Friday Favorites.

It’s kind of hard not to be happy when it’s Friday and the weekend is oh-so-close.  But it’s true, we can decide whether we want to be happy or not no matter the situation.  This week has been quite the blur at work so I’m more than ready for a couple of days with Big Guy.  It’s my last weekend of summer so I plan on making it low-key yet full of sunshine and fun.  Here are a few of my favorites this week:

Favorite Getaway:  How gorgeous is this view?  Wine country is way up on the top of my “Places to Visit” list and this only makes me want to visit more.

Favorite Spoonful:  Double Dough Icecream.   I’m really at a loss of words right now.  Brown sugar vanilla ice cream + cookie dough = insanity.

 

Favorite Slice:  Fig, Jalapeno Jam and Blue Cheese Pizza.  If I only could eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be pizza.  And I’m a sucker for odd pizza topper combinations.  This combination intrigues me.

Favorite Sweet:  Almond Joy Candy Cakes.  Almond Joy is one of my all-time favorite treats.  How could I not want a bite of my favorite candy bar transformed into a cake?

 

Favorite Summer:  I kind of want to start a Summer Bucket List for next year and add “throw an end-of-summer rosé garden party” at the top.

 

Favorite Date Night:  Gouda Grits with Smoky Brown Butter Shrimp.  Yes, please.

 

Favorite Bite:  Baked Fig, Bacon, Blue Cheese and Pecan Bruschetta.  These and a bottle of wine.  That is all.

 

Favorite Sip:  Zinfandel Grape, Rosemary and Gin Crush.  Who knew that this would be the summer that I would fall in love with red wine and gin?  And how beautiful is this cocktail?

 

Cheers!  It’s Friday.

 

Italian Guacamole and Jerk Shrimp Tacos

When you make a batch of Grilled Pineapple Margaritas, it’s kind of necessary to make a batch of guacamole.

margs

Margaritas and guacamole go together like peanut butter and jelly.

And while I have plenty of “classic” guacamole recipes I could make, it’s always fun to try a new twist on a classic.

guac

So in this batch of guac, we left out the cilantro and added fresh basil and parsley.  Otherwise, it’s just like the traditional guacamole you love – packed with tomatoes, red onion, salt, jalapeno and garlic.

But now I kind of want all my guacamole to have basil and parsley in the mix.

closeup

 

The sweet but smokey margarita paired perfectly with the salty chips and the savory guacamole.

I wonder what a roasted strawberry margarita would taste like…or grilled peaches…

I may have created a monster.

As for the main course, shrimp were marinated in a mix of spices including thyme, allspice, cinnamon, pepper, cayenne and salt.  I love the warmth of these spices.

The shrimp were cooked on the stovetop and then placed on a warm corn tortilla before being topped with a cantaloupe salsa.  Basically instead of your traditional tomato salsa, cantaloupe was tossed with diced red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and salt.  Sweet and spicy!

taco

And on top of the salsa, a sprinkle of salty feta.

Gotta love Mexican night!

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.

 

 

2014 Summer Bucket List {check-in time}

My summer will unofficially end in two weeks.  It seems like the unofficially start of summer was just yesterday.  That means that I have two weeks to complete my 2014 Summer Bucket List.

This post is a check-in.  I need to know what exactly I have to accomplish before the end of August 29th.  Because once the Pirates kick-off on August 30th, my summer is over.

Use fresh herbs from the garden as much as possible, especially in cocktails.  CHECK!

I have been so good about using all the produce in the garden this year.  I have started to give away some tomatoes but I’m also eating them by the handful.  Hopefully our fall garden does well and I won’t have to say goodbye to homegrown produce just yet.  Look at my spinach growing (below) – I can’t wait to be able to make huge salads for lunch right from my backyard.

Read five books.  The One and Only by Emily Griffin is on the list.

I am almost finished with Save the Date and I know this will be finished before the weekend is over.  I’ve also read Wild, Fault in Our Stars and Ladies’ Night.  I better purchase The One and Only pretty fast since I only have two weeks left of summer.

Take a last minute weekend trip with Big Guy.  We’re not spontaneous enough in life. CHECK!

Probably the most fun item to check off the list.  I will never forget our weekend in Savannah.  In fact, it may be in the top 5 weekends ever.  It was amazing and exactly what we needed this summer.

Experiment with gin.  Because I can put cucumbers and mint in my drink with gin. CHECK!

I’ve tried a couple of recipes with gin and I’ve also ventured out and ordered a gin cocktail a few times this summer.  It’s so refreshing!

