Whole wheat waffles

Patrick loves waffles! A few years ago I gave him a waffle maker so he could enjoy waffles whenever he wanted. We make them for weekend brunch quite a bit. Ever since he received the waffle maker we've made this buttermilk waffle recipe. Sometime recently he revealed that they weren't his absolute favorite so I set off to find a new recipe to try. I came across a whole wheat waffle recipe that sounded good. We enjoyed this new waffle and will definitely try it again. There was a slight learning curve this first time we made them since the batter consistency was quite a bit different than the other recipe.

Whole Wheat Waffles from 100 Days of Real Food blog
   Serves 4-5 (we cut the recipe in half)

2 large eggs
1 ¾ cups milk
¼ cup oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
Warmed 100% pure maple syrup for serving
Fresh fruit for serving

   Preheat your waffle iron.
   In a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, honey, cinnamon, and baking soda until well combined.
   Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk together just until the large lumps disappear.
When the waffle iron is hot, dab it with a little butter and then ladle some batter onto the center of the iron. Follow the instructions that came with your waffle maker to know how long it should be cooked.
   Keep waffles warm until you finish cooking all of them. Top with pure maple syrup and fruit. Enjoy!

It's always Caturday
Nacho napping in the cat toy box

Do you have a favorite waffle mix?

Homemade Peanut Butter

Every now and then Granny sends us peanuts, and recently gave us a rather large bag of raw peanuts. Since I don't particularly enjoy snacking on raw peanuts and can only eat so many roasted ones, I thought we should get creative to make sure they didn't go to waste. So in what form do I consume the most peanuts by far? Peanut butter! I love peanut butter.

After a little research online it turns out making peanut butter with a food processor is super easy - just throw skinned roasted peanuts in with some salt and process until it's peanut butter. We followed this guide which really breaks things down, but I'll give a simplified overview here.

The first step is to roast the peanuts if they aren't already. We're not sure how many peanuts we used, except that they covered a 13x9 pan, which about filled our food processor with peanuts and filled a pint jar with peanut butter. We tossed the peanuts in peanut oil and toasted them at 350 for about 10 minutes. We probably should have done some research on skinning them; we did so after the roasting which was messy and time-consuming.

As we skinned them we loaded them into the food processor. We would process it in 1-2 minute intervals, stirring in between and adding salt as needed (one can optionally add additional flavors or sweeteners).

At the beginning it will be crumbly,

then it gets smoother,

and then really smooth (although partly from the food processor running so much and heating it up, I think).

At this point it's creamy enough to just pour into the jar.

And then you have a perfect jar of homemade peanut butter! We keep it in the refrigerator and haven't noticed any separation like you see with the natural peanut butter from the store. I'm not sure if this is due to low oil content, different peanuts, or refrigeration. It tastes delicious, and provided we can keep on getting peanuts, I see no reason to buy peanut butter any more!

Bread Diary - Cinnamon Rolls

We're on to another installment of the bread diary! This is a much sweeter fare for today though. It's homemade cinnamon rolls! We've dabbled with cinnamon rolls before and shared them on the blog [pumpkin cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving and birthday cinnamon rolls]. But we were a little more adventurous this last time when we made them and wanted to share these adventures in the newly minted bread diary on Whit's Kitchen! Have you seen the other bread diary posts? There were two sourdough bread entries - a Whitney one and a Patrick one.

We've made this cinnamon roll recipe before. It's Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls and they are delicious. Last year when Patrick made them for my birthday we followed this "small batch" recipe that adapted Pioneer Woman's recipe and was on the kitchenMage blog. Basically that small batch recipe did the math to cut the recipe down to 1 pan of cinnamon rolls - Pioneer Woman's recipe makes 8 pans!

