Sunday, March 28, 2010

Taste of Chattanooga: Niko's Southside Grill

Perfect timing. On the way to Chattanooga on Thursday, my Mom called with news of her new Southern Living magazine. She said there was a right up of Chattanooga. Well, this might prove very helpful.
We chose to go to Niko's - which was featured in Southern Living.
We called and made reservations for Friday night at 5pm, but none was needed - it was really early on a Friday night so it was pretty quiet. I'm sure it was hopping by the end of the night.
Drew was our exceptional waiter - who even knew the greens that we had on our main course and recommended a great dessert. He was also friendly and very prompt.
The atmosphere was slightly trendy yet classic. Liked it. It was also quiet, but not pretentious.
To start: calamari: oh goodness yum and tender - we downed it all!
The bread came out then - light loaf with I think asiago on top which made it a bit salty - so I just took the top off. Even asiago bagels I don't like because of the saltiness of this particular cheese.
We order twin filets with brandy jus, greens (arugula and spinach) and roasted red potatoes. My steak was cooked perfectly medium and Aarica's was a little too done for her exceptional liking. But the greens made up for her medium well steak - they were outstanding. The brandy jus brought the sweetness out contrasted with the peppery bite of the arugula.
For dessert we shared the white chocolate torte with grilled pineapple - I loved the white chocolate torte, let Aarica have the pineapple after it also had a charcoal-y grill taste much like the steak.
Over all - price was decent - 44$ then tip. Atmosphere was good, food was good, and the service was exceptional.

Menu Week: March 29 - MOVE TO RALEIGH!

It is here. Its been coming since the middle of October. I am returning to North Carolina. Yes, to stay! I can't believe God has given me this amazing opportunity!
Monday: (still in Ville): Wild Eggs, North End (which I went to today, found out they are now open on Monday and am going back), and FABD at home (or temp apt)
Tuesday: Travel is dooley's bagel with pb, banana, pbj (note carbs and pb), sandwiches and apples for dinner once in Raleigh.
Wednesday: soaked oats for bfast with Dad, lunch somewhere, dinner is roasted salmon and veggies.
Thursday: Breakfast is baked grits casserole from Cooking Light - recipe of the week. Don't know about the rest of the day.
Friday: same bfast, lunch with Anne Basden, and dinner out somewhere with Dad before he heads back to FL.
Saturday: fruit before run, pbj and fruit salad with KC and Katelyn, and Rudino's with my roomie and her friends for dinner.
Sunday (EASTER): have no clue except that I will be making some eggs to dye and some spring sugar cookies for the first day of my new job! :)
Many new food adventures coming in Raleigh - and getting back on track - no more of this gaining weight!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taste of Chattanooga: Chattanooga Cupcake

I love the downtown area of Chattanooga: stores, restaurants, theatres, the Tennessee River, the aquarium. I first learned of it a few years ago by sightseeing with a friend, but now I just love to explore.
Today I went there for lunch and dessert. Dessert was a no-brainer when we saw the sign "Chattanooga Cupcakes". (The wonderful pictures will come Sunday because I can't get them to load.)
The folks in there were so kind to let us take pictures of the cute decor, the beautiful cased cupcakes, and to gladly sell us to wonderfully delicious cupcakes.
I chose the Italian Creme cupcake - the frosting was out of this world - I think I literally said "this is better than Publix frosting" - never before said that.
Aarica had the lemon raspberry cupcake - which had raspberry cream cheees filling with lemon frosting and raspberry drizzle on top. The cupcake was so moist and scrumptious with the filling.
If you are ever in downtown Chatt - by the Aquarium - you MUST stop in - save some room for a cupcake - which is usually a necessity of life!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lemon Bars (Gluten and Dairy Free) - SO YUMMY!

I love hanging out with other healthy foodies. I learn so much. My friends Jenny and Michelle and I hung out for lunch today. Michelle has a hard time with her diet - trying to figure out what her body will and won't "accept". She made these amazing bars! I loved how full of protein they were and how amazingly delicious they were, also.
My Papa would love them - never knowing they were healthy for him.
I will definitely be making these - so incredibly good to take on a picnic or somewhere during the summer because they are tangy and summer-y!

