Sunday Blessings – The Blog’s 3rd Birthday

THREE YEARS! This little baby blog just turned 3 this past Thursday and to be honest I had completely lost track of time. It was my devoted and loyal reader, my grandma (GG), who commented on my Facebook page about the birthday. She’s the best 🙂 Who else could have I counted on to pay attention the date for me? 🙂 Love you, G!

With the short notice, I wasn’t able to get the celebratory post up in time. It’s all for the best though because now I can tell you in a traditional Sunday Blessings post about how blessed I am to have this outlet and readers like you. I realize some of you may be long-time, loyal readers, and some of you may be reading for the first time. Some of you have stuck with me through the consistent posting times, and got bored with my lack of posting for quite awhile as well. However it makes no difference to me. I am so grateful for each and every reader taking time out of their busy lives to read what I have to say.

It’s also a bittersweet time, because as I’ve mentioned every year, August 1st is the anniversary of my good friend, college roommate, and teammate’s passing three years ago as well. That was by far the hardest loss I’ve ever had to endure and my heart still breaks when I think of Morgan losing her life so, so young. But I also have peace knowing our beautiful angel is in heaven.

such babies we were!

On a happier note, this third year in the blogosphere was a fun one. Since last July 31st:

We bought a house, celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple in said house.
I started a new job and was able to take two mini vacations in between. I went to Orlando to visit Brooke where we celebrated our birthdays by getting up close and personal with beluga whales. Then I went to Breckenridge, CO with Greg to ski in the winter wonderland.

I competed with other local bloggers in the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off. With the help of Val, our Mexican style dish won!

When springtime rolled around, Greg and I planted a garden in our backyard and were thrilled when our mixed greens were ready to harvest! We’ve also grown tomatoes galore, jalapeños, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions.

Some of my favorite recipes from the blog’s third year include:

(funny to see that all of those recipes were created right around the time I had off between jobs. I was staying quite productive in the kitchen during that transition!)

Again, I hope you all know how much I appreciate you and love sharing my thoughts on faith, food and daily life in general with you. Here’s to year #4!

See also:
2nd Blog Birthday
1st Blog Birthday
1st Post Ever!

Weekend Eats 7-28-14

The first half of this weekend was non-stop go-go-go at a work event. Everything went so well, but longs days made for one hungry girl. By the time I got home Saturday afternoon and had the rest of the weekend to completely relax with basically no plans, I couldn’t think of anything but getting food in my body. 
That’s not entirely true. As much as I wanted to feed myself, I first had to get Zoey out of the house and give her a little attention. I know being the parent to a human one day will teach me more selflessness than I can comprehend right now, but I like to think being the parent to a young pup has taught me some of that already. Zoey is a spoiled little girl and I had to take care of her first. It didn’t take but a quick half mile walk in the extreme humidity for Zo to be panting and ready to go back indoors. This was my cue to head straight for lunch. 
As much as I love Metto for breakfast and coffee, I’d never had it for lunch. Saturday was the day! 
The Chicken and Goat Cheese wrap – deli style chicken, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese – was perrrrfect. Nothing fancy, just simple and delicious. It’s something you could easily replicate at home, but for only $6 and some change it was worth it in my state of hunger.
However. Let’s be real. The star of the show was that peanut butter cookie. They had just pulled them from the oven, there was no way in heck I was about to resist that cookie. I was handed the cookie while I waited for my wrap and had a bite of the pure goodness – warm, soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. 
Metto Coffee@Tea on Urbanspoon
Dinner time rolled around and I opted to clean out the fridge with this…

A bed of spinach topped with roasted veggies (broccoli, corn, tomato, bell pepper) and an over easy egg + a drizzle of sriracha. Then I topped a piece of toast with layers of sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella. 
Remember the soft boiled egg from Prohibition’s shrimp and grits?! Ever since then I can’t stop with the drippy egg yolk. 
Anndddd just because I need to make use of the million pictures I take of Zoey, we’ll end this post with a picture of the princess herself. 

What was the tastiest thing you ate this weekend?