Well Christmas 2014 rolled around and we wanted to make lots of cinnamon rolls. Since they are so prep intensive (the dough rises and then the rolls rise) we wanted to make a few pans to share with friends and family and then some to freeze. We had decided that we wanted to make 4 pans. Unfortunately we started the cinnamon roll madness at around 8pm on Christmas Eve and in our frazzled state accidentally made the whole original Pioneer Woman recipe (for 8 pans) instead of halving that (which was our intention). I think we realized half way through our ideal that we were actually making 8 pans of cinnamon rolls.

Notice the clove stock reads "12:10" which would mean Merry Christmas!
While we were trying to figure out how many pans to make I was browsing Pioneer Woman's "Notes on Cinnamon Rolls" page which gives a lot of information and more details about prepping / baking / freezing the rolls. Certainly with an accidental eight pan cinnamon roll baking ordeal we knew that we would be freezing these. The original plan was to dabble in freezing but only one pan and not multiple!

After baking
So we baked all eight of the cinnamon roll pans. I hadn't bought enough cream cheese to make icing for all of them (because, ya know, wasn't thinking we'd make 8 pans). We iced the ones we would be sharing with family and friends over the holidays then put the rest in the freezer. We figured it would be best to make the icing on the day of eating the cinnamon rolls anyway.

Frosted and left for the neighbors as a thank you for feeding the cats!
Now I bet you're wondering how the frozen cinnamon rolls worked out, right?! I wanted to wait until we had tried them out of the freezer before sharing the post. My mom celebrated a birthday in January and I thought it would be nice to bring her a pan. They were a good first experiment - we forgot to set a timer and they got a little brown on the edges but still delicious!

Then it was on to my birthday a few weeks ago! Keeping with tradition (for two years now) we had cinnamon rolls! We took a pan of cinnamon rolls out of the freezer on Saturday with the intention of baking them Sunday morning. While they reheated in the oven Patrick made a cream cheese icing for them. What a special treat to have in the freezer!

Cream Cheese Icing (we halved it)

Pioneer Woman has made several different variations of her cinnamon rolls - visit her Sweet Roll Central page to see them! I've got my eye on blueberry lemon rolls for the next adventure!

It's Always Caturday!
Adventuring in the clean towels

Do you fuss with homemade cinnamon rolls? If so have an easier one to share? Or do you just go with the Pillsbury canned ones which are hard to beat?!

Crockpot Gumbo

I've been wanting to try some new crockpot recipes lately. Something similar to this popped up on my Pinterest feed that I was interested in trying. Unfortunately the other one wasn't quite something I wanted to make so I googled around to find this crockpot gumbo recipe. Patrick was a little skeptical at first but after he tasted it he agreed that it was a good choice!

Crockpot Gumbo with Smoked Sausage from Taste of Home
   Prep time 20 min | Cook time 4 hours | Serves 5
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped > I used red bell pepper
1 medium carrot, chopped > I used two carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound Johnsonville® Polish Kielbasa Smoked Sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces > I substituted a smoked turkey sausage
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Hot cooked rice > We served with brown rice

   In a large skillet, saute the celery, onion, green pepper and carrot in oil until tender. Stir in flour until blended; gradually add broth (I found that I needed 1 1/2 cups broth). Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
   Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker. Stir in the sausage, tomatoes, oregano, thyme and cayenne. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through. Serve with rice.

This is a great crockpot recipe for all this snowy wintry weather!

Meal Plan Monday Post

We celebrated Whitney's birthday on Tuesday, and with me having Monday off for President's Day, one of her birthday requests was that I prepare the meal plan (and write this post of course). Luckily she made things very easy on me; one of last week's meals had slipped to this Monday, and then we were out of town Friday-Sunday, leaving me only three nights to plan. On top of that, the challenge did not really influence the planning.

Week 6: Do not eat any food products that are labeled as “low-fat,” “lite,” “light,” “reduced fat,” or “nonfat.”

The idea here is that if fat is being taken out of your food, it's either being replaced or is just proportionally higher in carbs or something else, so ultimately there is not an overall benefit over the less processed version. We have been following this rule more and more so there wasn't much that we needed to avoid in the refrigerator or pantry.

