Tuesday, February 28, 2012

chef #47: slow cooker chipotle-black bean dip

i accidently signed myself up to receive emails from betty crocker and spent a good hour the other day browsing recipes on their website. some are only available to members (it's free to sign up), but many are easily accessible to the general public. i found this recipe for a slow cooker dip and tried it out on sunday night:

1 can refried beans
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (11 oz) mexicorn (corn + red & green peppers), drained
1 c thick salsa
4 T diced green peppers + sauce (found a 7 oz can in the hispanic food section of the grocery store)
1.5 c mexican blend shredded cheese
4 medium green onions, chopped
tortilla chips

mix beans, corn, salsa, peppers, and 1 c cheese together in a crock pot. heat on low for 4 hours, stirring after 2. just before serving, stir in green onions and remaining cheese. top with additional cheese & onions, if desired. serve with tortilla chips!

i found this recipe to be a bit bland. i couldn't find the peppers that the original recipe called for, so perhaps they would have added some flavor. when i make it again i plan to add some chili powder and cumin or taco seasoning.

Monday, February 27, 2012

weekend excursions

as promised, my weekend included karaoke, frozen yogurt, friends, family, and more cleaning! i also managed to do my taxes (ok, ok, my dad did it for me) and i submitted my final fafsa form for financial aid. this is the tenth year i've submitted a fafsa. it will be nice to be done with that for good! :)

on friday night i drove over to dianna's for a karaoke night. we used to have friends over for karaoke all the time when we were roommates in undergrad so i was very excited to sing and was looking forward to it all week.

{friday night: ready to sing!}

{friday night: lots of good snacks}

{friday night: i was terrible at all of the country songs}

on saturday i started making progress towards cleaning out my bedroom at my parents' house. i'm going to spend a few days there over spring break next week and hope to finish up then. 

{saturday afternoon: yoforia date with martha}

i spent most of the day sunday being lazy on the couch watching teen mom 2 (major guilty pleasure). i like having time to myself on sunday afternoons to wind down from the weekend and prepare for the week ahead.

{sunday night: veggie tacos for dinner}

now it's time to push through the rest of the week before i enjoy a week away from uncg on spring break. (it was spring break last year when i came to uncg to interview for my masters program!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

weekend excursions

it's the weekend again and i'm still playing catch up from last weekend! i love how quickly the weeks are flying by this semester. last weekend i was home in davie county.

{friday evening: dinner at texas roadhouse with martha. we ate lots of peanuts and so many rolls!}

i spent the majority of my day on saturday cleaning my bathroom at my parents' house. no photos necessary. i'm trying to tackle one space at a time so that my things are cleared out and organized. once i'm married i won't be spending many nights at their house!

{sunday afternoon: meridith's wedding shower}

{sunday afternoon: received my octopus necklace from swallow's heart!!}

{sunday night: finally! snow in greensboro! i had to make snow cream}

i'm looking forward to this weekend. it will involve karaoke, frozen yogurt, friends, family, and more cleaning!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

final post on valentine's day

i already posted a couple of times about valentine's day this year, but i didn't share what brandon and i actually did to celebrate on the day! i was very sick at the time, so we didn't do anything elaborate. i had signed us up for free chick-fil-a breakfast entrees, so that was our first stop:

{heart shaped biscuits!}

our next stop was for more freebies at sheetz! if you don't have a sheetz card you're missing out on monthly deals and 3 cents off every gallon of gas.

{pretzel for me, mint for brandon}

i haven't blogged much about my addiction to groupon and livingsocial, but i think these are amazing sites to find fun things to do. brandon and i both subscribe to their emails (and he gets dealchicken, too). the idea is that you get heavy discounts on restaurants, services, attractions, and vacations. i recently purchased a livingsocial deal to the secret tea room here in greensboro. for $13, we received a queen's tea for two (valued at $32). this was our afternoon valentine's day date:

{nestled on a quaint street not far from my apartment}

{fresh flowers + doilies on each table}

{our teapot was quite cozy!}

{i loved their china}

{3 tiered feast}

we loved the secret tea room and can't wait to go back! i highly recommend it if you want something unique to do in greensboro. unfortunately i had class on valentine's day from 5-8:20. on nights when i have class i usually eat a pack of crackers or pretzels and a little debbie snack cake for dinner. i was not expecting this when i came back to the apartment at almost 9 pm:

{porkchops, corn, spinach salad, and carrot cake!}

my favorite part about my dinner surprise was this conversation:

B "what's your favorite kind of champagne?"
H "um... something that's not champagne?" (i HATE champagne)
B "it's sparkling cider!"

