Damn Good Balls

Oh my gosh…I made these chocolate covered peanut butter cheesecake balls the other day, and I couldn’t believe how well the turned out.  Better than well, they were outrageously delicious.  And they could not be easier to make.  II made them again for Superbowl, and they were a hit.  Maybe even more of a hit than that game was…

It all started out when I wanted to make an almond flour dessert, but had no clue what to make.  So whenever I’m in this dilemma I just google the ingredients I have, and a bunch of different recipes pop up.  I found one for peanut butter cheesecake balls, and then I just took it to the next level by covering them in chocolate.  You’re welcome.

There is really not much more to the story…so here you go!

Chocolate Covered Peanutbutter Cheesecake Balls

Ingredients:

1/2 block or 4 oz of cream cheese

3/4 C All Natural Peanut Butter – I used chunky

1 Tbs Maple Syrup

1 C melting dark chocolate (you can also use regular chocolate, but it doesn’t create as much of a ‘chocolate shell’

1 Tbs butter

1 C Almond Flour

 

Directions:

Mix the softened cream cheese, peanut butter, and maple syrup in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Create small little 1-2 inch balls and place on a plate.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan.  Dip the peanut butter balls in the chocolate until coated and place back on the plate.  For the balls you want to just coat in almond flour, roll around in the flour until coated. Freeze for 30 min and serve!

 

The New Milk is an Old World Milk

I was binge watching a Netflix series recently called The Paleo Way.  And as much as I don’t advocate for any particular diet and believe that balance is always the way to go when maintaining a lifestyle, this show had me hooked.  The idea behind a Paleo lifestyle is fascinating and the show was very educational.  I’m sure, as with any diet, it has its positives and negatives, but the one thing I did take away from the show was the incredible recipes.  One being Golden Milk, also known as turmeric milk, an Indian drink that has been gaining popularity in Western cultures.  I’ve heard about golden milk and know the benefits of turmeric just from it’s recent popularity, but watching this delicious warm frothy drink being made on TV made me want to run out and buy the ingredients. Apparently there are many health benefits to turmeric milk.  Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-arthritic, and has anti-cancer benefits, among others.

When in Montreal over New Years I had golden milk at one of the adorable coffee shops in the old city, and it was absolutely delicious.  So comforting on a cold day and really hit the spot.  They actually were serving it with regular whole milk, but we got ours with almond milk.  More on Montreal later… When I got back from Montreal,  I high tailed it to Whole Foods to get the ingredients;  almond milk, turmeric, maple syrup, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon.  Most of these items you may already have in your kitchen.   Some of the recipes I’ve found online call for coconut cream, milk, or oil, and there are probably some health benefits to adding those, but I have found just an almond milk latte works best for me. This is the easiest version, but there are many variations like using freshly grated turmeric, freshly grated ginger, using a cinnamon stick instead of ground, and using whole peppercorns instead of ground black pepper.  It really depends on how much time you have and the flavor profile you’re going for.

Golden Milk for 2

Ingredients:

2 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 Tbs ground turmeric

2 tsp minced ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbs All Natural Maple Syrup

Directions:

In a small saucepan add all ingredients and bring to a slight simmer.  Whisk together until blended and frothy and let it simmer for about 5-10min.  You could also mix all ingredients in a blender and heat or use a milk frother to mix all ingredients together. Serve and enjoy!

How to WOW your Guests with Cheese and Meat

I always go through the highs and lows with writing a blog.  I get motivated to do it, stick with it for a few months, realize I’m putting in a lot of work and most likely no one is reading, and then it falls by the wayside.  Truth be told, I’m not a writer, and it becomes work.  But I love cooking, I love drinking, and I love traveling.  And most of all, I love sharing it all. I also just watched Julie and Julia twice, recently ,so that could be the reason I’m excited about blogging again.  Luckily I still have this free URL address, and can come and go as I please. So we meet again.

