Friday, February 27, 2015

FOF: Spiced Chocolate-Chip & Walnut Banana-Bread, Snowmageddon, & Poor Decisions


//One//

Where do I start...the snow day that almost was! In typical Charlotte fashion, meteorologists predicted 8-10 inches of the fluffy white stuff.
Wednesday night it looked like it could happen...


 But Thursday morning came and it was clear; a lot of fuss over nothing. I did get to work from home so that's a plus!


//Two//

I did a little cold-weather food prep this week-- in anticipation of the "mammoth" snow storm. I made chili and a nice deep-dish apple pie as a special little treat...yum! I cheat a little bit and use refrigerated dough for my pie crust (recipe here I just add spices). I can't stand rolling out dough so this is my compromise : )


//Three//

I put my mixer to good use this week and made some Chocolate-Chip Walnut Banana Bread for my ladies group Thursday evening.


This is the easiest recipe (and only requires one bowl) if you have a KitchenAid Mixer.  It was a hit with the group!

Spiced Chocolate-Chip & Walnut Banana Bread

Ingredients:

3 Over-Ripe Bananas
1 egg, beaten
1/3 Cup Butter, melted
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp  Baking Soda
1/8 Tsp Ground Cloves
1/8 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon 
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
1 & 1/2 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 Cup Walnuts

Directions:

To your mixer...
1) Add Banana & Butter and mix gently until smooth
2) Pour in Baking Soda & Spices until combined
3) Pour in Sugar, Egg, and Vanilla Extract until combined
4) Gently add in Flour until combined.
5) With a Spatula fold in Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
5) Pour batter into a buttered bread pan. Bake 1 hour at 350F
Tip* Let cool completely before removing bread from pan.

//Four//

Ever seriously regret a purchase? Brad and I made an impulsive buy on a mattress in July and we have been regretting it ever since.We bought it at an outlet where all sales are final --big mistake. The bed is unusually worn for being so new; admittedly, I work from it on occasion, but to indent to this extent is ridiculous. I often find myself rolling towards the center since the bed is so sloped. Brad has complained a lot of back pain...so yea, bad purchase! The worst part is we still paid a decent amount for it...the thought of replacing a few months later makes me cringe. Does anyone have a particular mattress they love? We need to be smarter the next go around, which I have a feeling will come sooner than we had hoped.

//Five//


I am a big fan of La Croix and drink at least one per day. I try to avoid soda so this gives that carbonation taste that I love but in water-form. I just read on a Blog that there is a new flavor,  Pineapple Strawberry; how good does that sound?! I am going to head to Target this weekend to see if I can pick up some of that deliciousness.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

House Update: Faucets, Faucets, Faucets Everywhere!

This perhaps is not the most exciting post in the world, however, I really want to document the entire house-building process and...well, faucets are part of that!

Kitchen: 

We decided to go with Chrome in the kitchen; it will look nice and sparkly against the white cabinets and quartz counter-tops. I found one I liked last week, but ultimately I think I prefer this Moen:

I also want to get a matching soap dispenser...I can't find one in the same collection but these are some Moen options  :




Master Bath:

We initially thought about brushed nickel (and went that direction for our cabinet pulls), but ultimately decided to go back to chrome for the rest of the house too. 

For the Master we ordered these Ultra Faucets which have a really beautiful classic look. They look a little black in the photo however the Chromes should all match (apparently it's pretty consistent among brands). We ordered these from PoshHaus which actually had better prices than even Amazon...


A matching faucet for the roman-tub...


 Second Bath:

We have a smaller second bath so we decided to do a single handle faucet to save room. We found this cute Moen faucet:


We also ordered shower supplies from Moen. Brad is not a fan of rain-shower heads so we went classic. I think we will end up buying a slide-bar and detchable head for easy-cleaning...




The next step is accessories...decisions decisions!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crispier Chicken Parm & Parmesan & Shallot Couscous

I  had an extremely laid back weekend, which was perfect after a busy week with travel.

