Sunday, September 13, 2015

Oatmeal Cream Pies

I've been in quite a rut lately when it comes to cooking. Since i've been pregnant, the only foods that cross my mind are comfort foods from my childhood.  I want my moms spaghetti, beef burgundy, chicken tetrazzini, and not much else.  

Much to my surprise, I finally felt a little cooking energy this weekend.  I've found many recipes I want to try, and one in particular that has been in the back my mind ever since I first tried it last year: Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies. 

These cookies are such a throwback.  Who didn't love a soft, chewy, oatmeal cream pie when they were little?  But oh, the homemade counterpart is so. much. better.  You won't believe how delicious they are. 

The oatmeal cookies alone are enough to make my heart swoon, but sandwiching them together with a fluffy layer of marshmallow cream filling really takes them to a whole new level. 

I found this recipe in a wonderful cookbook I picked up last time I was in Charleston,  Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions.  It's full of elegant and traditional southern recipes and has quickly become one of my favorites. 

Adapted from Callie's Biscuits & Southern Traditions
Ingredients (makes 3 dozen cookies, 18 cream pies):
*10 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
*3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
*1/2 c. white sugar
*2 large eggs, at room temperature
*1 tsp. vanilla
*1+1/2 c. all purpose flour
*1 tsp. baking soda
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1/2 tsp. kosher salt
*3 c. uncooked quick cook oats
*1 c. raisins
*1 c. chocolate chips

Cream Filling (measurements below are for half of the original recipe; half made more than enough for 18 sandwiches)
*1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
*1 stick butter, at room temperature
*8 oz. marshmallow creme (half of a container)
*1/2 tsp. vanilla
*1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
*pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together until creamy.  Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. 

Add in the oats (you may have to mix by hand if your mixture isn't strong enough), and mix until well combined. Use a spatula to fold in the raisins and chocolate chips. 

Drop batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet by the tablespoonful, 1/2 inch apart (for a flatter cookie, drop directly onto the tray; for a higher cookie like mine pictured, roll into balls and add 4 minutes to baking time).  Bake for 8-10 or until lightly browned.  Allow the cookies to cool briefly on the pan, then set on wire racks to cool completely. 

For the cream filling, combine all ingredients in the mixer and mix until well combined.  Spoon filling onto cooled cookies, top with a second cookie, and gently squeeze together.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

I'm on a big breakfast kick lately, and sausage is one of my favorite breakfast foods.  I always like a little bit of sweet and a little bit of savory on my breakfast plate. I am, however (being preggars and all) making a concerted effort to eat less processed foods, so I thought i'd try my hand at a homemade sausage. 

If you've never made homemade sausage patties, I think you'll be surprised how simple it can be.  The most important thing is creating the right spice mixture.  I used lots of fresh herbs, seasoned the ground pork up with fennel seeds, and added red pepper for a little heat.  Sauteed onions and fresh garlic add a nice texture and flavor as well.  For a sweet and spicy version, try adding a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. 

The best part is, these can be made in advance.  I put these patties together Saturday afternoon so Sunday morning all I had to do was brown them up! 

Ingredients (makes 6-8 patties, depending on size):
*3/4 lb. ground pork
*1 sprig each of fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, finely chopped
*3 sage leaves, finely chopped
*1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
*1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
*1 garlic clove, minced
*1/2 c. onion, minced (about half of a small onion)
*1 tbsp. olive oil
*cooking spray
*salt, pepper

Crush fennel seeds and red pepper with a mortar and pestle, or use a knife to roughly chop them.  Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until soft.  Add garlic, all herbs, fennel, and red pepper flakes.  Saute one minute, then remove from heat.  Let cool slightly.

Season ground pork with salt and pepper.  Stir in onion mixture.  Form into patties and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or overnight if making ahead.   To cook the patties, heat a non stick pan over medium high.  Coat with cooking spray.  Cook the patties roughly 5 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through (ground pork should be fully cooked to 160).  Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Grilled Peach & Crispy Prosciutto Salad

Can you believe we're already well into August?  This summer has completely flown by.  At this point, i'm in panic mode when it comes to summer produce.  I want to get as much as I possibly can before its gone! 