I’ve been fascinated by cheese for a while now, and when I worked at a wine store a while back, I managed the food department which was mainly cheese and charcuterie.  So I was in charge of ordering the cheese, cutting and wrapping the cheese, merchandising the cheese case, sampling the cheese on tasting days as well as with events, and pairing the cheese with specific wines for customers.  Needless to say, I spent a LOT of time with cheese.

I needed to make a cheese and charcuterie board for Christmas Eve, and I was meeting my boyfriends parents for the first time so of course I wanted to make sure I made one heck of a spread.

When making a cheese and meat board you always want to make sure to include a variety of milks and textures.  For this particular board we had to dial down the adventure and pick more mainstream cheeses.   I decided on Manchego, a Colby Jack, a domestic softer blue cheese-the name is escaping me, a sharp aged cheddar, and a goat Camembert that was recommended by the Whole Foods Cheese Monger.  I wanted to make the cheese easy to eat so instead of putting them on a platter in one large piece or blocks, I cut them in bite size slices or cubes to make it easier for guests to pick up with a toothpick as well as more aesthetically pleasing.

Manchego- Sheep’s Milk, hard

Colby – Cows Milk, semi-firm

Domestic Blue – Cows Milk, soft

Aged Cheddar – Cows Milk, hard

Goat Camambert – Goat, semi-softI made life easy for myself and picked up an Italian Charcuterie pack that had prosciutto, coppa, and salami which was the perfect amount of variety and quantity for the platter.  I also got a very mild salami to include on this platter, but mainly for the kids platter.  Yes, I made a separate cheese and meat platter for the kids.As far as accompaniments, I thought about items I like with cheese and meats.  I picked up a variety of olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods, truffle honey mustard from Trader Joe’s, and made herb spiced nuts, recipe below, because they were a favorite when I made them for guests before.  You could always do a basic mustard or even a fig jam, but when I saw this mustard I thought it would be a nice addition.  It adds the slightest bit of sweetness and truffle essence to the dijon. Really lovely with the cured meats. As far a crackers- I wanted to pick something that would allow guests to spread cheese on them with out breaking easily and mild in flavor since I wanted the cheese to be the main event.  This is just an inexpensive assortment I got at Whole Foods.

In order to bring some color to the platter, I used grapes and strawberries, but also some greenery I got at a Farmers Market.  I couldn’t find small pieces of greenery so I asked the florist if I could buy some of her clippings  she was going to throw away and she said yes!  I gave her a couple bucks and picked out this beautiful greenery that really added a pop of color and festiveness to the platter.I assembled the platter quickly and tried not to overthink it.  I started by putting the bowls of nuts, olives, and mustard first and then layered the cheeses and meats around them.  I tried to not have any two like cheeses together, and have a meat between each one.  Then just placed extra cubes of colby where I saw fit. Decorated with some fruit and greens and that’s it!

Herb Spiced NutsIngredients:

3C unsalted raw mixed nuts-cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, and hazelnuts

2 Tbs fresh rosemary finely chopped

2 Tbs fresh oregano finely chopped

2 Tbs fresh thyme finely chopped

1/4C butter, melted or 4 Tbs olive oil

1/2 Tbs salt

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  While oven is preheating, chop the fresh herbs and set aside.  In a small saucepan melt the butter. Once butter is melted pour over the nuts.  Sprinkle nuts with herbs and toss gently.  Layer the nuts on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

I like to add cayenne and maple syrup to this recipe as well when I’m making nuts for a party, but because these were on a cheese board, I wanted to keep things more neutral.  These are great all year round and I always love having the leftovers through out the week.

What are some of your favorite cheeses and cheese board accompaniments?

 

Asian Food Invasion on Barrack’s Row

One of my closest friends, who I actually met through blogging – not this blog, but my last one – 10 years ago(!) is moving back to her home town of Oklahoma. Kacy and her husband Tom were my D.C. foodie friends and my go to resource for the hottest new spots in the nation’s capital. Now that I’ve been out of the foodie game for a little while, and took a hiatus from blogging, I’m SO behind on the latest and greatest in DC restaurants, chefs, openings and closings. The good news, i’m back! And this means I get to catch up on all the tasty new menus I’ve missed. The bad news, I’m so sad to see my foodie friends go, but so happy for the next chapter in their life.

