dippin’ it

We had our first dinner guest in quite a while the other night, so I perused my recent Pinterest meals for the perfect dinner for two laid back, hard-working fellas. What did I choose? A dinner of dips. I tried a new, super easy crockpot fiesta chicken dip recipe. I modified the recipe found here to make it a little healthier. I also added lime juice to give it more flavor complement the Coronas. 😉

IMG_1976[1]Crockpot Fiesta Chicken
2 frozen chicken breasts
1 can Rotel tomatoes w/ green chiles
1 can corn kernels, do not drain
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 T ground cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t onion powder
1 t white pepper
1 8-oz pkg. fat free cream cheese
lime juice to taste


Put the chicken in the crock pot, then top with the tomatoes, corn, black beans, ranch dressing mix, white pepper (I use this to add a subtle spice), cumin, onion and chili powders, stir to combine. Top with the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring periodically to blend the cheese as it melts. About 5 hours in, add lime juice to taste. Use tortilla chips (yellow corn) to dip and enjoy!

For dessert, I made one of my favorite hand-me-down recipes from my mom – fruit salsa.  My mom used to make “elephant ears” (quartered tortillas spread with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, then baked) to dip the salsa. I decided to experiment with homemade cinnamon pita chips. If you want to take the easy way out, I recommend Stacy’s cinnamon sugar pita chips. Be warned – it is easy to eat the entire bag and not even notice!

IMG_1978[1]Mama’s Fruit Salsa
1 jar strawberry or
blackberry preserves
5 kiwi, peeled and diced
3 bananas, peeled and diced
1 pint strawberries, capped and diced

Combine preserves and fruit. Refrigerate for 1 hour to release juices. Serve with cinnamon pita chips (recipe below).

Cinnamon Pita Chips
1 pkg. whole wheat pitas, cut in eighths (triangles)
Butter flavored cooking spray (I prefer Smart Balance)
2 T ground cinnamon
1 T light brown sugar

Once you’ve cut pitas, coat both sides with cooking spray. Combine cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle mixture over pitas. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until crispy. Enjoy your pita and salsa with a nice chilled glass of your favorite white wine!

Bon appetit! 😛

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things i’m loving

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via Target
Who doesn’t love a good cross body (especially for under 20 buckaroos!)? This bright cobalt is all the rage this season.

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via Essie
My joints are aching for some warm weather…and this polish in mint candy apple doesn’t help. Would be super cute with a golden accent (i.e. gold nail or two or even a design).

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via Pottery Barn
My bathroom is so happy with its new robe hooks and matching fixtures in oil rubbed bronze. Just my style – classic with a hint of antique.

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via Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution
These workouts have been kicking my butt! They’re only about 35 minutes each and make you hurt in all the right places :). Hopefully by summer I’ll have her abs…I can dream, right?!

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via Moi
French press coffee is the best – especially if you don’t have to leave your house! Mine is made by Bodum and I love it. It’s easy to use and easy to clean. It’s available at Target and  Bed Bath & Beyond. I also have a Keurig but it’s easier to adjust the strength with my press.

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via Moi (again)
I recently had dinner with my friend, Elizabeth, at Soul Gastrolounge in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte. I’ve heard great things about it for years, but never tried it. Believe me, its name doesn’t do it justice. We ended our tantalizing tapas dinner with a dark chocolate cupcake with salted caramel ganache and a whipped malt frosting. The photo isn’t very clear, but it didn’t last long enough to get another ;). This was one of the best cupcakes ever! It paired perfectly with a good ole cup ‘o joe.

choco-lot!

I have been on a crazy chocolate kick lately…not that I don’t partake in the usual fix, but I have been baking chocolate things a little more than normal. The past couple of weeks I have made a double dark chocolate cake (just because),

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milk chocolate cupcakes (for a friend’s birthday),

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and dark chocolate cupcakes with orange buttercream frosting (for dinner at a friend’s).

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Now, I haven’t gone on complete chocolate overload as I have tried to share/give away as much as I can. My mom is a lover of chocolate, too, so I of course had to share a little bit of all of the above with her.

