Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Favorites - SPRING edition!

BODY PUMP! I got fit for my wedding with this class, and I'm back at it twice a week to get my arms ready for tank tops. There is nothing sexier than a woman with confidence and toned arms, and the way to toned arms is lifting weights. 

COLOR! I ordered a few new spring treats from J.Crew factory outlet, and went for bright colors to wear with simple white maternity tanks. I am completely smitten with the aqua, sea glass, and coral colors this year. 
DAINTY LITTLE NECKLACES! I've been wearing this Kate Spade "Mrs" necklace constantly since last year, and I love that it's small and feminine. It has become my new favorite bachelorette gift to pack on the honeymoon. 
OPI cajun shrimp and ESSIE marshmallow! I went for a mani/pedi as a special treat and these colors are perfect for Spring! 
SAVANNAH! it's time for our yearly friends trip and we will be heading to our favorite destination.  I'm looking forward to walks on the beach, sitting on my favorite bench in Forsyth Park to people watch, The Crab Shack, Vinnie Van Gogo's pizza, and Jazz'd (best tapas bar ever). 

2 HOUNDS COLLARS! these arrived in the mail yesterday, and my girls are looking so sweet in their bright new collars. They have so many pretty collars to choose from, I had quite a difficulty time making a selection. 

VANILLA BERRY PROTEIN SMOOTHIES! combine a scoop of protein powder (I like muscle milk light in vanilla), frozen berries, vanilla almond milk, and 1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey in the blender. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Grandma Shirley's Lasagna

Growing up, birthdays were the one day a year my brother or I could choose our menu. Some years we got to pick a restaurant, other years my mom would cook us dinner. We always loved that WE got to decide the menu for the evening, including dessert. I remember ice cream cakes were always a favorite, and my brother loved popcorn shrimp and would always pick the local fried seafood restaurant where he would eat an adult sized portion. I'd fill up on the warm hash browns before our meal even arrived, and because it was a celebration meal that was allowed! 

I want to carry on this tradition, and so this year I surprised Josh with a traditional lasagna. I used my Grandma Shirley's famous lasagna recipe, which is now in our McLean family cookbook that came out last Christmas. The key is making the sauce the night before and letting it sit overnight for the flavors to meld. It's simple and delicious. 

I thought about her so much while I was grocery shopping and cooking, and realized that making her recipes is a way to keep her memories alive with me. She would have loved that I made my husband a real home cooked meal on his birthday, she was always an advocate for slow food and making a fuss over birthdays. 

This was also the first night we had a small dinner party on our new trestle table. I've been talking ad nauseam about wanting a BIG farm table that could seat ten, and so the arrival of this table was a big deal for me and I'm obsessed with it! 

Grandma Shirley's Lasagna
1 1/2 pounds hamburger
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 can drained mushrooms
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons oregano
Lasagna noodles
2 cups mozzarella cheese
Cottage cheese mixed with minced chives
Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top)

Brown hamburger with onion, garlic, celery, and mushrooms. Drain excess grease. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons oregano and refrigerate overnight.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions and drain.

In a 9x13 pan, make two layers of lasagna as follows: 
1 - layer of cooked lasagna noodles on the bottom
2 - sauce
3 - cottage cheese 
4 - mozzarella cheese

Repeat. Top with Parmesan cheese and cover with foil (to prevent sticking, spray foil with cooking spray)

Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 20 to 30 minutes.Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

First Trimester Favorites

You may see a pattern in the things I've grown to love over the last 3 months - lots of comfy lounge wear, hot tea, and snacks. I've spent many an hour cuddled up on the couch with a good book and minus the pre-pregnancy vino, replaced by endless mugs of tea. I love Yogi tea as every label has an upbeat message, similar to the dove dark chocolates I am so fond of. 

With the move into the new house, I'm trying to declutter, minimize our possessions, and only bring new things into the house that we LOVE. All of these items make that list, and I've used my prior wine allowance to treat myself to a few special treats.

Minnetonka Cally slipper = happy feet! 

Luna bars and Luna protein bars these used to be lunch with a greek yogurt, now they are an afternoon snack between lunch and dinner!

