A Letter to Summer


Dear Summer,

I can’t lie, Summer of 2016, you were not what I was expecting when you arrived in May. You’ve been a summer of laughs and memories but you’ve also been a summer of heartache and tears.

Technically you don’t end for a couple more weeks but you’re officially over after Labor Day weekend in my world.  There are a lot of things I’m going to miss about you, Summer.  Some of those loves are my summer tan, long evenings, zucchini and tomatoes and watermelon, Cajun Shrimp painted nails and the return of my love for white wine.  But there are a few things I won’t miss:  gnats, flies and HOT, HUMID days.  Mostly gnats and flies.

Summer of 2016, you passed by way too quickly.  The quickest summer of my life.  I feel like April was just weeks ago.  Not months.  But I know you’ll be back in 2017 ready for me to make more memories.


Your Summer-Loving Girl

2nd Annual Flamingo Fling Review

HI!  I’m home after a wonderful weekend with my Momma and sister for our annual Flamingo Fling.  It was quite the relaxing weekend and it’s always a treat to have some uninterrupted time with two of my favorite ladies.

We enjoyed mocktails and wine promptly at 5pm on Friday to kick-off the festivities.


With our drinks we snacked our way through dinner.  We enjoyed some bacon wrapped dates, a fantastic cucumber dip (Momma, can you send me that recipe?!?!) Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps that were inspired by a recipe in this cookbook (I used cashew butter instead of peanut butter and cashews instead of peanuts; I wish I would have added some chopped water chestnuts) and some brie with roasted veggies.


The chicken wraps were a little spicy, a little sweet, a little crunchy and a whole lot of delicious.


I think my favorite bite was a little brie with roasted potatoes.  So yummy.

After we filled our bellies, we settled in for movie night.  We watched The Choice and it was the perfect chick-flick for the weekend.


On Saturday we spent most of the day in the sun and snacked on some dill pickle popcorn from Trader Joes (addicting!!!!) and enjoyed a Mexican-inspired evening with guacamole, quesadillas (grilled corn and green onion shrimp quesadillas from the same cookbook that I linked above) and game of Mexican Train (a twist on dominoes).


The quesadillas were SO good and we may or may not have snuck out on the golf cart for a quick trip to Sunset Slush.  

Sunday morning we headed to our favorite little coffee shop for breakfast before my youngest brother took us out on the boat for a little fun in the sun before Flamingo Fling came to an end.

Unfortunately Maggie had to hit the road after a quick lunch of leftovers but my Momma and I stayed another night.  We played Yahtzee and ate even more leftovers before watching some HGTV to end the weekend.

I am so grateful for the past several days and hope that we’re able to make this a tradition for many, many years to come.  Life is incredibly busy but sometimes you just need to pump the brakes and enjoy a little time with the ones you love.

Have a great week!

Friday Favorites

The 2nd Annual Flamingo Fling weekend is here!!!

For all of you wondering “what the heck is a flamingo fling?” – let me explain.  Last year my Momma wanted to have all the girls in the immediate family go to the beach for a girls-only weekend.  We picked a weekend and it earned the title “Flamingo Fling.”  We had so much fun that we had to do it again this year (and I’m hoping it becomes an annual tradition).

So as soon as I’m finished teaching barre class this morning, I’m hittin’ the road and headed to the beach.  I can’t wait to be reunited with my Momma and sister.  I plan on playing board games, perhaps having a movie night and eating my weight in guacamole.

Here are my favorites from the week:


Favorite Nostalgia:  Hushpuppy Panzanella Salad.  I have vivid memories of eating hushpuppies hot out of the fryer as a kid at my Pawpaw’s beach house.  This is a grown-up way of eating the Southern staple.


Favorite From Scratch:  Coconut Cream Pie.  I am a sucker for anything coconut-flavored. Also, I haven’t made a pie in a while.


Favorite 4-Minute Read:  This 100-Year-Old To-Do List Hack Still Works Like a Charm.  This is the simplest method for increasing productivity.  I’m going to give it a try!


Favorite Date Night:  Cajun Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp with Caramelized Corn Polenta.  Two words:  Holy yum!


Favorite Fried:  Crispy Avocado Egg Rolls.  I love everything about this ingredient list.


