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.





Austin Robert

Austin Robert

Mack Brown

Mack Brown

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Steak Salad with Red Pepper Relish

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had such a relaxing holiday with our baby boy.  Here he is all dressed up for his first Thanksgiving...

I'll be back later this week with some recipes from our Thanksgiving feast.  Yes, I know Thanksgiving is over, but the recipes I'm going to share can be worked into your everyday menu or {if you're into planning ahead} set aside for a future holiday meal.  I know I plan on making the greens beans with bacon-balsamic vinaigrette again for our Christmas Eve dinner, but I'm getting ahead of myself!

Today's recipe is all about stepping aside from all those Thanksgiving leftovers in our fridge.  If you're anything like us, you've been eating leftovers for days now, and could use a break!  This steak salad is refreshing, simple to make and really delicious.  All you need is a steak {go for a economical cut like a skirt steak or flank steak}, the red pepper relish {which can be made in less than 5 minutes}, and some crumbly blue cheese*.  That's it.  So simple.  So yummy.

*The blue cheese was not part of the original recipe, but a suggestion of Brad's, and a what delicious suggestion it was.  If you don't like blue cheese, though, just leave it off.  The salad would be great without it as well.

Steak Salad with Red Pepper Relish
Serves 2-3 

1 lb. skirt or flank steak
3 large roasted red peppers, diced
{save yourself the work and purchase them jarred}
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
baby romain lettuce leaves
crumbled blue cheese

Turn on the grill and prepare the steak while the grill heats up.  Rub the steak lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper generously.

Cook the steak on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare.  Allow the steak to sit for a few minutes before slicing. {Make sure you slice against the grain, so that your steak isn't tough.}

While the steak is cooking, make the red pepper relish.  In a small bowl, combine the diced roasted red peppers, scallions, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  Add the salt and stir everything together to combine.

Once the steak is sliced, you are ready to assemble the salad.  Layer the steak on top of the lettuce leaves and top with the red pepper relish.  Crumble the blue cheese overtop the relish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

White Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin cookies are easily in the list of my top 5 favorite cookies of all time.  They are also the perfect treat to make for friends and family this time of year to show someone just how thankful you are for them!  I've tried out many pumpkin cookie recipes over the years trying to find my favorite, and I think this year I've finally done it.  What I love about this recipe is the combination of all purpose flour with equal parts whole wheat flour.  The whole wheat flour adds such a unique and tasty texture to the cookies.  I'm also a huge fan of fall spices like allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon, and these cookies pack in all of those.  So in my eyes, these cookies are pretty much perfect.  I added white chocolate chunks to the cookies {because they're Brad's favorite}, but the possibilites are endless.  Not into white chocolate?  Try dark chocolate chunks, walnuts, cranberries, or raisins.  They would all be delicious in these cookies.

These cookies freeze and travel well too, so make some today and take them along with you on Thursday wherever you are celebrating Thanksgiving.  Just make sure you let the icing dry completely first, and then pack them between layers of wax paper so that they don't stick together and ruin your beautiful icing job!

White Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 cup white chocolate chips

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tbsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl {or mixer}, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and pumpkin.

In a separate bowl, mix together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until fully combined.  Gently stir in the white chocolate chunks.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets covered with parchment paper.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove to wire racks to cool fully before icing.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, butter and milk.  Mix together until you have removed all the lumps.  Frost the cookies, allow the icing to set completely and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Menu Monday: Thanksgiving Edition

Menu Monday is back!  Sorry for the unplanned absence last week, but I've planned some really tasty meals for this week to make it up to you :).  Plus, it's Thanksgiving on Thursday, so we are going to be stuffed full of deliousness by the weekend!

I have so much to be thankful for this week, and even though we won't be traveling back east to see our extended families, I'm so excited to spend a long weekend loving on and being grateful for my boys.

