Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New House Updates & Recipes


One month! That's how long we've been in our house now and I can't believe it's already been that long! We're pretty much settled in and everything is unpacked. Actually, everything was unpacked, put away, and all moving boxes were taken to the recycling center the weekend we moved in. That's the perfectionist in me.


Officially home owners!! 

Now we're enjoying our new home and slowly adding more furniture, ya know, for the four extra bedrooms we currently have. But really, the dining room is next. I have the table picked out, but chairs have been leaving me stumped. Plus, have you priced nice dining room chairs lately? They're insane!  


Living room has been a slow process, but I'm so happy with how it's turning out.

The happiest door in the world!! I seriously can't get enough of it. (Also a month old are my olive trees....and I can't believe I haven't killed them yet!)

Our Phoenix has done such a good job adjusting to the house. In case you don't know his history, he was an avid chewer. Blankets and pillows were his favorite with the occasional shoe on the side. We rescued him as a tiny little kitten so it could be a result of being weened from his momma too soon. Maybe he was just pissed at us each time he chewed something. Whatever the reason, there was a little apprehension in letting him have free reign over the house. But I'm happy to report that he's done great! The only incident was him pulling a towel off of the towel rack in the bathroom and dragging it into the living room while we were at work...but he didn't chew it! And if you can't tell, he thinks he's king of the house...especially the chaise in the living room. 

Favorite spot.

We all had a pretty traumatizing first night in the house when the smoke alarms starting going off at 3am (after a full day of moving) and continued to go off every 30 minutes until the electrician could get there later that morning. Not only is there an alarm that sounds, but a voice that yells, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" Nothing like thinking your brand new house is burning down in the middle of your first night there! Phoenix was especially traumatized and didn't come out of his teepee until later that afternoon.  

And then he discovered the sprinklers running outside and all was well.

We've also had our first overnight guests! Remember the four extra bedrooms I mentioned? Well, Brooks has already claimed one for his jump bed (bunk bed) and one as a play room for when they come over. For now they slept in our bedroom with us, one on a blowup mattress and the other on sofa cushions, which he thought was the coolest thing ever and kept asking where his "new bed" was the next morning when I had to put them back on the sofas. I have so many memories of spending the night with my aunts and uncles growing up and am so thankful for the memories I now get to make with these two. 

Breakfast time and silly faces.

They've also come over for an afternoon of swimming at the neighborhood pool!



Synchronized jumping! 

I love these faces.


And that brings us to now. I can't believe July is almost over. I have got to get cooking if I want to cook everything on my summer cooking bucket list by the end of summer! Not only have we been busy, but I got pretty sick two weekends ago. I was fine and then a 102.5 fever hit my like a ton of bricks and I was down for the count for over three days. I actually ended up in immediate care when I couldn't get my fevers under control and after four hours there and many, many tests, it was determined by the infectious disease doctor that I'd been bitten by a tick! It might be the sickest I've ever been and as a result, I will now be bathing in bug spray before leaving the house. Aside from yucky side affects of the antibiotic I've been taking and the crazy bruises on my arms from the endless blood work, I'm finally starting to feel normal. I have to go back next week for more blood work to make sure all my numbers are back up to where they're supposed to be.

Luckily this post includes several things I've cooked from the list over the past few weeks and just didn't have time to share!

First was the Shish Tawook Grilled Chicken. My mom has made this a few times and we both really liked it so I thought I'd give it a shot! I threw the chicken in the fridge to marinate in the morning, we went to the pool and came back and they were ready to be assembled and grilled. I can't recommend them enough!


Grilling skills courtesy of the hubs

This past Friday night I made these Sriracha Lime Chicken Chopped Salads and I must admit that they weren't as good as I imagined they would be. That's not to say they were bad, I just expected more. I feel like they were missing something and I can't quite put my finger on it. I would definitely give them another shot, but I'm going to put some thought into what could make them better. They made for a beautiful summer dinner though!


I mean, how gorgeous is this?!

The Best Damn French Dip On Earth is something we've actually had twice now! They're that good. I can't say if they're really the best on Earth, it would take a long time to test that theory, but they're seriously good and seriously easy. The key to these sandwiches is FRESH bread from the bakery. The recipe actually says to use fresh roast beef from the deli, but I can't bring myself to spend $12/lb for a couple of sandwiches. I just can't. Maybe if we were having guests, but for a quick Saturday lunch for just the two of us, the prepackaged stuff will work just fine. And surprisingly these sandwiches reheat pretty well. Just make sure you also save a little bowl of the au jus! 





Bonus! I know you don't need a recipe for Rice Krispie Treats (it's on the box!), but I'd been craving them for weeks so I finally broke down and bought all the ingredients to make them. And since it was 4th of July weekend, I couldn't help but make them patriotic.



