Friday Favorites

Well, well, well, this week sure did fly by!  Our house felt like there was a revolving door with all that was going on with our renovations/house updates.  I’m thrilled to say that floors have been installed in the downstairs, the {new} guest bedroom, the guest bathroom, the nursery and the hallways have all been painted and the {new} office is ready for dry wall on Saturday morning.  SO excited for all that’s going on.  This weekend will be all about pulling together the guest bedroom so that it’s ready for my Momma in a couple of weekends, cleaning this house because #dust, and hopefully we’ll sneak in some fun and relaxation along the way.  I hope you have a lovely weekend!  I can’t believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away.

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Favorite Thanksgiving Side:  Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Cornbread Panzanella Salad.  If you’re in need of a side dish to take to Thanksgiving, may I recommend this salad that includes carbs and bacon.

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Favorite Bite:  Mini Salted Caramel Cheesecakes.  These look delightful.  And you won’t feel bad if you eat an entire cheesecake by yourself.  Wink Wink.

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Favorite Dinner:  Roasted Cranberry Brown Sugar Pork Chops.  YUM!  These would be perfect for any occasion over the coming months.

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Favorite Sorry, I’m Not Sorry:  9 Southern Elf on the Shelf Ideas.  Buddy will be making his debut in a little over a week…

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Favorite Presentation:  Bejeweled Rice. I can’t get over how pretty this all-in-one side is. And I adore the mix of flavors and textures.

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Favorite Snack:  Homemade Fig Newtons.  I’m having a moment with dried figs, dates and prunes.  And I remember loving Fig Newtons (as did my Dad) growing up and I can only imagine how delicious homemade ones are.

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Favorite Obsessed:  Cheers Jacquard Tailored Ankle Pant.  Y’all.  Talbots has been KILLING it this year.  I am so disappointed I can’t rock these pants this year.  I’m tempted to buy a pair and save them for next year because they are SO me.

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Favorite Meatless Monday:  Pecan Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash with Goat Cheese Crema.  I loved this dinner so much that I can’t wait to make more stuffed acorn squash.

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Favorite Spiralized:  Sweet Potato Noodles with Chai-Spiced Cream Sauce.  I have two large buckets of sweet potatoes straight from our garden calling my name!

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Favorite Festive:  Cranberry Thyme Spritz.  What a pretty cocktail!  And I love the addition of elderflower to any cocktail.  I’ll be jealous if you make one of these over the holidays.

Cheers!

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Hummus Soup

One of my favorite dips in soup form!  Y’all know I’m not a soup fan…until it gets cold.  And well this week it’s been quite chilly, especially with workers in and out of the house – I feel like I can’t keep the house warm.  But a warm bowl of soup can make even the chilliest of evenings a little bit cozier.

The soup is garlicky and smooth and seriously tastes likes your favorite brand of garlic hummus.  Onions and garlic are sautéed in olive oil before adding in stock and water, the base of the soup.  Bring that to a simmer and add in your chickpeas – the main ingredient in hummus.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  The mixture is then pureed in a blender until silky, smooth before adding in the tahini (I think Trader Joe’s makes the best) and lemon juice.  Whirl a few more times in the blender to mix everything up.

The soup is topped with feta cheese for a little saltiness as well as crunchy chickpeas.  I loved the contrast of texture that the chickpeas brought to the bowl of soup.  To make the crunchy chickpeas, simply cook a cup of chickpeas in a tablespoon of olive oil until crispy and browned.

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I absolutely love this soup.  It’s garlicky, silky and absolutely warming to your soul on a chilly fall evening.

Vidrio {restaurant review}

Vidrio embraces the Mediterranean dining philosophy – rooting it in the respect for the ingredient, the nourishment of food for our bodies and to use the time around the table to reconnect with each other. Making dining the occasion to gather together.

