Sunday Blessings – Dates, Weddings, New Restaurants and More

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how productive of a weekend I had. Guess what? It happened again. It’s not that I’m usually a lazy bum on the weekends…okay, sometimes I am…but there really isn’t too much variety. This weekend on the other hand was filled with all kinds of different things.

Remember my list of 6 plans from Friday? I accomplished every single one (except the free coffee part, because that promo is happening tomorrow – Monday – even though I won’t actually be participating).

Gym after work on Friday? Check!

Date night at FED? Check! I have mixed feelings about the new restaurant. It was not busy at all. For a Friday night at 7:00pm, that’s not a good sign. Our waitress…hm. How do I put this nicely? It must have been her first time ever working at a restaurant and seemed to have very minimal training, which made for slightly awkward interactions. HOWEVER. The food was pretty delish.

I had the Garden Burger, an oversize patty consisting mostly of black beans and corn. It was sandwiched between a single slice of grilled sourdough bread which had been slice in half. I found this a little odd, since the patty was way too big to sit on top half a slice of bread. I’d never seen it done this way, but it was tasty nonetheless. I opted for sweet potato fries on the side. I always love sweet potato fries, and while these weren’t the best I’ve had by any means, they were good too. Greg had the Shrimp Tacos with regular fries on the side. He ate his right up without any hesitation. Either he was starving or the food was just that good. I think it was a little of both.

After dinner, we stopped by Barnes and Noble so Greg could get a latte from the Starbucks in the cafe, then headed to TCBY for me. While enjoying our desserts, we started looking up movie showtimes and spontaneously decided to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’d never heard of it, but it was quite an interesting movie. Very different, a little strange and quirky, but entertaining overall. 
Moving right along. Saturday started how it always does, at the gym for Body Pump and then home for a late breakfast, relaxing on the couch, playing with Zoey and doing a few random chores around the house. Then it was time for my haircut. Welp. I said on Friday I was going to keep the length and add some layers. Somehow I talked myself into a bigger change and ended up cutting about 5-6 inches off my long locks. I don’t regret it necessarily, but I do miss the length already. I know this shorter cut is much better for the hot summer months to come, not to mention it makes my hair look and feel so much healthier. I’ll get used to it soon enough. I’m already loving the cute little ponytail I have, compared to my old horse mane!
Our friends’ wedding on Saturday night was so much fun. Congrats to Steve and Amanda!! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me say this already, but I’ll say it again. Now that I am married, wedding ceremonies feel like a free marriage conference. I absolutely love hearing the vows said to one another, the scripture readings and the sermon. I almost always shed some tears and this wedding was no different. The words are powerful and inspiring. They’re reminders of the words Greg and I said to each other (almost one year ago!) and the loving, lifelong journey we are on together. 
Sunday we spent the morning at church, followed by brunch at Cafe Medley on Sullivan’s Island. I went by myself last Sunday while Greg had to work and was glad he was up for trying it out with me this week. The pics below are from last week when I got a sandwich made with edemame pesto, cucumbers, tomatoes and bacon on 10-grain bread. It was perfect. Today I got another sandwich on the 10-grain bread, this time with egg whites, cheese and tomato. With a hot coffee to go along with my breakfast, I was a happy girl. 
My only complaint is that for the lunch sandwiches, you have a choice of chips or a salad on the side. The term “salad” is used very, very loosely here. The “salad” consists of a small handful of spinach leaves and a small container of dressing on the side. I think it needs a little more “umph.” 

We spent the rest of the day running errands, taking a long walk with Zoey, working in the yard (most of the credit goes to Greg on this one) and enjoying dinner together at home. 
I am so blessed for all of these gifts in my life – the date nights, the meals out, the sunshine on our family walks, and the ability to pay for frivolous things like haircuts and new dresses. 
What’s one thing out of the ordinary you did this weekend?
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Top 5 Vegetarian Super Bowl Party Foods

Although I don’t care about the football part of the Super Bowl this year, I’m always looking for an excuse to make party foods. I’ve got to have something to munch on while watching three or four hours of commercials…I mean…football.

