Insta-Lately {Pilates, cocktails, finishing touches and hot oats}

It’s the last day of winter.  And I hope that this cold, dreary weather leaves for good.  It’s just not goo for the soul.

But something that is good for the soul:

Pilates

Wednesday mornings I take a Pilates class.  And while I wasn’t very into the class several years ago, I’ve grown to love it these days.  It’s one hour in the week that I get to stretch and clear my mind.

Something else that’s good for the soul?  Champagne Cocktails.  Maybe good for the soul is pushing it.  But at the end of the week it’s a nice way to wind down.

Ginger liqueur  and St. Germain

Please add both of these bottles to your bar.  They can turn a glass of champagne into something fabulous.  Well, champagne is fabulous anyway you drink it.

Just add champs.

Last Friday night I sipped on a cocktail made with St. Germain, Pom juice and topped with champagne.  And on Saturday night I took the ginger  liqueur and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice to a friends house to make Grapefruit and Ginger Sparklers.  Quite possibly my new favorite cocktail.

My “big girl” Master Bedroom is finally complete!  We had our invitation turned into a painting and we finally got it back from the framer.  I am in love.

painting by Charlotte’s/framing by Michaels

On Saturday evening we hosted/attended an engagement party (stock-the-bar party) for some friends.  It was a fabulous time had by all.

Lovely Ladies

Today I celebrated the last day of winter with hot oatmeal.  Hot oats isn’t something I crave in the summertime, so I’m getting them in while the weather is fitting.  My oatmeal method for this bowl:  1/3 cup oats soaked in 2/3 cup water and a pinch of salt while I showered and fixed my hair.  I turned the heat to medium-low about 10 minutes before I was done getting ready.  Before eating, I stirred in 1 egg white and let that cook into the mix.  Everything was topped with 1 tablespoon of drippy Trader Joe’s peanut butter (the best!).  A delicious way to start the morning.  (I must note, I had some green juice before this bowl of oats, hence the lower calorie bowl of oats).

hot oats, cold morning

 

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

Weekend Review {rainy pizza night, Supper club plus wings and sunshine}

Let’s rewind to Friday evening…

Friday night was pizza night.  It was rainy and gross outside but a delicious Fennel, Sausage and Ricotta Pizza along with a glass of wine made the rain totally manageable.  And for some green, a Broiled Romaine Salad with Fennel Caesar Dressing.  Nothing makes me happier than pizza.

On Saturday morning, I had to rise and shine to head to Raleigh for a work event.  After 4 hours of learning about school gardens I was really ready to get my weekend started.

One of our favorite couples stopped by before we left for supper club for a drink and to catch up.  So needed.

And then it was time for the big event of the weekend.  Our third Young Adult Supper Club!  I adore going to supper club, which takes place at the country club but there are different hosts for each dinner.  The hosts this weekend did an amazing job!  The room was beautifully decorated (some light blue accents for the Carolina/Duke game) and the menu couldn’t have been more enticing.  A huge shout out to Chef Ryan – like I told him Saturday night, this may have been the best plate he’s ever served me.

There were several passed appetizers during cocktail hour but the real star of the show – the salad and main course.  Holy deliciousness.  The salad was a chilled green and white asparagus salad with deviled quail eggs.  The dressing was amazing.  And then the main course – I wanted to lick my plate clean.  A Cabernet braised short rib with fried mac ‘n cheese.  Seriously.  The short rib was cooked to absolute perfection.  I cannot get over the flavors!  And that sauce!  Ryan knows how to make a sauce, my friends.  Thank you again for such a fun night and delicious menu.

Post-dinner, we headed into the bar for more drinks, catching up and to watch the basketball game.  Let’s be honest though, I didn’t watch the basketball game.

On Sunday morning, after peeling myself out of bed, Big Guy and I headed out to grab some lunch and go to the grocery store.  A restaurant in the next town over just started serving brunch on Sundays and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.  Quince has an outside patio and the weather was simply too beautiful not to sit outside.  The food was delicious and I’m excited to have a new place to go for a Sunday lunch that’s not quite as far as Raleigh.