The peaches and blueberries in particular have been so juicy and sweet this year.  I've been stirring peaches into my yogurt, and just this morning I whipped up some simple blueberry muffins.  For dinner, however, I thought i'd go a more savory route and put together a sweet-and-salty summer salad. 

The combination of sweet, slightly soft grilled peaches with the crispy, salty prosciutto is such a delicious pairing.  The blueberries added just a touch more sweetness, which worked well with the creamy, savory herb goat cheese.  Add a simple honey-dijon vinaigrette and you've got the perfect summer salad! 

For this salad, I used a firm peach, which softened up nicely on the grill.  If you're skipping the grill, use a very ripe peach. 

*1 package spring mix
*1 peach, sliced
*4 thin slices proscuitto
*crumbled garlic and herb goat cheese
*2 tbsp. blueberries

Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette:
*1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
*1 tbsp. dijon mustard
*1 tbsp. honey
*6 tbsp. olive oil
*salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the prosciutto out in one layer.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until it has shrunk slightly and turned a darker red, then set aside on a paper towel to drain. 

To prepare the dressing, whisk together balsamic, mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Gradually add the olive oil while whisking until well combined. 

Heat your grill or girl pan to medium high.  Lightly brush the peaches with some of the dressing, then grill for 5 minutes, or until light grill marks appear.  

Toss together spring mix, dressing, peaches, crispy prosciutto, blueberries, and goat cheese.  Enjoy! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Herb Butter

So i'm still on my herb kick, mostly because i'm still in awe of the fact that my herbs are still alive! I absolutely love cooking with fresh herbs - they really elevate anything you're cooking not only in flavor, but also visually. I've been brainstorming ways I can not only enjoy the herbs now, but also later, once my herb garden is inevitably long gone. 

I whipped up this herb butter last weekend to blend together my oregano, rosemary, thyme, and a basil. The great thing about a compound butter like this is that you can incorporate anything  your heart desires.  I added garlic, salt, and pepper for extra flavor, and so far this herb butter has blended beautifully with pasta, roasted veggies, and melts wonderfully over a hot steak. Next i'm going to try it on some grilled bread, but really the possibilities are endless. 

Below is the combination of herbs I used in my recipe, but feel free to get creative and work with what you have.  Compound butter can be frozen, so be sure to make plenty if you have extra herbs and you'll be enjoying them all winter long!

*4 thyme sprigs
*1 rosemary sprig
*6 basil leaves
*2 oregano sprigs
*1 garlic clove
*1 stick butter, at room temperature
*salt, pepper

Remove thyme, rosemary, and oregano from the twig. Roughly chop the rosemary (rosemary tends to hide from the food processor blades).  Combine herbs and garlic in a mini-food processor (you can also finely chop everything by hand) and blend until fine.  Stir into butter and season with salt and pepper.  Use a spatula transfer butter to a sheet of wax paper.  Roll the butter into a log and twist the ends (like a piece of candy).  Refrigerate until firm.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creamy Summer Herb & Veggie Pasta

I'm pleasantly surprised to share that my picnic table-top herb and tomato garden is (wait for it)…still thriving!  I rarely manage to keep things alive this long, so i'm feeling pretty proud of myself. 

This week I suddenly found myself with a plethora of perfectly ripe summer tomatoes.  And by plethora, I mean 4.   Since i've already made my all time favorite Tomato-Mozz sandwiches twice (they're just that good), I wanted to switch it up and put together a hearty pasta dish that showcases not only my tomatoes, but also my summer herbs.

This creamy, delicious pasta is easy to put together, and makes the perfect summer dinner.  I started by roasting all of my favorite summer vegetables: squash, zucchini, sweet vidalia onions, and of course my summer tomatoes.  While the veggies were roasting, I blended up an 'almost-pesto' mixture of basil, oregano, lemon zest, walnuts, and olive oil.  After boiling some pasta, I stirred in bit of fresh spinach, the herb mixture and a touch of cream and parmesan. 