For Whitney's birthday I made one of her favorites, risotto with scallops. For Tuesday I picked a recipe out of a new cookbook we just got, the Vegetarian entry in the Food Made Fast series. For Thursday I picked a favorite crockpot dish of mine that we haven't had in a while.

Meal Plan for Monday February 16 - Sunday February 22

   Monday Salmon, orange jicama avocado salad
   Tuesday Mushroom risotto with scallops

   Wednesday Wild rice salad
   Thursday crockpot chicken adobo
   Friday-Sunday - visiting friends in Virginia!
   Sunday - leftover chicken pot pie from freezer

Challenge Meal Plan Summary: Week 1 Fruits & Veggie | Week 2 Beverages | Week 3 Meat | Week 4 No Fried Foods | Week 5 New Whole Foods | Week 6 Labeling | Week 7 Grains | Week 8 Internal Cues | Week 9 No Refined / Artifical Sweeteners | Week 10 No Refined / Hydrogenated Oils | Week 11 Locally Grown | Week 12 No Added Sweeteners | Week 13 No Artificial Ingredients | Week 14 5 Ingredients or Less

Bread Diary - Patrick's Sourdough

Whitney's mom makes a great sourdough, and in trying to help Whitney make it, I did some research to see what the Internet had to say about making sourdough. I came across this guide for making a starter and this guide for baking a loaf. I noticed that these had a different approach for maintaining the starter as compared to what Whitney and her mom do. They feed the starter water, sugar, and potato flakes, resulting in a thin starter, whereas the guides I was looking at suggest just flour and water, leading to a starter with a batter-like consistency.

I decided I would try this other approach and see how it compared. Starting with some of Whitney's starter, I fed it flour and water for five days until it was a bubbly batter. I generally followed the guide above, waking up at 7am one morning before work so I could shape the loaf, do a second rise, and bake it all before work.

That evening we cut it open and I was quite pleased with the result. The inside was chewy and had some great flavor from the fermentation. Whitney's mom's bread has a sweeter note to it, possibly due to the sugar diet of the starter. My bread didn't quite taste like the really tart sourdough you find at the grocery store (which I do enjoy), but after some research I learned that some of that flavor is often artificially added with additional acid rather than what comes naturally from the yeast fermentation.

I'm generally not as big a fan of the very crusty "artisan" style loaves, but that was what the guide was for and it was my first time so I decided to just follow it. Next time I look forward to baking a sandwich loaf, possibly whole wheat if I think I can pull that off. Since we don't have a need for that much bread in the first place, we're hoping to find a technique we like so we can make it all at home!

Approaching the moment of truth
How's my crumb? I honestly don't know.
Homemade bread with homemade peanut butter! Now we just need to grow our own grain and peanuts and get a mill.

Savory Crepes

A few weeks ago we made Raspberry Nutella Crepes upon Patrick's request. We're starting to really like crepes and getting the hang of making them. In addition to the Raspberry Nutella ones, we've made crepes with fresh strawberries, savory crepes with arugula, and bananas foster crepes. With recently made yummy crepes on my mind and a browse through the refrigerator on Saturday to see mushrooms and spinach hanging out I decided that we should make savory crepes for weekend brunch!

Here's our base crepe recipe that I included on the last post:

Crepes [for 2-3]
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
    Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to combine. Add the milk bit by bit and whisk to combine until all the milk is incorporated. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Refrigerate overnight.

For the savory crepes, we sauteed some bacon and once crisp removed from the pan. Then we added in diced mushrooms and a diced leek. Once they were soft we added in a handful of spinach to wilt. Once wilted we added the bacon back into the mixture. Then we put the mushroom spinach mixture onto the crepes and topped with some farmers cheese.

I think Dupree was Ratatouille (from the Disney movie) in his past life. He loves to sit on the stool in the kitchen while we are cooking. His meows are probably telling us what we're doing wrong!

