Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta Soup

If you have a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes, you can make this soup-er dinner.  I actually chose to whip up this dinner after starting at a half-full container of ricotta cheese and wondering “what the heck should I do with this?”  I knew I wanted something light (hello, I have to fit in formal dress this weekend) but I always wanted something warm and filling.  I flipped through my recipes and knew it was the one since I only needed to grab some roasted red peppers, a lemon and chives to have all the ingredients.

There’s no chopping and there’s no sautéing so it’s the perfect weeknight dinner.  You simply put the chicken broth, 2% milk (instead of half and half…just because), ricotta cheese, pepper, roasted red peppers and garlic in a blender and let it whirl until smooth.  Pour the cold soup into a saucepan and warm over medium.  Once warm, remove from the heat, add in some fresh lemon juice and salt and serve.  SO EASY!

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It’s creamy.  It has a little spice from the pepper and the raw garlic.  And it’s perfect for a light dinner or lunch (leftovers!).

Sluuuuurrrrpppppp.

Mert’s Heart and Soul {restaurant review}

I kind of forgot it was a “holiday” weekend since Big Guy had to work today!  But I won’t lie – we slept in a little and enjoyed a lovely breakfast together before he really got started with this work day.  I was able to get a lot done today:  a good PiYo workout at home, a long walk and I helped Big Guy around the house with chores that we needed to check off.

This past weekend we were in Charlotte with my family.  Big Guy flew into Charlotte on Friday afternoon so my parents and I picked him up before going on a little uptown adventure.  My parents decided it would be smart not to fight Friday traffic so we hopped on the light rail and headed into the heart of Charlotte.  I had never been on the light rail before though my Dad uses it quite often during the Panther’s football season.  We had a fun ride into town and then walked to Mert’s Heart and Soul for dinner.  The restaurant has been in Charlotte for almost 20 years yet I had never heard of it until a month ago when I went on the home tour in the Fourth Ward district.  Mert’s had a booth at one of the stops serving up their famous mac and cheese.  Let’s just say it’s amazing.  So much cheese but my favorite part is the little crispy edges on the outside.  My mom thought it would be a totally different eating experience that what we typically have in Charlotte and she was right.

We arrive before 6pm and we had no problem getting a table.  By the time we left, the restaurant was rather full and there were lots of people getting food to go.  We all shared the fried green tomatoes to start and for dinner I ordered the famous salmon cakes.  Most of the meals come with cornbread and it is perfection.  Seriously – probably the best cornbread I’ve ever had.  The mac and cheese wasn’t as good on Friday as the bite I had in December – but trust me, it wasn’t bad.  Cheese + pasta is rarely a bad thing.  The salmon cakes were way better than I expected.  They were FULL of salmon and held together very nicely.  I loved the dipping sauce that came on the side.

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After we filled our bellies, we walked down to the 7th St. Public Market to check it out.  And while we didn’t buy anything I hope I can make it back soon!  Coffee…pizza…crepes…wine…all under one roof.  Heaven.

It was such a fun, unexpected night out in Charlotte.  The rest of the weekend included a baby shower and then lots of time with my niece and nephew.  The weekend flew by, as usual, and I’m counting down the days until I see everyone again.

Have a great week, friends!

Friday Favorites

The snow and ice is finally gone and the high today is in the 70s.  Oh, NC weather, you’re cray-cray.  But I’m going to be honest – I’m pretty pumped about it not being below 32 degrees all weekend.  I’m actually headed to Charlotte today after I teach to hang out with the family for the weekend.  I am so excited to be staying with my sister and her family on Saturday evening so I can have extra time with the kiddos.  Hopefully Haines will let me get a few baby snuggles in from Braxton.  And with that – here are my favorites from the week!

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Favorite Bright:  Upside Down Winter Citrus Cake.  How gorgeous is this cake?  Citrus is amazing this time of year.  Hoping to get my hands on some sweet grapefruit and blood oranges soon.

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Favorite Must Have:  Nooks and Crannies:  Tiny, Cozy Spaces to Get You Through Winter.  I want a little nook more than I want my own little office!  I can just imagine myself sipping coffee and reading my devotions in the morning in this quaint little space.  Her round-up is awesome and I honestly can’t pick my favorite!

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Favorite Cozy:  Beef Bourguignon Pot Pie.  Julia Child’s beef bourguignon has been on my cooking bucket-list since I saw the movie “Julia and Julia.”  This version of the hearty French dinner sounds incredible.

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Favorite Staple:  White Button-Up Shirt.  Every woman’s closet should have a perfect fitting button up shirt.  And I’m on the hunt for the perfect one for me.

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Favorite Melt-In-Your-Mouth:  Tender Buttermilk Biscuit.  I want to master the Southern biscuit in 2017!

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Favorite Inspiration:  5 Ways to Detox Your Closet.    Lusting over this amazing closet.

