GNO {girls night out}

When you’re with people you love, it’s hard not to have a good time.  Myself and three of my closest friends have had a GNO planned for several weeks now.  And as time progressed, the plans got more and more exciting.  What started as a dinner and drinks turned into quite the evening with just the girls.

First stop:  a little pampering at Parlor Dry Bar.  For $35 you get your hair washed, dried and styled.  Having someone else style my hair is one of my favorite things – in fact, if I could have one super power it would be able to style my hair like a professional.  Or have enough money to hire someone on a daily basis.

We all ended up getting a little curl added and we were ready for our next stop.

A couple of weeks ago Marlo stumbled across an event at the NC Art Museum – Art in Bloom.   In short, florists from across the state (and beyond) interpreted works of art though flowers.  We were amazed at the detail of all the works of art and flowers.  Simply amazing.

Having never been to the NC Museum of Art, it’s now on my radar and I plan to return very soon.  There’s even a restaurant in the museum, Iris, that was filled to the brim when we arrived on Friday evening.

After racing to finish seeing all the displays (over 45!), it was time for dinner.  We were not about to miss our 8:30pm reservation at Bida Manda.  I had to stalk the restaurant for two weeks to finally get a reservation for the four of us.  Big Guy and I dined at Bida Manda last summer during restaurant week and I was so excited to return.

And I’m going to make a bold statement:  Bida Manda is my favorite restaurant in Raleigh.  Impeccable service, craft cocktails that are incredible and a menu that is sure to please anyone.

To start, I ordered a cocktail from the bar.

Alpine ’76 – Potato Vodka, Fresh Lemon Juice, Elderflower Liqueur, Sugar, Sparkling Wine

The four of us split three appetizers (most of their appetizers are pretty small portions):

Crispy Rice Lettuce Wraps – with herbs, peanuts and vegetables

Panang Crab Cakes – dill, panang curry, picked radish

There was a special appetizer for the night, too, which was a housemade sausage full of fresh herbs.

The crispy rice lettuce wraps are by far the best appetizer on the menu.  Big Guy and I shared them when we visited and all the girls agreed they were phenomenal.

The texture and flavors are out of this world.

And for dinner, I ordered the Sweet Chili Salmon with ginger rice and lime vinaigrette salad.  The entree portions are large and there was no way I could finish it all.  There was a little hint of spiciness in the salad and the salmon was cooked to perfection.

For dessert, we all shared the Trio Plate – With apricot-tamarind cobbler, lao coffee creme brulee, and coconut custard crisp.

I was in love with the apricot-tamarind cobbler.

We ended the night at a new mezcal bar located above Centro called Gallo Pelon.  The drinks were strong and I loved the vibe of this super small but hip bar.  I cannot wait to take Big Guy back to this spot.

Such a fun night out – good food, delicious cocktails and even better company.

Friday Favorites

We made it another week!  I don’t know about you – but this week was a busy week and I’m glad to have a fun weekend ahead.  Come 5pm, I hope my biggest worries consist of whether the rain will ruin my blowout and what wine to open on Saturday night.  See you guys Monday!

Favorite Dinner:  Thai Beef with Basil.  The flavors in this weeknight dinner sound incredible.  And this recipe reminds me that we need to plant Thai Basil this summer.

Favorite Showstopper:  Candied Citrus Cake.  How gorgeous is this cake?  I cannot get enough citrus lately.

Favorite Devour:  Caramelized Pineapple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Guacamole.  Quite possibly the most trashed up guac ever.  And I love it.

Favorite Wake-Up:  Bodyweight Lower Body Workout.  I typically hit the gym on Saturday mornings fairly early.  But sometimes I enjoy sleeping in and this is a great at-home workout that requires no equipment.

Favorite Spring:  Lemon Almond Roast Chicken Salad.  I love all the things about this simple, southern chicken salad.  Especially the addition of crunchy almonds.

Favorite Sip:  Simple Coconut Green Smoothie.  Drinking one of these in the morning would transport you to a tropical island.  If only I could really transport myself right now.

Favorite “Appy” Hour:  Port-Cooked Mushroom Bruschetta with Brie. The most perfect little bite for entertaining with.  Or for eating at home with your husband.

Favorite Flavors:  Meyer Lemon and Honey Roasted Fennel. This is the kind of side dish that steals all the attention from the main dish.

