Recipe: Spicy Dill Pickles

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Pickles, pickles, pickles. I love pickles. Always have. When I was a little kid, I could eat an entire jar in one sitting. I actually could probably still do it… I won’t, but I’m sure I could. During the summer, I always end up with an abundance of cucumbers from the farmers markets. Since it’s just Graham and I, and he doesn’t like cucumbers, that leaves me to eat them all myself.

When we drove through South Carolina earlier this summer, we stopped at a produce stand to get peaches and I ended up leaving with two quart sized baskets of cucumbers. I did my best to eat them all, but I couldn’t do it. So, I pulled this recipe out of my bookmarks (remember when we actually bookmarked stuff instead of using Pinterest?) and decided to use what was left over to make a few jars of homemade pickles.

These pickles are so easy to make, and they’re so delicious! Even Graham, my cucumber & pickle hating husband likes these! If you’re lucky enough to have a garden and have ended up with an abundance of cucumbers, try this recipe!

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Spicy Dill Pickles
(Original recipe from A Pretty Cool Life.)

Ingredients:

  • 5 large cucumbers
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3-4 dill sprigs per jar
  • 1 T. whole black peppercorns
  • 3 T. minced garlic
  • 2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 2 T. pickling spice

Directions:

  1. Slice the cucumbers to your desired thickness.
  2. Mix everything together (except the dill). Let the cucumbers hang out in the mixture for about three hours.
  3. Place dill in the bottom of your mason jars and pack in the cucumbers and their liquid. Screw the lids on tightly and let refrigerate for at least two weeks.

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What I’m Loving Wednesday

This weeks ‘What I’m Loving Wednesday’ is a little all over the place. I can’t think of any other week where I’m loving both a kids t-shirt and nail polish. But hey… I have very eclectic taste… as anyone who has ever been forced to listen to the music on my iPhone will tell you ;).
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This t-shirt from Target is adorable. Unfortunately, it’s a little girls t-shirt. I’m going to need this in a grown up size, ASAP! I mean, I’m trying to lose weight and all, but I don’t think there is any possible way, ever, that I could fit into a little girls t-shirt. Little boys… yes. I totally used to buy little boys white polo shirts from Target when I worked at Hallmark. Anyways. Love Boston Terriers, and I love this shirt. G actually has bought a screen printing set up. Maybe he can make one for me :)

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I love this workout tank! Legally Blonde is one of my favorite movies, and this line is just perfect! Now if only I could look like Elle Woods Reese Witherspoon while wearing it…

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These framed sketches from Ikea are awesome. I have absolutely no idea where I would hang this, but I really, really want it. And at $39.99, that price is reallllllly decent.

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Homemade dill pickles. I made these a few summers ago, and they were delicious! I had a ton of cucumbers in my fridge, that were getting close to their last leg. I made these again a couple of weeks ago, and once again, they were really delicious. G is not a pickle fan, and even he loves these. They should be ready to eat next week… Having three jars of homemade pickles in the fridge, that I can’t eat yet, is pretty much torture!

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I love this idea of a lint “trash can” mounted in the laundry area, near the dryer. We end up with a mountain on lint sitting on top of our dryer and I love this! And not just lint, but used dryer sheets, pieces of paper that are in our pockets, the exact same pen my husband keeps washing… I’m not sure what other laundry type trash exists out there, but hey! Now it has a convenient place to go!

Essie Fall 2014 Collection

 

Style Cartel | Take it Outside | The Perfect Cover up | Dressed to Kilt | Fall in Line | Partner in Crime

Essie’s Fall 2014 collection is fabulous. I love every single shade. Blue is my signature color, so of course I think that one is gorgeous. But surprisingly, my favorite is ‘Partner in Crime’. It’s been ages since I’ve seen a brown nail polish I’ve liked as much as I like this one. I have Ulta coupons and Ulta reward dollars to cash in. I think I’m definitely going to pick up a couple of these. And on a side note, does anyone else bring their own nail polish when they go for a pedicure? Part of me hates doing it, because I feel like it’s a waste of money. But I like owning the color that is currently on my toes, so that I can touch up if needed. I’d like to find a salon that gives a little bit of a discount if you bring your own polish.

