Sunday Blessings – Stress Relievers

Good morning! It’s been a long time since I have done a Sunday blessings post, but the past day and a half has been full of reasons to feel blessed.

1. Beautiful sunrises like this make early morning runs totally worth it. I love my city!

2. Dog-sitting for the weekend was a fun trial for having a dog of our own one day, which may actually be coming sooner than later. Eeek!! Don’t hold me to that, but let’s just say some puppy fever was sparked recently and we’re taking it seriously.
3. Retail therapy is a real thing, in case you were wondering. After a long week at work, a day of shopping can relieve a lot of stress. Proven fact. 
Fall is upon us and even though some days still feel like summer, a new season means an excuse for a new wardrobe. I took an afternoon shopping spree to Marshall’s, along with what seemed like everyone else in Charleston – It was packed! I found some great fall clothes and tried on some heels. I felt like Kim Kardashian. 
4. Another great stress reliever is baking. The dog had me up even earlier than usual on Saturday, meaning I had time to get my workout in AND bake before the day had even really begun. Here is a preview of a recipe coming this week…
Have a happy and blessed Sunday!

Buttermilk Pancakes and Meeting Jenna!

Last night was a breakfast for dinner kind of night. I bought buttermilk from the grocery store a few days ago knowing I just had to make my Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes this week. I have been craving them for a while now and it was time to give in! They were just as perfect as I remember. This time I added cinnamon chips to the batter after pouring it on the pan for my cakes. For Greg’s, I added chopped strawberries. 
On the side, Greg created a little sweet potato hash with onions and peppers. He spiced it up with cayenne peper and some other top secret ingredients. It was delicious!
The only thing missing was a glass of red wine.
Let’s rewind to Tuesday night, shall we? The one and only Jenna Weber of Eat.Live.Run is on a tour promoting her new book, White Jacket Required. Jenna graduated from the College of Charleston, just like me! She came to Barnes and Noble in Charleston for a reading and book signing. We also got to ask her some questions, which was a lot of fun. I was so excited to meet Jenna is person. Her blog has been one of my favorites from the beginning of my blog-reading days and she is such an inspiration. 
Some of my favorite recipes are from her: Spicy Chicken Chili and Jalapeno-Cheddar Hummus.
Here’s a picture of me meeting Jenna, courtesy of Greg who somehow snuck this in from the back where he was standing (yes, I drug him along with me!). I also got to meet Kerr who has a blog of her own, Say Cheese. Be sure to check it out! 

Strawberries and Cream Crepes

Hey there. Is it Monday already? The weekend went pretty quickly for me, because Greg and I were at his parent’s house in North Carolina. Quick weekend getaways are always nice, but sure do make the weekend fly!

The good news is that this is my last week working our extended tech support hours at the office. Woohoo! For someone like me who strives on routine and normalcy, I cannot WAIT to get back on a regular schedule next week. The end is in sight!

You know what else is in sight?

You see them, right? Crepes! Have you ever had crepes? Just in case you are unfamiliar, they are basically super thin pancakes of French origin (significance on that in a minute). I was first introduced to crepes at First Watch, a breakfast and lunch cafe that my friends and I loved through my high school years. It was probably our most common Saturday post-swim practice breakfast. One of my regular orders were their fruit crepes with berries, apples, and yogurt. I have tried a more savory-filled crepe too, but sweet almost always wins for me. 

The reason the French origin of crepes is important here is because I made them for a wedding shower for a co-worker last week who is going to Paris for her honeymoon. We decided to try to stick with a French theme as much as possible and after some searching, I knew crepes would be perfect. 
Besides being adorable, the crepes themselves were sooo easy to make. Even easier than pancakes from a mix. The tricky part came when I had to figure out the best way to assemble them and get them to the office the next day in proper form. (Transporting my baked goods always seems to be the most difficult task for me.) After stuffing each crepe with strawberry slices and rolling each one up, I was strongly doubting my efforts. It was too late to make something else so I stuck the pan of rolled crepes in the fridge overnight. When we pulled them out for the shower at work, I was thrilled that the refrigeration turned out to be very helpful. The thin crepes ended up sticking to themselves and held together really well. 
Since I always like to make cute food even cuter (that’s a weird looking word by the way), I added a little mountain of whipped cream then a sprinkle of cinnamon and powdered sugar to each one. 