Kacy, Tom and I haven’t had as much time as I would’ve liked to hang out before they leave, but we recently made a date to check out a spot that’s been on our radar for some time – Chiko. Oh and by the way…all these pictures are courtesy of Kacy and Tom. You can check out their blog at Bad Sentences – if you want more food in your life. I wasn’t planning to use their photos but…they came out better than mine!Back to Chiko, short for “Chinese Korean”, is the newest baby from Scott Drewno, formerly of The Source; Danny Lee, chef and owner of Mandu; and Andrew Kim of Matchbox Food Group. These three seasoned chefs have created a spot on Barracks Row that is a fusion of modern Chinese and Korean cuisine served in a fast casual setting with a counter serve format and a tasting bar option. They’ve taken traditional eastern flavors and combined them with contemporary techniques at a very accessible price point. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a reservation for the tasting bar, but we did our own tasting by ordering almost all of the starters, 2 entrees, the full monty of snacks, and a bottle of wine. Their menu changes often, and according to season, so there’s an excuse to always go back for more!After ordering at the counter and taking a whiff of all the amazing aromas happening in the kitchen, we found a seat at one of the 6 tables. Luckily it wasn’t crowded the night we went because this place was a lot smaller than I expected. Within minutes our food started coming out and we quickly realized we definitely outdid ourselves.
The snacks arrived first: Sichuan spicy cucumbers, turmeric pickled daikon, potato and egg salad, chilled marinated little neck clams, napa cabbage kimchi, and rice with furikake butter.  All these snacks were incredible on their own, but paired really nicely with each dish we ordered, and served as a nice palate cleanser in between dishes. The daikon was one of my favorites – fresh and crunchy – but the little neck clams were the most surprising to me. The tiniest little bite packed an abundance of flavor and I couldn’t stop tasting the sauce even after I ate the clam. For starters we went with the chicken spring rolls, double fried wings, pork and kimchi potstickers, the vegetable special;  brussels sprouts, chilled acorn noodles (my least favorite), and my absolute favorite, the shrimp and grits. This wasn’t your typical shrimp and grits – remember, we’re in a Chinese Korean fusion restaurant. This was fresh shrimp served over rice porridge with an unforgettably flavorful garlic XO sauce. I was familiar with rice porridge from my trip to South East Asia, but I had never had it with quite outstanding accompaniments. It was really incredible.
For the main dishes, we chose the cumin lamb stir fry with spicy noodles and caramelized onions along with the rib eye bulgogi, which came with rice cakes with bean sprouts and shitake mushrooms – both really enjoyable, and satisfying. We even got an extra vegetarian version of the cumin lamb stir fry, on the house, and that was just as good! I didn’t have a favorite as they both offered different flavors and textures that were appealing, so if you go…try them both! Chiko also offers a wide range of additional vegetarian options, as well as gluten free, so there really is something for everyone.We shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which was brought to our table in a chiller with ice. It was a pretty mild Sauvignon Blanc so it didn’t have that harsh acidity or over the top grapefruit flavor, making it a lovely complement to all the spicy food. Chiko had a few wines to chose from, bubbles, beer, and Soju.

Chiko now offers an “After Dark” series where they bring in guest chefs to create a few special dishes and serve a limited menu from 9:30-midnight.  This is brilliant because this is the type of comfort food I crave, and would serve as my perfect late night fare after a night of drinking.

Chiko was such a fun, and very satisfying, meal both for our mouths and our wallets. Even with ordering all that food and a bottle of wine, we only ended up spending about $50/ea. All of the dishes were colorful, unique, and incredibly mouthwatering, so we were satisfied with our decision to over order and took our time enjoying every single bite. We all love trying new items and sharing, so this was the perfect opportunity to taste a large portion of their menu. My adventure with Kacy and Tom may slow down, now that they are moving away, but I won’t stop eating at new places and exploring new menus – and neither should you!