 

Restaurant Review: Hayashi Sushi & Grill

Graham and I are continuing our quest to find great restaurants in Virginia. I had a doctor’s appointment on Friday, and one of the magazines they had been Coastal Virginia Magazine’s ‘Best of…’ issue. We were planning to have a sushi date that weekend, so I decided to try one of the places on the list. And that’s how we ended up at Hayashi Sushi & Grill.

Hayashi impressed me when we walked in with their modern decor, extensive menu and friendly staff.
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We were sat promptly and our server was friendly and attentive. We ordered our drinks and asked for appetizer recommendations. She raved about the crab hamrumaki. She said it was “similar to the crab Rangoon that you get at cheap chinese restaurants, but a thousand times better.” It was not good. It was perfectly crispy, and the citrus glaze was delicious, but thing you could taste was the onion. Give me the crab Rangoon at the “cheap” restaurants any day of the week.
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We ordered four sushi rolls, and spent enough that we got complimentary salad & soup. I went with the house salad (I’m a sucker for ginger dressing) and Graham had the miso soup. Both were delicious. I loved that they served the dressing in a separate pot for me to pour on my own. I was able to happily drown my salad in dressing. =)
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We typically order four rolls when we have sushi. I pick two, he picks two. I always order a rainbow roll, and the other rolls we ordered were the Area 51 (salmon avocado roll with wasabi tobiko, special sauce on top; battered & fried), the Volcano (shrimp tempura, chili, masago/ikura, spicy mayo, wasabi tobiko) and the Hot Night (shrimp tempura/spicy tuna, crunch, eel sauce & smelt roe).

The rainbow roll was delicious. It had a good amount of cucumber, so it had an excellent crunch to it. The other rolls were a disappointment. None of them had very much flavor. I’m guessing the sauces they were drenched in masked the flavors of the fish. But my biggest problem with the rolls were how small they were. If you consider the price of the rolls and the size of the rolls, it made them some of the most expensive we’ve ever had. I mean, I’ve gotten bigger, fancier rolls at the grocery store.

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My other problem with the rolls was the way they were advertised. At the top of the sushi menu it said that they were all $13 each, or 3 for $35. When the check came, they were all $13 each. We asked our server and she said that none of the rolls we ordered qualified. Um… there was nothing on the menu that differentiated the rolls that were a special price from the rest of them. It was a whopping total of $4, so obviously not a big deal, but it was still really annoying.

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(Their menu on their website)

2014-09-12 18.52.06(The menu outside the restaurant)

 So, overall I wasn’t super pleased with our dinner here. Kero Sushi in Yorktown is still going to be my go-to. There are a few more places I need to check out before I name just one restaurant my “favorite sushi in Hampton Roads”.

Recipe: Overnight Yeast Waffles

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So, Graham and I were sitting on the couch one Saturday night and he mentioned that we should have waffles for breakfast Sunday morning. He got up to make sure we had waffle mix and found that we had none. No waffle/pancake mix. No Bisquick. None of the convenient mixes that make breakfast ridiculously easy. I wasn’t ready to give up on waffles, so I turned to Pinterest.

Pinterest (almost) never fails. And it definitely didn’t fail this time. This time, it lead me to a recipe for overnight yeasted waffles. This recipe turned out to be perfect. It was insanely easy. I mean, it literally took about five minutes to put together. And unlike most of the other waffle recipes I found, it didn’t include buttermilk (which I didn’t have on hand). However, it did include yeast. Working with yeast always makes me uneasy… I never know if it’s going to work or not. I’ve actually stopped buying the jar, and have switched to the packets, and I have had better luck with yeast ever since. There was cinnamon in the batter, and they smelled amazing as they cooked, so if they hadn’t turned out well it would have been incredibly disappointing. Thankfully, the yeast was good, and the waffles turned out perfect! They were easy, delicious and this is my new go-to waffle recipe. I can honestly say we’ll probably never buy a mix again.

