Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zucchini Cakes with Lemon Zest

That's a good looking zucchini cake isn't it? This was my first shot at making these and I'm not gonna lie, it was a little bit more labor intensive than I thought it would be. But the end result was worth it.

You just shred up the zucs and some potato, add onion, lemon zest (I loved the lemon zest!), chives and egg, form up your cakes and lightly pan fry them.

It's mostly the Mise en place (oh I'm fancy) that takes a lot of time.

We had ours for lunch, but they would be awesome for breakfast or even a light dinner. I topped them with some tzatziki sauce too. (I saw them first here, via pinterest and was craving them ever since). 

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Zucchini Cakes
(recipe slightly adapted from Alexandra's Kitchen)
3 grated zucchinis
1 cup coarsely grated red potatoes
pinch of flour
2 eggs
1 handful chopped chives (or whatever herb you like)
Zest of one lemon
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 tablespoons olive oil (or cooking spray)

1. Grate your zucchini and potato, then squeeze out as much water as possible in a colander. Spread out the veggies and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to drain.

2. After 30 minutes, squeeze veggies out again and wrap in paper towels. Squeeze again. Sprinkle veggies with more salt and a pinch of flour. (It's important to get out as much water as possible or they won't fry up)

3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, chives and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add onion and egg mixture to zucchini and potatoes in a large bowl. Combine.

5. Preheat oven to 200˚F. Place your olive oil or cooking spray in a large frying pan, heat on medium. Add small handfuls (size of a small meatball) to your pan and cook until golden brown on each side, flattening with a spatula.

6. Keep the fritters that are done warming on a foil covered cookie sheet in your preheated oven while you pan fry the rest. Serve warm!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Easy Ranch Kale Chips (Step by Step)

Okay so, I am straight up addicted to kale chips right now. We've been making them with olive oil and salt, or garlic, or crushed red pepper, but last night I tried them with ranch seasoning and it's amazing. 

My Husband is addicted too. Yesterday he said this: "Oh .. you are making kale chips? Yum! Sweet."

Whaaaat? Can you believe that?

Even crazier ... his little brother and sister, ages 9 and 12, they liked them too... incredible.

For some reason I was slightly intimidated to try these my first time so I thought I'd break it down for you in  easy to follow steps:

1. Buy a bunch of kale, look for the larger leaves. Remove the ribs of the kale (the thick stems in the center of the leaf). Throw them out and save the leaves. I only ever make about half of the bunch because that is all that will fit on my baking sheet.

2. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees and then in a large bowl toss the leaves with 3 or 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. You want each leaf to be glistening. Get in there with your hands to really coat them.

3. Spread the olive oil coated leaves out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle your ranch seasoning packet on top. Only use about (if even) half of the packet. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way.

4. Bake at 275 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Take them out at 20 minutes and check, removing the leaves that are crispy and done. They should be browish tinted and not soggy at all. You should be able to hold them and have the leaves stand upright like in the photo before.

Typically the chips on the center of the sheet need to go back in for 5 more minutes or so. I spread them out to the outsides of the cookie sheet where they toast better.

Crunch away!

Easy Ranch Kale Chips (Serves 2-3 as a snack)
1 Bunch Kale
1 Packet Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning
3-4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Top 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before my Wedding

1. Trial your hair and make up. This one is probably my biggest warning. I didn't get to do this because we had a destination wedding, but I wish I had just skipped the added cost and had a friend do it. It's not that who I hired did a bad job, it was lovely and I keep getting compliments, but it wasn't what I envisioned, which freaked me out and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I wish I knew what it was going to look like before hand, same with my make up. 

I didn't have bridesmaids and the ceremony was very casual. I wanted the the gorgeous sunrise and Nick and I to be the only focus. You can't tell from this photo but my girlfriends Ariana and Darcie both randomly wore coral colored dresses which played out nicely! 

