Friday Favorites

This week has been a little crazy but it’s Friday now.  I apologize for leaving you hanging not one, but two days this week.  True story:  I got locked out the house on Wednesday and had to wait two hours in the garage for the locksmith.  Thank goodness my parents still keep my Premium AAA up-to-date.

But it’s Friday now and here are my favorites of the week!

Favorite Crunch:  Sweet and Spicy Rosemary Cheddar and Gorgonzola Pumpkin Crackers.  I promise these will be on the next cheese plate I make it home.  There’s just something special about making your own crackers.  And pumpkin is all the rage now, right?

 

Favorite Cozy:  Cabernet Braised Short Rib Stew. I want to curl up on the couch on a Sunday evening with a bowl of this and a glass of Cab.  This is comfort food.

 

Favorite Spot.  I love bookstores.  And in Tampa, we stumbled upon The Oxford Exchange and I was immediately drawn to the shelves of the books all over the store.  I wanted to pick up a stack of books, order a latte, find a spot on a plush couch and read until the sun went down.  And while The Oxford Exchange was a little overwhelming and loud, I want to live somewhere that has a cute book store like the one below.

 

Favorite Twist:  Broccoli Cheddar Soup Mini Pies.  It’s like broccoli and cheese soup – but in hand-held pies.  The crust looks so tender and flaky.  Big Guy would go bonkers for these little nuggets.

 

Favorite Copycat:  Baked “Deep Fried” Oreos.  This week is the NC State Fair.  In the past, Deep Fried Oreos have been all the rage at the State Fair (among other fried things) and while you won’t find me waiting in line at the fairgrounds, you might find me making my own at home.  P.S.  I heard on the radio this week that they’re having deep fried Reese’s wrapped in bacon.  I’m terrified and intrigued.

 

Favorite Predictable:  One Bowl Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls.  You knew that was coming.  I just can’t stop drooling at all the cinnamon rolls I want to make.  They’re happening.  Within the next two weeks.  Mark my word.

 

Favorite Fashion:  I’m obsessed with this camel cape.  Don’t ask me where I’d wear it.

 

Favorite DIY:  Photo Clipboards.  There’s a small empty wall in our kitchen that I want to fill.  The problem is, I can’t make up my mind on what I want there.  This would solve all my problems.

 

Favorite Sip:  Autumn Apple Cider and Champagne Sangria.  I have never made sangria using red wine. (probably because I didn’t like red wine until recently, but still).  But I think this is the one that will change that.  It combines a few of my favorite things – apple cider, red wine AND champagne.

Cheers!

White Bean and Pumpkin Hummus

I have a confession to make, I’m not crazy about PSLs (pumpkin spice lattes).

I like my coffee with a little creamer and we’re good to go.

But I do love the flavor of pumpkin.  And now that it’s officially fall, I’m enjoying playing around with fall produce and flavors.  Like pumpkin.

I made the white bean and pumpkin hummus for a snack plate the other night (one of my favorite dinners after being on vacation).  The hummus is insanely simple to pull together and doesn’t require anything but a food processor.

Simply put all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and whirl.

In the mix:  canned pumpkin, white beans, tahini, lemon juice, a smidge of EVOO, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and garlic.

I went heavy on the spices – adding much more cumin than the recipe called for – along with an extra clove of garlic.

The end result – a slightly sweet yet totally savory dip that’s perfect for a snack plate.

 

I served my hummus with a few crackers, cucumber slices, apple slices and a hunk of fontina cheese.  I love having an array of flavors and textures on a plate.

Fancy up the hummus if you’re entertaining by adding an extra sprinkle of smoked paprika on top along with some roasted pumpkin seeds.

But you don’t have to be entertaining others to make this hummus.

It’s totally something you can sit on the couch and eat while wearing yoga pants and catching up on “your shows” saved to the DVR.

 

#watsonsarrrghintampa

If you follow me on Instagram, I apologize – you’ve seen all these photos.

