Friday Five: 5 Things I Don’t Understand

Sometimes I just want to ramble. I just want to write way too much, and not have people on Facebook think I’m insane. So, I’ve saved up a few of my really random thoughts to share with you guys all at once. You’re all so lucky ;)

1) I don’t understand how the casting people for TV shows & movies can get very small children to remember their lines. The other night I randomly thought about the early days of Full House, and once I stopped thinking about how hot John Stamos was, I started thinking about how they got Mary-Kate and Ashley to memorize their lines. I mean, I know they weren’t reciting Shakespeare or anything, but still.d30b37e8eb236e64b085e0df5e2781e3

2) Does anyone know why the wolf’s genitalia is so prominent in the original Broadway version of Into the Woods? It completely overshadows Robert Westenberg’s performance, because once you notice the genitalia, that is ALL you can pay attention to.

3) Crock-pots are supposed to make life easier, right? So why do people use crock-pots to make things more complicated than they need to be. I was browsing Pinterest the other day and saw a recipe for crock-pot cranberry sauce. I had two problems with this. The first was that the recipe called for WAY too much sugar (3/4 cup of sugar & 3/4 cup of orange marmalade). Second, it took over three hours in a crock-pot. THREE HOURS. You guys want to know an easy way to make cranberry sauce? Sugar, water, cranberries. Bring water & sugar to a boil, add cranberries. Let cook for ten minutes. Cool. Serve. BAM. 15 minute cranberry sauce. I know on Thanksgiving you probably have about 10 things going at once, but the best thing about cranberry sauce: you can make it a few days in advance and store it in the fridge. Please stop making things more complicated than they need to be! People’s usage of crock-pots irritate me in general. If you’re making chili or soup, or something that needs to simmer safely all day, fine. But cranberry sauce? Steaks and potatoes? A cake? Give me a break.

4) I don’t understand the cost of plane tickets. A couple of weeks ago, when Beverly was killed, I really wanted to go to Arkansas and be with my Crye-Leike family. I’m sure it was pretty depressing, but it was also really depressing here. I was incredibly sad & heartbroken, and mourning alone. Everyone else was going about their day to day lives like nothing was wrong, when in my world something was seriously wrong. Anyways. Plane tickets. It’s a 16 hour drive from VA to Little Rock, so I looked at plane tickets. $1,000. Are. You. Freaking. Kidding. Me. Granted, it was last minute, but still! I remember when G and I were doing the long distance thing. To fly from Charlotte to Little Rock it was $700. To fly from Greensboro (about an hour and a half away) it was $200. But the flight had a layover in Charlotte! So, every time I went to Arkansas, mom would drive me to Greensboro, and I would be back in Charlotte before she was. So, obviously I didn’t make it back to Arkansas for the funeral. But a couple of nights ago, I was on Pinterest and saw stunning pictures of Alberta, Canada. So, I decided I HAD to go to Canada. For the heck of it, I looked up plane tickets. $400! To go to the western part of Canada. My mind was just blown.

5) My mind is blown as to who would buy this doll. I mean, REALLY? Ew. Just ew. Not to mention that face is insanely creepy. I get that little girls like playing mommy with their dolls, and poop is something that happens with real babies, but I’m pretty sure you’d never name jewelry out of anything that comes out of a real baby…

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Restaurant Review: Salt

A couple of weeks ago, Coastal Virginia magazine offered a daily deal ($50 coupon for $25) to Salt, a restaurant I had heard good things about. They were only offering four of the deals, so I quickly snagged one, and made a reservation for Graham and I to have dinner there. We went Saturday night, and had an excellent experience. First off, the place was DEAD, granted, we got there at a fairly early hour (I made the reservation for 6:00), but when we left around 7:30, there weren’t that many more tables there. While I hate it was dead, we received excellent service. Our server was friendly, knowledgable, and attentive without being overbearing. He made recommendations, joked around with us, and checked in with us often. Considering the mediocre service we’ve received lately, it was a very pleasant change.

