What I’ve been reading lately.

Let me catch you up on some books I’ve recently finished.  And I promise lots of killer recipes coming your way – including one crock-pot dinner that’s will please anyone sitting at your table and a vegetarian soup/stew that Big Guy went crazy over.

I have to be honest – I’m not sure where I left off with my book recommendations so forgive me if I repeat myself.

Take an instantly recognizable social dilemma—attending a wedding alone—add a good laugh (and maybe a cry), and meet The Singles, the warm and witty debut by Boston Globe “Love Letters” columnist Meredith Goldstein.

Beth “Bee” Evans’s first vow as a bride is that everyone on her list be invited to bring a guest to her lavish, Chesapeake Bay nuptials. When Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe, and Nancy one by one decline Bee’s generous offer, the frustrated bride dubs them the “Singles,” adrift on her seating chart as well as in life.  -Amazon Book Description

I enjoyed reading this book.  It’s not in my “top 10″ but it was an easy read and got me through a few steady cardio sessions at the gym.  I found myself getting some of the characters confused but overall, a good read.

What do you do when you’ve just graduated from college and aren’t sure what your next step should be? Jenna Weber, whose Eat, Live, Run blog has a huge following, turned to culinary school–but to become a food writer, not a chef. Jenna’s charming coming-of-age story follows her ups-and-downs as she confronts the rigors of training, gets her first job, deals with a family crisis, and enters into a love affair.
-Amazon Book Description

I adored this book.  It took me 3 days to finish!  I’ve been following Jenna’s blog for years now and I simply love her style of writing and the recipes she shares with her readers.  This book is honest and not full of fluff.  I want to go to culinary school after reading her book.  The best part about reading this book – it doesn’t have to end once the book ends…you can keep up with her on the blog!

I’m currently trying to decide what book to read next!

I do have my eye on a book that comes out April 23th – it will definitely be a honeymoon read!  Which is fitting…

Lottie is still licking her wounds from a failed relationship when Ben, an old flame, calls and reminds her of their pact to get married if they were both still single at 30. She jumps at the chance, and after a quick march to the altar, they are Ikonos-bound, for a honeymoon on the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago. But the Gods — and a few friends — are trying hard to save them from what they see as a catastrophic mistake.

Have you read any good books lately?

Finally Friday Favorites.

All week I’ve been one day ahead…meaning yesterday was supposed to be Friday in my mind, but it wasn’t.  But it is today!  Hurray.

Here are my favorites for the week:

Favorite Fake-out:  How cute are these sand dollar cookies on a bed of brown sugar?!?!?!

Favorite Beach Accessory:  Speaking of sand, I want need these wine glass and bottle holders.  Now if only I could get Big Guy over his hatred of sand…

Favorite Must-Read:  I love all things food-related.  So of course I’m a fan of Top Chef and want to read Gail Simmons biography.  I would love to be a professional eater.  Just sayin’.

Favorite Dog:  And I don’t even like animals…

Favorite Pizza Combo:  Butternut squash, sage, goat cheese, prosciutto. 

Favorite “Splash” of color:  leopard with bright yellow

Favorite Addition to Thanksgiving Dinner:  Pumpkin Pie Shot.

And on that “strong” note, I’m out.  HappyFridayGoPirates.

HappyweekendgopiratesTGIF

1.  Cold weather is coming.  Boohiss.

2.  I just finished reading One Day.  Now I need to see the movie.

3.  Speaking of movies, I really want to see Bridesmaids.  I’m determined to make this happen on Sunday.

  4.  Other things on the agenda for Sunday…carving pumpkins!

5.  Big Guy loves carving pumpkins.

6.  Big Guy also loves these muffins.  Sour Cream Chocolate Chip muffins. They were super simple to make.  According to Big Guy, they’re best when served warm.

7.  Speaking of treats, I think I’m going to make these for the tailgate tomorrow.

8.  More sweet talk…there’s a new fro-yo place in town!  I went with a few of the girls Wednesday night and had fro-yo for dinner.  Yum.