Watching Patrick make crepes

Balsamic Chicken

I visited my parents in January for some quality time at home. I was able to help my mom clean out / organize my bedroom, hang out with my grandparents, and go to a bridal shower for a high school friend. It was such a nice weekend. And one of the benefits of the weekend was bringing back this delicious recipe that I knew Patrick would love. Mom found this Balsamic Chicken recipe in a Parade paper and it was submitted by Joy Bauer, the nutritionist on the Today show. She claims that it is packed with eight super foods (and why) and I agreed with her. Here they are:

The Super 8
Chicken breast: low-fat protein
Tomatoes: cancer-fighting lycopene
Peppers: fiber, vitamin C
Onions, garlic: antioxidants
Vinegar: blood sugar regulator
Greens: vitamin C, iron and folic acid
Quinoa: protein, heart-healthy magnesium

Balsamic Chicken from Parade & Joy Bauer
   Prep time 20 min | Total time 55 min | Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 large red bell peppers, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, well drained

   Coat a large sauté pan with oil, and preheat the pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add chicken breasts to the pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Add vinegar and tomatoes, and bring liquids to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with quinoa and sautéed greens.

When I made our quinoa I added the spinach at the end to wilt it and so we served the balsamic chicken on a bed of the spinach quinoa.

Dupree using Nacho as a cat pillow

Tomato Soup for Two

We first shared this Cream of Tomato Soup on the blog almost four years ago. I don't crave tomato soup a whole lot but every now and then it's always nice to make this. I thought it was fitting to share again since it is something we continue to enjoy. Sometimes, as in this most recent time I made it, I'll cut the original recipe that served 4 in half so that it's perfect for us on a cold winter night. Below I'm sharing the perfect for two recipe! We served the soup with a sourdough loaf slice toasted with cheddar cheese.

Cream of Tomato Soup For Two from New Best Recipe
1 - 28 oz cans whole tomatoes packed in juice, drained, reserve juice
3/4 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large shallots, minced (may sub 1/2 an onion)
1 tbsp tomato paste
pinch ground allspice
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
7/8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp brandy or dry sherry
salt and cayenne pepper

   Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Seed the tomatoes and spread in a single layer on the foil. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake until all the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes. Let the tomatoes cool slightly, then peel them off the foil; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
   Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots, tomato paste, and allspice. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Whisking constantly, gradually add the chicken broth; stir in the reserved tomato juice and the roasted tomatoes. Cover, increase the heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.
   Strain the mixture into a medium bowl; rinse out the saucepan. Transfer the tomatoes and solids in the strainer to a blender; add 1 cup of the strained liquid and puree until smooth. Combine the pureed mixture and remaining strained liquid in the saucepan. [Or use an immersion hand blender.] Add the cream and warm over low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the brandy and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Do you have a favorite tomato soup recipe?

Meal Plan Monday Post

Our food challenge is still rolling along. There are 14 weeks so we're not quite half way through. Some weeks are more challenging for us than others. This week calls for you to try a minimum of two new whole foods that you've never had before. I incorporated these into our meal plan and to make things a bit more challenging I attempted a new recipe every night last week!

Week 5: Try a minimum of two new whole foods that you've never had before.

Patrick and I really had to get creative with trying two new whole foods this week! In the past we have always encourage ourselves to try something new in our CSA throughout the season. We landed on trying chia seeds and jicama! We added the the chia seeds to a morning smoothie and tried the jicama in a citrus salad with salmon over the weekend. Below is some information from Wikipedia regarding each new whole food that we tried and then the meal plan follows!