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We started with a sangria for me, a German beer for him, and the bulgogi wraps and an order of the Asian chicken noodle soup as our appetizer. Both were delicious. The soup (rice noodles, carrots, oyster mushrooms, cilantro, scallions, Napa cabbage, scented with lemongrass, ginger and garlic) was perfect. My allergies have been bothering me a lot lately, and I haven’t felt great, and this was exactly what I needed. The stuff in the soup was good, but the broth was amazing. The wraps (sliced Hereford tenderloin, pickled carrot, sliced garlic, chili paste, and crispy duck chicharrone with leaf lettuce) were delicious as well. There was a ton of meat though, and very little carrot or garlic. There was enough meat & lettuce leaves for us to make two large wraps each, but only three pieces of carrot, and three slices of garlic.

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For our entrees, we both ordered seafood. I had one of their specials, the scallops, and he had the whole fish (that day it was mackarel). I honestly think he only ordered the fish to mess with me. I had scrunched up my face when the server started talking about the fish (I’m sorry, I don’t want anything that still has a head & a tail on my plate), so of course he had to order it, so I would try it. The fish was served with jasmine rice, vegetables and a coconut curry sauce. I have to admit, the fish was delicious, and the sauce was amazing. I would have loved to have had a little of that to go with my scallops.

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My scallops… oh goodness. I’ve been wary of ordering scallops since the massive scallop rip-off of 2012 at Savoy 1620 back in Little Rock. But these sounded amazing, so I went with them. They were a special, so I don’t remember exactly what was on them. I do remember he said they were dusted with a wasabi powder. There wasn’t an overwhelming wasabi flavor, just a hint of heat. But the scallops themselves… oh goodness. They were huge, and perfectly cooked. They were served with equally delicious mashed potatoes, and overcooked aspargus (the asparagus was limp, and I like it to maintain a little bit of a bite).

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We were way too full for dessert after all of that food, but maybe next time. This place is a little pricey (my scallops were $30, and G’s fish was $28), but the food was worth it. The fact that the restaurant was so empty makes me sad. People, I beg you, try local restaurants when you dine out. There is so much out there that is so much better than Chili’s or Outback…

What I’m Loving Wednesday

Y’all. Marriage equality now exists in North Carolina. I am beyond happy about this. When I heard the news Friday evening, I literally got chills and started to cry. Now every post just puts a big, goofy grin on my face. Especially when it’s something like this one. These ladies have waited 31 years to be married. That’s an incredibly beautiful thing.
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I saw this throw at the Homegoods in Virginia Beach about two months ago, and I wanted it. But we have about 400 blankets and throws, so I didn’t let myself buy it. But I regretted it. So every time I’ve been at Homegoods or TJ Maxx closer to home I looked for it and never found it. Saturday we went to dinner in Virginia Beach and we stopped by Homegoods to see if they still had it. AND THEY DID!!! It’s soft, it’s a beautiful shade of green, it looks great against the couch and with my new gold throw pillows. I’m in looooooove =)
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Sweet chili corn tortilla chips from Way Better Snacks. Holy crap, these are good. I got a small bag in a subscription box from Love With Food. Graham and I loved them, so I picked up a couple of bags during my next visit to Whole Foods. These are non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, and have a very, VERY easy to read/understand ingredient list. And they’re really delicious. We’ve only tried this flavor so far, but I can’t wait to try some of the other flavors they offer. I’m especially intrigued about the pumpkin-cranberry flavor! I’m definitely on the search for a bag of those!
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Why Does Everyone Hate Lea Michele (and Anne Hathaway)? This article takes a look at why people hate women who are polished, successful, and seemingly have their stuff together. It’s a really interesting look at our sexist society.

