Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Good Times in Charlotte

Enough said. End of post.

Just kidding! I spent this past weekend in Charlotte, NC for one of my best friend's bridal shower and bachelorette party. Ashley, the bride-to-be, is in the white dress. Obvious, I know! I stayed with my other best friend, Lindsay and her boyfriend, Andy. They just moved to Charlotte recently and bought a new home. It's so beautiful and I was very glad I got to stay there. On Friday night, Lins and Andy made dinner...which was delicious...and we sat outside, drank wine and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Then, Lins and I spent the rest of the evening getting Ash's shower gifts wrapped and ready as well as all of the bachelorette party goodies. Saturday was a long day. We had to be at the shower by 11 a.m. , which Ashley's sister, Meredith, threw at her beautiful home. She did such a great job on the shower. It was a bed and breakfast we had brunch and we were all treated to slippers at the front door. Very cute! Check out the fun cake and a pic of me, Lins and Ashley in our slippers...

Once that was over, we went back to Lindsay's to relax a little before packing up to head into Uptown to the hotel for the night. We got there around 4 and started decorating and getting ready for all the girls to arrive. Even though we thought we had plenty of time, we ended up being rushed and we were both terribly frustrated with our hair... blah blah blah. Back to the fun stuff. All the girls arrived around 7...we had some wine, watched Ashley open all of her goodies and then we went across the street for dinner at Cosmo's Cafe (delish!). Here was her basket of goodies that Lins and I put together for her:

We had some goodies for all the girls too. Shot glass necklaces (thanks to Mike for helping me make them) and these masks (see below)...I have a few words for you about them: pack of 6, Party City, $2.99. Get them for your next girls night out...they were a definite hit. Yes, we even wore them to dinner. I was tempted to wear mine on my flight back to Tampa... maybe that would have given people a glimpse into why I was so tired and looked like a bum... anyways, here are me and Lins modeling ours.

After dinner, we started at a place called Forum, then moved to Whisky River where we all decided to do a little bull riding (interesting? yes, to say the least!), then lastly we hit up Buckhead Saloon where only a few of us were left standing. The rest found their way outside where they removed their shoes and waited patiently for the last remaining dancing fools to be 'over it' and come outside so we could go to bed.....I don't think so! we could go to Fuel for pizza. Now, that's the way to end a good night out.

Alright, alright...back to the bull riding. I know that's what you really want to hear about. Well, that was chaos at its absolute finest. The bull handler (a.k.a. the guy that turns it on/off, makes it go faster, throws you off, etc) let 3 of us get on the bull at the same time. Meanwhile, he let all of our other girls get up and jump on the mats like it was a trampoline. Madness, I tell you. Then, he let each of take our turn, as many times as we wanted. We didn't mind but I think the other people in line probably did. Oh well...not our fault! Here is a tutorial in bull riding:

1. Let me show you how it's done. Hop on! By yourself or in a group... Yes, in your dresses ... just do it in a ladylike manner, ok?

2. Now hold on tight and throw one arm in the air like you know what you are doing.

3. Tell that bull handler to make it go faster...then try not to regret what you just said!

4. If you listened to me and made the move suggested in #3, then the next step is bound to be getting thrown off of the nice which point, you laugh hysterically as you fly off... followed by standing up gracefully and doing a superstar pose/dance to show that bull just who's the boss.
5. Walk away with some awesome memories!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Made with Love

So, I mentioned in a previous post that I made a gift for my friend, Ashley, for her bridal shower. I'm very proud of it and now that her shower is over, I can post pictures. It's a shadow box with their wedding invitation inside. I thought it turned out great and she loved it so I was very happy about that. I'm glad I decided to give it a shot because I think it is a great gift for a wedding shower. Feel free to contact me if you need one made. :-)

Pictures from the shower and bachelorette party to come....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fun in the Sun!

Happy 27th Birthday, Mike!