Chocolate Orange Pecan Brownies (2010.12)

Bon Appetit redeems itself with this week's recipe. And aren't I glad?!
There is a bakery/coffee shop/cafe in Montana that this recipe comes from (definitely would warrant a trip to Bozeman, MT), and these are delicious cake like on the top, fudgy in the middle, brownies with a hint of orange (I would like more).
These made 16 and the only thing I could say that I would like better is if they cut easier - they were kinda crumbly - but I did not wait till they were cool, so that may have been my problem.
Sorry - no pictures. It was this morning and I was in a hurry to get them done before work, and didn't have time to pick up the camera...

1/2 cup boiling water
6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans (I didn't toast mine)
2 eggs
10 T unsalted butter, melted, cooled
zest of one orange (I might do two next time)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine water and cocoa powder, set aside. Melt butter, set aside to cool.
Mix sugar through pecans, set aside.
Whisk eggs, add butter, orange zest, and vanilla. Add in chocolate mixture. Add in dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.
Pour into greased 9x9 pan, bake at 350 for about 27-30 minutes. I left mine in there for 28 and they were a little too done on the sides, but perfect in the middle.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Menu Week: March 22

This is it. This is my last full week in the Ville. And not even that because I'll be heading to Chattanooga for a conference on Thursday - back late Saturday night. Then only here for 2 days. Wow! This week is baking and eating out mostly. Here we go:
Monday: oatmeal, Cafe LouLou with Sarah, homemade margarhita pizzas and salad with Liz for a movie night. Baking a simple granola.
Tuesday: oatmeal, leftover pizza and salad for lunch on SBTS grounds with Michelle and Jenny - two foodies here on campus I've gotten to know. Dinner is with Josh and Shana and Truett - I'm bringing fruit and yogurt parfaits for dessert.
Wednesday: Calistoga Cafe with Becca for our last book breakfast. Rayann gave me a BOGO coupon so that will definitely help. Lunch is at Grape Leaf with Aarica before we go get the rental car. Dinner is whatever I need to use up in my fridge before leaving for Chatt.
Thursday - breakfast for the wknd is thins with pb and fruit. Lunch will probably be some sandwiches after we set up for the conference. Dinner: so many great restaurants. I'll definitely shoot back on those later.
Friday: same as Thursday.
Saturday: same for bfast and lunch, then hiking with Tasya. On the way back we'll eat some sandwiches.
Sunday: early morning breakfast with the Joneses, lunch will be whatever will fuel me for a run with Sarah, then dinner is late with Rach when she gets in town of Lotsa Pasta pasta with a roasted tomato and pepper sauce - blackberries with yogurt and agave for dessert. Yum!
Baking this week: chocolate chip cookies and chocolate orange brownies. Hopefully both turn out better than last week's FAIL.
I'm already looking forward to this week and looking forward to my first week of cooking in a new apt/old city next week!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wizenberg's Blueberry Oat Scones - (FAIL) 2010.11

I hate having failures. These weren't even worth their weight of flour I used!
I changed my mind from the lemon blueberry cheesecake bars to Molly Wizenberg's Blueberry Oat Scones in Bon Appetit..
These turned out more like blue pancakes. I used blackberries instead of blueberries but everything else I followed the recipe to a tea. They just had no flavor (and I used freshly picked then frozen blackberries, so it wasn't the fruit). Texture wasn't right for scones.
Oh, well. Everything can not be a success!
Next week is another chance for Bon Appetit to redeem themselves: chocolate orange brownies. We shall see.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Green Smoothie

This was so yummy! :) Maybe my fave green smoothie to date!
At Whole Foods on Sunday, I bought a little packet of this stuff. I had tried it in there one day, didn't want to pay a TON for it, so then I saw this little packet - that's my style. Added good nutrients to my already good for me smoothie.
Also in the smoothie was 1/4 cup of this yummy stuff! More nutrients and added good smooth texture! Got it at Whole Foods too!
Also normal stuff: 1 1/2 cup frozen strawberries (from Huber's last year), 1/2 red pear, 16 oz water, 1/2 banana, 1 1/2 big handfulls of spinach.

