Friday favorites: Hawaiian happiness

hawaii_5moments.001

just wow. what an amazing week it’s been! i can’t believe today is our last full day here. there is so much to tell. and i completely intended to do some in-depth posts while i was here, but guess what: i have been too busy actually enjoying my vacation to write about it! i still hope to do some longer posts (like the ones from France) when i get home, but wanted to post a few quick hits here and share some of my favorite moments from the week so far. enjoy and happy Friday, everyone!

1. Pearl Harbor
SONY DSC this spot was on the list of places i knew i wanted to see, but i really had no idea how moving it would be and how patriotic it would make me feel. the exhibits do a fantastic job setting up what was going on in the world leading up to the attack — a lot of which i seem to have tuned out in my high school history classes. well worth the few hours we spent soaking it all in.[/caption]

2. North Shore
hawaii_oahu_northshore
after our Pearl Harbor visit, we took advantage of a napping girl and headed north to Oahu’s famed North Shore. we parked and got out at Lanaikea Beach. Miss Girl’s pants immediately came off and she went crazy running along the rocks and in the surf. she seemed so completely at home, i couldn’t help but have some major flash forward moments to her as the quintessential badass surfer girl . . . and start wondering what if she went to school out here.

3. getting lei’d
hawaii_getleid
it took 3 full days in Hawaii, but i finally got lei’d! Miss Girl was not happy about any of it. in her defense, it did kind of itch. they were so beautiful, though!

4. rainbows
hawaii_maui_doublerainbow
yes! double rainbow! what does it mean??? no idea, but we have seen multiple rainbows every single day since we’ve been in Maui — a complete relief, considering that it was basically pouring down rain at the airport when we arrived on Wednesday. we were afraid we wouldn’t even see the sun, much less beautiful sights like this. luckily the weather in Ka’anapali doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what’s going on 45 minutes away in Kahului. once again . . . #westsideisthebestside

5. ahi poke
hawaii_ahi_poke
omg, y’all. i’m pretty sure i’ve had some version of this before, but this fish salad (pronounced po-kay) is like all i want to eat here. the ahi is amazing and every version is a little different. kind of like how in the south, everyone’s got a chicken salad recipe and no two are the same. the one pictured above is from Koa’s Seaside Grill in Lahaina on Maui. we stopped in to grab a bite (and a fruity cocktail) at an odd hour and were pleasantly surprised by a killer happy hour menu. i won’t even begin to guess what was in this, except some kind of seaweed and some chili peppers, but it was amazing. perfect with the homemade tortilla chips and rice crisps. definitely need to experiment with some recipes when i get home!

Atlanta Blizzard Cake

this cake looks pathetic, amiright? yeah, well it is a perfect metaphor for my #blizzard2016 experience.

i wasn’t even thinking of making a post when i baked it. i was literally just baking a cake because my family is crazy and i didn’t feel like going to the store today and i knew in a couple hours Spy would be asking me for baked Alaska (seriously). and so, as usual, i scraped together this hot mess out of what’s in my pantry so i would have some kind of answer when everyone inevitably hounded me about what sweets we had in the house.

don’t get me wrong. Atlanta Blizzard Cake is completely delicious. it just looks really sad. just like when i woke up this morning and we had literally 1/16 of an inch of snow on the ground. not even enough to half-cover the grass, y’all. and at like 7:30, Miss Girl was all MOMMY! THERE IS SO MUCH SNOW! LET’S GO OUTSIDE! and i’m kind of all oh, fuck. this. i need some coffee. AND WEAR YOUR COAT!!

and the next thing i know, she is outside with her friends (not wearing her coat) trying to do snow angels in 1/16 of an inch of snow. it all looked pretty sad, but to her, it was absolutely delicious.

in much the same way, when you pull a cake out of your ass on a “snow day” because you can’t actually be bothered to go to the grocery store (though, you certainly made your long-scheduled massage appointment), the optics on the results can be lacking, to say the least.

