What I’m Loving Wednesday: My Christmas Wish List

Happy Day before Thanksgiving, everyone! As soon as Graham get’s home from work, we (along with Buddy, Hermione & Charlotte) are going to make the journey to Charlotte for Christmas. Y’all, I miss Arkansas daily. But I am so thankful that our travel time home has been cut in half. Five & a half hours is so, so, SO much better than 12. Especially when one of your travel companions has really bad travel anxiety and gets carsick (I’m looking at you, Buddy.)

Since Friday officially kicks off the Christmas season, I figured I’d share a few of the things on my Christmas wish list this week… just in case anyone has the urge to send gifts my way =)

Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. I love Ina. She may be a little hard to relate to, with her amazing house in the Hamptons and her professional background, but she’s amazing. And her recipes never, ever fail me. I received Foolproof last year, so this year I’d like to add this book to my Ina collection.

6c2ea111e36a3eab5b539c94c18237e4

The orange-ginger Aromatherapy line from Bath & Body Works is my favorite scent ever. I’ve yet to find an amazing smelling ginger candle, so I’ve settled for slathering myself in this stuff every chance I get. (And right now the lotion & body wash is marked down from $13 to $6!!!)

1/2/3

one/two/three

How cute is this vest from Target? The faux fur-trimmed hood is completely adorable.

5cef815be454ce9f44e9ef3ed70e3625

I know I gushed about these candles from Anthropologie in a previous WILW, but I love them! I still can’t decide which color is my favorite though. It’s a toss up between the green one and the purple one…

23eaea4fc4f13c6e6cc539b3b52d11d9

And of course Lush bath bombs are on my list! These bad boys aren’t cheap, and I’m obsessed with them. So, if Santa wants to leave a few under the tree, or one in my stocking, that would make me pretty darn happy.

Lush Bath Bombs - Bake. Create. Love.

one/two/three/four

My back up iPhone was stolen last year, and my iPod was stolen the year before that, so it’s definitely time for a new one since I hate taking up valuable space on my phone with music. I’m partial to the purple one, since that’s what I had before. I came really close to going to Best Buy yesterday and buying one myself. We have a lottttttt of time in the car coming up over the next month and would like to listen to the Harry Potter audio books again, and I need something to play them on. But, I resisted… Hopefully that patience pays off with a little box from Apple under the tree.3d6a2141d552cabd6b21789ddf8ff30f

HOW FREAKING CUTE ARE THESE monogrammed Converse shoes??? I’m tempted to say I’d like the pink thread, since pink is my go-to embroidery color, but I think white would be the best option. Size 7 please =)

DSC_0082_1024x1024

Recipe: Chile Crusted Tuna Tacos

Chile Crusted Tuna Tacos - Bake. Create. Love.

Seared tuna has become one of my absolute favorite things. It’s replaced salmon as my go-to seafood entrée when we go out for dinner, and this year we’ve had it for dinner at home more times than I can count. Usually, I sear it and top a salad with it. While that salad has become one of my favorite dinners this year, these tacos were a really delicious change of pace.

I loved every part of these tacos. The tuna was spicy and delicious, the avocado and the cabbage & arugula salad were light & fresh, but the star of this dish was the orange chipotle sauce. It had a pretty powerful kick at first, but once the orange juice had reduced, the sweetness helped balance out some of the heat. I wanted a smoother sauce, so I dumped it in the blender and let it do its magic for a minute. The resulting sauce was smooth and so delicious. This recipe serves four, so I made a salad with the leftovers the next day, and used the leftover sauce as the salad dressing, and it was just as delicious.