Keep checking back for more blogs, comment about Chiko if you’ve been, and tell me about some new places that I might not know about – i’d love to hear from you!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for HALO TOP Ice Cream

It’s flu season, and although I don’t think I caught the flu, I did catch some other little nasty virus going around.  I had the whole sore throat, clogged head, achy body, the works.  So as I worked from home the other day,  all I could think about were Popsicles and sorbet.  For some reason whenever I’m sick I always crave to Häagen-Dazs Mango sorbet.  Anyway, after a doctors appointment, I was on a mango mission, however the store had NO mango sorbet in sight!  So I picked up mango popsicles, and this new HALO TOP Birthday Cake ice cream.  I’ve seen the HALO TOP ice cream everywhere, but the price deters me from buying it.  And I usually always convince myself that I don’t need ice cream.  I guess when I’m sick all that goes out the window because it definitely ended up in my basket.First of all, I love everything Birthday Cake flavored, SEE: Slappy Cake here, and the idea of an entire pint of ice cream only having 280 calories excites me.  Although I was skeptical upon first bite, this stuff is GOOD!  It’s not as rich and creamy as regular ice cream, but I didn’t expect it to be.  It has a nice birthday cake flavor, dense, but still light and airy, and extremely addicting.  I was thinking it would taste artificial and the ice cream itself would be that fake airy kind that most “fake” ice creams do.  But in reality it didn’t really taste fake at all. After checking the nutrition facts, I was also pleasantly surprised.  It even has 5 grams of protein per serving so I feel like I’m getting my protein fix while enjoying a guilty pleasure. And the ingredient list is pretty minimal too!I’m sure you aren’t really supposed to eat the entire pint in one sitting, but I won’t judge you if you do.  Because that may or may not have happened myself. Well, not in one sitting, but over the course of the day.  But I had an excuse – I was sick.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  Even if you don’t have an excuse, you don’t have to feel guilty for eating the entire pint in one sitting.I don’t know if I’ll always spend $5 on a pint of ice cream, but every once in a while, I may need to indulge because this ice cream IS JUST THAT GOOD!

The Traveling Foodie

One of the biggest reasons I love traveling for work, is to see new cities, and try new restaurants.  However, that can make my work trips very expensive, even with my $50 per diem.

My first out of town trip was in Boston.  Well, second to be exact – I had gone up to Boston in June for work as well.  This is when I was first introduced to Neptune Oyster, Brassica Kitchen + Cafe, and Row 34. Neptune Oyster is the smallest little oyster bar located in North End.  I waited about 15 minutes for a seat at the bar, ordered 9 oysters, a clam and a glass of Rose.  Although extremely expensive, the oysters were so incredible that I ordered 6 more.  I couldn’t believe how much money I was spending on this oyster experience, but I was blown away by the flavor and freshness of each oyster.  It was worth every penny.I was able to meet up with one of my favorite people and favorite foodie friends, Jill, and she took me to Brassica Kitchen in Jamaica Plane.  Brassica is a cafe by day, and a hip dinner joint by night serving up French/American inspired fare with local ingredients, and an awesome drink menu. We ordered a little of everything off the menu, and it was such a lovely and delicious night.And then there is one of my favorites …Row 34.  My coworker and I stumbled upon this restaurant the first time we were in town, and I made a point to go back the second time I was up to visit. Row 34 is a brick and wood eatery serving up an extensive raw bar and craft beer menu.  And THIS is where I had the best tuna crudo. So good, I had to go back.  The food is great, atmosphere fun, and just an overall fun experience every time. The second time, which was also a second date (no, not with my coworker), at Row 34 we did oysters and the tuna crudo, again, but also ordered the salmon crudo, fried oyster lettuce wraps with pickled onion, the charred broccoli with peccorino, fries, and the brussles sprouts.  Good thing we both like to eat!  Everything was really tasty, and we ended the night at Drink down the street.  An innovative menu-less craft cocktail bar with a lively hipster vibe.And I can’t forget about The Barking Crab  from my very first visit to Boston.Delicious crab legs, a naked lobster roll (no mayo-just butter), and fish tacos.  This place has live music, and sits right on the water.  It’s not fancy, there are no frills about it, but that’s what makes it so great.  A true crab shack.

