How to Avoid Madness with Yogurt and Sushi

Ohhhhh Bridge Run weekend. There are times when I miss living downtown, but this weekend is not one of them.

While more than 50,000 people woke up extra early this morning to push their way through crowds of people to find their place in line, then run a 10K over the Cooper River Bridge, I opted out of the madness this year. A solo run through the quiet trails and neighborhoods of Daniel Island sounded much better (although they are not as quiet as normal this weekend on the island, because the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament is taking place right next door).

Even though I didn’t run the race, I still got one perk from the event. Lindsay, a Chobani rep from NYC, was in town for the expo and other race festivities. She met some other local food bloggers and me for breakfast at Charleston’s Cafe.

I was so excited, because this was my first blogger meet-up! It was so much fun to meet Erica, Amy (and their adorable babies!) and Lindsay.

Erica has had plenty of experience at this restaurant and only had good things to say about all of the food, which didn’t help my indecisiveness one bit. I intended to keep my breakfast relatively light, so I ordered the Blueberry Breakfast Parfait and a sweet potato biscuit (!!!!!!!!).

Both were sooo good and filled me up much more than I was expecting. Everyone else’s food- pancakes, french toast, and oatmeal – looked delicious as well. I can’t wait to go back to try more!
Here’s the group afterwards. It was a great way to start the day!
The end of the day wasn’t too bad either. I was on my own for dinner and spontaneously decided to make the short drive to Publix to see what pre-made food I could quickly find. The big sign for sushi outside of the entrance made my shopping easy.

California Roll. Don’t mind if I do.
Today I’m hoping to soak up some sun and relax, because by 9pm I won’t be so relaxed! I’ll be watching the Ohio State game with Greg and some friends and it’s not going to be an easy game. It is most likely going to be a stressful couple of hours, but I’m hoping we pull off the win. Go Bucks!

Simple Stuffed Mushroom Caps

What a week! It’s been quite eventful for me, mostly work-related things. But I also got to catch up with a friend from college that I haven’t hardly seen since graduation. We went to a bagel shop for sandwiches earlier this week and I am now hooked! I didn’t get a chance for pictures, but there is not a doubt in my mind that I won’t return to the shop soon, in which case I can catch you up on my experience. I loved my sandwich to say the least!

Then, I was invited to a blogger meet-up with some local bloggers! SO excited! More on that later this weekend ūüėČ

Now let’s talk about a more controversial subject: Mushrooms. Do I like them? Do I not? I can’t make up my mind.

On the plus side, they are extremely low in calories. They are versatile, able to be incorporated into about every meal- mixed in omelets, pasta, or casseroles, grilled like a burger, or as I have done here, added to a salad.

On the minus side, well, they just don’t always taste that great to me. And they are a type of fungus. Ew. That’s kind of weird. And sometimes I just can’t get past that idea.

I told you this was controversial ūüėČ

But there is one way to enhance the flavor and cover up the fungus-ness.

Stuff the giant cap with cheese! 
These may be the simplest stuffed mushroom caps ever. When I bought the caps, I had a much more elaborate plan for the filling. Then happy hour got in the way and I was too hungry when I got home to devote more than five minutes to preparing dinner. 

I can see the potential in stuffed mushroom caps. This quick little dish was¬†tasty, but leaves a lot of room for growth! Let’s be honest, it’s hard to go wrong when you smother something with cheese. But I can only imagine what I could with a little more patience…bacon. ham. breadcrumbs. garlic.¬†
Ok, maybe I really do like mushrooms.
Simple Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Makes two servings
Ingredients:
2 large portabello mushroom caps, rinsed and stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Colby jack)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place mushroom caps, bottoms up, on cookie sheet. Season each with half of the salt and half of the pepper. Top each with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
2. Place on top rack of oven and bake about 5-6 minutes, or until cheese is melted and almost bubbly. 
3. Remove from heat. Serve immediately by itself or atop a bed of leafy greens (like spinach). 

What I’m Loving Wednesday

I’ve been reading fellow bloggers’ “What I’m Loving Wednesday” posts for some time now and this week I feel extra compelled to jump on the band wagon. I have been obsessed with a couple foods recently and it only feels right to let you in on my indulgences.

