Friday Favorites

The weekend is here, the weekend is here!  Yes, it was another short work week for me and I couldn’t be more excited for the weekend ahead.  Big Guy and I have never been able to participate in Member-Guest weekend (only the biggest weekend of the year at the country club) because of other obligations.  But this year we’re taking part in all the festivities and the best part is that one of our favorite couples (our wine/food/travel buddies) is coming into town to be our guests!  Eeeeeek!!!  And while I’m not sure how well the guys will do in the golf tournament – I can assure you that it’s going to be a weekend full of fun with all of our friends.

But before I go convince the sun to come out so we can go to the pool, here’s my favorites from the week:

Favorite Flavors:  Skillet Strawberry Cobbler with Cream Cheese Swirled Biscuits.  I can’t even handle this dessert.

Favorite Crispy:  Hash Brown Waffles.  There’s never been a better reason to have breakfast for dinner.  Or breakfast for lunch.  Or breakfast for breakfast.

 

Favorite Summer:  Marcel Romper.  If being 31 and wearing a romper is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Favorite Up-Grade:  Roasted Potato Salad with Mustardy Old Bay Dressing.  Now I’m just waiting to get invited to a summer cookout…

Favorite Travel:  The Bespoke Scandi Houseboat.  I can’t even imagine.  There’s a few of the water in every single room!

Favorite Dinner:  Chicken and Goat Cheese Enchiladas.  We love enchiladas.  And goat cheese makes everything better.

Favorite Wake-up:  Homemade Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk {for iced coffee}.  Last Saturday morning in Nashville, three of us set out on foot to find iced coffee.  And once we did, it was the best thing ever.  Now I just need to start making it at home.

Favorite Dinner Party:  Vietnamese Braised Beef Tacos.  Can a party of two be considered a dinner party?

Favorite Indulge:  Mini Ricotta + Parmesan Cheesecake.  These must happen A to the SAP (aka immediately).

Favorite Tropical:  Toasted Coconut Pineapple Cocktail.  This reminds me of our honeymoon and our trip to St. Thomas.  Oh, what I would do to be on an island right now drinking out of a pineapple…

Cheers!

Lemon-Herb Chicken Skewers with Blueberry-Balsamic Salsa

Typically I meal plan on Sundays.  I lay out what the evenings look like for the week and go from there.

But this past weekend didn’t quite go that way.  I had a late afternoon arrival into Raleigh after being in Nashville, TN all weekend and then I met up with Big Guy for an errand at the mall followed by a sushi date.  Arriving home at 8pm on a Sunday night after being gone all weekend is late for this gal.  That’s typically when I’m getting ready for bed on Sunday nights (sorry, I’m not sorry).

Seeing as though I left the bags unpacked and on the floor (the horror!) I can assure you that no meal planning happened on Sunday night.

However, waiting to meal plan on Monday before I left for work ended up having it’s advantage.

I arrived at the gym on Monday morning way before the sun came up (I was also cursing myself for being so dedicated to my 5am classes) and one of my friends arrived with a pint of fresh, local blueberries just for me.

As soon as I saw the blueberries I knew they were making their way into my dinner plans for the week.

Those sweet, succulent blueberries were destined for Lemon-Herb Chicken Skewers with Blueberry-Balsamic Salsa – a recipe that caught my eye the moment I flipped through my latest issue of  Cooking Light.

The recipe is fairly simple but it does require about an hour of hands-off work – that is time for the chicken to marinate.

The chicken (I ended up using organic chicken breasts because our grocery stores never have a decent selection of chicken thighs – note to self:  stock up at Trader Joe’s) is marinated in a mixture of garlic, parsley, basil, cilantro, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and fresh cracked black pepper.

While the chicken marinates, make the salsa.  Half of the blueberries, balsamic vinegar and honey is brought to a boil and then simmered until thick and syrupy.  Be sure to use a spoon to mash the blueberries as it cooks.