Oh, how I love a day on the beach. We couldn't have asked for a better day to celebrate Mike's birthday. The weather was beautiful and we had a lot of friends there to share it with us. You should have seen our setup...a big tent, volleyball, coolers, food, cornhole, a flip cup table, paddle ball, and testicle toss (I believe blongo ball is the politically correct name for it). There were about 20 of us in all and it was a blast. Thanks to all of our great friends who came down to share it with us.

Do you have knottie/nestie friends? Well, I do. Take a look at the above pic. That's me in the blue hat in the center with my Mike to the left of me (the guy in the back). Ok, now see that girl to the right of me...well that is Lani (love2b_mrst) and her husband, Chad, is the guy in the front. Then the skinny mini prego girl in the pink bikini...that is Kristina (mrs.ragazza19) and her husband, Bobby, is the in the middle. The three of us met on the WCF (west coast Florida) message board on the when we were all planning our weddings (like a year ago or so). From there, we met in person at a local GTG (get together)...gotta spell out the acronyms for our non-knottie/nesties. And it's all downhill from there. No really, they are awesome friends and it's pretty great to know we now have new friends for life. If you don't have some of these knottie/nestie friends, then I highly recommend you get some. :-)

After the beach, back to the condos, showers and off to dinner and then to a beach bar. This is where the night started to get a little loud and rowdy (keep in mind, we had been drinking since about 10 a.m. and it was now 8 p.m.). We made it through dinner with minimal infractions...good thing we sat outside on the deck. Off to Mickey Quinn's...

Irish car bombs, anyone? This picture just exudes trouble, now doesn't it?

And this is where Mike had to call it a night. His birthday was a success and he was done for. Somehow he managed to still look put together in the picture below, although it was merely minutes before we had to head back to the condo. So with that, we will say goodnight!

Friday, April 18, 2008

A very busy Friday

Before heading down the beach for DH's birthday weekend, I had a few things to take care of in the kitchen... because I just had to have foods for all of our friends at the beach. I must have been feeling particularly 'inspired' because I had not one, not two, but three things on my list to make. We'll start with the banana chocolate chip cookies from the blog Annie's Eats. These turned out so great and were really yummy. I followed her recipe exactly because well, frankly, I'm not exactly good with tweaking just yet. These didn't need any changes so it worked out just fine. Here is her recipe:

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temp
1 cup of mashed bananas (about 2 1/2 large bananas) - (I used 2)
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer (I used a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until well incorporated.

In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which will in turn give the cookies their lift and rise.

Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture until just combined.

Fold chocolate chips into the batter. Drop into dollops on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I just used cooking spray on a cookie sheet). Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Simply Recipes

I just love the way the ooey gooey chocolate looks in this picture above

Next up was oatmeal fudge bars from Blonde Ambition in the Kitchen. I was the most excited about these. The picture on her blog made my mouth water. For the most part, they turned out great. In her blog, you will see that she used a 9x13 pan but the original recipe called for a 10x15 jelly roll pan. I used the jelly roll pan. I think I should have cut the baking time down by a couple mins and checked them. Also, I was a little confused by the 'dollups' on the top of the fudge mixture. I think I did them too big and too far apart. Either way, these tasted really good and I'll definitely make them again. Here is her recipe:

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups Quaker quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups Semi-sweet chocolate chips,
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (15 oz.)
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional, walnuts or pecans) (I did not use - I meant to actually but forgot)

Preheat oven to 325.
Grease and flour a 10x15 jelly roll pan.
In a large bowl sift together flour, soda and salt. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl, beat together softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla and mix well.
Slowly add the sifted flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in oatmeal.
Gently spread 2/3 crust into bottom of prepared pan. Reserve the rest for topping.
Make the filling:
Over Medium-Low heat, melt together chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt. Stir until smooth. Remove mixture from heat and stir in vanilla and nuts if using.
Evenly pour filling mixture of crust but keeping filling about a 1/4 inch away from side of pan so it does not stick to side while baking. Evenly dollup top of filling with remaining oat mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is light brown and fudge layer set but not solid. Don't overbake these bars or they can become dry. Cool in pan on rack until set. Can chill to set faster. Keep stored in airtight container either room temp or in fridge.