For the chocolate cake and frosting, I used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate cake and frosting recipe straight from the box of cocoa. For the milk chocolate cupcakes, I used the original Hershey’s cocoa box for the cupcake and frosting recipe. I say, if the recipe is the BEST, why mess with it?! For the chocolate orange cupcakes, I did take a few liberties with the recipe. I used the Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate cake recipe, subbing one teaspoon of vanilla for a teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice. I also snuck in a little orange zest. For the frosting, I used 1 stick of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice, 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, and half of a jar of marmalade.

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I think these were kid tested and approved, wouldn’t you say? (Thanks to Beckham, 1, and Jack, 4, for letting me use them as my taste testers and posing so preciously for this photo. :))

Have you tried any new chocolate recipes lately? Feel free to share…

Buying, Eating and Living Local

This weekend was one of those “I couldn’t have planned it better” weekends.  I did a lot of catching up with friends.  My new job has kept me tres b-u-s-y so I haven’t had much time for the people I care about lately.  This weekend certainly made up for it.

Friday after work I met my old coworker and friend, Becca, at a local Belmont dive, JAX, for Happy Hour.  We try to do this once a week but sometimes we have to skip a week or two.  This week was exceptionally crazy for both of us so it was a much needed date.  Appetizers were half off so we split nachos and our favorite fried cajun shrimp.  We desperately wanted to snag these glasses, but the waitress was kind enough to let us have them:

The next morning, I got up bright and early to help set up a Voter Registration booth with another friend, Elizabeth, at the local farmer’s market in Mount Holly.  I love going to the farmer’s market and checking out local produce and talking to farmers about harvesting and what they enjoy most about cultivating delicious fruits and vegetables.  There were beautiful sunflowers, peaches, meats, cheeses and vegetables galore.  I skipped breakfast as I was running late as usual so my mouth began watering immediately.  I sought out the bakery booth and got a blueberry muffin and cinnamon orange bread.  Then I sampled a bacon cheddar cheese, fresh sausage, gala apples, pimento goat cheese….and suddenly my hunger subsided.  The coolest part of the market was the cooking demonstration by a local chef and caterer, Bocca Felice.  The master chef herself, Gina, was super spunky and fun to watch. She even posed for this pic while she was talking about produce:

All of the ingredients in her cooking demonstration were from various vendors at the market.  How cool is that?!  The only thing that wasn’t was the olive oil, but she got that from a local place called Olive 2 Live (where I get all of my infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars).  Her menu included basil pesto yellow fin tuna steaks, zucchini fritters with fresh corn kernels and tomato basil soup.  Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed her tuna!

Isn’t she cute? I think so. It was very hard to take this picture without stealing her tuna!  After we sampled all of the tasty dishes, we loaded up our reusable “shop locally” bags with goodies from a few of the booths.  One man had fresh veal and if it hadn’t been $40 I would’ve definitely come home with some!  Instead, here was my spread at the end of the day:

Goat milk lavender lotion, wildflower honey, heirloom tomatoes, okra, cinnamon orange bread, pimento goat cheese, goat cheese log and sausage.  I am so excited to indulge this week!

After the farmers market, I met my BF Jayni at a Selwyn Pub in Charlotte for a drink (she had just gotten off from a 12 hour shift in the ER) and froyo.  We double treated ourselves :).  My froyo was taro with coconut and brownie bites….DEEEELISH!

A few hours later, I met my old high school friends, Veronica and Andrew, along with their adorable baby, Beckham, for dinner at a new local place, The Round Bistro.  On the way, we had to drop their oldest, Jack, off at his grandparents.  But not before singing “Call Me Maybe” and dancing in the car.

Adorbs!  He is my little buddy.  I love spending time with them…Ronica, Drewby and I always have some great laughs about high school, parenthood (even though I can’t quite relate) and our food obsessions.  They totes (short for totally) get me.  I also kinda set them up in high school, so I consider them my most successful matchmaking experiment :D.  Anyway….I had a scrumptious portobello burger that I could only eat half of (maybe it was the late afternoon beer and froyo?).

After dinner (and some awkward sightings of peeps from our past lives), we came back to my place and enjoyed another beer while we made peach crisp from fresh local peaches Andrew got from another local farmer’s market.  Then it was Beckham’s bedtime so they had to scoot and I took full advantage of an early bedtime myself!

