Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Veggie Pasta

Every year for Greek Easter, Mike's family adopts a vegetarian diet.  During Lent, many people fast of all animal products, but because that wasn't something four growing, football playing boys could manage, this has become the tradition. 

Last year, I managed to gain probably 5 pounds during our meat fast, largely because we subsided off pizza, pasta and grilled cheese.  This year, i'm vowing to keep it healthy and embrace more produce. 

This pasta dish is so simple and delicious. I love the sweet flavors of the corn and onion and because there are so many veggies, it's very fulfilling. A splash of cream adds just the touch of richness that you need, but you could also skip that for a lighter option. 

* 1 small squash
* 1 small zucchini
* 2 plum tomatoes
* 1 bunch asparagus
* 1 small onion
*1 ear of corn
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 2 tbsp. heavy cream
* 1/3 c. parmesan cheese
*1 tbsp. fresh parsley
* 8 oz. whole wheat penne
* Salt, Pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Chop all of the vegetables, remove kernels from corn, and combine with olive oil, salt and pepper in a casserole dish. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring once, or until the vegetables are tender.  Prepare pasta according to package directions and reserve 1 c. of the pasta water before draining.  Return the cooked pasta to the pan and stir in the vegetables, parmesan cheese and heavy cream.  Add pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is smooth.  Garnish with fresh parsley.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Weekend Update: NC Azalea Festival

Did everyone have a great weekend?  Mine was pretty exceptional, but I will admit that I'm also exceptionally exhausted! This weekend we had the North Carolina Azalea Festival here in Wilmington and after a 3 day string of events, i'm in need of some beauty rest.

The Azalea Festival, held the second weekend in April when the Azaleas start to bloom, offers a huge variety of events from the Garden Party, garden tours, concerts, fireworks, a street fair, and even a circus.  There is something for people of all ages to enjoy. 

The celebration started Thursday at the Off the Beaten Path concert, which was so much fun.  I went with my mother in-law and my friend Stephanie to enjoy the sounds of Randy Houser and Justin Moore. 

Saturday we headed out to the Garden Party at Airlie Gardens.  The day could not have been more perfect - a bit warm in the sun but absolutely wonderful in the shade.  The Garden Party is sort of a who's-who of Wilmington and you'll likely run into everyone you've ever met.  It's also open bar, starting at 11, so keeping a slow and steady pace is key to success! 

I stopped at the Bud-Light tent because they were giving out great novelty mason-jar glasses if you tried one of their canned margaritas.  I'm not going to lie, that strawberry-rita was delicious, but so sugary.  Just a few sips is all you need.

The garden party is a total sea of seersucker.  I particularly enjoyed these pink socks and shorts! 

The cadets from the Citadel escort the Azalea Belles to the Garden Party - poor guys must have been dying in those jackets, but they were great sports.

 I had to get an awkward rear photo - how great are those legit fanny packs?

Saturday night we attended the Patrons Party at Cape Fear Country Club.  The party was absolutely stunning- how beautiful is this tent? They set up various stations for small plates, which was such a great idea - it really kept the party moving. 

Happy Monday! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Food Inspired Friday: Southern Tradition

Today's Food Inspired Friday celebrates Southern Tradition!

Two wonderful Southern traditions are taking place this weekend. Locally, we have the North Carolina Azalea Festival, and on top of that, golf fans 'round the world will be practicing their most demure golf claps while celebrating the ultimate tournament, the Masters. Since most of you aren't from Wilmington, I'll wait and chat about our Azalea Festival next week when I have pictures to share. 

If you'll be at home (or in person!) watching the Master's, keep your celebration traditional with a classic Pimento Cheese Sandwich on white bread and a side of sweet tea.  I don't know if the Masters is really considered a "Southern" tradition, but I'm positive the traditional fare is!

Pimento Cheese is one of my favorite southern foods. When I was young and my mom went back to work, we started eating at Harper's Restaurant in Greensboro just about once a week, and that's where I was first introduced to the ultimate Pimento Cheese.

Harper's serves their Pimento Cheese hot with tortilla chips and honestly, I still think that's the best way to enjoy it.  I've never found a store brand that I really love so you can imagine how excited I was when I recently found the recipe for Harper's Pimento Cheese online (via the Charlotte Observer).  