Jicama and Chia seeds. If you're wondering why there's masking tape on the chia seeds bag it's because Dupree really wanted to try some chia seeds too and poked a hole in it. Bad kitty!
What are chia seeds? 
   "Chia is grown commercially for its seed, a food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to the USDA, a one ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese.
   Chia seeds may be added to other foods as a topping or put into smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, bread, made into a gelatin-like substance or consumed raw."
What is jicama?
According to Wikipedia
   "Jicama [also known as Mexican yam or Mexican turnip] is the name of a native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the plant's edible tuberous root. Jícama is a species in the genus Pachyrhizus in the bean family (Fabaceae). Plants in this genus are commonly referred to as yam bean, although the term "yam bean" can be another name for jícama.
   The root's exterior is yellow and papery, while its inside is creamy white with a crisp texture that resembles raw potato or pear. The flavor is sweet and starchy, reminiscent of some apples or raw green beans, and it is usually eaten raw, sometimes with salt, lemon, or lime juice and chili powder. It is also cooked in soups and stir-fried dishes. Jícama is often paired with chili powder, cilantro, ginger, lemon, lime, orange, red onion, salsa, sesame oil, grilled fish, and soy sauce. It can be cut into thin wedges and dipped in salsa. In Mexico, it is popular in salads, fresh fruit combinations, fruit bars, soups, and other cooked dishes."

Meal Plan for Monday February 9 - Sunday February 15

   Monday - Charred cauliflower quesadillas
   Tuesday - Mustard-glazed cod with fingerlings and chive puree

On Tuesday we celebrated our 18th month wedding anniversary with a bottle of champagne that my parents brought us back from their 20th anniversary to Biltmore Estate. Patrick proposed at Biltmore!

   Wednesday - Crockpot 3 bean pumpkin chili, cornbread muffins
   Thursday - Honey cashew chicken
   Friday - Linguine with white clam sauce
   Saturday - Breakfast Smoothie
      Dinner Manicotti and mixed greens salad

For Valentine's Day, Patrick gave me some beautiful pink roses and I gave him a six pack of one of his favorite beers [Bell's Java Stout]. Together we selected a new crepe pan for our kitchen. Be on the lookout for a Valentine's post next month detailing our traditional manicotti meal - now made for the 6th year! Hint we rolled the manicotti in crepes!

   Sunday - Brunch Cinnamon Rolls
      Dinner Salmon, orange jicama avocado salad

Challenge Meal Plan Summary: Week 1 Fruits & Veggie | Week 2 Beverages | Week 3 Meat | Week 4 No Fried Foods | Week 5 New Whole Foods | Week 6 Labeling | Week 7 Grains | Week 8 Internal Cues | Week 9 No Refined / Artifical Sweeteners | Week 10 No Refined / Hydrogenated Oils | Week 11 Locally Grown | Week 12 No Added Sweeteners | Week 13 No Artificial Ingredients | Week 14 5 Ingredients or Less

Butternut Sausage Saute

This dish was from the week of our "meat challenge" where any meat was supposed to be local and not the focus of the dish. In this case the sweet Italian sausage was from our CSA and was used to add flavor to the butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and quinoa that made up the bulk of the dish. These vegetables aren't my favorites, but I was impressed with how much I enjoyed this nonetheless, and felt it was reasonably healthy despite the inclusion of sausage.

Butternut Sausage Saute from The Chew
   Time 30 - 60 min | Serves 6
1/4 pound sage sausage [we used 1 lb sweet Italian sausage]
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 cups Brussels Sprouts, quartered [we used ~2 cups]
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 ounces goat cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

   Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil followed by the sausage and chili flakes. Cook, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon until the sausage is nicely browned and mostly cooked through (about 5 minutes). Next, add the butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper and cook until they start to get some color (5-8 minutes). Next, add the Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze.
   Dollop the top of the casserole with goat cheese and drizzle with honey to serve.

We then served with quinoa.

Bread Diary - Whitney's Sourdough

My mom makes amazing sourdough bread. I think she's famous for it in our little town. I, on the other hand, can't quite figure it out. She's passed the starter on to me for the second time now. The first time was about 4 years ago. It's quite a tricky process - you have to keep the starter alive (forever) by feeding it at least once a week, then with the fed starter you can make a dough, and from the dough you make rolls or loaves, let them rise, and finally bake for bread-y goodness. I hear it just takes practice but I think you can see why I didn't keep it up from 4 years ago!