I’ve never had a bad meal or a bad experience in Boston.  It amazes me every time.  Hope I’m not jinxing myself!

In September I headed to Orlando for a little less than a week.  Despite all the chain restaurants in Orlando, my coworkers and I managed to find the one speakeasy in town called The Pharmacy.  Tucked away in a shopping center/condo complex, this (literally) hidden  gem was pretty darn delicious.  We started with cocktails, obviously, ordered a bunch of food to share, including the frites, bruchetta with burrata and prosciutto, a life changing pork chop, and mushroom mac and cheese.  I’m not a huge mac and cheese fan, but this dish was addictive.  The earthiness of the mushrooms really added character to the dish.After Orlando, I immediately headed to Vegas for a whirlwind work packed trip. Even with the long work days, I managed to make time to check out a few restaurants, walk the strip early in the morning, and find the most delicious coffee in the city… In my opinion.Our work took place at the Sands Expo Center at the Venetian so everyday I passed Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and stopped to get my coffee, a homemade oat granola bar, and some fruit. This became something I looked forward to every morning while I was there.

I was blown away by the shear amount of restaurants in each hotel, but even more blown away by the astronomical prices of food and drinks in Vegas.  The first night I ordered a martini at the Parasol Bar at the Wynn to watch the fun light show, and realized when I received the bill it was a $22 martini! Good thing that martini came with a little bowl of snacks and a show!The first night we dined at a restaurant at the Encore with clients, but unfortunately it was not really that memorable, and I can’t even remember the name.  After passing a beautiful advertisement for the restaurant Chica at the Venetian, I made sure to check out the grilled octopus with crunchy quinoa appetizer and spicy cocktail there.   That’s called good advertising!  Again, more expensive than I would have liked, but worth it for that little bit of relaxation and alone time on a work trip.  But the most memorable meal of the trip was at Giada at the Cromwell.

Although I absolutely loved the chic, clean, feel of the restaurant, the amazing view, and our outstanding server, I was underwhelmed by the food.  We ordered the Chicken Marsala Meatballs with roasted wild mushrooms , burrata salad with arugula, fresh ricotta with honey, lemon, and pink peppercorn , and the spaghetti, which came with two very plump prawns, mascarpone cheese, lemon, and  basil.  Unfortunately I just wasn’t wow’d.  However, the view I had of the Bellagio Water Show from my seat, well made up for it.

Besides a holiday filled weekend trip to NYC, I haven’t traveled much and not at all for work.  Probably for the best so I can recuperate from all this eating and drinking and spending.  But always looking forward to my next work trip…

Winner Winner The Chickery Dinner

I’m not one to really care about celebrity chefs.  They seem to be all over  the DC restaurant scene, however,  there is just ONE celebrity chef that wins me over every time.  I’ve met him a few times at various events over the years, and when I was invited to check out Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s The Chickery’s new late night menu, I knew I didn’t want to miss out.My friends Kacy and Tom over at Bad Sentences joined me for a evening of fun and chicken!The Chickery is a step up from a fast food joint, appearance wise, located right in the heart of DuPont, in Washington, DC, and serves up delicious chicken sandwiches, fries, salads, and their newest late night creation; the fried chicken waffle cone-a play on the very popular chicken and waffles.Chef Spike and his crew graciously served us various chicken sandwiches to try, as well as their take on Poutine, and of course the new late night treat.Perfectly friend chicken strips and French fries served in a warm homemade waffle cone drizzled with the restaurants signature buttermilk ranch dressing.

