34-36 Weeks

There has been a lot going on the last few weeks, it’s no wonder I just feel tired. But they’ve been good, celebratory, fun things. Now, I’m just ready for time to rest and this baby to arrive!

September 20, at 34 weeks, my mom and a good friend (my little sister from college) threw me a baby shower in Charlotte at my mom’s house. It was great to see friends who live there and also family. Thanks to both Mom and MCK for throwing such a cute shower for us! 10712197_861128434834_1285581383_o 10711844_861128479744_2106610325_o

That weekend was a nice, relaxing one where I got to really spend some quality time with my parents and younger sister. We even took a long walk around the neighborhood on Sunday, after which I had a minor scare and this had to happen:10709717_861295090854_692574300_o

I walked, took a hot shower, and should have waiting to put my rings on but out of habit slid them right on my finger and my finger turned purple and started to swell. Thankfully I was able to remain calm, although a part of me wanted to panic, and my dad made me hold a bag of frozen peas above my head until he could pull my band off. The weather has cooled off and I think I could maybe put them back on my finger but I’m playing it safe and wearing them around my neck. I’ve been told this is pretty much unavoidable at a certain point so I’m going with it.

At 35 weeks, P’s friends decided he needed a “baby bachelor” weekend. Basically, just a boys weekend to celebrate (read: commiserate) the loss of his non-parent status. A couple of friends came in from out of town and several local guys participated. Friday night we had a cookout for couples. The boys played golf on Sunday, rented a bus from a random neighbor and went to the Clemson game. And the left-out ladies (boo-hoo, not really) went to Sky Top Orchard on Saturday and had a girls night watching chick-flicks, Hocus Pocus, and eating cheese and fruit. I even stayed at a friends house in the neighborhood so that P could have his true bachelor weekend. I had planned to stay out Sunday too but everyone had to hit the road so we just laid around the house and cleaned up after the party. He had a really great weekend and so did I. It’s funny because now that its football season he’s a lot more social and drinking more and I can’t remember if this is the way football season has always been or if he really is scared that once baby girl is here his life is going to change that much, at least in terms of him being able to watch football with a beer in hand.10395829_862712225904_2789918699571232127_n 10354950_862672011494_4960066155258911656_n

This past weekend – 36 weeks! – two of my very best friends traveled into Greenville for our final baby shower. MD hosted and cooked/baked everything from scratch – avocado salad, apple cake, mac ‘n cheese muffins, butternut squash wrapped in bacon, yum. And ASC surprised me by flying in from New Orleans for basically 24 hours just to attend. She mopped too which was awesome because I don’t think my back would have enjoyed mopping right now. About 15 local friends came to the house and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Afterwards, I should have rested but I couldn’t help but start organizing everything we got and then doing all of the baby laundry up to 3 months that we have. Such cuteness.10686907_864670311884_1604099174425897342_n 10670170_864774587914_3362553692905413350_n 10712775_864774368354_2279781935453507679_n

Yesterday I hit that “I want everything done” mode. Well, not everything, like the touch up painting in the nursery but I wanted all of our duplicate gifts exchanged and our hospital bags packed! After work, I went to Target and Babies ‘R Us to exchange and buy what we needed and them got my bag all packed up to go, except for a going home outfit for me (what do you wear home from the hospital?) and pulled P’s stuff together (just need a bag). It’s only Oct 7, we still have 3+ weeks to go and I’m afraid this month is going to be so hard. Waiting and waiting some more. I’m not the most patient person. I don’t want her to come before she is ready, in terms of health, but I want her to come! I really hope she’s born in October and not November. I think more waiting would just be unbearable!

The Dishwasher Saga

When we moved into our house the only new appliance we purchased was our fridge.  And it’s awesome, we love it.  In the meantime we have been living and working with the old appliances which includes a hand-me-down (from college from a younger sibling) microwave that is ugly, a nice yet older oven & stove with a cracked glass cooktop, and an old, ugly, rusting, cream dishwasher.  Everything functions fine even though they don’t look great so new appliances were (and still are) rather low on the list.  Although, they are climbing up there as the list gets shorter.

A few weeks ago, I used a sample dishwasher soap and must not have read the instructions correctly because the dishwasher overflowed and also leaked down into the basement where we could see the water stain the wood ceiling in the bar.  We cleaned everything up but that did not help the fact that the insulation downstairs got wet.  After returning from vacation a couple of weeks ago we were hit with the smell of wet insulation and knew something must be done.photo 4 photo 1

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nasty, wet insulation

Last Friday, P and I cleaned our the bar and tore down the ceiling which was only a few months old and took out a whole wall of wood panels.  We removed all of the insulation from that area – disgusting, never want to do it again.  My parents came down Saturday and Dad & P reinstalled the ceiling and wall with new, non-smelly, and supposedly non-itchy insulation.photo 5photo 3

Where does the dishwasher come back in?  Well, my parents are finally remodeling their kitchen which has been their dream since buying their house 15 years ago.  When I heard they were going to be donating their old appliances I said, NO!  Please give your dishwasher to me.  It is not new, more like circa 2001, but it is black like our oven and a Bosch of much better quality than we had.  Plus, no rust.  We will eventually completely upgrade to stainless but not anytime soon.