Favorite Bite:  Dark Chocolate Key Lime Pie Truffles.  Key Lime Pie is a favorite of my Momma’s.  I might just need to make a batch of these Easter weekend.

Favorite “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”:  Spicy Cucumber Margaritas.  A pitcher of these and a batch of the guac that I mentioned earlier and you’d have yourself one heck of a Saturday.

Have the best weekend ever.

Skillet Chicken and Mozzarella Bake

If you’re a fan of Italian food you will adore this chicken dinner.

If you’re a fan of “Parmesan Chicken” you will adore this chicken dinner.

If you’re a fan of chicken you will adore this chicken dinner.

If you’re a fan of easy, quick recipes you will adore this chicken dinner.

If you’re hungry you will adore this chicken dinner.

And while Italian food isn’t my go-to when I’m meal planning for the week, Skillet Chicken and Mozzarella Bake was better than I ever expected.  So good, I really wanted to uncork a bottle of wine.  (Why didn’t I?!?!)

Chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper before being seared in a skillet (I used my cast-iron for ease of sliding it into the oven).  Once browned on both sides, remove the chicken and begin working on the “sauce.”  Onion and garlic is sauteed before adding salt, pepper, fresh chopped tomato (so ready for tomato to be in season!), marinara sauce, stock and oregano (I used dried for the sauce).  Bring to a simmer and then nestle the chicken into the sauce.

The chicken is then topped with a mixture of panko (I used gluten-free), parmesan and a little butter.  This “parmesan” coating gives SO much texture to the chicken.  On top of the panko mixture goes the mozzarella.  Stringy, cheesy, delicious mozzarella.

The entire skillet is placed in the oven for about 10 minutes.  I broiled our skillet for about 3 minutes to get that gorgeous brown on the mozzarella.

Sprinkle with fresh oregano before serving.

On the side, a simple arugula salad with celery and parsley.

A little bit of crunch.

A lot of flavor.

Tender chicken

Garlic notes.

Rich sauce.


I promise you’ll adore this chicken dinner.

black bean cakes with greens + eggs {plus what I’m reading now}

Dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate to be healthy and delicious.

A can of beans is easily transformed in under 20 minutes into a lovely black bean cake.  Your food processor is a huge time savor for pulsing the black beans with an egg and a little canola oil.  To the bean mixture, add Panko (I used a gluten-free Panko), green onions, parsley (I didn’t have any cilantro), cumin, a little salt, a little red pepper and lots of garlic.

The bean mixture is then shaped into patties and dredged through a little more Panko before being pan fried in canola oil.

While the black bean cakes were cooking, I cooked an egg over medium heat, covered, for about 4 minutes for the most perfect runny yolk.  If you’re not a fan of runny yolks, cook the egg a little longer.  (p.s. I finally learned that you don’t have to flip the egg to cook the whites – covering the pan is such a brilliant – yet “duh” worthy – idea.)

Along with the black bean cake + egg, a simple salad of arugula and parsley that is dressed with an incredibly easy mixture of olive oil, lime juice, mustard, salt and pepper.

And since dinner took no time at all, you have more time to hang outside and read a good book.

I am so happy to be back on the reading train.  I’m not sure when I fell off the train but I just started reading Jodi Picoult’s new book Leaving Time and it’s a good one.

What book are you currently reading?

Creamy Blueberry Chicken Salad

This Friday marks the official start of Spring.  And while we still may be in a bit of transition from winter to spring (my NC friends know what I’m talking about – 50 degrees one day, 80 the next) I am completely ready to transition my meals from winter to spring.  Bring on the light dinners and fresh produce from the garden (or farmers market).

Creamy Blueberry Chicken Salad is as delicious as it sounds.  Shredded rotisserie chicken (one of my favorite ingredients during the week) is tossed with crispy celery and crunchy red onion before being coated in a creamy dressing involved absolutely no mayo.  The dressing is a dreamy combination of Greek yogurt, lemon juice and a little bit of honey – a little tangy and a little sweet.

The finishing touch is the addition of basil which adds fresh, herbaceous notes to this Southern picnic staple and the blueberries – the true star of the salad – bursting with sweetness and color.

blueberry chicken

The chicken salad is served on a bed of spinach that is tossed with a little bit of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.