Lastly, I made a very simple Pasta Salad from my friend, Lani's, blog. The recipe is here. The only thing I left out was the artichoke hearts and I added diced celery. It was a perfect, cool snack for the beach.

Ready for a Beachin' Birthday? haha

Cake pic found here.

Isn't that cake so cute? Yea, well...I didn't make it. But it's the thought that counts right? My hubby, Mike, turns 27 tomorrow. So, tonight we are leaving for the beach (about 40 mins from our house) to spend the weekend. We have about 15 friends joining us tomorrow for a day at the beach followed by dinner and some fun at the local beach bars. I am so looking forward to it.

I will not be making a cake (he's not big on sweets anyways) but I will be doing some baking today when I get home from work...snacks to take with us for our day on the beach. I'm trying my hand at banana chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal fudge bars, and pasta salad. Of course, I won't be posting any of it until Monday so just hold your horses.

To give you an idea of the kind of weekend I'm expecting to have, please see the photo below. That's a little fancier than I imagine this weekend jaunt will be... I'm expecting to have lots of coolers, a beer in hand, some definite tan lines... and a whole lot of loud roudiness. Hope you have as much fun as we're going to have. Now, if I could only get out of work to get that baking started, pack the car, and be on our way to the beach....see ya!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Penne a la Delicious..I mean, Betsy!

One look at this deliciousness on Pioneer Woman's blog and I knew it was going to be heavenly...and in our tummies real soon. I love me some shrimp, that's for sure. I had been planning to make this for the last two weekends in a row and finally got around to it last night (I'm not sure what took me so long...I don't have kids, I don't work 2 jobs ...ok, whatever). I tend to get a little intimidated by recipes and I admit I was nervous about this one too. Boy was I surprised when I realized how easy and relatively quick it was to make. This dish has a lot of flavor and a lot of shrimp, but it is so light and oh so good. I really felt like it came right out of a did, Kelly's Deli...hehe. You must try this one out. It is so worth it. This is one of those meals to make for guests...I definitely think they would be impressed. Here is the original recipe with some of my changes too:

Penne a la Betsy


¾ lb. penne pasta

3 tbsp. butter, divided (I used smart balance light)

3 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 lb. large shrimp (I used 1 lb of medium white shrimp) - I also added 1/4 lb of bay scallops...yum!

1 small white onion, finely chopped (I used a shallot)

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup white wine (or chicken broth) (I used Riesling)

1 (8 oz.) can plain tomato sauce

1 cup heavy cream (I substituted with 3/4 of ff milk and 1/3 cup of melted butter)

1 tbsp. fresh parsley

chopped basil leaves, to taste (use a bunch!)


Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, while water heats and pasta cooks, make the sauce. Melt 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes, until opaque. Remove to a plate to let cool. Heat 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil in the skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally. While the onion and garlic are cooking, chop the shrimp into small, bite-sized pieces. Add the wine (or chicken broth) to the pan and allow to reduce for a few minutes. Chiffonade the basil leaves and set aside. Stir in tomato sauce. Add the heavy cream and stir well to combine. Add shrimp back to the skillet and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the parsley and basil and mix well.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the sauce to the pot and stir well to combine. Serve.

Thanks to Annie's Eats for the nice typed up version of the recipe that you see above!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Goodies

This weekend was packed full of all kinds of goodness. Goodie #1 = kiddies. Last night, we got to babysit 2 of my favorite little ones...5 year old Brianna and 8 month old Andrew. I decided to invite our neighbors' little girl (also 5), Elise, over to play with Brianna. Our friends, Tania and Dave, were nice enough to come hang out with us while we were babysitting. The plan for the night was to order pizza, play and make cupcakes.

We'll start with the cupcakes (goodie #2). I was thinking of testing a 'made from scratch' icing but decided that with two little girls, easier would be better. But, I did want to try making the cake mix with diet soda...something I've read lots about but haven't never done. So, here were our ingredients: one box of yellow cake mix, 12 oz of sprite zero and one can of whipped cream frosting...oh, and some pink sprinkles and a little red food coloring just for fun. Somehow, the pink sprinkles did not make it on the lone cupcake above...poor thing. These were delish and only about 140 calories in each one...not bad, huh?