The other half of the blueberries are given a quick whirl in the food processor before being added to a bowl with the cooked blueberries along with the other salsa ingredients.  I totally forgot to buy a red onion at the store so I used green onion that I had from the night before.

The chicken is then grilled to perfection and served with the sweet and sour blueberry salsa.

Word to the wise:  double the blueberry salsa.  It would be fantastic as an appetizer with goat cheese and crackers.

Just sayin’.

Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups

I love chicken salad.  But I’m picky about my chicken salad.

Too healthy and it’s just not very tasty (aka – all the mayo is taken out of the recipe).

Too much mayo and it’s just not very tasty (because well, too much mayo).

But when you find the perfect balance, all is right in the world.

Using equal amounts of Greek yogurt and mayo plus a little bit of vinegar is the perfect balance.  And the use of rotisserie chicken means this chicken salad couldn’t be easier to pull together.

chicken salad cups

Instead of walnuts, I used cashews.  I love cashews and they add the perfect amount of nuttiness to the mix.  (I also didn’t have any walnuts on hand.)

And instead of dried cherries, I used golden raisins.  I adore dried fruit in my chicken salad and the golden raisins added an amazing burst of sweetness to each bite.  (Craisins would also work great!  Or dried blueberries…)

Green onions added great flavor without being too harsh and taking over – especially in the leftovers.  As always, I love a hint of freshness and herbiness (totally made that word up) and that’s exactly what the parsley did.  Basil would also be a fantastic addition.

p.s. I made this recipe when Big Guy was out of town and never told him…because I knew he would be super jealous.  He may love chicken salad more than I do.

Lemony Cucumber Cream Cheese Bites

I have the easiest, most delicious appetizer to share with you.

Five ingredients and five minutes.

Honest.  That’s all you need.  (well, plus salt and pepper but everybody has that.)

pretzel

In a bowl, mix together softened cream cheese, fresh chopped dill, the zest and juice of a lemon and some fresh cracked pepper.

Place a dollop of the cream cheese mixture on top of a pretzel thin cracker, followed by a cucumber slice.  Finish the bite off with a sprinkle of fresh dill and salt.

The cream cheese mixture can be prepared way in advance but I wouldn’t assemble until closer to “party” time.

Because these are totally party worthy.

Light.  Refreshing.  Simple.  Delicious.

p.s. I had no idea so many people were anti-cucumbers.  But hey, that means more for me.

Friday Favorites

Summer is unofficially here! My absolute favorite time of the year.  Here are some of my favorites from the week that are definitely inspired by the warm weather and sunshine!

Favorite Devour:  Shortbread Strawberry Crumble.  Why is strawberry season so short?  The flavors and textures in this dessert are insane.

Favorite Dip:  Blended Red Salsa.  Pass the chips!

Favorite Vegetarian:  Sesame-Orange Ginger Chickpea Stir-Fry.  Who needs take-out when you can make this at home?

Favorite Book:  The Knockoff.  This past weekend I finished “Still Alice” in less than 36 hours.  (so so so so good)  This is on my “to read” list for the summer!

Favorite Classic:  Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I want to have a go-to cookie recipe that I always have the ingredients for at home and can whip up at a moments notice.  This could be a contender.

Favorite Bite:  Bacon Ciabatta Crostini with Pimiento Cheese and Candied Jalapenos.  Yes, yes, and yes.  These are happening as soon as our jalapenos start producing.

Favorite French-inspired:  Butter Dipped Radishes.  I would feel so dainty and fancy if I made a batch.

Favorite Twist:  White Chocolate and Blackberry S’mores.  How fun are these?

Favorite Summer:  Watermelon Salad with Basil-Ginger Dressing.  My Momma cut up one of the sweetest, juiciest watermelons this past weekend and now I want more.  More, more, more!

Favorite Cocktail:  Kiwi Mint Mojitos.  I need to arrange a day when I can have a batch of these and Big Guy on the back porch.  And it needs to be arranged soon.