Avicii on Pandora
Great gym music or stay awake music when I'm working night shift. Upbeat music leads to energy which is a prized commodity these days!

Yogi hot tea - my favorites are blueberry slim life green tea and Mother To Be tea

Benefit hoola bronzer and Smashbox primer
* these were in my everyday make up regimen...then I got lazy and dropped them to special occasion makeup. After the move, I started wearing them daily again and have been asked a few times if I've been on vacation - the primer gives an amazing glow and the bronzer makes your skin look healthy and a bit tan. LOVE them both.

Mountain Hardware monkey 200 fleece
I must thank our surgery resident for introducing me to this Mountain Hardware fleece. This fleece will have everyone wanting to give you hugs and rub your back! I've been wearing it non-stop since I got it.

Gap lounge pants
I bought these in gray and wished I would have found them years ago. Best comfy pants I own, I look forward to slipping into them every morning for coffee.

Salem Red Sox baseball games with my Bigs Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds 
By husband loves going to our local Salem RedSox ball park. I love munching on these sunflower seeds, watching the enthusiatic kids scramble around the stadium, eating a good hot dog, and people watching. 

2 hounds collars for my boxers
Now that we are in a neighborhood that is pedestrian friendly, I wanted our girls to have new snazzy collars that stay on when we go for walks. These Martingale collars are just what I was looking for. An afternoon walk is the perfect energy boost.

Please share with me your pregnancy favorites!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Perfect PB & J

My sweet husband just celebrated a birthday, and I thought long and hard on the perfect gift. I am so delighted with this idea that I had to share it with y'all! 

Here is a picture of the gift (this was the last gift on the scavenger hunt): 

And here is what goes with it - a year of homemade bread so that he can have his favorite lunch every single day - a delicious PB & J sandwich! I bought myself this breadmaker so that I could make us loaves of bread a few times a week. I picked the smallest machine since "we" already own lots of kitchen appliances and counter space is a premium in our house. 
After he opened the present I brought out the machine, and right off the bat he asked me if I could make rye bread. Apparently he is going to branch out a bit so this will be the year of the sandwich and trying lots of new breads from this book! Next week I'm going to attempt the "brown bagger's white bread" for a Wunderbar German bologna sandwich. I made the whole what oats n honey for the PBJ and it was delicious.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

a birthday, a big move and a little...

I am just thrilled to share our joy with the world today, on my husband's birthday. Our favorite month in Virginia has always been October - the foliage, the cool crisp evenings, the drives on the blue ridge parkway, and the Octoberfest beers. This year, in early October, we will be adding a little baby to our crew. 

This has been the greatest secret I've ever kept...and the reason I haven't been posting much lately.  The combination of packing and moving along with the constant desire to take little couch naps in between tasks leaves me little time or energy to cook in my new kitchen! 

I've been lucky so far and had no morning sickness, though cutting back on coffee and cutting out wine have not been easy as I'm sure many of you can relate. I'm growing to enjoy my evening hot tea as a way to relax and wind down, and I've recently discovered Martinelli's sparkling apple cider which feels like a party in a glass for special celebrations. 

I surprised Josh with this Red Sox onesie a few days ago, of course I couldn't wait until today because this tiny thing is just too stinking cute.  I melt when I think of him holding a little baby and watching baseball. I promise I'll get back to cooking now that I have the first trimester behind me. I'm patiently waiting for my old energy to return so that I can get to unpacking these boxes and starting on the nursery.

For the boys - if you want to get a big SMILE from your expecting wife, order this hilarious t-shirt. Josh wore it on the day we signed for our house and I couldn't stop smiling.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Roasted Chicken and Orzo Salad with Feta and Dill

This salad is summer in a bowl. It's bright and fresh, and perfect for hot days. It's one of my favorite Ina recipes, and I make it all the time with shrimp or chicken. I like to take it to work and serve a scoop of this salad over a bed of spinach or romaine.
If you're a vegetarian, make this without the shrimp. I promise you will not be disappointed. Pour yourself a glass of cold pinot grigio, sit out on your patio underneath an umbrella, and take a bite of this salad and you too will feel like summer time has finally arrived! 

