Bacon Egg and Cheese McMuffins

I couldn’t tell you the last time I ordered something from McDonald’s. That is fine with me, because I really want as little to do with it as possibly anyway. Whenever I hear the stories about people leaving a McDonald’s burger out for years and years and the food barley changes in look, it makes me want to eat a fresh green salad, extra veggies please.

I was the princess of 6-piece Chicken McNuggets with sweet and sour sauce when I was a kid. Princess, I tell ya. And then there were the Sausage and Egg McMuffins which were pretty delish, until the McGriddles came along. OMG, sooo good on the tongue. But then I felt like I was going to have a heart attack after eating one. Not so good.

Now that my Mickey-D’s days are past me, I find myself missing those classic breakfast sandwiches. Every once in awhile I’ll make breakfast sandwiches on bread or bagels. After making Biscuits and Gravy this weekend, I was left with some spare biscuits. Perfect for a McDonald’s remake without the guilt…or heart attack.

These add up to about 330 calories, which is about 100 cals less than McDonald’s. This is a little more than I normally like to have for breakfast during the week, but not unreasonable by any means. Plus, you know exactly what you’re eating with these homemade variety, whereas with McDonald’s who knows what you’re putting in your body. Not me. And I don’t really want to know. 
I like making my breakfast sandwiches with egg, cheese and any combination of ham, sausage or bacon. 
Ba-da-da-da-da…I’m lovin’ it! 
Bacon Egg and Cheese McMuffins
(Inspired by McDonald’s)
Makes 2 sandwiches
Ingredients:
2 biscuits
2 slices bacon (or more if desired)
2 eggs
2 ounces cheddar cheese, sliced
Pepper to taste
Directions:
1. Cook bacon according to package directions until crispy. 
2. While bacon is cooking, heat another skillet over medium-low heat. Add eggs to a small bowl and whisk. Pour into heated skillet. Let cook about one minute. Scrap spatula around the edges to loosen egg from the sides. Fold egg mixture in half on top of itself (like an omelet). Continue cooking another minute, flip and cook one more minute. Cut in egg mixture in half. Season with pepper. 
3. Split biscuits in half. Add half of the cooked egg to each biscuit, top with an ounce of the cheese, then bacon. Press down top half of biscuit. Serve immediately.

A Mexican Restaurant Review – Rio Grande

Back to the grind…in more ways than one! I’m starting off this week with an early morning teeth cleaning at the dentist. Ew. Ouch. Does anyone actually like the dentist? I mean, seriously, do dentists even like the dentist? I have to say, I think I have had some fairly decent dentists in my day. They do a decent job of making an uncomfortable experience bearable, but the six months between each visit always seems to go by way too quickly. 

It doesn’t help that I spend so much of my spare time baking and treating my teeth to their fair share of sugar. I really do brush all the time, and have gotten good about flossing too, but my teeth have also had their fair share of cavities. I don’t understand how it happens. I don’t know what more I can do. Hopefully today I will walk away cavity free. 
Was this teeth talk TMI? Sorry. 
Anywhoooo…Saturday night Greg and I made it back to Rio Grande, a Mexican (duh) restaurant nearby. 
For some reason, the margarita wasn’t as good as I remember from the first time we went. But I forgave them and enjoyed my meal anyway.

“Lite” Chicken Taco Salad for me. It was a tortilla shell bowl filled with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, grilled chicken, pepper, and a little fat-free cheese and sour cream. I was happy with my choice.

Greg had the Chicken Fajitas, which are always a winner. 
As I have found with most Mexican restaurants, the service here is fast and friendly. The chips and salsa are great, but I think they could work on the margs. And that’s an important component to a Mexican meal if you ask me.
Rio Grande on Urbanspoon

Sunday Blessings – Finding the Beauty

Wow, is it almost 4 o’clock already? Approaching dinnertime on a Sunday only means one thing…the weekend is almost over! Tear 😦

It’s been a good one and I hate to see it go. I much rather prefer being optimistic than pessimistic though, so here is a pleasant thought as the weekend wraps up:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

Okay, okay. I know that the end of the weekend is nothing to be “terrified” about. Slightly discouraging maybe, but not terrifying. Regardless, people often complain of having “the case of the Mondays” on that first day back at work and dwell on the fact that it isn’t the weekend anymore. But God promises to be with us wherever we go and whenever we need him (and even when we don’t think we need him).

