Banana Bread {my 1,000th post}

What’s your earliest memories of being in the kitchen?

I remember my Daddy being the supreme pancake maker on the weekends.  Oh, and he was the master of the grilled cheese.  Perhaps it was just he loved using the griddle.

And I remember my Momma always having a plan for dinner when I was growing up.

But the first memory I have of standing in a chair in the kitchen with a spoon in a bowl is when I was helping Momma make banana bread.

My Momma is famous for her banana bread.  It’s sweet and moist and full of coconut and pecans.  To this day, it’s her signature baked good to give to others at Christmas.

And let’s not forget how amazing the house smells while it’s baking.

I realized last week that I was coming up on my 1,000th post.  And I wanted my 1,000th post to have meaning behind it.  I know that I have about ten readers but that’s who I have in mind when I write every single post.  My family.  My closest friends.  Those are who matter.  I simply want to share the recipes I try, take you along on my adventures in the kitchen and quite possibly make you want to try a new restaurant.  That’s all I’m here to do.

I had two recipes in mind and I decided I would figure it out on Sunday night.  Well, Sunday night rolled around and we had just gotten home from a weekend in Charlotte with my parents.

And what do you know – there were three ripe bananas waiting for me.  They were destined for banana bread.

But I also wanted my 1,000th post to portray me and my journey on this little blog.  Several years ago I went “gluten-free” to try and rid myself of tummy troubles.  For the most part, it’s worked.  (Honestly, I think most of my tummy issues are anxiety-related, but that’s a whole different ballgame.)  I eat gluten-free 90% of the time and it makes me feel better, a little lighter.  I don’t eat gluten-free if I’m out on the town trying a new restaurant or on a tropical island – those are worth the splurge.

Instead of making my Momma’s famous banana bread (which is totally worth the splurge come December) I decided to try a one-bowl gluten-free banana bread recipe that I saw last week on one of my favorite blogs.  Despite being gluten-free, it doesn’t have any weird ingredients.  It’s a simple mix of gluten-free flours including an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix, almond meal and oats.  Mixed with bananas, coconut oil, an egg, sugar, cinnamon and a few other ingredients, it’s a rather simple recipe.

The coconut oil gave it the slightest coconut flavor and the almond meal gave it the nuttiness that I love so much in my Momma’s banana bread.

In no way does this recipe replace my Momma’s.  But it’s a healthier version that I don’t feel guilty about eating for breakfast on a Tuesday.

I warmed my slice in the microwave and the smell took me back to being a kid, standing on a chair in the kitchen, trying to follow Momma’s directions exactly so that the muffins would turn out perfectly.

If you’ve been reading the blog from the beginning, thank you!  I hope to have 1,000 more posts to share with you.

Baked Ricotta Dip, Salmon with Red Wine-Balsamic Sauce and Oven-Braised Fennel

If you don’t have dinner plans tonight, now you do.

And I promise you’ll thank me later.  We enjoyed this date-night dinner last Friday night and it was amazing.  I’m pretty sure we talked about how delicious the meal was the entire time we were eating.  Nothing else earned a spot at dinnertime conversation.

To start off the evening, Baked Ricotta Dip for “appy” hour.  I chose this appetizer because I had some ricotta cheese that I didn’t want to go to waste.

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Sweet but still savory.  Crunchy but still creamy.

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The drizzle on top is key.  Don’t leave that out (though I didn’t have truffle honey).  For dipping, I used Glutino’s bagel chips - the best!

The fennel takes a little while to braise, so I got started on that shortly after the appetizer.

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Oven-braised fennel with balsamic vinegar is my new favorite side dish.  I splurged and purchased some fig balsamic vinegar and it was so worth the splurge.  Between the fennel and the red wine sauce, it totally earned a permanent spot in my oil and vinegar basket.  I left out the white wine in the side dish and just used more chicken stock.  I didn’t want the red wine in the sauce for the salmon to compete with the side dish.  Thinking about this dinner makes me want more braised fennel.  And can someone tell me why I’m just now realizing how amazing fennel is cooked?

The salmon was simply cooked in a skillet in a little olive oil.  The red wine-balsamic sauce stole the show.  A perfect pairing of a main dish and a side dish.

We all know Big Guy did not eat salmon – he had a grilled steak with the same red wine-balsamic and he couldn’t stop talking about the lusciousness of the sauce.

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Like I said, you can thank me later.

Smoky Potato Pancakes

Raise your hand if you like mashed potatoes.

Raise your hand if you like loaded baked potatoes.

Raise your hand if you like bacon.

Raise your hand if you like the smell of onions and garlic cooked in bacon drippings.

If your hand isn’t up, Smoky Potato Pancakes aren’t for you.  And we probably can’t be friends.

