Happy Hour Friday: Apothic Red

It is hard to believe that we are leaving Charlottesville in just about two weeks. Time has truly flown by. I feel like it was only a few months ago that we were moving into our current apartment and now I am furiously wrapping my dishes and glassware for our next move. With work now beginning to wind down, I had a goodbye lunch with some colleagues last week and we went to a wonderful French restaurant in town called Petit Pois. I had the most delicious seared hanger steak that was cooked to perfection with shallots and herb butter. To top it all off, my steak came with the most delicious french fries and I gobbled up every last bite (I'm sorry I don't have a picture of this for you)!

So what does my phenomenal steak have to do with apothic red wine? Well, nothing directly but I wanted to share my tasty lunch with you before I talked about the vino. As a little going away gift I was given a bottle of Apothic Red and let me tell you that this California wine is so tasty! According to apothic.com, It is " a captivating blend of three distinct grapes, with the dark fruit flavors of Syrah, brambly spice of Zinfandel, and a smooth elegance of Merlot. Apothic Red reveals intense fruit aromas and flavors of rhubarb and black cherry that are complemented by hints of mocha, chocolate, brown spice and vanilla. The plush, velvety mouthfeel and smooth finish round out this intriguing, full-bodied red blend." At under twenty dollars a bottle this wine is not to be missed! You can purchase this wine at most major grocery stores in any city.

I am off to Curacao this weekend to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday! I hope that everyone has a great memorial day weekend. If you need any ideas for your memorial day cookout check out the meal ideas in the leftover section of the blog!

I will hopefully be sitting here in a matter of a few hours!

Photo from worldcitypics.com

Enjoy Your Happy Hour and your long weekend!


Pesto, Tomato & Mozzerella Cheese Pizza

And what do you do with lots of leftover pesto? Use it for pizzas of course! This pizza is so simple and delicious. We used whole wheat pizza dough and it was divine. I don't think think that my husband would of known it was whole wheat if I hadn't told him. The tomaotes, fresh pesto and mozzerella are the perfect flavor combination. Sprinkle a little bit of fresh parmesan and basil on top after the pizza has finished cooking and you have quite the tasty za.

You Will Need:
  • 1 ball of pizza dough (we used whole wheat for this recipe)
  • 1/4 cup fresh pesto or store-bought
  • 1/2 of a 12oz bag of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 vine ripened tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Here We Go:
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F
  • Roll out dough to desired thickness using your hands or a rolling pin if you have one
  • Sprinkle olive oil over stone or baking sheet to avoid dough sticking
  • Place dough on pizza stone or baking sheet
  • Top dough with pesto, tomato and mozzerella cheese
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes on top rack, or until golden brown
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese if desired

Makes 8 Slices
Happy Feasting!


Frozen Key Lime Tarts and a Graduate

Yesterday my husband graduated from the Darden School of Business at The University of Virginia. It is hard to believe that it has already been two years, and we will be leaving Charlottesville headed for North Carolina in a matter of a few weeks. Although we are excited about what new adventure lies ahead in Winston-Salem, we will definitely miss our time here in C-ville!

After the festivities were over yesterday, we had both of our families back to our apartment for a graduation celebration. We had quite the spread of bbq, cole slaw, potato salad, deviled eggs and baked beans. We finished the meal off with key lime pie since that happens to be the graduate's favorite dessert. These mini tarts are delicious and refreshing. Serve them straight from the freezer and you have this wonderful dessert that is a cross between key lime pie ice cream and good ole' key lime pie. They are the perfect summer treat!

Adapted from Ina Garten

You Will Need:

For the Filling:
  • 6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tbsp grated lime zest
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes)

For the Decoration:
  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Thin lime wedges

Here We Go:
  • For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick
  • With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice
  • Pour into store bought mini graham cracker crust tart shells
  • For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form
  • Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm
  • Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime
  • Freeze for several hours or overnight

The hubs walking up to get his diploma!

Happy Feasting!


