Friday Favorites

After a cold, rainy, wet week I am more than ready for a little sunshine and salt air.

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Oh, and I’m always ready for the weekend.  But before we get our weekend started, here’s my favorites of the week….

Favorite Whoa:  Slow Cooker “Rotisserie” Chicken.  This would be such a lifesaver during the week.  Simply prep and cook on Sunday and I would have chicken for salads for the entire week.

 

Favorite Slice:  Marinated Kale and Whipped Ricotta Pizza.  Jessica understands my love of pizza.  Whether she realizes it or not.

 

Favorite Truth:  

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Favorite Drool:  Whole Roasted Onions.  I love onions.  Kind of like how I love garlic.  And these onions remind me of roasted garlic which is one of my favorite things in the world.  These and a steak.  Yes.

 

Favorite Cozy:  I am dying over all the winter neutrals I’m seeing lately.  Obsessed.

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Favorite Decadence:  Extra Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownies.  I can’t even deal.

 

Favorite Indulge:  Crock-pot Tuscan Sausage and White Bean Ragu with Gnocchi.  How perfect would this be for a cold Sunday evening?  All you need to add is a glass of red wine.

 

Favorite Must-Have:  A coffee nook!  I really don’t like having a ton of appliances out on the counter top but I use my coffee maker every.single.day.  This is the perfect solution.

 

Favorite Combo:  Black + Blue.

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Favorite Tipsy:  Le Fizz Cocktail.  A simple, fizzy cocktail that would be a perfect part of any weekend plans.

Cheers!

Weekend Review {red wine braised beef shank}

And just like that, the weekend comes to an end and another work week begins.  But before we get the work part started, let me rewind.

Friday evening we had plans to attend the first wine dinner of 2015 with our wine club, Friends of the Vine.  The wine dinner was a 90+ Point Wine dinner.

We sipped our way through dinner with two whites, two reds and a dessert wine.  The wine that surprised me the most was a chardonnay that was poured during the social hour.  I typically do not enjoy chardonnays but this particular one was not oaky and butter but instead crisp and refreshing.  The syrah was a wine that was much better with food and the sauvignon blanc was the perfect balance of grassy and grapefruit.  Such a fun evening with new and old friends.

Saturday we found ourselves heading to Raleigh to run errands and enjoy lunch.  Once home, we got started on the Red Wine Braised Beef Shank.  Beef shank is a new-to-my-kitchen ingredient as we typically find ourselves leaning to recipes utilizing short ribs.  I was excited to cook a new cut of meat.  Especially when braised in red wine.

The recipe comes from the Easy Gourmet cookbook by the blogger i am a food blog.  The beef shank is seasoned liberally with salt and pepper before being seared in a Dutch oven until browned on each side (about 5 minutes).

Smashed garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, and a quartered onion is sauteed before adding in the red wine, a little water and a sprig of rosemary.  The beef shank cooks low for about 4 hours.

While dinner was cooking, we enjoyed cocktail hour and a movie (Taken 2).  I made myself a French 75 with gin, fresh lemon and simple syrup.

Several hours later, dinner was ready.  I served the braised beef shank over a creamy bowl of polenta.

The braised beef shank was incredibly tender and the mushrooms were one of my favorite components of the meal.

The perfect bowl of comfort for a date night at home.

Sunday came way too fast but was quite the productive day as we prepared for the upcoming weekend festivities.  Big Guy broke in his new (and bigger) smoker, The Bandit.  Smokey will be finding a new home soon where we knew he’ll be loved and taken care of well.  I also prepped lots and lots of barbecue sauce.

Looking at the calendar we are quite busy the next several weekends so it was nice to enjoy some time at home as well as getting things done around the house.

Ok, Monday, let’s do this.

 

Friday Favorites

Did you know that waffles are one of my favorite breakfast items?  In fact, I start almost every Friday morning with a waffle (topped with nut butter).  It gives me something to look forward to all week. And yes, a waffle is something to get excited about.

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Today is Friday and I did, indeed, have a waffle for breakfast.  We’ve {almost} made it to the end of our first work week of 2015.  (That calls for champagne – not a waffle.)

So before you go poppin’ bubbly and getting your weekend started, here are my favorites of the week!

Favorite Wake-Up:  Oat Waffles.   Except I would need a waffle iron.  That’s one thing I decided not to put on the wedding registry.  But these waffles!  Crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside waffle.  Friday morning perfection.

Favorite Devour:  Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Chipotle Crema + Pickled Jalapenos.  A plateful of these and I would be in heaven.  Nacho heaven.  Cheesy, crunchy, messy heaven.  I’m thinking these might be perfect for Superbowl Sunday (when is Superbowl Sunday?!?!).