i knew i didn’t have what it would take to make chocolate frosting on yellow cake, which is preferred around here. but i did find a tub of Betty Crocker white (vanilla?) frosting in my pantry. no idea how long it’s been there or why it was there (i mean, like literally cannot remember why i possibly could have bought it . . . except that maybe it had something to do with the Satancakes . . . hmmm . . .), but obviously that screamed for a chocolate cake base.

i had just 2 eggs left after an amazing breakfast scramble. and just barely 2 cups of sugar. because. well, i rarely bake. and as i was putting together the idea of baking a cake, Spy decided to eat the last half gallon of milk with some Lucky Charms. sigh. so i got gas station milk and pulled together enough other ingredients to make a version of this One Bowl Chocolate Cake.

because i was also in fridge clean-out mode (lord, when am i not?), it was critical to choose a recipe where i felt i could add in the 2 chocolate swirl pudding cups with expiration dates of exactly today on them so they wouldn’t go to waste. whatever. you know you’ve been there.

so. long story long, the cake recipe is below. it is amazing. i nixed the whole boiled water thing. because what?? and also pudding. no boiled water, 2 Jell-O pudding cups and about 1/4 cup extra milk. bake 35 minutes and you have 2 perfectly fluffy, moist, sweet cakes to frost.

just make sure you have ample frosting. ONE TUB OF FROSTING IS NOT ENOUGH FOR AN ENTIRE LAYER CAKE. it’s about half of what you need. and it’s been so long that i forgot that. but it ended up being enough to put about a 1/16 inch layer of white in between cakes and on top . . . just like we had about 1/16 inch of white snow this morning, scantly covering our grass. sad looking, but still a delicious experience.

see how i brought that around, y’all? i know. i need to get out of the house, stop eating 10,000 calories of carbs, exercise a minute and pretty much get a life tomorrow. snow days are so hard! i hope all that happens and i’m out of the house when my family realizes the entire back half of the cake isn’t even frosted at all. doh! hope y’all with real snow day problems are doing way better!

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

onebowlchocolatecake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two nine inch round pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday favorites: French toast for blizzards

snow_cats_kittens_funny_animals_fondo_upscaled_1280x600

as i sit writing from the comfort of my home in Atlanta, where it’s still in the mid-40s, i have a fire blazing inside and a cold, yet fully liquid, trickle of rain is gently pattering on my windowpanes and front porch. at this moment, i’ve got some mixed emotions about the big blizzard that has its bullseye on the mid-Atlantic, where most of my friends and family still live.

i dearly miss snow days full of day drinking, snowball fights, random inner-city sledding, random hook ups (let’s be honest) and pretty much tossing all responsibilities to the wind simply because Snow Miser had an extended moment that made all commerce come to a grinding halt. it was always, always a beautiful thing. but to go along with the raucous, debaucherous fun, there were also usually treacherous roads, power outages and the immeasurable boredom of being a little stuck for a few days. a good thing is only good for so long.

so as i’m seeing all the social media commentary about everyone preparing for this big storm, one question comes to mind: y’all makin’ French toast?

i honestly have no idea why milk, bread and eggs — okay and finally, this year, toilet paper — seem to be the top items everyone buys in preparation for a big snowstorm. y’all know you’re gonna lose your power, right? so your milk and eggs are over probably done for by Sunday. whatchya gonna do with all that bread now? i hope i’m wrong, but it has always just seemed to be the strangest thing. though, i guess you could just throw all your refrigerated stuff outside in your 18 inches of snow. oh, ugh . . .

me? i would buy bagels, butter (y’all know you can leave it at room temp for days, right?), that sealed smoked salmon you don’t have to refrigerate, a case of champagne and some green grapes or apples that could be happy on my kitchen counter. now that is some shit you can live off of for a few days. on that kind of diet, i can guess there would also be a lot less household, um, waste for that few days, hence no need for extra toilet paper. score!

anyhoo . . . for now, i will try to be helpful to all my friends in Richmond, DC and even North Carolina, who apparently have kitchens full of milk, bread and eggs (and bathrooms full of toilet paper) and throw out the best damn French toast recipes i could find on Pinterest today! y’all be safe up there! stay warm and don’t drive if you don’t have to — it’s not you, it’s the other fools on the road who think they know how to! oh, and bon appétit!