I'm not the most patient person when it comes to figuring things out but I'm still sticking with this starter for the next little bit. Patrick and I are hoping at some point to get good at this bread stuff. My goal is to get a whole wheat bread loaf recipe for sandwiches that we like a lot and stop buying loaves of bread from the grocery store. So with this goal we are creating a "bread diary" on the blog! I'm not sure how many entries it will have but we'll be chronicling our trials and tribulations of bread making here for the next little bit.

We're kicking off the inaugural bread diary post with this little love-hate rant about my mom's Sourdough Bread that I'm still trying to figure out.

Here's the starter:

We have to keep the starter in the refrigerator. Then we take it out and feed it at least once a week. Once we're ready to make bread we must make sure to feed it and before we return it to the refrigerator we take some of the starter out to put into the dough. We make the dough, let it rise for 12 hours, make the rolls/loaves and let them rise for 12 hours, and then bake them. As you can see it's a time consuming process.

If I'm lucky I get something that actually resembles a loaf! There are a lot of deflated rolls and loaves. Right now my biggest problem is getting it to rise properly (or at least I think that's what the problem is).

Here's my most successful loaf:

Next week Patrick will be sharing a post in the bread diary!

Any bread thoughts and/tips to share with us?!

A few breakfasts

Sharing a few of our weekend breakfasts from the past month or so. We're really enjoying having the weekend mornings to ourselves before we tackle house projects or run some errands. Since Week 1 of our food challenge (which focused on adding fruits and vegetables to each meal) we've continued to do it. We both realize the importance of including these food groups more into our diet and are happy to do it. Here's to a lifetime of good health!

Toast with eggs and toppings
To whole wheat toast we added cheddar cheese, over-medium egg, avocado, and bacon. Served with tomatoes and a side of pineapple.

Grits with butternut, beans, and an egg
For the butternut-bean mixture, saute 1 diced onion in extra virgin olive oil and then add the butternut squash. Once they have started to soften add in 1 can of rinsed black beans and warm through. Top this mixture on top of your grits. Then add an egg, avocado, and diced tomato.

With the exception of the avocado everything for these breakfasts were items already in the fridge and leftover from something else so breakfasts are a great opportunity for us to clean out and use produce. I have recently started buying the black beans at Costco because, even though we don't eat them on a weekly basis, we have started eating them regularly enough that I can justify keeping them in the pantry. As with the black beans I have tried to buy avocados more frequently knowing that we can add them to breakfasts. Patrick will make an egg and toast quite a bit before he goes to work so the avocados don't go to waste.

Lemon Chicken Fettuccine

This recipe popped up on my Pinterest feed and I thought it sounded incredibly light and delicious. It's a lemon chicken fettuccine with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes - all things we love. Unfortunately it didn't turn out quite like I had hoped but I still wanted to blog it because I think with a couple of tweaks it could be that incredibly light and delicious pasta dish I envisioned (thoughts below the recipe)!

Lemon Chicken Fettuccine
   Prep time 10 mins | Cook time 20 mins | Total time 30 mins | Serves 4-6
8 oz fettuccine, cooked (we used homemade on this night)
3 tbsp Pompeian Arbequina extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 boneless chicken breast halves, cubed
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pint sweet grape tomatoes, halved
8 oz mushroom slices
¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley
For the dressing
2 tbsp Pompeian Arbequina extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder (substituted 1 crushed garlic clove)
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmesan cheese, optional

   Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add cubed chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper; cook until chicken is browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. Add halved grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and parsley; frequently stirring, continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add cooked fettuccine to chicken mixture and cook until heated through, stirring frequently.
   In a cup or a jar, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper; shake it or stir it until thoroughly mixed. Stir into pasta mixture.
   Remove from heat. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust accordingly. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Serve.