Favorite Round-up:  31 Trader Joe’s Products You Can’t Live Without.  I don’t go to TJ’s near as often as I used to but I love seeing with other peoples MUST HAVES.  The items I can’t live without from TJ’s: oats, nut butter, nuts, cheeeeeeses, and gluten-free waffles.


Favorite Entertaining:  Fig, Hazelnut & Ricotta Crostinis.  So I want to host a little get together and have a crostini bar.  Sweet, savory and everything in between.  I love this little combo!


Favorite Mix It Up:  150-Calorie Oatmeal Toppings.  I love hot oats – even in the summer.  My favorite combo to try:  Salted Chocolate Chip.  Yes.


Favorite Spiralized:  Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Parsnip Pasta.  It’s been a hot minute since I used my little spiralizer – and I’ve never even thought of using parsnips.  Let’s do it!


Favorite Pop the Cork:  Pro Tips – Ask a Sommelier.  Some verrrrry helpful information regarding buying wine at the grocery store and picking wine at a restaurant.  If you’re wanting to step up your wine game and go beyond a cheap weeknight whatever wine, a good price range to get into at a quality wine shop is $18-25. 



Shrimp Lo Mein

More noodles coming your way…

Actually I think it’s quite funny that I made noodles two out of three nights last week and I probably haven’t made a noodle dish in months.  It just so happened that after sending a friend three recipes to choose from and sending Big Guy three shrimp recipes to pick from, they both picked the noodle recipe from the bunch.  At least they were very different – from the protein to the flavor profile, I can honestly say they were totally different dinners.

The only change I made to the shrimp lo mein was to use sugar snap peas instead of broccoli.  This Asian dish comes together in about 35 minutes (and most of the time is spent waiting for the water to boil for the noodles) and is totally customizable.  If your family doesn’t like shrimp – try chicken; if you’re not a fan of ginger – use more garlic.  Make this dinner yours.

The only thing I will beg you to do is make sure to prep ALL ingredients before you start cooking.  Because once you start, there’s no time to dice or chop or measure.


Oh, and I added some freshness on top with some basil confetti.  Totally recommend that, too.

Hope you’re having a great week – and I promise, no more noodles for a while.

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Corn Salsa

For some reason I don’t think to cook with black-eyed peas very often.  To be honest, it’s about once a year – New Year’s Day.  But when I was flipping through the most recent issue of Cooking Light I couldn’t help but want to put these black-eyed pea cakes on the dinner menu.  I think my desire to want and make this dinner was the ability to use some of the veggies and herbs from our garden.

Sweet Corn



The cakes honestly come together in no time and the most time consuming part is the cooking of the cakes.

The black-eyed pea cakes are made by combining black-eyed peas (that were pulsed a few times in the food processor), panko (I used gluten-free breadcrumbs), sliced green onions, salt, cayenne pepper and two lightly beaten eggs.  The mixture is then formed into eight cakes and cooked in a little EVOO for about five minutes on each side.  I cooked mine in two batches and kept the cooked cakes warm in the oven set at 250 degrees.

Once all the cakes were cooked, I prepared the salsa by sautéing the corn in the same skillet that I cooked the cakes.  The corn is then tossed with cherry tomatoes, a little vinegar (I used white wine vinegar), parsley, 1/2 cup black-eyed peas, plus a little salt and pepper.


This dinner was light and I thought that the cakes stayed together very well.  Big Guy and I both adored the corn salsa on top.  So fresh!

Black-eyed peas brings prosperity if you eat them on New Year’s Day…I’m hoping that they bring prosperity no matter when you eat them.

Watermelon Margaritas + Chicken Tinga Tacos with Grilled Corn Guacamole

Let’s ignore Monday for a little bit and talk about the weekend.  This weekend was packed with social events.  On Saturday morning I taught a Saturday Sweat class before heading to the pool for a little last-bit-of-summer sunshine.  After getting our bronze on, it was time to head home and get ready for our evening with friends.  We had a graduation party to attend for one of our friends who just got his MBA from ECU.  Go Pirates!  It was such a fun night and we saw a lot of friends we haven’t seen much of this summer.  Sunday we had another party to attend but this was for a little guy who just celebrated his 1st birthday.  The party was at the pool so we went a little earlier in the day so we could catch even more sunshine.  But Sunday evening was all about relaxing and cooking at home.  Last night was Mexican night at our house!