2. If there is an aspect of your wedding that you just love, love, love and can't live without it ...  you should prepare yourself that you might have to live without it. Things happen and you just never know what or when. Don't assume that because it's your day it will go your way. Sorry but it's the truth. Keep this in your head the whole time and you might put a lot less pressure on yourself.
We served donuts with frosting and sprinkles (from Duck Donuts, a local gem in the Outer Banks) and had a Barefoot Bubbly mimosa toast at our families beach house by the pool after the ceremony on the beach.  Later we had a casual brunch and cake.

3. Take video. Even if it's just your friends grabbing some video on their phones, you will be glad you have it (as usual, you were right mom). I kept fighting this idea, saying it wasn't necessary, but I was a ball of nerves and now I wish that I had something to see those moments over again as a calm, normal person.

The ceremony was my favorite part of the whole day. As I mentioned here I loved our officiant and it was the most beautiful 30 minutes of my entire life.

4. Don't change your routine. For example, If you put self tanner on usually, do it the night before your wedding. I was nervous and tired, yet I couldn't sleep and skipped my normal beauty regiment since I had to be up for the sunrise ceremony. The result is me thinking I look pink from too much sun at the beach. If you get 8 hours of sleep normally, make sure that's what you get the night before, and if you don't eat crappy food, don't tell yourself it's okay to indulge because it's your big day, your stomach WILL hurt.

Photography was something I stressed about and wanted to really reflect my sunrise wedding vision. Julie Dreelin nailed it, the photos are exactly what I wanted and I couldn't be happier. Do splurge on the photos. They are important.

5. Remember, you're a real person not a magazine model. I know that sounds harsh but I read too much Style Me Pretty and Martha Stewart Weddings before my big day and really wanted everything to just be perfect, including me. I had this idea of what I wanted to look like and then friends unedited photos started rolling in on Facebook. Oh they just keep coming and coming. Even though I knew my dress was pretty and that I looked nice, I still felt disappointed. Keep your expectations in check.

Venue: On the beach in Southern Shores, North Carolina (Outer Banks)
Officiant: Rev. Jay Bowman
Photographer: Julie Dreelin, Beach Productions
Duck Donuts
Pink Barefoot Bubbly
The Black Pelican

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cherry & Grape Salsa with Goat Cheese Crostini

I'm going to be honest with you friends, I am cranky and I have writers block.

But it would be really unfair to this tasty salsa (and you) if I didn't share the recipe just because I am in a funk.

The photo below in the bowl is my favorite.

It really reminds me of how good this salsa tasted. Think smooth olive oil, sweet and sour cherries, grapes, salt and cool cilantro. Yum.

I could eat the salsa with a spoon (I did that actually) but put it on top of some creamy goat cheese and it's the perfect bite.

Okay. Back to my funk.

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Cherry & Grape Salsa
1 cup pitted and chopped cherries (halves and quarters)
1 cup chopped red grapes (halves and quarters)
1 handful chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons diced jalapeno (no seeds!)
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Mix all of your ingredients and serve with tortilla chips or crostini.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Morning of my Sunrise Wedding and Rev. Jay Bowman

Date: July 6, 2012
Location: The Beach, Southern Shores, North Carolina
Time: 5:30am
Wedding ceremony start time: 6:00am (shortly after sunrise)

There I was, hair halfway done, stomach in knots and I didn't even have my dress on yet. The ceremony was starting soon and I felt certain that my hair and make up looked insane. I said loose curls on the bottom, but had a sneaking suspicion that I had tight spirals all over my head. I felt as if nothing was going according to my long laid out plans and I was totally stressing out. 

I had no question about the man I was about to marry, he's the best thing that ever happened to me. But that morning I was more nervous than I had ever been in my whole life. Was I going to cry? Maybe I was going to laugh. Maybe I was going to yell at people! I don't know, I just felt crazy.

My girlfriends helped me with my dress and other final details and I walked out of the little beach cottage with my grandpa feeling like I was having an out of body experiencing. (I'm told that for some people this is totally normal)

In that next hour or so (an hour that I will remember for the rest of my life) there were two things really helped to make me feel better and the first was our officiant, Rev. Jay Bowman.