Zoey says lots and lots of peanut butter was her favorite. 

Charleston Culinary Tour – Upper King Street

I was recently contacted by Charleston Culinary Tours and invited to participate in one of their many tour options. Despite feeling like I’m relatively in-the-know when it comes to Charleston food and restaurants, I had never heard of these tours. I jumped at the opportunity and signed Greg and I up for the Upper King Street tour.

“The Upper King Street Culinary Tour visits 3-4 different restaurants and combines elements of a historical tour with a culinary adventure! The food on your tour will provide a broad range of samples which will provide insight into Lowcountry cuisine.”

Our tour visited HoM, Sugar Bakeshop, 39 Rue de Jean and Prohibition.

All of the spots were pretty new to me. I’d been to HoM once a year or two ago while bar hopping late at night and only spent time in the back with the ping pong tables. I’d had a cupcake from Sugar one day at work as an intern for a PR agency during college. I’ve eaten lunch at Rue de Jean once. And I had no prior experience with Prohibition.

We met our group at HoM. There were nine of us total, plus the tour guide Guilds. We were the only locals, which was to be expected since most tours are for…tourists. However I think any local wanting to test a few restaurants at once, like we were, would be happy.

At HoM we were given samples of the Calamari, the Dixie Flatbread, and the Green Gobble’n Burger.

Dixie Flatbread – pimento cheese, pork confit, caramelized onions, maple bacon greens
Green Gobble’n Burger – turkey, melted leeks & spinach, brie, green goddess aioli, green apple

Next, we walked a few blocks to Sugar Bake Shop, where we were each given a mini Lemon Curd Cupcake with sugared blueberries. The lemon was super refreshing on the hot Charleston summer day. Simply delicious. I will definitely be back to Sugar.

We had a bit of a longer walk back to King Street. We followed Guilds at a slow pace as he talked about some of the history of Charleston and the surrounding buildings. We even stopped to visit a Jewish cemetery. We probably strolled for at least 30 minutes and by this point I was losing interest. I’m not sure if the tourists appreciated it any more than I did, but I was more than ready to get back to the FOOD. I realize my prior knowledge and experiences living in the city gave me a different perspective than most in the group though.

We made it to Rue de Jean and were relieved to be back in the air conditioning with a glass of ice water. On the menu for us: Mussels and Pommes Frites. Only since this past spring have I grown to like oysters – oyster roasts being a very popular Charleston tradition. However I had still never tried mussels, which are very similar (at least to my untrained palate). Guilds told us Rue de Jean’s mussels are the best in the city, so I knew this would be the right place to try them first. Sure enough, they hit the spot.

Mussels in a white wine broth (although I can’t remember exactly which of their various broth options we were given)

I ate half of the pommes frites without one regret. It’s hard to go wrong with fries, and these were no exception.

Pomme Frites – if you’re not feeling fancy, just call them french fries, I won’t mind. Although the chef might. 

Next brings us to the last stop of the day. Prohibition is primarily a bar, so I wasn’t expecting to be overly impressed by the food. Boy was I wrong.

Moscow Mule

Chef Stephen Thompson came out from behind the kitchen to talk to us about the dishes – a cheese plate, but not just any old cheese plate, and a mini cast iron skillet of shrimp and grits, again, not just any old shrimp and grits.

Cheese and veggie plate (not on the menu) – assorted cheeses, candied onion, candied pecans, roasted cherry tomatoes, pickled cauliflower, berries and toast

Smokey Shrimp and Grits – smoked shrimp over local ‘adluh’ smoked gouda grits finished with a 
duck creole sauce, served with a sweet roll + crispy golden egg

That EGG!!! This was the most unique spin on traditional shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. I loved it so, so much.

Now that it’s all said and done, and I can honestly say I would go back to every one of those restaurants again for the full dining experience. Thanks so much to Charleston Culinary Tours and all of the restaurants for having us!