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Overnight Yeast Waffles (For us, this made five huge waffles.)

(Original recipe can be found here.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 & 1/4 C of all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet of active yeast
  • 2 T. of sugar
  • 1 t. of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. of salt
  • 1 & 3/4 C. of milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 C. of melted butter or oil

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place a large baking sheet in the oven and leave it alone.
    2. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, combine the wet ingredients (except the melted butter). Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night, or up to 24 hours.
    3. The next morning, heat your waffle iron and give the batter a good stir. Brush the heated waffle iron with the melted oil or butter. Add your batter to the waffle iron and cook according to your waffle irons instructions (ours has a handy light that goes off when the waffle is ready). As each waffle is finished, place it in the oven on the warmed baking sheet. This will help keep them from getting soggy.
    4. Serve with butter, syrup, fruit, or whatever you wish.

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Beaches, dogs, and really delicious food.

How was everyone’s weekend? Ours was low-key (again), and so much fun! We started the weekend out with a sushi dinner at a new (to us) place in Newport News. The sushi was decent, but the experience was pretty disappointing. But I’ll go more in-depth on that later on.
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After dinner, we walked around for a little bit and I was excited to find more LOVE letters! We waited for a few minutes so that we could take our picture with them. This was a much prettier setting than the welcome center off the interstate, and more appropriate than in front of a battleship…
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Saturday, we headed down to Virginia Beach for a beach dog meet-up. These meet-ups are so much fun, for both us and especially for Hermione. There were about 10 dogs there at one point. They were able to run, swim, dig, fight over sticks, and just have a blast. Hermione was pretty wiped out for the rest of the day.
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On the way home from the beach, we stopped at Whole Foods for a lunch of hot bar macaroni & cheese, and chocolate chip cookies. It was pretty delicious and held us over until dinner. I made these amazing chorizo stuffed poblano peppers. I made a few changes to the recipe that Nutmeg Nanny posted last week, and these were incredible! I’ll share my modified recipe soon!
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Sunday mornings breakfast was pretty delicious. I impulsively bought a loaf of challah at Fresh Market on Saturday and was inspired to make the Barefoot Contessa’s challah french toast. The egg mixture was full of orange zest, vanilla & honey, and piled high with mixed berries. This was so good and will definitely be a regular in our breakfast rotation!
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Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

What I’m Loving Wednesday

It’s Wednesday! You guys know what that means =) Here are some things I’m loving right now!

My new kitchen scale. I’m trying to lose weight. I need to drop about 30 lbs., and I need to actually start trying to lose it, and stop just talking about trying to lose it. This kitchen scale is coming in really handy. When I look up food on My Fitness Pal, I just add it without really considering the weight. From years of making cheesecakes, I know a pound is 16 oz. But that isn’t helpful when I pick a peach out of the fruit basket at home. So, I just pick an entry for whatever I’m eating and go with it. I ate a peach yesterday that weighed 12 oz. The entry I had been selecting in Mt Fitness Pal was for 5 oz. That’s an extra 70+ calories. It’s also been really helpful portioning out meat, making bags of snacks (the serving size on the bag of baby carrots is listed in grams. Before my scale, I had no clue what 30 grams of baby carrots equaled), and portioning out correct weights of ingredients for cooking and baking. Graham even used it the other day to calculate the weight of a package.

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Jose Cuervo Grapefruit Tangerine Margarita. I know that a real margarita is so much better than the pre-mixed stuff, but this Grapefruit Tangerine premixed margarita from Jose Cuervo is pretty delicious. I fell in love with it in Arkansas, and then found they don’t sell it in Virginia. I went to an ABC store here and had them order me a case of it, but it never came in. When we went camping with G’s family a couple of weeks ago, we made a stop at the ABC store on the way. I saw they had it and got excited. Really excited. The employees there probably think I’m a raging alcoholic. I literally fit pumped and let out a very excited (and loud) “yes!” I bought three bottles of it, and will probably buy many, many more when we’re in North Carolina again over Thanksgiving.