Here’s a lineup of my menu ideas, all of which are vegetarian (or can easily be made vegetarian):

1. White Pizza with Spinach and Bacon. What’s a football party without pizza? I realize bacon doesn’t qualify as vegetarian, but you can simply leave that off.

2. Crispy Healthy Baked Zucchini Fries. I think a Jalapeno Yogurt Dip would be great with these.

3. Skillet Black Bean & Veggie Nachos. One of my personal game day favorites. Crunchy, cheesy, filling and down right delicious.

4. Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder. Nothing like a hot bowl of soup during these cold winter days.

5. Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream. I don’t know about you, but it’s been far too long since I’ve made cupcakes. These little gems are calling my name. Plus, after eating all these veggies, we deserve it!

What are you making for the Super Bowl?

Coconut Fried Green Tomatoes

I remember staying home from school sick one day in sixth or seventh grade and my mom rented the movie Fried Green Tomatoes for me to watch. I didn’t have high expectations at first. It seemed like an “old” movie (came out in 1991, ha!). Wouldn’t you know, I watched every minute and loved it. 
If you’ve seen the movie, you know there’s a whole lot more to the story than fried green tomatoes. It’s a story of best friends, an abusive relationship, illness and even a murder. Lots of drama, but lots of love that warms your heart. The perfect sick-day movie if you ask me. 

At the time I first saw this movie, I was a picky adolescent girl living in the Midwest. I hadn’t heard of fried green tomatoes, let alone have any interest in tasting one. Fast forward a few years and I found myself not only in the South, but living in one of the most culinary rich cities in the country. My taste buds quickly expanded and fried green tomatoes became my friend…along with shrimp and grits, scallops and pralines.

There are many foods that define the South, and I’m fairly certain fried green tomatoes are one of them.

This weekend when I was picking up some produce from Boone Hall Farms, I spotted an entire bin full of the bright green fruit. I eagerly snagged a few for my basket and dreamed of some crispy tomato medallions the whole way home.  

These aren’t your typical fried green tomatoes though. The secret (not really a secret when it’s in the title), is shredded coconut. The sweet flakes add something special to this dish and only goat cheese could make it better. Of course the man in the house was disgusted with “the white stuff on top” so leave it off if you must, but I wouldn’t condone it. 


Coconut Fried Green Tomatoes
Makes about 4 servings
Ingredients:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium/large green tomatoes
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup shredded coconut flakes
1 large egg
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese 
Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. 
2. Meanwhile, slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. In one small bowl, add the flour. In another small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and coconut flakes. In a third bowl, gently whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Dip each tomato slice first in the flour, followed by the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure the entire slice is coated in each mixture before dipping in the next. 
3. When oil is hot, add tomato slices to the pan. Let cook about 2-3 minutes on each side or until slices are golden brown. Remove from pan and gently pat with paper towels to soak up extra oil. Top each slice with about one tablespoon of goat cheese and serve immediately. 

Truffle Oil Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna

I think I’m on a roll. Not to brag, but this little creation…jackpot.

As I sit here typing this, I’m a few margaritas into the start of an amazing three day birthday celebration for both my sister Brooke and me. Her birthday is the 22nd (“today” by the time this post is published) and mine is the 24th (Friday). I drove to Orlando to be with her and my grandparents for a few days this week since I have some time off between jobs.

Best decision ever.

Brooke completes me. Yes, I have a husband who truly is my better half. But the bond between sisters cannot be compared to anything else. Being able to celebrate our birthdays basically back-to-back is the best. We are soaking in all of the short time we have together, so I’m going to wrap this up fairly quickly today. 
These layers you see? They are layers of soft flour tortilla, melty Colby-jack cheese, and wholesome veggies roasted in sinful white truffle oil. 

Are you sold yet? Maybe I should mention this meal is “man approved’ too. Does that help? One of my biggest challenges in the kitchen is making something both Greg and I will enjoy. Sometimes that means getting extra creative in the kitchen to use what we have on hand without giving into the temptation of a frozen pizza just because anything else is too complicated. But this? Yes! Even Greg loved it. Maybe I should also mention I’m putting the word “love” in Greg’s mouth. He doesn’t often say he loves something, so I may be exaggerating. BUT! He did go back for seconds and help himself to leftovers the next day without me needing to ask. That, my friend, is saying a lot. 