The best part about this dish is that it can easily be altered to incorporate any of your favorite seasonal vegetables (corn, asparagus, snow peas).  Just throw in your favorite veggies, choose a pasta shape, and get cooking! 

"Almost Pesto"(measurement's don't need to be exact)
*8 basil leaves
*2 heaping tbsp. fresh oregano
*zest of 1 lemon
*3 tbsp. walnuts
*1/4 c. olive oil
*1 large (or 2 small) garlic cloves
*salt, pepper

*2 zucchini, chopped
*1 yellow squash, chopped
*4 tomatoes, chopped
*1 vidalia onion, chopped
*2 tbsp. olive oil
*salt, pepper

*2/3 lb. orrecchiete pasta (or 2/3 of the box)
*1/3 c. half and half
*1/3 c. parmesan cheese
*2 c. fresh spinach, roughly chopped

To prepare the veggies, preheat the oven to 375.  Place all of the veggies on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once, or until the veggies are tender.

Prepare the "Almost-Pesto" by combining all ingredients in a food processor and blending until smooth. 

Prepare the pasta according package directions.  Drain, return to the pot, then stir in veggies, half of the pesto mixture, fresh chopped spinach (it will wilt against the heat of the pasta), parmesan, and half and half.  Stir the pasta together, taste, and add more of the pesto mixture to taste (I used almost all of it).  Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sausage & Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

This weekend was one for the books.  Mike and I (finally) had our Greek wedding - something we had planned to do all along, but kept postponing.  The first time we got married it was in my church, and since it was important to Mike that we get married in his church as well, we agreed to have two ceremonies. 

My handsome Greek groom! 

What made the weekend interesting was the fact that it was actually a triple Greek wedding.  That's right, we shared the alter not only with Mike's brother Greg and his wife Sharon, but also his cousin Samantha and her husband Hess!  It's very important in the Greek religion to be married in the actual church, so since we were all married previously outside of the church we thought we would all catch up at the same time! 

Us three brides are in pink! 
For our second wedding we kept to immediate family only, so it felt more like a church service.  The priest thought it was just about the funniest thing ever - he was loving it! 

My mom and sisters at our post-wedding family dinner.
With my family in town, I wanted make sure I had something prepared (fuel for the big day if you will) for breakfast, but I have to admit - as much as I love house guests, I do not like getting up early to cook!    I'm always experimenting with make-ahead breakfast items, and this casserole is one i'll be making again in the near future. 

This casserole has all of your hot ticket breakfast items in one dish - sausage, hash browns, eggs, and cheese. What could be bad about that?  I assembled the whole thing a day early and popped it in the oven first thing in the morning.  With the help of some pre-shredded hash browns, this is super simple to put together. 

Ingredients (Serves 6):
*1 lb. mild (or hot if you prefer) Italian sausage
*1 tbsp. olive oil
*1 small onion, chopped
*8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
*1 lb. bag shredded hash browns (I like Simply Potatoes in the refrigerator section)
*5 eggs
*1 1/4 c. milk
*salt, pepper

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Remove the sausage from the casing and add to the pan.  Cook the sausage until it's browned all over, using a wooden spoon or potato masher to break it up as it cooks.  Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside in a large mixing bowl.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until lightly browned; add to the sausage. Stir in potatoes and half of the cheese with the sausage mixture.  Add to a casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. 

Whisk together milk and eggs, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour milk mixture over the sausage.  Top with remaining cheese.  If making ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. 

Preheat oven to 350.  Cover the casserole in aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove cover, increase the temperature to 400, and continue baking for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cream Puffs

This week, as my pregnant friend Kendra is about to pop, we hosted a baby shower at work.  Since Kendra is having a little girl, I wanted to think of something festive and feminine to contribute.  Of course, what could be more girlie than a delicate little cream puff?! 

Cream puffs are surprisingly easy to whip up, especially if you fill them with whipped cream, as I did, rather than a true pastry cream.  Homemade whipped cream takes all of a minute to prepare, and once you master a basic choux dough, the possibilities are endless.  Choux dough can be used to make profiteroles, eclairs, or even a savory gougere. 

I topped mine with a little glaze so I could easily add pink sprinkles, but you could also serve these up plain.  The surprise inside is what really matters after all!  