he knows me so well! i love sparkling cider! i'd drink it every day if it wasn't so expensive. we had a wonderful valentine's day even though i was a little under the weather. how did you celebrate?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

goin' to the chapel?

for those of you who question our decision to have an intimate family-only wedding, take a gander at this:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

we can burn brighter than the sun

do you remember your life this time last year? what about the year before? what about 6 or 7 years before? for the first time in my life i feel old. i know that 23 is not really old, but lately i've been called to reminisce on my high school years and truth be told: i really miss it sometimes.

my life in high school was wonderful: i made friends who are still my best friends today. i lived in a dorm at the age of 14. i traveled to europe 3 times. i loved scooping ice cream at maggie moo's. i loved scanning groceries at lowes foods. i went to prom. my family was happy. we moved to davie county. key club was a lot of fun. i did silly teenage girl things. i blogged about silly teenage girl things. i drove my mom's mini van. i was surprised with a brand new car. i sang in glee club. i sang in royal albert hall with glee club. i met my birthmother. my youth group at church was the best. i loved rascal flatts. my school was awesome. i got my first cell phone. i had sleepovers with my friends almost every weekend. i was the editor of my yearbook. i thought vera bradley purses were the coolest accessory ever.

{with jennifer, setting up for junior prom, 2005}

i love my life now, but sometimes i think if i had the chance to go back and do those years again i might. am i the only person who feels this way?

lately i can't get this song out of my head. it makes me want to stay young forever. it also makes me want to drive really fast and sing it at the top of my lungs (which i did for 30 straight minutes today).

{original version of this song by fun. ft/ janelle mon√°e is great, too!}

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

chef #46: spinach, cheese, & walnut salad

the main course for the valentine's dinner that i cooked over the weekend was seared sea scallops. to compliment the scallops, i served this easy salad:

4 oz cream cheese
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
1/4 lb torn stemmed spinach
cucumber slices
1/2 granny smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced
1/8 c lemon juice
1/8 c safflower oil
salt & pepper to taste

roll cheese into balls, about the size of a teaspoon. roll balls in chopped walnuts. refrigerate until ready to serve. combine spinach and cucumber in a bowl. toss apples and lemon juice in small bowl. add apples to spinach & cucumber, reserving lemon juice. blend oil, salt, and pepper into lemon juice. pour over spinach mixture and toss to coat. just before serving, add cheese balls to salad. i think this would also be good if you added some diced tomato.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

february fourteenth

creepy or cute? happy valentine's day!

RECIPE: Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

I dined at Olive Garden last week for the soup, salad, & breadstick lunch. I love their chicken & gnocchi soup, so I looked online for a "copy cat" recipe. Let me make this disclaimer: This tastes nothing like Olive Garden's soup. It tastes better. :)

2 T olive oil
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 pints half & half
1/2 c celery, chopped
1 c onion, finely chopped
2 heaping t minced garlic
14 oz chicken broth (you may need more to thin it out)
1 c carrots, finely shredded
1.5 c chicken, cooked & diced
1 pkg (1 lb.) potato gnocchi, cooked
1 c spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 t thyme
1 t parsley
1/4 t nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add flour to form a roux. Cook for about a minute before adding half & half. Stir, then add carrots and chicken. Allow to thicken. Add chicken broth and allow to thicken again. Add gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings. Simmer until entirely warmed through. If you want a thinner soup, add a little more chicken broth.

Monday, February 13, 2012

chef #44: baked brie with apple

i bought a round of brie for a cheese board i assembled last weekend:

after only using 2 small slices of brie for the cheese board, i decided to use the rest to make a baked brie recipe from williams-sonoma. i made one small substitution. the original recipe calls for cardamom, which is $11 at the grocery store! i substituted cinnamon & nutmeg, which i already had on hand.

1 T unsalted butter
2 golden delicious apples, cored, peeled, & diced
1/4 c sugar
1/16 t cinnamon
1/16 t nutmeg
1 8 oz round brie, chilled
1 sheet of puff pastry dough, thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 T water
plain water crackers

preheat oven to 375 degrees. line a baking sheet with parchment paper. melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. add apples and saut√© for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender. add sugar & spices and stir to dissolve. cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes longer. remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

cut the cheese in half horizontally. place one half of the cheese, sliced side up, in the middle of the puff pastry. top with half of the apple mixture. set the other half, sliced side down, on top. top with remaining apple mixture. fold dough up over the sides of the cheese, pinching together to seal. brush the dough evenly with egg wash and place on lined baking sheet. bake 40-50 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. serve with crackers.