For goodie(s) #3, we have some craft projects. One is for my friend, Ashley's, shower gift which is on the 26th so I will not be posting that until after the shower (you never know who might see and then the surprise would be ruined). It turned out beautifully and I can't wait to show you. It was my first attempt at this particular project and I was so happy with how it came out. The next is for a baby shower. My cousin and his wife are expecting baby #3 (their second little boy) in June and one of my aunts is throwing a shower for her. She told me that the theme is construction (a.k.a. Tonka) trucks and I found lots of cute stuff online. One trip to Party City and I had everything that I had wanted to order online...well, except for the really cute cupcake picks. So, one pack of stickers later, I was making my own. I just put the stickers on thin pieces of cardboard and cut into small squares and then taped to flat toothpicks...voila!...cupcake picks. I think they turned out so cute and so worth it for 5 minutes of work. The shower is in VA (where all of my family lives) and I won't be able to make it from FL (I will be in Charlotte, NC for my friend Ashley's shower and bachelorette party...woohoo!) so these as well as the other decorations will be my contribution. I hope that she enjoys it!

Too bad I didn't think about sticking one of these cuties into the cupcakes I made on Saturday night...duh! Oh well, you get the idea.

And for weekend goodie #4, see the post above...that was a darn good way to top off a very good weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

That's a negative on the red peppers...

As soon as I saw the recipe for this Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese in my new issue of Cooking Light, I knew it was going on the 'to make' list. Because it was my first time making it, I stuck to the recipe pretty closely. I was really excited to get home from the gym and make this meal. We thought it was pretty good, but not a favorite. I definitely think I will make it again but I will probably change a few not using red pepper or onion. Although I really like the taste of red peppers, they just don't sit well on my tummy. So, they will be nixed next time for sure. I sauteed the red pepper and onion because I felt the raw ones would be too harsh for my sensitive self. :-) I think I would add a little something to the dressing too. I saw where Lani added dijon mustard to the dressing that's a thought. Last night, I also thought it would be good to add a little brown sugar to the dressing. I think this dish could use a little more texture so adding some nuts also sounds like a good idea.

We gave it a 6 out of 10...but I think adding/changing some things could definitely make it an 8. Different strokes for different folks...give it a try, you might love it. And it sure made for some yummy looking pictures. Here's the recipe with the few changes I made: (source: Cooking Light)

1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
3 cups chopped grilled chicken breast strips (such as Tyson) (I sauteed 3 chicken breast cutlets) 1 1/2 cups trimmed arugula (used spring mix)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup prechopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.
2. Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.
3. Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Cooking Light says 6 servings but I say 4!

Nutritional Information:
CALORIES 295(23% from fat); FAT 7.7g (sat 2.9g,mono 2.8g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 24.4g; CHOLESTEROL 55mg; CALCIUM 40mg; SODIUM 788mg; FIBER 2g; IRON 2.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 32.1g

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Magazine Debut...

You might be saying, 'where is she? she's not in this picture'. Oh yes, I am. See the bride and groom, now look to the left, you will see the Maid of Honor, then the flower girl, then me...yea,'s just my head and my body is covered by the bride's dad, who is standing. But whatever, I'm in the picture, ok? This is at one of my best friend's wedding in Dallas, TX and it was featured in this month's InStyle Weddings (see below). This is just a scanned copy that I found online...but, I've seen the actual picture and my face is much more obvious when looking at the magazine (don't believe me, check it out next time you are standing in the grocery line...oh yea, that's what I did). As one family member, so perfectly put it... I'm the centerfold (literally)...hahahaha! Here's the cover to look out for...

a little zoom action...see my face...I'm looking right at the happy newlyweds.

proof that we were in fact there...see my dress matches the one seen on the Maid of Honor above (hehe)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Simple Shrimp