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Favorite Flavor:  Harissa Meatballs.  I have harissa paste in my fridge that’s begging for another purpose in life besides taking up space.  Bonus:  These meatballs are healthy!

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Favorite Truth:  Marriage is a team sport.  A good read no matter how long you’ve been married.

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Favorite Craving:  Pink Grapefruit Margarita with Chili Salt.  I haven’t had a margarita in a hot minute despite Big Guy and I talking about how much we want one weekly.  I think it’s because I find is odd to drink margaritas with anything but Mexican-Inspired food.

 

CHEERS!

 

Slow Cooker Sausage Cassoulet

Traditionally cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole that originates from France.  It usually contains meat, pork skin and beans and the dish is actually named after the traditional cooking vessel, the cassole. {source}

Slow Cooker Sausage Cassoulet may have a few differences from the original recipe, but there are some similarities:  sausage, beans and a slow-cooking method.  I prepared this dinner last Friday night knowing we were going to meet friends for drinks and wanted to make sure we had a healthy but delicious meal waiting for us when we got home.  Delicious it was and I have been very thankful for the leftovers this week.

It does require a little prep before it all goes in the slow cooker but it couldn’t be easier.  Veggies, including onions, parsnips (instead of turnip), carrots and celery, are sautéed in a little EVOO along with garlic until they are tender.  The veggies are then placed in the slow cooker along with white beans, chicken sausage, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, fresh thyme, salt, pepper and a bay leaf.  THAT’S IT!  Simply let the slow cooker do all the work on low for the next 8 hours.

The final topping to the dish is a butter and breadcrumb mixture that adds some richness and texture to the hearty bowl.

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Incredibly cozy and perfect for any night of the week!

Frozen {plus a few of my favorite cookbooks}

You guys.  Cabin fever is setting in.  As I expected, the forecast for beautiful, majestic snow brought instead ice.  And lots of it.  We’re just starting to really thaw out at our home and tonights freezing temperatures means more ice tomorrow morning.  Staying at home hasn’t gotten to me…until today.

I couldn’t imagine being stuck inside for 48 hours with anyone else than Big Guy.  And thankfully we both enjoy cooking because we basically cooked, ate and hit repeat all weekend long.

I had to cancel my Saturday Sweat class but I pulled out my yoga mat and got in a great workout thanks to my PiYo videos.  After my workout, I got to work on Hot Orange Rolls for brunch.

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And while the cinnamon rolls required a little bit of time, they weren’t very difficult to make.  Honestly, the waiting was the hardest part of this recipe.

We popped open some bubbles and enjoyed a “snowed in” brunch.

We also discovered On Demand.  Yes, we’re SO behind when it comes to t.v. and technology.  We binged on “This Is Us” all weekend long.  We finished the entire pilot season and I can’t wait for the next season to start (tomorrow!).  It’s such a lovely drama and I adore all the characters.  Seriously – if you haven’t seen it yet, you must.

After several hours of t.v., it was time to get started on dinner.  We made brisket with onions and leeks along with smashed chipotle sweet potatoes.

Sunday brought along another iced in day which meant leftover cinnamon rolls and more t.v.  We also had our first pizza night of 2017 and we made our first Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

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This pizza is rather labor intensive including making the dough 24-48 hours in advance.  Thankfully all we had was time this weekend.  We were incredibly impressed with the end result.  Our pizza wasn’t quite as deep as the recipe depicted but I’m certain it’s because our new deep dish pan was a little bigger than the one they used.

Speaking of recipes, I apologize that I can’t link up any of the recipes from the weekend but it’s because I’ve been turning to my collection of cookbooks more and more.  I find myself cooking from my Cooking Light magazine collection and blogs constantly and wanted to give my lovely cookbooks a little love.  So I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite cookbooks as of late:

“Big American Cookbook” from Mario Batali  This was a Christmas gift and I’ve loved cooking from it!  This is where the recipe from the Hot Orange Rolls came from.  I can’t wait to cook many more meals from this huge cookbook.

Mario Batali’s delicious deep dive into American Regional cooking with 250 recipes—from San Diego Fish Tacos to Boston Cream Pie.

Over two years in the making, with Batali searching for truly delicious dishes from all corners of the US, this definitive cookbook features the best America has to offer. With over 250 simple recipes celebrating the treasures of the state fairs and the dishes of the local rotary clubs and ethnic groups. Batali has interpreted these regional gems with the same excitement and passion that he has approached traditional Italian food.

“Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten I purchased this book when Gaby featured it as the cookbook for December.  We’ve cooked numerous recipes from this book already and it’s filled with mouthwatering food.  It’s where our Saturday night dinner came from – and both were outstanding.  Note:  I have found one of her recipes to be super salty so I’ve started being a little conservative with salt with her recipes.