And, no Mediterranean meal is complete without wine or olive oil. With 50 wines on tap and over 300 bottles, the variety of wine is sure to please. As an added detail, Vidrio imports the purest Greek olive oil from Lou’s village. Vrisi 36 olive oil completes every dish with the highest regard to the excellent health benefits of this liquid gold.

Vidrio is an open window into the Mediterranean. Sharing plates both large and small are made with the freshest ingredients allowing the flavor to shine. Handcrafted seasonal cocktails with exotic spirits are exciting and delightful. The vibrant, modern environment is visually mesmerizing and filled with warm, personal hospitality

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Last Friday, Big Guy and I had “Christmas Card” pictures taken in Raleigh.  Since we were there, we decided to make a date night out of it and made reservations at Vidrio, a fairly new restaurant located on Glenwood Avenue.  I knew that the restaurant was Mediterranean-inspired and that the menu was made up of lots of small plates.  Oh, and I knew that they had over 50 wines on tap (which is a very large number of bottles for a restaurant to have open at any given time).  The day before our reservation, I found myself reading reviews for the restaurant on OpenTable and all of a sudden I wasn’t so excited.  People were tearing them up with their comments.  Instead of cancelling our reservations, I decided we would make judge the restaurant based on our experience and not that of others.

When we arrived, the restaurant was rather empty (it was incredibly early for a Friday night) and we were quickly seated.  I will say that it took our waitress a little bit to finally come by our table and I only mention this because we literally were one of her two tables at that moment.  Alas, we ordered a round of drinks – a glass of cab for Big Guy and a mocktail for this girl.  My drink was mimicked after another drink on the menu but they simply left out the alcohol – it was delicious.

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I honestly was torn on what we should order – there were so many options.  But to start, we ordered smoked eggplant {with charred onions, lavash, sesame oil} as well as the Turkish gozleme {stuffed bread, Haloumi cheese, Aleppo pepper, mint, yogurt}.

The smoked eggplant was not what I expected – in the best way possible.  A chilled mixture of smoked eggplant was served on top of a hot lavash (thin, crispy bread similar to a cracker). I was obsessed with the contrast in temperature and loved the crunch from the lavash.  The stuffed bread was like all cheesy, stuffed bread – amazing!  The mint and yogurt added some freshness and tang to each bite and I would order this dish in a heartbeat.

For our “main meal,” we each ordered a dish from the “for the table” section menu and stole bites from one another.  The portions were HUGE and I ended up taking home at least half of my dish.  Big Guy ordered the strip steak and not only was it perfectly cooked, but it was perfectly seasoned.  I surprised myself and ordered the tempranillo braised short ribs {potato espuma, pickled herbs} which were insanely delicious.  The beef was ridiculously tender and tasted as though it had been cooking all day long.

Finally, dessert.  Because when you can’t enjoy bubbles to end the meal, you end on a sweet note.  We ordered a play on a rum cake that was served with a sour cream ice cream.  Not overly sweet and the ice cream gave it a great tang and balance.  Some rum cakes can be saturated in rum but this one was lightly “kissed” with rum for a pleasant dessert.

I honestly can’t find a reason not to eat at Vidrio.  In fact, I’m already planning our next meal there.  I would love to sit at their bar and order a glass or two of wine along with a few plates to share and simply enjoy a low-key evening out.

Baby Girl Watson {weeks 24-27}

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Week 24 {cantaloupe):  This was not a fun week when it came to pregnancy.  I experienced stomachaches and heartburn and had absolutely no desire to eat for most of the week.  I am attributing this “bad” week to a growth spurt because I POPPED.  Big Guy couldn’t believe how much my belly had grown after not seeing me all week.  There were lots of little baby kicks which helped me get through the week.

Week 25 {cauliflower}: And this week, a cold hit me hard.  It started with a sore throat and then progressed to a “smokers cough” and then a runny nose.  The worse part was disrupted sleep.  But I didn’t have any stomach issues and I was hungry again (yay!).  This was the week that I officially gave up my pre-pregnancy workout pants.

