About Me

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where I also attended college and met the love of my life. I lived in NYC for five years with my husband and Westie, Mack Brown before recently moving all the way across the country to Los Angeles. I'm an amateur chef, total foodie, lover of Westies, sports fanatic and self-proclaimed book worm. You'll find a little bit of all these things I love on this blog. And...most importantly, I'm a new mom to the most precious baby boy, Austn Robert, born this past October.

Amanda

Amanda

Brad

Brad

Austin Robert

Austin Robert

Mack Brown

Mack Brown

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola


This is one of my favorite ways to cook pork chops.  A pizzaiola sauce, plainly put, refers to a pizza sauce, and once you master this sauce, you can use it on anything from chicken and fish to pasta.  It's especially yummy with some mashed potatoes on the side to help soak up the extra sauce.

This recipe is from Giada de Laurentiis' cookbook, Giada's Family Dinners.

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 inch-thick bone-in center-cut pork chops (I've also used boneless chops because bones often skeeve me out, but bone-in chops hold up better and stay more moist)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tsp. herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional--as in, use it if you have it)

*This recipe is very easy to adapt if you're only cooking for two.  Just halve everything!

First, cook the chops.  You'll need to do this in two batches.  Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, and add them to the skillet.  Cook about 4 to 5 minutes per side, until browned.  Transfer the pork chops to a plate and repeat with the remaining chops.  Add more oil to the pan, if necessary.  Cover the pork chops with foil to keep them warm while you make the sauce.


After you pull out the chops, add the onions to the same skillet and saute over medium heat until soft and translucent.  Next, add the tomatoes with their juices, herbes de Provence, and red pepper flakes.  Cover and simmer 18 to 20 minutes, until the flavors have blended together and the juice has slightly thickened.


When the sauce is ready, return the pork chops to the pan.  Spoon the juice over the pork and allow the pork and sauce to marry together for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the pork chops.


Arrange the pork chops on a platter.  Pour the sauce over top and sprinkle with some chopped parsley (if you have it).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summertime Squash Casserole


One of my favorite summer vegetables is squash.  So, when my dad sent some of his homegrown squash all the way to NYC, I knew just what I would make with it....squash casserole.  Yummmmm.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a a delicous-looking lightened-up version of squash casserole in Southern Living.  I decided to try it out, making a few additions and deletions along the way.  It was a scrumptious AND healthier version of one of my all-time summertime favorites.

Lightened Squash Casserole
3 lb. yellow squash
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 c. grated carrots (save yourself the trouble and buy them already shredded)
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
1 (8 oz.) container of light sour cream
1 c. crushed cornflakes
2 tbsp. melted butter

Optional ingredients: The original recipe called for 1/4 c. chopped fresh chives, which sounds delicious to me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any, so I had to leave them out.  I'll definitely add them next time though.  The recipe also called for 1/2 c. of French fried onions as part of the topping.  However, that didn't sound very healthy or light to me, so I doubled the amount of cornflakes to 1 c. instead and called it a day.

Cut the squash into 1/4 inch-thick slices.  Put the squash, onion and 1 tsp. salt in a large pot.  Cover completely with water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 5 minutes.  Drain well.


Add the grated carrots, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and 1/2 tsp. salt along with the squash in a large bowl.  (This is where you would add the chives if you're using them.)  Fold the mixture together and spoon into baking dish.


For the topping, melt the butter and add the crushed cornflakes.  I used a potato masher to crush them, but you could also put them in a resealable plastic bag to crush before adding them to the butter.

Before adding the cornflake topping, I sprinkled a little cheddar cheese on top of the squash mixture, just because, and then I added the cornflakes.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Let it cool for about 10 minutes.  Then, devour!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pintrest and Westie Wednesday


I've recently become OBSESSED with Pintrest.  For those of you who haven't discovered the awesomeness that is Pintrest yet, in a nutshell, it is a website that allows you to collect and organize beautiful/ inspiring things you find on the web.  You get to create virtual pinboards and "pin" your favorite images from the web onto your boards.  You can also follow other people's boards who have similar interests to you and "repin" images from their boards.  It really is SO much fun.  I've seriously wasted spent countless hours in the past week pinning and repinning some pretty amazing things.  If you've never checked out the website, give it a try.  You can thank me later :)

So, since it's Westie Wednesday, I thought I'd share some really awesome Westie "things" I've collected on Pintrest.


