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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Three Years!

Wow, I can't believe it's been three years already! Three years since the best night of my life. It really was the perfect wedding. Being surrounded by friends and family and so much love really makes you know how lucky you are.

I haven't shared many wedding photos here so I thought I would take a look back and show you some. Photos by Ryan Estes.

The venue. Our wedding was in Lancaster, PA, Casey's home town.

You know we had to have Vermont maple syrup favors. The extras have come in handy. I like to keep one stashed in my purse when I go out for brunch.

Touching up my makeup.

Casey getting ready.

Our flowers were green cymbidium orchids. Love!

The ceremony was outside next to the Conestoga river. It rained the day before but the rain stayed away on our wedding day.

It's done! I love the joy on our faces here!

Our wonderful wedding party.

First dance. Casey totally bared with me to go to dancing lessons. Yes, I was that bride. Sorry, honey! All those years of ballet and I am pointing my toe!

Mmmmm..... cake....

My parents dancing!

Casey joined the band for a surprise song!

The send off! So much fun!

Happy Anniversary to my one and only. Love you most!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

The roasted tomato and caper mixture in this recipe is a perfect complement to grilled chicken. The recipe calls for chicken thighs but breasts would work equally as well. Top this off with a squeeze of lemon for a flavorful and healthy summer meal!

1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

2 cups grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper  

 Preheat oven to 425 and prepare the grill.

Combine the first 4 chicken ingredients in a large zip lock bag. Add the chicken, seal, and toss to coat. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, turning the bag occasionally.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the tomatoes. Combine tomatoes and the olive oil in an 8-inch square baking dish, tossing gently to coat. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 18 minutes or until tomatoes are tender.

While the tomatoes are roasting, remove the chicken from the bag and discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place on grill rack coated with cooking spray and grill 5 minutes on each side or until thoroughly cooked.

When tomatoes are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and place in a medium bowl. Add parsley, lemon zest and juice, capers, salt and pepper and stir gently to combine.

When chicken is fully cooked, remove from grill and serve topped with the tomato mixture.

Servings: 4
Calories: 194

Adapted from Cooking Light.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I don't tend to bake a lot of cookies. Mainly because then I will find myself eating them. But, I recently had a craving for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and people to eat up the majority of them. Winning! This recipe makes a ton so you will have plenty to share, even if you want to keep a few for yourself (and you really should). These are chewy and delicious!

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 3/4 cups oatmeal
2 cups chocolate chips

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Add baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine. Add flour, oatmeal, and chocolate chips, and mix until just incorporated.

Take a spoonful of batter and roll into an inch thick ball (or smaller, if you prefer smaller cookies), place on  prepared baking sheet. Repeat until baking sheet is full, being sure to leave a couple inches between each ball of cookie dough.  Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be golden and crisp on the edges but slightly gooey in the center. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with additional baking sheets (I think I did 3.5 batches total).

Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Texas Caviar

Since I have lived in the DC area for the majority of my life, most people don't know that I was actually born in Southern Texas. I love Southwestern/Mexican food but I didn't live there long enough to give the real thing a try. Unless my mom blended up enchiladas and spoon fed them to me. Which is highly doubtful. Although, possibly yummy.

Anyway, this recipe is from my mom and I am posting it as a homage to my birth state. Also, it is highly delicious. I ate it all week long for lunch. You can eat it straight up as a side dish or serve it like a salsa with tortilla chips. It is super easy to make but is better made a day ahead so the flavors can blend over night.

2 - 15 oz cans black-eyed peas (drained and rinsed well)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (or leave the seeds in for extra heat)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 to 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight.


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken

Mmm, this was was really good and super flavorful. The sauce is divine so make sure you reserve a decent amount from the marinade. I used 2 jalapenos and it wasn't overly spicy, so don't be afraid if you don't like a lot of heat. Use 1 jalapeno and you will be fine!

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup roasted (salted or unsalted) cashew nuts
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro (leaves and stems), plus more for garnish
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, stems removed, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
2 tablespoons water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor or blender, combine cashews, cilantro, oil, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, lime juice and water. Blend to a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reserve and a third of the marinade to serve with the chicken. Refrigerate reserved marinade until ready to serve.

Add the remaining 2/3 marinade to a large ziplock bag. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place in the ziplock bag. Combine so that thighs are evenly coated with marinade. Place in the refrigerator to allow to marinate for several hours or overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking.

When ready to cook, prepare grill. Remove chicken from marinade and place on grill. Grill, flipping, as needed, until golden and crisp. Serve with reserved marinade, lime wedges, and cilantro.

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.