1. easy baked French toast casserole

Easy-Baked-French-Toast-Casserole-533x800okay. are you kidding me? had thought to do this in my oven, there might have been a lot more French toast in this house! love this easy recipe from Gather for Bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. easy cinnamon French toast sticks

overnight-cinnamon-french-toast-recipeshape can make all the difference. love this classic recipe from Just a Taste!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 3. bananas foster French toast

bananasp-768x1024it’s the end of the week. y’all know you have a couple leftover bananas starting to speckle and blacken and you’ve got to figure out something to do with them. thank Pinot to Pampers for this delicious idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. best ever hot chocolate French toast

Best-Ever-Hot-Chocolate-French-Toast-1in the category of 2 great tastes that taste great together . . . wow. you know you’re making hot chocolate anyway. because it’s a SNOW DAY! why not go ahead and mix it with that French toast. Half Baked Harvest will show you how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. overnight blueberry French toast

Overnight-Blueberry-French-Toastget started on this one from Recipe Girl now, y’all. it looks like it’s totally worth it. if you’re like me you always have blueberries around (i bet strawberries would work, too) and if not, it’s probably a safe bet they didn’t fly off the shelves with the milk, bread and eggs. so go pick up a pint before the storm hits!

Sunday supper: pesto snapper packets

Pesto Snapper Packets

i know i’ve mentioned my chicken rut, where i do the same 6 things with a chicken breast over and over again until even the chicken is bored with me. i kind of have the same issue with fish, except there are only like 2 ways i do it. over and over. and over. one thing i have never done, though is the packet thing. weird, right? so in the spirit of trying new things, i did a little digging and came up with a Frankensteined recipe that turned out amazing! it’s really light and fresh tasting. i served it over a bed of cauliflower rice to get in even more veggies and at least attempt to start the year on the right foot!

i used this recipe for inspiration, then looked at what i had in the fridge and did my own thing. what else would you expect from me? my version:

12 oz. snapper fillets divided into 4 pieces (the Publix frozen ones i use come in a bag with 2 fillets that i cut in half)
1 7-oz. container of pre-made pesto (i used Buitoni. use your fave or make your own and earn my utter respect. ain’t nobody around here got time for that.)
½ bag baby spinach
16 spears baby asparagus
8 baby portabellas, chopped

cut 4 pieces of foil to almost square. spray each with a little cooking spray. then layer a handful of spinach, a piece of the snapper (seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides), ¼ of the pesto, 4 asparagus spears and ¼ of the mushrooms. i put another sprinkle of salt and pepper on top just for good measure.

IMG_7386

close up the foil into packets that are fairly tight around your fish and vegetables, but leave some room for steam to build. put your packets on a baking sheet and bake in a 350° oven for 25 minutes.

IMG_7388

when you open them up, you’ll find flaky fish, tender vegetables and a little broth. carefully scoop it onto a bed of rice, couscous, mashed potatoes or just a plate and enjoy!

fall vibes: apple cake

over the past few years, this apple cake has been my traditional contribution to Spy’s office Thanksgiving potluck. tomorrow’s the big day, so i’ll be whipping this up at halftime this afternoon. it’s such a great recipe, i wanted to share it again. enjoy!

peaches & poppycock

IMG_3173

we woke to a gorgeous, crisp autumn day today that seemed perfect for baking one of my favorite fall treats — also one of the recipes i’ve really been wanting to make with the apples we still have from our apple picking trip a few weekends ago.

my grandmother’s apple cake is one of the things i really look forward to making every single year. it’s seriously like crack for me. something about the combination of apples, fall spices and butter in a gooey, sweet, melty mix makes me crave this thing with my breakfast coffee and become perfectly capable of devouring half a cake in one shockingly short sitting — and then grabbing the other half for a snack later. i am positively terrified about the fact that Spy leaves tomorrow afternoon for a 10-day Europe trip and i will be left in the house alone with this evil…