9.  See, we do more than “read” books and drink wine. ;)

10.  I just started Sarah’s Key. 

11.  HappyweekendgopiratesTGIF!!!!!!!!!

Oh.My.Waffle.

1.  It’s National Waffle Day.  Of course I celebrated.

2.  TJs Wheat-Free Waffles are my new favorite thing.  Waffles, you see, are my true breakfast love.  I like ‘em crunchy on the outside.  And a plop of almond butter doesn’t hurt either.

3.  Did I mention it’s Friday?  Well it is.  And I have a date tonight.  And you’re not invited (well, you are Big Guy).

4.  The nutty noodles are even better leftover.  And cold.

5.  I started reading Hush last night.  I love it because it’s already got my attention and I want to keep reading but I hate it because there are typos left and right.  Where’s your editor?

6.  We’re “co-hosting” a paarrrr-taaaay on Saturday night.  Wanna get leid?

7.  I had a very disturbing dream last night.  Thankfully waffles make everything right in the world.

8.  29 days ’til Pirate football.

9.  Is Meat Head home from Aruba?

10.  Let’s get this party started.

picture from centurynovelty.com


Noodles and Books

Let’s talk food first.  (P.S. I almost called this post “Double O” because “noodle” and “book” both have “oo.”  Lord help me I’m random.)

Food.  Noodles with Asian Vegetables and Peanut Sauce.  

You’ll need bok choy.

I’ve never cooked with bok choy.  Well, until now.

Gather the rest of your veggies.  Snow peas and carrots.

Instead of Udon noodles, I used brown rice spaghetti pasta from TJs.  These noodles get 5 out of 5 stars.  They didn’t fall apart in the water and I loved the “chewy” texture once cooked.  Way to go, Joe. 

Now let’s get saucy.  Water, PB (I’m against reduced-fat PB, they take away good fat and add sugar – stick with the full-fat PB – or any nut butter for that matter), brown shhhhuga, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil (so fragrant!), cornstarch, chili paste and gaaaahhhhlic (I went with 3 cloves).

Simply whisk all of the saucy ingredients together, bring to a boil and whisk for one minute.  It thickens up, kids.

That’s it!  Add the sauce to the noodles and veggies and dinner is ready.  (Note:  I added the bok choy to the noddles during the last 30 seconds of boiling.)

Noodle Bowl.  A super sticky noodle bowl.  Deeeelicious.  And of course, my little toucan chop sticks.  Love those things.  They make eating fun.  Wait, eating is always fun.

Let’s talk books now.

I just finished this last week:

 

I love Jennifer Weiner’s books.  This one was no exception.  It was an easy read and kept me wanting to read more.  I found myself saying, “one more chapter and then stop” and then I would still be reading three chapters later.

Last night I finished this:

This cover of this book cracks me up.  In no way did I read this for political reasons.  I simply think Tina Fey is funny and I heard this book was a hoot.  And it is.  I was reading it while ellipticaling away a few mornings ago and I found myself laughing out loud.  “Absolutely delicious.” – a guy that eats books

I finished this book in about 4 days and if you need a laugh or two, I recommend this book.

Sooooo, what are you reading these days?

And I want a nook.

 

Another “single-girl” dinner.

I finally snapped a picture of one of my latest “single-girl” dinners.  And this one is actually worth making for yourself and someone else, if you so please.  Or you can be like me and eat this “single-girl” dinner while watching The Real Housewives of Orange County (or New Jersey).  I can’t hide it – those two shows are my guilty pleasure when Big Guy’s out-and-about.

A plate of deliciousness.  Bottom layer:  arugula (home-grown, might I add).  On top of that:  quinoa (1/4 cup dry cooked with 1/2 cup agua).  Then a layer of red peppers.  Lots of red peppers.  I sauteed the red peps with a little onion.  I also love onion.  Feel free to leave out of the onion if you’re scared.  Then we have a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Nice and salty.  Oops – I forgot to mention the fresh cilantro I threw on this plate.  Finally we have guacamole.  My new obsession.  I lied – the finally touch was fresh cracked black pepper.  This was super filling, super fresh and super yum-worthy.