If this vegetable and bean combination wasn’t delicious enough on its own, you can be sure the white truffle oil will make all the difference. I have never cooked with the heavenly substance before, but knew how amazing it is thanks to the life changing mac and cheese. It takes the meal to another level and will satisfy any appetite. Birthday, non-birthday, weekday, weekend…whatever day it may be, the day calls for a vegetables roasted in truffle oil then layered in cheese and tortillas. 
Can I get an “Amen!”?

Truffle Oil Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:
6 small tortillas, cut in half and divided
1 medium butternut squash – peeled, seeded and diced (about 3 cups)
3 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup mined jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 ounces shredded Colby jack cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9×9 inch dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Also line a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine diced butternut squash, broccoli, truffle oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, sage and rosemary. Stir until all ingredients are well distributed. Add this mixture to the foil-lined cookie sheet, cover with another sheet of foil, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until vegetables become lightly browned. Remove from heat. Turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees.
3. While veggies are cooking, combine black beans, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper in a small-medium bowl. When veggies are finished roasting, combine them with the black bean mixture in a medium bowl. Stir well.
4. Spread out six of the tortilla halves evenly on the bottom of the 9×9 inch pan. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the shredded cheese on top. Add half of the butternut squash/broccoli/black bean mixture. Layer the remaining six tortilla halves on top of that, followed by 1/3 of the cheese, the rest of the vegetable mixture, and finally the last of the cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes. Slice in squares and serve hot.

Skillet Black Bean & Veggie Nachos

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Hola! 
A fall Saturday is the perfect day to bring you a skillet full of cheesy nachos. Curl up on the couch with a blanket and watch a Lifetime drama while you crunch away. Or, if you feel like being a little more generous and social today, share the love with your friends and family when you gather to watch football all day. But if your team starts losing and you need to eat away your sadness, this is first and foremost for you.
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I don’t know why I’m talking about teams losing. My teams are on a roll! Ohio State, for example. 8-0 baby! No sadness here. 
Except now I just jinxed us. Uh-oh. Sorry, Ohioans. IF WE LOSE TODAY IT’S NOT MY FAULT. I should probably stop talking now. 
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But I won’t stop quite yet, because I need to tell you oneeee more thing. These nachos are totally healthy. Seriously! Okay, so maybe they’re not the healthiest thing in the world. And it’s probably not good to eat the whole skillet full yourself. But they make for a very well-rounded meal with quite the punch of nutrition. Pile on the guilt-free heaps of vegetables and beans (and maybe some extra cheese if you must indulge) and go for it.

Happy Saturday!

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Skillet Black Bean & Veggie Nachos
Serves 2-3
Ingredients:
4 large handfuls of corn tortilla chips (about 20-25 chips)
1 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used Mexican blend)
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bell pepper of choice, sliced
1/2 cup canned or frozen corn (steam for about 2 minutes first if frozen)
10-12 grape tomatoes, quartered 
1 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
Sprinkle of pepper
2-4 tablespoons vegetable broth if needed
1/3 cup salsa for topping

Directions:
1. Spray a large skillet with non-stick spray and place on stove over medium heat. Once heated, add pepper, corn, tomatoes, zucchini and onion. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add seasonings and vegetable broth if the vegetables have dried out. Continue to cook about one more minute then remove from heat.
2. Layer half of the chips on the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Top with half of the vegetable mixture, half of the beans, and half of the cheese. Add another layer of chips, followed by the remaining veggies, black beans, and cheese.
3. Broil on low for 2-4 minutes. Cheese will be bubbly! Remove from heat. Cut into wedges, top with salsa and serve. Or, just dig right in straight from the skillet. 

Weekend Eats (and More) 8-19-13

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO AUSTIN! 
My brother and one of my best friends. I love you so much!
Now for some Weekend Eats!