I love this recipe, and I’m so glad to have another way to eat tuna at home (I think Graham is tired of the salads…)

Chile Crusted Tuna Tacos - Bake. Create. Love. 4

Chile Crusted Tuna Tacos
(Recipe adapted from this one, originally from Gourmet, August 2003)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1 chipotle pepper; minced, and one tablespoon of the sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 lb.-1 lb. (1 1/2-inch-thick) sashimi tuna steak
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 flour tortillas (Small/fajita size)
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced/shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1-2 avocado(s)
  • 1 cup of arugula
  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees*.
  2. Bring orange juice, chipotles (and sauce) and vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a about 1/3 cup, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, pour contents of saucepan into a blender, and run blender until the sauce is smooth. Let cool.
  3. Toss cabbage & arugula with cilantro, lime juice, remaining tablespoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Heat a grill pan or a skillet to medium-high heat. While it’s heating, mix together coriander, cumin, chili powder, black pepper and salt in a small bowl. Brush tuna on all sides with olive oil and coat evenly with spice mixture. Cook tuna for 2-3 minutes on each side (or to your desired level of doneness) and then move to a cutting board and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  5. While tuna is resting, wrap tortillas in foil and place in the oven to warm through. (*If you don’t want to turn on your oven, just wrap in a moist paper towel and microwave for 15-20 seconds.)
  6. Thinly slice avocado and season with a little salt. (I’m obsessed with avocados and portion out half of an avocado for each person.)
  7. Top each warm tortilla with the salad mixture and avocado. Chop or slice tuna, and divide among tacos. Drizzle the orange chipotle sauce over the tacos to serve.

Chile Crusted Tuna Tacos - Bake. Create. Love. 3 Chile Crusted Tuna Tacos - Bake. Create. Love. 2

Weekend love.

I’ve been sick since Wednesday, and I was sick all weekend. But, I loaded myself up with drugs & diet coke, and had an absolute blast anyways.

Saturday, we turned down a dinner invitation since I felt like crap (and also didn’t want to spread my germs), and instead spent the day laying on the couch doing my annual Harry Potter re-watch. We only made it through the first two movies, because we took a pretty long break to put our Christmas tree up!

2014-11-22 09.44.10-1

Yes, I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet. And I don’t care. Thanksgiving is late again this year, and since we’ll be traveling this weekend for the holiday, and then again next weekend for my nephew’s first birthday party and G’s family reunion, this was pretty much our only chance if we wanted any time to enjoy it. I am planted firmly in the real Christmas tree camp, and we headed to Dean and Don’s to get our tree. If you’re local, definitely check them out. We got our tree from them last year, and after checking out a few other places, this is definitely the best option. Their trees are beautiful, and they’re the least expensive. The other places we looked at were $15-$30 more.

I’m off work on Mondays (usually…) and spent all day last Monday hanging Christmas lights. It was a pain to put them up, so I’ve decided we’re keeping them up all year. But it was so worth it. And right now, between the tree, the lights, and the candles I love to burn, our apartment just looks magical. Well, it does if you ignore the socks on the floor and the tripod bag on the table… oops.
2014-11-22 22.03.27Sunday, we headed down to Greensboro, NC for the Garth Brooks World Tour (with Trisha Yearwood). I absolutely loved them when I was a kid. One of the first CD’s I ever owned was one of his, and I remember dancing around in my bedroom as a little girl, singing Trisha’s “She’s in Love With the Boy” over and over again at the top of my lungs. It was a four-hour drive to Greensboro, and we didn’t get home till almost 3:00am (and unfortunately I do have to work today…), but it was so worth it. The concert was probably the best I’ve ever been to. Garth puts on one heck of a show! The best part about the concert? It was all his classic stuff. He did two newer songs, but everything else is the stuff I grew up with. Some of these songs I haven’t heard in years, but as soon as he started playing all of the words came back to me, and I sang along pretty much the whole time. Definitely didn’t help my sore throat, but oh well.

2014-11-23 19.57.31-1

It was also pretty cool that one of his performances was streamed for the American Music Awards. So, if you saw his performance on TV last night, you saw what we were seeing live. Although your view was probably better than mine. We were definitely in the nosebleeds, but oh well.

2014-11-23 20.18.45-1

Seeing him & Trisha together though… Y’all, that just made my inner 11-year-old so happy. When I was younger, and they were still married to other people, I always thought they should be together. So I was thrilled when they finally got married many years later. And hearing her refer to him as the love of her life, and watching him play guitar for her while she sang just had me squeeing inside.

2014-11-23 20.52.42

So yeah. Despite being sick it was a pretty awesome weekend. Bring on the holidays!