Friday I worked from home and made enough Marinara Sauce to get us through the next few months. It's an easy recipe to make while working since it isn't very labor intensive.Brad and I ordered take-out from The Diamond and called it an early night.

 He was up early the next day cleaning up the construction site (the joys of self-contracting). I was very appreciative that I did not have to join him since it was very cold out. I would choose Costco and errands any day versus site clean-up!  I wanted to make Brad something comforting and hot after his long day so I made some Chicken Parmesan:


My original recipe can be found here. I changed the cooking method for crispier results and I don't think I will ever go back to my old method, this is the way to go:

1) Swap regular breadcrumbs for Panko
2) In addition to slicing the chicken in half I pounded them extra-thin with a meat mallet (about 1/4 inch) to speed up the cooking time.. and it just produces better results.
3) After browning the chicken in the pan, transfer to a wire rack (place over a pan to catch any drippings) and top with cheese ( I used fresh mozzarella). Broil until cheese is melted and begins to bubble.
4) Top with a little sauce right before serving...this keeps the chicken nice and crispy!

Saturday we went to church, picked up some new shirts for Brad at the mall, and then watched way too many hours of House Hunters on Netflix. It was glorious : )

Last night I made the dish my friend Laura served last week: Shrimp with Fennel, Dill, and Feta from Epicurious. I enjoyed Laura's version a little better (without the dill), and I would recommend cooking a little longer than called for to soften the Fennel. I served this over Parmesan and Shallot Couscous; it was both easy and delicious!



Parmesan and Shallot Couscous:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 finely chopped shallot
1 minced garlic clove

Directions:

1. Saute shallot and garlic in oil for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and shallot has softened
2. Add stock and couscous 
3. Remove from heat, cover and let rest about 5 minutes
4. Stir in Parmesan and serve immediately

Friday, February 20, 2015

Five on Friday: Jacksonville, NYX, and Vanilla



//One//

This week I escaped the frigid cold of Charlotte and flew out to Jacksonville for work. Unfortunately, it wasn't very warm there either but I spent the entire trip inside so I suppose it didn't matter. I managed to snap a photo of the pretty view at Ponta Vedra Sawgrass Marriott.


//Two//

My childhood dream would have been to have a job in which ice cream tasting was required!  This is not so great for the waistline, but I learned some very interesting things...

Did you know Bourbon Vanilla refers to the location of the Vanilla source and not the alcoholic beverage?


Also, did you know that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world (second to Saffron)? That high price is partly due to the fact that it often needs to be pollinated by hand?  Farmers sleep near their crop since the orchid is only open for pollination during a very short window. For an example of just how steep the expense can be, the vanilla beans I am holding below are about $30 worth.

 
I'm personally a huge fan of Tahitian vanilla, it was really interesting to taste the differences!

//Three//

I bought two inexpensive makeup products this week that I have been really  happy with (and the price could not be better)! 

First, a blog I follow recommended NYX Butter Gloss ($4.99 at Target) and she was completely right. It goes on very smooth, the colors are natural and pretty, and they aren't sticky or gloppy. I went with the Creme Brulee color. 


//Four//
 
I also purchased the NYX Natural Color Eye Palette ($7.50 at Target) and the colors are perfect for everyday wear. They aren't bold, but I am not a fan of heavy makeup and prefer a natural look. I brought it on my work trip and it was perfect.


 NYX and MAC are produced by the same manufacturer. If you like MAC products chances are you will be happy with NYX.

//Five//

The Home Depot is having a great sale on Patio furniture this week. We are thinking about going ahead and buying some early since they can be very expensive. Still not sure what style I want to go with yet though.


 Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

House Update

Lot's of updates ahead:

Our windows and doors were installed...



We won't be putting in the front door yet to protect it, so for now it's in our guest room (still needs to be stained too)...




We made our final decision on the garage doors. We chose the style on the right, but we will paint similar to the left (from the original plans).