And we finished the weekend with sunshine.  Wings and sunshine.  Big Guy really wanted to grill since the weather was so amazing and I couldn’t have agreed more with that decision.  After looking through my Pinterest page for inspiration, we finally decided on Spicy Asian-Style Hot Wings.  Lately we’ve been loving Asian-inspired meals.  Instead of baking them, we grilled the wings.  The sauce is a mixture of fresh squeezed orange juice, sugar (we reduced the amount to 1/4 cup), Chinese Five Spice, garlic (I doubled the amount of garlic), chili garlic sauce, and mirin.  Sweet, salty and spicy.  The perfect flavor combination.

And now it’s Monday.

Back to the grind.

So Pin-teresting.

It’s a busy week.  But busy weeks aren’t all that bad.

a.)  I’ll appreciate the weekend more once it gets here.

b.)  When the work days are busy days, they seem to go by a little faster.

c.)  I promise I’m not wishing my life away.  But seriously, can’t we add another day to weekends?

And even though it’s Wednesday, I thought I’d share with you a few of my latest and greatest pins on Pinterest. 

This tomato salad and a glass of rose.  Summer, please hurry.

Speaking of rose, I would love to have a glass on this front porch.

I’ve been bit by the travel bug.

If only I could perfect the imperfect bun.

Summertime shoes are the best.  I can’t wait to wear sandals all day, every day.  And these kicks are fantastic for all summer outfits.

I want to bake something this weekend.  It’s been awhile.  How about Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes?

I’m in love with this kitchen.  The perfect mix of black and white.  And don’t think I didn’t see the extra island sink.

Thinking about summer makes me think about burgers.  And a Turkey Burger with Gorgonzola and Chili Garlic Slaw sounds amazing.  I even suggested having a “summer of burgers” to Big Guy where we would cook a different burger every Sunday (or one a week).  How fun would that be?

And someone needs to have a birthday because I need these Cake Batter Martinis in my life.  Like now.

And just because it’s Wednesday…

Weekend via Instagram {plus Meyer Lemon Pizza}

Can you believe it’s the last week of February?  I’m ready for Spring.  Especially after such a gorgeous weekend (what a tease).  Bring on the warmer weather and sunshine.

Come March, our weekends are slammed pack with plans.  So this past weekend we enjoyed a slow-paced Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday night we headed up to the country club for dinner.  I love eating there on Friday and Saturday nights because there are Chef’s Specials.  This weekends specials included monkfish.  A super ugly bottom feeder.  Despite being an ugly fish, it tastes delicious.  Especially when wrapped in bacon.  Big Guy even snagged a bite (or three) from my plate.  The monkfish was served over collards along with roasted tomatoes.  The collards were awesome.  Chef Ryan – here’s your shout out…Thanks for such a fantastic dinner.

We started Saturday being super productive.  But once the afternoon hour struck, it was time for a cocktail.  I saw some Meyer Lemons at the store earlier in the week and I couldn’t resist grabbing a handful.  I used the Meyer Lemons to make a sparkling cocktail that includes rosemary simple syrup, vodka, Meyer lemon juice and sparkling wine.  So refreshing!

Saturday evening we had an arrangement of cheeses as an appetizer.  We picked up this bottle of cava when we were at the Raleigh Wine Shop and it was suggested to enjoy with a cheese plate.  It’s also cheap enough you won’t regret using it for sangria, or in my case, the Meyer Lemon cocktail.  The cheeses included a balsamic parmesan, a buttermilk blue, champagne cheddar and a goats milk cheese.  I love a cheese plate.

And on Sunday evening it was all about the pizza.  Meyer Lemon Pizza to be exact.  I know, lemons on a pizza seems rather bizarre.  The flavor combinations were incredible.  The pizza also has sauteed spinach, prosciutto and honey goat cheese.  Every bite was amazing.  I used a stand-by gluten-free pizza recipe and instead of cooking it in the oven during the second phase of cooking, we fired up the grill.  This just might be one of our favorite crusts to date.  Chewy with crispy edges.  Just the way I like it.  And yes, you can eat the lemon peel.