Favorite Workout:  Booty Burning Walking Workout.  Now that our group fitness schedule has changed, I’ve had to come up with my own workouts on Wednesdays.  I tried this treadmill walking workout this past week and my glutes were on fi-ya.

Favorite Smashed:  Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich.  This is about as “granola” as I get.  This just might make the cut for the lunchtime rotation next week.

Favorite Obsessed:  Caramel Brownies with Pretzel Crust.  I am lusting over brownies lately.  And I’m on the search for the perfect recipe.  I’m having flashbacks of my cinnamon roll obsession.

Favorite Spoonful:  West African Peanut Soup.    Creamy, comforting and spicy.

Favorite Fresh:  OPI Bubble Bath.  I know, I know.  This color has been around for quite some time.  BUT I have said bye-bye to dark nails this week and hellllllo to nudes.  Apparently it’s trendy this season. 

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Favorite Woah:  Slow Cooker Short Rib Sauce with Bucatini.  I’m not a huge pasta person but this plate of deliciousness is making me drool.  I’m pretty sure the short ribs are to blame.

Favorite Classic Cocktail:  Vanilla-Sugar Lime Daiquiri.  Shaken until your arms hurt.  A little fancy, but no frills.

Happy Weekend!

Friday Favorites

I hope you all had fun celebrating the end of 2014 and the anticipation of 2015.  The last two weekends of 2014 were crazy busy and crazy fun so we’re settling in for a low-key weekend at home.  Perhaps a glass of wine tonight, an early morning workout tomorrow followed by a fun football Saturday.  So before you kick-off your first weekend of 2015, here’s my favorites for the week.

Favorite Slurp:  Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Puff Pastry Cheese Straws.  Winter is officially here, which means it’s cold and I’m in the mood for soup.

 

Favorite Handful:  The Most Addicting Sweet and Spicy Homemade Snack Mix.  We all know that football food > watching football.  And seriously, how can I resist bacon fat popcorn?

 

Favorite Stuffed:  Bourbon Fig + Gorgonzola Stuffed Pork Tenderloin.  Hello, Sunday Supper!  The flavor combination is unreal.

 

Favorite Small Bite:  Hot Italian Sausage-Stuffed Dates with Lemon-Basil Crema.   I adore stuffed dates.  And I love this spin on the usual stuffed date recipe.  Lemons are everything to me right now.

 

Favorite Truth:

 

Favorite Read:  Tempting Fate by Jane Green.  I just started this new book that I received for Christmas and I love it.  Like I don’t want to put it down.

 

Favorite Booze:  Pomegranate Vanilla Sangria. I’ve had this recipe saved for over 2 years.  I think it’s about time I whip up a pitcher.

Cheers to 2015!

Friday Favorites

As of 12 pm today, I am officially on Christmas Vacation.  To say I’m excited is an understatement.  I can’t wait to leave work behind for a couple of weeks and focus on the present (not presents!).  I am so excited to have days filled with laughter, nothingness (if that’s possible), memories and family.  Oh, and friends!  Tonight we’re attending our one “big” event of the season.  I can’t wait to see everyone dressed in their very best.  Someone grab the bubbly because it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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Favorite Stuffed:  Stuffed Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  In a few short days it will be time to pile a plate high with cookies for Santa.  Santa might just leave an extra gift or two if these are the cookies he washes down with his milk.

Favorite Balance:  Grape, Avocado and Arugula Salad.  It’s all about balance.  And between all the cookies and champagne I plan on adding a few salads to my life.  I can’t get over the combination of sweet grapes, creamy avocado, zippy goat cheese, nutty walnuts, and the raw, yet fabulous, red onion.

Favorite Styling:  Built-ins with the most perfect placement.

{via Elements of Style blog}

Favorite Break:  Peanut Butter Granola Bars (3-ingredients!).  Come 3 pm every.single.day. I find myself reaching for a snack.  Just a little something to hold me over until dinner.  Dates+Peanut Butter+Oats = the perfect snack.

Favorite Woah:  Coffee Rubbed Prime Rib with Roasted Garlic Gorgonzola Butter.  Talk about an impressive dinner!  This would be fabulous for any holiday dinner.  But let’s be honest, this has Sunday Supper written all over it.

Favorite Drool:  Chinese Chicken and Brussels Sprouts Egg Rolls with Sweet Chile Pomegranate Sauce.  I really have no words.  Except for when can i make these?!?!

Favorite Spread:  Killer Cheese Plate.  Yes. Yes. Yes.  The only thing missing is a bottle of wine.

Favorite Wake-Up:  Sweet Orange Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread.  I’m fairly certain the menu for Christmas brunch is complete buuuuuuut I can’t help but want to add this to the mix.