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Picture this all the way out and surrounded by towels!

I get home last night from the grocery store in anticipation of cooking a meal for 6-8 people for Monday Night Football.  P’s team, the Redskins, unfortunately did not play very well but anyway… I get home and P had actually beaten me there and had decided to start removing the old dishwasher himself.  Never a good idea especially when it’s your first time.  I walk into panic and lots of water, “Get me a towel!” Water was also leaking into the bar, again.  The bar we just spent a whole weekend fixing because of leaking… Hopefully there is no long-term damage; here wasn’t much water down there. photo 3 copy

Long story short, guests start arriving as we try to stop water, and he tries to install the new appliance which turns out needed a new hose.  After much ado, much cleaning, a trip to Home Depot, and some cursing (both because of the game and also the project) we have a new (to us) dishwasher.  Has it been tried yet or tested?  No.  Am I a little worried about that?  Yes.  Fingers crossed.  But at least dinner turned out pretty good.  I can help in a crisis & man the grill: multi-tasker.photo 1 copy

Baby Blue Shower

On Sunday, I had the privilege of hosting a baby shower for a good friend.  We were not only celebrating her pregnancy and impending motherhood but also having a last hurrah as she and her husband are moving to Louisiana.  It was a bittersweet event but mostly sweet, I think!photo 4

Our foundational (sounds important, right?) Book Club, helped me host.  AM brought some stellar and super cute decorations – she rocks at this stuff, obviously, which is why I asked for her help.  Crafty, I am not so much.  And EM was super awesome and not only brought food but came early and helped me put mine together – we were the official taste tasters, especially of the beverages.  She had perfect timing, arriving almost 2 hours early.  I was buzzing with lists in my head at that point, forgetting to read instructions for recipes, and having dogs picked up.  She basically saved the day, stirring things, watching things I left on the stove when people arrived, etc.  #LifeSaver #ShowerSaver  And she brought yummy chicken salad (sans mayo!) and the cheese.  Had to have cheese and crackers.photo 5 photo 3 photo 2

I tried out some new recipes for the day.  One was one inspired by a Pioneer Woman recipe for cheesecake cups.  She put graham cracker crumbs in mini wine glasses, topped with a cheesecake type filling and then with pie filling (homemade and store bought).  I didn’t follow her recipe exactly and actually ended up using pudding filling – one cheesecake flavored and the other lemon.  I saw them while looking for graham cracker crumbs and they just seemed so simple.  I then added some cream cheese to the pudding after following their super simple directions but I forgot to let it soften and I also do not have a mixer so we never quite got the cream cheese to mix fully in.  It kept some clumps but once topped with the topping you could not tell.  And it tasted pretty good, not quote like I imagined but fine.  I will definitely continue to play with that recipe.  For the topping I used frozen blueberries and orange juice with some vanilla.  Easy, delicious.  The problem came when all the recipes for “pie fillings” I researched said to use cornstarch to thicken the sauce, none of them said: “Read the cornstarch box directions before using.”  Therefore, I did not.  And I did not dissolve it in cold water before putting into the mix which created more clumps.  We were able to pick some of it out but…. yea.  So I had a tasty (but not awesome) and kind of clumpy dessert.  But it looked cute.  We topped half of them with nuts.  I have to admit that I am a little disappointed with these – they had potential but fell flat.  photo 1 copy 2I also made a little cocktail/sangria which involved splashing a bunch of stuff into a pitcher hoping it tasted good.  It’s kind of hard to go wrong with these ingredients: 750mL Citrus Vodka, magnum bottle of Chenin Blanc, champagne, lemonade.  Brands don’t really matter and you could probably use any semi-sweet/citrusy white wine, Moscato if you want really sweet, a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio if lighter.  I also cut up 2 limes and a Granny Smith apple and put them in it.  I made 2 batches at the same time: half the wine in each, a quarter of the vodka and champagne in each and splashes of lemonade. I also served just lemonade and sparkling grape juice for non-alcoholic options (plus water).  I made a 3rd batch after the first two were gone with the rest of the vodka, champagne and lemonade – post party relaxation.  This concoction was awesome, no disappointments here.  (Next time I would add a little sign card that tells what it is because some people thought it was water with lime… oops.)photo 5 copy photo 2 copy 2We served grapes, EM’s chicken salad with mini croissants, mini taquitos, cheese, crackers, hummus, and little petite fours with blue booties from BI-LO’s bakery.  I got several compliments on the petite fours from BI-LO.  I also know that Publix has them but in a smaller size and more $$.