Basic Choux Pastry
* 1/2 c. butter
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1 c. flour
* 4 eggs

Whipped Cream Filling:

*1.5 c. whipping cream
*2 tsp. vanilla
*2 tbsp. confectioners sugar
*Chilled bowl

Glaze (optional):
*1/2 c. confectioners sugar
*1 tbsp. milk
Sprinkles, for topping

Preheat oven to 400.  In a saucepan, bring butter, salt, and 1 cup of water to a boil over medium heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in flour with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the pan and form a ball.  Add eggs to the flour mixture one at a time until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

Grease and flour a cookie sheet (or line it with aluminum foil/parchment).  Use a round pastry tip to pipe small mounds of the dough (about the size of a half dollar) onto the sheet.  Wet your finger and gently smooth the tops to keep the peeks from burning.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.  Remove the puffs from the oven and use a small sharp knife to poke a small hole in the side of the puff so the steam can escape.  Turn off the oven and place the puffs back inside for 7 minutes.  Remove and cool on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before filling.

To prepare the filling, add the cream and vanilla to a chilled bowl. Beat on high until soft peaks form.  Sift in the confectioners sugar, then continue to beat until stiff peaks form. 

To fill the cream puffs, add the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip.  Use the tip to create a small hole in the bottom (and circle around gently) of the puff and slowly fill until you feel a bit of resistance. 

To prepare the glaze, stir together sifted confectioners sugar and milk.  Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the cream puffs and top with sprinkles, if desired.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Crock Pot Cheesy Salsa Verde Chicken Chimichangas

I had a really hard time thinking of a suitable name for this cheesy, delicious tortilla concoction. I finally settled up on Crock Pot Cheesy Salsa Verde Chicken Chimichangas - say that five times fast! 

The name, however, doesn't begin to describe the deliciousness - or the simplicity.  The week before last I promised new recipes, but exhaustion has gotten the best of me.  Between growing a tiny human, the heat, a particularly hectic time at work, and a little travel mixed in, I have just been so tired!  Fortunately said tiredness led me to do some crock pot experimentation and I have to tell you, this recipe will become part of my regular rotation. 

I started by simmering chicken breasts with onions, salsa verde, spices, and a little chicken stock.  When I got home from work I shredded it up and stirred in fresh spinach (get those greens guys), cream cheese, and just a touch more salsa verde.  But why stop there?  I rolled it up in a tortilla with a little cheddar cheese (for good measure) and browned it up into a lightened up version of a chimichanga.  Or should I call it a crispy burrito?  We'll stick with chimichanga.  This chicken would also be great in a quesadilla. 

*6 8-inch flour tortillas 
*3 chicken breasts
*1 small onion, chopped
*1/2 c. salsa verde (plus more, if needed)
*1/2 tsp. cumin
*1/2 tsp. garlic powder
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1 c. chicken stock
*2 c. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
*4 oz. cream cheese
*3 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
*Cooking spray

In the crock pot, combine chicken, onion, salsa verde, garlic, cumin, salt, and chicken stock.  Cook on low for 8 hours, then shred with two forks.  Add in cream cheese and spinach, and 2-3t tbsp. more salsa verde if the mixture looks dry.  Cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes, or until cream cheese is easily stirred in.  Stir well to combine. 

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high.  Lay out a flour tortilla on a work surface and scoop about a quarter cup of the chicken mixture into the center.  Top with about a tablespoon of cheddar cheese.  Fold in the sides of the tortilla, then roll it.  Spray entire outside with cooking spray, then lay it seam side down in the pan. Brown on all sides.  Serve with sour cream and more salsa verde.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomato-Mozz Sliders with Herby Garlic Oil

Each summer, I like to make a small picnic table-top garden.  We had bigger dreams once and tried our hand at an in-ground garden, but everything either got snatched up by some form of wildlife or another,  or else we just couldn't grow it.  Granted, we didn't do much research and may have slacked on our watering here and there, but ever since, i'm all about the potted garden. 