Strawberries and Cream Crepes
(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
Makes about 16 6-inch crepes
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart of strawberries, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for topping
1 1/2 cups whipped cream for topping
Cinnamon for topping
1. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, flour, butter and salt and whisk thoroughly. Allow batter to chill in fridge for up to an hour.
2. When ready to make the crepes, set small skillet over medium heat and coat with non-stick spray. When hot, lift skillet and tilt to one side. Add about 1/4 cup batter to the skillet and quickly rotate the pan around so the batter is evenly distributed in a thin layer. Allow to cook about 1-2 minutes. Use a spatula to gently lift the edges and flip the crepe to the other side. Cook for about one more minute, remove from skillet, and add to wire cooling rack. Repeat until all batter has been used.
3. Once all crepes are cooked, place about 1-2 tablespoons of the chopped strawberries in each. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of powdered sugar on the strawberries and roll the crepe gently, but tightly. Top with 1-2 tablespoons whipped cream, cinnamon and powdered sugar. Repeat as necessary. 

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere! In our coffee, in our muffins, in our cakes, even in our enchiladas! It is officially fall and I’m loving every second of it.

I haven’t actually bought any canned pumpkin yet, but I have bought some of this:

Whipped cream sold separately 😉 But after the first bite of this, my taste buds were convinced I was eating pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie requires plenty of whipped cream if you ask me. 
Then some serious thoughts entered my mind. I have baked with pumpkin before.  I have baked with Greek yogurt before. Why not bake with pumpkin Greek yogurt?! Genius. Or just logical. Either way, I’ll take the compliment. Thank you very much. 
The result of my super creative idea? Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts.
Ummmmm…..Do I even need to ask if you want one?

Me likey the pumpkin spice. 
I don’t even want to think about how good these would be paired with a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Ugh. I could die. And at only about 175 calories each, one of these doughnuts alongside a non-fat PSL still wouldn’t bee too much of a splurge. Not very healthy, but still relatively low-cal nonetheless. 

Did I mention how much I love fall??

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts
(Adapted from Dessert for Two)

Makes 6 donuts

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Greek Yogurt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup powdered sugar for topping, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat donut pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Whisk thoroughly.
3. In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, egg and butter/margarine. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Fold ingredients into each other with a rubber spatula until completely combined (batter will be thick).
4. Spoon batter into the wells of the donut pan. Gently press dough into the pan with your fingers.  Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges become slightly brown. Let cool about 5 minutes before removing from pan. Set on cooling rack for about 10 minutes before dipping topside down into a bowl of powdered sugar.

Check out some of these other pumpkin treats for a festive fall! Deeeelicious mixes for quick and easy baking!;sz=200×200;ord=timestamp?;lid=41000000000373657;pid=828095;usg=AFHzDLsseCOK5qX3fNZLT7QsaR8HQ8UmmA;;pubid=541063;;width=200;height=200;sz=200×200;ord=timestamp?;lid=41000000000373657;pid=604314;usg=AFHzDLtpm5Cw3VqA6FAtZRqK3J7HJ8Injw;;pubid=541063;;width=200;height=200

Warm Seafood Salad

This past Friday was date night for Greg and me. With Restaurant Week going on all around us, I’m not too sure why we chose Carrabba’s, but by the end of the meal I didn’t feel like I missed out on much. Between the bread and olive oil, antipasti plate, and seafood salad, I was perfectly happy without true “Charleston” food. 

My main entree was the Insalata Johnny Rocco, which has quickly become one of my favorite salads. It’s filled with shrimp, scallops, roasted red peppers, olives and ricotta salata (for those of you like me who didn’t know what this meant, it’s a type of ricotta that has been “pressed, salted and dried.”) So good!!
What’s not so good are leftover salad greens that have already been coated in dressing and the juices from the  vegetable toppings. Soggy and gross. No thanks.