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Friday afternoon Greg and I had lunch together at Black Bean Co. (we recently bought a Go Charleston Deal for this place). After being slightly disappointed with my usual picks the past few times I’d been, I opted for a new-to-me wrap, the Beach Burrito. I was pleasantly surprised and was happy to rekindle my relationship with BBC.
margarita
Greg texted me around 4pm asking, “Happy hour?” After the day I’d had, happy hour was more than necessary, so I eagerly agreed. We headed to Rio Grande as soon as I got off work. That margarita, along with the unpictured endless bowl of chips and salsa ended up being my dinner. Whoops. 
zoey downtown
Saturday morning Zoey was supposed to have puppy class, but it was cancelled. We were already on our way downtown to meet our group and decided to make the most of it anyway. We visited the dog park first to burn some of her energy where she met all kinds of new friends. Then we went on a little walk by Waterfront Park. She sniffed her little heart out trying to take in her new surroundings. 
vegetables
Before heading home, we debated going to the Marion Square Farmers’ Market, but instead stopped at The Vegetable Bin. After all these years living in Charleston, we were glad to have finally made the stop. It was awesome. We loaded up on all our favorites including sweet potatoes, squash, avocados, bell pepper, cucumber and more. All of this for just about $11! I was on a high feeling so thrifty.
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I put together lunch with all of our new veggies – sauteed veggie bowls, topped with mozzarella shredded cheese for Greg, goat cheese and plain Greek yogurt for me. Avocado toast on the side. 
blueberry pancakes
After such a healthy lunch, we both let ourselves get crazy for dinner, maybe a little too crazy. Nah. It was worth it. We were on our way to Page’s Okra Grill, a very local Southern style restaurant. As we passed the highway sign marking food at the exit, I jokingly said we should go to Cracker Barrel to get breakfast for dinner. Welp, Greg liked my joke so much that he pulled off the exit and soon found ourselves at the Old Country Store indulging in buttery blueberry pancakes. I had actually only been to Cracker Barrel maybe twice in my life, while Greg grew up eating there fairly often. We reminisced on our childhoods, remembering certain things our parents and grandparents always cooked for breakfast. Breakfast time and breakfast foods in general bring back some good memories. 
quinoa burger
Skipping right along to Sunday’s dinner now. I made quiona burgers that were simply delicious. I’ll tell you more about those another day soon!
What was the tastiest thing you ate this weekend?

July Blog-A-Day #30: Celebrating Two Years with Birthday Cake Oatmeal

Today Counting My Cupcakes celebrates her second birthday. Two years old. Wow, time flies. I still feel like such a beginner most of the time when it comes to blogging. The site has come a long way, but there is also so much room for improvement (obviously). 
Then again, I say that and immediately want to take it back. Why do I feel like there is SO much room for improvement? Well, mostly because I am comparing my blog to other blogs. Other blogs with better pictures, more interesting words, easier site navigation, and infinitely more followers. Some of that may be opinion, but some of that is fact. Either way, I take back my previous statement. 
My blog is beautiful just the way she is and I’m proud of her.I have devoted so much time into this little baby of mine. Sure, things will change over time. I may update the color scheme, redesign the layout, improve my photography skills, or gain (or lose) readership. But that’s life. Things evolve in their own time. 
Thank you to each and every one of you who are reading these words right now. Although I mostly write for me, because it is something I have always enjoyed, I really do love sharing my thoughts with all of you. Whether this is the first post you have ever read or if you have been a loyal reader all along, THANK YOU. 
Happy Birthday to CMC! Here’s to hoping the “terrible twos” don’t apply to the blogosphere 😉
Oh, and that oatmeal up there? I felt like I needed to celebrate the birthday in style. Who says you can’t put sprinkles in your oatmeal? Not me.
Birthday Cake Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving
Ingredients:
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon vanilla protein powder
1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/3 cup water
1 banana, sliced
1 teaspoon sprinkles
Directions:
1. The night before you want to eat this, combine oats, cinnamon, salt, chia seeds and protein powder in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Add milk and water. Cover bowl and place in fridge overnight. (You don’t have to prepare this overnight, but it helps make the oats thicker!)
2. In the morning, slice the banana and add half of the slices to the oatmeal bowl. Microwave for about 1 minute and 20 seconds. Stir, add remaining banana slices, and microwave about 15-30 seconds longer. Add a splash of milk or water to thin the oatmeal if desired. Top with sprinkles and serve immediately.