I love growing herbs - it's so handy having them around, and so much more cost effective than buying small containers of fresh herbs at the store.  I also love tomatoes - there just isn't store bought tomato that holds a candle to the homegrown version.  

Last weekend we had two small tomatoes ripe for the picking.  As a tradition, I always eat the first ones on a sandwich with mozzarella and pesto.  It's a classic combination that i'll never tire of.  This year, rather than making pesto for my first sandwiches, I whipped up a garlicky olive oil using my fresh basil and oregano plants.  The results had a similar flavor impact at pesto, but the oil requires much fewer ingredients (and no food processor!).  This is simple, fresh summer food at its best. 

Because my tomatoes were quite small, I decided to make sliders rather than my usual baguette sandwich, though that would work well too.  I sliced the sliders in half and they would make the perfect appetizer for a party - especially because they're great warm, or at room temperature.  

Ingredients (Makes 8 sliders/16 bites):
*8 ciabatta rolls (I buy the frozen ones)
*8 slices fresh mozzarella 
*4 small, vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
*1/2 c. olive oil
*2 small garlic cloves, minced 
*1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
*1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped

If using frozen ciabatta rolls, prepare according to package directions (if using fresh, preheat the oven to 400).  Remove from the oven and slice each roll in half crosswise. 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add the fresh herbs and stir.  Remove from the heat, set aside. 

To assemble the sliders, spoon oil mixture on both sides of the ciabatta . Top one side with a slice of mozzarella and two slices of tomato.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 for 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese just starts to melt.  Slice the sliders diagonally before serving.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Y&E is Expanding!

Literally.  I'm expanding.

Mike and I couldn't be more thrilled to be welcoming a little girl to our growing family in time for Christmas. 

I can't thank my readers enough for sticking with me as my new recipe posts have become few and far between in recent months.  Unfortunately, I had next to no interest in food or cooking during my first trimester. Things i've always loved, like a perfectly cooked steak, have made me gag (*tear).  As a result, i've mostly been subsiding on mexican food, peanut butter, and carbs. Now that i'm in my second trimester and starting to feel less exhausted and more hungry, i'm hoping I can get back to the regularly scheduled program around here!  I still haven't hit that point where I feel energized and normal again, but many women have promised it's coming. 

Thank you again for reading along, and if all goes according to plan i'll be back with some pregnancy-craving worthy recipes in the very near future! 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Blueberry Lime Pound Cake

Each summer for July 4, I head out for a few days of fun in the sun at my best friend Magen's house.  Her family is always there, along with our wonderful friends Megan and Andrew (and now Hayes, their newest addition!) and we have so much fun, year after year. 

It's really the bright spot of the whole summer, and just thinking about it makes me nostalgic.  Of course the wine is always flowing and the sun has yet to fail us, but what I really love is a few days nested in tradition that we've perfected through the years. 

One of the most important traditions happens to be the most delicious blueberry lime poundcake.  Magen and her mom, the fabulous Mama Jill, make it every year and I so look forward to it.  It's absolutely the perfect summer cake - filled with sweet, summer-fresh blueberries, and topped with a tangy lime glaze.  It just tastes like the season.  I always have mine for both breakfast and either an afternoon snack or dessert.  

This year, I just couldn't wait until the 4th for this cake.  Really, a cake this good deserves more than one occasion, right? This cake would be a perfect thank-you for a hostess, or contribution to any pot-luck or party.  Just be sure to set some aside for yourself - it will go fast! 

Ingredients (adapted from Fine Cooking):
*1 c. butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
*6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
*1+3/4 c. sugar
*4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature 
*2 +1/3 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
*1+1/2 tsp. baking powder
*1/4 tsp. salt
* 2 tsp. lime zest
*2.5 c. blueberries, washed and dried on paper towels

*1 c. confectioners' sugar
*2 tbsp. fresh lime juice 

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour a bundt pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk in lime zest. 

In a stand up mixer (or use a hand mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth (1 minute).  Add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. With the mixer on, add eggs and then egg yolk one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl when needed.  Reduce the mixture speed to low and slowly mix in the dry ingredients, again scraping the bowl when needed.   When everything is fully combined, use a spatula to gently fold in the blueberries. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and use a spatula to even it out.  Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air pockets.  Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake on the same rack.  Allow to cool completely, then top with glaze. 