This is a Westie silhouette cut-out from a vintage Los Angeles County map.  Since we are moving to L.A. in the fall AND I love Westies, I just had to have this.  I found it on Etsy!  Isn't it terrific?


Super cute Westie bookends from Anthropologie. 



Westie sugar cookies!  And (I've saved the best for last)...


A Westie cake.  Too cute to eat!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grill Time: Turkey Burgers


This is one of my all-time favorite recipes for turkey burgers because it mixes the cheese and the mustard right into the burger.  And, it is a healthy, light, delicious substitute, especially during the hot summer months, for the traditional beef burger.

This is another recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook.

Favorite Turkey Burgers


1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey
1/2 c. finely grated Gruyere cheese
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. dried Italian bread crumbs
1/4 c.  Dijon mustard (I prefer to use grainy so that you can see the mustard in the burgers)
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper


In a bowl, gently combine the turkey with the Gruyere, scallions, bread crumbs, mustard, and garlic.  I like to use my hands, but if that grosses you out, you can always use a fork.  Just be careful not to over mix.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Form the mixture into a flat ball at the bottom of the bowl, and it divide evenly into four sections.  Each section should yield about a 1-inch thick pattie.




Heat the grill to medium high and spray lightly with cooking oil.  Place the patties on the hottest part of the grill until browned, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.  Move the patties to a cooler part of the grill until cooked all the way through.  This usually takes about 8 to 10 minutes per side on my grill, but I use a stove top grill, so you may have to adjust accordingly.

Toast up some hamburgers buns on the grill (or in the toaster if you're less ambitious).  Place the burgers on the buns, serve with your choice of accompaniments--tomatoes, red onions, sliced avocado, lettuce, pickles, mustard, ketchup, etc.), and you're ready to chow down.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Lobster and a Wedding

This past weekend Brad and I attended a wedding for our friends Hoolie and Natalie in York Beach, Maine.  What a beautiful state!  I already knew I loved Maine for its lobster, but I fell in further in love with Maine once I saw it.  From the rocky coasts to the pristine, blue water, I truly fell head-over-heels.


Nubble Lighthouse (makes me think of Pete's Dragon)

The night that we arrived we went out to dinner with friends in search of LOBSTER.  We ended up at a Fox's Lobster House which is located right across from the lighthouse pictured above.  We all ordered the Lobster Shore Dinner which included clam chowder, Maine steamers, lobster (your choice of size), and choice of two sides (I had a baked potato and corn on the cob).  Everything was so delicious and so affordable!



After dinner, we went to a local dairy bar (that's what they call their ice cream shops) called Brown's Old Fashioned Ice Cream.  Brad and I both got mint chocolate chip oreo.  Yummmmmm!


The next day was the wedding.  It took place at Greystone Manor in Cape Neddick, which is owned by the bride's father.  What an amazing home.


The groom is Indian, so the ceremony was a fusion of Indian (Hindu) and Western (Christian) wedding traditions.  

The grooms baraat
The mandap
Wedding favors
Such a beautiful wedding and a truly wonderful weekend!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Creamed Summer Corn



Who doesn't love sweet, juicy summer corn?  I know we all love eating it right off the cob, but that does get a bit boring after a while.  (Plus, it gets all stuck in your teeth!) Here's a simple and delicious recipe that allows you to enjoy the corn OFF the cob!

I got this recipe from Real Simple magazine.

Creamed Summer Corn

4 c. fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 c. half-and-half
salt and pepper

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs.  Here's an easy way to do it: Get a large bowl and a smaller bowl with a flat bottom.  Place the small bowl upside down in the bigger bowl, so that the flat bottom is facing up.  Chop of the top of each ear of corn.  One at a time, place the top of the corn on the top of the smaller bowl and cut off the kernels in steady, downward strokes.