The tours aren’t cheap, ranging from about $40-75 per person, however you can expect to walk away full (depending on which tour you choose since some are more focused on meeting the chefs, learning about how the kitchen operates, etc.). There also isn’t another way I know of to be able to try so many different restaurants and foods in one day for a price like that. If you’re interested in the history of Charleston, this tour also gives you a good bit of that as well.

Locals – have you been to any of these restaurants? Which would you try first?
Everyone else – do they have culinary tours in your city? 

I love the concept and would be interested to try something similar in other places.

Check out Charleston Culinary Tours’ website here.
Like them on Facebook here.
Follow them on Twitter here.

*Disclaimer: While I received admission to the tour for free, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Weekend Eats 7-21-14

Today is double the fun with Weekend Eats from the past two weekends. Hey, it was too good not to share. First we’ll back up to two weeks ago.  
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, based out of Columbus, Ohio (my hometown if you didn’t already know), recently opened up shop in downtown Charleston. Yippee! With so many unique flavors, they not only will let you have as many samples as you want, they highly encourage it. 
I had to go with the taste of my hometown with The Buckeye State – peanut butter ice cream with an abundance of dark chocolate pieces throughout. I paired it with Salted Caramel. For a size small, you actually get to pick two flavors. How awesome is that? The ice cream isn’t cheap, but if you’re ever going to spend $5 for two small scoops of ice cream (sugar cone included), Jeni’s is the place to do it. 
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams on Urbanspoon
Also last weekend, Greg and I rekindled our love with grilled pizza. It had been a month or so since we took the dough to the grill, which was far too long. Greg wants nothing to do with goat cheese on a pizza, or anywhere for that matter, whereas I think goat cheese has never tasted better than on pizza. The pizza ended up being half pepperoni and half thinly sliced tomatoes (from our garden!), onion, goat cheese and a blend of seasonings including sage, thyme and crushed red pepper flakes. 
If you’ve never grilled a pizza, get on it! 
Side tracking from food for a second, Zoey Girl went on her first college campus tour. We have high hopes for her scholastic future and wanted to show her around our alma mater, the beautiful College of Charleston. 
Now onto this past weekend. I convinced Greg to try Collective Coffee Co. for lunch on Saturday, a place I have been several times but he had never been.
I sipped on a cappuccino, my new thing. Although, this one was very strong and I quickly realized I’m only used to the American-ized cappuccino, not the authentic, fancy Italian style cappuccino. I had to add a couple packets of stevia before I could sip it down without scrunching my face. I’m sure true espresso connoisseurs would have appreciated it much more though. It’s going to take me some time.
The food on the other hand, was fan. tas. tic. I ate the veggie wrap with bagel chips. This is seriously the best veggie wrap ever and it’s one you can feel good about too – romaine, tomato, corn, black beans, TONS of avocado and a brown butter sauce (okay, so you can feel pretty good about it), all rolled up in a soft and chewy spinach wrap. I have always known how much I love this wrap, but I swear it’s gotten even better. Greg had the pimento cheese biscuit sandwich – brown sugar & pepper bacon, eggs, and cheddar cheese. Also quite delicious and something I would for sure get again. 
Collective Coffee Co. on Urbanspoon
What was the tastiest thing you ate this weekend?

4th of July Weekend Recap

This 4th of July weekend was one of, if not the, best I can remember. From beginning to end, I can’t think of a single thing I would have changed. Okay, one thing. I would have (and should have) put sunscreen on my face. Whoops. Sorry, dermatologist and future self. 
The weekend ended with a 10 mile bike ride from our house to the Old Village, a historic waterfront neighborhood here in Mt. Pleasant. We somehow managed to avoid any rain, despite the gloomy skies. 
Backing things up to earlier in the weekend…
Zoey explored some marsh land and let her ears flop in the wind. 
We continued to harvest vegetables from our garden, this time picking our very first cucumbers. 
We ate out at my favorite Sullivan’s Island restaurant, Taco Mamacita. And we grilled out at home, three times. Ironically, the tacos shown below were from our cookout, not the restaurant. As much as I love a TM taco, our homemade grilled jerk chicken tacos were simply amazing. Topped with jalapeño pineapple/mango salsa, corn, guac, and chopped romaine for added crunch…WOAH. Speechless. 
We found our new favorite spot to watch fireworks, which happens to be the same place pictured above from our bike ride. The view over the water while watching the sunset, paired with the unseasonably mild temperatures outside made for the perfect night. 
What was the highlight of your 4th? How were the fireworks?