Sunday morning was a continuance of my weekend of catching up, eating and apparently drinking.  I met Elizabeth and Becca for brunch at 2 p.m., where we had a blast mixing our own Bloody Marys at their brunch bar.  I decided to go for a mix of the lobster, crab and Jamaican Me Crazy tomato juices, worcestershire sauce, tabasco and lime.  I also snagged a ton of okra – my fave – from their pickled veggies selection.

My drink went so well with my afternoon breakfast…

The bacon was thick AND crisp, which almost never happens, and the grits were creamy goodness.  Becca literally licked my bowl.  I’d say all in all I had a pretty tasty weekend!  I had a fabulous time trying new, local dives and shopping locally!

good eats

Pardon the MIA-ness lately….my best friend FINALLY got married so my life has been consumed by wedding festivities and decorating for the past few weeks. I’ll post pics as soon as I have a few hours to put together a post…First things first, though. I have eaten very well the past week. My week of good eats began Saturday night with dinner at Dandelion Market in Charlotte for my friend Becca’s birthday. It’s a fun tapas bar with food that is to die for, but the coolest part is the wall of Dutch wooden shoes. Here are a few pics of our meal:

The photos don’t even do it justice. We split proscuitto crostinis, stuffed zucchini and lamb lollipops with fresh cherries. A friend made the strawberry cake with rainbow chip icing, which everyone devoured (even without forks). I also enjoyed a fresh cucumber mojito. It was light and perfectly quenched my neverending summertime thirst…for the time being. 😉

Eating all of this inspired me to start cooking again. I have always enjoyed cooking and baking. It has made for a good procrastination device when there’s something I need to do but just can’t bring myself to. I prefer cooking most of my meals at home and try to eat out no more than twice a week. With all the chaos that has become my life, I have been eating out or grabbing something on the go a lot lately. After a while, I can notice a big difference in how I feel and the fit of my clothes. Snugness = yuckness. So, Sunday afternoon E and I grabbed our reusable grocery bags and headed to the grocery store. We loaded up on organic veggies and whole grains, filling all four of our bags to the brim. You gotta love that bag discount! I immediately got to chopping ALL of the produce when we got home…and it only took three hours. Seems a little excessive, I know, but I’ve found that if food is cut and ready to cook then I am more likely to cook everything before it goes bad. I hate wasting food so much that I will eat past any comfortable level of fullness instead of throwing a bite away. Although, sometimes a bite or two ends up in Susie Q’s bowl.

All of that turned into this:

I have been eating on this pasta salad all week. With all the different veggies and flavors I never get sick of it. In case you’re looking for the recipe, here ya go:

Healthy Summer Pasta Salad
(use organic when possible)
1 box tri color rotini
1 bottle lite Italian dressing (I prefer Newman’s Own Lite Olive Oil Vinaigrette)
1 cup black and green olives, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup red and green peppers, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients and toss in large bowl. Let stand in fridge overnight. Bon appetit!

Have you made any delicious (and/or healthy) means lately?

Rainy Day Scones

I had big plans to work outside in the yard all day on Sunday, but mother nature had other plans.  It rained and drizzled and rained some more…alllll day long.  So, instead of planting herbs and flowers and tearing down the deck rails, I decided to bake a little sumtin’ sumtin’ yummy. I checked the cabinets to see what ingredients I could combine to concoct something delicious.  Craisins…Oranges…Flour…Scones!

I laid out all of the ingredients for my favorite cranberry orange scones:
2 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cold buttercream (or 2 TBS buttercream powder mixed with 1/2 cup cold water)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
juice from 1 freshly squeezed orange

Here’s the recipe if you’re craving scones after you read this:
In a mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt using the paddle attachment.  Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add the butter to the dry ingredients and mix on low until the butter is mixed in and is the size of peas (If it mixes too much, that’ okay. It’ll just be harder to flatten and cut…and you’ll go through a lot more flour).  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs and buttermilk with a fork.  Turn the mixer on low and slowly add buttermilk and egg mixture.  Turn off the mixer and fold in cranberries.

Sprinkle some flour on the counter.  Turn the dough out onto the floured surface.  Add some flour onto the top of the dough, then pat it out into a disk – about 8-9 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.  Cut the disk into 8 pieces like a pie.

