Tuscan-Style Garlic-Herb Pork Chops

These just might be the easiest pork chops I’ve ever made.

But they don’t taste it.  In fact, their bursting with flavor from the fresh herbs and garlic that the cooked pork chops rest in while you prepare the side bean salad.

I was a little skeptical at the cooking method when I first picked the recipe but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try something new.

And I was very pleased.

Bone-in pork chops are seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared in a cast-iron (or grilled) until cooked through.  As soon as they are done cooking, they are placed in a mixture of olive oil and herbs that they marinate in while you throw together the side dish.

In the herb mixture:  parsley, sage, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic.  It is amazing how much flavor the cooked pork picks up from resting in this herbaceous mix.

On the side, a simple white bean salad with sliced spinach, lemon zest and juice, green onions and olives.

On the table in about 20 minutes, this is a fabulous pork recipe for any night of the week.

I typically don’t cook with olives because Big Guy isn’t a fan – but he probably wouldn’t have noticed had I not pointed them out.  They add the perfect amount of brininess to the dish.

I’ve always adored white beans but I love them even more with fresh herbs and bright lemon zest.

Simple, satisfying and even fancy if you serve it with a glass of red wine.

 

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Good morning!  I hope you all had a lovely weekend.  I can’t believe how chilly it was this morning when I headed to the gym.  I don’t think we’ve seen the 40s in 5 months.  Brrrrr….

But yesterday was not only gorgeous but it was the perfect day to visit the pumpkin patch.

We picked out several pumpkins and one perfect pumpkin that will be carved later this month.

Post-pumpkin patch, we prepped the dough and sauce for pizza.  A pizza and movie night was on tap.  It’s been quite a while since we made homemade pizza so I was pretty excited about dinner.

We used a crust recipe from How Sweet It Is and tried making the pizza in a cast iron.  And it worked perfectly.

But back to the crust…

dough

It’s a fairly simple crust (not gluten-free) that uses a combination of all=purpose flour and white whole wheat flour.  If you make this crust, give yourself some time – it need an hour and a half to rest before baking.

In addition to the crust, we also made a homemade sauce.  Super simple but incredibly fresh tasting.  You won’t want jarred sauce again.

The sauce is a simple mix of peeled, whole canned tomatoes, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper.

Once the pizza had risen, I worked on prepping the toppings:  mushrooms, onions and pepperoni.  I sauteed both the onions and mushrooms in a mix of olive oil and butter.  The crust cooks super fast in the cast iron so you need to have the ingredients that you want cooked already cooked.  For the cheese, a combination of fresh mozzarella and goat gouda.

pizza

And I’ve learned that pizza is only made better with a nice glass of red wine on the side.

 

 

Fall Bucket List {2014}

Fall is officially here.  And instead of wishing that I was still wearing my white jeans and drinking mojitos, I’m going to fall in love with fall.

Visit a pumpkin patch and carve the pumpkins with Big Guy.

Bake a pie.

Have a fire pit and just enjoy the crisp air (and perhaps a glass of wine).

Make homemade cinnamon rolls.

Clean out my closet and donate things I haven’t worn in the past year.

Make a batch of chili.

Update a room in the house with new pictures or prints.

Pumpkin beer tasting with Big Guy.

A total football Saturday at home – with no other plans.

Host a Sunday brunch.

What would be on YOUR fall bucket list?

Friday Favorites.

Is it just me, or does the pumpkin “craze” start earlier and earlier every year?  Sure, I would love a little cooler weather but let’s save the lattes and sweaters until October.  With that being said, you won’t find any pumpkin-anything on this edition of Friday Favorites because it still feels like summer.  Oh, and just so you know, I’m having a really hard time parting with my white pants.  Part of me is totally old school and says I can’t wear them until next Easter weekend but another part of me says to forget the rules.  I guess if that’s the biggest dilemma I have this week I’m doing just fine.

 

Favorite Refresh:  Coconut Water Iced Coffee.  Like I said, it still feels like summer and this drink sounds so refreshing without any funky ingredients.  The perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

 

Favorite Wake-Up:  Oatmeal Cookie Granola.  I am a breakfast girl.  As in, I have to eat breakfast.  It’s not an option.  I could totally get on board with a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with Oatmeal Cookie Granola and banana slices.  Good morning!

Favorite Fashion:  While I’m not ready for full-blown cold weather, I am ready to wear my jeans to football games.  And I would totally rock this look while tailgating.  The only thing missing:  a mimosa.