This dip has a strong taste of mustard (which I love) and the red wine vinegar lends a nice tang that makes you wonder what the heck is in there that makes it so good! 

* 1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
* 1/2 c. Duke's mayonnaise
* 9 oz. whole pimentos, drained and chopped
* 2 to 3 tbsp. spicy brown mustard
* 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
* 1/4 tsp. celery salt
* 1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
* 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
* 1 tsp. hot sauce

Combine all ingredients.  Chill thoroughly before serving, or microwave in 30 second increments until melted for a hot cheese dip.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Turkey Bruschetta Burgers

This warm weather is turning my life around.  I am welcoming spring in a major way - I could not be happier! I've started walking the pup every day, upping my vegetable game, planning out my herb garden, and in general I just have a little more pep in my step.  It's amazing what a toll a long winter can have on your body and attitude. 

This week I thought i'd try my hand at a light burger and these Turkey Bruschetta Burgers were too good not to share.  These burgers are hearty, melty, meaty and flavorful, just like a burger should be, but light on the calories.  We skipped the buns, but i'm sure they would be delish on a bun as well. 

Harris Teeter brand Bruschetta Topping is one of my favorite prepared products.  It has a delicious, rich tomato flavor and is great on bread alone, atop burgers, and sometimes I even blend it in my tomato sauces for extra flavor. 

I prepared my burgers in a pan but I'm sure they'd be great on the grill too.  Enjoy! 

* 1.5 lb. ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
* 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
* 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
* 1/2 tsp. onion powder
* 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
*1/2 tbsp. butter
* 2 tsp. olive oil
* pre-sliced mozzarella/provolone blended cheese (or choose one or the other)
* prepared Bruschetta topping

In a bowl, mix turkey, parsley, oregano, garlic and onion powder until just combined.  Form into 4 equal patties. Preheat a pan over medium high heat and add butter and olive oil (the butter helps give the burgers a nice brown crust; skip this if you're grilling the burgers).  Add the burgers to the pan and sauté until the turkey is cooked through, about 8 minutes per side.  Reduce heat if the burgers start to burn. 

When the burgers are cooked through, reduce heat to medium low, top each with a slice of cheese and loosely cover until the cheese is melted, about a minute.  Top each burger with a heaping tablespoon of Bruschetta topping.  Enjoy! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Kate Spade Friends & Family

Kate Spade is offering 25% off your entire purchase with promo code S14FFUS for their Friends & Family sale!

I'm a big fan of Kate Spade's home collection and you may remember I chose the Platinum Larabee Dot for my china pattern.  There are a lot of great steals to be had.  Especially for small home wares.
Kate SPade Friends & Family
All via

I bought myself the black and white pom poms; after all, you never know when you might need to put together an impromptu party! I also purchased some stationary and the black and white thermal mug.  Ok, and some sunglasses too.. I'm a sucker for a good sale!

I received the polka dot champagne flutes as a wedding gift and I'm head over heels in love with them.  They're delicate but not too fragile and a major steal at $37.50 (with the promo code) for a set of 4.  They make a crystal version ($40 per glass) but these glass alternatives are gorgeous. 

Happy Shopping!

Food Inspired Friday: All Things Brunch

Lately I can't seem to get my mind off of brunch.  I just love brunch - anything goes, sweet or savory, and for some reason, if you call it brunch, it's perfectly acceptable to start drinking before noon.  What's not to love?

Between Easter and the Azalea Festival coming up, I will have a few rotating house guests, so of course I need to have some great brunch ideas in my back pocket. 

Every brunch starts with a great cocktail.  Isn't this Bloody Mary gorgeous? If there's bacon involved, you can pretty much sign me up. 

For a larger group, I love the idea of a mimosa or bellini bar.  I think I would make a few different fruit purees (think peach) or syrups (strawberry rhubarb). 

For brunch, the more you can do in advance the better - especially if you have house guests.  Breakfast bakes are always a great option, like this French Toast Strata.  

A savory option, like this Overnight Bacon and Sausage Casserole, is always a crowd pleaser.

Just like the menu, anything goes with the table setting.  I'm dying to break out my grandmother's frilly pink china pattern for a ladies brunch.  

I love a bright and airy table too, with fresh flowers from the yard. 