The start of the week is no different. It may be a time of readjusting to a busy schedule of workouts, office meetings, deadlines, etc., but think of how much harder it would be without God by our sides.

Sometimes we are forced to find the good in time and places we might not imagine possible. Like a car wash. Flowers, like my Valentine’s flowers still hanging on for dear life, are pretty without even trying. But a car wash isn’t something you would call “pretty,” right? 
Greg and I took my car to one of those drive-through washes at the gas station yesterday. I just had to get a picture of the “polish” that was sprayed all over my car. It was so pretty!
I wish it didn’t have to be washed off, although that would make it hard to see…
Anyway, my point is that I was definitely not expecting the five-minute wash to be anything “pretty.” Not that I was dreading it, but getting a car was is more of a chore than anything. Then the colorful spray/polish/whatever it was, came shooting out and I was like a kid in a candy store. 
It really wasn’t a big deal, but I thought it was fun and definitely made the car wash more exciting. 

Whether you are picking flowers or going through a car wash, whether you are enjoying a relaxing weekend or busy at work, God is with you and you can always find beauty in that.

Biscuits and Gravy

Saturday breakfast doesn’t get more Southern than biscuits and sausage gravy.

I never had this while growing up, but it’s not entirely my fault. I would bet to say most restaurants where I grew up didn’t have this on the menu, or maybe I was just too picky to notice. While eating out for breakfast, I probably ordered pancakes 99% of the time without even thinking twice.

Greg on the other hand is almost the opposite. He orders biscuits and gravy all. the. time. (as discussed here and here for example.) So it has definitely grown on me and worked its way into my diet as well.

I picked up the ingredients earlier this week and have been looking forward to making the Southern breakfast staple ever since.

I kept it simple when it came to the biscuits. I could have made them from scratch, but Pillsbury’s flaky biscuits are pretty darn good as it is. They were baked to golden perfection. I was very proud of them.

The gravy turned out a little thicker than I would ideally want, but still tasted amazing. I almost added spices to the gravy while it was cooking, but glad I decided to wait because the sausage itself was hot enough for me! Greg ended up adding hot sauce to his though. 

Just looking at this kindddd of makes me want to go for another run later.

But then I realize that’s just crazy talk. Weekends are meant for indulgent breakfasts anyway. Doughnuts last Saturday, Biscuits and Gravy this Saturday. What should be in line for next Saturday?
Biscuits and Spicy Sausage Gravy

Makes about 6-8 servings*

Ingredients:
8 biscuits (I used Pillsbury’s refrigerated Flaky Biscuits)
1 pound hot sausage roll
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
Optional-
Pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste

Directions:
1. Bake biscuits according to package directions, or prepare your own following recipe.
2. While biscuits are baking, heat medium-large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and continuously break-up meat into small crumbles using spatula.
3. When sausage is just about finished cooking, turn heat to low and add flour. Stir to coat. Slowly add milk, continuing to stir until thickened. Add pepper at this time if desired. Remove from heat.
4. Add biscuits to plates and top with desired amount of gravy (about 1/3-1/2 cup per biscuit).

*I halved the recipe for this post.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

With the start of Lent comes the start of meatless Fridays. Dinners like the Crock Pot Parmesan Chicken I shared the other day are going to be missed on Fridays, but that’s not to say dinner still can’t be delicious. Out with the meat, in with the extra veggies!

For me, a good meatless meal must include lots of vegetables to fill me up. Instead of replacing meat with carbs, vegetables add color and plenty of nutrition.

I don’t buy brussel sprouts often, I seem to forget how much I like them. But they are way up there on my list of favorite vegetables. I have already talked about that here, so we don’t have to talk about it again. 

In the past I have stuck to sauteing brussel sprouts (and most other veggies for that matter), but with proper planning for cooking time, roasting is the way to go…as proven by this meal. I roasted a variety of vegetables, added them to a pile of steamed brown rice, then topped the plate with black beans. 