Week 26 {kale}:  I finally started feeling better after last weeks cold.  This week was full of baby kicks.  Home renovations got underway and the guest bedroom is officially the nursery now.  We ended week 26 by ordering some fun things for BG’s nursery.  I tell ya, she’s going to have the best room in the house.  Teaching and personal workouts are still holding strong and I’m still doing burpees without modifications.  I feel the need to mention that there is no need for y’all need to worry about me buying “all the things” for BG but instead, it’s Big Guy you need to worry about.

Week 27 {lettuce}:  The last week of my second trimester!  Crazy.  There is officially no hiding this bump – but I don’t mind, it’s nice to actually feel like you look pregnant instead of just “fluffy.”  According to the scale, I’ve gained 5.2 pounds since I found out I was pregnant.  And trust me, I eat – a lot – but I am very active. I can’t help but start to imagine what (or who) this little girl is going to look like.  On Wednesday I also had an ultrasound that ruled out a scheduled C-section.  BG weighs in at 2.5 pounds and was moving around like a wild woman.  This ultrasound more than likely is my last so we won’t see her again until her birth day.  I also passed my glucose test – WOOT WOOT.  Trust be told, it wasn’t that bad.  It was super sweet and tasted like a flat Sprite.  I was very happy to have my straw, though.

Now that I start going to the doctor every two weeks (and having to meet all the doctors at the practice) I may start giving updates more often – and be more specific as I feel like during the last trimester I’ll see the most change.

Have a great week!

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Friday Favorites

This has been one crazy, busy week!  Home renovations are in full swing and I can’t even be mad about the hammering and nailing and random men using our bathroom (hah!).  I’m glad that Big Guy is around after being gone all week and tonight we have an unexpected date night that I’m pretty excited about.  The rest of the weekend includes cheering on the Pirates and just straight up relaxing.  Relaxing = more Hallmark movies and catching up on “our shows.”  I hope you have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you Monday with a little pregnancy update.

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Favorite Friendsgiving:  Apple Baked Brie and Crostini Bar.  I could turn this appetizer spread into my dinner.

Favorite YAY or NAY:  Our “Rainy Day” Closet.  I can’t decide if I love this idea.  To sum it up, your kids get to pick three gifts that they keep at Christmas and the remaining gifts (except clothes) go into a closet.  And when you’re stuck inside, or your child deserves a reward or it’s just a random day, the child gets to pick a gift from the closet.  Thoughts?

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Favorite Comfort Food:  One-Pot Greek Biscuits and Gravy Cobbler. How unique is this dish?  I love any and all Greek food and this looks perfect now that the cooler weather is here to stay (I think).

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Favorite Combination:  Brownie Pecan Pie.  I know I’ve already picked a Thanksgiving dessert to bring to the table (literally) but I’m drooling over this brownie + pecan pie combo.

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Favorite Reveal:  Oprah’s Favorite Things.  I used to LOVE watching Oprah every afternoon at 4pm.  And I really used to love her episode when “you get a car, you get car….” happened (aka she gave all the audience members her favorite things).  Not only did I love it, I dreamed of being there.  Anyways, she has some fun stuff on the list this year.  And if you don’t want to look through it all, here are the “best picks.”

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Favorite Thanksgiving:  Fall Farmers Market Salad.  I usually bring a salad to Thanksgiving, along with a dessert and sangria, and I think this one might be in the running.

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Favorite Gameday:  Spinach Queso with Crispy Jalapeños.  Yes, please.

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Favorite Inspiration:  Favorite In-Rooms of the Month of October.  I’m loving the leopard + pink + navy room.  And that picture – take me to Italy.

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Favorite Flavors:  Butternut Squash and Sun-Dried Tomato White Lasagna.  This dish screams fall.  I love that you can assemble in advance and then bake when you’re ready to eat.