My favorite sandwich of the night, by far, was the first one I took a bite of;  the BBQ Big Dixie with bbq rotisserie chicken and coleslaw.  But being a fan of spicy food, the Blue Hot was a close second.  Each sandwich different and full of yumminess.  The fresh lettuce and tomato really help to balance everything out with some much needed crunch and freshness.Definitely the perfect post ‘night out’ snack, which I think is exactly what The Chickery is trying to achieve given the new late night menu.

We finished the night on a sweet note with root beer and orange creamsicle floats, and of course our very own Spike sandwich.Thanks to everyone there for the delicious experience and a chance to check out the new late night menu.  I’ll definitely be finding my way back there soon!

Slaptastic Salted Caramel Coffee

Recently I was introduced to a new line of protein products by my sister in law, and although skeptical at first, I have become a huge fan.  The line is called SLAP, and they make a variety of proteins, nut butters, protein pancake mixes, vitamins, BCAA’s, and much more.  I started out with the Birthday Cake flavored protein called Slappy Birthday,  the BCAA’s in Salted Caramel, and the pancake mix in Snicker Doodle because that just sounded downright delicious.I’m extremely picky about my protein powders as many of them contain a lot of sugar, and a list of ingredients I can’t pronounce.  I’ve been using Sun Warrior protein for years because it is a vegan protein with just a few all natural ingredients, and it actually tastes good!  But I was very impressed by this new protein I found, and I have to say, it tastes even better than Sun Warrior.  It is a whey protein, although SLAP does carry a line of vegan proteins too, but I’m a fan of the fact it is low carb, has very minimal all natural ingredients, and flavor that I am crazy about.  I’ve been making some pretty yummy green smoothies for breakfast with spinach, frozen banana, Slappy Cake protein, and a small scoop of Amazing Grass Detox and Digest for an added dose of greens.  And sometimes I had chia seeds to help keep me fuller longer, and because they are a great source of omega 3 fats. If you don’t know much about Branched Chain Amino Acids, it’s ok..because either do I.  What I’ve gathered from reading about them online is that they are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which comprise about 35% of our bodies muscle protein.  These amino acids help preserve muscle glycogen stores, which minimize protein breakdown, however, we can only get them from food and supplements as our body does not make them on their own.  The best times to enjoy them are before, during, or after a work out, but a lot of people have them in the morning when they wake up and before bed to help prevent muscle breakdown.  I was really excited about this flavor, but I’m still testing out recipes for the best way to enjoy it.  Right now I’m a huge fan of adding it to my coffee especially using it to make  iced coffee for a post workout treat.The caramel flavor is sweetened with Stevia,  and is very sweet, so its important to make sure you add it to enough of the liquid your mixing it with otherwise it’s way too sweet.  SLAP offers many other great flavors, but this is the only one I’ve tried so far.  I bet it would be good mixed with almond or coconut milk too, but right now I’m a huge fan of the Salted Caramel Coffee drink I’ve been enjoying.

Try it for yourself…

First add 1 scoop of SLAP Nutrition Salted Caramel BCAA’s to a blender with your black coffee.Sometimes I add a little steamed coconut milk, but you don’t have to.Mix in the blender for a few seconds, and the result is this delicious, frothy caramel coffee drink.  Drink it hot or serve over ice for an iced caramel coffee.  Either way, it’s a perfect morning treat, or a sweet snack.Big thanks to my SIL for introducing me to this awesome line of protein products!

Playing Catch Up

I constantly go through this love/hate relationship with blogging.  I love it for a while, get completely and totally wrapped up in it, and then after a few months, it becomes work, I don’t really think anyone cares, and I lose interest.

Now that I think about it…this is a lot of what I go through on a daily basis with a lot of activities in my life.  Working out, my job, men, hobbies, etc.

Does this happen to everyone or is it just me?  Maybe I get bored easily…something I’m learning a lot later in life. But I’ve had a few months off from blogging and started to get that itch back so I’m scratching it and here we go..yet again..

To catch you up real quick..

