Thursday, September 3, 2015

Life is tough...

We are back from Cleveland and Allison and Mark's wedding was unbelievable.  The bride was absolutely stunning and it was such a happy and celebratory day.  All of the bridesmaids wore gold dresses (all different) and we always have the best time ever when we are together!  It was so special on so many levels, especially to spend time with long time friends and family.  Mark and Allison are both such wonderful people and I was honored to be a part of their wedding.

Unfortunately, I only have these few cell phone pictures to post.  It's a long story, but this has been one hell of a shitty week.  On Sunday after the wedding, we went down to the hotel to grab my stuff out of the bridal suite.  I packed up my bag with my camera, all of my lenses, clothes, and my entire "tackle box" of makeup, cremes, perfumes and brushes.  Matt decided to go and put it in the car, which was parked right outside of the Hyatt Regency in Cleveland and then ran back up to get me.  

No more than 20 minutes passed as we said our goodbyes and headed back down to the car.  As we approached, my heart stopped.  Someone had smashed his back window and had stolen the entire bag with all of its contents.  

This is my first time that I have had such valuable and sentimental things stolen from me.  I can tell you it is one of the worst feelings in the world.  All week, I've had this pit of sadness and a feeling of violation that I just can't shake.  The blog is a huge part of me and the camera is the backbone for my creativity.  

And I know make-up sounds like a trivial thing, but I have built up quite a collection through the years and ALL of it was in that box.  YSL, Dior, Chanel, MAC, Sigma brushes...I don't mean to come off as pretentious, but that shit is expensive!  

I know it can be replaced, but all of the stuff that was stolen added up to thousands of dollars and we live on a budget, so frivolous spending is done in small increments.  And the worst part is my husband ALWAYS puts our stuff in the trunk and the one time he didn't, (because it was broad daylight, on a busy street and we were only gone for 20 minutes), we get robbed.  

On top of everything else, due to external factors out of my control, today I found out that I lost a HUGE piece of business that I have been working on for almost a year. FML.   

When I think about it, I have been trying to put things in perspective.  We have our health.   Our dogs weren't in the car.  Our families are healthy.  We sure have a lot to be thankful for, but it doesn't make what happened easier. 

So, I guess the reason I am telling you this is for a few reasons.  Until I get a new camera, my posts will be more sparse.  Also, if you ever have anything of value, don't leave it in your car and if you have to, always put it in the trunk.  

Sorry for the sob story.  My brother Kevan and his wife Lauren jokingly told me to start a Go Fund Me page to get my stuff back.  It resulted in one of the few laughs I've had all week, picturing my story, begging to replace my expensive make-up collection and DSLR camera, next to the pages of people who really need help.  Talk about perspective...

Let's hope, the only place to go from here is UP!  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups with Flake Salt

If you are fortunate enough to live near a Whole Foods, then I hope you have discovered the magic that is their fresh ground honey roasted peanut butter. It is unlike ANY other peanut butter out there. I would probably left arm for this stuff... it is that good.  

This past weekend, our chocolate cravings kicked in and I started raiding the cabinet to see what I could whip up.  Chocolate chips.  Peanut Butter.  Sea Salt.  You only need three ingredients to make this outrageously easy and chocolate-y snack!  

I'm going to cut this post short because I am in the middle of packing.  I can barely sit still because we are headed to Cleveland for my friend Allison's wedding (remember her bachelorette party a few months back)!  All of the girls in the wedding are not only best friends, but we have basically considered ourselves sisters for more years than I can count.  It is going to be an un-fricking-believable weekend celebrating Ally and Mark!  

Hopefully the next time I check back in with you will be with a few snaps of the lovely day, but if you can't wait that long, you can always find my latest happenings on Instagram.  Have a great weekend everyone!~!~!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups with Flake Salt
Makes about 10-12 cups
1 pound chocolate (dark or milk)
peanut butter
sea salt
muffin cups
non-stick spray

Line the muffin cups on a cookie sheet and lightly spray the inside of the cups with a bit of non-stick spray.  

Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 second increments, stirring after each.  Once it has mostly melted and there are just a few lumps remaining, just take it out and keep stirring to melt the rest of the chips.  Chocolate can burn very easily so you want to play it safe.  It also helps if you have a large Pryex glass cup with a spout because that will make it easier to pour in the cups. 

Once the chocolate has melted, spoon 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate into the bottom of each cup.  Be conservative with this because you don't want super thick cups (or maybe you do?).  Now place all of the cups in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for the chocolate to harden. 