 

Favorite Drool:  how sweet eats’ cookbook hit bookshelves around the country this week.  I had to have a copy of my own.  I cannot wait to make every.single.recipe.  And gain five pounds in the process.

 

Favorite Crunch:  Coconut Almonds.  With only three ingredients, this may be my newest snack time obsession.

 

Favorite Style:  While we have no plans to move in the near future, I often find myself daydreaming of how I’ll decorate our next living room.  I am craving a little more light and bright.

Favorite Slurp:  BBQ Chicken Chili.  While it’s no where near time for chili and soup, how comforting does this bowl look?  Maybe in a month or two it’ll be cool enjoy to enjoy this with an ice cold cider.

 

Favorite Crave:   Honey Hoisin Baby Back Ribs.  As soon as football season hits, I start plotting when we’ll devour a rack of ribs.  I seriously crave these messy, carnivorous bites every fall.  And it’s one craving Big Guy can get on board with.

Favorite Indulge:  Peanut Butter Cake Bars.  There’s nothing quite like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  These bars are the kind of things that make you speechless.

 

Favorite Sip:  French 75.  I had my first French 75 last Sunday evening and now I’m obsessed.  As in, I’m counting down the days until we have a date night so I can make my own at home.  It’s probably my new favorite drink and I didn’t even drink gin until this summer.

 

Cheers!  It’s Friday.

Loooong Weekend

Do you remember the Berenstain Bears?  The book The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday totally sums up how I feel at this moment.  And tonight I have one more celebration with the best friends in the world.  It’s the birthday that never ends.

But it was such a lovely weekend.  And here’s a peak at how I celebrated:

On Thursday night, my friend, Leann, took me out to dinner at Mandolin in Raleigh.  I dined at Mandolin in January but we had brunch that time around.  This time we started with pink bubbles and a cheese plate and ended with a trio of sorbet.  The cheese plate was incredible.  The service was fantastic and I love the feel of the restaurant.  It’s a place I would return to again for dinner.

On Friday morning, a sweet co-worker of mine took me out for coffee.  Pour over for the the win.  With just a touch of cream, this was the perfect start to the weekend.

On Friday night, Big Guy was in charge of dinner.  We started with Prosecco and bacon wrapped stuffed goat cheese dates.  So good.

And for dinner, Italian Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers and a bold Malbec.  p.s. How perfect is the cutting board that Leann gave on me Thursday?

On Saturday morning, we were up and at ‘em.  I headed to the gym for a workout and then it was back home for a morning full of tailgate prep.

Saturday evening was the opening ball game for the Pirates so of course I had to toast to a great season.

There’s a new Pirate in the family.  My sister-in-law just started at ECU and it was so good to see her.  I can’t wait to tailgate with her this season.  p.s. It was a hot game.

Post-Pirate win, we hit the road and headed for Durham.  I wanted to spend my birthday eating and drinking and that’s just want Big Guy planned.

On Sunday morning, I started my “golden birthday” with pour over coffee and avocado toast from Scratch.  It was quite the happening place.

We walked around Downtown a little bit before getting showered for the day.

For lunch, we decided to try Rue Cler, a French restaurant in Downtown Durham.  We started with an order for beignets and a round of drinks.  The beignets were so delicious.  But honestly, how can fried dough not be delicious?  For my main meal, I went with the Chicken Paillard: Seared Chicken Breast with Brie and Crispy Onions over Salade Verte.  I know, boring.  But I knew there was more to come.

Lunch was followed by more walking (which is a very good thing) and chatting and just seeing the city on foot.  We finally made it back to the hotel around 4:30pm and it was time to get ready for a night out.

We started the night at Alley Twenty Six, one of my favorite bars.

The bartender made me a French 75 and I just might have a new favorite cocktail.  Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bubbles.

Post-cocktails, it was time for dinner.  We had reservations at Revolution where we did the 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings.  I kept my phone in my purse the entire meal and it was wonderful to enjoy the food and wine with Big Guy.  Sometimes it’s good to disconnect from the rest of the world.

Monday had a slow start.  Thank goodness for a three-day weekend.

We ended the weekend long celebration at Mura where I tried a new roll, the “919” roll and enjoyed an old favorite, “Sin City.”  Sushi is always a good idea.

It was early to bed last night and I was back to my usual routine this morning.

But I have to end with this – Thank you to everyone, my friends, my family, my co-workers and especially my husband, for making my birthday so special.  I cannot wait to make even more memories in the coming year.