This was so good. I drank half and will drink the other half for breakfast this morning. I anticipate being full until my lunch at Cheesecake Factory!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spicy Maple Pecans

I come from a family of pecan growers. I love those little tasty nuts! :)
So does my Granny. She gave me plenty of them at Christmas time when I was down in FL for a visit. I heard that she liked spiced or sweet pecans. So, for her birthday in February I said I would make her some. Well, now it is about 3 weeks after that and I am just getting around to making/sending them. But, these are so good - so please get them out of your house quickly!

I found this recipe on Hannah's blog (I love her simple yet beautiful photography) and halved it:

1/2 lb pecan halves, unsalted
1 1/2 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T real maple syrup
1/2 T light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper

375. Pan with shallow sides, spray pam. Mix all together to evenly coat. Bake for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently. I only burnt 2 so that is good!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Menu Week: March 15

2 more weeks to go - wow, its coming fast, but its really dragging!! My fridge is getting more bare - but I'm working better at my freezer!
Here we go:
Monday - can't eat anything early for breakfast because I'm having my cholesterol and sugar checked. Asahi for lunch with Kathy. Dinner will be balsamic roasted onions and chicken (WW recipe)
Tuesday - oatmeal with fresh fruit (cleaning out freezer), turkey salad on a arthurs thin, dinner will be a salad and egg white probably
Wednesday - Going to do a dreen smoothie in honor of St. Patty's Day! Cheesecake Factory's chopped veggie salad with chicken (390 cal, 6 fat) - an SIMPLY AMAZING - dinner is salad and pizza with the Weldys.
Thursday - Probably very much like Tuesday
Friday - Lunch at Havana Rumba with my professors as a send-off for me. I love the place and my last dish I'll try there is their signature dish - the grouper - oh, can't wait.
Saturday - lunch with going to be FABD bbq sandwiches and then a wonderful going away massage by my good friend Sarah.
Sunday - I'm heading to E-town to hand with the Nelsons for church and lunch (probably Mexican)
It'll be good - I gotta get some running in!
Recipe of the week: Lemon Cheesecake Bars with Berries

Me? A Beautiful Blogger Award Winner!

Thanks to Sarah at River City Fitness - I am now a Beautiful Blogger. Sarah - thank you for the award and the friendship we've come to have!

Here is how it works:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award. – Thanks Sarah!
2. Paste the award on your blog.
3. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
4. Share seven interesting things about yourself.
5. Nominate up to 7 more beautiful bloggers.
6. Link the bloggers you nominate.

Here’s 7 “interesting” things about myself.

1. I started cooking for my family in the 3rd grade - including grocery shopping at Publix
2. One of my fave meals is baked mac and cheese
3. I started running in January 2009
4. I actually am loving the single life right now!
5. I'm about to move to a beautiful state!
6. I love to enjoy fresh picked produce - like Florida Strawberries!
7. I have lost 55 lbs since April 2008. I've kept it off since August 2009 and still want to lose more!

Here are the 7 Beautiful Blogger awards I'm giving out!
1. Beth @ Bethabee
2. Brandi @ Bites
3. Elise @ Simply Recipes
4. Kevin @ Closet Cooking
5. Laura @ In Definition
6. Kari @ Fam
7. Hannah @ Honey & Jam

Thank you all for your inspiration! :)

Lumberjack Hash - 2010.10

I had everything I needed for this in my fridge/freezer - which is good because I'm trying to clean it out (it is slowly working, I promise)
This was good, I changed it a little bit - but it still needed more salt I think (I didn't put in extra in b/c of the saltiness of the ham). This is a Cooking Light recipe (best of 2004) and is 6 WW points as directed (mine probably evened out)

2 T evoo
1 medium onion, chopped
1 orange pepper, seeded and chopped
24 oz shredded hash brown potatoes, frozen
pepper to taste (salt if you want more)
2 2 oz ham steaks, chopped
1 cup 2% sharp cheddar

Saute onion for about 4 minutes, add pepper. Add in rest (not cheese). Cook until slightly browned and potatoes are done.
Smooth out in large frying pan - top with cheese. Let cheese melt. Divide by 4 and plate up. Becca brought some Plant City strawberries and a banana. And I have 2 servings leftover for Sunday and Tuesday!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Taste of Nashville: Pfunky Griddle