Lots of colors, lots of flavors and lots of vegetarian yumminess. 
Happy Friday!
Roasted Vegetable Medley
Makes 2-3 servings
Ingredients:
4 cups brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Spread out all vegetables in an even layer on baking sheet. Brush olive oil across vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a spatula to gently mix-up vegetables. Cover baking sheet with foil.
3. Roast 40-45 minutes, checking half way through to flip vegetables around. 
4. Remove from heat, add more salt and pepper to taste if needed, and serve immediately. 
Serving suggestion: Add to cooked rice, beans or pasta. 

Crock Pot Parmesan Chicken Pasta

So…I love chicken.

It is so versatile, healthy and just plain delicious. 
The best part about this chicken dish in particular is that it’s cooked in a crock pot. Throw it all in the pot in the morning and come home to hot and ready to eat dinner!
If you’re paranoid like me, you may spend the day at work praying your house isn’t burning down because the crock pot caught on fire. But when you get home and realize it’s perfectly safe and sound, AND the chicken looks like it does in these pictures, you may just jump for joy…literally.

The recipe calls for white wine, so I thought drinking a white wine along with the dish would compliment it well. But I love red wine too much so poured a glass of that as well. I took a sip of the white, but ended up drinking the red while Greg enjoyed the white. Fine with me. 

I really need to start using my crock pot more often. It is just too easy that I really don’t have an excuse not to.
Find the recipe for Jessica’s Crock Pot Parmesan Chicken here.  I halved the recipe and used broccoli as my vegetable of choice. It was the perfect amount for Greg and I, plus a small serving left over for lunch the next day. 
Today my chicken-loving self will have to go without chicken, or any meat for that matter, because of Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Last year, I gave up meat altogether. It was tough, and I craved burgers more than anything. This year, I’ll be doing something different for Lent so I’ll only be a vegetarian on Fridays. That leaves six other days each week to cook some meaty recipes in the crock pot. I better get cookin’!

Doughnuts, Omelets and Pizza!

Wow. What a weekend. It started off with a quiet Friday night in with a Subway grilled chicken salad for dinner. The excitement really picked up on Saturday morning with these beauties…

After a long morning run, I headed downtown with Greg for the Southeastern Wildlife Expo. His company exhibits at the event and he had to work, so I figured I would tag along to explore my “wild” side, but more importantly do some shopping while I was down there (of course). 
I wasn’t about to miss out on breakfast from Glazed while I was in the area. You may remember my sister and I made our inaugural visit a few months ago and I have been looking forward to going back to try some different flavors. 

I was more than pleasantly surprised by the Strawberry Champagne. I figured it would be good, but didn’t expect it to be GREAT.

Don’t mind me. I’ll just be here expressing my love to the doughnut. Very normal.

Just look at that strawberry filling. It tasted so real and authentic. Glazed only uses natural ingredients and this doughnut is testimony to that. 
I also tried the Sweet Potato doughnut, which was delicious in its own right. I made sure to get some simple doughnut holes for Greg since he doesn’t get into any of the more exciting flavors. (Shhh don’t tell him they are actually called “Chinese 5 Spice” holes. The name might scare him off).
Glazed Gourmet on Urbanspoon
As if a breakfast like this wasn’t good enough for the weekend, Sunday started off just as great. 
After church Greg and I stopped by Triangle Char & Bar for their famous brunch. Locals talk about this place all the time, but we had never been. I knew it was popular, but I was shocked to see the restaurant already more than half-full by the time we arrived at 10:55am, five minutes before they are even scheduled to open!
You really can’t beat $1 mimosas. 

You all know how much I love pancakes, and it was definitely difficult to pass up the Toasted Pecan or Blueberry Pancakes. But I managed to convince myself a more healthful option would be just as good and opted for a vegetable omelet on the specials menu made with asparagus, red pepper, artichoke hearts and goat cheese. I loved that it came with fruit on the side by default; usually fruit is something extra you have to ask for. Greg ate most of the hash browns along with his main dish of Biscuits and Gravy.
The main reason we went to Triangle was because I had a gift card to use, but we will be back to spend money of our own too. The food was good, the mimosas were great and the atmosphere was fun. 
Triangle Char and Bar on Urbanspoon
I’m glad I made a healthy choice for brunch, because dinner was a different story.
The boy and I shared a large pepperoni, pineapple and onion pizza from Mellow Mushroom to make a great end to the weekend. 
Mellow Mushroom (Mt. Pleasant) on Urbanspoon
Now it’s time to get on with the workweek…

Sunday Blessings – Inspired by Technology

While cooking dinner last night, my brother Austin called to ask me where I get my recipes. I listed off a few of my favorite blogs and suggested Google as well. He informed me I haven’t made what HE wants me to make yet on my blog, so he needed to turn to another source for the information.