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This meal does involve a little bit of prep work but with the help of Big Guy, we got this dinner on the table in no time.

Two slices of bacon are crisped in a skillet and reserved.  But don’t you dare think about wasting the goodness at the bottom of that skillet.  The onions and garlic and leeks are cooked in the bacon drippings before being added to the “pancake” mix.  The “pancakes” are made from shredded potatoes, eggs, salt, pepper and a little bit of cheese.  At this point I was a little afraid.  The mixture was so watery.  But I squeezed out the excess liquid before making patties and baking.  I ended up broiling the pancakes for about 3 minutes at the end of the cooking time (apparently I missed the whole “pan frying” step to the recipe).

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The pancakes are served with a dollop of Greek yogurt (or sour cream) on top and bacon confetti.  Yes, bacon confetti.

On the side, roasted asparagus (same oven temperature as the pancakes, dressed with a little EVOO, salt and pepper).

I didn’t realize until about the second pancake what these bad boys reminded me of – tender, loaded baked potatoes.  But with the crispiness of a fry on the outside.

Seriously delicious.

And for any of you that didn’t raise your hand before, what’s wrong with you?

Just kidding.

Kind of.

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!

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis

Now this is a Sunday dinner.  I can’t remember the last time I made meat loaf.  Seriously, I can’t. It’s been cold and messy here since Sunday and nothing sounded more warm and cozy than meat loaf.

The meat loaf is full of flavor and is in no way dry.  Throughout the mini loaves are bites of cheese.  Ooey, gooey, deliciousness.  I ended up using a goats milk cheese but cheddar would be just as delicious.  I also used gluten-free bread to make the breadcrumbs.  The flavor comes from a mix of sauteed onion and garlic, horseradish, mustard, oregano and parsley.  Using sirloin also adds a lot of flavor without a lot of added fat.

The mini loaves cook up a lot faster than one big loaf, so dinner came together pretty fast.  On the side, a simple salad with a homemade balsamic dressing.  Simply whisk together 2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar (totally worth the money), 2 tablespoons of EVOO, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt.

What is your ultimate Sunday dinner? 

(Oh, and I don’t have my “real” camera at the moment – don’t worry, I’m getting it back – so you’ll have to bear with Instagram pics until then.)

 

Top of the morning to you!

Happy St. Patty’s Day!  I hope you’re all wearing your green today.  Not only am I wearing my green but I enjoyed a green smoothie this morning.  But it wasn’t my typical green smoothie.

Shamrock Protein Smoothie

In this mix:  almond milk, 1/2 a banana, frozen spinach (green!), protein powder, hemp seeds and peppermint extract.

Big Guy and I actually “celebrated” St. Patty’s Day on Thursday.  The country club hosted an Irish Whiskey Tasting along with an Irish-inspired menu on Thursday night.  While I wasn’t on board with the whiskey (champagne, please!) the food was incredible.  Funny story though – Big Guy thought Thursday was St. Patty’s Day because of the event.  Whomp, whomp.

Chef Ryan and Josh

Anyways, back to my Irish meal.  I honestly had made my mind up before I even saw the menu.  I had told myself if Shepherd’s Pie was on the menu, that’s what I was getting.  And it was on the menu.  But I wanted the Chef’s opinion, too.  And his first recommendation was the Shepherd’s Pie.  I was sold.

Shepherd’s Pie

This dish was incredible.  The BEST shepherd’s pie I have EVER eaten.  Rich and hearty.  Just what Shepherd’s Pie should be.  Big Guy enjoyed bangers and mash (only after he tried to tell me he was going to order chicken wings and I wasn’t having that).

And because I couldn’t resist – Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Frosting.

 

How are you celebrating St. Patty’s Day?

And just so you know – I’m celebrating by eating something green at every meal today.  I know, living on the wild side.

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.

A Day in the Life

4:21 am – Alarm goes off.  Roll over with a moan but tell myself that I’ve never regretted a work out.

4:40 am – Arrive at the gym.  Wait in the warm car and check Instagram.

5:00 am – Work.it.out.  My workout depends on the day.  But today I took a Pedal and Pump class.  This class is a mix of cardio and weight training using the bike and whatever else the instructor can come up with.

6:05 am – Now that I got that over with, it’s off to tackle the rest of the day.

6:25 am – Start brewing the pot-o-coffee.

6:37 am – Pour my post-shower cup of coffee.

6:40 am – 7:08 am – Primp.  Dry my hair.  Straighten my hair.  Gulp coffee.  Dress myself.  (Friday’s are easy – dress down days!)  More gulps of coffee.  Put on my face paint (make-up).

7:10 am – Time to break the fast!  This morning I had cereal.  I realized it was National Eat Cereal Day and I get a kick out of celebrating those little “holidays”.  Breakfast always includes healthy fats, protein and carbs.