 

Weekend Review {quick trip to charlotte plus delicious eats}

Good morning, friends!  I hope your weekend was as wonderful as mine.  Here’s a quick look at what we were up to all weekend…

On Thursday, after an out-of-town training, I headed farther west to visit my parents.  It was a super quick trip but it was totally worth the extra miles.

Thursday was my grandmother’s birthday and I was so happy that I was able to join my parents to take her to dinner.  My Momma was extra thoughtful and tried to pick a place that would suit Mimi but would also please my foodie-self.  She succeeded.  Nolen Kitchen has been on my list (among many others) of places to try in Charlotte for a whole now.  Nolen Kitchen is located in a picture-perfect neighborhood and it was such a treat to visit.  To start, we shared the zucchini chips which were nothing short of amazing.  Perfectly fried but not overly oily.  And for my main dish, I went with the special:  Red Snapper with Lobster and a Gouda Alfredo Sauce served over black beans and spinach.  The sauce was decadent without being heavy and I was surprised at how perfectly it paired with the black beans.  To sip, a crisp Sauvignonn Blanc.

On Friday morning I was up bright and early to try a Pure Barre class.  I have wanted to try Pure Barre for a long, long time and I couldn’t pass up the chance.  There’s a Pure Barre studio about 10 minutes from my parents house and I am no obsessed.  Unfortunately, there’s not a barre studio anywhere close to where I live…so I’ll just have to save that class for special occasions.  It hurt so good.  I was sore until Sunday night.

Post-sweat, my Momma and I met up with my sister, brother-in-law and my cutie pie, Haines, for breakfast.  I’ve heard great things about Another Broken Egg and it was the perfect place for us to sip coffee and chow down.

Unfortunately, I had to hit the road as soon as breakfast was over.  As much as I wanted to stay and be with my family for the weekend, we had plans back at home and I was ready to see the hubs.

Friday night we had a little dinner party with two of our favorite couples.

The night started with rosé  and ended with lots of laughs.

In between, we dined on short ribs that had the most amazing sauce.  (I still need that recipe, Katie!)

Thankfully the sun was out on Saturday and I was able to finish up book #4 by the pool.

Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed cocktail hour at home with Grilled Pineapple Margaritas.  Umm…delicious.

We continued the Mexican theme but I’ll share the full menu later this week.

And I also checked one more item off the bucket list last night:  Trashy Hot Dogs!!!!

The dog was loaded down with sauteed onions (I sauteed the onions in bacon fat and added a touch of maple syrup before serving), sauteed mushrooms, crisped bacon and cheddar cheese.

I can never have a regular ole hot dog again.  These totally hit the spot and was worth the wait.  So many flavors and the bun was soft and doughy while the dog had the “snap” that I crave.

Only 5 days of work stand between me and my next weekend.

Let’s do this.

 

 

Smoked Salmon Dip plus The Masters Pimiento Cheese

This past Sunday a few friends gathered for Sunday brunch.  While I’m not usually a fan of having plans on Sunday, this particular brunch made me excited to plan another Sunday brunch.  The great part about brunch is that there really are no expectations.  Sweet and savory are perfectly acceptable and the drink menu plans itself:  mimosas and bloody’s.

And yes, our other halves were there but men don’t feel the need to take a picture every single time they hang out.

The hostest with the mostest (hey, KP!) provided the main dish which was a hearty egg and hashbrown casserole.  Delicious with a heaping spoonful of salsa on top.  The other ladies all brought a little of this and a little of that.  There was chicken croissants, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh fruit and monkey bread.

I brought smoked salmon dip and The Masters Pimiento Cheese.  Both are ridiculously easy to make and I actually prepped them both on Saturday afternoon.

salmon dip

I adore salmon but Big Guy would never be interested in this appetizer.  Thankfully there were others that love salmon as much as I do.  The dip is a quick mix of cream cheese (I used the whipped version), light sour cream, lemon juice, salmon, red onion and dill.  So good!

masters pimiento cheese

Big Guy is a huge fan of the southern staple pimiento cheese.  There are quite a few varieties out there and I’ve made quite a few versions using various recipes.  The most difficult part of this recipe is shredding the cheese.  Don’t buy pre-shredded cheese.  Just don’t.  In this particular version, instead of just mayo, a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream and mayo is used for a creamy, rich spread.  Also, in addition to cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese is added for some extra sharpness.  And of course, pimientos.  You can’t leave out the pimientos.  If you make this in advance, let it come to room temperature before serving so that it spreads easier onto the crackers.

The best part about these two dips – they aren’t just for brunch.  The pimiento cheese is perfect for any fall tailgate and the salmon dip will impress your guests at a dinner party or for “appy” hour.