What I'll do different next time
1. The cherry tomatoes completely stewed down into the sauce; next time I will not add them with the mushrooms (and I really started to add them later when I made it but I really wanted to follow the recipe as is). I would add them when the cooked fettucine is added because they just need to be warmed through.
2. Patrick and I both commented that the lemon flavor was lacking; I will do 2 juiced lemons and add some zest to the pasta.

We made the homemade pasta with 100 grams of whole wheat flour and 200 grams of all-purpose flour (our pasta template is 100 grams for each egg and at least half should be all-purpose so that it won't have problems rolling out). Most recipes will say the 100 grams flour/1 egg should be estimated for 1 person but we are finding that, for us, 200 grams flour/2 eggs is appropriate for about 4 servings. 

Served with a side salad and red wine
Nacho and his hippo toy

Meal Plan Monday Post

Nothing too interesting happened last week in terms of altering the meal plan. Our food challenge for Week 4 that we incorporated into the meal plan was to avoid fast food or any foods that have been deep-friend oil. We were mindful of including some of the things we enjoying in previous weeks - mainly eating more fruits and vegetables and including more meatless meals throughout the week.

Week 4: No fast food or any foods that have been deep-fried in oil.

Before I share my thoughts on the week I wanted to include some information from the challenge author to explain things a bit better than I could:
"It's a two-fold challenge where I'm asking people to avoid both fast food and deep-fried food for a week... First off, fast food is defined as “food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away.” Hopefully I don’t need to go into too much detail about why it would be beneficial for you to avoid fast food meals, but let’s take a moment to discuss the reasoning behind deep-fried food. The problem with something being deep-fried is that the food absorbs a great deal of oil during the cooking process. So when you eat the end product you are consuming far more oil (which in most cases is highly refined, i.e. an unhealthy fat), than is recommended.
   For this challenge you must avoid food from:
Restaurants with drive-thru windows. Convenience stores that also typically sell gas. Places where you watch them assemble your food through a glass wall (i.e. Subway). Restaurants that are situated in a “food court” setting in a mall...
   The places where you can eat during this challenge:
Restaurants with waiter service (which aren’t always ideal when it comes to food quality, but we just had to draw the line somewhere). Grocery stores (we recommend hitting the salad bar, vegetable sides and brown rice sushi). Your own kitchen! :)
   Even while you are eating at the “allowed” places you must still of course avoid deep-fried foods, which is trickier than it sounds. If it is crunchy and crispy you need to question it. We were even fooled once by some hard taco shells not realizing at first they probably got their crunchiness from being deep fried in refined oil.
   Some other examples of deep-fried foods to be on the lookout for: French fries. Sweet potato fries. Potato/tortilla chips. Chicken fingers. Chicken wings. Donuts. Corn dogs. Egg rolls. Crispy tortilla shells.
   The goal of the fast food part of this challenge is to force you to figure out alternatives to a Big Mac even when you are starving and on the go. And the key to success is planning ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out where and when you will have your next meal. Consider packing some whole food snacks to hold you over including bananas, apples, oranges, nuts, carrot sticks, popcorn, dried fruit, store-bought bars made with simple ingredients (see below), whole-grain crackers, cheese sticks, etc. Also take the time to pack lunches for work, school, long car rides, and airplane trips."
So with all that being said - how'd we do?! This wasn't a "hard" challenge for us this week. We rarely eat fast food anymore and, of the two us, Patrick sneaks it in more than me during his lunch breaks. Even though this wasn't "hard" we still put in effort to avoid the deep-fried snack foods like potato chips. I don't foresee us eliminating all deep fried foods from our diet but continue as we do - eating them in moderation - which means we'll grab a donut every few months, enjoy black bean potato chips with nacho night, and I don't think Patrick can give up Chick-fil-a.