And so the problem seems to be that Lea Michele and Anne Hathaway are too good. They are not fucked-up enough. They are too in control. They don’t stumble out of nightclubs, or go nutty next to an awards podium. And the public and media don’t like that: some of the comments about Hathaway hate were basically: “Yeah, I remember the annoying drama-club kid at school. Couldn’t stand them. She’s that girl.” The perfection and polish of Michele and Hathaway bring back red-button memories of the school know-it-all, the perfect head girl, the keen-as-mustard smiling drama school actress—and how you paled next to her. How you envied her, set yourself up in opposition to all that. And now, as an adult, dammit Missy Perfection—in the forms of Michele and Hathaway—is still stalking your flawed self.
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How cute is this Boston terrier print? I love Boston terriers. My mom has one, Mattie, and she is just the best little dog ever. I’ll never forget the day I moved to Arkansas. Graham came by the house to finish loading the U-Haul, while I loaded up my car. Every time either of us went outside, Mattie came too, and kept hopping in my passenger seat. It was the sweetest, saddest thing. I was already crying hysterically, and Graham told Mattie she wasn’t making it any easier on me. I hated leaving that little dog behind. Luckily, I see her all the time now, and she’s still as wonderful as ever. Anyways, back to the print. I saw a HUGE Boston terrier painting at a local place here that I LOVED. But it was $400, which is kind of out of my budget this close to Christmas. Since this is a print, and not an original painting, this is much more budget friendly. Or, I may try to create one myself. We’ll see… Either way, I definitely need Boston terrier artwork in my home, in honor of the first dog I ever loved.

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I received an email recently from Mark & Graham with lots of wonderful Christmas things: (1) These plaid, monogrammed dinner napkins. I love them. I like plaid in small amounts, and these napkins are the perfect amount of plaid. (2) These melamine serving platters are adorable. If you’re making a special family a tray full of delicious Christmas baked goods, it would be awesome to gift them on this. Then once the treats are gone, they have an adorable plate they can use for many Christmases to come. (3) Mini stockings!!! Last year I saw a Christmas table setting with the silverware tucked inside a mini stocking. I’d love to do that, and these are simple & elegant. I don’t want red velvet & white fur stockings anywhere near me, but I’d love to use these. And, since they have initials on them, you could even use them for place cards (if no one has the same first initial…) (4) This silver Labrador Christmas ornament would be perfect for Hermione’s ornament on our tree this year (and yes, I’m the person who buys Christmas ornaments every year for their pet).

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Veggie & Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

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Does anyone else every think of a recipe as a safety net? When I cook something, I just like to have a set of instructions there in front of me. It’s like Ikea furniture. I always glance at the instructions, but can usually assemble it myself without going step by step. I think of a recipe in the same way. I see something I like, I plan to make it, glance at the instructions and then set off on my own. Like the instructions, it’s nice to have something to refer back to if I get confused, or in trouble, but it’s not necessarily needed.

Disclaimer: I’ve only ever assembled bookcases and shelving units from Ikea. I’m sure a couch or something would probably require following the instructions more closely.

I rarely ever make a recipe exactly as it’s written. I like to put my own spin on it and make changes based on our preferences, but it’s still nice to have. When I come up with an idea for something I want to make for dinner and can’t find a recipe for it, it stresses me out, which is ridiculous. I’ve decided to challenge myself to make dinner at least once a week by winging it. Last week it was a chicken breast stuffed with spinach, goat cheese, marinated tomatoes and olives, and it turned out better than I could have imagined!

This dinner was easy, delicious and came together quickly with the ingredients I almost always have on hand, and created around something I almost never have: the marinated tomatoes. I use these for my pesto pizza, and they’re amazing. Inspired, I used some of the other flavors from that pizza (the goat cheese & olives), sautéed some baby spinach and then mixed it all together. It turned out to be an amazing dinner!

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Veggie & Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of Whole Foods marinated tomatoes; finely chopped (if you can’t get these, sun dried should work)
  • ¼ cup of Kalamata olives; finely chopped
  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • Olive oil
  • 2 oz. of goat cheese; crumbled
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Salt & pepper
  • Toothpicks or kitchen twine

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Cut a slit in the chicken breasts, being careful not to cut all the way through.
  3. Heat 1 T. of the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet with oven safe handles. When the oil is hot, add the spinach and sauté until it has wilted.
  4. Once you’ve chopped the tomato & olives, set them on a paper towel to get rid of some of the excess moisture.
  5. Add the spinach to a separate bowl and add the olives, tomatoes and goat cheese. Mix together well and add the mixture to each chicken breast.
  6. Season the chicken with salt & pepper, and wrap the chicken in the kitchen twine, or secure the opening with toothpicks. Add more olive oil to the pan you cooked the spinach in, and heat it over medium-high heat. Gently add the chicken to the pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side. When both sides are golden, move the pan to the preheated oven and continue cooking for ten minutes.
  7. Let sit for a few minutes and then remove the toothpicks or cut off the kitchen twine.

