Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Autumn Dinner

We celebrated our official introduction to Fall with our best friends this weekend. My parents graciously opened their home to us and we took advantage of their beautiful new outdoor deck.
While planning the menu and cooking, I felt like we were celebrating a "friend" Thanksgiving. I know that Saturday night while I was surrounded by my closest friends, sisters and parents, I was immensely thankful.

Monday, October 22, 2012

FUN Friday!!

It was a Friday night and we didn't have any plans... what to do, what to do?  We decided to go to St. Pete for starters.  Then what?
I happened to look up "wine bars St. Pete" and actually found a really cool wine bar that we have somehow always missed on our (monthly, if not more) trips to our favorite city! 
Wine Madonna is the name and it's located in a really cute courtyard surrounded by other little restaurants (from what we saw there was a beer bar - Ale and Owl or something?  And a quick, sushi restaurant) and they had a band playing in the center. 
I love their motto:

We had a great time and I tried a "flight"... 3 different wine samplings... Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  I liked all but the SB which is very odd for me, since that's usually one of my "go-to" grape varieties.

JD had a delicious Pinot Gris and we will definitely be back!!

After that, we headed over to Cafe Alma for BOGO wine (JD - malbec, Me - Pinot Grigio - shocker) and tapas.  We enjoyed baked goat cheese with homemade marinara and focaccia, spicy shrimp with peppers and a salad with apples and walnuts.  It was light, yummy and perfect.  I also enjoyed our view from the bar...
A trip to St. Pete wouldn't be complete with a stop at my favorite wine bar, A Taste for Wine, where we enjoyed some "bubbly"...

We were able to enjoy at least a half hour there before we jetted across the street to Vue19 at 10:55pm so we could get in free (before 11pm).  We were there for a few hours and it was a lot of fun.  Lots of people-watching, JD danced (I watched), we totally confused the dj with our song requests (apparently if it's not on his computer, he's never heard of it) and enjoyed our view from the 19th floor.
All in all, a great night!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Brussel sprouts

Song of the day, Sidewalk Prophets, Help Me Find It

Moment of Beauty:

I grew up in a family that loathed brussel sprouts, so I just always assumed they must be gross.  My sister however left the nest and found new love in brussel sprouts and introduced them to me.  Still though, I was not convinced....
Reading one of my favorite blogs ohsheglows.com, I read that she roasted brussel sprouts with fingerling potatoes - my favorite potato!  So I thought "what the heck?  Might as well give them another try."
Much to my delight, my local grocery store actually had fingerling potatoes which is an everyday miracle on it's own, so I was definitely convinced that I was meant to make this dish.

Pretty blue potato

Sliced brussel sprouts, sliced fingerling potatoes (some I left whole they were so small) and asparagus tossed in evoo, s&p, 5 cloves of minced garlic and rosemary - roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Delicious!!  Definitely worth the second try!  JD even liked them.  Score!  :)

We were having a "pickies" night, so I threw together another little treat.  Storebought Naan with sliced pears, goat cheese, dried cranberries, pepper and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar - Scrumptious! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall treats

Song of the day:  Gavin Rossdale, Love Remains the Same

Moment of Beauty:

In the latest Food Network magazine, there is a yummy fall recipe for Mulled Apple Cider Cocktails.  In the spirit of forcing fall into my life since the weather is not cooperating (my car said 100 degrees today when I went home on my lunch break... *sigh*), I decided to try them.
They are delicious!!  Definitely a must-do recipe!!  I will be adding these to my fall menu!

The only downpart to this recipe is the price of cinnamon sticks and cloves.  Thankfully the jar of cloves contains so many that I doubt I'll ever use them all before they expire.  Unfortunately though, the $6.99 jar of cinnamon sticks only contain 8, I think and this recipe calls for 3.  Honestly though, it's so worth it!!  One little twist to the recipe is an addition of a splash of dark rum.  We happened to have some lying around (stay tuned for a future post...) and wow!  It took this cocktail to a new level of deliciousness!