Restaurant Review: Pasha Mezze

Veteran’s Day. While every other couple in the world that is or was military affiliated was flocking to a chain restaurant in search of a free meal, G and I just wanted a hassle free breakfast. And most of the places that were offering free food (for veterans/active duty) had long lines out the door. And we don’t like to wait. And I’m pretty passionate about supporting local businesses.

Which is how we ended up at Pasha Mezze. We were trying to figure out where to go, and since there weren’t very many breakfast spots on the free food list, we decided to head to Norfolk and try a place that’s been on my “to try” list for a while: Handsome Biscuit. Only we get there, and the line is out the door. They weren’t offering free food, but it’s an already tiny place in a very trendy college/military heavy area. Neither of us felt like waiting, so we headed a few miles down the road to another spot on my list, Pasha Mezze, a family owned Turkish restaurant.

There wasn’t a wait at Pasha Mezze. In fact, we were the only customers in the place. We had obviously hit the sweet spot where the breakfast crowd had already come and gone, but it was still a little too early for lunch. The inside of the restaurant was very charming. Lots of cool light fixtures, exposed brick, an industrial ceiling and cute, decorative touches everywhere.

2014-11-11 10.45.42

Since we were the only people there, the service was excellent. Our server quickly took drink orders and brought us their house bread while we looked over the menu. The bread came with oil and balsamic vinegar, which I’ve never had with breakfast, but it was delicious. I love carbs…

2014-11-11 10.54.37

The one thing that annoyed me was that they had several breakfast/brunch items that sounded wonderful, but they were only available on Saturday and Sunday. It wasn’t that annoying though, because before I even set foot in the restaurant I knew I was going to order the Turkish breakfast platter. It was scrambled eggs, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, feta, spicy walnut dip and Kalamata olives. And more bread. It was wonderful. Other than the eggs (I’m typically pretty meh when it comes to eggs), it was all of my favorite things on one plate. And even though I don’t love eggs, these had great flavor. A warning though, the olives did have pits in them. I do hate that I ate the bread we had before our food came out, because the walnut dip was so good, and I would have loved to use it as a spread. However, I am trying to lose weight, so four slices of bread is definitely a no-go. Luckily, it was just as good on cucumber slices.

2014-11-11 10.59.49

G went with the South Side Chicken Omlette. It was loaded with spicy, grilled chicken, onions, and spinach, and topped with black beans and corn and a jalapeno tomato sauce. It came with a salad & yogurt sauce on the side. This was really, really good. All of the flavors worked together so well, and the salad and the yogurt sauce helped cool everything down.

2014-11-11 10.59.33

I will definitely be back. Definitely, definitely, definitely. Mediterranean food is my all time favorite, and there are so many more delicious sounding items on their lunch & dinner menus that I can’t wait to try.

What I’m Loving Wednesday

I love Wednesdays, and one of the reasons I love Wednesdays is that I get to share some of the fabulous things I’m coveting with you guys!

How pretty is this flat ware from West Elm??? I’m in love with it. There is one problem with it though… It sells out about every other day. I saw it on Facebook, went to the website and it was sold out. It was back in stock a couple of days later, and then sold out again Monday. It’s back in stock right now, but in about 5 minutes… who knows. But I seriously, seriously love it.
53dfabafe2d97fe222ca354a08f2785a
I bought this wine at Whole Foods on Saturday, and it is so, so good. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet. And it still has a little bit of a bite to it. They offer a sweet white (moscato) and a sweet red (Shiraz). I’m not a huge red wine fan, bit I enjoyed the white so much, I may buy a bottle of the red next time as well. Even better than being delicious, it was delicious and inexpensive (about $10 per bottle).
644a8cde5aee5d2dd6f5d2474a1992a6
The lady day coat from J. Crew is my absolute favorite cold weather article of clothing of all time. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it. It has a layer of thinsulate in it (a very thin insulation), so the coat is incredibly warm, but still sleek and sophisticated. It’s a great investment piece if you live in a colder climate. I have one, that I got in 2008, and I’ve worn in maybe 20 times. It’s not nearly cold enough in the south…
2537a30629abcba2b1b05da5b20cfc9a
This scarf… I looooove this scarf. I love the colors, the prints, the shape, the style… I love it all! I mean… Y’all know I’m a sucker for quatrefoil ;)
9569cd48bc9df4b634afc53da42e23f1
How cute is this shirt? And it’s so appropriate for this wonderful season of gluttony. I mean, I definitely want to lose weight… but I’ve made about six dozen cookies in the past week. And apple-cranberry biscotti and salted caramel chocolate cookies just are so hard to resist…
a356ba1d805fa99674aad0b237bc3f91
Earlier in the year I went to the Sweet Tooth Festival in Charlotte. There were tons of vendors there giving out samples of their sweet treats. One of the vendors there was Nothing Bundt Cakes. I had a lemon one, and fell in love with the idea of little bundt cakes. I’d love to have this mini bundt cake pan, and make a few different flavors of cakes for the upcoming holiday season. And, it’s only $10! Score!
c55d2dca706148290f19721474adf9e8
More pie crust cutters from Williams-Sonoma! I’ve had so much fun with the fall/leaves pie crust cutters, that now I want the Christmas ones! Not only do they make really, really gorgeous apple pies, they also make really pretty dog treats.
fffa8efba58e74a451ad06303326b169 (1)