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Some other items to note, I placed children’s books on the table for more decor and also my gift to the mother-to-be and we used one of the larger books as the sign-in book.  I saw this idea at a shower I attended and loved it.  We also made sure to pass around a notebook to get peoples’ addresses for “Mom” so that she would have them for thank you notes.  I think we had about 10 women all-in-all and my friend received some great gifts.  It’s always good when several of the guests are mothers (or pharmacists, in this case) because the gifts are practical and come with advice.  I have been attending several baby showers and keeping little mental notes for the future.  I always learn very interesting things.  I think P would freak out if he heard some of this stuff but I find it fascinating.

Definitely a successful day: 1 recipe win and 1 recipe with potential, and a happy mother-to-be even with a whole lot of sad friends wishing her good-bye and good luck. And a huge shout-out to my fellow hosts and rescuers.  Have you ever had any recipe fails when you try it the day you have to serve it?

Any good baby shower stories to share??

 

Green Lettuce

I think my dream job or the perfect second job would be food critic.  Basically, I want to get paid to eat and try new places.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?

We don’t often eat out but when we do, I am going to try to write about my experience here.  I was fortunate enough to eat out with an old friend of mine today – we were long overdue a catch up session – at a fairly new restaurant open in downtown Greenville (Augusta St.), Green Lettuce.

Source: Green Lettuce's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Green-Lettuce-USA/101002013422426

 

Green Lettuce was almost open months ago as Tender Greens but it never got to open its doors until recently.  I am not sure of the details but I do know there was an issue with the name already being used by another company.  I am glad they finally were able to open after months of peeking into their windows and seeing a fully put together and really cute seating area.  The restaurant itself is in a great place right off Main Street in the West End of downtown.  There are lots of shops nearby as well as the park and baseball stadium.  Inside it cute, simple, and kind of rustic with warm colors, live plants, and nice wood tables.  524734_125661597623134_431252709_n

A place called Green Lettuce obviously is going to have salads on their menu but I did not realize it is actually a Middle Eastern restaurant with hummus, tabouli, grape leaves, pita platters, etc. on the menu.  There were even a few items I had never heard of and asked about.  Our server was a very nice, subdued gentlemen who took great care of us.

The menu is two pages, front and back.  The front is pretty much all salads.  I was really intrigued by several of them, especially the fresh date salad.  Dates are not a typical ingredient around here!  But, I was really craving something warm and heartier with protein.  I needed protein.  My friend, who had eaten there before, recommended the roasted turkey sandwich and once I realized it came with soup and  salad, I was sold.

I thought we would get a mini taste of soup but we were started with a fairly large cup.  We both chose veggie soup out the three options; the others were chicken and tomato.  It was so good.  Most vegetable soups I have eaten are tomato based, have potatoes and carrots, etc.  This one was a delicious broth based with broccoli, onions, and other green veggies.  We squeezed the lime it was served with on top and it really sent the flavors overboard.  It was so good.1005323_750526811374_1275753777_n

They also surprised us with a serving of freshly made, warm pita bread.  I’m not sure what they put on this bread but I believe it was some sort of olive oil and garlic spread.  It was so good.  Having bread as an appetizer I originally planned to just eat soup and salad with pita and save the sandwich for another day since it was more bread but once it was brought out, I could not stop myself.1016443_750531372234_2030013252_n

The salad was fresh and crunchy with a great house dressing.  Again, I believe it was an olive oil base.  One of the reasons I had to eat half my sandwich was so that I could dip it into the left behind dressing.  The sandwich (roasted turkey, lettuce, tomato, avocado) did not need any help though.  The ingredients were fresh – did I mention that only use organiz ingredients and try to source as much as possible locally? – and the bread was incredible. I’m not a big sandwich fan, never have been but this was so good.  They put something on the bread, probably what was on the pita bread, that really pulled all of the flavors together.  I ordered it without any mayo or mustard and often without a wet condiment, sandwiches can be dry and boring but this was definitely not the case here.  I saved the last half of the sandwich for another lunch this week (or snack later!).

Meal Plan Sample

I wrote about Meal Planning earlier and thought that showing a bit of an example would help clarify some points.  Now, when you’re making your meal plan there are things to consider:  what do you currently have on hand and what do you need from the store?  Some people meal plan and then shop but I tend to be the other way around, or a combo, and consider what we have in the kitchen and what can I create with it.

This Saturday I went to the Greenville Saturday Market, a local farmer’s marketing open May – October.  I love it.  I had an idea of items that I wanted/needed and here is what I got:

  • Fresh pasta (ravioli that is great to freeze) from a new pasta vendor – I’m a big fan of the usual vendor but their lines are always so long.  2 flavors that will go into freezer for future meals.
  • A huge head of lettuce, a Romaine variety.  I always have some kind of salad greens on hand and this was too beautiful to pass up.
  • Two loaves of Great Harvest bread.  I almost never buy bread from GH because of the expense but we have some great fancy cheese on hand so I wanted fancy grilled cheese and also a nice twist on P’s lunch sandwiches.
  • Local honey – needed a bottle for home and work (for tea).
  • Kale – I’m obsessed.
  • 2 jars of fresh salsa – some of the best I’ve ever had.  This will last us!