Remove from fridge and add about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on top, pressing down so it almost goes to the edges.  Cover the peanut butter with 1-2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate.  Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt over the top and refrigerate again until hard.

Remove from fridge and enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk!    

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Foil Boil Shrimp and Sausage Packets

I've come to realize that I am seriously lacking some quick and easy recipes on this blog.  Looking back, many of my recipes have multiple steps and a long list of ingredients, but this recipe is the exact opposite.  

This week, I was in rural Pennsylvania for work.  On my way back to D.C., Amish farm stands kept popping up, so I had to stop.  I spent $7.00 and came home with about three bags full of fresh produce!  Quite a different number compared to my local Whole Foods trips!   

Crab boils and clam bakes are my favorite; the epitome of summer.  I call these Foil Boil Packets, because that is essentially what they are.  No need to bust out the huge pots and outdoor flames.  These are your answer to have individual servings without all of the work!  Plus, the butter and steaming adds a ton of flavor to all of the ingredients.  

These are so easy to throw together and you can use whatever ingredients/produce you have on hand.  You HAVE to try them!    

Foil Boil Packets
2 pounds smoked sausage (such as kielbasa, andouille, etc.)
1/2 pound of raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
4 small red skin potatoes, quartered
1/2 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 pound fresh green beans
2 ears sweet corn, each cut in half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Chop all ingredients up into large chunks and evenly distribute in the middle of two large sheets of heavy duty foil.  Top with 2-3 tablespoons of the butter sauce. Wrap tightly to ensure no steam or liquid gets out.

This should make at least 4 large packets.  Place packets on sheet pan and bake for 1 hour.  Remove and let cool for 15 minutes.

Butter Sauce
12 tablespoons room temperature butter
2 teaspoons Old Bay
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar

Make sure butter is at room temperature and mix all ingredients together.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Crispy Cheddar Polenta + Shrimp in a Country Ham Gravy

Have you ever seen a picture of a dish online and you absolutely had to find a way to make it?  Well, that is what inspired me to make this outrageously decadent and delicious masterpiece!  

One of my coworkers recently had twins and we were all throwing around ideas of what to get for her.  After determining that she probably has a TON of baby stuff, we thought it would be nice to get a gift certificate to a nice restaurant for her and her husband.  They live in Savannah so I started to search for places online and came across the website for The Olde Pink House and instantly got lost in all of the photos on their Yelp page.  

After seeing a few pictures of their version of Shrimp and Grits, the food addict lobe in my brain (there is one of those, right??) was on fire and I convinced myself that I needed this meal... now!   Since traveling down to Savannah was not an option, I decided to roll up my sleeves and conquer this on my own!  

Now I've never had the original, so I do not have a basis to compare, but I must say that this was CRAZY GOOD!  The polenta was super crispy and cheesy.  With perfectly cooked shrimp and a creamy and salty ham gravy, this version of shrimp and grits is a true show stopper!  I'm not even from the south, but I guarantee you that by the taste of this, you'd never know!  

Now.... who's watching Bachelor in Paradise tonight???  Have a great week my friends!  

Crispy Polenta
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup flour
canola oil fry polenta

Spray a 9x9 or 8x8 square pan with non-stick spray.  In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil.  Add polenta and cook over medium low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.  Once polenta is cooked and soft, add both cheeses and butter.

Spread polenta in prepared pan and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours for it to set and firm up.  Remove from fridge and cut into equal triangles or squares.  In a medium saute pan, heat 2-4 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat.

Lightly coat the polenta wedges with flour and saute in hot oil until crispy and brown, adding more oil as needed.  Remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined sheet pan to drain oil.  Once all wedges have been fried, place pan in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.

Sauteed Shrimp
1 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt, pepper, and garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil

Coat shrimp in olive oil and lightly season with salt, pepper, and garlic.  In a small saute pan, cook shrimp until pink and firm.  Remove from pan and set in oven to stay warm.

Country Ham Gravy
3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 pound ham, diced into small cubes
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-4 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper for taste
chives or scallions for garnish

In the same pan used for the shrimp, melt the butter and garlic over medium heat.  Add diced ham and cook for 3-4 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add cream and whisk to combine.  Cook over low heat until slightly thickened.  If sauce gets too thick, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get your desired thickness.  Salt and pepper sauce to taste. Remove garlic cloves.

To assemble, plate in this order:  spoon ham gravy over the crispy polenta and top with sauteed shrimp and chives or scallions.

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