And we chose the hardwood floors. We won't get a ton of sunlight (lots of Carolina Pine) so we went a little lighter than I originally envisioned but I think they will look nice...



We also made a final decision on the tile. It turned out not getting our Re Store tile was a blessing in disguise because I am in love with our new choices!

We are going to create an accent wall in our shower sort of like this...



But we are going to use these tiles instead...


I cannot wait to see how it all turns out!

 I think I also found a kitchen faucet I like...



And that's about it for now : )

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Weekend

This was an especially great weekend...
 
Friday I made some goodies for my husband for Valentine's Day. I am normally not a big fan of them, but Brad loves Lemon Bars. This particular recipe only calls for only five ingredients and even I thought they were really good...


He brought me home some of my favorites too!

I also had a few additional sweet valentines this year; my friend Stacie's adorable son Jack...


And my two cutie-nephews Wyatt and Walker....I even received cupcakes (thanks Leslie) : )



That night I went to a party hosted by my friend Laura. She is a very talented cook and put together a pretty amazing spread for all 20+ of us (no easy feat)...


I will be making the Shrimp with Fennel, Dill, and Feta she served; it was awesome!

Saturday Brad and I ran errands separately, as he had some work to do with the house. We met up for Mexican that night at Las Margaritas...one of our cheap and easy favorites.

Sunday we celebrated Valentine's Day. We went to dinner at Firebirds and all was going well until the electricity went out mid-meal (the entire grid was down). We basically finished our dinner in the dark...definitely a unique experience haha !


After dinner we made our way Uptown to see The Phantom of the Opera at Belk Theater. I have seen the show several times and it's my all-time favorite. This was a new production so it varied a little bit from the original but I  liked it. Our tickets were Orchestra Center 8th row so the special effects and music really came alive!


We spent today making final house-decisions (I will share more on that later). I am supposed to be traveling to Jacksonville Florida tomorrow but my 8AM flight was cancelled and I was put on a later flight. Charlotte is getting some snowy weather so there's a chance I may not be able to make it, we will just have to see.


Stay warm Charlotte friends : )





Thursday, February 12, 2015

Meatloaf Fans Unite

Did you think I was going to rave about Paradise by the Dashboard Light? Not today, Sorry to disappoint. I know meatloaf gets a bad wrap, but why should it? What's not to like? If you think about it-- it's basically a giant meatball, and meatballs are adored by all. The humble meatloaf is one of my go-to dishes; it's easy, it's quick, and it always pleases.

Meatloaf reminds me of my mom (who makes the best in the whole-wide-world), and it reminds me of my good friend Stacey. Stacey use to request that I make meatloaf every time she visited. See meatloaf is the stuff of good memories for me! That's why I am sharing my recipe with you today. Try it. You'll like it...and you can stop hating on meatloaf : )



Classic Meatloaf:

In a large bowl gently combine...

1lb lean Ground Beef (or turkey)
1 egg
1/4 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs
1/2 Tsp Seasoned Salt, Black Pepper, and Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Parsley
1 Dash of Worceshestire Sauce
1/2 small onion (chopped)

Be careful  not to over-mix. Form a loaf and place in a bread-pan. Baste with glaze (recipe below) if desired. Baste again half-way through cooking. Bake 350F for 45minutes to an hour. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Glaze (Optional):

In a small bowl mix...
1/8 cup Ketchup
1 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
1 Tsp Brown Sugar

While mashed potatoes will forever be my side dish of choice when it comes to meatloaf,  a healthier option is roasted veggies. I had some organic produce I wanted to use up, so I lined a roasting pan with parchment, threw on some sliced red pepper, shallot, broccoli, and green beans (lightly tossed with olive-oil, sea-salt, and black pepper), and roasted 425F for 20 minutes.


By the way if you roast a lot of veggies (like me), you can skip some calories and pack on flavor by using spray-oils. They not only last forever, but they save time, and dishes too! I keep this little guy right next to my stove...



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