I spent roughly $60 which is a little more than I normally spend weekly but I think it is worth it to support local industry and for good quality product.  This is an example of my just stocking the fridge with no real, clear idea what I wanted to cook.  I also had items left over from my last grocery trip a couple of weeks ago that helped inspire some meals:

  • Blocks of fancy cheese P bought when he went shopping last week – he almost never shops but surprised me with a nice grilled dinner one night.
  • Spaghetti squash.
  • Pork chops in the freezer.
  • Frozen butternut squash ravioli (from Trader Joe’s) and frozen pumpkin gnocchi (from Farmer’s Market).
  • Publix pizza dough in freezer.
  • Spaghetti sauce in pantry.
  • Potatoes, onions, and corn on the cob in fridge leftover from other trips.
  • Broccoli/cauliflower in freezer.
  • Leftover BBQ crock pot chicken and cabbage/apple slaw from Saturday night.
  • Italian sausage in fridge leftover from P’s shopping trip.
  • Lunch meat in fridge:  turkey and salami.

So here is my meal plan for the current week – some already eaten and enjoyed.

Sunday:
Lunch – Sweet potato gnocchi topped with a cheesy sauce I made from fancy cheese and milk.  Broccoli & cauliflower.  P had leftover sausage on his.
Dinner – Leftover BBQ chicken and slaw sandwiches.

Monday:
Lunch – For me, romaine salad topped with apples, carrots, hard-boiled eggs and feta cheese.  For P, a turkey/salami sandwich with romaine lettuce, mustard, horseradish.
Dinner – Spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce.  P had the last of the sausage.

Tuesday:
Lunch – For me, romaine salad topped with apples, avocado, eggs, carrots and feta cheese.  For P, the last of the BBQ chicken and the rest of the cabbage as a slaw.
Dinner – Grilled pizza (tomato sauce, cheese, mushroom, salami) and grilled romaine.

Wednesday:
Lunch – For me and P, the rest of the cheese sauce over butternut squash ravioli, broccoli and cauliflower.
Dinner – Pork chops with onion, mushroom & kale saute.

Thursday:
Lunch – For me, grilled cheese sandwich. For P, leftover pork chop and veggies.
Dinner – Friends over for dinner.  They are bringing meat for grill.  We will grill romaine, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes with fresh rosemary.

Friday:
Lunch - For me, caprese salad (tomato/mozzarella).  For P, either leftovers or a turkey sandwich or both.
Dinner – Fried egg sandwiches with cheese, avocado, bacon, and tomato.

As you can see, by the end of the week we are eating leftovers or throwing together quick meals with whatever else is on hand.  This week is heavy on the sandwiches because we have the Great Harvest bread and it really doesn’t taste as great once it has to be refrigerated or frozen.  It was also heavy on the pasta which is not normal for us, but a cheese sauce recipe from Pinterest inspired me to use the “I don’t know what to do with you” pastas waiting in the freezer.  I’ll have to watch the carbs!

For breakfasts, I made some baked oatmeal with strawberries that needed to be used and apples that I send with P and also bring with me to the office.  I also purchased a lot of Greek yogurt because they were 10 for $10 at BI-LO.

Over the weekend, I’m pretty loose with planning because who knows what we will be up to!  And who knows what will inspire me at the market.  I hope this helps with the meal planning process and how to make it work.  It’s just natural for me now, sometimes I don’t even write it down!

Meal Planning

I joined Toastmasters several weeks back.  It is a national (international?) organization focused on becoming better and more effective communicators, mostly through public speaking.  I recently had my 2nd speech.  It was supposed to be about organizing your speech – intro, body, conclusion, etc.  My mind went to a recipe because of its clear steps but realized it would be difficult without a real demonstration and that was more of an undertaking than I wanted.  My next thought was meal planning.  To me, there are clear steps you can take to become a better meal planner and some clear results.  My speech was ok, people seemed to enjoy it (oh yes, you get feedback!) but I also went quite a bit over time.  No matter, I feel like my topic was relevant for me and for all other busy professionals out there so I thought I would share my outline here!  (Well, a somewhat cleaned up and added to for clarification version of my outline.)

Meal Planning:  it’s not just for housewives and stay at home moms.  It actually makes life easier for busy professionals.

  1. You will eat healthier.
  2. You will save money.
  3. You will save time and become more efficient.

How to:

      1. stock your freezer and pantry.