Light and bright and totally Spring-y.

{Virtual} Coffee Chat

If we were having coffee this morning…I would order the largest possible cup to help get me through the day.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you how much I loved having my parents in town and that I hate saying “goodbye” to them.  Thankfully we’ll be reunited Easter weekend – so I have that to look forward to.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that our living room make-over is going strong.  We’ve had the walls painted, new floors installed and the entryway wallpapered.  Big Guy’s favorite part thus far is the look of the new floors.  My favorite is the wallpaper – I’m obsessed.



If we were having coffee this morning…We’d talk about the other little items I’ve picked up to help transform the space.  The entry way is almost complete – it needs a new rug but I’m waiting on some other things to come together before I do that.  Our furniture should arrive in 2-3 weeks and that’s the hardest part of this process – waiting!

If we were having coffee this morning…I tell you all about taking my parents to SoCo for dinner.  They loved the quaint vibes of the restaurant and can’t wait to come back and visit again.

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d tell you that my favorite course of the night was the second course.  The ginger puree was insane.

Seared Mid-Rare Verlasso Salmon with sea-salt and herbs, fried capers and sweet ginger purée

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d talk about our Saturday with my parents.  We headed to Raleigh and looked for some house accessories and grabbed lunch at Cantina 18.  I’m fairly certain Cantina was my Dad’s favorite part of the weekend (well, other than seeing me).  Seriously the best sangria E.V.E.R.

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d tell you that we celebrated PI day with pizza pies.  The crusts turned out perfectly and we had a savory pizza and a pizza with a little more sweetness.  On the right is the Bacon Brussels Leek Pizza and on the left is the Pear Goat Cheese and Italian Sausage Pizza.  My favorite was the pear and goat cheese pizza.  So good!

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d share all my plans for the week – it’s a good one!

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d tell you to have a wonderful week and don’t forget to wear green tomorrow!

Friday Favorites

Good morning and Happy Friday!  It’s been quite an exciting week around our house with our living room makeover and now I have to be patient and wait for the new furniture to be delivered.  (We still have our old furniture – so it’s not too bad – I’m just ready to see the final result.)  Per usual, I’m very excited that the weekend is here.  My parents will be arriving into town this evening and I can’t wait to spend a weekend with them.  I know what tonight entails but I still can’t decide what we should have for dinner on Saturday.  I know – the things that keep me up at night.  I also hope we’ll be able to find a coffee table and some end tables we like.  Despite the rainy forecast for Saturday, Sunday looks gorgeous – and as long as there is no sn**, I’m a happy girl.

And here are my favorites from the week!

Favorite Crave:  Italian Meatloaf.  I have no idea why but meatloaf has sounded so good to me the past couple of weeks.  Comfort food at it’s finest.

Favorite Fresh:  Smoky Romaine and Avocado Salad.  I love the combo of the smooth and buttery avocado paired with a smoky vinaigrette.

Favorite Creamy:  Roasted Jalapeno Hummus.  This dip only makes me yearn for our garden even more and our homegrown jalapenos.  I need to bring hummus back into my lunch rotation.

Favorite Brights:  Yellow + Pink.   I’m adoring this fun combination of colors.  It screams “Spring”!

Favorite Throw-Back:  Homemade French Onion Dip.  There’s a picture of my brother that was taken about 22 years ago of him with an entire bag of Ruffles potato chips and Dean’s French Onion Dip.  Every time I see French Onion Dip I think of Taylor.  I think we could both devour this bowl of French Onion Dip.

Favorite Layers:  Mint Chocolate Chip Ice-Cream Cake.  Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream (the green stuff) was what I would order anytime we went to an ice cream shop growing up.  It was hands-down my favorite.  And with St. Patty’s day next week, this cake is totally appropriate and necessary.

Favorite Slice:  Bacon Brussels Leek Pizza.  Yes, yes, yes.  That is all.

Favorite Whoa:  Roasted Carrots with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce.  Quite possibly the most beautiful carrots I’ve ever seen.  Salty, sweet, tangy and tender.

Favorite Bling:  Long Gold Necklace.  I’m on the hunt for a similar style.  I love how it can be worn with so many outfits.

Favorite Cocktail:  Bruleed Grapefruit and Gin Fizz.   Sweet.  Tart.  Bubbly.

Let’s get this weekend started!