To prepare the glaze, stir together lime juice and sugar.  The glaze should be pourable, so add additional lime juice if needed to thin it out.  Place a baking sheet under the rack and glaze the cake. Allow the glaze to set before moving it.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Restaurant Style Cheeseburgers

When I crave a burger, I'm a minimalist. Keep your fried egg, your imported cheese, even your bacon. Me? I want the classic.  Give me a golden, toasted bun, some ooey-gooey American cheese, a little ketchup, and perfectly juicy beef seasoned with just a hint of salt and pepper.  That's really all you need right? 

The problem is, when I make them at home, I can never seem to get that perfect restaurant quality.  I'll admit I used to try and make burgers with lean ground beef - that's a rookie mistake.  If you don't start with 80/20 ground beef, you're just wasting your time.  

The second part of my problem is that I love a thin patty (it's all about the meat to cheese ratio after all), but my burgers always seem to plump up so high on the grill or even in a pan.  Trying to press a burger just forces out all of the delicious juices and you end up with a dry, overdone burger. 

Fortunately for me, my friend Kendra introduced me to the perfect burger method and I doubt i'll ever turn back.  I wish I could take credit for it, but the method came from a recipe for Fake Shack Burgers on one of my favorite blogs - Smitten Kitchen.  They key is to form your patties very thick - I shaped mine almost like a meatball, and freeze them for 15 minutes.  The idea is not to freeze the meat, but to chill the fat content.  When the meat hits the hot pan, you immediately press it into a thin patty and since the fat is so cold, you won't lose any of the delicious juices in this initial step. 

The results might just give you the juiciest burgers you've ever tasted. The outside will be perfectly blackened, crisp, and seasoned to perfection. Of course, you can top yours with whatever you'd like - feel free to get fancy, or keep it old school like me! 

Ingredients (Makes 4 burgers):
*1.25 lb. ground chuck (80/20 fat content)
*4 buns
*3 tbsp. butter
*salt, pepper
*toppings of your choice!

Divide your beef into 4 equal parts. Roll into thick patties or meatballs - they should be at least 2 inches high. Place on a wax paper lined plate and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes (no more or less).  Heat a griddle to medium heat (300 degrees).  Add 1 tbsp. of butter and add your buns until they are just lightly golden and toasted. Set aside on plates. 

Increase your griddle temperature to high (400 degrees).  Add the remaining butter and add patties one at a time.  As soon as the patty hits the griddle, use a large spatula to press it down flat.  Use a second spatula if needed to ensure the meat doesn't stick to the pressed down spatula.  Season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with the remaining patties.  After 1.5-2 minutes, flip the patties and season the second side with salt and pepper.  Top with cheese, if using.  Continue to cook another 2 minutes, or to desired doneness.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Foolproof Grilled BBQ Chicken

We've all been there: standing over a hot grill for 45 minutes, crossing your fingers that your overly charred bone-in chicken is cooked through in the middle.  You're starving, as is everyone that's waiting as the sides and drinks fizzle out. 

If this scene sounds all to familiar to you, then this is the recipe for you.  It's completely foolproof, and will even save you about 30 minutes of standing over the flaming grill.  The secret?  Cook the chicken first of course! 

Un-glamarous, pre-grill shot! 

I've long been a fan of brining, which just means to soak the chicken in a mixture of salt and sugar (and sometimes garlic and herbs) before it cooks.  Brining keeps the meat incredibly moist and flavorful, so why not cook the chicken in the brine itself?  For this recipe, I fully cooked the chicken in boiling brine, then grilled it for less than ten minutes to add those grill marks and texture we all love, and topped it off with my favorite bar-b-que sauce. The results were perfectly cooked, super flavorful chicken, with no guess work required! 

This recipe would be great for a party since you can easily cook the chicken in advance, then throw it on the grill just before serving (I would refrigerate cooked chicken and allow it to sit at room temperature prior to grilling if making ahead).