Tampa isn’t somewhere I have on my list of “places to visit” – however, we try and go to one out-of-town ECU game each season and Tampa seemed like a fun place to watch the Pirates play.  And let’s be honest, any excuse to get out of town is a good excuse to me.  The weekend was amazing and we even made it on t.v.  Here’s a recap of the weekend via Instagram.

We stayed at the Epicurean Hotel and I’m pretty sure this hotel was meant for me.  It’s a foodie’s Heaven.  I have requested a repeat trip…and I rarely do that.

We kicked off the weekend on Friday afternoon with a couple of drinks at the hotel bar.  The bars at this hotel aren’t your hotel bars – quality drinks and ingredients.

Later on that evening, we headed to Ciro’s, a Speakeasy that I was dying to visit.  Super secretive, you have to call in advance to get the password for the night.  And once inside, it’s like stepping back in time.  The cocktails were strong and classic and we devoured an order for Duck Fries.

Friday night we dined at Mise en Place and had the pleasure of enjoying a tasting menu.  While the food and wine was fantastic, the service didn’t make me excited to be doing the tasting.  I was hoping the waiters would get into the menu and would really describe what I was eating with passion – oh well.  The braised short rib risotto was by far one of the best bites of the entire trip.  I’ve never tasted risotto so complex.

A 7pm kick off really threw off my original plans but it all worked out.  After a much needed massage, we headed to lunch at Datz.  Big Guy found this restaurant online and I was really impressed with the service and the food.  A different kind of game day tailgate but I’ll take it.

We randomly ended up going out to a tailgate lot a couple of hours before the game.  With a cooler packed with our essentials:  champs, vodka and OJ, we headed to watch the Pirates play.

We ended up running into a few folks we knew which made it even more fun.

During the game, I got a few text messages letting me know that we were famous.

Thankfully I wasn’t doing anything embarrassing.

The next morning we were up ready to enjoy a full day in Tampa.  First up, riding bikes to find coffee.

Oh, how I crave being able to ride bikes to get coffee and walk to grab a glass of wine.

Brunch Sunday was at The Refinery.  A lovely, yet small restaurant that I never would have come across had I not seen a recommendation in a magazine.

We started off with a round of ManMosa – basically, a big mimosa.  Hey, it was a true Sunday Funday.

The menus change with the seasons and I ended up going with Greens, Eggs and Ham:  collards, shoulder ham, poached eggs, biscuit & pot likker in a bowl of grits.

Seriously, the best grits I’ve ever tasted.

After a little more exploring, we headed up to the rooftop bar at the hotel for a drink before getting fancied up for dinner.

On Sunday night, we had reservations at Bern’s, which was truly a unique culinary experience.  If you ever get the opportunity to dine at Bern’s I highly suggest it.  The food and incredible but the service is impeccable.

It’s dinners like this that I never want to end.  We wined and dined and then went on a tour of the kitchen which was amazing.  They have 80 staff on the floor each night.  The kitchen was hustling but calm all at the same time.  My favorite part of the evening was the tour of the wine cellar.   The most expensive bottle they had that evening was $30,000.  Yes, you read that right.

I’ve never been surrounded by so much wine.

After the tour, we were seated in the dessert room where we shared a couple of the most incredible desserts.

An unforgettable evening.

And now I’m here.

Back at work.

And day dreaming about our next adventure.

 

Friday Favorites.

Today marks the start of my four-day weekend.  And it couldn’t come at a better time.  So enjoy my Friday Favorites that are totally “fall-inspired” because I’m finally in the mood for fall while I’m off enjoying some time away from reality with Big Guy.

Favorite Polish:  OPI Chick Flick Cherry.  The color of my nails always follow the seasons.  In the fall, I love rich, dark hues.  This classic color is a keeper for Fall and Winter.

 

Favorite Flavors:  Spicy Fennel, Orange and Garlic Marinated Olives.  These small bites would be the perfect bite for any cocktail hour.  They’re fancy without being fussy.

 

Favorite Reminder:  I needed to remind myself of this today.  And every day.