This weekend was delicious.

This weekend was delicious. Really, really delicious. I banished Graham to the garage all weekend to work on a project for me, so I spent the weekend in the kitchen.

I probably gained back the five pounds that I had lost, but it was totally worth it.

Saturday, I baked a pumpkin pie. Graham requested it, and I figured it was the least I could do since he was building me stuff. I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but this was pretty good. It used a minimal amount of sugar, heavy cream instead of evaporated milk, and was incredibly light. It was even better when I topped it with a homemade cinnamon whipped cream and some crushed gingersnaps.

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Sunday I was feeling courageous, and decided to attempt pumpkin challah. It wasn’t hard at all, just time consuming. There were about three hours of inactive time involved with the recipe, and the nine cups of flour definitely gave my stand mixer a workout. It turned out absolutely beautiful, but the flavor wasn’t what I was hoping for. There was just a hint of pumpkin, but over all it tasted a lot like regular challah (which isn’t a bad thing at all!). I will make this again, probably for Thanksgiving, and will double up on the spices.
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Since challah takes a whole lot of egg yolks, I put the whites to use and made coconut macaroons. These little cookies are easy, and delicious. Graham and I loved them, and unfortunately so did Hermione. In the minute that I was out of the apartment taking out the trash, she ate the entire container. Damned dog…
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Saturday night we went to dinner at Salt in Virginia Beach. I bought their daily deal from Coastal Virginia a few weeks ago, and I was excited to use it. The place was DEAD for a Saturday night, which always makes me sad. (You’ll be happy to know that Cheddars & Chili’s had full parking lots…) The food was inventive and delicious, they had a huge wine list, and the service was excellent. I’ll post a full review soon.
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It was actually cold Sunday night, so I made Italian wedding soup. This soup is SO good! Orzo, spinach, carrots, celery & onions with turkey meatballs. We ate it alongside a pesto grilled cheese, and it was pretty much the perfect dinner!2014-10-12 19.03.50

Since our weekend continued Monday, I made the most amazing French toast Monday morning. I used this recipe, the pumpkin challah, and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie seasoning. Once it was cooked, I topped it with syrup, and the cinnamon whipped cream I made for the pumpkin pie. Oh. My. God. Y’all, this was EPIC.

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And this has nothing to do with how delicious my weekend was, but seriously??? Who buys these things!
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What I’m Loving Wednesday: The Pumpkin Edition

Sunday we had our first cool day of the season. The high was 66 degrees. I broke out my monogrammed hoodie and made my favorite Tuscan bean soup for dinner. It was lovely. It was just a tease though… we’re now back in the high 70’s-low 80’s, and look to be there for a little while longer. But that taste of cooler weather kicked my love for all things fall into high gear! And one of the things I love most about fall is pumpkin. Pumpkin everything. Pumpkin baked goods, pumpkin home fragrances, and pumpkin home decor. So, here are some of the pumpkin things I can’t get enough of lately.

It is KILLING me that we go home for Thanksgiving, instead of hosting a dinner ourselves. I was browsing Pinterest the other day and saw pumpkins used as ice buckets for beverages. I LOVE that idea! Pumpkins are fairly cheap (I bought a massive pumpkin at Harris Teeter the other day for $5.) and you can use them throughout the season. If I were hosting a dinner, I’d buy pumpkins now, let them hang out as part of my seasonal decor through October and November, and then make them into ice buckets for Thanksgiving. I’d use one for a wine bucket, and one for beer. The only challenge would be finding pumpkins that are big enough, but based on the ones I’ve seen throughout Virginia, that shouldn’t be a problem!