  • Frozen veggies and fruits!  Fresh produce is wonderful but it has a life span and since frozen veggies are flash frozen immediately they often have more nutritional value.  If you have veggies on hand, fresh or not, you have no excuse for not including at least one per meal.
  • Canned items.  I like canned corn and beans and also some canned soups.  I am very picky about canned soups and find myself buying the gourmet brands in the new fancy pouches and plastic containers – so not really canned.  But there are some brands that keep the sodium low and the content hearty.
  • Non-perishables like brown rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.  I love the Uncle Ben’s 90 sec microwavable pouches but also have clear plastic containers filled with others grains and pastas.  I love the organized look in my pantry but also know when I am running low on something and need to refill.  Best places to refill are from bulk bins like from Earth Fare and Whole Foods – it is less expensive because you don’t have to pay for packaging.
  • Sauces like pasta sauce, BBQ sauce or salsa can add flavor and/or round out a meal.
  • Meats that you can take out the day before to thaw or put in the crockpot in the morn to cook all day.
  • Make ahead meals that you freeze and then can either put in the oven or crock-pot (do this seasonly), the occasional frozen pizza (the ones from Trader Joe’s are bound to be better for you than Papa John’s).
  • When you have a pantry and freezer that is stocked with convenient items to either make a meal or round out a meal, those evenings when you are too tired to cook and tend to get take-out, you can even faster microwave some rice, rinse a can of beans, and add some corn and salsa for a tasty, well-balanced meal.  And if you are stocked with healthy items you have no excuse to not put together a healthy AND convenient meal.  Saving money, thinking more healthy, and saving time.

2.  stock your fridge each week.

Stock your fridge with regular and or favorite items that you know will be great for go-to snacks or side dishes.  For me, I almost always have these items in my fridge:

  • Spinach, salad, and/or kale.  You can eat a salad with almost anything as a side and you know you’ve got your vegetable.  You can also sneak things like spinach into meals very easily even if you’re afraid of the green stuff.
  • Apples – having items on hand for snacking is also good so that you are more likely to go for the apple that is already sliced and waiting for you than for the brownie box that takes 45 min to cook.  Apples are easy to pack for lunches and I also like them sliced in oatmeal or salads.
  • Lunch meat is great for lunches – I send sandwiches for P’s lunches often.
  • Onions are great to flavor almost any savory dish.
  • Sweet potatoes are a very healthy side dish and also heavy enough that I can make them the center of a meal.  One of my favorites is kale and sweet potato hash with bacon and onions, topped with a runny egg.
  • Eggs – great source of protein, on sandwiches in salads, etc.  And there are so many ways to cook them!

3.  Plan out your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) once each week.

I am a big fan of planning out our meals, dinners and lunches because I make a lunch for myself and P every day.  I typically send a granola bar or homemade muffin with P for breakfast and I eat at the office from my stash there.

  • Use what you have.  I take several things into account when I meal plan:  portion size – P eats more than me, period – creating well balanced meals with a fruit or veggie in every meal, what is in the cabinet and fridge that can either be the base of a meal like frozen chicken breasts, and what we have that will pair with it.  The majority of my meals come from items we already have at home so that I don’t have to go to the store for little visits.  I’m bad about going in for one thing and coming out with 5 so I try to control my visits.
  • Be flexible.  Sometimes you’re not in the mood for the black bean & sweet potato burritos you had planned and you go for the frozen ravioli instead.  It’s ok to be flexible, listen to your body and mood and go for what you feel like cooking or really want to eat.  That’s why your kitchen is stocked with options.  And plan for one or two meals out if that’s what you like.  Tt’s your life and your plan
  • Plan for leftovers.  I technically cook for two but I am always considering leftovers or other ways to use the food I made for lunches.  I try to limit the amount of sandwiches I send Phil.  Keep it interesting and you’re less likely to get bored and start eating out again.
  • Think about how much money you would save each month by not eating out for lunch every day?  $50/wk, 4 wks/month – that’s easily $200 saved right there.

4.   shop according to your plan.

It is hard for me to stick to my list in the grocery store.  There is often at least one thing that goes in that I wasn’t planning on, but having that list and your plan really keeps the grocery budget down.  I can shop for 2 people who eat almost every meal, three meals a day, from home for about $200/month and that includes wine.  Occasionally I blow the budget but it a conscious decision to do so.  I will splurge on the expensive cheeses P likes so much or we need to do a major restocking of items.

  • I typically shop once a week but I know people who go every day and buy for dinner.  It doesn’t matter.
  • Think about the money you will save if you’re not just throwing whatever in the buggy while walking down the aisles, when you have a targeted plan and you’re not just wandering and picking up everything that looks good.
  • You will have less waste too because you didn’t buy too much food you couldn’t eat before it spoils.
  • You’ve also cut your time in the store down because you know exactly what you’ve come for.

To conclude: meal planning will help you eat healthier, save money both on groceries and eating out, and it will help you be more efficient.  So how are we doing these things:  stocking your kitchen with easy, convenient yet still healthy foods, plan out your meals in advance and shop according to that plan.