I’m still living in Annapolis and working for the same company I was when I got back from my trip.  Speaking of that trip – I can’t believe it’s been a year since I left.  I still have vivid memories through out the day of my travels.  I miss it every day, but try to take away all the positives and growth and look forward to another trip in the future.Let’s see what else..

I went to Charleston for a Bachelorette Party and ate ALLL the food!  We had our special Bachelorette lunch out at HUSK, but before heading to the restaurant we grabbed cocktails at McCradys.  I ordered the Bloody Mary, but this was not just any bloody Mary, this was almost like a Bloody Mary cocktail and absolutely amazing!   It was spicy and sweet with a basil floater on top that added a refreshing twist.  It was absolutely perfect, and I want one every single day of my life.I enjoyed our meal at HUSK, but wasn’t blown away by the food.  I think the best thing we ate  that meal were the pigs ear lettuce wraps. Crispy fatty pig with refreshing accompaniments in a butter lettuce leaf.I also determined that Charleston has the best Bloody Mary’s.  They are always spicy, and each one has it’s own unique twist.  I wasn’t a huge Bloody Mary fan, but Charleston converted me. I turned 33, which was hard to face, but also a chance for me to change how I was living my life.  My trip definitely helped with that.  Getting older is never fun, but I’m trying to be the healthiest, happiest and most positive person I can be. Easier said than done, but making small changes to how I was handling situations, my health, friends, family, etc, has been a great start.I spent most of the summer weekends at the beach or in St. Michaels with my family.We found a new  Happy Hour place at the beach that has the best deal in town.  Bull on the Beach offers great drink specials, but SO many food specials as well including 40% off clams and oysters.  I think last time I was there I got a dozen oysters for $9!  Can’t beat that!I finally dined at One Coastal, in Fenwick, DE,  which has been on my list for a while.  Such a great experience, the best cocktails, and delicious food.  The owner’s are incredible and you can tell they put their heart and soul into their restaurant.  It definitely shows. This was where I had my very first smokey Old Fashioned, but I have no pictures to prove it.  I’ll just have to go back! 😉

Oh, and one of my best friends got married… After the big dilemma I wrote about, I think she picked the perfect dress… 🙂I was traveling a lot for work in September and October and tried some great restaurants in Orlando, Boston, and Vegas.I’ve been to Boston 3 times now in the last few months both for work and pleasure, and I’m growing to really love that place.  I’ve never had a bad meal, they have the best oysters (in my opinion), and it’s always a good time every time I visit.  I had an incredible oyster experience at Neptune Oyster in North End, the most delicious tuna crudo that has ever touched my lips at Row 34, twice (yep-I flew all the way back just for that crudo!), checked out a cool brewery in Canton called Trillium, ate my first lobster roll at The Barking Crab, and had a memorable meal with my best foodie friend at a very hipster yet trendy new restaurant in Jamaica Plain called Brassica Kitchen.  There is so much more, but I’ll save it all for another post just about Boston.I feel the need to explain this crudo.  Extremely fresh pieces of mouthwatering tuna on top of creamy avocado slices, and balsamic drizzle,  topped with crispy black garlic, a spring of parsley for freshness, and a hint of salt for flavor.  It’s unbelievable. And as if that weren’t enough food…I’ve been exploring more of the town I live in, and hanging out with friends.  Always trying new places and taking advantage of living by the water.

Two favorites worth mentioning real quick – Sailor Oyster Bar, and Carrol’s Creek. Sailor Oyster is small, but has a really unique vibe and $1 oyster Happy Hour.  Great cocktails, great oysters, and a delicious salmon crudo.  I’m hooked on crudo these days if you couldn’t tell.  But really I just think they are the hot new raw fish, but either way, I’m totally on board. Carrol’s Creek is very classic Annapolis, but it’s one of the TWO restaurants on the water in down town.   I recommend going during the day in the summer and sitting outside.  They have a delicious bottle of Rose for $20 and their seafood charcuterie platter is a must.It’s been a fun food filled few months, but with all this eating and traveling, I had to make a drastic move, and joined a gym.  I start working out and eating healthier, which inspired me to blog again.  Or maybe it was the push of a certain person to remember why I started blogging in the first place. 😉 Either way – I’m back in the kitchen making new recipes, and trying fun new products that I want to share. And by ‘I started working out’ I mean last week…let’s be real here 😉

So there it is, in less than 1000 words…the last 7 months of my life.  More fun to come!