View original post 431 more words

Friday favorites: pre-Thanksgiving finds & fun

isn’t the week before a holiday week just the worst?? feels like this one has gone on forever! a work trip to New York sandwiched right in the middle of it at least mixed things up, but let’s be honest — 2 solid days in a conference room doing 2016 planning kinda sucked all the fun out of it. i pretty much officially checked out last night when Spy and i stayed up way too late drinking way too much wine and talking politics. i’ll have y’all know that i actually impressed my husband, who reads 2 newspapers cover to cover every day, with a comment and a perspective he had not heard or thought of on how President Obama is handling ISIS and the media. i was seriously so proud of myself! anyhoo . . . glad it is now officially the weekend! we have a ton of stuff to do to get ready for Thanksgiving guests arriving Tuesday. i am so excited i can’t stand it. here’s a quick look back at some of the awesomeness of the week. (i was terrible about taking photos of anything, so enjoy these much better ones!) hope y’all had a good one and have some big fun planned for the weekend ahead!

cauliflower rice
01-Couscous-4
you guys. are you ready to be totally amazed? i’m doing a quick 10-day paleo thing so i don’t feel like an absolute cow on Thanksgiving . . . which rolls into holiday parties, my birthday, Christmas and basically a 6-week food and booze fest. it’s the least i can do, right? so i have wanted to try this cauliflower rice for a while, but did not have high hopes. it is the bomb. i used this recipe from The Kitchn (also photo source). it is so easy, makes a ton and was amazing first with salmon and then under fajita steak and chicken (for like 3 meals). you will never actually confuse it for rice, but when you are off carbs and need that texture, or a bed of something to put your stir fry or curry or whatever on, it is absolutely perfect. try it and let me know what you think!

a new dress


a NYC work trip definitely required a new outfit. duh. lucky for me i hit probably the last week of nice (aka not freezing) weather, so it didn’t have to be a pants situation. this Ann Taylor dress looks super prim here, but with the collar open to show this awesome Chloe & Isabel convertible necklace, sleeves rolled up and tall black boots, it was the perfect balance of feminine (did i mention i was in a room with 20 dudes and only 2 other women for those 2 days??) and buttoned up. and at 40% off when i picked it up last week, it was a total win. great staple piece.

at-home manicure


and a NYC work trip definitely required a manicure. i got cheap and lazy and decided to do an entire mani/pedi myself, which i haven’t done in quite a while. i always feel great after i’ve done it. and this time, i was especially psyched because i tried something i’d been wanting to do for a while. when i do take the time to do gels, i use the 3-step L’Oreal Extraordinaire Gel-Laque. it gives a really great gel look. i can’t say anything about how long it lasts because i’m ridiculously hard on any manicure. i’m sitting here typing with a few chips after 5 days on this one as an example. they have some really good colors, but i also have a drawer full of nail polish. i’d read you could sub in anything for step 2, so i tried my OPI Scores a Goal. it dried so gorgeous and smooth it honestly looked like i’d gotten it done by a professional. i loved looking at my nails so much all week that i might actually do it again this weekend!

family photos


finally got our images from the shoot we did back in October. these are just a couple of them. Sarah Esther Photography is seriously just absolutely the best! if you’re in Atlanta, i highly recommend her for family, engagement, wedding, baby photos or headshots or boudoir (hubba hubba!). now i get to work on the Christmas card this weekend!

Made in the A.M.
oh,  you know you’ve been enjoying this all week, too!

November first: roasted pumpkin seeds

Bat-O-Lantern

when life hands you jack-o-lanterns, what to do? duh. in our case this year, the jack-o-lanterns were only carved about 6 minutes before trick-or-treating started last night. but for some reason, even in the hectic rush to get out the door, i had the forethought to actually throw them in some tupperware so i could roast them at some point. well good news for everyone: some point happened to arrive today, just in time for a monthly first! roasted pumpkin seeds are sooooo delicious, but amazingly, i have never made this favorite treat before. not sure why, except that i never think to save the pumpkin seeds until after i’ve wrapped them in the newspaper and tossed them. it was definitely worth the extra effort and may actually become a tradition around here!

i found this recipe from Beauty & the Beard on Pinterest yesterday and figured it was as good as any to try. i doubled everything because i had about 2 cups of seeds to work with.