Another thing I like to do when Big Guy’s away?  Read.  I just finished Nora Roberts’ The Bride Quartet.   I really enjoyed this series.  Very easy to read and I want Vows (their business) to plan my wedding some day.

penguingroup.com

And up next, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.  I can guarantee this will be highly inappropriate yet highly amusing.  Just what our book club needs.

bn.com

Weekend excitement:  Smokey and BQ are going on a little road trip!!!!

What books are you currently reading?

No Italian Grandmother here.

I’ve never made meatballs.  True story.  I love Asian-inspired dishes.  That’s another true story.  Sesame-Soy Meatballs?  Yes, please.

I know, I know.  Meatballs are supposed to be Italian.  Thankfully I don’t have an Italian grandmother to shake her head at me for choosing Asian over Italian.  My Mimi or Mawmaw (my grandmothers) would probably prefer pot roast or fish but they weren’t around so they weren’t shaking their heads either.  Big Guy was around though.  Thankfully he loves all things Asian-inspired.  And beef was involved.  But I’m sure beef has nothing to do with him loving this dish.

You know I went heavy on the garlic.  I think any Italian grandmother would approve of that.  Oh, and I used gluten-free soy sauce.

And I used a cookie scoop to make perfect little meatballs.

I browned them over medium-high heat in my cast iron skillet and then transferred them to a baking sheet lined with foil and baked them in a 400 degree oven for about 5 or so minutes.

These meatballs were a little more fatty than I like (high fat content) but I didn’t want the meat to go to waste sitting in the freezer.

Al fresco dining is my favorite!  Well, unless there are bugs.  And flies.  And gnats.  Served with jasmine rice and some mixed veggies (straight from the freezer, no shame here).

p.s. I promise this isn’t turning into a book blog, but I started reading this book and I can’t put it down.  I love autobiographies.

Sing You Home

Remember how I’m in a book club?  Well last night was our gathering about the book “Sing You Home” by Jodi Picoult.  (I was unable to attend the gathering after we read Jay-Z’s autobiography.)

First of all, I love Jodi Picoult’s books.  She’s a brilliant writer.  I think my absolute favorite book of hers is “Nineteen Minutes.”  But the most popular is probably “My Sister’s Keeper” that was made into a major motion picture.  Her books pull me in and I feel as though I’m there experiencing what the characters experience.  This particular book, “Sing You Home” could be described in one word as “controversial.”  But I liked that about this book.  I thought some of it dragged on, but I really wanted to know what happened so I kept reading.  This book made me question my personal beliefs about certain issues (gay rights/adoption/what makes a family).  It’s a “sad” book but not near as tear-jerking as some of her other books.

So I gotta be honest – we only really talk about the book for 10 minutes at book club.  But last night was just what I needed – I sometime forget how important “girl nights” are – just sitting around with a glass of wine, chatting and laughing about whatever random topics arise.

And there’s always food at book club.  Duh.  Well, wine comes first, then the food.

I had my mind set on making Mexican Cherry Tomato Salad but I didn’t really read the whole recipe (novice mistake) and well, it was a little more involved than I had time for, so I ended up throwing the recipe away and just doing what I wanted.

Here’s what you do for my “quickie” version:
Halve 1 pint of grape tomatoes.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  While that’s hanging out, drain and rinse one can of black beans and one can of corn.  Add to the tomatoes.  Dice up some red onion to taste (about 1/4-1/2 of the onion) and add it to the mix.  Add in some cilantro (about 1/4 cup) and some pepper.  Also add about 1/2 the juice of a lemon, 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon EVOO.  Cover and let it chill until you’re ready to serve.  Right before serving, add in about 1/2 a cup of grated pepper-jack cheese and some freshly cracked black pepper.  Done and done.