What a neat place in a very popular and cool city.
A new friend took me here and I loved it. Walked in the door, the iCarly co-star was there (I didn't know it was her till I asked), they invited me to just help myself to the coffee.
This place was very interactive. You got to make your own food! Now, most people would not want to pay to make their own food, but I thoroughly loved it.
They had an organic 5 grain and a homestyle white pancake batter, we got mashed potatoes (for fried cakes), and I got some bacon. Vermon syrup was on the table and I got crunchy peanut butter as my topping.
Let's just say Amy and I ate our fair share of pancakes and potatoes (and bacon).
If you are ever in the Nashville/Brentwood area - off 65 at exit 81 - you must go. Fabulous prices, vegetarian options for lunch, and great staff!

Mexican Salad

My best friend from high school, most times when I visit her in TN, makes this wonderful salad that I LOVE! This time we didn't have it, but I did at least walk away with the recipe. Enjoy!

1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup salsa
cheese to your liking
tortilla chips to your liking
2 heads romaine lettuce
grilled chicken

Mix ranch dressing and salsa. Toss the corn, beans, cheese, and lettuce.
Grill chicken (or you can leave this out to have a vegetarian salad).
Add broken tortilla chips right before you serve it.
Toss salad with dressing and chips. Cut up grilled chicken on top of the salad. Serve with more tortilla chips, avocado, and more salsa (or ranch) if desired.


Double Chocolate Ghirardelli Cookies (2010.9)

These are a wonderful bite of chocolate-y goodness! :) I made them before my 5k on Saturday, baked some afterwards and baked the rest this morning for the office. YUM!
This recipe of the week was definitely a winner and I think you can find the recipe virtually in every cooking magazine at some point - just as an advertisement for the BEST chocolate!

1 bag dark chocolate chips - Ghirardelli 60%
6 T unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 bag semi sweet - ghirardelli
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Melt dark chocolate and butter - let cool a bit.
Mix eggs and sugar till thick and creamy. Add in chocolate. Mix well. Add in dry ingredients. Fold in chips and nuts.
Put in seran wrap in 2 separate piles and chill for at least an hour.
Cut, roll, and bake for 11 minutes at 375.

Best way to enjoy: warm with a tall glass of milk!

Menu Week: March 8

My kitchen is getting more bare along with my fridge and freezer. My shopping lists are getting shorter - and my grocery budget is doing well!
Here we go:
Turkey, turkey orzo soup, turkey salad with celery and craisins. Those are the bulk of the main dishes. Have to use up my turkey (yum)!
New dish this week: lumberjack hash for Friday's breakfast with Becca. Topped with an egg white - can't wait to try it! Its from a Cooking Light magazine.
Eats with people this week: lunch with my friends Bonnie and Laura tomorrow, dinner with a prof and his family, Wed is dinner with another prof and his family, Thursday is lunch at Founders with a co-worker, Saturday is brunch with some girls at Toast on Market downtown Ville, and coffee at Java with a friend. Sunday is shopping with my friend Sarah at Amazing Grace and Whole Foods. Fun times!
So - gotta eat less this week. This past wknd was rough on the waistline and the scale! But, oh so yummy!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Foodie Night with Brandi

I love my foodie friends!
Brandi and I worked together at SBTS before she went and had a baby. Last night was our last time to get together and hang out before I move on as well. Such is the life of seminary workers!

We had so much fun and I personally ate too much!
I made a huge salad: green leaf lettuce, roma tomato, cuk, feta cheese, pecans, dried cherries. YUM
Brandi made chuck bbq with Sweet Baby Rays sauce that she had slow cooked and then shredded. We ate it the only way you can: on a yellow bread roll that was garlic-ized in the oven on broil.
We also had baked doritos and baked ruffles.
For dessert: an eggo waffle topped with fruit, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

End the night with a Diet Doctor Pepper and my fave dude on TV solving a food-related murder - could it get any better?
I'll definitely miss Brandi - and am thankful for social media and email!