It’s true, he does know how to make something I don’t: Haystacks. Ever had them? They are chinese noodles coated with a melted peanut butter and butterscotch mix and clumped together.

See? They look just like haystacks, right? This is what Austin sent me right after making them and threatened me to share them with you today. So here ya go!
Austin had made these several times growing up, and I do like them a lot, but I also always forget about them. I might just have to give them a try, and maybe add my own flair. Then Austin can use my recipes on the blog more frequently 🙂
Isn’t it amazing how we can so easily “google” something and instantly find a recipe, or snap a picture on a phone and send it hundreds of miles away to another phone? Technology can drive me crazy if I think about it too much, but I am so grateful for the work it can do for us.
God has blessed certain people with the intelligence and supplies to create these once unimaginable things like cell phones, picture messaging, the internet, etc. The list goes on and on and it’s only going to get longer. 
Genesis 11:6 says:

“And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.’ “

God put this sense of, “you can do anything you set your mind to,” in all of us. We all have at least some sense of self-motivation, determination and desire to be better. This keeps the human race as a whole improving and evolving. We push ourselves and each other to be better.

I typically like to workout by myself. Notice I said typically, so there are those rare times where I enjoy a running partner or someone lifting weights with me. But normally I don’t like talking while running, I can’t form sentences while I’m out of breath anyway! And I just like to do my own thing.
But even when I think I am “alone” while working out, I almost always have headphones in and music playing in my ears. If I am inside, the TV is usually on as well. Music motivates me through my runs and sometimes even pushes me through an extra mile. 
Music, just like the internet and cell phones, is one technology I am thankful for. Music has obviously been around forever, but if it wasn’t for the radio in my car, or Pandora streaming through my TV (new discovery for Greg and I on our TV!) then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy music like I can with these technologies. 
I love listening to His Radio (the Christian station in Charleston) every day on my drive to and from work. It puts me in the best mood in the mornings and if I am exhausted from a long day at work, it never fails to bring me back to that good mood at night. 
I could tell you 948504 more reasons why I am so blessed for technology in my life, but this post is already getting quite long as it is and I have to get going to church. 
I hope you all have a great day! If you get to communicate with someone across the country or are inspired by a song on the radio, give a quick thanks to He who has provided us with the skills to make it possible. 

A Restaurant Review – Fulton Five

I was completely surprised by Greg’s restaurant choice for our (belated) Valentine’s Day dinner date last night. He wanted it to be a surprise, so didn’t give me many hints. I tried to guess, naming some popular spots downtown (the general location was one thing I did know, although in Charleston that still doesn’t help narrow it down much). This guessing game kept me extra focused and productive at work….NOT. I spent a good amount of the day researching restaurants that I thought we might be going to.

Even though I thought I had it narrowed down to two restaurants, it turned out that Greg’s choice wasn’t even ever on my radar.

Our reservation was at 6pm, so Greg picked me up from work to save a little time and we headed downtown. We parked on King Street (the main drag right through the middle of downtown) and began a short walk to this unknown place. We took an unexpected turn onto a side road and that’s when I saw it, Fulton Five.

I had heard of the restaurant before, but nothing specific at all…just that it existed.

The inside was fairly small with dim lights and candle-lit tables. I may have been over-excited by the fact I heard the hostess tell our waiter to seat us at “Table 13.” Greg’s birthday is January 13th and therefore his favorite number…therefore one of my favorite numbers. It was the perfect table!

Greg started with the brushetta, which was on special. It was topped with peas, celery root, ham (delish!), cheese and a balsamic reduction sauce.