Our summer has been great so far. We haven't spent as much time at the lake as we'd like to, but hopefully now that things have settled down, we'll find a few weekends to spend on the water. And hopefully I can catch up on my cooking!

xoxo








Monday, June 20, 2016

Skinny Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

It's my first summer cooking bucket list recipe and I actually cheated and made it a little over a week ago and have been enjoying it almost daily ever since! In fact, I just ate one as a morning snack and it was just as delicious as the first day. 


These definitely don't look healthy, but I promise you they are! 

Every year my mom says she isn't planting a garden. And every year, without fail, there's a garden. And there's nothing better than being able to walk out the door and pick fresh veggies. Tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, beans, broccoli, cabbage, squash and zucchini are the usual residents in my parent's garden and once everything starts to produce, there seems to be an overabundance! I love zucchini, but you can only eat so much before it gets boring. That's what makes this recipe so great. It gives me another way to use up some of the zucchini before it goes bad! It's also gives me something quick and healthy to grab for breakfast as I'm running out the door.  

Skinny Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
From Ambitious Kitchen 
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 small to medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mini or regular chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin (or two) with cupcake    liners and generously spray inside of liners with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Squeeze shredded zucchini of excess water with a paper towel.
  3. In medium bowl combine dry ingredients; set aside.
  4. In bowl of an electric mixer, add mashed bananas, oil, honey, vanilla and eggs; mix until smooth. Add in zucchini, applesauce, and yogurt and beat again until well combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to over-mix the batter. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Evenly divide batter into muffin cups (I got 15 muffins out of my batter).
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

This best part about these muffins is that they only have 150 calories, 3 grams of fiber and over 4 grams of protein! I can eat one first thing in the morning if I'm feeling super hungry or later in the morning for a snack and not feel guilty about it! 


But how am I still enjoying these over a week later? The freezer is your best friend! These make a pretty large batch, so unless you're planning on feeding a whole family, you'll have a ton of these leftover. Once the muffins have completely cooled, place them on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 2 hours. Then place the muffins in a freezer bag, making sure you let out as much air as possible, place the bag back in the freezer and wah-lah! Grab a muffin out of the freezer for breakfast, pop it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and you're good to go!   


These are definitely something I will be making again and again! If you have any great zucchini recipes, I'd love to hear them! 


Summer 2016 Cooking Bucket List

Happy 1st day of summer, y'all! 

This is a very exciting week for us as we're getting ready to close on our house Friday and I can't think of a better way to kick off summer!! We've been so anxious the last few weeks as they've been putting the finishing touches on everything. Since we've been with my parents since January, the only thing we have to pack up is our clothes. Everything else has been in boxes and storage so there will be a lot of twiddling our thumbs this week. Of course, with it being the first week of summer in Georgia, it will be a scorching hot weekend to be moving. I guess we'll just be putting that brand new air conditioning unit to the ultimate test, huh? Anyway, to kill some time this week, I have a fun post that I'm so excited about.

I was recently browsing the web when I came across this summer dessert bucket list and thought it was such a fun idea!! And just like that, I decided to make my own. But, as much as I would love to, my pants would hate me if I devoted my summer to sweet treats so I've decided to make an all around cooking bucket list! Summer has so much to offer when it comes to food, the produce is the best and you your husband can grill as much as your heart stomach desires, and I can't wait to test all of these delicious recipes. I mean, what better way to break in my shiny new kitchen?!

So here it is, my Summer 2016 Cooking Bucket List!

Breakfast

1.  Tupelo Honey Ginormous Biscuits

2.  Baked Doughnut Muffins with Blueberry Jam

3.  Skinny Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

4.  Egg-Mushroom Kielbasa Breakfast Bake

5.  Biscuits and Gravy Casserole (someone might have to come over and help us eat this one!)

Dinners

1.  Grandma Virginia's Oven-Fried Chicken and Creamy Cauliflower Mash with Kale

2.  Seafood Spaghetti Baked in Paper (Spaghetti al Cartoccio) and  Mushroom Arancini 

3.  Brown Butter Scallops with Parmesan Risotto and Balsamic Garlic Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms

4.  Sriracha Almond Crusted Pork Chops with Spicy Honey Mustard Sauce

5.  The Best Damn French Dip on Earth and Salt and Vinegar Sweet Potato Chips

6.  Caramelized Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and Grilled Mexican Street Corn

7.  BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin Over Pimento Cheese Grits

8.  Shish Tawook Grilled Chicken and Slow Cooker Greek Potatoes

9.  Homemade Brat Burgers with Beer-Braised Caramelized Onions and Baked Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges

10.  Sriracha Lime Chicken Chopped Salads

11.  Honey Glazed Baby Back Ribs with Whiskey Marinade and Easy Corn Fritters

12.  Lobster Cobb Salad

Desserts

1.  Crockpot S'mores Brownies

2.  Funfetti Cheesecake 

3.  Crack Pie

4.  Blueberry Peach Pie

5.  Old-Fashioned Strawberry Pie

6.  Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Marshmallow Creme Filling 