Fresh Basil Pesto

I adore fresh basil. I love cooking with it and putting it on anything that I can. It can get pricey which leads a lot of people to use the dried basil found in a pre-packaged spice canister. I definitely used to be one of those people until I had the real thing.  And I can now tell you that it is just not the same! After countless trips to the grocery store to buy fresh basil, I decided that it was time for me to purchase a few basil plants to grow myself. I bought two basil plants, because you can never have enough basil, and one thyme plant. I have had these plants for just over a month and they have already doubled in size...look!

So what do you do with too much basil? You make fresh pesto of course!

You Will Need:
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan – Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here We Go:
  • Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in food processor or blender
  • Add garlic, pulse a few times more
  •  Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on
  • Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula
  • Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended
  • Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste
Makes 1 Cup
Happy Feasting!


Skinny Girl Mashed Potatoes

With bathing suit season right around the corner, most of us are trying to cut calories where we can and maybe skip that second chocolate chip cookie (yes, I said second). These mashed potatoes have all the flavor of traditional mashed potatoes without all the calories. I made small substitutions with more "skinny girl" friendly ingredients and didn't have to sacrifice flavor at all. Serve these mashers with meatloaf, tenderloin, chicken or eat them all by themselves- you will be so very happy you did!

You Will Need:
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes (they are the best for mashing)
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1/4 cup fat free half & half
  • 1 tsp margarine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp fat free sour cream

Here We Go:
  • Cut potatoes into cubes (the smaller the potato the faster it will cook)
  • Bring medium saucepan to boil and add potatoes
  • Cook on medium for 20-25 minutes
  • Drain potatoes and return to pan
  • Mash potatoes with potato masher or fork
  • Add milk, half & half, margarine, sour cream, salt and pepper
  • Stir all ingredients together

Serves 2-4
Happy Feasting!


Cashew Chicken

I absolutely love Chinese food and having spent four months living in Beijing I have definitely had my fair share of delicious dumplings and fried rice. This was my first attempt at cashew chicken and it was heavenly. Just enough asian flavor coupled with the perfect amount of cashews, ginger and scallions makes for quite a tasty meal. Serve the chicken over brown rice or mai fun noodles (pictured above) for the perfect chinese dinner at home. Honestly, this dish will be ready in the same amount of time it would take for your Chinese delivery to arrive!

You Will Need:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry (or cooking wine, or leave out)
  • 2 tsp. minced, peeled, fresh ginger
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsalted cashews, toasted
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced

Here We Go:
  • In a medium bowl, toss chicken with sherry, ginger, and 1 1/2 tsps cornstarch; season with salt
  • Refrigerate 30 minutes
  • In another bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch and set sauce aside
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat
  • Add half the chicken and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes
  • Transfer chicken to a covered plate
  • Add 1 tsp oil to skillet and cook remaining chicken (reduce heat if chicken is over-browning) and transfer to plate
  • To same skillet, add 1 teaspoon oil, garlic, cashews, and green onion whites
  • Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to soften, about 30 seconds
  • Whisk sauce and add to skillet along with chicken
  • Cook until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds
  • Top with green onion greens and serve with rice or noodles.

Serves 4
Happy Feasting!


Happy Hour Friday: Blue Mountain Rockfish Wheat Beer

Photo: From Blue Mountain Brewery

Last weekend one of my best friends from college came to visit. With this being her first visit to Charlottesville, I knew that I had to show her the gorgeous vineyards and our favorite brewery. After an afternoon of wine tasting we ended up at Blue Mountain Brewery for some afternoons beers. I love this brewery because of the beautiful scenery and delicious beers. It also doesn't hurt that they are open long after all of the vineyards close. "Blue Mountain Brewery sits in the shadow of Appalachia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in Afton, Virginia. They are a farm brewery, growing their own hops, and making a vast variety of tasty beers."

The Rockfish is their summer beer. It is an "authentic Bavarian-style “Kristall Weizen” filtered wheat beer. It has such a wonderful and light flavor. It is perfect for those hot summer days and cool spring nights. This beer is available from April to September and can be purchased at most large grocery stores - Kroger, Harris Teeter and Publix. A six pack of blue mountain bottles varies in price from roughly 8 to 10 dollars.

Happy Feasting!