We have an insane amount of watermelons growing in our garden so I decided it was time for watermelon margaritas.  I made two different simple syrups – one was infused with homegrown jalapeños and the other with basil.  I made a pitcher for margaritas and then just added about an once of simple syrup when pouring a drink.  For the margaritas:  1 1/2 cups tequila, 1 cup lime juice and 3 cups watermelon juice.  Be sure to taste and add more of any ingredient based on your liking.  I leave out the orange liqueur because it’s just not my favorite.  For the simple syrup, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  I then split the syrup into two mason jars and added a sliced jalapeño to one and a handful of basil to another.  Let sit for about 15-30 minutes before making a cocktail.

And when there are margaritas, there has to be guacamole.  This guacamole added in some homegrown sweet corn.  While I’m not always a fan of “trashed up” guac, I loved this addition.  The texture and sweetness it added was perfect.  The guacamole was made with avocados (smash them with a potato masher), juice from a lime, some sweet onion, one diced jalapeño, handful of cilantro, grilled corn (I charred ours in a cast iron skillet), pepper and lots and lots of salt.


And for dinner, Chicken Tinga Tacos.  Tinga is a Mexican dish made up of shredded chicken in a sauce of tomatoes and chipotle chiles.  The chicken thighs are sprinkled heavily with spices:  cumin, garlic salt, smoked paprika and pepper.  The chicken is then seared in a Dutch oven with a little bit of olive oil.  Once browned on both sides, remove chicken and add in the onions.  Once the onions have cooked for about 5 minutes, in goes the garlic, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato paste and chipotle peppers.  Bring to a boil, add the chicken back into the pot, reduce the heat and cover and allow to cook for about 20 minutes.

The chicken is shredded and then added back into the sauce.  I tried something new to shred the chicken last night and it worked perfectly.  Simple place the chicken in your KitchenAide mixer with the paddle attachment and let it do the work for you.  I promise it works – Big Guy witnessed the magic.

Now you’re ready to assemble the tacos.  Warmed tortillas, some chicken, then pile on some homemade salsa (tomatoes, sweet onion, cilantro, jalapeño and salt) and then a little grilled corn guac.


And while pizza Sunday is still our favorite tradition, I won’t argue with a margarita and taco Sunday every once in a while.

Have a great week, friends!

Friday Favorites

We made it to Friday.  Woot woot!  We have a busy, busy (and fun!) weekend on tap but I’m hoping that Sunday ends with a relaxing summer evening at home with no one but Big Guy after his week in California.  Technically summer is coming to an end with the start of school on Monday but summer won’t end in my mind until football starts.  (Though the weather won’t feel like summer is over until October.)  Where did this summer go?!?!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend and I’ll see you back here next week.


Favorite Drool:  BAE: Bacon Avocado Egg Sandwich.  Holy moly.  That cheese!!!!  This brunch sandwich is evvvvverything.


Favorite In Season:  Classic Caprese Salad.  Tomatoes are at their absolute best right now and there’s also a bounty of basil in gardens everywhere.


Favorite Lust:  Tassel Earrings.  The perfect summer accessory.  Though these have a better price tag.


Favorite Flavors:  Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies.  I heart lemon.  And the basil infusion sounds glorious.


Favorite Sweet Treat:  Fudgy 100 Calorie Brownies.  Because sometimes you just need a bite of chocolate.


Favorite List:  The Best Sushi Restaurants in Every State in America.  I would LOVE to work my way through this list.  Though I have to disagree with the pick for NC…Mura is my absolute favorite.


Favorite Appy Hour:  How to Make a Next-Level Cheese Plate.  Cheese plates make me so happy.  Especially with a glass of wine.


Favorite Sandwich:  Grilled Blue Cheese with Honey and Walnut Pesto.  Salty, sweet, luxurious, buttery, nutty.  It has it all.


Favorite Cookies:  These New Girl Scout Cookies Might be Better than Thin Mints.  Thin mints are one of my favorites.  But I’d be willing (twist my arm) to try the S’mores cookie and Chocolate Graham Cracker cookie.


Favorite Cocktail:  Crushed Blackberry Moscow Mules.  Incredibly refreshing on a sweltering day like today.