So when I started getting pretty full about half way through my salad (bread and an appetizer will do that to you!), I realized I needed to strategize. I focused on only eating the greens and other veggies from the bowl. I ended up saving about half of the shrimp and scallops to bring home. 
Fast-forward to lunchtime on Saturday and the leftovers were calling my name. The seafood amped up my usual sauteed veggie plate in this warm seafood salad. I used completely different vegetables than what the seafood was originally served with at Carrabba’s, so it had a completely different taste. 
It filled me up almost just as much as the salad at dinner the night before, but I still a room for one or two – ok, two and a half – of my Snickerdoodle Bars.
Warm Seafood Salad
Makes 1 serving
1 tablespoon butter or margarine 

Assorted shrimp and scallops, about 8 pieces total or 1/2 a cup
1/2 of a whole zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup onion, sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper
3 cups raw spinach 
Salt and pepper to taste 
1. Melt butter on a medium skillet over medium-low heat. 
2. Add shrimp and scallops. Cook for about 3 minutes, flipping occasionally. Add zucchini, onion and beller pepper. Cook another 4-5 minutes, or until vegetables become tender and just begin to turn brown. 
3. Turn heat down to low. Add spinach and stir everything together. Cook about 1-2 minutes, or until spinach leaves begin to wilt. Season with salt and pepper and stir one final time. Serve immediately. 

Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars

Soooo. Let me tell you about these snickerdoodle bars. Like the title says, they are thick and chewy. What the title doesn’t say is that they may be the best thing I’ve made in quite awhile. Seriously addicting. I mean…seriously

They seem to get better with each bite I take. Even a couple days after baking, they are just as soft and haven’t lost a touch of flavor. I love that you can taste a hint of the saltiness too. Hey, as much as I love sweets, I am a salt-lover too. My original plan was to eat one or two for myself, let Greg have what he wanted, and bring the rest to work to share. 
Well, after polishing off my first bar and walking running back to the pan for a second and third, I knew these wouldn’t be going anywhere close to work. I was keeping these in the safety of my home. And in my home they shall stay for Greg and me to finish every last one for ourselves. 
The great thing about baking these is that since they are bars and not cookies, you don’t have to go through the extra steps of rolling the dough into balls, then rolling in cinnamon sugar. Just pour in a pan and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar right on top. Quick and easy. And trust me, the quicker the better. 

Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars
(From My Own Sweet Thyme)

Makes 16 bars

2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9×9 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat with hand-mixer until well blended. Add flour mixer and continue to beat until combined.
4. Pour batter into the greased pan and spread evenly.
5. In a small bowl, mix the white sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle overtop of the batter in the pan.
6. Bake about 22-25 minutes or until edges are slightly brown and pull away from side of pan. Let cool 5-10 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Baking note: One thing I have learned from my snickerdoodle-baking experience is that it’s best to slightly undercook them, because they always, always set up just right after they cool. If you wait until they seem completely cooked before taking them out of the oven, they will turn crunchy when they cool. If you ask me, a crunch snickerdoodle = no bueno. Soft and chewy is where it’s at with these comforting treats.

*Keeps well in airtight container for several days!

Work-Night Surprise Fro Yo

I officially have the best fiancé e-ver. While working the late shift last night, I had just finished eating dinner at my desk and thinking about how nice it would be if I had some froyo. I stuck a Hershey’s kiss in my mouth, realizing all hope was lost and that would have to suffice. Not even five minutes later Greg called me to ask if I wanted Menchie’s. Ummmm?!?!?! Yes pah-leeeze! 
Before I knew it, he was at my office with a bowl of half cake batter, half brownie batter, topped with cherries, frosted animal crackers and sprinkles. 

And before I knew it, it was gone 😦

Grilled Cheese and Bean Sandwiches

Did your favorite teams win this weekend? Some of mine did, but some didn’t. It might be a tough year for me, but win or lose, fall is great for one thing alone: football! Okay, so maybe not just football by itself, but rather all of the things that come with it. Like food for example. 
We had some company over to watch football Saturday afternoon so I put together a little spread including pita wedges and cucumber to dip in hummus, alongside some red grapes. 
That was the healthy plate.
Then came grilled cheese sandwiches (after taking these pictures, I ended up cutting the remaining sandwiches into fourths for easier snacking). 

These weren’t your ordinary grilled cheese sandwiches though. They were kicked up a notch, inspired by the sandwich from Purée. The bread is slathered with a white bean spread before being filled with smoked provolone cheese and fresh spinach leaves. Then, of course, grilled on the stovetop for just a couple of minutes to get that cheese nice and melty.