Happy Friday Friends!  And Happy Brunching! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greek Chicken with Feta

This week, with our tropical honeymoon looming in just a month, Mike and I are kick-starting a healthy diet and exercise plan. Sometimes I struggle with making healthy food both filling and flavorful, but this Greek Chicken is both. 

The great thing about Greek food is that there are a lot of strong flavors- lemon, fresh garlic, oregano, and tangy feta to name a few.  The ingredients in this dish pack a nice punch with minimal calories and the best part is, it could not be easier to put together.  

The chicken can go straight in the oven- no need to marinade. 

* 3-4 chicken breasts, depending on size (mine were huge so I just made 3)
* 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
* 1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
*1 lemon, zest and juice
* 1 garlic clove, grated
* 1/4 c. olive oil
* 2 tbsp. feta cheese (I used reduced fat)
* salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, combine parsley, oregano, the zest of one lemon, juice of one lemon, grated garlic, a olive oil.  Whisk well to combine.  Place chicken in a baking dish and top with the lemon-herb mixture.  Sprinkle feta cheese on top.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food Inspired Friday: The Pizza Oven

Today's FIF is all about some product love and I want to share my absolute favorite wedding present. It's called the Pizzeria Pronto and it has revolutionized at home pizza making. 

I've always loved making pizza at home, but I've never been able to get a crispy crust in the oven.  This little tabletop contraption is heated with a propane tank, just like a grill.  It gets 600-700 degrees and actually achieves pizzeria quality crust.

Mike and I are loving hosting build-your-own pizza parties with a variety of toppings.  I'm in charge of the dough and Mike is the resident pizza-oven expert.  It does take some skill to maneuver the pizza from the peel to the oven, then turn it every so often so everything browns evenly - a skill he's mastered!  

Happy Friday everyone!  I'll leave you with a shot of this handsome pup awaiting a spare crust..

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Smothered Pork Chops with Cheese Grits

I made good on my plan this week and I actually tried a new recipe.  Line by line, ingredient by ingredient, I followed! And I must say, these Smothered Pork Chops with Cheese Grits were absolutely delicious, so I wanted to share.

Not only is this a tasty recipe, but it's also quick, easy, and very budget-friendly.  The 4-pack of pork chops I bought  was only $3.85 (on sale, but it's usually very reasonable anyway), and the rest of the ingredients are all very basic. 

I was worried the balsamic would be overwhelming in the sauce, but it's just enough to add a little bit of that sweet-tart vinegar taste in the background.  The flavor of the sauce is rich and complex without being heavy on calories.  

Ingredients (Recipe from Food Network Magazine):
* 2 tsp. vegetable oil
* 4 (3/4 in. thick) boneless pork chops
* salt, pepper
* 2 red onions (I used one big one and it was plenty), thinly sliced
* 1 tbsp. flour
* 1 c. low sodium chicken stock
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
* 3/4 c. quick cooking grits
* 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

Heat oil over medium high heat in a non-stick pan.  Pat the pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the pork chops to the pan and cook 3 minutes per side, then set aside on a plate.  Add the onions to the pan and saute until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add the chicken stock and bay leaf to the pan and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the vinegar to the pan, reduce heat to low, then return the pork chops to the pan. 

Meanwhile, bring 2 1/2 c. water to a boil.  Add grits to the pan and season with salt.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, whisking often.  When the grits are thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheese.  Serve pork chops over grits.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Week, New Goals

I'm in spring fever mode - I want to purge my closets, clean out the fridge, and give half of my house to goodwill.  I'm often guilty of buying ingredients I only need for one meal. This week, i'm making an effort to plan my menu ahead,  start with items I have on hand, and hopefully waste a lot less food. 