Separate the pieces and put them on a baking stone or parchment lined baking sheet.  I prefer a baking stone because it keeps the bottoms from burning before the scones are cooked through. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until tops are slightly golden.

To make the glaze, stir together orange juice, zest and powdered sugar.  Drizzle over scones.

Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee or be uber-British and have a cup of English Breakfast tea ;). As one of my favorite weekend breakfasts, I enjoy sitting out on my patio with a good book or magazine while I enjoy every last bite.  Then, perhaps, I may have another.

Happy Monday!

Baking with the Doors Open

Saturday was a beautiful day. Birds chirping. Sun shining. Breeze blowing. You get the picture. After a short day of work ugh I hurried to Bi-Lo and was in and out in ten minutes flat. I had a ton of baking to do before Easter! Since it was so nice out, I threw open my patio doors and poured myself a glass of Chardonnay Sur Lies from Biltmore…so light and crisp – perfect for sipping while baking.

Easter is my favorite holiday and this year, thanks to Pinterest, I had lots of ideas about what I wanted to make. My parents were hosting the festivities, so I was only responsible for bringing the desserts.  I had it narrowed down to 3 very delicious choices:
– Berry Cobbler via Everyday Occasions
– Cake Batter Truffles via Chef in Training
– Skinny Coconut Cupcakes via Skinny Taste
Instead of choosing just one to make, I decided on all 3.  Everyone likes options! I can easily follow a recipe but I also like to mix it up and sub certain things or add a little something here and there.  I laid out all my ingredients, preset the oven and pulled out all my baking dishes.

I started with the cobbler.  The recipe was for blackberry cobbler, but I had some strawberries and blueberries that needed to be eaten so I added them to the mix.  I also subbed organic sugar crystals instead of regular white sugar. I used my fleur-de-lis pie plate for the first time (yay!) and as silly as it sounds, I think that made the cobbler even more delicious.

The butter bubbled up on the sides to add a slight saltiness to the edges of the crust. Combined with the sugary fruit and remaining crust, it was just the right melange of salty sweet.

While the cobbler baked, I got to work on the cake batter truffles. My mom has gotten me addicted to the cake pops at Starbucks so I thought I’d surprise her with these on Easter. They’re like cake pops sans the stick. They were easy to make, but took a little longer than I expected. If the balls of cake batter dough got warm as I rolled them in the vanilla coating, they’d break in half. So, about every 10 minutes I had to refrigerate the cake balls and then reheat the vanilla coating. It was quite a tiring process after a while. I used some pretty Easter sprinkles I impulsively bought at Target a couple of years ago (sprinkles don’t expire, right?) so I was super excited.  Oh, and I was out of wax paper so I had to use saran wrap. I didn’t really notice a difference. They peeled off nicely when chilled.

And the next shot is nice, too….can you see me licking my lips as I sprinkle?  I may or may not have been sampling as I was making them 😉

While these cooled, I prepared the coconut cupcakes. I started with the frosting. I have never made coconut cream cheese frosting, but I must admit I will be trying this again soon. It was just the right texture on the cupcakes and it wasn’t too sweet. It’d also be easy to swap out the coconut extract (which made my house smell amazing all weekend) for orange or almond. I will more than likely be trying this soon. So back to the cupcakes. Here’s the icing prep:

Like how I laid out everything? That wasn’t staged at all…And don’t you just love my teacup stainless measuring cops and spoons? I love to look at them almost as much as I love to use them!  While the icing chilled, I mixed the ingredients for the cupcakes…

….and then poured the yummy batter into the cupcake wrapper lined muffin pans. And yes, I know it was delicious because I sampled some.

The recipe said to ice them right before they’re served so I let them cool overnight. I did, however, allow myself one before bed. I needed something to go with my wine, you know.

And here’s 2 of the final products at my parents’ house for the Easter festivities:

See the bunny peeps playing peek-a-boo?!

Here is a nice one of our eclectic multicultural holiday dishes:

And just for fun, here’s my sister showing me some sisterly love in good ole bunny ears fashion:

And finally, one of the little monkey (also known as my adorable nephew, Mason). I have no idea what he’s doing but isn’t he pinch-his-cheeks precious?!

Hope y’all had a Happy Easter!