7.  Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread

8.  Mini Choco Tacos

9.  Watermelon Granita

10.  Key Lime Pie No-Churn Ice Cream

Drinks/Dranks


1.  Coconut Margarita

2.  Blue Hawaiian

3.  Sparkling Spiked Peach Lemonade

4. Beyonce's Lemonade

5.  Fresh Mint Iced Coffee

I could've gone on and on with things I'm dying to cook! In fact, the more I browsed Pinterest and read articles about summer cooking, the more this list grew. Most of the meals are too involved for a weeknight since I don't get home until 6:15 every night so they'll all have to be weekend treats while I leave the weekly cooking to my husband. Don't worry, I lucked out in that department since he loves to cook, too!

I'm so excited about this list and can't wait to share each recipe with you. I especially can't wait to do all of this cooking in the new house. If you have any summer favorites that I should add to my list, leave a comment below! And if you're hungry, just invite yourself over because by the looks of this list, we'll have plenty to eat!! 

xoxo





Friday, June 17, 2016

Dreams Really Do Come True

When I was a little girl, I would tell anyone who would listen that, when I grew up, I was going to live in a yellow house and drive a yellow car. Well, fast forward to 30-year-old me and I'm still not driving that yellow car. And while I may not be living in a yellow house, I think what my husband and I have built together is even better than little me could've ever dreamed.

It took a little convincing, but I was able to hold onto a small portion of that childhood dream...


Because dreams really DO come true and you can have a yellow door if you want to!!

Happy Friday!

xoxo



Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Real House


March 30, 2016 - Windows & Doors!


So much progress has been made on our house since I last posted about it! It even looks like a real house now! They're even giving us a finish date of June...a month earlier than the original date we were given. That's both exciting and terrifying! I can't wait to get moved in, but then I have this whole house to keep in order, haha! We're excited to be able to move in and able to actually enjoy the summer (grilling out, pool time) here! And actually, a grill will probably be the first thing we purchase for the house.  


March 18, 2016 - Second Floor Going Up


March 21, 2016


March 25, 2016 - Roofers are there working on the shingles! (Side note: I love that tree they were able to keep on the side of the house!) 


March 27, 2016 - The roof is complete!

A few weeks ago we did our electrical walk through with the builder and decided where we wanted all of the electrical outlets and switches. We also decided to hard wire the house for internet so that all of that stuff will be hidden and out of sight! Our TV will be above our fireplace so we also had them wire that so that none of the cable boxes or ugly wires will have to go on the mantle! Everything will be able to be tucked away on a side table and we'll still be able to control the TV with the remote. I won't claim to actually know how all of that works, I just know our mantle won't be cluttered and that's all that matters!


March 30, 2016 - Standing in what will be the kitchen, looking into the living room.


April 3, 2016 - I've never been a bath girl, but with this giant tub and window in our master, I just might become one! 

My dad came along with us when we did our walk through and while we were in one of the upstairs bedrooms he asked about this area of what looked like wasted space. So after talking to the builder (and getting an estimate on what it would cost), we decided to have them come back and frame it out to create this little nook. I'm so glad we did! I mean, look at that space that would've just been lost behind a wall! I love this little nook and have big plans for it. I also wish every room had a little nook like this now, haha! 


April 6, 2016

We also went over a few of the details with the builders and decided we weren't very excited about the original granite we had selected. When you're putting so much money into a house, you need to LOVE everything you're putting into it. I keep saying, "We just need to do it right the first time!" So we made a trip to see the granite people they use and saw a slab of what we had picked out and we HATED it. It was so dark and wouldn't have gone with our kitchen at all. We're still waiting to hear exactly how much more it will be, but as of now, there will be marble in our kitchen! We've had many discussions about how careful we'll have to be with it (no more mixing RED fruit punch Crystal Light on the counters!!), but I think it will be worth it to achieve the look we're wanting. 

And just when we thought our decision making was coming to an end, we decided to go furniture shopping. If you've ever shopped for a sofa, you probably know what I'm talking about. There is just so much to consider. Also, sofas are EXPENSIVE!! I think for now we're going to put that off...if all else fails, we'll set the man cave bonus room up and just hang out in there until we have living room furniture. 

The last time we went over to the house, the wiring and insulation appeared to be done and the fireplace insert had been installed. They'd also cleaned up (it's crazy how messy builders are!) and we're assuming they were waiting on inspections to continue onto the next step...which I think will be the drywall and the siding! 