It’s a Pizza Party

Despite what it may look like on the blog, I don’t always go out to eat with my friends.  I actually spend quite a lot of nights making basic dinners, and I’m most definitely a bag lunch kind of girl.

Now that I live with my parents, we have taken on a new tradition of pizza night.  Growing up I always loved dinners that involved all of us helping and making the meal together.  Taco night and pizza night were my favorites.  My mom would line up all the toppings and we would make the tacos and pizzas ourselves.  This past weekend we were babysitting my niece and nephew, and I thought it would be so fun to do a pizza night where they could actually help make the pizzas.  This would also also be a great girls night dinner activity with friends.

But I have a little secret.  These semi homemade pizzas are made with crusts from The Dollar Tree.  I know what you’re thinking… ‘that sounds down right terrible!’  And, trust me,  I thought the same thing when my parents told me about them, but after trying them,  I’m hooked.  They are a little thicker than a flour tortilla and perfect for that thin crust pizza.  They also stay very crispy even when loaded with sauce, cheese, and toppings.

I will be the first to tell you, I am in no way, shape, or form a professional pizza maker, but I AM a professional pizza EATER!  I don’t know how to make dough or exactly what type of mozzarella works best, even though it is mostly about preference, but I do know how to turn a normal night into a Pizza Party kind of night.

I also really enjoy the whole wheat and the herb dough from Trader Joe’s, but I find it to be messier and harder to cook especially if you are making it’s with kids.  It does however, make a delicious pizza on the grill.  Grilled pizza is so delicious and a more ‘grown up’ version of pizza night for your get together and parties.  Or if you’re really fancy and you have one of those small wood fire ovens for our patio you could use that too.  If you do, please invite me over-I want to be best friends.

There are endless possibilities for toppings and different types of pizzas.  I searched some of my favorite pizza places for ideas, and eventually it just came down to what my family liked.  We decided to do one prosciutto and arugula, one cheese with mushrooms, and one  pizza loaded with vegetables and Italian Sausage.  We agreed on broccoli, red onion, chopped tomato, kale, fresh mozzarella, and Italian Sausage.

Since these were semi-homemade, some of the ingredients were already prepared for us.  We used pre-made crusts, canned mushrooms, and already shredded mozzarella cheese for the mushroom pizza.  My family likes their mushroom pizza a certain way, and this is it.I really like a white pizza with arugula and lemon, but we decided to do prosciutto and arugula with balsamic drizzle.  I recommend getting a good quality prosciutto for this.  Something like a Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele Prosciutto.  You don’t need to go crazy and spend a ton of money since you are putting it on a pizza and baking it, but make sure it is  decent quality and not too dry.Personally I like pizzas with a variety of toppings. I like some vegetables, some meat, and usually red sauce with cheese.  Depending on my pizza mood- I like contrasting components. There was a pizza at Lena’s Wood Fire Pizza in my old neighborhood that had Diavola Pizza on their menu I just couldn’t get enough of.  It was topped with sopressata, fried kale, and hot ghost honey.This was my first time putting broccoli and kale on a pizza, and I found that if you boil the broccoli for a just a couple minutes, and you massage the kale with olive oil first before adding ti to the pizza, the broccoli is easier to eaty, and the kale doesn’t burn as easily.Wine with pizza is a must.  I love a slightly sparkling, off dry Lambrusco, but I found this Zinfandel from Sonoma County that was really complement to pizza night.  It’s balanced nicely and not too heavy.  I really enjoy it on it’s own, but its also great as a fun pizza wine.

So what is your favorite kind of pizza?  I’d love to hear all your favorite pizza combinations so I have some ideas for next time…

 

~Lauren