{Virtual} Coffee Chat

{via pinterest}

If we were having coffee this morning…I would update you with no update.  We’re officially on baby watch in our family and I can’t wait to find out if I have a new niece or a nephew.  Maggie was 40 weeks as of Monday and I’m sitting by my phone waiting to find out when she’s headed to the hospital.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would bring you a bag of  granola.  It’s amazing.  And I’ve plowed through the first bag.  It’s been a breakfast staple during the week.  Plain Greek yogurt, pumpkin fig granola and a big scoop of nut butter.  You can find the granola at Target!  You will be familiar with ALL the ingredients and it isn’t crazy high in sugar (or fat) like most granola.

If we were having coffee this morning…We would chat about holiday meals.  I know, I know.  It’s only October and I’m cringing that my email inbox is already getting filled up with Christmas “sales” but yesterday was a good mail day and I’m inspired by all the recipes.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would probably go on and on and on about how I want to decorate my **next** house.  After being introduced to Elements of Design it’s safe to say I’m obsessed.  In fact, I read the whole book, cover to cover, in two days.  Big Guy, I blame Marlo.  And I probably need to go ahead and start saving all.the.money. for an interior decorator.

{via elements of style blog}

If we were having coffee this morning…I would talk about cinnamon rolls.  Because they seem to be a popular topic of conversation in my life lately.  I’ve finally picked out the recipe that I’m going to follow so that I can finally devour cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning.  It’s been a long time coming, folks.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would encourage you to participate in International Champagne Day on Friday.  I mean, seriously, twist my arm!

{via pinterest}

If we were having coffee this morning…I would update you on the fact that there are only 9 Fridays until Christmas.  (My Momma probably just broke out in a sweat and dropped whatever she was holding in her hand.)  Where did the past year go?!?!!?

If we were having coffee this morning…I would share this with you.  At 31, I definitely don’t have it all figured out.  But I do know what I’m passionate about in life and what brings me the most happiness.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would ask, “Is it Friday yet?”

Greek Chicken with Herb Roasted Potatoes

It’s a known fact that I love wine.  And these days I’m loving all wine – white, bubbles, no bubbles, rose and even red.  But it’s just not the taste that I love.  I’m loving learning about wine.

Wine tasting is such a difficult hobby to have.

My mother-in-law gave me this wine journal as a birthday present (along with many other wonderful birthday goodies) and I love how it challenges me to slow down and really savor the wine.

This past Saturday, it was insanely gorgeous outside and I spent some time on the back deck smelling, sipping and really trying to figure out the flavors of this particular wine (which was a Cab Franc and for the price point, it was quite delicious).

The most difficult part of wine tasting, to me, is the smell part.  I just can’t decipher different notes.  But hey, practice makes perfect, right???

I planned my dinner around this particular bottle since I am a firm believer in the fact that red wine belongs with food.  Taking notes from the wine company themselves, I went with a Mediterranean-inspired dish:  Greek Chicken with Herb Roasted Potatoes.  

The dinner is ridiculously easy to pull together and is perfect for a weeknight or a weekend dinner.  First, prep the potatoes and get them in the oven – they’ll take the longest.  (And yes, you can boil the potatoes but roasted potatoes are where it’s at.)  The potatoes were tossed with a little melted butter, a little champagne vinegar, EVOO, oregano, salt and pepper and then roasted for about 30 minutes.

While the potatoes were roasting away, I sipped on a glass of wine and started on the chicken.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then grill – I used an inside grill.  And don’t worry, you will get LOTS of flavor from the tomatoes and onions that you’re about to get to work on.

The tomato-onion “topping,” if you will, is a simple saute of sliced onion, tomato, garlic and olives.  Once those are cooked through, lemon juice, parsley and oregano brighten up the mixture that is served on top of the chicken.  And to complete the Greek-style chicken, a sprinkle of feta cheese.

The potatoes were the absolute perfect side dish for the tender chicken.  I forget how much I love roasted potatoes until I roast up a batch and I find myself going back to the pan for “just one more.”  The sweetness of the tomato intensifies as it sautes with the onion and the saltiness of the olives balances out the sweetness.  And feta.  Don’t skip this step.  So much flavor in such a small cheese.

And yes, the wine was better with the meal.

But I knew that.

Chili-Cheese Mac

In the mood for some carbs and cheese?

I thought you’d say “yes.”

Sometimes a bowl of pasta with meat and cheese is just what you need at the end of a long day.  And the best part, it was ready in under thirty minutes.

Win.

To be honest, this dish reminded me of old-school Hamburger Helper.  Don’t act like you haven’t eaten the boxed dinner.

Except you can actually pronounce every.single.ingredient.  And you don’t need a dictionary to know what you’re eating.

You’ll only dirty two pots for this dish but it’s totally worth doing a little dish washing.  The cheese sauce comes together beautifully and I loved that I didn’t have pre-cook the noodles.