Such a beautiful weekend that came to an end far to quickly.

Insta-Lately {the last 10 days}

Back to the real world!  I have so much to share about our trip to Hawaii including some fantastic dinners, amazing views and a picture-perfect wedding.  Hawaii was everything and nothing that I expected, both at the same time.  Here’s what I’ve been up to lately on Instagram…

The week we were to leave for Hawaii, a “snow storm” hit eastern NC.  Let’s just say I was more than ready to pack up my Lilly clothes and sun screen and get the heck outta here!

By the time we made it to LAX last Thursday, I was more than ready for a drink.  Vacation had only just begun.

After 20 hours of traveling, we arrived in Hawaii.  I was so tired I didn’t even have the energy to pop open the champagne.

But the long day of travel was totally worth this view on Friday morning.

Any trip to Hawaii must involve a frozen drink or two.  ‘Da Lime in da Coconut was one of my favorite drinks for pool side sippin’.  I was obsessed with the real flakes of coconut with every sip.

The Chef’s Table at the Canoe House was one of the highlights of the trip.  I promise I’ll have a whole post dedicated to this dinner.  Two words though, Mexican melons.

After a day of exploring, nothing tasted better than a Cocojito.  Basically a mojito that was made for me.

No trip to Hawaii is complete without a luau.  “The more your hips move, the better the story.”  Might I add that Big Guy went up on stage at one point.  And there’s video to prove it.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we arrived for our helicopter tour.  Words cannot even describe this experience.

Once-in-a-lifetime-views.

Seriously.  Breath-taking views.

While the boys fished, the ladies went on a Kona coffee plantation tour.  Let’s just say I know why Kona coffee is so expensive now.  One tree produces one pound of a coffee a year!

Sushi!!!!!  Everything I wanted and more.

The first time I’ve ever had my feet in the Pacific Ocean.  I’m such an East Coast gal.

The lady of the week at her rehearsal dinner.

Only my favorite animal ever.  I really wanted to bring one home.

The wedding day finally arrived!  And a beautiful wedding it was.

Another day, another adventure.  This time to the black sand beaches where sea turtles own the coast line.

And of course we had to stop here and have a drink.  The southern-most bar in the US.

Our last dinner was epic.  Such a gorgeous location.

Can every date-night include waves crashing?

Big Guy wanted his picture taken in the lava tunnel.  The amount of lava on the island was insane.

Our final stop (well, not counting Target) was the Kona Brewing Company.  Loved sampling all the local brewed beers.  And the pizza was incredible.

And here we are today.  Back to regular programming.  Coffee and a green smoothie were more than necessary to get this Monday started.

Turkey and Black Bean Chili with Sweet Potatoes {plus Spicy Cashew Moment}

This past weekend I had a couple of visitors.  My cousin is about to graduate high school and has narrowed down her college choice to ECU and UNC-Chapel Hill.  While I understand why she wants to go to UNC (all her brothers went/go there and her Mom graduated from UNC) I am trying to persuade her to be a Pirate and rock the purple and gold.  But honestly, either college is a wonderful pick – NC has fabulous universities, regardless of who you cheer for.

After a freezing cold “tour” of ECU’s campus on Saturday, I was glad to have a warm bowl of chili for dinner.  Rachel (my cousin) had requested chili for dinner on Friday when we were figuring out the plan for the next day.  I remembered that Gwyneth’s cook book It’s All Good had a recipe for turkey chili and it was recipe that Daphne (my aunt) had actually noted as wanting to try when she flipped through the cookbook over Christmas.  So nailing down the menu was pretty simple.

Gwyneth suggests serving the chili with a dollop of Spicy Cashew Moment  - for some reason, those words make me giggle.  Despite my giggling, I was intrigued by this “moment” she was referring to.  And well, cashews are my favorite nut so I figured, why not.