Ingredients (Serves 2-3, easily doubled):
*6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
*12 c. water
*1/2 c. salt
*1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
*1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
*olive oil cooking spray
*store bought or homemade BBQ sauce

Bring water to a boil over high heat in a large stock pot.  When the water is boiling, add salt, brown sugar, and whole garlic head.  Add the chicken and boil until it just starts to pull away from the bone (about 20-25 minutes for legs). Remove the cooked chicken from the water and set aside. 

Preheat the grill over medium-high heat.  Spray the grill and chicken lightly with olive oil cooking spray.  Add the chicken to the grill and turn it just after you have light grill marks.  After you turn it, brush it with BBQ sauce.  Continue to turn and baste until desired doneness is reached.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fried Shrimp

How was everyone's long weekend?  I hope everyone had time for some fun in the sun, but more importantly took a moment to thank or remember the brave men and women who have fought, or fight today, for our freedom. 

Besides a little day trip to Raleigh, I spent the weekend relaxing, lounging at the beach enjoying the beautiful weather with my best friend Magen, and kicking off the season with some scrumptious summer food. 

I always up my seafood game in the summer - maybe because I spend so much time near the ocean.  Sunday night, I thought I'd whip up some Fried Shrimp and not only was it simple, but these crispy shrimp are super crunchy and flavorful. The tender shrimp are first soaked in buttermilk, hot sauce, and brightened up with lemon zest, then dredged in a combination of seasoned flour and cornmeal.  The cornmeal creates a surprising, extra crisp texture.

For frying, I broke out the Fry Daddy I got as a wedding gift, but you could easily use a big pot of peanut oil to fry these.  I would recommend monitoring the temperature because you'll notice when you add the shrimp the oil cools down significantly.  I fried in batches and allowed the oil to return to 375 before adding more shrimp.  

*1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (I left tails on to for easy grabbing, but remove them if you prefer)
*2 c. buttermilk
*zest of 1 lemon
*8 dashes hot sauce (or more!)
*1 c. flour
*1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
*1 tsp. paprika
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/2 tsp. pepper
*Peanut oil, for frying

In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, lemon zest, and hot sauce.  Add the shrimp and stir so they are all coated.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, paprika, salt, and pepper, and mix well.  

Preheat peanut oil to 375.  Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.  Remove shrimp individually, let the excess buttermilk drain off, then dredge in the flour mixture.  Shake off any excess, then fry in batches (don't overcrowd the oil) for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on the paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.  Repeat with remaining shrimp. 

Serve with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, and tartar sauce.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Blondies

Happy Monday all!  If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that Mike and I just returned last week from vacation in beautiful St. John, but i'm finally getting back in the swing of things around here!  

Last week was so hectic after getting home mid-week and diving full force into work.  This weekend was finally a chance to relax, catch up on house work and do a little baking!

I'm not always a big sweets gal, but occasionally I do like a nice dessert.  I've been on a big butterscotch kick lately and thought i'd try my hand at a batch of butterscotch blondies.  

I just love blondies - the underrated, buttery, golden cousin of the brownie. Of course, I couldn't leave out the chocolate entirely, so I added just a few chocolate chips in with the butterscotch chips for a hint of chocolatey goodness. 

These blondies are so simple to whip up - they would even make a great kid friendly cooking project.  The results are a chewy, buttery treat, filled with butterscotch and chocolate.  


*1 stick butter (1/2 c.), at room temperature
*1/2 c. sugar
*1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
*1 egg
*1 tsp. vanilla
*1/2 tsp. baking powder
*1 c. flour
*1/4 tsp. salt
*1/2 c. butterscotch chips
*1/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9X9 baking dish.  In a bowl, cream together room temperature butter with both white and brown sugars.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Add baking powder, flour, and salt, and mix until well combined.  Fold in chocolate chips. Add batter to the buttered baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Enjoy! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Southern Bruschetta

Today I want to share with you my go to, some-assembly-required appetizer, for when you need a quick party trick and are running low on time: Pimento Cheese and Pulled Pork Bruschetta. 