I was feeling very fickle when I got home from work yesterday. There was fresh shrimp and salmon in our fridge and I knew it had to be made, but I wasn't in the mood. By the way, me not being in the mood for shrimp is a very, and I mean very, rare occurrence. Because I couldn't figure out what else I wanted, I went ahead and made it...dear hubby made his own salmon. In addition to my fickleness (is that a word?), I was also feeling lazy so my gourmet shrimp recipe consisted of some smart balance light butter, garlic powder and Emeril's Essence seasoning. It was difficult, let me tell you. Melt 1-2 tablespoons over medium heat, add shrimp, sprinkle seasonings on shrimp...turn when bottoms are pink and sprinkle again. All done! I threw some sugar snap peas in boiling water for a few seconds and sprinkled them with a little salt & pepper. Mike likes them crunchy so I didn't even bother sauteeing them after boiling them (did I mention I was feeling especially lazy?. I then whipped up some butter & herb fettucine noodles (ha! from a Lipton Pasta Sides bag). They were delish but with the amount of sodium in it, I will surely make my own from now on. For being quick and last minute (and with yummy noodles full of sodium), it was a pretty quick dinner. We didn't complain.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Baked Pita Bread

Yesterday was a rough day for me. I had worked a wedding (as day of coordinator) for 15 hours on Saturday so yesterday was my recoup day. I was absolutely beat. It was midday and I had just woken up from a nap...did I mention I was starving? I remembered seeing these baked pita chips on a blog before and decided that would be the perfect afternoon snack before hitting the grocery store and then picking up dinner. I took two small pieces of pita bread and decided to try two different combinations. One being mozzarella with basil and one with six-cheese italian and garlic powder. These were adapted from the original ones I had seen on the Sugar & Spice blog. The second one was my favorite and I think these would be so good dipped in marinara sauce or my garlic one dipped in ranch...yum!. I topped them with the cheese and the respective spices and tossed them in the oven on 350 for about 10 minutes and voila...I had myself a little snack. You should try it sometime... the topping options are endless...whatever suits your tastes. Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Homemade....well, not exactly!

Holy Moly! Have you ever had one of these bad boys? No! Then, do yourself a favor and go buy some. They are 150 calories of gooey goodness. Now, I have to admit that one of these isn't very big...portion control, portion control is what I tell myself. If you have a sweet tooth and you need to make it even better (who could I be referring to? hmm), then do what I did and add a small scoop of fat free or lowfat ice cream (in my case, it was cookies & cream ff frozen yogurt). This was a nighttime treat that I really enjoyed. Seriously! It actually made me happy eating it. Come on, you know you want to...

Source: Miss Betty Crocker

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cran-Mandarin Salad....with Chicken

Dig In!
All of the pretty ingredients before tossing it al together.

I first had this salad at our recent Tampa Cooking Club night about a week ago. Amber hosted and she served this salad alongside Tuna topped with Mango Salsa and orzo. I was hooked! So, I made it 2 days later for dinner at a friend's house. And now another 2 days later, I made it again. Yea, it's that good! Tonight it was just me eating, so I just made a small amount. It seems to be even better when you make it as a big salad and toss it all together. Here is what I used for the big salad and then I just scaled it down for a personal sized one. Oh, I also cooked up some chicken breast cutlets in a saute pan with garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika to throw in there. The salad is just as delicious withuot the chicken. The pictures do this salad no justice because you can't see all the yumminess that is tossed around in it. And I think it turns out prettier when you actually chop up the lettuce, but I was too lazy this time.

Romaine or bibb lettuce, chopped
Green onion, finely chopped (I used 3/4 of a bundle)
Celery, finely chopped (I used 4-5 full stalks)
Crumbled goat cheese
Grape tomatoes, quartered

Candied Pecans, finely chopped

1 can of mandarin oranges

For the dressing:
1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp of brown sugar
A few drops of hot sauce (we like a few more!)

Candied Pecans:
In a sauce pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter/margarine over low to med heat; add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans and 2 tbsp of brown sugar; stir for a few minutes until well coated; remove and cool completely. Yum!