Recipe: Chicken Tikka Masala

Bake.Create.Love.-Chicken Tikka Masala

I have made this dish so many times. So. Many. Times. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to blog it, because it is so good.

I wish I was more adventurous when it comes to ethnic foods, but I’m not. The only Indian dishes I’ve ever had are chicken tikka masala and chicken vindaloo, and those are also the only ones I’ve ever made at home. I’ve only made chicken vindaloo once, but it was so hot it was almost inedible. Since then, I’ve typically stuck with the tikka masala. And I’ve stuck with this recipe. It seriously comes out perfect every time (as long as you don’t use italian style tomatoes with basil… Then it comes out a little bit weird.).

This dish has a long list of ingredients and a lot of steps, but it isn’t at all complicated. I’ve made a few modifications based on my personal preferences (less yogurt stirred into the sauce, a lot more spices) and I’ve ended up with a truly delicious dish.

Bake.Create.Love - Chicken tikka masala 2

My favorite thing about this recipe is how the chicken is cooked. The chicken is rubbed with spices, slathered in plain yogurt and broiled. The chicken comes out unbelievaby tender and flavorful each and every time. And since grilling is a pain since we live in an apartment, I love the beautiful charring this cooking method gives the chicken.

Bake.Create.Love.-Chicken Tikka Masala 3

And I will ask you not to omit the cilantro. Some is stirred into the sauce, and I use a little extra as a garnish. Don’t use it as a garnish if you don’t like it, but please stir it into the sauce. It gives it a pop of freshness and I think adds a lot to the recipe. My cilantro hating husband never even noticed it was hidden in there.

Chicken Tikka Masala
(Recipe adapted from this one, originally found in Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1″ chunk of fresh ginger; grated
2 fresh serrano chiles (ribs and seeds removed), minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoon garam masala
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 T. plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish

Directions:

Step One:
For the chicken:
In a small bowl, stir together cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt. Spread out a piece of plastic wrap and place chicken on it. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture and roll up in plastic wrap. Sit on a plate (to catch any mess) and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. While chicken is in fridge, in large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger.

For the masala sauce:
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste and garam masala and continue to cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat off and stir in yogurt. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

Step Two:
For the Chicken:
While sauce is simmering, Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack over it. Spray rack with cooking spray. Adjust the oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heat) and pre-heat broiler. Dip chicken into the yogurt mixture (you want a thick coating of yogurt) then lay chicken on the wire rack. Throw out any remaining yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is charred in spots (about 10 minutes on each side).

To assemble:
Let chicken rest for 5 minutes and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir into the sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, season with salt to taste and serve over rice with warm naan.

Bake.Create.Love.-Chicken Tikka Masala 4

And the leftovers? They just get better & better!