I know I sound like a broken record, but we absolutely cannot wait to be in OUR house! I can't wait to cook the first meal in our kitchen (well, probably on our grill), for Saturday morning coffee, and, more than anything, to have a place to invite our family and friends to. It has been such a rewarding experience and we can't wait to share it with the people we love the most. 

xoxo






Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lemon Birthday Cake Crumb Bars


I made these last year for Easter and am just realizing I never shared the recipe! Shame on me. But since Zach requested these for Easter dessert again this year, I figured they were worth a post!

You should know the drill by now; anything with lemon is my absolute favorite. And I've never met a lemon bar I didn't love so when I came across this recipe that adds Momofuku's Birthday Cake Crumb to a traditional lemon bar, I knew, without a doubt, these had to be made. I also quickly discovered I'd have to add the crumb to the bars quickly...else it would all be devoured by a certain husband of mine and we'd be left with just an ordinary lemon bar. This year I doubled the crumb recipe just to be safe. I also made the bars while he was at work which probably negated the need for a double batch. But, I bagged up the extra, threw it in my purse, and surprised him with it as we loaded up and headed to the lake for the night.

These bars are the perfect amount of tart, sweet, and salty. If you don't like as much tart, you can absolutely leave out some of the lemon juice or zest. But I say the more tart the better!



Lemon Birthday Cake Crumb Bars

(recipe from The Blonde Buckeye)
Ingredients
  • BIRTHDAY CAKE CRUMB:
  • ½ cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1½ Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • ¾ cup Cake Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Rainbow Sprinkles
  • ¼ cup Canola Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Clear Vanilla Extract

  • CRUST:
  • 1¾ cups All-purpose Flour
  • ⅔ cup Powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 12 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cut in ½" cubes

  • LEMON FILLING:
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1⅓ cups Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest (about 1 lemon)
  • ⅔ cup Lemon Juice (about 4 lemons)
  • ⅓ cup Whole Milk
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Also spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with nonstick spray and set both dishes aside.
  2. CRUMBLE:
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles on low speed for a few minutes until throughly mixed.
  4. Add the oil and the vanilla , continue beating on low speed for a few minutes to form small clusters.
  5. Spread crumble out onto the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, breaking the crumble up about every 5 minutes. Allow them to cool to room temperature as you make the bars.
  6. CRUST:
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  8. In medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt, then set it aside. Add the butter cubes and cut into flour mixture using a pastry cutter. Try to keep the butter from melting by not over working it. Once you have pea-sized crumbs, it's ready to go.
  9. Transfer the mixture into the prepared 9"x13" dish, pressing into the bottom of the dish to form the crust.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes. *Prepare lemon filling while crust is baking so that you can add it as soon as you remove the crust from the oven. The lemon filling needs to be added to a hot crust.
  11. LEMON FILLING:
  12. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, milk and pinch of salt. Mix until all combined.
  13. Once crust is done baking, immediately add lemon filling and place it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  14. As soon as you remove dish from the oven once more, sprinkle the Birthday Cake Crumbles evenly over the top. Press the crumble down slightly into the lemon filling to secure them.
  15. Transfer entire dish to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Once room temperature, you can store them in the refrigerator if you prefer to eat them cold.

If you're like me and are a lover of lemon bars, make these! And if you still have any birthday crumb leftover, sprinkle some on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Just trust me and do it! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Glowing Skin Smoothie

I cheated this week and made my smoothies for next week early. With Easter being today, I knew I'd be too busy to get it done (and I was right) so I went ahead and made them Friday since I was off of work! I know this smoothie doesn't look any different than last week's, but trust me, it is! I traded out the coconut almond milk for coconut water, added avocado and strawberries, and cut out the peanut butter and pineapple, but it still has that great tropical taste thanks to the coconut water and mango. And, with the addition of strawberries, I just might like this one even more!



I adapted this recipe from Sally over at Sally's Baking Addiction and she does a great job breaking down what each of these ingredients does for your skin. Coconut water and avocados are hydrating, the carotenoids in mango helps your skin glow, and the nutrients in the kale or spinach help remove toxins from our bodies. I decided to add strawberries to this smoothie to change it up even more from last week's. Strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties and are also rich in vitamin C. Literally everything in this smoothie is great for you. So why aren't you in your kitchen making it yet?!

Glowing Skin Smoothie
(Makes 2 Servings)

Ingredients

1/2 cup plain coconut water
2 frozen, ripe bananas
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen mango
2 cups spinach or kale
1/2 of an avocado
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Directions

Throw everything into your blender and blend until smooth! Drink and enjoy or do like I did and a make servings for the week and freeze. Again, moving from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before you plan on drinking it.

*The recipe says frozen fruits, but since I'm freezing my smoothies anyway, I mainly use fresh (except for the mango b/c I buy it in bulk). If I was planning on drinking this immediately after making it, I'd definitely suggest using frozen fruit. Also, I add chia seeds to just about any smoothie. They're such an easy addition with a huge impact.

I hope everyone had a great Easter with their family and friends! 

xoxo