Per JD's request, I made a second batch of apple butter, only this time I followed the recipe by choosing different kinds of apples (I think I chose 5 different kinds?).  This batch was so much sweeter that I didn't add any sugar, just a dash of cinnamon and it's perfect!  My dearest sister-in-law, D, received a jar of the first batch and loved it so much that she will be receiving a second jar as a hostess gift Sat. night!  :)

Best part of this cocktail?  Makes your house smell amazing!!

Hawaiian gift

Song of the day: XX, Angels

Moment of Beauty:

Our gift from Hawaii 2006 ~ In bloom for the 2nd time this year

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Breaking the rules... already

I had a cup of coffee this morning - that I made (that's $5 for my "mini vacay" fund) and for lunch, I had OJ with an Emergen-C for an extra vitamin boost and for a zing of energy.  Diet coke?  Nope, not here!  I was jones-ing for one big time, but settled myself with a diet Snapple... I know I said organic, but it's hard to find something organic that is also virtually calorie-free. 
Well, all my effort went out the window when I came back from my lunch break to see this:

My boss decided to surprise me with a diet coke!!  How can I refuse?? 
This is my moment of beauty today... a little gesture gave me a big smile (and a much needed caffeine boost)!  :)


Crepes are French, but when we were in Barcelona, we found this cute little crepe restaurant just a short minute walk from our hotel in the historic district.
We fell in love with these crepes and the cozy, laid back atmosphere... it was one of the few places I felt comfortable going to.

When we came back, we decided to try our hand at making our own.  I quickly realized that I do not have the special, light touch needed to make such delicate pancakes.  JD however, a pro!!  I have (enthusiastically) handed over the torch and I give him free reign of the kitchen on these special nights.
Last night happened to be one of those nights.  Poor JD didn't get home until after 7pm, but after a shower and a glass of champagne, he was ready to crepe!

We use this recipe to make the batter (so, so easy):

You have to be very careful about measuring the right amount of batter to add to the pan.  For our size pan, JD used just a tad less than 1/3 cup.

I was in charge of fillings - here's what I had:
Homemade pesto (made with walnuts since we think JD is allergic to pine nuts)
Apple butter (homemade - see previous post)
Sliced pears
Goat's cheese
Asiago cheese
Maple syrup
Agave syrup
Mascarpone cheese

Our combinations:
Pesto and tomatoes
Asiago and tomatoes
Goat's cheese, pear, agave nectar
Apple butter, pear, lemon zest and lemon juice and maple syrup
Asiago cheese, pear and agave nectar
Mascarpone cheese, pear and maple syrup

The ones we liked the best and will definitely be repeating are (in order of best to better):
1.  Apple butter, pear, lemon zest and juice and maple syrup
2.  Asiago cheese, pear and agave nectar
3.  Goat's cheese, pear and agave nectar
4.  Pesto and tomatoes

We had a great time coming up with new combinations and spent about an hour cooking and eating!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Challenge

My challenge for the next 49 days until Thanksgiving (thanks to Cassie at http://backtoherroots.com/ for this inspiration!) will be:

1.  Volunteer for one day
2.  Log 630 fitness hours
3.  Save $25/week for a "mini-vacay"
4.  Start and finish a creative project
5.  Eat vegan 2 times/week - all day
6.  Eat gluten-free 2 times/week - all day
7.  Replace daily diet cokes with organic beverages
8.  Start and finish, Fighting Fear with Faith by Denise George
9.  Change my thought process (see previous post)

Nine used to be my favorite number, so I think this is a good start!! 
If I reach my goal, to complete each of these tasks in 49 days, than I will treat myself to a mini vacation of my choosing.  More on that later..........
Ready, set, go (okay, starting tomorrow....)!!