1. What am I loving most, you ask? At the top of my list is this…

Publix Premium Frozen Yogurt. Last week it was strawberry. This week? Homemade cinnamon Рmade by stirring about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into the plain vanilla. This humble tub of simple vanilla yogurt is seriously my new favorite thing. 
I wasn’t expecting much from the generic brand of fro-yo, but Publix deserves an award for this. The stuff is so creamy, and with only 100 calories per serving, I don’t feel the least bit guilty for eating two servings at a time. The strawberry flavor was awesome, but I felt like switching it up after cleaning out that container so quickly. Sprinkling the cinnamon into the vanilla was the most genius thing I have done in awhile.¬†
2. Lucky Charms. 

Disclaimer: Photo is not an accurate portrayal of grain-to-marshmallow ratio. One could only DREAM there were actually that many marshmallows to fill the bowl. 
I was stuck on Kashi Go Lean Crunch for a good part of the past year. Recently, I discovered Cinnamon Burst and Peanut Butter Multi-Grain Cheerios. But there’s nothing like a good ol’ bowl of Lucky Charms.¬†
I do prefer to eat more nutritious cereals (more fiber, protein and whole grain), but what can I say? They really are magically delicious. 
3. Ok seriously? Look at this thing…

Photo pinned from here.
I could die. Right now. Just DIE for a piece of this. 
This might be the first thing I make when Lent is over and I can dig myself back into some cocoa and chocolate chips. Until then, I must make-do with just loving the pictures and imaging how good it tastes. 
4. I love that I have three once beautiful yellow bananas that have turned ugly and brown. This only means one thing.
Banana Chocolate Chip Bread (or muffins) are in my very near future.
Can’t wait!
What are you loving this week?

Sun-Dried Tomato Ricotta Potatoes

Hey Friends. My Monday flewwww by and I’m counting on the same for today, and the rest of this week for that matter!

I’m really proud of this recipe today. It’s so¬†versatile, which is one of my favorite qualities in a dish. Plus, and more importantly, it’s healthy and delicious. Winner, winner…potato dinner!

I’m trying to eat as much of the food in my fridge and cabinets as possible before going grocery shopping again. It’s impossible for me to go to Publix to just grab an item or two. I always coming out spending more than I intended. To avoid this problem, I’m trying to ignore the lack of meat or fresh produce for just a couple of days longer. If only I can make use of what I already have on hand…

Like a bag of redskin potatoes! And a random container of ricotta cheese! (Well, not so random actually. I bought the container to make these pancakes last week, but now I’m desperate to cook with the rest of it.)
It was quite the successful experiment if you ask me. Go ahead and try for yourself. 
Sun-Dried Tomato Ricotta Potatoes
Makes 1-2 servings
Ingredients:
2 small-medium redskin potatoes, washed and sliced
1/2 tablespoon margarine or butter
1/4 of a whole green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup water
3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon dry basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. Heat margarine in large skillet over medium heat. 
2. Add sliced potatoes and cover skillet. Allow to cook about four minutes. Remove lid and flip potatoes. Add water and shake skillet so potatoes are constantly moving and evenly cooking. Add green pepper sliced. Re-cover skillet and allow to cook about three to four more minutes. 
3. Remove lid and turn off heat. Add sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta cheese and spices to the skillet. Stir to evenly coat potatoes.  Serve immediately.

Sunday Blessings – More than Salvation

I put off writing my Sunday post first thing this morning, mostly because I was needing a little inspiration.

How about some blueberry ricotta pancakes for inspiration? Those would have been nice, but breakfast actually came in the form of magically delicious Lucky Charms and an apple (the pancakes made an even more magically delicious dinner last week). 
Anyway, I figured some hymn-singing, Bible verse-reading, sermon-listening time at church would give me the inspiration I actually needed to write today. 
And I was right!
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”
-Matthew 25:35
Our preacher gave a very thought-provoking sermon about how life as a Christian is so much more than our own salvation. It’s about seeing God in every person and giving what we can to help the hungry, and the thirsty, and the homeless. God does not judge us based on how often we go to church or how much we spend time reading the Bible (although those things are important too), but He pays closer attention to how we “walk the walk” and serve others.¬†

Are you one of those who are hungry? ‘Cuz you can have some toast and eggs with me! (Over-easy eggs with toast are my current favorite breakfast.)
And cupcakes. You know I can always provide some cupcakes!
In all seriousness though, our preacher’s words made me think about how I can do a better job of seeing God in others. The sermon also touched on materialism and how so many earthly things can get in the way of what we really need to focus on. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again. I am so blessed to have everything I do and to be able to live as comfortably as I do. I know it is time I step-up and make more of an effort to recognize God in the hungry and homeless. No matter how much or little I have, I can always afford to give in one way or another.¬†
And with that I say, have a great rest of your Sunday!