Linked to Good Cheap Eats What's On Your Plate.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Black Bean Hummus with Baked Pita Chips

Another hummus recipe! I just can't get enough of it. It's nice to use a different type of beans for a variation every once in awhile, especially when I find that I have no chickpeas in my pantry (although, I try to never let that happen). Not that I could ever get sick of traditional hummus, but still. Another terrific variation is black eyed pea hummus. I made baked pita chips to go along with this hummus which is a lovely was to use up any pita bread you might have lying around.


For Hummus
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
garlic clove
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of roughly 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
Dash of cayenne pepper
2-4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish

For Pita Chips
Pita bread
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Place black beans and garlic clove in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Scrape down bowl and add lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, jalapeno, cayenne, and olive oil. Process until pureed. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the hummus is smooth and creamy. Drizzle with additional olive oil and serve.

Pita Chips
Preheat oven to 425. Cut pitas into triangles. Place pitas on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Bake 5-10 minutes until golden and crisp. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Linked to Delightfully Dowling Mangia Monday and Home Sweet Farm Delectable Tuesday.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Artichoke Stuffed Turkey Burgers

I warned you that there would be more burgers! I love artichokes so when I saw this recipe I bookmarked it but then never ended up making it. I was going through my old bookmarks and knew I had to try it this summer. We definitely enjoyed these and I ate the leftovers sans bun for lunch the next day.

1 lb lean ground turkey
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1/4 medium sweet onion, diced finely
1 large pinch of garlic salt
Ground black pepper to taste
2 artichoke hearts, quartered
4 oz. aged fontina cheese, sliced into 4 - 1 oz. squares
4 whole wheat burger buns

Prepare grill.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, balsamic vinegar, onion, garlic salt and pepper. Form into 8 equal size balls. Flatten into thin patties. Top 4 of the patties with 1 oz cheese and 2 artichoke heart quarters. Cover with remaining patties and seal edges.

Cook over medium heat until browned, about 8 minutes. Flip and cook until cooked through, an additional 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, top with buns and desired toppings, serve.

Adapted from Proceed with Caution.

Linked to Prairie Story Recipe Swap Thursday and Ekat's Kitchen Friday Potluck.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exterior Before and Afters

This post has been a long time coming. Ever since we purchased our little brown dungeon (as I so fondly liked to refer to it as) we knew we had to do something about the dismal exterior. However, an updated kitchen, finished basement, and usable living room all trumped the exterior updates. Recently, though, we started thinking about how we could make the exterior match the interior.

It took a lot of thinking. Although many people frown on painting brick, we knew that was probably going to be the route that we needed to take. The brick on the front of the house is not original. It is a facade probably put up in the 70s or 80s. The brick is.... interesting. It has little brown speckles throughout giving it a very dated (and not in a good way) look up close.

Then, we had to decide what color to paint it. We already had the windows replaced to black windows so we felt it had to be something bright/light in contrast. 10 paint samples later, we finally picked (go figure) Benjamin Moore Platinum Gray.

Here is the exterior photo from the original house listing:

And here;s how it looks today:

It's a world of difference and we couldn't be happier! It's brighter, whiter, cleaner, bigger! It is like a breath of fresh air.

Before and after:

Amazing what a little paint (and some new windows) can do! A little bit more landscaping and we should be where we want!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

BBQ Chicken Kabobs

Kabobs are such an easy way to grill up meat and veggies so I have been grilling a lot of them this summer. These are really unique since they use bacon in the marinade. You can use chicken breasts or thighs, just change the cooking time to reflect which one you use. Do not use both on the same kabob since thighs need to cook longer.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 slice bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Place the chicken and salt in a large bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Prepare grill.

In a small bowl, combine sweet paprika, sugar, and smoked paprika. Process the bacon in a food processor until a smooth past forms, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Add the bacon paste and spice mixture to the chicekn and toss until chicken is thouroughly coated. Thread the chicken onto the skewers.

Place the kabobs on the grill and cover. Turn kabobs one-quarter every 2-2.5 minutes until well browned and slightly charred, about 8 minutes for chicken breasts or 10 minutes for thighs. Brush the surface of the kabobs with barbecue sauce, flip, and cook until sauce is browned, about 1 minute. Repeat with the other side. Remove kabobs from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Serve with additional barbecue sauce, if desired.
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Linked to Good Cheap Eats What's On Your Plate? and Remodelaholic Recipe Swap.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Green Gazpacho

I know I may be in the minority, but I love cold soup. I love soup, in general, but the cold stuff is awesome. It is usually super easy to prepare, too. I got this recipe from my mom and it was the perfect lunch for a sweltering Saturday. This soup was deliciously creamy and surprisingly filling. It had great flavor. I used 1 whole un-seeded jalapeno and it was just the perfect amount of heat for us spice lovers. The chunky garnish was a nice mix of consistency with the smooth soup.