This blog started out as a recipe sharing site, mostly for my friends and I to easily access each other's recipes and inspire each other to cook more creatively.
There is a two year gap from when I started this blog and when I returned to it.  During these two years, I was diagnosed with general anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  One therapist said that I had a psychiatric break with reality.  Long story short?  I allowed fear into my life and slowly but surely, it invaded every aspect of my life and reduced me to an empty shell, afraid of my own shadow and lost all trust and faith in myself.  I lost myself and fell down the rabbit hole and for a while, I honestly wasn't sure I'd ever recover.
I was put on all kinds of different medications in order to "fix" the problem.... all but one didn't work.  Two sedated me so much that I was a walking zombie and was numb to everything - everything but fear.  I gained 80 pounds as a "side effect" from several of the medications.  I was chained to pills... taking them at regular intervals, including having to wake up in the middle of the night in order to take another pill.
I finally really broke and wound up in the mental wing of our hospital.  I was there for 3 days.  I was in an outpatient hospital for two weeks.  After that I was seeing a therapist twice a week and a psychiatrist once a week.  My doctors were on speed dial and yes, I used them.
I've never experienced anything worse in my entire life. 
Finally though, finally, I am on my way out.  I have not only seen the light at the end of the tunnel, I have bathed myself in it a few times and have tasted the first glimpses of freedom and peace for the first time in three years.
Why am I sharing all of this?
Two women have inspired me.  backtoherroots.com and ohsheglows.com are two blogs that I am currently following.  They are very different from each other, but what they do have in common is that each are hosted by very strong women.  Women who have been at the bottom and have fought their way back out.  They took a chance in telling their story and they have inspired me to tell mine.
I'd like to say that I have all of these brilliant insights into anxiety and especially OCD, but I really don't.  I'm still trying to figure it out.  But I guess I hope that maybe, some day, someone will read about my journey and feel hope... hope that they can make it out of their current situation too and that there is a better day coming.
Cassie at backtoherroots.com has started a challenge for herself as a motivation to stay healthy and this has really encouraged me to do the same.  In my next post, I will break down my challenge.  First though, I have to back up and explain something....
The past three years, I have used fear and negative thinking as a protection against bad things happening or scarier yet, doing bad things.  If I'm always checking and watching for the other shoe to drop, than I will always be aware of the evil that exists.  Like, if I keep my hand on what I fear, than I will never be caught off guard. 
In almost everything, I accuse myself of being guilty until I can prove myself innocent.
My challenge? 
For the next 49 days, I will stop this thought process.  I will think positively and assume the best of myself.  I will take my proverbial hand off the fear and allow God's Light to fill the spaces where fear has been residing.  I will replace thoughts of fear, worry and doubt with thoughts of love, especially self love.
This will be my hardest challenge for sure.  But that's not enough.... I need to learn to look at myself in a healthy manner, treat myself with love and care and create positive goals for myself.
With that in mind.... my challenge for the next 49 days until Thanksgiving is..............

My loves....

Song of the day: Missy Higgins, Where I Stood

Moment of beauty:

The loves of my life...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Song of the day: Needtobreathe, Keep Your Eyes Open

Moment of beauty:

Food processors and I don't usually get along... I have broken every single one I've ever owned.  I think I overestimate what their capacity is and wind up jamming it or burning out the motor. 
So, I've given up... I have been working with little $5 food choppers for many years.  Amazingly, I've never broken any of those... I just wear them out.
Every recipe that calls for the use of a food processor becomes an annoying task... I have to break apart the amounts and "process" in 2 or 3 batches, rather than just dumping it all in like I see Ina Garten or Giada deLaurentis do on Food Network.  I always watched the simplicity and ease of use with jealous eyes.
Yesterday though, I really wanted to make a recipe for apple butter, but knew it would be a mission with my little chopper.  So I finally broke down and made a trip to the dreaded Walmart.
One panic attack and $69 later, I am now the owner of a fancy new food processor!!  It's GREAT!!  It comes with two bowls - a big one and a little one, a shredder/slicer and all parts are dishwasher safe.  Best part?  For $7, I bought a 2 year warranty, so if I break this bad boy, I'll get a new one for free!
Happy Days!!

Apple butter

It feels like fall....inside.  It's still about 85-90 degrees outside with about 70% humidity (hey, that's low for FL!) and everything is still very green.  Inside in the 75 degree A/C, with the scent of apples cooking and cinnamon, it sure feels like fall in my kitchen!!