There was something calming (and happy) about him as soon as he arrived. Right before the ceremony started he met me at the entrance to the beach. He looked me right in the eyes and told me everything was going to be okay, that this was about me and the man of my dreams and he was going to talk me through everything.

When the ceremony started he reminded us to take in every moment, to feel the sand in our toes, remember the sound of the waves and the light orange and pale blue color of the sky and to look around at all of our friends and family there to celebrate our love.

He made the ceremony feel just right for us.  The sunrise (and the moon setting at the same time) belonged to us that morning and Rev. Jay Bowman made it all happen.

All of our guests agreed that he was amazing. He was loud enough over the crashing waves, personal enough that it seemed as if he had been there from the moment Nick and I met. It wasn't  too long or too short. He made me laugh even when I was crying. (I am so thankful that Ericka captured this important moment for us!)

The other thing that made me feel better (of course) was looking into Nick's eyes and holding his hands and knowing that our love was beyond anything else. All the little details that didn't work out or the plans that didn't go my way, the hair that I thought looked crazy, my chubby arms or the way my dress fit or stuck in the sand, none of it mattered anymore in that moment.

This was what it was all about.

If you are getting married in the Outer Banks and are looking for the perfect officiant for your wedding, I can't recommend Rev. Jay Bowman enough. He was the best thing that happened to our wedding and we are forever grateful for the memories he gave us. Visit or  for more info.

More details and photos from my sunrise beach wedding (with a mimosa and donut reception after) here.

All photos taken by the amazing: Julie Dreelin Beach Productions

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Redbull and Vodka Jello Shots

I've always thought that Redbull tastes like Smarties or Sweet Tarts. Don't you?

I can't drink it on its own, I turn into a crazy lady with shaky hands and a nervous stomach, but I ocassionally will order a Redbull and vodka if we are out with friends and I need a little pick me up. (Hello dance floor!)

My husband on the other hand, loves this stuff. He was the one that suggested I try this jello shot. A jello shot with an energy burst. Sounds pretty awesome.

You don't need the silicon molds for this shot, you can make them in cubes by using a brownie pan and cutting out the shots with cookie cutters.

But if you like entertaining and jello shots, I really recommend getting one of these. It's SO EASY to use, the jello shots pop right out. 

Two more days until the weekend! Hang in there.

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***update*** I recently tweak the recipe because many said they were too strong. I reduced the vodka from a whole cup to a 1/2 cup.

Redbull and Vodka Jello Shots

1 1/2 cups Redbull (You will need two cans of regular or sugar free, whatever you prefer)
1 and 1/2 packets of Knox powdered gelatin
1/2 cup vodka of choice
24 Cherries with stems
1 Bite-Size Squares 24-Cavity Silicone Mold (they have these at Michaels)

1. Prepare your molds by spraying them with cooking spray or coconut oil lightly and cut your cherries in half and reserve for later. (This helps the cherries stand upright in the shots)

2. Pour 1 1/2  cup Redbull into a medium sauce pan (should be almost the whole can). Sprinkle your 1 and 1/2 packets of gelatin on top (don't stir) and let it sit for 2 minutes to activate the gelatin.

3. Turn on low heat and stir in the gelatin until it all dissolves. Let the Redbull get to a light boil and turn off the heat. Let it cool slightly and then add 1/2 cup of vodka.

4. Pour half of your Redbull jello mixture into your molds (or pan) let refrigerate and harden (about 2 hours). Place one cherry in each mold (or spread out an inch apart on in a pan) with the stem side up and cut side down, upright.

5. Top with the rest of the jello mixture gently, not disturbing the upright cherries. Let refrigerate over night. Carefully, take a butter knife and edge around each mold to help release the shot. Pop them out and serve.

Tip: Lightly grease your serving tray with cooking spray or coconut oil before serving so the shots don't stick and break when people try to pick them up by the cherry stem.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fresh Peach Bread Pudding (with Coconut Milk)

After a long hike on the Billy Goat Trail in Potomac, MD this weekend we stopped at Balducci's on the way home. I used to live right in that area and have desperately missed my "Food Lovers Market."