Here's what is will look like once you're finished cutting off all the kernels from the cob.  It does require a little bit of elbow grease, but it's well worth it.


In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the corn, half-and-half, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Simmer until the corn is tender and the half-and-half has thickened slightly.  This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.


By the way, this makes a great side dish for the steak with lime marinade I posted about yesterday!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Easiest 5 Ingredient Marinade



This is my go-to marinade when I want to add a kick of flavor to a steak before grilling.  It's sweet and tangy and simple to throw together.  I usually use the marinade on either skirt steak or flank steak, but it would work well on any type of red meat.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook.

Easy Lime Marinade

1/3 c. fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. peeled & minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes


In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Stir everything together.


Pour the marinade into a a resealable plastic bag.  Add the meat and allow the steak to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the grill to medium high.  Remove the steak from the marinade, season lightly with salt and pepper (keep in mind the soy sauce contains a lot of salt already), and cook the steak on the grill until desired doneness.  General rule of thumb says 6-8 minutes for a medium-rare skirt or flank steak.

Happy grilling!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Enchanted

I went to the Taylor Swift concert Tuesday night with Brad and Sarah, and I was blown away.  I've always been a huge T-Swift fan and I LOVE her new album (hence the reference in this post's title), but I had no idea what I was in store for.  It was one of the best produced concerts I have seen in a long time.  I'm talking amazing scene/ costume changes, flying acrobats, fireworks, confetti, glowing trees--the works.  On top of that she sounded incredible and even played the ukulele for us all.

Ok, enough swooning.  Here are some actions shots so you can see for yourself.








If I haven't convinced you yet that you need to see this concert.  Maybe this video will do the trick.  (I apologize in advance if you can here me singing along.  Woops!)


video


Truly an enchanting night.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Westie Wednesday

Mack with his Aunt Sarah (and the giant squirrel) at the dog park.


We miss you already Sarah!  Thanks for coming to visit us!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mini Golf Monday


One of my favorite things to do during the summer months is play putt-putt.  I'm not very good, but that's never stopped me.  Plus, it's a great way to practice my putting skills just in case I ever really take those golf lessons I keep talking about.

A couple of months ago, I noticed a new mini golf course downtown at Pier 25 on the Hudson.  I've been trying to get Brad to go with me for weeks now, but we've never gotten around to it, so I made Sarah go play with me last night.

The course is relatively small, but if you live in the city or are visiting and are looking for a fun and CHEAP activity, give it a try.  Only $5 person!




If  look closely you can see the progress on One World Trade in the background..  It's the building in the middle with the crane on top.


I tried my best, but the game ended the way most of my putt-putt adventures do....with a loss for me.  


Oh well.  Guess I have an excuse to go play again soon.  Who wants to join me?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

One of my favorite treats to get alongside my coffee when I go to Starbucks is the Reduced-Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake.  (If you've never tried it, you're truly missing out and you should make a Starbucks run immediately.)


I had some leftover bananas the other day that were starting to turn brown, so I decided to try and re-create my own, healthier, but just-as-tasty version.  I found a recipe at Obsessed With Baking that combined both unbleaced,  all-purpose flour and wheat flour.  I decided to use this recipe with some slight modifications of my own.  The finished product (if I do say so myself) was a delicious success.


Click here for the original recipe.  Below is my version.


I began by creaming 1 stick of unsalted, room temperature butter with 3/4 c. of sugar in the mixer and then adding 2 large eggs.  



Before adding the flour I sifted together 1 c. of unbleached, all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp. of baking soda, 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg.  I then stirred in 1 c. of whole wheat flour.

Next, I peeled and mashed three ripe bananas in a separate bowl and stirred in 1 tsp. of vanilla.


Finally, I was ready to begin adding everything else to the mixer.  I added the flour mixture first and then the bananas.  

I, then, turned off the mixture and mixed 1 c. of semi-sweet chocolate chips in by hand.


I poured the batter in a loaf pan and placed it in the oven at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. 


And, out came the perfect compliment to my morning cup of coffee!