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

one of the reasons i think i have never done this is because i (correctly) assumed cleaning all the pumpkin guts off the seeds would be a complete pain in the ass. when Miss Girl saw the pile i had to work through in a colander in the sink, she looked at me and said “wow, Mommy. that’s going to take a long time.” with a tone that would have made even the most dedicated feel like a complete idiot for even wanting to bother. but i didn’t let her dose of harsh reality deter me. i was on a mission. it wasn’t the easiest thing i’ve ever done, but definitely not the worst (y’all do remember the Satancakes, right?). it basically took a colander, a bowl, a lot of water and some patience.

once cleaned and dried (i ended up with a lot of extra water in my “clean” bowl and needed to put them back in the colander for another spin and then pat them dry with a paper towel), just throw them into a bowl and toss with the oil and spices. spread them out on a baking sheet covered with parchment (i skipped the parchment because i didn’t have any and it worked out totally fine). bake at 300° for 20 minutes. take out and stir/flip, then bake for another 20 minutes. let ’em chill at room temp for a few and enjoy!

mine came out delish, though a little too spicy for my taste — i prefer them more salty/savory with less kick. next time, i would do probably half the cayenne and more salt, but totally yummy and a nice new snack to add to my repertoire.

so far, it’s been a great start to the month. hope y’all have a fantastic November filled with trying new things!

5 on Friday: reasons to hate juicing

juicehater.001(photo: Yoga Journal)

so everyone who’s done a juice cleanse, raise your hands. now keep ’em up if you loved it and would do it like all the time. all 6 of y’all are crazy.

i started out the week on a bit of a health kick. seemed like a simple little 3 day juice cleanse would be just the thing to kill some bloat and jump start some healthier habits that would hopefully carry me through the holidays, starting with the candy-and-booze-fest that is Halloween. so last weekend i hauled my ass over to the Whole Foods and picked up all the supplies (19 bottles!) to do the Arden’s Garden Love Your Liver Cleanse.

i’ve done various juice cleanses several times over the past several years — Master Cleanse once and a couple of the dtox juice ones several times. but it’s been a while. obviously long enough to make me forget why every time i do one i say never again. and it’s not the reasons you’d think. i always think the juices taste great — even the weird green ones. and i never really get hungry, so it’s not about that. but here are the 5 reasons i hate juicing:

1. sugar 
there is sooooooo much sugar in juice. yes, even the green ones always have some apple or something in them. to be perfectly honest, it makes me feel like shit. i generally eat a fairly low-carb, low-sugar diet (especially since they took away the candy bowls at work). starting your day with 24 grams of sugar is like . . . according to the Googles . . . downing 2 tablespoons of sugar at breakfast. i know fructose or whatever is in fruit is different from white refined cane sugar, but still. that just seems really gross. and that’s more or less all you’re putting in your system all day long for (in this case) 6 bottles worth. this go around, i never finished more than 4 of the juices + lemon water. i was just too sweeted out. and instead of flushing out toxins, i honestly think it bloats me.

2. protein
yeah, protein is my boo. as hinted above, my diet (on a good day) contains a lot of protein and good good fats. these cleanses contain neither. long story short, even for 3 days, this makes me feel like complete crap.

3. fiber (and crunch!)
mmm-hmm. another thing there is virtually none of in a juice cleanse. um. not to get too graphic, but how are we supposed to be eliminating all these toxins if there is no, uh, elimination? ingesting no fiber for 3 days is also a really weird thing for me and my, um, system. i also miss the crunch of fruits and vegetables. okay, fine. and gluten-free crackers. bottom line: chewing and pooing are basic everyday experiences that just make life better.