 

Favorite Slice:  Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions and Bacon.  You can totally eat pizza any day and any month of the year.  But this pizza is a total fall pizza.  And I need it.  Like now.

 

Favorite Spread:  Who wants to come to a Cheese and Charcuterie Party?  My favorite dinners consist of cheese, crackers and a good quality meat that are eaten over the course of hour(s) with wine.

 

Favorite Devour:  Bacon Cinnamon Rolls.  Are you surprised?

 

Favorite Upgrade:  I told y’all the decorating bug has bitten me.

Favorite Stuffed:  Pepper Jack Stuffed Pretzel Bites.  Just this week Big Guy asked if we could make homemade pretzels.  I’m not sure if I gave him a solid answer.  But I am now.  And the answer is yes.

 

Favorite Tipsy:  Autumn Punch. Random:  My Dad has something against the word “punch” when referring to a party drink.  I don’t get it.  So we need rename this “Autumn Sipper” so he doesn’t turn his nose up to the idea.

Cheers to Friday!

Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Cheddar

Just because Big Guy eats pretty much anything and everything I cook doesn’t mean that everything is his favorite.  But I had a feeling that a Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Cheddar would be a new favorite.

It’s a known fact that he’s a lover of all things beef and pork but he also loves broccoli and cheese.  And this casserole is a twist on the old school chicken and rice casserole that we all grew up eating.

In fact, one bite in and he proclaims, “It tastes JUST like chicken and broccoli casserole.”

In the traditional casserole, rice is the base of the creamy dish.  I’m sure a can of cream of something provided the iconic texture that we think of when we hear chicken and broccoli casserole.

And even though this modern-take on a classic is “healthier” the comfort of the casserole still remains.

I had time the day before I was cooking this dish to prep some of the ingredients which made the preparation so much easier.  I also think you could use shredded rotisserie chicken to cut down the cooking/prep time even more.  Or, leave out the chicken all together if you are a vegetarian.  I only made one change to the recipe and that was to use 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch instead of the flour.  Other than that – this recipe was followed exactly.

One look at the bubbly cheese on top and I knew that this recipe would be a repeat recipe.

And that rarely happens.

 

{Virtual} Coffee Chat

{via pinterest}

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that I’m still craving homemade cinnamon buns.  I’ve featured them on the past two Friday Favorites plus there is one in the picture above.  And after making a homemade pizza crust with yeast that required some time, I’m feeling confident in my cinnamon bun-making abilities.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that I saw the lunar eclipse this morning at 6:25 am with Big Guy.  It was “happening” at the same time I got home from the gym.  And I have to be honest, it’s so anti-climatic.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would be wearing my new favorite lip gloss, YSL Gloss in #15.  I found the color a little too bright at first, but then I learned to apply it with my finger and it’s much more tame.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would also be wearing my new favorite pants.  They’re my favorite because I can wear them practically anywhere and everywhere and I can throw on flats or wedges with these gems.  Best.pants.ever.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would let you know that not every recipe I try turns out great.  I had high hopes for a vegetarian dish on Monday and while the components were all delicious on their own, I wasn’t impressed with how the dish came together.  But last night’s dinner was fantastic.  And you’ll hear more about that tomorrow.

If we were having coffee this morning…You might sense some tiredness in my voice.  The past week and a half have been incredibly “trying” at work and I typically don’t let work stress me out.  Thank goodness for Wednesday morning Pilates.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would share this list of 35 life lessons.  It’s SO spot on.

If we were having coffee this morning…I’m sure the topic of ECU football would come up.  How ’bout them Pirates?  We had a fabulous time this past weekend with Marlo and Garrett but I can’t believe our next tailgate isn’t for another month!

If we were having coffee this morning…We’d chat about the upcoming weekend and about how a break from reality is what I need right this moment.  Big Guy and I have a 4-day weekend coming up and it couldn’t come at a better time.  While my weekends are always full of fun, they’re sometimes exhausting.  This weekend it’s just me and him.  And I couldn’t be more excited.

Now it’s your turn….What would you tell me if we were having coffee this morning?

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.