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Favorite Instead of Wine:  Maple Pumpkin Gingersnap Tiramisu Trifle.  If I can’t have wine, I’ll have dessert.  And I love making trifles.

Cheers!

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Behind the Scenes

Not everything I cook ends up on the blog.  Sometimes I honestly forget to snap a picture.  Other times, especially now with the time change, the pictures just don’t do the food justice.  But I hate to not share recipes with you especially when they are so delicious.  So here are a few recipes we’ve made at home over the past month that are just now making the blog.

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Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole.  While this dinner took a little time to prep, it’s perfect for a weeknight because it can be made in advance and then cooked right before it’s dinnertime.  Additionally, I thought the leftovers were even better than the “first round.” Prep and cook this casserole on a Sunday afternoon and then simply reheat one evening for dinner.

Apple Cheddar Pies.  You must make these and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  Unreal.

Snickers Bread Pudding.  So this totally happened on Saturday evening and it was everything I imagined and more.  I’ve actually never made bread pudding but I loved that this recipe is scaled down for two servings – which is perfect because it’s rather indulgent and I don’t need to eat it all week.  I used Snickers instead of Rolo’s because we had some leftover from Halloween.

Marinated Bistecca Fiorentina.  A fancy way to saying “grilled ribeye.”  The ribeye is seasoned with garlic, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest before being grilled and then finished in the oven.  A grilled lemon is squeezed on top before slicing.  We served this with White Beans and Kale.  I loved the addition of lemon with the ribeye – it really cut some of the fat and brightened up the whole dish.

My Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich.  I had a random “craving” for a fried chicken sandwich a couple of weekends ago and this hit the spot.  It made a mess but was quite delicious.  I just wish we would have added some pickles to the sandwich.  The crunch of the fried crust was everything.

Brussels Sprout, Pecan and Blue Cheese Pull Apart Pizza Bread.  Perfect dinner while watching college football one Saturday.  Big Guy was a little skeptical while we were prepping the bread but now that we’ve done it once I think it would come together so much easier the next time.  I loved the flavors and have to admit we added some bacon to the mix.  Because, well, bacon.

Birthday Steak Frites:  Bone-In Rib Eye with Curry Sauce and Curly Fries.  I love fries.  But I feel a whole lot less guilty about eating them when we make them from scratch.  And while curry + steak + fries may sound weird, it was incredible.

And make sure to follow me on Pinterest – I pin EVERYTHING I make on this board so you’ll never miss out on a awesome recipe that’s floating around out there.

Turmeric Chicken-and-Chickpea Soup

This past Sunday I wanted something comforting but that would also give me leftovers for the week to come.  Chicken noodle soup is known to many as one of the ultimate comfort foods.  Perhaps it’s what your mom made you when you were sick.  Or maybe it was just your favorite warm bowl on a cold winter day.  In this soup recipe, the noodles are swapped for chickpeas to not only add texture up to boost the fiber (meaning it will keep you full longer).  And for maximum flavor (and health benefits), the soup is seasoned with turmeric, garlic and ginger.

The recipe starts by browning a pound a chicken thighs (Trader Joe’s for the win) in a little EVOO.  You are not cooking the chicken all the way through at this point – just getting the cooking started.  Remove the chicken after cooking for about three minutes on each side and then add in the red bell pepper (our garden is still pumping out gorgeous peppers!) and onion.  Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, and then add in the turmeric (a yellow spice that is FULL of healthy benefits), garlic and ginger along with salt and pepper.  Cook for one minute before adding in the chicken broth and chickpeas.  You will also add in the chicken and then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  The smell will already bring you comfort!

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove and shred before adding back into the soup along with coconut milk, fresh torn basil and fresh lime juice.  Cook for five more minutes and serve.

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And while the weather wasn’t quite “soup weather” on Sunday, it made me feel warm and cozy while I watched another Christmas movie on Hallmark.  And I might have made the evening even better with a few pieces of dark chocolate after my soup.