While browsing, someone stocking produce told us that the peaches were really fresh. "Here would you like to try some" he said, pulling out a pairing knife and slicing a sample (see why I love this store). He was right, best peaches I've had all summer so I had to buy a few.

Since we had some old bread and a can of silky coconut milk already at home I thought that peach bread pudding would be delicious for breakfast the next day.

I've actually never tried my famous bread pudding recipe with coconut milk instead of cream. It was definitely lighter and there was just a slight hint of coconut flavor.

I don't think I will ever use heavy cream in that recipe again. 

I sprinkled some white chocolate chips on top just for a little added sweetness.

On a separate note, only slightly related to bread pudding, I have decided to give up refined sugars for awhile and see how I feel. I've been feeling sluggish and my muscles have been aching lately and even though I run almost daily for exercise I don't think it's enough.

The plan is to cut out refined sugar for a couple weeks and make it to some yoga classes to stretch out those aching muscles and see if I feel any better. I will keep you updated!

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Fresh Peach Bread Pudding (with Coconut Milk)
2 ripe peaches
1 loaf of old white bread
1 1/2 cups Coconut Milk (about 1 can)
1 1/2 cups regular milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 handful white chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Chop your peaches into bit sized pieces, reserve some larger slices for topping.

2. In a large bowl add your bread, eggs, milk, coconut milk, sugar and bite sized peaches. Combine with your hands or a large spoon. Grease a 9x13 brownie or cake pan and pour in your bread mixture. Top with the larger peach slices.

3. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the edges are completely golden. Top your handful of white chocolate chips. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Man Food: 50/50 Burger

What happens when you mix ground beef with uncooked bacon and throw it on the grill?

You get the juiciest most flavorful burger ever!

Just think of all that rendered bacon flavor actually being inside the meat and not just on top.

I had never heard of this before, but of course the man of the house had. He said it was called a "50/50 burger."  I think they make them at a California burger chain.

Have I mentioned that this is the first summer that we've ever had our very own grill?  I think it was a right of passage for Nick.

Man meets girl. Man and girl buy dog. Man and girl get married. Man buys grill ... and they live happily ever after (with bacon burgers).

Happy Friday ya'll, get on that grill this weekend, drink some sangria and enjoy whats left of the summer!

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50/50 Burger (makes about 4 regular sized burgers)
1 pound (16 oz) uncooked bacon
1 pound (16 oz) lean ground beef
Sliced American cheese
Burger buns and toppings of choice

1. Chop uncooked bacon with a knife or in a food processor until it's in small pieces. Add bacon pieces to ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Combine meat and bacon and form burger patties. (you can add the cheese in small pieces here too!)

2. Grill the burgers, flipping to brown each side. Note: You have to cook the burgers closer to medium temperture in order to fully cook/render the bacon. We like our meat rare usually but with this recipe it's worth it! Top burgers with cheese until melted.

3. Place on buns with toppings of choice and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Whipped Cream and Cherry Limeade Jello Shots

This jello shot recipe happened totally by accident. I wanted a little "after work on Friday night cocktail" to sip on while we took Honey for a walk last week and all we had was cherry limeade and Pinnacle Whipped vokda in the house.

I poured it in my bright pink solo cup with some ice and figured it couldn't be that bad. Guess what? It was better than "not that bad" it was really good!

The combination of flavors is a little tart from the cherry and lime but then almost cotton candy like with the whipped cream/vanilla vodka mixed in.

This of course made me wonder (typical me) ... what a jello shot might taste like with this combo?

And voilĂ  a star was born. 

I was really pleased with my new Wilton silicon square molds. They were so easy to use, I just ran a butter knife around the edges and they popped right out of the molds perfectly.

You can see in the photo below, the shots to the right are the ones that I had already run the butter knife around the edges.

The square shots can go on a cute little popsicle stick or you can just pick up them up with your hands. And honestly the juice and vodka combinations are endless. It doesn't have to be cherry-limeade, why not try fruit punch or strawberry?