I recently found a vegan blog that I really like - ohsheglows.com.  She posted a few days ago a recipe for apple butter.  I read it and it sounded easy enough (you don't even have to peel the apples!), so I decided to give it a whirl.

It's delicious!!  Incredibly easy as well!

First you slice the apples and place them in a crockpot.  (The recipe calls for different kinds of apples, but I only used Mcintosh because they were on sale, sold in bulk.)

Let the apples cook for about 3 hours on high heat (the recipe says 4 hours for 5 lbs of apples, but it took less than 3 hours for me), stirring periodically.
When the apples are soft, mash with a potato masher.
Transfer apple mixture to food processor and puree until smooth.  Transfer back to crockpot and cook at high heat for about an hour, or until it is the consistency that you prefer.  At this point, you can add what seasonings you like.  I added a dash of ground ginger, a dash of Allspice, about 2 tsp of cinnamon and 2 tsp. of ground cloves.  I also added less than 1/4 cup of brown sugar, so my recipe wasn't exactly totally "naked", but for 5 lbs of apples, I didn't think 1/4 cup of sugar was bad!

It's a great blog with all kinds of vegan recipes!


Saturday, September 29, 2012


Song of the day: David Crowder, How He Loves

Moment of beauty:

JD cooking!! We are having calzones tonight - JD's specialty.
What's more beautiful than my man cooking for me, as I sit and watch from my comfy place on the couch sipping AlbariƱo? *sigh* This is contentment. :)

Kiss Your Cares Goodbye

Song of the day: Newsboys, Million Pieces (Kissin' Your Cares Goodbye)

Moment of Beauty:

I have had a slight spending problem lately... on dog treats.  Dog treats are so expensive!!  I have no idea why, but they usually range from $3.75 - $10!  You'd think that I would stick with the lower, but no, just last weekend I spent $8 on a bag of dog bones.  *sigh*  I can't help it; the pups are just so happy when they get a new treat and I can't deny them anything!!
Here is Ellie, happily chewing away on the bed... I love her!!
Happy Saturday!!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Yesterday was a day full of ups and downs.  I had the privilege of being on the outside, looking in on a few lives.  I observed life and it's rollercoaster.  I think the overriding factor in all of the different situations is love.  We are creatures of God's making and we are filled with so much love.  We feel pain because we love so much.  When a friend is hurting, we hurt for them... when we lose a loved one, we feel the loss and when we experience the highs in life, we feel our hearts brimming with this love. 
I think the two things that I learned the most are, to be thankful for all the blessings in my life and how special, loving and compassionate my friends and family are.  God has truly surrounded my life with the kindest and most caring individuals.  I believe that God has filled my heart with love and joy and that these souls who I am connected to, refill this love and joy. 
My mother lost a friend yesterday... a furry daughter.  Her basset hound of 12 years passed away.  We are thankful that for all of those years, we were all able to love her as she loved us.  She brought joy to our lives and smiles to our hearts.  She will be missed. 
My sisters learned of a friend's loss yesterday... a tragedy that never should have happened occurred.  I don't understand why and how evil exists and it's incredibly upsetting when it touches your life.  All I know is that God and His love and protection are greater than this. 
One of my best friends learned that the baby she is carrying is a boy!  Love is brimming over the edge.  While I recognize the losses in this world, I am also reminded of the new life that is beginning. 
When I think of my mother, my sisters, my friend, all I see are bright spots in my life. 
JD told me last night that in darkness, all it takes to overcome this darkness is a single candlelight.
I am thankful that these persons in my life are my candle lights.  And they are burning so bright.
My thoughts, my prayers and my love go out to you... I feel your joy and your pain. 
My song of the day goes out to these loved ones... Sidewalk Prophets, The Words I Would Say

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Things to look forward to....

Song of the day: Natalie Grant, Color Blind

Moment of beauty:

A sneak preview of what's to come at our Fall dinner!!  :)  Can't wait!!

Happy Friday!

Song of the day: Safe and Sound by Capital Cities

Beauty moment

Can't wait to try!!