4. wine
speaking of making life better, is wine not a juice??? this has been confusing to me every single time i’ve done this. am i alone?

5. boredom
and in the end, even for 3 days, no salt, no texture, no socializing normally is just not for me. even if it is helping my physical well-being (doubt — did i actually gain weight this time??), the mental portion does not click. i think i did get that Zen feeling after like a week on Master Cleanse. or maybe i just submitted to the utter boredom at that point and what i was experiencing was sheer and utter ennui.

lesson finally learned, i think. i will stick to my solid-food version of healthy eating (lean protein, veggies, no dairy, no starches, no booze) next time i’m feeling like i need to pull it back together for a few days. would love to hear your experiences with juicing! i plan to read responses over a non-WHO-approved bacon-wrapped filet and a bottle of Zin . . . happy weekend, y’all!

5 on Friday: a(nother) Writing 101 mashup

turtlerace(photo: thrillist.com)

um. didn’t Writing 101 end like 6 weeks ago? you’re asking. i know, right? but here i am. still. did i ever tell y’all that i didn’t graduate college on time? yeah, somehow at the finish line, i still needed one more class and ended up hanging around Winter Park for the summer taking an Ann Tyler class to fulfill my very last couple credits and officially get my degree. so this feeling is super familiar.

that said, creative combinations seem to be my secret weapon here, so i’m doing it again! i didn’t have anything pulled together for Friday list of 5 when i remembered that Day 11 asked

What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to this dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance?

since my last post was a week and a half ago, this really resonated today. what have i been doing? why haven’t i been writing? that second question is probably a bit more complicated than “life got busy,” which is what i like to tell myself. i’ve been questioning again what i’m doing here. i’ve also been exploring a book idea and much of my focus has been on whether that idea is viable, how to make this space more fun for me — and for you — and kind of generally doing a gut check about my writing and what i want to do with it. deep, y’all. and i’m not ready to write about it yet. ha. Continue reading

wine Wednesday: beef bourguignon

as usual, i did this all totally wrong. or, i mean, as wrong as you can go with a delicious California red.

a tinge of fall weather seemed to beg for something hearty to put in our bellies. i had some beef tips of some nature in the fridge. i had a bottle of red wine. obviously, the answer was beef bourguignon. what could go wrong?

i remember my mom making this dish when i was a kid. we didn’t have a slow cooker, but i loved smelling this rich stew simmer for hours in the same contraption she also used to make her amazing fried chicken. swear to god, this is the exact one. avocado green and all. (apparently, it fetches $24.50 on Etsy these days!)

chickenfryer

so anyway, with such delish memories, of course i went straight to my Joy of Cooking book for guidance from the recipe she used. for some ridiculous reason, this recipe isn’t on their site. thank goodness, Georgia at The Comfort of Cooking tested and posted it, so i don’t have to do all that typing myself. i love you guys, but it is a weeknight. in my version, i just kind of took all the ingredients and threw them in the slow cooker all day, with a couple tablespoons of sifted flour added on top of the meat to thicken the sauce. i mean, y’all knew there had to be something. and then there’s always the question of whether to serve it over potatoes, noodles or rice. i personally like rice, but Spy wanted the noodles. anyway, go check it out. in the meantime, i’m gonna tell you what went wrong and talk about the wine. ’cause it’s kind of the same thing.

this Wonderful Wine Co. Red Blend is amazing. really. amazing. really big and juicy. it’s all cherries with a little bit of spice. as much as “jammy” is overused to describe reds lately, this really, truly is. i enjoyed it immensely before dinner. and with dinner. and after dinner. why wasn’t there another bottle??

the problem was, it was not the right wine to put in the dinner. it had too much flavor and sweetness for the recipe. something much lighter would have given better taste and not been so overpowering. i had no idea what i was doing when i pulled it off the wine rack in a school morning haze. next time, i’ll look it up instead of just judging a wine by its label. live, learn and eat the leftovers anyway, right? at least i discovered a new wine i really love and rediscovered a great old recipe (that i need to do right next time!). happy hump day, y’all!