Food Mantras

Bad food nights make me think so much about what needs to change in my life (usually on the morning after). Yesterday was just a bad eat day - I just ate all day. Especially with a yummy dinner with my friend, Brandi. Man, that girl can make some pulled bbq (and we had a salad).
So, I woke up this morning and thought more about this this morning (it wasn't all thought of this morning, but I had just put some final touches on it). And with changes in my life coming the end of this month (moving, sharing a fridge and freezer, having a Trader Joes and state farmers market close by where I live)...I have greater opp to put these into action.
What are your thoughts on these?

1. EAT LESS. Yes, we all know that, but let me explain. I mean, use little dishes, use little tupperware for meals and snacks to bring to work, be more mindful of portion control, eating less so I will start to be satisfied with less.
2. EAT BETTER. I have now almost completely cut out all processed foods from my diet. But, potato chips (even good for me ones) still make it into the grocery cart, some frozen dinners make it in there as well. I want to make all my salad dressings (which I do), granola bars, meals, snacks, etc. Maybe I'll start buying mostly organic, but I don't know that yet - especially the few times I eat meat, organic meat is so expensive! I don't think I want to go to a CO-OP of CSA because of the NC State Farmers Market that will be so close to me in a month. I am also excited about learning more about canning so I can do something with all these fresh fruits and vegetables.
3. SHOP MORE. This one may not necessarily go with the other two. I've always dreamed of living in a place like NYC or San Fran where I could walk down to the market and pick out what I wanted that day to eat and cook. I do love planning - but something about that is appealing to me. This will have to work because of sharing a fridge now. I need to have less stocked up and buy fresher ingredients. So, I want to go wknd farmers market shopping and then go suppliment that by TJ or HT or Super Walmart for the random things I need.
4. SPEND LESS. Am I really thinking this through? How can all these work? I have figured out that if I do the above three things, than I will actually accomplish this last one. I will waste less food, buy less because I'll be eating less, and be more picky about what I buy.

What are your food mantras or what do you think about these?

Roast Turkey with Rigatoni

New babies! I love them. And with all the siblings - this recipe was a hit with the kiddos (one even went back for seconds). I served this with roasted broccoli and red peppers and peanut butter cookies.
I found a recipe similar to this on Simply Recipes, and just changed it up to my liking!

1 lb rigatoni (I like these shapes when serving to kids because they can eat them easier - trick I learned from Mrs Italian cook herself, Lauren)

12 oz sliced mushrooms
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup white wine (I used Quail Creek, a CA wine that the Whole Foods guy recommended)
2 cups homemade turkey stock (made from simmering the turkey bones from my roast turkey recipe a few recipes down)
3 cups chopped roast turkey - from Ina Garten recipe I made
1 1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup parm cheese
1/2 cup mozz cheese, grated
juice of one lemon
s/p/pinch of nutmeg (nutmeg goes great with cream sauces)
1/3 cup parm cheese
1/2 cup mozz cheese

Cook mushrooms (I did in evoo and Quail Creek), for about 10 minutes.
In separate small saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour, then milk and half and half on low (so it doesn't scorch or boil over), then the cheese, finally spices and lemon juice.
Cook rigatoni till al dente and drain.
Mix all together. Top with remaining cheese.
Pour into 9x13 pan, lightly sprayed with pam. Bake uncovered at 375 for about 35 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Easy Shepherds Pie

This month is cleaning out the pantry time! I had a can of Dinty Moore beef stew - which I do love by the way. So, on the back of the can is a great recipe for shepherds pie. I made it for a friend and her husband this past Wednesday since their nights are really busy with work and church (and traffic).
I kinda followed the recipe, but really not.

1 can dinty moore beef stew
1 cup sliced mushrooms, chopped
3/4 cup frozen peas
7 red skin potatoes
1/3 cup half and half
2 T unsalted butter
2 T parm cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese

Boil potatoes, mash, and mix with half and half, butter, cheese, and seasonings.
Dump beef stew in bottom of 8x8 pan. Break up bigger chunks of beef. Stir in mushrooms and peas. Spread potatoes on top. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Top with cheese and bake another 5 minutes. Serve.
Aarica and J both said this was wonderful - "best shepherds pie ever"!