Roasted Chicken and Orzo Salad with Feta and Dill
adapted from Ina Garten at the Food Network

Kosher Salt
Good olive oil
3/4 pound orzo pasta
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (I use rotisserie chicken) 
1 cup minced scallions, green and white parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Pick apart a rotisserie chicken or preheat oven to 400 degrees if roasting shrimp. 

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of olive oil, and bring water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.

Add the chicken (or shrimp) to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, chickpeas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for one hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Overnight Oats

This is my go to breakfast on work days. It's a favorite because it's delicious and filling and I don't even think about being hungry until lunch. It's full of nutrients, fiber, and protein, and once I have a healthy breakfast I feel great and have motivation to keep eating right for the rest of the day. 
There are endless variations - though I love fresh berries and nuts, usually blueberries and raspberries with almonds or pecans. If you want to get fancy, add a nut butter, toasted coconut, or fresh peaches. I've read that drizzling olive oil is amazing on oatmeal, but have yet to try that combination.
Take three minutes the night before to combine the ingredients in a container, and you are all set. I purchased this red plastic travel mug with a lid at Bed Bath and Beyond, and it is perfect for taking these oats in your lunch box, plus the lid seals so the liquid will not leak.
I'll leave you with a quote - "If you want to find happiness, find gratitude". I'm in a messy new house that is half way unpacked, yet my dogs are snoring on their dog bed, it's drizzling outside, and I have the perfect window in the dining room where the morning light is magic and brings my photos to life.
Overnight Oats 
makes 1 large serving

2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 (6 ounce) container plain greek yogurt (if you use a flavored one leave out maple syrup)
1/2 milk (almond, soy, or regular) 
1 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
2 Tbsp chia seeds (this is the STAR ingredient - google all the health benefits)

Toppings - dried fruit, slivered almonds or pecans, nut butter, or fresh berries

Combine greek yogurt with oats, maple syrup, milk, and chia seeds. Stir well and place in container with lid. Refrigerate overnight, and the oats will plump up from the liquid. 

In the morning, add another splash of milk and your favorite toppings.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kickin' Grilled Chicken Wings

Our first date night in the new house called for something special and low key.  After three days of hauling stuff, grabbing take out, and dealing with our boxers anxiety with a big move and strange house, I was looking for no fuss. In fact, these pictures are shot under the fluorescent light in my new kitchen, as my photography set up is still at the old house. I promise they are delicious. 

Given our plan to watch a baseball game, I thought grilling out would be perfect and when I mentioned wings I got a YES! text from Josh. If I've learned anything this week - it's the old Gretchen reminder "Don't Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good". At Kroger, they did not have Crystal hot sauce, or small drumettes, or wings. They had giant drumettes the size of turkey legs and Louisiana hot sauce. Tempted as I was to go to another grocery store to get the recipe just right, I shrugged my shoulders and let it be.  I'm usually such a perfectionist that learning to accept the good is having a wonderful effect on my peace of mind.
I think we will be doing lots of grilled chicken this summer - we have a great patio and it just feels like warm weather food. This dry rub is delicious on it's own without the sauce, and I think we will keep experimenting to find our signature wing. My very favorite is The Boss at Wild Wing Cafe. Please, share your favorite wing recipes with me!
Ain't No Thing Butta Chicken Wing
from Guy Fieri at the Food Network

1 Tbsp granulated garlic
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tsp cumin
4 pounds chicken wings, sectioned into drumettes and wings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 jalapeno, minced
2 Tbsp reserved spice mixture, from above
1 (12 ounce) bottle hot sauce 
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp lime juice

In a medium bowl, combine all the spices. Remove and reserve 2 tablespoons of the mixture. Rinse the wings and pat dry. Add the wings to bowl with the spice mixture and stir to coat well. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. 

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Cook the wings over direct heat until good and crispy, about 15 to 25 minutes. Turn them over and put them on indirect heat, turning frequently, as needed.

While the wings are grilling, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for one minute stirring constantly. Add the reserved two tablespoons of the spice mixture and 12 ounces of hot sauce. Bring to a simmer, add the butter, vinegar, and lime juice. Hold warm until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, add the wings to a large serving bowl, pour in the sauce and toss.