Make homemade ice cream.  Twice. CHECK!

Plan our next BIG vacation. 

This is currently in the works.  2015 is going to be amazing when it comes to us and traveling.

Enjoy cookouts gatherings with friends. CHECK!

We’ve enjoyed everything from double-dates to brunches to a girls weekend at the beach.  We even have a fun night planned with friends for tonight.  We have some of the best friends here and we always have a blast.

Make a trashy and/or gourmet hot dog and call it dinner.

This is totally happening on Sunday and I am more excited than should be allowed.

Plan a fun weekend with family at our house. CHECK!

While we never had a huge group at our house, we did manage to have my parents in town one weekend and then my sister another weekend.  We were also blessed to spend some time with family at OIB last month.

  

So here’s my to-do list for the next two weeks:

Read.

Finalize a few vacation plans for 2015.

Eat a hot dog.

That’s the most fun (and random) to-do list I’ve ever had.

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.

 

BLT Pizza {grilled romaine with creamy maple dijon dressing}

Mondays can be so depressing.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my job but seriously, weekends are the best.  And it’s kind of sad when really fantastic weekends have to come to an end.  This weekend was one of those fantastic weekends that I didn’t want to end.

Friday night was an easy night in for us.  After a whirlwind week, I wanted nothing more than to throw off my shoes, whip up a pizza and catch up with Big Guy over a {big} glass of red wine.

To start, we had grilled romaine salads that were topped with frizzled red onion and sauteed garlic.  For grilled romaine, simple halve the head of romaine, lightly drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Grill until wilted and slightly charred.

more grilled

And while the grilled romaine is usually the star of the show, on Friday it was all about the maple dijon dressing.   Sweet, tangy and smooth this is one of the best dressing recipes I’ve made.  I loved that it was a Greek yogurt based dressing as opposed to mayo.  Rich and creamy.

grilled romaine

By the way, the BLT pizza was “L”-less.  But since we had the “L” on the side, I didn’t take it out of the name.  For the pizza, simply roast tomatoes with fresh oregano and pepper for about 20 minutes.  While the tomatoes roast, cook up a few slices of bacon.  The sauce for this pizza was a mayo-based sauce.  And while that might scare you, I promise it doesn’t taste like mayonnaise is on your pizza.  The sauce actually melts into the crust and just makes it incredibly delicious.  The pizza is also topped with the roasted tomatoes, bacon and finally the mozzarella.

A perfect Friday night.

 

 

Friday Favorites.

I must have jinxed myself last Friday by sharing my plans for poolside fun on Saturday.  My plans included absolutely no sunshine and it’s starting to look like another weekend of rain is almost here.  Why, oh why, is it sunny and beautiful when I’m stuck inside the office and on the days that all I want to do is be outside it’s gross?  Riddle me that.  So I’m not going to tell you my plans for the weekend in hopes that I’ll have lots of sunshine to report on Monday.  But seriously, my weekend is going to include a lot of hanging out with Big Guy.  The guy has been gone since Sunday and I cannot wait to see his face this evening post-cocktails with a friend.  And to be honest, I don’t care if it rains because we still have fun together, no matter the weather (take that, Weather Channel – you’re not raining on my parade even if there are rain drops falling).

 

Favorite Upgrade:  Grilled Romaine Salad with Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp.  While grilling romaine is nothing new in my kitchen, the toppings on this salad are insane.  If you think salads are boring, you’re wrong.

Favorite Twist:  Italian Guacamole.  A twist on a classic by using basil instead of cilantro.  And by the looks of our basil plant, I think I could afford to make a batch (or ten) of this guacamole.  Pass the chips!

Favorite Woah.  I have a strong desire to plan a dinner party after seeing this tablescape.  I’m obsessed with pineapples (and flamingos) which means I’m obsessed with this table decor.

Favorite Stuffed:  Cheesy Summer Stuffed Poblanos.  I want this and I want it now.  But honestly, can you go wrong with anything covered in melted cheese?

Favorite Truth:  No explanation needed.

 Favorite Sweat:  Because sometimes you just don’t want to go to the gym.

Favorite Date Night:  Balsamic Fig Glazed Pork with Blistered Tomatoes and Creamy Gorgonzola Polenta.  There’s a bottle of wine at home just waiting to be paired with this dinner.

Favorite Style:  Maybe I’m stuck in the 90s, but I’m still in love with the chambray look.

Favorite Slurp:  Peach Mule.  Ever since a taste of a peach cocktail on Wednesday night, I’m craving one of my own.

And on that note – Happy Friday!