Favorite Wreath:  Soft Pretzel Wreath.  ‘Tis the season.

Favorite Fizz:  Cranberry Gin Fizz Cocktail.  It’s the perfect cocktail:  simple enough for a night in yet fancy enough for a party.

Wishing you love and laughter this weekend!

Elegant Holiday Dinner Party Menu

Between now and the end of the year, I’m sure many of you will be entertaining others with dinner.  Here is a fool-proof, delicious dinner menu for eight.  I prepared this exact menu last Saturday evening for our Christmas with Big Guy’s family.  I prepped many of the ingredients the night before which made execution of dinner less stressful.

Cocktail Hour:

Sparkling Cider
Pomegranate Cheese Ball 

Dinner Menu:

Roast Beef Tenderloin with Cognac Butter
Carrot Mash with Crème Fraîche
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Slow-Fried Shallots

I chose to go with the sparkling cider cocktail for cocktail hour because it’s incredibly simple with only two ingredients.  We had a wine pairing planned for dinner so I wanted something sparkling.  Sparkling Cider is simply prosecco topped with spiced apple cider (Trader Joe’s brand is my absolute favorite and I stock up every fall).  I also prepped the cheese ball the night before except for the pomegranate seeds.  Roll the cheese ball in the pomegranate seeds right before serving for best results.  Since I had made the cheese ball the night before, I took it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving so that the cheese could soften a bit.

The tenderloin is super easy to prep – and this was done about an hour before we were going to put it in the oven.  However, I made the cognac butter Saturday morning after letting the butter soften on the counter over night.  We doubled the amount of beef that we cooked to make sure there was plenty and so that there would be leftovers for the coming week.

The only thing I prepped in advance for the carrots was slicing the carrots the night before and chopping the green onions.  I stored both in airtight containers so they were ready when I was on Saturday.

And to round out the dinner prep, I shredded the Brussels the night before and sliced the shallots and stored those in zip lock bags in the fridge.

xmas dinner

Thanks to all my prep work, getting dinner on the table was a breeze.  Big Guy was in charge of the seasoning the tenderloin and making sure it was cooked to perfection (medium-rare).  The great thing about tenderloin is that if there are folks that prefer their meat more well-done, the slices at the ends are perfectly cooked to their likeness.  I sliced up the cognac butter and placed it on a serving dish.  The carrots simmered away as the beef was roasting and then mashed with a potato masher until the desired consistency is reached.  I decided against pulling out the food processor and left them a little chunky.  While the carrots simmer, prepare the crème fraîche mixture.  And finally it was time the prepare the Brussels.  The shallots are fried in a low-temperature skillet with canola oil until crispy.  It takes about 10 minutes and the texture is unbelievable.  I didn’t start cooking the Brussels until after the beef was taken out of the oven to rest as I didn’t want to risk soggy Brussels.

The end result was a gorgeous plate full of flavor.  The butter was the perfect compliment to the tender, lean cut of beef.  While cognac isn’t a liquor that I typically drink or keep on hand, it paired beautifully with the butter and beef.  The carrots were tender yet bright and tangy.  I adored the addition of orange zest to the carrots – such a great twist on the typical sweet potato side dish.  And finally the Brussels.  Honestly, it’s a no frills recipe but the fried shallots make the side dish incredibly rich without being heavy.

done

To say that it was a successful dinner would be an understatement.

And while I love to create my own menus, having a menu to follow was such a life saver as far as my sanity.  I was able to enjoy a stress-free dinner instead of worrying about the food.

Cheers!

Warm Honey Fig Dip with Blue Cheese

Instead of my “Friday Favorites” (I promise lots of those next Friday), I thought I would share with you a recipe for one of my favorite hours of the day – “appy” hour!

The only two necessities of “appy” hour are a cocktail (or mocktail) and a delicious appetizer.  Preferably one that involves cheese.

 

Besides that, the rest of “appy” hour is up to you.  My favorite “appy” hours occur this time of year at home.  When I can cozy up near the tree, sip on a sparkling drink and enjoy taste after taste of a cheesy dip.

Last Saturday evening, after a full day of bustling around Raleigh, “appy” hour was on my mind.

On the menu:  a sparkling drink (duh!) and Warm Honey Fig Dip with Blue Cheese.

I am officially obsessed with figs lately and the sweetness of the dried figs pairs perfectly with the strong blue cheese.  Mascarpone cheese and cream cheese give the dip even more creaminess and makes is utterly luscious.

Salty, crunchy crackers are best for this dip and instead of making my own pita chips I used a pre-bought cracker and simply toasted them up with a spritz of olive oil and a sprinkling of nutmeg.

Nutmeg, honey, figs and blue cheese were made for one another.