Curry Chicken Salad

As I have mentioned before, I am always searching for new lunch ideas. It is important to me to be able to keep lunch at the office somewhat exciting. I love making various salads (tuna, chicken and egg) at the beginning of the week and then being able to quickly grab some in the morning to eat with crackers, on top of a salad or in a sandwich. This curry chicken salad is easy and quick thanks to the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. If you are not a curry fan, omit the curry powder altogether and just make good ole' regular chicken salad.

You Will Need:
  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup fuji apple, diced
  • 3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup miracle whip or light mayonaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here We Go:
  • Place first six ingredients into large bowl
  • Add miracle whip or mayonaisse and mix together with wooden spoon
  • Add curry power and continue to mix
  • Serve atop a bed of lettuce or with bread

Happy Feasting!


Spaghetti Carbonara

I was asked last week by one of my readers for a spaghetti carbonara recipe. She said that she had attempted to make it at home and it had turned into a complete disaster. Now, before I go ahead and share this recipe with you guys, I will say that I know this reader personally and she is a fabulous cook. I highly doubt that it was a disaster but nonetheless I loved how this carbonara turned out so I wanted to share it with all of you!

I have copied the directions from bell'alimento literally verbatim because I think she hit the nail on the head. Timing is EVERYTHING with this dish. The main ingredients are spaghetti, garlic and fresh Parmesan - heaven! This dish will turn out perfectly if you just follow the directions below word for word because it is essential that each step is done while something else is cooking....you following me? Follow the steps below and you will have restaurant style carbonara at home in no time!

Source : Bell'alimento

You Will Need:
  • 1 package spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz pancetta – diced
  • 4 large cloves of fresh garlic -minced
  • 2 large eggs -room temperature – beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Here We Go:
  • Place a large pasta pot with enough water onto boil and season generously with salt
  • Once water comes to a boil, add spaghetti & stir so that the pasta separates
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente and reserve one cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • WHILE the spaghetti is cooking, in a large pan over medium heat add olive oil and cook pancetta/bacon until fairly crisp (about 3-4 minutes).  Reduce heat to low, add in garlic and cook for another minute (you don’t want your garlic to burn).
  • WHILE the bacon/garlic are cooking crack your eggs into a small bowl & add 1 cup of cheese. Mix together and set aside.
  • Drain your pasta well and add to bacon mixture. Is is IMPORTANT that your pasta is HOT when adding it to the mixture. Toss well (I find two forks or tongs work really well for this). Take off of heat.
  • To your plating bowl, add cheese & egg mixture. Transfer the pasta to plating bowl and toss well to combine. If you find the mixture is too thick, you can thin it out with a little of the pasta water (remember you can always add more so add sparingly) Season well with pepper. Garnish with the remainder of your cheese.

Serves 4
Happy Feasting!


Slow Cooker Santa Fe Chicken

Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow and that means you should absolutely indulge in a complete Mexican feast! I love an easy slow cooker recipe that involves dumping the ingredients in the pot, turning it on, and returning after several hours to a delicious and home cooked dinner. This slow cooker santa fe chicken is healthy and satisfying. You can through all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and come home from work with dinner waiting for you. Pair this with ice cold margaritas, queso, mariachis and sombreros for the perfect Mexican fiesta!

Source : Skinny Taste

You Will Need:
  • 24 oz (1 1/2) lbs chicken breast
  • 14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 15 oz can black beans
  • 8 oz frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 14.4 oz can fat free chicken broth
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • salt to taste

 Here We Go:
  • Combine chicken broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt in the slow cooker
  • Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top
  • Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours
  • Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred with fork
  • Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in
  • Adjust salt and seasoning
  • Top with shredded cheese, scallions and sour cream if desired (Also great when served with cornbread muffins!)

More Cinco de Mayo Ideas
Chicken Fajitas
Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw


6 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are so easy and delicious. With only six ingredients, I almost guarantee that you have everything you will need already in your pantry. One of my friends made these cookies and after my first bite I knew I had to get the recipe (thank you Alison!).If you are in need of a chocolate and peanut butter fix, give these cookies a try - you will love them!

You Will Need:
  • 1 (18 oz) jar crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (11.5oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Here We Go:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Stir together first 5 ingredients with spoon or spatula
  • Add chocolate chips
  • Roll into small balls and bake for 8-12 minutes

Makes 30 Cookies (depending on size)
Happy Feasting!