Restaurant Review: Mizuno

A couple of months ago we were in need of a sushi date. We had planned to go to Mizuno then, but while I was sitting in a waiting room I read a magazine article that said Hayashi was the best sushi in the area. Hayashi is MUCH closer, so we changed our plans. Unfortunately, dinner at Hayashi was a complete disappointment. So, when I started craving sushi again, I made a reservation for Mizuno, and this time that’s where we actually ended up.

Mizuno is in Virginia Beach, and it’s in a really pretty shopping center. We went inside and were instantly impressed with the very cool decor. Especially the bar. I LOVED the bar.

2014-11-08 19.47.55

We had a reservation for 8:00, but our table wasn’t ready yet, so we had a drink at the bar while we waited. G had a beer, and I had an Asian pear ginger-tini. It was made with Absolute Pear, fresh ginger and Ji sake. It was delicious, and I was happy I couldn’t taste the sake.

2014-11-08 20.03.25

The wait & the quest for a decent table was the most annoying part of our evening. I make reservations so I don’t have to wait. A few minutes is one thing. 25 minutes is another. Also, an employee (I’m guessing a manager, although she never said) kept trying to get us to sit at the bar. She asked if we just want to eat at the bar twice, and then while we were waiting, she asked if we’d like to eat at the sushi bar. Not to sound like a spoiled brat, but no. I want a table. So, that was annoying. When we finally got a table, it was VERY tiny, wedged in between two parties (one was a HUGE party of drunk, loud, rich, obnoxious white people). Keep in mind that this was a really small table (a two top)… So small, they apologized for the size of the table twice. And the size of the table would have been fine if it hadn’t been missing a chair. So, they sit us in a very crowded area, and make us both sit on the bench on one side of the table, because they don’t have a chair for the other side. Seriously? SO annoying. I love my husband, but I need a little room to breath. We ask for a different table and end up being moved. Our new table was much, much better; so we were finally able to order.

We were both starving, and none of the appetizers were jumping out at us, so we both went with salads. G ordered the house salad with the ginger dressing, and I ordered the seaweed salad. Our server told me that the seaweed salad was different from what I was used to, but I ordered it anyways. She was 100% right. It was large chunks of seaweed, on top of a bed of greens, and then served with the ginger dressing. It was okay, but I prefer the what you typically get when you order a seaweed salad, and I probably wouldn’t order it again.

2014-11-08 20.24.45

Once the sushi came out, my annoyance with the wait and the game of musical tables went away. The sushi was absolutely delicious. They had a pretty creative sushi menu (they even have a selection of Atkins/low carb sushi!), but we narrowed it down to three specialty rolls, and two smaller, ordinary rolls. We had a spicy tuna roll, a yellow tail roll (the small, cheaper ones), a rainbow roll, the Tuna Crunchy Crunchy, and the NYPD roll. They all tasted fresh, and the except for the two small rolls, they were all pretty large.

2014-11-08 20.39.04

The rainbow roll was my favorite, because it is always my favorite. The combination of fish, avocado & cucumber just speaks to me. And this one was excellently done. None of the flavors overpowered the others, and there were HUGE chunks of avocado in the roll. I prefer that to a slice of it on top, since when it’s on top, some pieces always end up avocado-less.

2014-11-08 20.38.57

The NYPD was my second favorite (and G’s favorite). It was pretty spicy, due to wasabi in the roll, and a thin slice of jalapeno on top of the roll. I love spicy foods, but after one piece my lips were burning, so I picked off the rest of the jalapeno.

2014-11-08 20.38.52

The tuna crunchy crunchy was our least favorite. The “crunchy” didn’t add anything to the roll, it just made it messy. And the roll itself didn’t have a lot of flavor. I definitely wouldn’t order that one again.

The two small rolls were nothing special. The spicy tuna was really good though. It had heat from different sources, and although it was small, it was good. The yellow tail was very meh. There wasn’t much to it, and it lacked flavor.

All in all, I liked this place. I liked their creative bar menu, I was pleased with the quality of the sushi, but I don’t know if I’ll go back. I didn’t like it anymore than I like Kero, and Kero is a better value, and a heck of a lot closer. If you’re in the Hampton Roads area and have a sushi restaurant you think is the absolute best, let me know! (And I already know about the all you can eat place on Jefferson. That’s our next spot…)