Meal Plan for Monday February 2 - Sunday February 8

   Monday - Crockpot beef and broccoli
   Tuesday - Creamy mustard chicken, kale Caesar salad

   Wednesday - Crockpot gumbo, brown rice
   Thursday - Friends over for dinner: Chicken tetrazzini, mixed greens salad, pecan pie
   Friday Honey soy broiled salmon
   Saturday - Brunch Oatmeal with Nutella and banana
      Dinner Black bean empanadas
   Sunday - Brunch Drop scones

      Dinner Stuffed sweet potatoes

Challenge Meal Plan Summary: Week 1 Fruits & Veggie | Week 2 Beverages | Week 3 Meat | Week 4 No Fried Foods | Week 5 New Whole Foods | Week 6 Labeling | Week 7 Grains | Week 8 Internal Cues | Week 9 No Refined / Artifical Sweeteners | Week 10 No Refined / Hydrogenated Oils | Week 11 Locally Grown | Week 12 No Added Sweeteners | Week 13 No Artificial Ingredients | Week 14 5 Ingredients or Less


One of Patrick's best friends from college got married over the holidays! They planned a beautiful wedding for the beginning of January. The groom honored Patrick as a groomsman so we wanted to offer to them a wedding weekend party of whatever their choosing would be. We co-hosted with a fellow groomsman and his wife who also live in the area and threw a celebratory New Year's Eve bash in their honor!

Below are all the details. I've included the invitation, menu, a link to the master recipe document, and pictures!

The Invitation and Menu

The Food Spread

The Bar Spread

Savory & Sweet Spread
Tortellini Skewers | Cocktail Weenies, Chips + Salsa, BBQ Sliders

Chicken Salad + Pita Chips | Palmetto Pimento Cheese + Crackers

Cheese Straws | Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes

Chocolate Tray: Oreo Truffles & Fudge | Sugar Cookies

We hosted just under 40 people for the affair. We decorated the house and had 2015 paraphernalia as photo props. As you can see there was plenty of food as well. Visit the master recipe list document here. Some of the appetizers and desserts I had made before and we've shared on the blog; others were a simple throw together, and some were new recipes. I'll link to everything below or give a quick summary for what we did (and visit the master recipe list link above for it). I've also included in italics what I made ahead. By doing a lot of prep work ahead of time I was able to save myself from a hectic rush before the party... there may have still been a rush before the party but it wasn't hectic!

Veggies & Dip
   Ratio of 1:1 sour cream and Greek yogurt mixed with a Ranch seasoning packet.
   Serve with vegetables of your choosing; we did red bell peppers, broccoli, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes.
   The dip was prepared a day in advance.

Tortellini Skewers
   Toss cherry tomatoes and cubed mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil, Italian seasoning blend, salt and pepper. Meanwhile prepare tortellini according to package directions. To serve skewer a tomato, mozzarella bite, and tortellini on a toothpick. 
   The tomato mixture was prepared a day in advance.

Chicken Salad + Pita Chips
   I make my chicken salad to taste - use shredded rotisserie chicken meat, some mayonnaise, a little Dijon, some chopped pickles, salt and pepper.

Pimento Cheese + Crackers
   Took a shortcut here and used Palmetto pimento cheese.

Chips & Salsa
   Combine in a food processor: 3 roma tomatoes - quartered, 2 jalapenos - seeded and diced, half red onion - quartered, 2 cloves garlic, juice of half a lime, salt and pepper. 
   Serve with chips of your choosing. 
   The salsa was prepared a day in advance.

BBQ Sliders
   Another shortcut - pork BBQ from Qshack in the crockpot and served with coleslaw. 

Shrimp Cocktail
   Another shortcut - purchased tail-on cocktail shrimp and served with a Heinz prepared cocktail sauce.

   All desserts prepared a day in advance; cookies and mini cupcakes were frosted day of.

Midnight Champagne Pour 

Guests of Honor

Cheers to the happy couple!
Jake and Natalie - we wish you a lifetime of married happiness! 
Thanks for letting us be a part of your wedding weekend.