A Restaurant Review – Bistro 536

Did this week just drag on and on and on for anyone else, or was it just me?

By the time I got home last night, all I wanted to do was lay on the couch under a blanket and shut my brain off until Monday. Then I realized it was dinner time and there was no hiding from my growling stomach. I compromised with myself (and Greg) and got back up off the couch to go get some food. I have had a Groupon to Bistro 536, a lesser-known restaurant in Mt. Pleasant. It’s right by my office and happens to be the place my manager took me to lunch on my first day. I had the Fried Green Tomato BLT that first time. Then, I went a second time for lunch with yet another Groupon and briefly talked about that salad here.

This time, my Groupon was only good for dinner. It had been burning a hole in my wallet for quite awhile and I wanted to put it to use.

Greg and I walked into the almost-empty restaurant at 6:30 on a Friday night, I don’t think that’s a good sign. It did mean great service though. I had the Grilled Salmon ($17), which is served with a risotto cake, grilled zucchini and then covered in a roasted red pepper pesto cream.¬†
Great choice on my part. The salmon was tender and the sauce was even better than I expected. I was really excited to try the risotto cake, but¬†unfortunately that part didn’t live up to my expectations. The breaded rice was lacking in flavor, mostly because it was over-breaded for my liking. I ended up breaking the cake apart and eating the rice out of it.¬†

Greg had the Breaded Porkloin ($15), served with garlic whipped potatoes, caramelized apples and a balsamic reduction. I only snagged a bite of the apples, so I can’t comment much, but Greg did say it was good overall.¬†
Then it was time for dessert. I was stuffed from my entree, so I opted for the Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake to go.

We all know how important a good dessert is to me, but this just didn’t cut it. The cheesecake was essentially three layers- cake, cheesecake, and lemon whipped cream (that may not be 100% accurate, but that’s what it seemed like to me). The bottom cake layer totally took away from the rest of the cake. I ate about half of the slice before deciding it was not worth it. Overall the flavor was very bland.¬†
I got myself a bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt from my freezer to compensate for the bad cheesecake experience. Problem solved.
I am glad I gave Bistro 536 a try for dinner and I was very happy with my salmon, but lunch has proven itself to be better. The dinner entrees are slightly overpriced, while their wide variety of salads and sandwiches (not available during dinner hours), are much more reasonable. If I do make it back someday, I doubt I’ll be ordering dessert either.
Bistro 536 on Urbanspoon

Brown Sugar Coconut Chocolate Cake Bars

Mmmmm chocolate. 

Not just chocolate. But brown sugar and coconut too. 
So many flavors! While they might seem like a random combination, you might be surprised at how well they all tasted together. Trust me, I realize how random it sounds. It all just happened so fast and before I knew it, this is what I came up with. 
I didn’t hate it. Not oneeee bit.

I made these cake bars a few weeks ago to bring to a get-together at a friend’s house. In fact, it was several weeks ago now, because it was before Lent had started. Before my chocolate deprivation had started. I have never craved chocolate more in my life. And looking at these bars again is only making it worse!¬†
If I can’t make them for myself, you should make them for yourself. At least one of us will get to enjoy the cakey goodness.
Brown Sugar Coconut Chocolate Cake Bars
(Adapted from Funfetti Cake Bars, adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff)
Makes about 16 bars
Ingredients:
1 box chocolate cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup vanilla
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract 
1/4 cup brown sugar, for topping
1/4 cup chocolate sprinkles, for topping
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9×9 inch cake pan by coating with nonstick spray.
2. In a medium/large bowl, prepare cake mix by beating together cake mix, oil and egg. Slowly beat in milk until just combined (batter will be thick). Pour batter into pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from edges of pan.
3. While cake is baking, mix frosting and coconut extract in a small bowl until well combined.
3. Remove cake from oven when finished. Let cool in pan. Frost and top with brown sugar and sprinkles.