Warm Spinach Salad 
with Quinoa & Shiitake Mushrooms

Chicken with Creamy Mushrooms
& Asparagus

Steak Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Relish


Turkey with Herb Butter and Gravy
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Bob's Famous Sweet Italian Sausage Stuffing
Green Beans with Bacon-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Dinner Rolls
Apple Pie

Lots & Lots of Leftovers!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Our Handsome Boy

Here are some of my favorites from Austin's photo shoot this past Monday.  
This kid keeps getting cuter and cuter everyday.

Thanks again to our good friend Nick Onken for the amazing photos.  
You can see more of Nick's work here.
True talent.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Red Wine Beef Stew

Last weekend was spent with two good friends who were both visiting {separately} from out of town.  Our friend Logan was in the area the week before for work and decided to head up to LA and spend the weekend with us.  We've know Logan since our college days.  He and Brad were suite-mates their freshman year and eventually fraternity brothers.  AND, Logan is married to Brad's cousin Margaret.  They met at our wedding {nbd}.  Crazy right?  We missed Margaret, but it was great to get to spend the weekend with Logan and introduce him to Austin.  The boys together...

Our friend Hoolie, who we know from our days in New York, stopped by on Sunday night on his way home from San Fran.  Hoolie conquered his fear of holding babies, and did a great job holding our little bear {even if it was brief...ha!}...

Since these days its easier to eat in than go out with the baby, I cooked Sunday dinner and we all stayed in for the evening.  Stew is the perfect Sunday meal to cook when you have the time to spend in the kitchen and want something warm and hearty to feed a large group of people.  This stew is my absolute favorite.  I love the rich flavor that the red wine adds and the crunch added by the addition of the green beans right before serving.  And, as most stews are, it's even better the next day.  So you can always make it on Saturday to make for an even more relaxing Sunday dinner.

Red Wine Beef Stew

2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper
3 large carrots, halved and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, diced
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups beef broth
2 cups red wine
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 {6-inch} sprig of rosemary
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large handfuls of green beans, trimmed and halved

In a large pot, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter over high heat.  Salt and pepper the stew meat.  Add half of the meat and brown on all sides for 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove the meat from the pan.  Add the remaining butter and brown the rest of the meat for 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium-high.  Add the carrots and onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the flour until it has fully covered the veggies and absorbed any juices.  Now, add the beef broth, red wine, crushed tomatoes and rosemary.  Add the meat back into the pot, and bring the stew to a boil.  Once the stew is boiling, turn the heat down to a slow simmer, and partially cover the pot with the lid.  Allow the stew to simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 50 minutes, add the potatoes.  Cover the pot completely, and cook for another 45 minutes.

Finally, add the beans to the stew and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the beans have just turned green.  Don't overcook the beans.  You want them to have a nice snap still when you bite into them.  {Don't forget to remove the rosemary sprig before serving...nobody wants to bite into that!}

Serve immediately with crusty bread.  {Or...cool, refrigerate, and serve the next day!}

Recipe adapted from Food Network Favorites: Recipes from our All-Star Chefs

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Goat Cheese & Basil

You can probably tell by now that I have a slight obsession with roasted chicken.  I always use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts even when recipes call for boneless because I love how juicy the chicken remains with cooking it on the bone, and I love, love, love the crunch of the skin on top.  It does require a little extra cooking time, but the prep time is always quick, and you can always get other things done while the chicken is cooking in the oven!

This particular recipe is one that has been in my recipe file for a long time courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa {love her!}.  You really can't go wrong with this chicken recipe.  The ingredient amounts are just rough estimates, so use as much {or as little} of the goat cheese and basil as you like to stuff each breast.  I LOVE goat cheese, so I always add a little more than the original recipe actually calls for because you can never have enough goat cheese in my opinion, right?  

Word of caution though: cook the chicken in a pan with a HIGH lip because the cheese will melt and run out of the chicken a little as it cooks, and you don't want burnt goat cheese all over the bottom of your oven.  Because... then your oven will start smoking and ALL THREE of the fire alarms in your tiny apartment will start going off all at the same time, and you and your husband will be running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to turn them all off before they wake the baby.

I might speak from experience there.