Your husband will love this dish.  And if you have kids, they’ll love it, too.  In reality, I’m sure your dog would love this dinner.

Ground beef + Noodles + Cheese Sauce + spices = Chili-Mac and Cheese

aka, Your dinner tonight.

You’re welcome.

 

I only made a few changes to the recipe:  I used gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta and I used almond milk instead of skim milk.  Oh, and I used regular sharp cheddar cheese.  Y’all know I don’t believe in reduced-fat cheese.

Eating reduced-fat cheese is a sin in our household.

Chili-Cheese, please?!?!

 

 

Friday Favorites

This week has been a little crazy but it’s Friday now.  I apologize for leaving you hanging not one, but two days this week.  True story:  I got locked out the house on Wednesday and had to wait two hours in the garage for the locksmith.  Thank goodness my parents still keep my Premium AAA up-to-date.

But it’s Friday now and here are my favorites of the week!

Favorite Crunch:  Sweet and Spicy Rosemary Cheddar and Gorgonzola Pumpkin Crackers.  I promise these will be on the next cheese plate I make it home.  There’s just something special about making your own crackers.  And pumpkin is all the rage now, right?

 

Favorite Cozy:  Cabernet Braised Short Rib Stew. I want to curl up on the couch on a Sunday evening with a bowl of this and a glass of Cab.  This is comfort food.

 

Favorite Spot.  I love bookstores.  And in Tampa, we stumbled upon The Oxford Exchange and I was immediately drawn to the shelves of the books all over the store.  I wanted to pick up a stack of books, order a latte, find a spot on a plush couch and read until the sun went down.  And while The Oxford Exchange was a little overwhelming and loud, I want to live somewhere that has a cute book store like the one below.

 

Favorite Twist:  Broccoli Cheddar Soup Mini Pies.  It’s like broccoli and cheese soup – but in hand-held pies.  The crust looks so tender and flaky.  Big Guy would go bonkers for these little nuggets.

 

Favorite Copycat:  Baked “Deep Fried” Oreos.  This week is the NC State Fair.  In the past, Deep Fried Oreos have been all the rage at the State Fair (among other fried things) and while you won’t find me waiting in line at the fairgrounds, you might find me making my own at home.  P.S.  I heard on the radio this week that they’re having deep fried Reese’s wrapped in bacon.  I’m terrified and intrigued.

 

Favorite Predictable:  One Bowl Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls.  You knew that was coming.  I just can’t stop drooling at all the cinnamon rolls I want to make.  They’re happening.  Within the next two weeks.  Mark my word.

 

Favorite Fashion:  I’m obsessed with this camel cape.  Don’t ask me where I’d wear it.

 

Favorite DIY:  Photo Clipboards.  There’s a small empty wall in our kitchen that I want to fill.  The problem is, I can’t make up my mind on what I want there.  This would solve all my problems.

 

Favorite Sip:  Autumn Apple Cider and Champagne Sangria.  I have never made sangria using red wine. (probably because I didn’t like red wine until recently, but still).  But I think this is the one that will change that.  It combines a few of my favorite things – apple cider, red wine AND champagne.

Cheers!

White Bean and Pumpkin Hummus

I have a confession to make, I’m not crazy about PSLs (pumpkin spice lattes).

I like my coffee with a little creamer and we’re good to go.

But I do love the flavor of pumpkin.  And now that it’s officially fall, I’m enjoying playing around with fall produce and flavors.  Like pumpkin.

I made the white bean and pumpkin hummus for a snack plate the other night (one of my favorite dinners after being on vacation).  The hummus is insanely simple to pull together and doesn’t require anything but a food processor.

Simply put all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and whirl.

In the mix:  canned pumpkin, white beans, tahini, lemon juice, a smidge of EVOO, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and garlic.

I went heavy on the spices – adding much more cumin than the recipe called for – along with an extra clove of garlic.

The end result – a slightly sweet yet totally savory dip that’s perfect for a snack plate.

 

I served my hummus with a few crackers, cucumber slices, apple slices and a hunk of fontina cheese.  I love having an array of flavors and textures on a plate.

Fancy up the hummus if you’re entertaining by adding an extra sprinkle of smoked paprika on top along with some roasted pumpkin seeds.

But you don’t have to be entertaining others to make this hummus.

It’s totally something you can sit on the couch and eat while wearing yoga pants and catching up on “your shows” saved to the DVR.

 

#watsonsarrrghintampa

If you follow me on Instagram, I apologize – you’ve seen all these photos.

Tampa isn’t somewhere I have on my list of “places to visit” – however, we try and go to one out-of-town ECU game each season and Tampa seemed like a fun place to watch the Pirates play.  And let’s be honest, any excuse to get out of town is a good excuse to me.  The weekend was amazing and we even made it on t.v.  Here’s a recap of the weekend via Instagram.