Thai Noodle and Green Bean Salad

JD has been on my case about eating more salads... I just have never been much of a salad-lover.  I know, I know, I'm a vegetarian, how could I possibly not want to eat salad??  I really think it's because I like my food to be warm... and ofcourse my need for carbs is usually part of the issue too....
Last night I decided to try a new salad, if for no other reason than to prove to JD that I too can eat salad.
Side note: this salad doesn't exactly have leafy greens in it... instead it has noodles.  Hey, at least the recipe calls it a salad!!)

From one of my favorite cookbooks: Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin

Thai Noodle and Green Bean Salad

1 pound spaghetti

3 tbls peanut or canola oil
3 tbls oriental sesame oil
3 tbls lime juice
3 tbls tamari soy sauce
2 tbls brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsps minced gingerroot
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

1 pound green beans, cut in half
3 scallions, very thinly sliced
2 bls finely shredded fresh basil
2 tbls finely chopped fresh mint
1 tbls finely chopped cilantro

1. Boil the green beans for 5 minutes and then submerge in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
2.  In the same pot, boil the noodles until al dente
(to make my life easier, I changed this part of the recipe... I just dumped the marinade ingredients in the same bowl as the veggies)
3.  Make the marinade and then add the herbs, scallions and green beans to the bowl. 
4.  When the noodles were ready, I put them in the same bowl as the marinade and then served. 
The recipe says to let the noodles cool and then mix with the marinade and chill for 2 hours.
Since I like warm food, I served the noodle salad at room temperature and it was great!

Fall, I love you!

Song of the day: Ellie Goulding, Lights

Moment of beauty:

For the past few days, it has been in the low-mid 70's in the morning and I am loving it!!  I have been driving to work with my windows down and breathing in some fresh air, instead of A/C all the time is so refreshing!  This is the perfect temperature... warm enough to still wear sundresses and flip flops, but cool enough to actually want to be outside for more than 60 seconds.  I am savoring these moments.... :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sidewalk Prophets

Today's song of the day needs it's own post. 
I love the Sidewalk Prophets... they are so talented and this recent song (at least new to me) just floored me.  I identify with these lyrics so much.  This song is a wonderful reminder to hold onto faith and continue to trust in God. 

Sidewalk Prophets, Help Me Find It

I don’t know where to go from here

It all used to seem so clear

I’m finding I can’t do this on my own

I don’t know where to go from here

As long as I know that You are near

I’m done fighting

I’m finally letting go

I will trust in You

You’ve never failed before

I will trust in You


If there’s a road I should walk

Help me find it

If I need to be still

Give me peace for the moment

Whatever Your will

Whatever Your will

Can you help me find it

Can you help me find it

I’m giving You fear and You give faith

I giving you doubt

You give me grace

For every step I’ve never been alone

Even when it hurts, You’ll have Your way

Even in the valley I will say

With every breath

You’ve never let me go

I will wait for You

You’ve never failed before

I will wait for You


I lift my empty hands (come fill me up again)

Have Your way my King (I give my all to You)

I lift my eyes again (Was blind but now I see)

‘Cause You are all I need

I feel the winds of change....

With the new season, I feel that I need to clean up my act and maybe break a few bad habits, while instilling some new good ones?  As JD always says, "I feel the winds of change...."
Along with my "song of the day" and "moment of beauty" that keep me focused on positivity, I am starting a "double C" of the day.
I really enjoy having a "coctail hour" every day after work, but my cocktail hour has also turned into, "lazy hour".... I just sit, veg and watch Barefoot Contessa until it's time to make dinner.  Not very productive.
So now I am going to infuse one "C" with another "C"... Chores! 
I'm using another "C" that has been a saving grace for my relationship with JD, so why not use it on myself? - Compromise!
If I want to enjoy a cocktail, than I will while doing a chore!
I think tonight I'll have a mimosa (made with low-sugar/calorie OJ thank-you-very-much) while folding laundry.... and watching BC!  ;)
JD's cocktail hour
Edit:  Make the above-mentioned mimosa, a peach bellini!  The farm stand had these gorgeous peaches that smelled amazing, so 3 peaches, 1 juicer and 5 minutes later, freshly juiced peach juice!!  YUM!!