Weekend in Orlando

ORLANDO.
Last weekend Greg and I took a road trip to Orlando to visit my sister Brooke and our grandparents. The six hour drive is short enough to make for an easy weekend trip, but long enough that we don’t get to do it nearly enough. Brooke, my “sista hood of the traveling pants,” is my best friend and we always make the most of our time together. 
We started the weekend off on the right foot by taking a group trip to the gym. Brooke shook her booty off in Zumba, something I’ve tried and failed at before, so I hit the treadmill. As boring as treadmills can be sometimes, being in a new environment automatically makes the time fly by more quickly for me. Even if I am just staring out a window.

The rest of the days were spent lounging by the pool, enjoying my grandma’s delicious meals, and visiting SeaWorld. We decided to be adventurous at the Shamu show and sat in the Soak Zone. Soaked just about sums it up!

Our nights consisted of many-a-margarita from our favorite place, Agave Azul. Brooke has become a regular there, probably their favorite customer I would guess, so we always get the hook-up from the bartenders. 

We also grabbed a glass of wine and some flatbreads from Eola Wine Company in Winter Park one night. It was my first time in Winter Park and I loved it. It’s a cute area with lots of shops and restaurants that I would love to try in the future.

As always, the weekend went by a little too fast, but we had a great mini-vacation. Now I’m looking forward to another long weekend ahead, staying in town this time, with the 4th of July on Friday. Fireworksss!
Thank you Brooke, GG and Paw Paw for the hospitality! xoxo
What was the highlight of your weekend?

Roasted Italian Potatoes

Tender Roasted Italian Potatoes served over a bed of crispy greens, topped with pine nuts and fresh lemon juice is what I like to call my solution to wanting a hot meal with almost as little effort as possible.

As I’m typing this, my Zo-girl Fresh (that’d be my dog Zoey by the way), is snoring up a storm while flopped on the couch next to me. I swear that girl sleeps more than she’s awake, and snores louder than most humans. And now that I’ve given in to her sneaky ways of climbing on the living room couch and into our bed in the past several days, she’s becoming quite the spoiled princess. Not that she hasn’t always been one, but she acts so distraught when I don’t let her up.

She’s all, “What? You think I’m going to lay on this shaggy rug when I know perfectly well there’s a cushy couch or bed filled with blankets to keep me warm?”

And I’m like, “Zoey, I know you’re fricking adorable and I want to snuggle but you’re too big and it’s just not going to….” (as she nuzzles her head into me)…”Ok, come on. Get up here.”

She’s just a dog. I won’t be so easily persuaded with my children one day, I swear.

Okay so all of that dog talk was just a completely random side note to the main focus of this post. POTATOES! These potatoes are the star of the show today.  Just thinking about the generously seasoned potato chunks has me craving them all over again right this very minute. That’s saying a lot considering I just ate a tiny piece of homemade brownie and trying my best to resist going back for another piece. With the taste of chocolate still lingering in my mouth, it’s not often I would also have a desire for real food. But these potatoes, both crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, are oh so savory and simply perfection.

Roasted Italian Potatoes

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
10 small red potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce, for serving
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, add potatoes and olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to coat potatoes evenly with the oil.
3. In a small bowl, combine oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary and salt. Stir well to combine and add to potato bowl. Mix well to evenly coat potatoes with the seasonings. Gently shake potatoes onto the foil-lined baking sheet in an even layer. Cover the entire pan with a sheet of foil and place in oven.
4. Let cook for 30-40 minutes or until fork tender, removing pan from oven about halfway through to gently shake/turn potatoes. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes. Divid potatoes among plates of lettuce, then top with a squeeze of lemon juice and a heaping tablespoon of pine nuts.