2 medium tomatoes, stemmed, cored and cut into quarters
1 large (unpeeled) cucumber, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
Flesh from 1 avocado, cut into large chunks
6 large basil leaves
1 jalapeno pepper
1 cup lightly packed watercress
1 rib celery, cut into large chunks
4 small shallot lobes, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
2 tablespoons honey
4 ice cubes
Filtered water, as needed
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Additional basil, for garnish

Reserve a small amount of tomato, cucmber and avocado chunks. Combine and finely chop for garnish. Set aside.

Stem and seed jalapeno. Reserve the seeds. Cut the jalapeno into large chunks and place in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining tomato, cucumber, and avocado. Add the basil, watercresss, celery, shallots, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey and ice cubes. Process until pureed and smooth.

Add up to 1/4 cup water and process to thin the soup, as needed. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar, if needed, processing after each addition. For a spicier soup, add some of the reserved jalapeno seeds, a few at a time, blending and tasting after each additiona to achieve desired amount of heat.

Pour the soup into bowls and top with reserved tomato garnish mixture, and additional basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil over the soup and serve.

Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

Adapted from The Washington Post.


Linked to TMTT At the Well and Home Sweet Farm Delectable Tuesday.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Vegetable Skillet Lasagna

This recipe was so delicious, definitely a keeper! I haven't been eating a lot of pasta recently so that might have made me love it all the more. Mmmm, carbs... But, Casey loved this too, and for once didn't even suggest that it could use some meat like he usually does when I serve him meatless meals. No, this is so chock full of veggies that you won't miss the meat. It is summery, fresh, and creamy.

I usually use part skim ricotta but for some reason grabbed fat free so I can't even imagine how good it would be with part skim or even (gasp) full fat. I guess I will just have to make it again soon to see.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese, divided
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet (or dutch oven) over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add onion and cook about 3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.

Drain the liquid from the tomatoes into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup. Add water to tomato liquid to make 2 cups. Add tomato/water mixture and 1 teaspoon salt to the skillet.

Scatter the noodles into the skillet and top them with the drained tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Stir in zucchini and squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles and squash are tender, about 8 minutes.

Add basil, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese to the noodles, stirring until cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy. Dollop remaining ricotta cheese over the noodles. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Linked to Ekat's Kitchen Friday Potluck and Fudge Ripple Tuesday Night Supper Club.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Brownies

I feel like this post doesn't even need an introduction. Peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven! I made these on a whim after having an intense brownie craving. These chewy, moist, and rich babies certainly satisfied my craving. I halved the recipe so there was less leftovers tempting me but am writing the full version of the recipe here.

For the Brownies
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Peanut Butter Swirl
½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1½ cups creamy peanut butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13 glass baking pan. Line with parchment paper. Place a saucepan of water over a burner to simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate, butter, and espresso powder in a large heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water. Stir the chocolate/butter mixture occasionally until  completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water. Add the sugars and whisk until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining two eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla, stirring until combined. Be sure to not over beat the batter or the brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Use a spatula to smooth the top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter swirl ingredients. Using a spoon or a tablespoon scoop, drop dollops of the peanut butter mixture over the top of the brownie batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the peanut butter and chocolate together, running the knife through the two batters. Smooth the top.

Bake for 30 minutes in the center of the oven, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

Let the brownies cool completely. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days (assuming they can even last that long).

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Linked to Good Cheap Eats What's On Your Plate? and Prairie Story Recipe Swap Thursday.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Grilled Chipotle Chicken Sandwich

This sandwich was super yummy! Spicy chicken with cool avocado, lettuce and tomato, perfect for a quick summer dinner (or lunch). You could add bacon on here, too, if you wanted. Because, you know, bacon makes everything better.

2 large chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded to an even thickness
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small lime, juice only
1 clove garlic
2-3 canned chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
1 tbsp Adobo sauce, from chipotle can
4 hamburger buns
4 slices of cheese
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Tomato, sliced

Place the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce in a food processer and puree. Place the marinade and chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

When ready to cook, prepare the grill. Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Top the chicken breasts with cheese in the last minute of cooking.

Assemble the sandwiches with mayo, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Adapted from Macheesmo.

Linked to Home Sweet Farm Delectable Tuesday and Blessed with Grace TMTT

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C + C Marriage Factory: August 2011

C + C Marriage Factory