**note: this recipe was very sweet and brandon even commented that it would have made a good dessert! i like my cheese to be a little more savory, but it was still very good. keep in mind that this is not cheap to make! a brie cheese round at lowes foods was $9 and the puff pastry (2 in a package) was nearly $6!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

RECIPE: Neapolitan Cupcakes

Last night, Brandon and I celebrated Valentine's Day a little bit early. I decided that I wanted to cook this year and then in the future we'll alternate years dining out and dining in. To accompany our meal, I found a recipe for the most delicious, simple cupcakes with a surprise brownie layer! They are to die for.

1/2 pkg brownie mix (i used Duncan Hines dark chocolate)
1 egg
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c water

1/2 pkg strawberry cake mix
1 T canola oil
1 1/3 c water
1.5 egg

1 container cream cheese icing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Whisk together brownie mix, egg, canola oil, and water. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. With an electric mixer, beat cake mix, canola oil, water, and egg on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Spoon over brownie batter. Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool before frosting.

Friday, February 10, 2012

this weekend

what are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

chef #42: ham & cheese mini sandwiches

i first tried these little sandwiches at my friend amber's bridal shower a couple of years ago. i have saved the recipe she gave me all this time and finally decided to use it on sunday for an appetizer dinner. they're easy to make and this recipe can easily be multiplied for a party.

1/4 c butter, softened
1 t mustard
1 T poppy seeds
1 t worcestershire sauce
1/4 small onion, minced
1 pkg. party rolls (i bought lowes foods brand- 12 to a pack)
sliced ham
sliced swiss cheese

preheat oven to 300 degrees. cut rolls in half lengthwise. combine butter, mustard, poppy seed, worcestershire, and onion in a small bowl. spread both sides of rolls with mixture. cut ham and cheese to fit rolls and place a slice of each on each bottom half. place top half on each. wrap completely in aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, February 6, 2012

RECIPE: Asian Lettuce Wraps

I visited P.F. Chang's for the very first time a couple of months ago. My favorite thing on the menu? Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I've been holding off on making them myself because I didn't want to spend the money on extra ingredients that I don't typically use. Yesterday I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet (where did that expression come from anyway?) and I made them for dinner. Brandon says they're better than the restaurant version!

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 medium onion, minced
dash of salt & pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 t ground ginger
1.5 T sesame oil
3.5 T soy sauce
1 T water
1 T natural peanut butter
1 T honey
1.5 T rice vinegar
2 t chili garlic sauce
4 green onions, chopped
8 oz can water chestnuts, drained & chopped
1/2 c shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/4 c peanuts, chopped
8-10 large outside lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion, salt & pepper and cook until chicken is almost done. Add garlic and ginger and cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, and chili garlic sauce. Heat for 20 seconds and then stir until smooth. Add to the chicken and stir to combine.

Add green onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and peanuts. cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve with cold lettuce leaves.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RECIPE: Buttermilk "Fried" Chicken

I'm not a big fan of fried chicken. My generalization is that it's messy and greasy and really unhealthy. However, over a year ago I clipped a recipe for buttermilk "fried" chicken and decided to try it out sometime. I finally pulled the recipe back out over the weekend. "Fried" chicken that is baked in the oven with corn flakes for crispiness seems like something I can stand behind. :)

3/4 c buttermilk*
1 T dijon mustard
3/4 t salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t hot sauce
2 chicken breasts
2.5 c corn flakes, coarsely crushed
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 t poultry seasoning**
1/4 t paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
1 T vegetable oil

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mustard, half of the salt, half of the garlic powder, half of the pepper, and the hot sauce. Add chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking rack with nonstick cooking spray and place inside rimmed baking sheet.

Stir together corn flakes, bread crumbs, remaining salt, pepper, and garlic powder, poultry seasoning, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Stir in oil until blended. Remove chicken from marinade and dip in crumb mixture, pressing to adhere.

Place chicken on rack and bake for 45 minutes or until done. Note: Make sure to move the rack away from the top of the oven or the breading will burn. Spread a piece of tinfoil over breasts if the breading starts to darken too soon. This chicken was moist and very flavorful. I served it with a veggie casserole and mashed potatoes.

*I forgot to buy buttermilk. Did you know that you can make your own buttermilk by mixing 3/4 c regular milk with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar? Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes to allow milk to sour. Saves you $$ and several calories I'd imagine!

**I didn't want to buy poultry seasoning, so I used Weber's Kick'n Chicken Seasoning. I highly recommend it!