Not only was the filling of this sandwich amazing, but the bread deserves a lot of credit too. I picked up a fresh loaf of Honey Whole Wheat from Great Harvest Bread Co. on Friday (coupon for a free loaf!!) and haven’t looked back. 
I may or may not shoved a piece of bread in Greg’s face saying, “How good does this smell!?” He says I’m weird. I say I’m….well, weird. 

Grilled Cheese and Bean Sandwiches
(Inspired by Purée)
Makes 4 sandwiches
8 slices whole wheat bread
1/4 cup margarine (divided)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 slices smoked provolone cheese
1 cup raw baby spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. Prepare the white bean spread by adding beans to a food processor and blending for about 2 minutes or until beans are smooth. Add salt and pepper. Pulse a few more times to incorporate seasonings.
2. Heat large skillet over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, spread about 1/2 tablespoon of margarine on one side of each slice of bread. On opposite side of the margarine, spread about 1-2 tablespoons of bean mixture onto bread. Lay 4 slices of the bread margarine-side down on skillet (meaning the bean spread side will be facing up). Top each of those slices with one slice of cheese and about 1/4 of the spinach leaves. Lay a second slice of bread, this time margarine-side facing up, on top of the slices on the skillet. 
3. Let cook about 3 minutes, flip and let cook another 2-3 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. 
4. Remove from skillet, slice as desired, and serve immediately.

Instant Oatmeal Cookie for One

I like oatmeal. Have I told you that before? And when I say like, I mean loooove. Not only do I eat oatmeal just about every single morning for breakfast, but oatmeal raisin cookies are some of my faves. 
Last night when I wanted something quick and easy for dessert, I couldn’t ignore the giant tub of Quaker oats calling my name. But not just oats. I needed some chocolate too. 
Yes. That’s better. Oats + chocolate = yum.

In less than three minutes after the thought entered my mind, I was biting into this soft, chewy cookie full of texture and flavor. 

Then I realized that while the cookie was super delicious, I really wanted some frosting too. Because no matter how good the baked good itself, you can never have enough frosting. Unfortunately I didn’t have any at home and no desire to make some from scratch. The solution? A simple jarred spread. But which do I choose when I have so many?! 
I sampled a little of each on the cookie before deciding Biscoff was the best. 

Now go make yourself a cookie! Since it’s mostly just oats it counts as breakfast.
Instant Oatmeal Cookie for One

1/3 cup oats
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
1 teaspoon white chocolate chips
2 teaspoons butter/margarine, melted
2 tablespoons almond milk
1. In a small bowl, combine first five ingredients. Stir to combine.
2. In a separate small bowl, add the milk to the melted butter. Add butter and milk mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until well-combined.
3. Gently press mixture into bottom of the bowl. Microwave on about 70% power for 1 minute. Microwave an additional 30 seconds on low power if needed. Let cool and enjoy!

Reception Catering Tasting

First things first. Today is a special day because it is my oldest brother’s birthday!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RYAN!!! (Bringing back the old school pics for this one) Wish I could be with you in D.C. like I was this time last year. Maybe you should just come here? 🙂

In other news, I wanted to share another highlight of my weekend in Columbus with Greg. The cake was hard to beat, but meeting with the caterer was pretty great too.

I don’t think I have ever seen so much food for such a small number of people in my life. There were four of us: Greg, my dad, my step-mom, and myself. And allllllllll of this food.

I had let them know of a few specific things I wanted to try ahead of time, but they brought out so much more to try than I could have imagined. 
We were quite the happy campers tasting a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Chicken marsala, vegetarian lasagna, meat lasagna, mac and cheese, BBQ pulled pork, pasta marinara, mashed potatoes, roasted Italian potatoes, rolls, and mixed vegetables were all served. I also requested a few Southern style dishes like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. 

I did my very best to practice self-control and only take a few bites of the things I really wanted to try (let’s be honest, I really wanted to try every single thing). I took more than just a few bites of the mac and cheese and vegetarian lasagna. 

Oh, how I love pasta. 
We left feeling stuffed and had about five containers of to-go boxes from the leftovers they so kindly boxed up for us. The food was awesome and I am even more excited now to put the final menu together. It is going to be so difficult to choose what to cut out. If only we could have it all!!
Hope you all have a great Friday!!