First of all, the soup was amazing.  Hearty and comforting, the way chili should be.  The recipe does offer a vegetarian option in which you would double the amount of black beans in place of ground turkey.  And if you use ground turkey, please don’t use the leanest you can find.  This chili needs a little bit of fat.  I used 85/15 ground turkey.  I also followed her suggestion of letting the turkey cook slowly.  As in, not turning the burner up to medium-high or even medium.  I turkey cooked for 20 minutes over medium-low heat.  And it was worth the 20 minutes.  For the sweet potatoes, I cut up 2 peeled sweet potatoes and roasted them for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  They are added in at the end of the cooking process so don’t stress, they don’t become soggy.  The spices are rather simple:  cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder.  Honestly, I think a lot of chili recipes “try to hard.”  This recipe is very simple and the ingredients are very simple but the end product is absolutely delicious and satisfying.  And because the spices are simple, the chili is mild.  Therefore, I piled on the pickled jalapenos for some heat along with the green onions and cilantro.  Love the pops of brightness throughout eating this bowl of chili.

As for the “moment,” it’s actually hidden under some cilantro in the picture.  The spicy cashew moment isn’t the prettiest condiment.  And to be honest, I didn’t “get” the rage until I had eaten a few bites that included the spicy cashew moment.  Gwyneth describes the “moment” as being a vegan’s cheese sauce.  By no means will this replace cheese in my life.  (life without cheese is unfathomable to me.)  But it did replace cheese and a dollop of Greek yogurt in this particular bowl of chili.  The spicy cashew moment adds a strange smoothness to the bowl of chili along with a richness that is hard to describe.

This chili recipe most definitely will make another appearance…it’s all that good.

 

Insta-Lately.

You guys.  They are calling for 6-8 inches of snow in Eastern North Carolina this week.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.

I seriously need Monday and Wednesday to fly by – I have warm places to be come Thursday.

Last week I was a little under the weather.  That plus snow on the ground made for an unhappy Emily.  I drowned by sorrows in hot tea.  Lots of hot tea.

Random fact – I read that for every cup of tea you drink you reduce your risk of death by 9%.  And for every cup of coffee, 8%.  I’m going to live forever.

A tropical drink from our honeymoon.  There will be more of these come Friday.

 

Apparently it was the weekend of “drinks” on Instagram.  On Saturday night, I enjoyed a nice glass (or two) of a deliciously juicy Zinfandel.  My aunt and cousin were in town for the weekend visiting and I put her in charge of matching a wine with dinner.  I was serious about learning to appreciate red wine.

More on this tomorrow.  Just know it was amazing.

And finally, the end of duck hunting has arrived.  So I celebrated with a mimosa with lunch at Mandolin.  

Mandolin is Southern at its roots, but draws influences from around the world.  The food is fresh and local, the music is American, and the restaurant is home to a family with a passion for serving world class food, wine, and spirits in a soulful, comforting atmosphere.

Mandolin uses the highest quality local ingredients to create seasonal menus that represent a fresh take on Southern food. We source our meats, poultry, seafood, produce, and specialty products from a bounty of North Carolina farmers, ranchers, and artisans whenever possible.  We keep our cooking and our ambiance close to home.  At Mandolin, seasonality, sustainability, and buying local are culinary and business philosophies based on our core values of preparing the best food, using the best ingredients, supporting our local economy, and conserving our natural resources.

At lunch, I ordered the Mandolin Skillet.   However, the waitress made a mistake and brought me the omelet.

Mandolin Omelet Du Jour

Ask your Server for Today’s Selection, Served with Home Fries     10

The omelet was stuffed with kale, duck confit and mushrooms.

And Big Guy enjoyed the chicken and mac ‘n cheese.

Braised Ashley Farm Chicken Leg

Macaroni and Cheese with Country Ham and Scallions     11

The mac n’ cheese was the best part of the meal.  Cheesy and salty.  Perfection.

What were your beverages of choice this weekend?  Tea?  Red wine?  Mimosas?

Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Rosemary

I’ve got another “feel good” meal for you.

bach 003

 

Another salmon recipe from Giada.  Giada’s Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Rosemary stays incredibly moist because it’s cooked in a foil packet.

I typically don’t use capers (I had to buy some for this recipe) but something about the combination of capers with lemon and rosemary peaked my interest.