Ina’s most personal cookbook yet, Cooking for Jeffrey is filled with the recipes Jeffrey and their friends request most often as well as charming stories from Ina and Jeffrey’s many years together. There are traditional dishes that she’s updated, such as Brisket with Onions and Leeks, and Tsimmes, a vegetable stew with carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and prunes, and new favorites, like Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken and Roasted Salmon Tacos. You’ll also find wonderful new salads, including Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad and Kale Salad with Pancetta and Pecorino. Desserts range from simple Apple Pie Bars to showstoppers like Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel. For the first time, Ina has included a chapter devoted to bread and cheese, with recipes and tips for creating the perfect cheese course. With options like Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschettas and Challah with Saffron, there’s something everyone will enjoy.

“The Pizza Bible” from Tony Gemignani.  It’s no secret that we love pizza.  And while I love this cookbook, it’s not for the novice chef.  The recipes are super in depth and there are lots of special ingredients – we had to order an ingredient off Amazon last Tuesday night.

Everyone loves pizza! From fluffy Sicilian pan pizza to classic Neapolitan margherita with authentic charred edges, and from Chicago deep-dish to cracker-thin, the pizza spectrum is wide and wonderful, with something to suit every mood and occasion. And with so many fabulous types of pie, why commit to just one style? The Pizza Bible is a complete master class in making delicious, perfect, pizzeria-style pizza at home, with more than seventy-five recipes covering every style you know and love, as well as those you’ve yet to fall in love with. Pizzaiolo and eleven-time world pizza champion Tony Gemignani shares all his insider secrets for making amazing pizza inhome kitchens. With The Pizza Bible, you’ll learn the ins and outs of starters, making dough, assembly, toppings, and baking, how to rig your home oven to make pizza like the pros, and all the tips and tricks that elevate home pizza-making into a craft.

There are quite a handful of other books I love to cook from but we’ll stop there for now.  What’s your favorite cookbook?  And if you’re not a cookbook person, where do you get your favorite recipes?

 

 

Friday Favorites

We’ve made it through the first week of 2017!  On Tuesday if felt like Monday but by Wednesday I couldn’t help but think it should be Friday.  Unfortunately (some may be stoked but I’m not) we have lots of wintery weather in our forecast beginning this evening.  And while an inch of snow would be gorgeous if it started at 10am on Saturday and was gone by 10pm on Sunday, I just can’t handle the amount they’re predicting.  Regardless of what happens in the sky and on the ground, I hit the grocery store at 6am yesterday to avoid the crazy people of this town.  I’m stocked and ready with all the necessities.  You know, wine, brisket, chocolate and pizza ingredients.

I hope that your first week of 2017 has been amazing and stay warm this weekend!

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Favorite Cozy:  The Best Detox Crockpot Lentil Soup. Healthy but delicious and perfect for the first month of the year when we’re trying to recover from all the sweets and butter we ate in December.

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Favorite Trend:  Traditional Cabinetry in Colors.  This week, Erin predicted the home trends for 2017 on her blog.  While I love some many things about this post, one of my favorites was this kitchen.

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Favorite Date Night:  Caramelized Balsamic Goat Cheese Pasta.  This pasta looks incredible!  Mushrooms and goat cheese just belong together.

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Favorite Inspiration:  Getting Organized in the New Year.  I am totally onboard with “get rid of stuff.”!

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Favorite Weeknight Dinner:  Sloppy Joe Baked Sweet Potatoes.   Putting this on the menu ASAP.

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Favorite Bribe:  Mushroom Cheese Ravioli with Rosemary Butter Sauce.  My parents haven’t visited us in awhile and I’ve promised my Dad homemade pasta the next time he’s here.  Perhaps this ravioli will get them to pencil us in (wink wink).

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Favorite Idea:  Kitchen Resolutions.  I posted this week about my “intentions” for 2017 instead of resolutions.  But I could totally get on board with kitchen resolutions. And can we talk about that pickle and peanut butter sandwich?  YESSSS.

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Favorite Fashion:  White Lace Top.    Adore this monochromatic look.  This look isn’t one that fits into my day to day life but I think the white lace would look great with jeans and heels.

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Favorite Cheers:  Winter Champagne Punch with Rosemary Simple Syrup. So bright and citrusy and perfect for these cold days.

Cheers to the weekend!

Best Ever Microwave Hummus

No, that’s not a typo.  I made hummus in the microwave and it was amazing.

I’ve made hummus before and I’ve never in my life seen a microwave used.  But now I’m a believer.

This hummus is perfect for several reasons:

It’s delicious.

It’s healthy.

It makes an amazing lunch or snack.

It only requires six, SIX, ingredients.

BOOM.

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Here’s how you make it:

Place a can of chickpeas (including the liquid) plus a few cloves of garlic (I used four) in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for about 5 minutes.

In your food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic, about 1/2 cup tahini, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (the recipe called for lemon juice, but I didn’t have any so I picked another acid).  Whirl and drizzle in 1 tablespoon on EVOO.  Scrape the sides and whirl again.

I popped mine in the fridge for a little bit and then topped it with a sprinkle of paprika for a little extra color and smokiness.

Ta-Da!  Microwave hummus!!!