Easy peesy.  Any other tips you can share to make it easier for beginners??

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pizza

I’ve always liked making homemade pizza.  When I was a kid we would occasionally have pizza nights where we would make pizzas with different toppings. We used to buy the pre-made crusts and then load them up with toppings and lots and lots of cheese. Back then the only “non-traditional” topping used was pineapple (my favorite)… that’s almost normal now.

I started making homemade pizzas again a few years ago when I realized the fresh pasta vendor at the Greenville Saturday Market sold pizza dough!  Now I have to say that I have done quite a bit of research on pizza dough and which ones are best.  And no, I have never made my own or have any inclination to; my focus is on the ingredients!  Plus, when you’ve found amazing pre-made dough, why recreate perfection?  I started using the farmer’s market dough which was pretty good and I liked that I could freeze it until I wanted it and then I moved onto Trader Joe’s pizza dough when the market is closed.  I switched between the two for a while even though I wasn’t really a fan of the TJ’s dough – not the taste or the texture (I always got the whole wheat).

I then was reading a blog, Meals and Miles, I believe and she commented on how Publix’s pizza dough was the best and always came out great so I had to try it even though I’m not really a Publix shopper.  There is one right by my office so it is convenient.  Publix’s pizza dough is in the bakery section where the refrigerated display cases are and even if it is the only thing I buy there (which rarely happens) it is worth the trip.  They have about 4 flavors at my local store ranging from regular to multigrain to Italian 5-grain.   They are so good!  I love the multi  and five grain options.  I typically freeze them and pull them out when I want and they have been perfect each time!

So I’ve gotten into making two pizzas at a time, one more for my tastes and one more for P although we often share. A traditional and a non-traditional. My favorite combo is kind of weird and I’m not sure what inspired it:  Granny Smith apples thinly sliced, caramelized onions, Brussels sprouts, bacon and blue cheese (with some filler mozzarella).  It is seriously the best pizza I have ever had.  I usually make another that have more standard ingredients so that I don’t scare P too much.

So a few weeks ago I bought something I really love from Trader Joe’s, blueberry encased goat cheese.  It is a huge log for about $5, good deal for goat cheese.  I really needed to come up with a way to use it that wasn’t just on a cracker.  After looking up “what to do with blueberry goat cheese?” I saw a suggestion for pizza.  Of course.  Hence last night’s pizza fest.

Homemade Pizzas

Homemade Pizzas – All Colors of the Rainbow!

It was pretty crazy looking at the two of these pizzas together – who knew that I could cover all of the colors in the rainbow?  The one on the left actually has all three of my childhood favorite colors, my room was apple green and all the accents where cheddar cheese orange and blueberry purple.

I started both pizzas with the 5-grain Publix dough that I had frozen then put in the fridge to thaw.  The I microwaved about 6 slices of bacon in my handy dandy bacon cooker (this sucker is awesome!)  I didn’t cook it all the way since I knew it would crisp up in the oven on the pizza.

Joie Piggy Bacon Tray

Joie Piggy Bacon Tray

I think drained all the bacon grease from the tray into a saute pan on the stove where I cooked a full sliced onion – smelled heavenly.  Once the onions were nice and soft, somewhat brown I tossed in some spinach to wilt on top.  During this prepping I had also thinly sliced about half a Granny Smith (P stole some slices while I cooked and the other half I chopped up for this morning’s oatmeal), and cut up some asparagus.  I pre-cooked the asparagus some as well.  Here is how I layered the pizzas:

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pizza with apples and asparagus

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pizza, apples & asparagus

Sweet & Salty (Blueberry Goat Cheese)
Lightly coat the dough with olive oil (I used Garlic Gold Balsamic)
Spread some onions & spinach
Spread apple splices – I only do one layer but more could be tasty
Slice half a log of Trader Joe’s blueberry goat cheese and spread evenly around (I did not cover the pizza with these cheese but put it about every 2 inches – it’s a strong flavor)
Lightly fill in any cheese gaps with shredded sharp cheddar or mozzarella
Sprinkle little pieces of asparagus on top
Finish off with small pieces of bacon!

Bacon & Egg Pizza
Spread tomato base on crust, as thin or thick as preferred (we used jar sauce)
Spread onions & spinach evenly
Cover with slices of mozzarella or other cheeses
Top with bacon!
The trick to the egg is to cook the pizza halfway, take it out of the over, crack 2 or 3 eggs on top and then put back into the oven until egg is done to your liking.  I prefer a runny egg but P doesn’t so I cooked these all the way through (I should have used 3 eggs so that they would be more evenly distributed on more pieces)

Eggs on Pizza - Mmmmm

Eggs on Pizza – Mmmmm

I cooked these pizzas on 350 the first half but then turned the heat up to 400 when the egg wasn’t cooking quickly enough.  They probably took about 30 minutes, one on a pizza pan and the other on a cookie sheet.