We stayed at the Epicurean Hotel and I’m pretty sure this hotel was meant for me.  It’s a foodie’s Heaven.  I have requested a repeat trip…and I rarely do that.

We kicked off the weekend on Friday afternoon with a couple of drinks at the hotel bar.  The bars at this hotel aren’t your hotel bars – quality drinks and ingredients.

Later on that evening, we headed to Ciro’s, a Speakeasy that I was dying to visit.  Super secretive, you have to call in advance to get the password for the night.  And once inside, it’s like stepping back in time.  The cocktails were strong and classic and we devoured an order for Duck Fries.

Friday night we dined at Mise en Place and had the pleasure of enjoying a tasting menu.  While the food and wine was fantastic, the service didn’t make me excited to be doing the tasting.  I was hoping the waiters would get into the menu and would really describe what I was eating with passion – oh well.  The braised short rib risotto was by far one of the best bites of the entire trip.  I’ve never tasted risotto so complex.

A 7pm kick off really threw off my original plans but it all worked out.  After a much needed massage, we headed to lunch at Datz.  Big Guy found this restaurant online and I was really impressed with the service and the food.  A different kind of game day tailgate but I’ll take it.

We randomly ended up going out to a tailgate lot a couple of hours before the game.  With a cooler packed with our essentials:  champs, vodka and OJ, we headed to watch the Pirates play.

We ended up running into a few folks we knew which made it even more fun.

During the game, I got a few text messages letting me know that we were famous.

Thankfully I wasn’t doing anything embarrassing.

The next morning we were up ready to enjoy a full day in Tampa.  First up, riding bikes to find coffee.

Oh, how I crave being able to ride bikes to get coffee and walk to grab a glass of wine.

Brunch Sunday was at The Refinery.  A lovely, yet small restaurant that I never would have come across had I not seen a recommendation in a magazine.

We started off with a round of ManMosa – basically, a big mimosa.  Hey, it was a true Sunday Funday.

The menus change with the seasons and I ended up going with Greens, Eggs and Ham:  collards, shoulder ham, poached eggs, biscuit & pot likker in a bowl of grits.

Seriously, the best grits I’ve ever tasted.

After a little more exploring, we headed up to the rooftop bar at the hotel for a drink before getting fancied up for dinner.

On Sunday night, we had reservations at Bern’s, which was truly a unique culinary experience.  If you ever get the opportunity to dine at Bern’s I highly suggest it.  The food and incredible but the service is impeccable.

It’s dinners like this that I never want to end.  We wined and dined and then went on a tour of the kitchen which was amazing.  They have 80 staff on the floor each night.  The kitchen was hustling but calm all at the same time.  My favorite part of the evening was the tour of the wine cellar.   The most expensive bottle they had that evening was $30,000.  Yes, you read that right.

I’ve never been surrounded by so much wine.

After the tour, we were seated in the dessert room where we shared a couple of the most incredible desserts.

An unforgettable evening.

And now I’m here.

Back at work.

And day dreaming about our next adventure.

 

Friday Favorites.

Today marks the start of my four-day weekend.  And it couldn’t come at a better time.  So enjoy my Friday Favorites that are totally “fall-inspired” because I’m finally in the mood for fall while I’m off enjoying some time away from reality with Big Guy.

Favorite Polish:  OPI Chick Flick Cherry.  The color of my nails always follow the seasons.  In the fall, I love rich, dark hues.  This classic color is a keeper for Fall and Winter.

 

Favorite Flavors:  Spicy Fennel, Orange and Garlic Marinated Olives.  These small bites would be the perfect bite for any cocktail hour.  They’re fancy without being fussy.

 

Favorite Reminder:  I needed to remind myself of this today.  And every day.

 

Favorite Slice:  Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions and Bacon.  You can totally eat pizza any day and any month of the year.  But this pizza is a total fall pizza.  And I need it.  Like now.

 

Favorite Spread:  Who wants to come to a Cheese and Charcuterie Party?  My favorite dinners consist of cheese, crackers and a good quality meat that are eaten over the course of hour(s) with wine.

 

Favorite Devour:  Bacon Cinnamon Rolls.  Are you surprised?

 

Favorite Upgrade:  I told y’all the decorating bug has bitten me.

Favorite Stuffed:  Pepper Jack Stuffed Pretzel Bites.  Just this week Big Guy asked if we could make homemade pretzels.  I’m not sure if I gave him a solid answer.  But I am now.  And the answer is yes.

 

Favorite Tipsy:  Autumn Punch. Random:  My Dad has something against the word “punch” when referring to a party drink.  I don’t get it.  So we need rename this “Autumn Sipper” so he doesn’t turn his nose up to the idea.

Cheers to Friday!