post would probably be more appreciated in another month when reality (and junk food cravings!) come back to haunt us all, but nonetheless this is a great substitute for one of my favorite Chinese carry out dishes...beef and broccoli!

I started out with a couple pounds of beef (you can cheat like me and buy pre-sliced stir-fry meat or just buy a piece of steak/chicken and cut it into thin strips), a small onion, and about three medium heads of broccoli. I diced up the onion and rinsed and trimmed the broccoli into bite sized pieces.

In a large skillet, I heated up sesame oil and vegetable oil over medium-high heat, then added the meat to brown. I added some salt and pepper and then cooked the meat for about 3 minutes and then removed it from the hot oil and into a small bowl.

To the hot pan, I then added the onion with some salt and pepper and cooked it over medium heat until the onions turned translucent and started to pick up the brown bits from the pan.

As the onions cooked, I made my sauce for the stir-fry. To make the sauce, you need rice vinegar, soy sauce, beef broth, water, brown sugar, ginger, and corn starch. (I used fresh ginger which I minced, but powdered ginger works just as well!)

Just before adding the sauce, I added the broccoli to the pan and cooked it for a minute until it turned bright green. I then poured the sauce into the pan until the liquid was simmering. 

I continued to let the liquid simmer for about 5 minutes, then added the beef back to the pan and continued to cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the beef was warmed through.

Once it cooled a bit, the sauce became thicker and made a great topping for some white rice. I added some sesame seeds for garnish and patted myself on the back for another Chinese cheat dish success :) 

 Beef and Broccoli

1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs vegetable oil
~2 lbs beef or chicken
1 small onion
3 medium heads of broccoli
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
~1 tsp minced ginger (or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger)
1 Tbs cornstarch
Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Cut the meat into thin strips, about 1/2 inch thick. Finely dice the onion, and cut the broccoli head into bite sized pieces.
2. Heat sesame oil and vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat to the hot oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Brown the meat for 3-5 minutes until cooked through. Remove the meat from the oil and set aside in a small bowl.
4. Add the onions to the hot oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add another pinch of salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the onions are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the broccoli to the onions and cook until the broccoli has turned bright green, about 2 minutes. 
6. To make the sauce, combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, beef broth, water, brown sugar, ginger, and corn starch. 
7. Add the sauce to the pan with the onions and broccoli and simmer on low until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5-7 minutes.
8. Add the meat back to the simmering liquid and cook an additional 2-3 minutes to warm the meat through.
9. Serve with white rice and garnished with sesame seeds.