Whereas I typically like my apples & Brussels sprouts pizza better than the savory version, last night I was really torn as to my favorite.  Loved the egg and bacon but the sweetness of the blueberry goat cheese was a really nice surprise.  I love making our own pizzas, they taste better than take-out or frozen and are probably a lot healthier.  I’ll have to come up with some other interesting combos!  Have any tasty suggestions??

 

 

Book Club – The Heavy

It’s been a while since I posted about Book Club and we are on our 4th (?) meeting this month!  I’m awful at reviewing books apparently.  I think I may read too many and all the details get jumbled and I just never remember any specifics.  Of course, I’ve never been that person who can spout off movie quotes but I’m great with plot lines and overal feedback.

Our first two books were actually memoirs about motherhood.  One of our members is pregnant (didn’t know when books were selected) and the rest of us are at that age and have lots of friends who are having babies.  They seemed pretty appropriate for our first books and they were both easy reads.15796987

Our first book was The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet.  I was expecting this book to inspire some controversy as it is about a woman who has to put her 7 year old daughter on a diet.  The daughter’s doctor diagnosed her as obese and the book follows the heartache, the decisions, the judgement that the mother/daughter duo go through as they battle to get to a healthy weight.  This book really made me think about the issues from different perspectives.  I mean what would I do if I was told my child was obese?  What decisions would I make in order to get her healthy?  Would I also put my own body issues onto my child?  There were also some diet ideas that the mom follows that made me think about how I look at food and dieting.  Like what is more important when trying to lose weight: eating healthy/nutritional food that may have denser calories or eating low calorie foods that may have less nutritional value?  The book made it seem like the end all, be all way to lose weight was reducing calories, no matter the kind of calories.  I don’t totally agree with this.  I mean, yes you need to reduce calorie intake, but I also think you have to eat healthy, nutritious, well-balanced foods.  And yes, I think you have to cheat every once in a while or otherwise you’ll never stick to the path.  Then again, I’ve never dieted in my life so who am I to have an opinion??  I just try to eat healthy and I’ve never counted calories although maybe I should because I’m putting on that after wedding weight.  (Ugh.)

One of my big issues with the “diet” in the book is the mother’s take on exercise.  She doesn’t think exercise is worth it because you have to intake more calories to get an effective workout… Logically, it kind of makes sense.  I mean, when I do hot yoga I probably do eat more on those days because I’ve burned more but I truly feel like exercise has more than just a burn calories purpose.  Exercise helps with confidence, leveling stress, changing your body, increasing muscle mass and therefore metabolism, toning muscles, heart health, and so much more.

I’m not an expert and the mother in this book doesn’t claim to be either so don’t listen to either of us when making real life decisions about health BUT I do think this book triggered some good thought and good discussion in our little book club.  And isn’t that what it is all about?  I would have loved to have some already parents in our club for this read because I think they would have added a whole other level to the discussion.  None of us have children so we could not realistically comment on what this mother’s struggle was like.  I do know that I will be more conscious of judging any mom’s decisions because of how the judgement of other moms was depicted.  It was sad to see that there is this woman who is dealing with a real health issue for her child and there just didn’t seem to be any support from other mothers.

The idea of being totally responsible for another person is scary.  I mean, how does a 7 year old become obese?  How do you keep it from happening?  How do you protect your child from anything, period?  Parenthood – there are obviously no clear answers but if anyone finds an instruction manual let me know!

The Seafare – Williamsburg, VA

Saturday night while P and I were in Williamsburg, VA to see his family we took his dad out to dinner for his birthday.  After searching through Opentable we chose the Seafare, a restaurant in downtown Williamsburg that has been around for years.  Somehow, despite living in Williamsburg his entire life, P’s dad (and no one else in his family) had ever been.  It was a great choice and a really nice evening out.

Not only was the company some of the best but the food and dining experience was stellar.  Before we even ordered, the server, who was fabulous, brought out a small piece of rum bread for each of us.  It was delicious and one of three different bread selections we sampled through the evening.

P picked out a bottle of white wine to share, a Truchard Chardonnay.  It was pretty good.  He liked it a lot but it was a bit too mineral-y for me.  I would definitely drink it again but would not have been my first choice.  I will buy a bottle or two for P though if I ever see it.  Their wine list was extensive and in a beautiful leather bound book.

We ordered a chopped salad to share – their salads are very large and great for sharing.  We probably could have split it between 4 or 5 people, not that we struggled to finish it between the three of us.  Fresh, housemade bread came with our salad.  P also ordered a half dozen oysters.  I had my two and his second – love raw oysters!  Was shocked he ordered them but I think our recent trip to Pearlz in Charleston showed them how good they can be.   We were given a palette cleanser of strawberry sorbet after our appetizers.  I always feel like these little details are the sign of a fancy restaurant.