I have three goals in mind:
1) Clean out the pantry and fridge and focus on using up my random collection of ingredients.
2) For any items I have to buy, think of ways to stretch the ingredients from one meal to the next.
3) Choose a new recipe to try (and actually follow it - this is rare for me)

Here is what I have on hand (much of which is leftover from a build-your-own pizza party last weekend)
-fresh ricotta cheese; half bags of grated mozzarella and cheddar
-2 tomatoes, half box spinach, 1 red onion, fresh garlic, half container of sliced mushrooms
-leftover Pizzetta's marinara sauce (the best marinara sauce ever)
-a huge variety of half boxes of pasta
- fresh Oregano
-frozen chicken breasts
- 1/2 of 32 oz box of chicken stock

1) Baked Penne
*Use: half box regular penne, half box whole wheat penne, mozzarella, ricotta, Pizzetta's sauce, oregano
*Buy: ground sirloin, fresh parsley

2) Greek Chicken served with Sautéed Spinach and Garlic with Mushrooms
*Use: frozen chicken, garlic, spinach, fresh oregano, mushrooms
*Buy: feta, lemon, fresh parsley

3) Smothered Pork Chops with Cheese Grits (Food Network Magazine)
*Use: chicken stock, red onion, grated cheddar
*Buy: pork chops, grits, fresh parsley

Hopefully this will become a weekly effort.  Wish me luck! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Food Inspired Friday: All Things Rhubarb

I'm a big fan of utilizing seasonal ingredients.  Lately, Rhubarb is everywhere I look.  It comes into season right before strawberries and of course rhubarb and strawberry are probably the most classic flavor combination.

I've actually never cooked with rhubarb but i'm excited to give it a try this season.  There are so many great recipes beyond strawberry rhubarb pie - both sweet and savory.  Here's some of my rhubarb inspiration:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crispy Zucchini Sticks

Is anyone else beyond excited that the first day of spring is upon us? I feel like this has been a particularly awful winter.  After the holiday season ends, I just have no interest in winter.  I'm ready for some warmer weather, long days at the beach, and dinner on the grill. 

As such, it's time to start working on that beach bod.  Mike and I took our pre-wedding diet pretty seriously.  Post-wedding? We hit the comfort food. Hard.  I think we're both finally ready to commit to more exercise and less comfort food, but we're starting slow.

These Crispy Zucchini Sticks are a great alternative to fries and make the perfect accompaniment to all things grilled.  Before I made these, I tried Giada's Parmesan Eggplant Fries.  The eggplant version was delicious, but I found that the eggplant got a little mushy.  I switched up the recipe to zucchini, which maintains a bit more firmness and crunch.  I also used Italian bread crumbs rather than Panko with the zucchini version.  

* 2 medium zucchini
* 1 c. Italian style breadrumbs
* 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
* 1 c. flour
* 2 eggs
* cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack; set aside.  Slice the zucchini into sticks.  Set up an assembly line with flour in one bowl,  2 eggs whisked with 1 tbsp. water in the second, and breadcrumbs and parmesan in the third.  Dredge the zucchini in flour, shake off excess, then into the eggs.  Let any extra egg drip from the zucchini, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture.  Place the zucchini on the wire rack cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining zucchini. Lightly spray the zucchini with cooking spray and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Weekend Update: Atlanta

Last weekend, my sisters and I reunited in the A-T-L to celebrate Sara's birthday.  We packed a lot of activities into a short period of time and it was so much fun.

Friday night we went to King+Duke, which is walking distance from my sister's apartment. I had the best cocktail -I don't see it listed on the online menu, but I know it involved citrus vodka, grapefruit juice, and prosecco.

I really tried to be a foodie and enjoy this bone marrow appetizer.  Truth be told, it was delicious, but it was just really hard for me to look at.  It was topped with savory short ribs. Would you try it?  I tried! 

Saturday my oldest friend Honor drove down from Chattanooga to surprise me. We were at a St. Paddy's day party at Fado and I looked up and there she was!  Best surprise ever.  We had our fare share of Harp and Green Bud Lights, as per my usual tradition. 

Before the Chelsea Handler show, we went to dinner at Lure. 

Lure offers family-style cocktails in punch bowls.  GENIUS. Absolutely genius. We went with the Ciao Pesco, which had peach schnaps, peach puree, ruby port and prosecco.  Now, of course, I'm dying for a vintage punch bowl. 

The Chelsea Handler show was at the beautiful Fox Theater.  Is that ceiling not amazing?  It really felt like we were outdoors!

While we were waiting for Sara to get her Chelsea book signed, we wandered across the street for a cocktail.  After we ordered a cosmo, a waiter came to the bar and said he had ordered two by mistake, so they were up for grabs.  Don't mind if I do! 

Hope everyone had a fab weekend!