Tennessee awaits…

It’s been a while since our last vacation, too long actually. Our wedding getaway in Vegas definitely counts but even that was 7 months ago! So I’m beyond happy my sister in law (just sister in my book) decided to plan a family vacation for us. Mike’s family lives in PA which means we only get to see each other a few times a year so family trips like these are much needed. I also love the fact that she decided on a cabin in Gatlingburg, TN with an awesome view of the smokies and a kitchen begging for delicious family dinners. It’s needless to say I’ll be bringing my camera and every lens I own. Now packing….that’s another story. What to bring???

In just 4 days we’ll be here!

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Sangria!

You know what they say:

When life gives you leftover watermelon and Pinot Noir…you turn it into Sangria!

This is totally my version using whatever I could find in my fridge. But I think it turned out damn well.

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1 bottle Pinot Noir or your favorite red wine
1 cup club soda
1 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 lime, sliced
1/4 cup raspberries, muddled
1 cup diced watermelon
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 sprigs of mint

Picture Perfect

I was recently given one of the biggest honors; our close friends Cindy and Lee (mommy and daddy to be) asked if I would take their maternity photos. I’m a total newbie to photography so to say I was flattered would be an understatement. It turned out to be just the push I needed to learn more and get the creative juices flowing. Cindy mentioned she wanted to shoot somewhere with lots of greenery and have it be very casual and relaxed (she’s the coolest most easygoing girl and I love her for it!). We chose a local park and set up by the lake. It was such a great experience and I found myself super comfortable after the first ten snaps. I’m really hoping to coax the rest of my friends to let me shoot their portraits in order to gain more experience. Here is one of my favorites from Cindy’s session…what do you think?

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P.s. In case you’re wondering, they are having a baby girl! We can’t wait to meet her 🙂

On my mind

I’m noticing a trend in my cravings lately; simple and comforting and when it comes to simple can you really beat a sandwich? Now this is not just any sandwich. It is in my opinion the best ever to have been invented and you can of course credit the French. This one is a version by Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere and I can’t wait to try my hand at it.

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What do you think? Do you have a go-to Croque Madame recipe?

When Thursday is your Friday

Hi there!!! It’s been a while…too long actually. There have been many changes lately, my work schedule being one of them. Though I am not particularly happy about working 1 Saturday a month, I’ve decided to make the best of it. The upside is having the Friday beforehand off, which I’ve decided I’d treat just like Saturday only better; I’ll make sure to go all out with brunch (my favorite almond french toast), get things done around the house and maybe even go out for some shopping (minus the weekend crowds). So, I wanted to start my faux weekend with a fun dinner last night. Lobster pot pie was my pick. I’ve never made it before but have always wanted to try. I did a little recipe research online and took from several what I thought would work for my taste buds.

Here is the result and my simple recipe.

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You’ll need:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen peas
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup clam juice
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Brandy
½ pound cooked lobster meat (can be bought at the seafood counter)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (keep refrigerated until ready to use)
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set out two 2-cup individual ovenproof ramekins. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add Brandy and let it cook off (about 2 mins). Add corn and peas. Stir in flour, and cook 1 more minute. Add milk and clam juice stirring constantly. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Then remove from heat, add lobster and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, flatten out 1 sheet of the pastry, using a floured rolling pin, to about 1⁄8-inch thickness. Using one of the bowls as a guide, cut the pastry into two circles. Spoon the filling into the bowls, and place one circle of dough on top of each potpie, pressing the edges to seal the pastry to the bowl. Cut a vent in the center so air can escape. Using a pastry brush, cover the surface of each pie with beaten egg. Place the potpies on a baking sheet and bake until pastry is puffed and becomes a golden brown shade, about 35 minutes.

And…the previously mentioned Almond French Toast:

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Serves 2:

4 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
2 tablespoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure Almond extract
1 tablespoon Orange Blossom honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 slices bread (any kind works)
Unsalted butter

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon, orange zest, almond extract, honey, and salt. Soak bread slices in the egg mixture for a few minutes; turning once.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan or griddle over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Finish with maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar and your favorite fruit.

Nothing beats homemade

One of the not so healthy things I always find myself craving is a meatball sub. Nothing beats the combination of savory meatballs in marinara sauce, tons of melty delicious mozzarella wrapped in a toasty roll. So I decided to give it a try and attempt to make a healthier, lighter version at home so that maybe I can have them more often 😉 I opted for a lean 95, 15 ground beef, brioche buns from the Whole Foods bakery, mozzarella, and baby spinach for a little something green. The sauce is super light and if you have left overs I would highly recommend boiling some noodles and having a bowl of good ol’ spaghetti and meatballs.

This is how they turned out:

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For the meatballs:

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp.salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped Parsley

Bake at 350 for 25 – 30 minutes.

For the sauce:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 dry bay leaves

Heat the oil over medium. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, simmer uncovered on low heat until the sauce thickens. Remove the bay leaf, and toss in the meatballs!

What do you think, will you give it a try?

A Very Sweet Easter

We did not make Easter eggs or eat many of those delicious Cadbury chocolates. Instead we made our own yummy and very chocolatey dessert. Our Easter lunch/ early dinner consisted of two tried and true favorites; Beef Bourguignon and Julia Child’s Reine de Saba cake. It was my first time making the cake and I’m not sure I could have done it without my mom’s help; she is a wonderful baker and I love watching her move around the kitchen with an ease that is almost zen-like.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter Sunday!!!

Here’s how it turned out:

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Dreaming of The Monk

Some places really can be perfect. Be it because of their natural beauty or the amount of thought put into everything their four walls contain. The latter can be said of our favorite wine bar The Blind Monk . It’s 3 blocks away from home, has a fantastic wine list, is beyond cozy and intimate, and it has been the backdrop for some of my favorite memories…We had our first (and second) date there, celebrated our engagement, and birthdays there this year and come tomorrow we will be there on “date night”. I can’t think of a better way to start the weekend than to sit across from Michael with a delicious glass of red and share some laughs.

I wish you all a beautiful weekend ahead!

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Keep it simple

There are few things more humble than a can of beans, but the best thing about them is their ability to be transformed, even into something rich. I personally enjoy them quite a bit even at their simplest so when I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit’s website I knew I had to try it. It was beyond tasty and I encourage you to try it too 🙂

Here’s how mine turned out:

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