The ratio is always the same when I use Knox powder gelatin packets: 1 cup juice, 1 cup vodka, 1 and a 1/2 packets of gelatin powder.

* Tips: Coat your serving plate lightly with some baking spray or coconut oil so that the shots don't stick. If you are using a popsicle stick they stick will pull right out. I also had someone recently suggest wrapping the serving plate in plastic wrap to avoid sticking, but I haven't tried that yet.

If using a popsicle stick try and get it as close to the center of the shot as possible to avoid breakage.

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Whipped Cream and Cherry Limeade Jello Shots

1 cup Minute Maid Cherry Limeade
1 cup Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
1 and 1/2 packets of Knox powdered gelatin
Popsicle sticks (optional)
Wilton Bite-Size Brownie Pops Silicone Mold (purchased from Michaels arts and crafts store).
*The molds aren't necessary. Pouring the jello in a brownie pan about 1 inch thick and a square cookie cutter will produce similar results. 

1. Grease your silicon mold with baking spray or coconut oil lightly. 

2. Pour 1 cup Cherry Limeade into a medium sauce pan. Sprinkle on your powdered gelatin packets and let sit for 1 minute. Turn on heat to medium and stir in gelatin powder until all dissolved into the juice.

3. Bring juice and gelatin to a light boil and remove from heat. Let cool off until warm and then add your cup of vodka.

4. Pour your jello mixture into the molds and refrigerated overnight. 

5. Run a butter knife along the edges of the molds and carefully remove shots. If serving on a stick carefully place the stick in the center of the square shot.

6. Coat your serving plate lightly with some baking spray or coconut oil so that the shots don't stick.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mini "Popsicle" Brownie Bites

This weekend I made brownies for a little boy that needs some cheering up. I wanted to do something really special for him but was worried that "salted caramel brownies" would sound weird to an 11 year old.

So I kept it simple, classic fudge brownies. But ... a dash of rainbow sprinkles can go a long way.

When I was a kid, anything with frosting and sprinkles was a home-run in my book. Did I ever tell you I had a kitten in college (it was actually my roommates) named Sprinkles?

She was white and grey and crazy! She would sleep on my head or wake me up at 2am running in circles around the bed.

Crazy Sprinkles. Such a good name for a kitten. It just sounds happy doesn't it?

Anyway,  I first saw these "popsicle brownies" on pinterest. Adorable.  But I thought they looked a little too big. I already had mini popsicle sticks, a little square cookie cutter so I decided to make little minis.

All I had to do was pick up a bag of blue and pink candy melts at Michaels for $2 and a box fudge brownies.

In my opinion, Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownies are the best you can buy in a box. 

I also use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. You can really taste the coconut flavor and it's really, really good in brownies.

I hope these bring some cheer. It's raining and it's Monday, I bet we can all use some rainbow sprinkles in our life.

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Mini "Popsicle" Brownies
  (Makes about 12-16 brownie bites)
1 box Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownies
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup coconut oil
Wilton Candy Melts
Rainbow Sprinkles
Mini popsicle sticks

1. Preheat oven to 350°F for glass or metal pans, 325°F for dark or non-stick pans. Grease bottom of pan with cooking spray.

2. Mix brownie mix, eggs, oil and water in large bowl. Stir until well blended (about 50 strokes). Spread in greased pan and bake immediately for about 22 mins (do the toothpick test, brownies are done when toothpick inserted 1 inch from edge of pan comes out clean. ).

3. This is important, let the brownies cool completely in pan before using your square cutter. After you make your mini squares insert your popsicle stick perfectly in the center of the brownie.

4. Melt about half of bag of Wilton candy melts in a deep bowl on defrost setting in a microwave for 30 second intervals. It's very important not to over heat the candy melts. Heat for 30 seconds and stir, heat for 30 seconds and stir etc. until you have the right consistency.

5. Spread the candy no the tip of the brownies with a butter knife, they sprinkle on the rainbow sprinkles immediately. Let the candy harden and then serve.
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