This salad was served with baked chips and Zesty Guac Tortillaz.  Holy addicting.  These guac chips are crazy delicious.

This was an impulse buy that I don’t regret.  5 out of 5 stars.  A little spicy kick and a lovely crunch.

And I also made a sweet treat!  I know, it’s not Sunday.  But the book club girls are worth it.

Lemon Bars! 

I was very sad I couldn’t eat this sweet treat.  You see, Lemon Bars are one of my all-time favorite treats.  I love the tang and the sweetness of the lemon and sugar.  I must say that the crust of these bars got high marks.  Very flaky and light.  A winning recipe if you ask me – well, it’d be more winning if I could indulge.

Instead of a lemon bar I had an extra 1/2 glass wine.  I know – on a Wednesday night.  I like to live on the edge.  (wink wink)

I wonder what we’ll read next….

p.s. I read three books in St. Thomas – THREE!!!  South of Broad (this was suggested by Big Guy who read it during a previous flight – it kept my interest but it wasn’t the most fascinating book ever), My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler (hilarious – that’s all I can say – oh and that I finished it in one afternoon) and finally Night Road (loved this book, couldn’t put it down, love Kristin Hannah – Firefly Lane is also a fabulous book of hers).

Semi-Homemade with Emily B

Don’t get me wrong, I love making baked goods from scratch.  It’s actually one of the most relaxing things in the kitchen to me.  Last weekend, though, I wanted to make some sugar cookies (with Pirate pride) for the kiddies that are at the tailgate.  I was making other things, including dinner, and I wanted to spend time with Big Guy – so I went the easy route. 

thank you, dough boy.

Even though I used a little help, I made them special. 

paint it purple

(oops - I forgot to take an “after” picture.)

Last night I decided to channel Sandra Lee again.  This time I was baking cookies for Carie – just because I wanted to make her day a little sweeter.  Before baking, I smushed them down a bit and added toffee bits.

mmm toffeeeeee

Sorry for the blur – the sun light was a little out-of-control in the kitchen last night. 

"c" is for cookies AND carie

And I did remember to take an after this time.

grrr blur

I might have saved a couple for Big Guy.  By the way, he’s been in Vegas since Sunday (wish my job sent me to Vegas) and I can’t wait to see him tonight.

Want another tip?  I know you do.

If you ever serve wine – for yourself or other people – keep some grapes in the freezer.  They’re absolutely perfect for keeping wine cold and not watering it down. 

And another tip (I’m just full of ‘em today) – this is random – but on Sunday I went on a cleaning spree (maybe that’s why Big Guy likes to travel so much – he roams the country, I clean house)…  I wanted to reallllly clean the microwave (I told you it was random).  I ran across a tip and tried it and it worked!!!  In a microwave-safe bowl, pour in some regular ole vinegar.  Microwave about 5 minutes or until boiling.  Carefully remove, dip a towel into the water and carefully wipe away the grit and grim that’s built up.  It worked like a charm. 

And another final note (whew – this post is random – I bet my Dadom loves it).  The books I posted yesterday…

I finished “Heart of the Matter” last month.  If you like Emily Griffin, I think you’ll enjoy this book.  It was so believable and I kind of got attached to the characters.  It brought up the topic of infidelity which is inexcusable but it was presented in such a “this could really happen” way.  Just read it.

I’m reading “Fly Away Home” now.  I’m about 100 pages in and it’s really good.  The story is set up so that each chapter is from a different person’s perspective.  It, too, is about a cheating husband but this one is a Senator.  I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting read…

And I want to read the new Nicholas Sparks book.  Apparently there’s already a movie in the works based on the book. 

So while you’re baking semi-homemade cookies and waiting for the vinegar to boil – read!  I kid, I kidd.  But I really do love reading – when I was growing up, I would hide out in the play room and just read ready read.