Chicken with Goat Cheese & Basil

2 split chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
4 oz. herbed goat cheese, cut into thick slices
fresh basil leaves 
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet with a high lip.  Use your finger to gently separate the skin from the breast of the chicken.  Tuck the goat cheese and basil leaves underneath the skin.  Drizzle olive oil generously over top both chicken breasts.  Salt and pepper each breast to taste.

Cook the chicken breasts in the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked all the way through.  Serve with your choice of veggie on the side.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Easy Shrimp & Grits

I've made many versions of shrimp and grits over the years, but this recipe is by far the easiest, and one of the tastiest, I've ever made and eaten.  It's definitely an indulgence, but an indulgence every now and then, especially on a chilly, fall night, is good for the soul.

Easy Shrimp & Grits

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
4-6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
2-4 Roma tomatoes {depending on the size}, diced
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup grits
3 cups water
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup milk
1/2 c. sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter and 1/2 tsp. of salt to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, stir in the grits.  Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cover.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until thickened, stirring frequently.  Stir in the milk, and cook for another 10 minutes.  Again, stir frequently.  

While the grits are cooking, cook the bacon over medium-high heat.  Once the bacon is browned, remove the bacon pieces from the pan onto a plate covered with a paper towel using a slotted spoon. Set aside while you cook the shrimp.

Leave the bacon grease in the pan, and add the shrimp, tomatoes and green onions.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.  Once the shrimp are cooked all the way through, remove the pan from the heat, and add the bacon back into the pan.  Toss everything together.

Right before serving, add the cheddar cheese to the grits.  Stir until melted.  

Serve the shrimp on top of the grits.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Menu Monday

It's Monday again...how did that happen?!?  Now that Brad has gone back to work, we treasure our weekend time together as our little family of three even more :)  This past Saturday night we even braved a night out with the baby at our favorite local sushi spot.  It was such a perfect little outing.  He slept the entire time, I got to actually eat sushi for the first time in almost a year, and we got to introduce Austin to the staff.  Since we literally went to this restaurant about once every week while I was pregnant, they'd been watching him grow in my belly for months, and they were so excited to finally meet him {even if he was sound asleep!}.

Speaking of food...here's what we're eating this week:

Shrimp & Grits
{leftover from our Sunday night dinner}

Cheesy Turkey Meatballs
with Sauteed Zucchini

Grilled Feta & Spinach Chicken Sausages
with Asparagus

Pork Tenderloin 
with Red Cabbage & Applesauce

Dinner out with Logan!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Whole Wheat Linguini with Shrimp and Lemon-Basil Ricotta

I finally got back into the kitchen Sunday night and cooked my first meal since Austin was born.  I had an idea for a healthy pasta dish in my head, and Brad was nice enough to take baby duty while I spent some time cooking in the kitchen.  Oh, how I'd missed my kitchen.

This dish was the perfect welcome-back dish to make after a couple week cooking-hiatus since it was super easy, quick, delicious, and most importantly, healthy!  I didn't get a chance to take any pictures of the dish, but don't let that stop you from making this dish soon {and next time I make it, I promise to try and take/ upload a photo for you to see!}

Whole Wheat Linguini with Shrimp & Lemon-Basil Ricotta

3/4 lb. whole wheat linguini 
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 garlic clove, minced
2 lemons, zested and juiced
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1-1/4 cups low-fat, part-skim ricotta cheese
4-5 basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas

Fill a large pot halfway full with water, and bring the water to a boil.  Salt the water, and then add the pasta once the water is boiling.  Cook until al dente.  

In the meantime, prepare your shrimp.  In a medium-sized bowl, add the shrimp, garlic, zest of one lemon, salt and pepper.  Toss together. 

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, basil and juice and zest of one lemon. 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the shrimp.  Cook until just pink.  While the shrimp are cooking, add the juice of 1/2 of the second lemon and the frozen peas. Toss everything together. 

Remove the shrimp from the heat.  Add the cooked pasta on top of the shrimp and mix in the ricotta mixture.  The heat of the shrimp and pasta will melt the ricotta and create a thick, creamy sauce.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Halloween 2012

Hope everyone had a fun-filled, candy-filled Halloween yesterday!