This appetizer came to be one day when a friend invited us on her boat for a little cruise after work.  We enjoyed cocktail hour on the boat and of course I couldn't show up empty handed, but I only had about twenty minutes after work to put something together.  I went to Whole Foods to pick up something prepared when this idea came to me.  Every since, it has been my go to and one of my most requested recipes!  

Whole Foods almost always has pulled pork on the buffet, which is what I buy for this.  Most stores have prepared pulled pork in the refrigerated section if you need to buy it earlier, or don't have a Whole Foods.  I choose my favorite brand of pimento cheese, but you could also make it homemade if you prefer. Serve on toasted bread or prepared crostini and you're all set! 

*pulled pork
*pimento cheese
*pickled jalapeños or dill pickle chips for serving

Spread pimento cheese on prepared crostini.  Top with a generous spoonful of pulled pork.  Serve topped with jalapeños or pickles, or serve on the side so guests can top their own. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kitchen Updates

Mike and I have been debating for quite a while now whether we want to move or stay in our current home.  We love the location and layout of our current house, so we ultimately decided to stay put for at least 4-5 more years as we save up for what hopefully will be our forever home. 

Since we'll be here for the foreseeable future, we've started making a few updates around the house.  We added a patio, will soon be replacing some sliding doors with french doors, fenced in our yard, and best of all - made a few updates to the kitchen!  I spend so much time in the kitchen, I thought I might as well make it a little prettier.  My dream kitchen is totally open with a giant flat island in the center, but since a complete renovation is out of the question, I settled for some new tile floors and a fun new backsplash. 

Here are the before pictures. Those tiles made me crazy!! They were just terrible, and forever looked filthy, even right after I mopped. 

We had no backsplash before.  If I had known how easy it was to put up a backsplash, I would have done it years ago (not that I did it myself, but i'm pretty sure I could have after I saw how easy it was). 

A few weeks ago I picked up this island at a consignment store and I am absolutely in love with it!  It's so great to have some more counter space.  I usually keep my fruit bowl there, and it's a great place to put an appetizer when we have guests. It's also great to have hooks on the end for my purse and lunchbox.  They used to always end up on the table, crowding dinner time. 

 I'm in love with our new backsplash.  I dream of carrera marble counter tops, but this marble backsplash will have to do for now.  It was actually reasonable priced for marble at about $11 a foot.  We found it at Home Depot. 

We found our new floor tile at Lowes.  We thought we'd stick with the gray flooring to tie in the countertops and the lighter gray marble backsplash tiles.  

I'm glad we went with the dark grout for a little contrast.  Now I just need to work on a few styling updates, and we'll be all set!

All in all this was about a four day process. Although it was challenging not having a kitchen for a few days, it was totally worth it! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hot Pink Lemonade

Happy Monday all!  I hope everyone had a great weekend - seems like there was so much going on, between the derby, the fight, and a few other things happening around Wilmington. 

Saturday I went to an amazing derby party.  There was a mint julep bar, a little gambling (I won a whole dollar!), and some amazing southern food.  Since my pregnant friend was hosting, I thought i'd make her a fun drink to enjoy. 

This hot pink lemonade is so simple to put together, so refreshing, and absolutely gorgeous.  It actually started as blackberry lemonade but when I was done, it didn't taste like blackberry, but it DID turn the lemonade a beautiful shade of pink.  Best of all, it's totally natural. 

*1 c. sugar
*1 c. fresh lemon juice (I got this from about 7 really juicy lemons)
* 6 oz. blackberries
* 1lemon, sliced, for garnish

Combine sugar, 1 c. water and blackberries in a small sauce pan.  Heat over medium until the sugar is dissolved, mashing the blackberries with a potato masher as they heat.  When the sugar is dissolved, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  Allow to cool. 

Meanwhile, juice the lemons.  In a pitcher, combine lemon juice, blackberry simple syrup, and 8 c. water.  Stir well to combine and chill.  Serve over plenty of ice and garnish with a lemon slice.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Target Giveaway!

Today I'm teaming up with some great bloggers for a giveaway!  Enter below - good luck to all!

Magen /// Brittany /// Kippy
Sarah /// Brooke
Erin ///  Kate
a Rafflecopter giveaway