Along with the pumpkin ice buckets, I saw a small pumpkin used as a dip vessel on a crudité platter. How cute is that? My in-laws always have vegetables and dip out for snacking, and I’d love to use a pumpkin for the dip. You could make it less messy and put the dip in a cup, and then put the cup in the pumpkin. That way it’ll be easier to store any leftover dip.

These mini pumpkin-ginger ice cream sandwiches from Trader Joe’s are AMAZING. I saw them on Instagram last week, and made a stop by TJ’s on my way home. I ate one before I was even out of the parking lot. They’re tiny, but they are so delicious. A serving is two of them, but it takes major self-control to stop at two. They are THAT good!

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Pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I’ve made these cupcakes so many times, and they are still one of my favorite fall desserts, ever. The recipe is from My Baking Addiction and it is perfect as is. Seriously, I never modify a single thing. The cupcakes are moist and full of flavor, but to me, the star of this recipe is the cinnamon cream cheese. This frosting is absolutely amazing, and I plan on topping more fall baked good with it throughout the season.

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How cute are these monogrammed pumpkins?!?! Y’all know I love anything & everything monogrammed, so why not monogram a pumpkin. This could easily be done by hand with some craft paint, or you if you have a vinyl cutter, you could make a monogram in minutes. I would use a fake pumpkin, so I could keep it and use it every year. The black and orange screams Halloween, but gold or cream paint & ribbons would make it useable for all of fall.

Pumpkin challah bread. Is challah not the prettiest bread imaginable? I’m a little intimidated at the thought of making challah (okay, really, really intimidated by the thought of making challah), but this is definitely going on my fall baking list. I’m already drooling over the thoughts of the amazing French toast I could make with this. Maybe with candied pecans on top & homemade cinnamon whipped cream…

Recipe: Challah French Toast

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During one of our trips to Charlotte over the summer, we had brunch at Bistro La Bon. I had the French toast and it was amazing. Everything about it was perfect and I realized that the sad French toast I usually make at home is no longer is going to work for me.

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(Brunch at Bistro La Bon)

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was waiting in the longest line ever at the meat counter at The Fresh Market, since they’re apparently the only grocery store in Virginia that sells chorizo. The breads are next to the meat, and while I was waiting, I spotted a gorgeous loaf of challah bread. Knowing I was going to try and recreate the French toast from Bistro La Bon, I went to the produce section and grabbed some fresh berries. And after getting everything else I needed, I still had to wait ten more minutes for my chorizo. And then an additional 15 minutes at the checkout… Side rant: please don’t be a jerk at the grocery store. Especially when there are TWO lanes open, and about TEN people in each lane. This guy and I approached the register from different directions at the exact same time. He had a whole cart full of crap (it turned out to be about $200+ full of crap). I had FIVE items. Let the person who had five items, and arrived at the lane the same time you did, go first.

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Anyways. French toast. This recipe is adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe, so it’s pretty close to perfect. The only problem was that it was a little too soggy on the inside. I mean, the bread is cut 1” thick and cooked for 2-3 minutes on each side. Not nearly enough in my opinion. So, we made it again the following weekend. Only this time I baked it for 10 minutes after I pulled it off of the griddle.

Oh my gosh, y’all. This was PERFECT. Baking it cooked it through a little more, made the outside extra crispy, and basically made the best French toast I’ve ever had in my life.

Challah French Toast
(Recipe adapted from this one.)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 slices of challah bread, cut into 1” thick slices
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla, honey & salt. Pour mixture into a shallow dish and add the bread slices. Let bread soak for 3 minutes per side.
  3. While the bread is soaking, heat a large skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, and once that has melted add the soaked bread. (I use a large griddle, melt the butter and smear it over the whole surface of the pan. My toast is all cooked at once, but if you have to cook it in batches, add more butter for each batch.)
  4. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once each side is golden brown, remove to a large baking sheet and bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve hot, with toppings of your choice. Mine included real maple syrup and loads of fresh berries.

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