P’s dad ordered the crab cakes for his entree which came with a side (mashed potatoes, baked potato, fries, or rice) and broccoli and carrots.  There were two crab cakes and they were huge and all meat, very little filler.  He said they were great.  P ordered the special:  steak and shrimp which came with the same side options.  I ordered the sea bass and was shocked at how large the fillet was.  Sea bass usually comes in smaller portions, not that I had trouble finishing it.  Each of our meals also came with an offering of cornbread muffins – yum.

There were very little leftovers even after three courses – sign of a good meal!  Now, The Seafare, is definitely a special occasion restaurant.  Be prepared to spend $50 per person easily and more if you order appetizers, desserts, and drinks.  It is definitely worth the price but probably just once a year.  I’m really glad we took P’s dad because we never get to spend time with just him.  I think he really enjoyed it and I enjoyed my two dates.  :)

I would highly recommend you visit The Seafare if you are looking for a special evening out during your visit in Williamsburg.

Pin-spired to Cook

I’ve been in a cooking mood lately.  For a while I was definitely not, it was easy meals that could be tossed together with little to no prep work or thought.  And when P was out of town, it was kale chips and froyo for dinner.  But lately, not only have I been in the mood to cook but I’ve been inspired to try new recipes.  I love Pinterest for their recipes.  I will pin a recipe but it mostly just provides inspiration, then I will Google a few recipes with that description and find one that matches the ingredients I have on hand, prep/cook time, and level of ease.  Most of the time I end up pulling things together from a few different recipes and create my own.  (Of course this is not a cooking blog so I have no pictures of the food I made.  It may not have been pretty but it tasted great.)

My first foray into something different was when I bought chicken drumsticks instead of breasts from the grocery one day.  They were cheaper and I was challenged to cook something I never have before.  I researched some recipes for cooking times but basically just marinated them in some BBQ sauce and Dadil Pepper sauce (pepper and sauce is only found in St. Augustine, FL and I got some in my guest bag from a wedding I was in last month – it is SO good) for around 48 hours.  Then I just cooked them in the oven for about an hour… they were so good and I’m looking forward to the other half of the package that is in the freezer.

Last weekend we went over to some friends’ house for dinner.  They grilled the most delicious steaks they found at a local butcher shop (must go there!) and we brought dessert.  I basically used a box mix, dark chocolate, and substituted the water for soy milk but that wasn’t a big deal.  It was the fresh strawberries (thank you Publix 3 for $5) that I mixed into the mix before baking.  This was a really, really easy addition to a box mix that took the brownies up a notch.  We didn’t cook them the total time so they were still warm and gooey when we ate them.  They were topped with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Then last Sunday, we had P’s brother and one of my BFF’s over for dinner.  I had the time and just wanted to cook.  My original inspiration was a recipe I saw on Pinterest was spaghetti squash au gratin.

http://dandydishes.blogspot.com/2011/10/spaghetti-squash-au-gratin.html

I went to the store and that is all I knew for sure I wanted on the menu, subbing Greek yogurt for sour cream.  Of course, BI-LO did not have any spaghetti squash (or kale! grrrrr) so I decided to go with a more traditional au gratin using red potatoes.  I did not go to the grocery store with a list of ingredients, I knew the basics and had most at home already.  I then decided to go with a meatloaf for the main dish.  I had thought about pork chops but really love meatloaf.  I’ve been making it since I was a kid and have perfected my just-toss-stuff-in-the-bowl-and-mix recipe.  But, again Pinterest inspired me to do meatloaf balls instead of a loaf.  I think both of these came out really well and everyone else seemed to agree.  For my meatloaf I basically toss a bunch of BBQ sauce, ketchup, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, an egg or two, and whatever other spices speak to me in with ground turkey.  No measuring, no method.  It was also really easy to just put them in a muffin tin and let them cook until done.  I paired them with roasted veggies – squash, zucchini, broccoli, and onions.  I actually have leftovers for lunch today, yum.

http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/1902168-MEATLOAF-BALLS

Then, last night we had some friends over for dinner again.  We have been planning on this dinner for weeks in advance and had to reschedule three times so I was happy we finally got together!  Once again, I was inspired by a recipe for chicken enchiladas on Pinterest but I researched another recipe that used avocados and Greek yogurt for the sauce instead of the traditional red sauce.  This is the recipe I found, http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/chicken-avocado-enchiladas/, and for once I pretty much followed it.  ”Pretty much” meaning I didn’t measure any of the spices and I also added collard greens (because for the 2nd time BI-LO was out of kale!  grrrr) and a Mexican corn mix to each tortilla.  There were no vegetables in the recipe and I always try to bulk things up with extra green stuff.  Again, I think this recipe was a winner.

FamilyFoodFinds.com

This weekend we our going out of town for our niece’s 1st birthday(!) and have leftovers enough to keep us from going hungry but I’m hoping to continue cooking one new recipe a week.  We will see if that happens!

Here is my Pinterest food board – which recipe should I try next??  http://pinterest.com/sydneyw5/bite-me/