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I love olives. They’re pretty much my favorite thing on the planet. The olive bar at Whole Foods is my idea of heaven. And when I saw this hummus at Harris Teeter the other day, I couldn’t resist. Sabra is my favorite brand of hummus anyways, but when you add lots of chopped olives to the top? I’m pretty much a goner. G & I killed the tub of it a lot faster than is acceptable, and now I feel like I’m constantly restocking it in our household. I bought about 20 cucumbers from a produce stand in South Carolina a few weeks ago, so I’ve been slicing them up and eating cucumbers (or baby carrots) and hummus for lunch, instead of chips and dip. It’s healthier, and really, really delicious.

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I don’t like the drama around Taylor Swift’s love life, but I like a lot of her songs. And I really, really like her newest single, ‘Shake It Off’. It’s a really fun, upbeat song and it makes me look forward to her upcoming pop album. Her last album was a lot of pop and I enjoyed most of the songs on it, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this one as well. There are very few artists whose albums I always buy. She is one of them. Carrie Underwood is another.

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This kills me to say it, but I’m actually loving using my iPad as an eReader. I’ve always hated the idea of eReaders. I hate that they’re killing bookstores (RIP Borders) and libraries. In the summer of 2008, I found myself single for the first time in 5 years. Being single when your friends are all engaged/married pretty much sucks. So, I spent a lot of Saturday nights, walking around Borders. I picked out amazing books by talking to the staff, and just seeing what covers jumped out at me. You can’t get the same book buying experience digitally. But, I’ve had a lot more free time lately, and I’ve been using my iPad to do some reading. I’ve already finished a couple of pretty decent books, and now I’ve decided it’s time to reread the Harry Potter series. To me, reading is much, much more enjoyable with a physical book in your hand, but right now, using my iPad is just a lot more convenient. I figure that if I read a book I LOVE, I’ll still buy a paper version of it, to keep forever, but it’s nice not having to waste money on books that turn out to be really disappointing (like every book by Erik Larson & Heather Gudenkauf). Especially since I’m still in my free trial of Kindle Unlimited, and have 600,000 books to consider.

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Recipe: Salted Caramel Brownies

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Last weekend in Charlotte, we went to Amelie’s for a late night dessert run. I had one of their famous salted caramel brownies. Then last week, Jen over at Peanut Butter Runner posted a recipe for salted fudge brownies. I’ve been on the hunt for an amazing brownie recipe for a while, and this one was amazing. Really amazing. It was gooey, rich, chocolatey and absolutely delicious.

The brownie on its own is amazing. But when you spoon this amazing salted caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s over the top, it brings it to a whole new level. I warmed the caramel sauce in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds and then added a sprinkle of sea salt over the top. When we first ate these, the brownies were still warm from being baked, but as we ate them over the weekend, we heated the brownies up, while we were heating the caramel sauce.

Y’all have to try these! This dessert is so simple and so completely decadent. Next time I need to bring dessert for an event, I’m totally bringing these babies.
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Salted Caramel Brownies

(Brownie recipe barely adapted from this one, which is originally from Food & Wine.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C. of semi sweet chocolate chunks, or 2 oz. of semi sweet chocolate; chopped.
  • 1/4 C. + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 + 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more for serving)
  • Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a square, 8″ baking dish with cooking spray, or for easier removal, line with foil, draping the foil over the edges.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat when melted and smooth, and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Stir in the melted butter and chocolate and mix until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the salt into the batter.
  4. Bake the fudge brownies in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the edge is set but the center is still a bit soft and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out coated with a little of the batter. Let the brownies cool at room temperature in the pan for 1 hour, then remove from pan and cut into 12-16 pieces.
  5. Before serving, spoon 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce over each brownie and add an extra sprinkle of sea salt. This makes for a messy, but incredibly delicious dessert.

(The original recipe calls for a 9″ pan and a baking time of 35 minutes. I had an 8″ pan, and mine were the perfect, gooey consistency in 45 minutes.)