There were a TON of peas on this baby and all of the flavors went so well together. 
I started with the Insalata di Funghi- “Grilled seasonal mushrooms over baby spinach dressed with truffle parmesan vinaigrette and asiago.”

This salad was so simple, but so so good. 
Then came the entrees. Oh boy, the entrees. 
Greg ordered the Filleto d’Espresso- a “Chocolate espresso rubbed filet”with asparagus and whipped potatoes. 
Ok so first thought here is, “Greg….chocolate?? No way.” But I decided his love for espresso must just be stronger than his dislike of chocolate. He agreed, that was the only explanation for his willingness to even try this in the first place.
We also agreed that this was an amazing choice. My single bite of that filet was probably the best bite of steak I have ever had. It was cooked to perrrrr-fection. So dang tender, he hardly needed a knife.
My choice wasn’t too shabby either. I almost didn’t even look at the menu, because the waiter’s description of the pasta special won me over right away. Lobster Gnocchi sounded like a winner to me. 
All of their pasta entrees, this one included, can be ordered in a small/appetizer size, or a large/entree size. Since I was having the salad to start, I figured the appetizer size would be plenty. And it was. The bowl of chewy gnocchi and tender lobster mixed in a lobster cream sauce filled me right up. 
I couldn’t have been much happier with our Fulton Five experience. The service wasn’t anything outstanding, but definitely not poor. It was much less “touristy” than most other restaurants in the area too, which I loved.
If my weekend is as good as that dinner, I’m going to have a great weekend!
P.S. I really hate having to use such grainy, discolored pictures, but it’s impossible to snap a good one in such a dark restaurant. But I just have to share so you can at least have some idea of what the food looked like, right?!
Fulton Five on Urbanspoon

Cheesy Coconut Bean Dip

Hey there friends.

Are you still recovering from a post-Valentine’s Day sugar overdose like I am? This is what I was surprised with on Tuesday:

B-e-a-utiful flowers, but more importantly, half a dozen cupcakes from Cupcake! AH! I was so excited. And a little overwhelmed with where to begin. So many choices! 
“They’re alllll yours,” Greg says as I hold the box in my hands, shaking my head saying, “I really shouldn’t eat all of these myself. I really shouldn’t……but I will if I have to!” 
And I am going to have to. Greg won’t even eat one. Not even half of one. 
So that’s what I have been working on for the past couple of days…eating cupcakes. And I still have two and some crumbs left. It’s like a magical never-ending cupcake box. (I can’t eat these cupcakes quite as quickly I can eat others. They have so much delicious, but rich, frosting that I fill-up more quickly than usual.)
If you had a sugar-filled Valentine’s like I did, you might just need something, well, not so sugary. 
After making the coconut cake last week, followed by the coconut cupcakes, I was left with an open can of coconut milk in the fridge (that’s a lot of ‘coconut’ in one sentence, huh?). 
When I saw Jessica’s recipe for Coconut and Citrus White Bean Spread, I was thrilled to have a reason to use the rest of that milk. 

I loved the dip with whole wheat Ritz crackers, but I found another use for it as well. The past couple of days for lunch I have spread about 1-2 tablespoons of the dip on a hamburger bun with turkey and/or avocado. 
Well, here I am again, about to go spread this dip on a sandwich for lunch today! I am all out of avocado, so maybe I’ll throw on some extra turkey.
Tonight Greg and I are going on our Valentine’s Day date. We never did get a reservation on Tuesday, so we agreed we were just fine with waiting for a special dinner until today (the only reservation they had available for the rest of the week!). I still don’t know where we’re going, but I have a good guess. I’ll let you know if I was right tomorrow.
Meanwhile, have some coconut bean dip. Or, just keep on eating those Valentine’s chocolates 🙂
Cheesy Coconut Bean Dip
(Adapted from How Sweet It Is)
Makes about 1 cup of dip
Ingredients:
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions:
1. In a food processor, combine beans and roasted garlic. Blend until smooth. Add orange juice and coconut milk. Pulse until well-combined. Add salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Pour into small bowl and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, melt shredded cheese over medium-low heat. Stir cheese continuously until completely melted, about 3-4 minutes. 
3. Pour melted cheese into bowl with bean mixture. Stir with spoon to combine. Serve immediately.