Happy Friday!  And Summer!

Greek Salad

Greek Salad is not a new thing in my world.  I eat them on the regular.

But the twist to Jessica’s recipe is marinating the veggies in the homemade dressing before eating.

The flavor is unreal.

Salty and briny and everything I love about a Greek Salad.

The dressing is a mixture of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, dill, oregano, salt, pepper and EVOO.

And not only is this dressing amazing on this salad but I think it would be pretty amazing on just about any salad.  It’s going to be one of my go-to dressings from now on (because I’m totally over store-bought dressings).

The base of the salad is onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta and for me, artichoke hearts.

Toss all of the above ingredients with the dressing and let them just hang out and get friendly for at least 30 minutes.

Eat it just the way it is or add it to a pile of lettuce for a little more bulk.

I’ve eaten this salad for the past three days and it’s perfection.

My perfect lunch.  Well, except for the fact that I didn’t have any banana peppers.

So it’s almost perfect.

{virtual} coffee chat

If we were having coffee this morning…I would want to be at Drift at Ocean Isle Beach sipping a piping hot cup of coffee with you.  I went on a coffee (and breakfast) date with my parents and my aunt on Sunday morning and it was the perfect start to the day.  Coffee tastes better at the beach.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that my Momma and I tried a new restaurant on the island for lunch on Friday.  The Ocean Isle Fish Company is in the space that the Giggling Mackerel used to occupy and has great views and a roof top bar.  We both ordered a salad and we were impressed.  I had the seared tuna salad and the best part was the dried bananas – such a fun combination.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that OIB is my happy place.  And even though it’s my happy place no matter the weather – it was a gorgeous weekend.  Not too hot, not too cold…It was juuuuuuust right.

If we were having coffee this morning…We would chat about my family and about how nice it was to spend an entire weekend with them.  Logan, my youngest brother (above), was my go-to guy all weekend – he took me on a boat ride and rolled out the pizza dough.

If we were having coffee this morning…We’d talk about how I loved sipping red wine with my sister-in-law on Saturday night and catching up.  I don’t see her and my brother near enough and I miss them.  One day they’ll come visit…

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d scream HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAYLOR into the phone.  He turned the weekend into a week-long vacation and I’m super jealz of him right now.  The picture above is from his birthday in 2011 – today he’s turning the big 3-0.

tricuits

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d tell you about these crackers!  Holy deliciousness.  I tried them topped with avocado slices and a shake of red pepper flakes.  Also to note:  there are about 25 different flavors of Triscuits on the market these days.  Momma and I joked (or maybe we were serious) about having a Triscuit party.

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d tell you how much I missed seeing my sister and her family this past weekend.  Plans changed and they decided to stay put (which I can’t blame them) but I miss them terribly – especially those two little messes.  A visit must be planned in the near future.

If we were having coffee this morningI’d tell you how excited I am that the “Bell” ladies are planning an adult-only weekend at the beach.  It will be a glorious weekend, indeed.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you about the bubbles that I popped on Sunday afternoon.  It was only fitting to open the Ocean Reserve bottle for the unofficial start of summer.  It was dry and bubbly and delicious.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you how much I love being on the water.  Boat rides are my favorite!

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you about the pizzas we ate this past weekend.  We decided to make two pizzas:  “Hot ‘n Honey” Buffalo Chicken Pizza and a Cheesy Fontina, Caramelized Onion, Chorizo and Spinach Pizza.  Both were delicious.  The buffalo pizza was quite spicy.  I loved the flavor combination on the caramelized onion and chorizo pizza.  It was the favorite of the two.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that Judy Blume is writing a book for adults and I am determined to get my hands on it the minute it’s printed.   I loved all her books during my younger years and I’m sure this one will be no different.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that my wish is coming true (well in June of 2016): I will finally have a bacon, avocado and bubbles emoji.  All will be right in the world.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that “the cure for anything is salt water:  sweat, tears or the sea.”