7:25 am – Packing up my lunch to take to work.  Salads are a popular lunch item for me.  But lately I’ve been loving snack plates.

7:35 am – Out the door I go.

8 am – Time to check emails!  And drink my favorite cup of coffee.

8:30 am – All out of coffee.  Time to start drinking water.

8:30 am – 12:00 pm – Work flow.  My work days vary a lot.  Sometimes I’m in and out of meetings in-house all day.  Other days I’m out of the office.  Like yesterday when I got to spend the whole day at Marbles Children Museum in Raleigh for a symposium

12:00 pm – Lunch time!  I typically eat lunch at my desk (or in a meeting).  This is usually when I blog for the next day and browse my favorite blogs.  I totally unplug from work.

1 pm – 4 pm – More work.  A few laughs with coworkers.  And a snack.  Always a snack.  I found this new-to-me KIND bar flavor and I loved it!  Can’t wait to get my hands on more.

 

5 pm – Yesterday was a little different because I had an after-work date!  Since I was in Raleigh I met up with a friend (newly engaged friend) so I could get my eyes on her sparkler.  Oh, and I wanted to hear how amazingly romantic the proposal was.  We met up at Sugarland and split a cupcake along with hot tea.  So much fun catching up with her.  It was literally and figuratively a treat.

I must say, though, typically I’m really lame in the afternoons.  Most days I get home around 4:30 pm (unless I run and get a manicure or need to stop at Target) and do some chores around the house before settling in to watch a show or two.

6 pm – Dinner time.  A lot of my dinners are eaten solo because of Big Guy’s work schedule.  Last nights dinner was lame because of the above cupcake (totally worth it).  But Wednesday nights dinner was amazing.  Sriracha Salmon (simply top the salmon with sriracha and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes) with Asian Greens on the side (bok choy sauteed in grapeseed oil with a garlic and ginger sauce).

7 pm – 9pm – Total relaxation.  Possibly some laundry.

9 pm – Lights out.  Yep, I go to bed rather early but 4:21 am comes fast.  Trust me.

 

Happy Friday, y’all!!!!

(p.s.  I’m not totally lame.  I do stay up a little later on Friday and Saturday nights.)

My Five Favorite Pins of this Week

It just so happens that this week it’s all about food and drink.  But that doesn’t really surprise me.  Food and drinks are my hobbies.

 I could spend hours looking at restaurant menus and day dreaming about my next weekend adventure – near or far.

1. Pomegranate Rum Punch

I think this little cocktail would be the perfect remedy for all the cold weather we’re having.  And perhaps the rum will convince Spring to hurry up and arrive!

2.  Blackberry Salad with Creamy Feta

The flavors!  Creamy, salty feta is combined with sweet and tart blackberries with a smidge of acidity from pickled red onions.  This salad screams spring.

3. Bacon Wrapped Oysters

The oyster months are coming to an end but the presentation of this appetizer blows me away.

4.  No-Bake Peanut Butter Eclair Cake

A low-maintenance dessert that remind me of my grandmother’s signature dessert, chocolate eclair.  This recipe just takes it up a notch with the addition of peanut butter cups.  Sometimes simple is all you want.

5.  Stewed Mushrooms and Polenta

Talk about a comforting dinner.  Add a glass of red wine and we’d have ourselves a date.

Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger {with a Vietnamese Salad on the side}

You read that right.  Peanut butter on a burger.

And it was epic.

The whole burger thing came about after I purchased the meat grinder attachment for my mixer.  There was no way that the attachment was going to sit around the house for more than a week without being used.

We picked up some beautiful beef at Whole Foods on Sunday and Big Guy got to grindin’.  It was cook knowing exactly what the meat looked like before it was ground.  The key is to make sure that the attachment and the meat are very cold before you begin the process.

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The burger patties themselves were simple.  Meat.  Salt.  Pepper.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Building the burgers were rather simple, too.  And the ingredients aren’t that crazy.  It’s just the combination that’s crazy.

Crazy good.

The buns were Udi’s gluten-free buns.  Totally delicious but sometimes a little dry.

On top of the buns, Sriracha sauce followed by cilantro.

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On top of the cilantro came the perfectly cooked burger.

burger 008This is where things got weird.

A spoonful of peanut butter on top of the warm burger plus bacon.

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I ended up adding more Sriracha.

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The peanut drizzle.

That is where it’s at.

I know!  So bizarre.

I can’t even handle it.

But it was so incredibly delicious.

And to make myself not feel so bad about this decadent burger, a salad on the side.

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In the salad mix:  bok choy, cabbage, cucumber, basil and cilantro.  The dressing was a mix of lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, sesame oil, honey, garlic and ginger.

Talk about a flavorful dinner.

Our taste buds didn’t know what was happening.

But they liked it.