And the fact that it called for a little bit of wine.  Which meant I also enjoyed a glass of wine while cooking dinner.

The recipe is super simple.  I used a grill pan to cook the salmon and simply threw some asparagus alongside the salmon to complete my dinner.

I loved the addition of the capers.  It paired beautifully with the acidity of the lemon and the sweetness of the wine.  And rosemary is always welcome on my plate.

bach 002

Not only is the recipe simple, but clean-up is a breeze because of the foil packet.

bach 004

 

Capers – Love ‘em or hate ‘em?

 

The perfect winter salad {and the best fried chicken. ever.}

January is making me tired.  I mean, in a good way.  But there’s just a lot going on.

Over the weekend, we celebrated the “last” of Leann’s single-lady days.  We had a fantastic night in Raleigh.  An afternoon at the salon drinking champs, more champs, dinner at Bolt and then out for some fun.

On Sunday morning, we were in need of food.  And we had our sights set on one and only one place.  Beasley’s.  And how could I go to Beasley’s knowing that they’re famous for their friend chicken and not order fried chicken?

Epic.  That’s about the only word I have to describe the fried chicken.  And who in their right mind would order the white meat?  Not me.  Finger.lickin’.good.  And yes, there was a drizzle of honey on top of the fried chicken.  And now I think all fried chicken needs a drizzle of honey.

Yesterday I recovered.  I mean, I was productive on my day off – cleaned the house, ran errands but I also relaxed.  And made the perfect winter salad for dinner.

Chili-Roasted Vegetables atop a crisp bed of romaine and cilantro leaves made for an amazing combination.  I love the contrast of cold and hot on the same plate.  The acorn squash and red bell pepper slices were dusted with chili powder, salt and pepper and roasted until tender.  The salad was topped with feta cheese (love the saltiness) and a little crunch from pumpkin seeds.  The entire salad was drizzled with a homemade dressing that was made up of tangelo juice (instead of lime), olive oil, a little honey, salt and coarse black pepper.  Simple yet bursting with flavor.

And the best part, while I threw this salad together I prepped one for lunch today.  I’m already counting down until I can dig in…

 

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cranberries and Pumpkinseeds {plus a kale caesar salad}

I’ve been a subscriber of Cooking Light magazine since 2009.  That’s a lot of magazines.  And a lot of recipes.  When an issue arrives in my mailbox I cannot wait to devour each and every page.  I flip and flip through the pages and have big dreams of preparing all the meals that tempt me.  But then another issue arrives.  And the recipes never stop piling up.  And honestly, I’m so type-A that it stresses me out.  Which is absurd.  So instead of letting it stress me out, I’m trying to actually prepare the recipes soon after flipping through the magazine.  (Don’t worry, I rip out all recipes that I think I would enjoy and they are securely resting in binders in my pantry.)

So far, so good for 2014.  I’ve received one issue and I’ve cooked multiple recipes, including the casserole from yesterdays post.

Earlier this week, we enjoyed roasted acorn squash with cranberries and pumpkinseeds along with a side kale Caesar salad.  

I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t find delicata squash at our local grocery store.  And I even went to the big city (Raleigh) and I had no luck at The Fresh Market.  So I improvised with acorn squash.  Besides the squash, I followed the recipe exactly, adjusting the cook time.  I cooked the acorn squash in a 400 degree oven in a glass baking dish that had about 1/2-inch water in the bottom.  The acorn squash will take 45-60 minutes to cook.

kale caesar 002

 

I adored the acorn squash but then again I adore most squash.  And the addition of thyme – brilliant.  Re-hydrating the dried cranberries added so much flavor.

On the side, one of Big Guy’s absolute favorites, a Caesar salad.  Except this salad used kale (superfood!) instead of romaine.  The homemade-Caesar dressing was simply amazing.  Love homemade dressings (my 2014 obsession).

kale caesar 001

 

The salad was simply beautiful.  I used baby kale which has a better flavor raw than regular kale, in my opinion.

Do you read Cooking Light?  Is there a recipe you’re dying to try from the latest issue?