Thursday, February 28, 2013

{Recipe} ~ Lemon-Basil Ricotta Stuffed Shells

I promised you the recipe from our Valentine's dinner and I am here to deliver.

I wanted a meal that was simple enough but something that still sounded and tasted fancy.

Enter a delicious pasta concoction with champagne cream sauce.

Oh yeah.

Lemon-Basil Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Champagne Cream Sauce
adapted from Simply Scratch


1 box Jumbo Shells, you won't use them all but some may break in the cooking process
8 oz. Part-skim Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of one lemon
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated on the largest holes of a box grater
3 tablespoons of Butter
3 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 clove of Garlic
3/4 cup Champagne
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste


Butter a large {or two small} baking dish and bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with kosher salt. Cook the jumbo shell pasta two to three minutes shy of al dente {or shy of the box directions}.

Mean while, season the ricotta with salt and black pepper. Mix in the lemon juice, zest, fresh basil, and half of the grated pecorino and set aside.

Once the pasta is partially cooked, drain well and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet or some parchment paper. With a spoon stuff enough shells until the ricotta is gone and place the stuffed shells into the prepared dishes.

In a small sauce pan melt three tablespoons of butter; once melted, add in one clove of garlic. Cook until fragrant and soft, but not browned. Whisk in the three tablespoons of flour and cook, while whisking, for a minute. Pour in champagne, still whisk while you pour in the heavy cream. Let bubble {still whisking} until slightly thick 1-2 minutes. Add some fresh ground black pepper, then remove and pour evenly over the stuffed shells.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wanderlust Wednesday

I'm not sure if it's because it's been raining in Greenville since, oh, Thanksgiving, but I have never been more ready for Spring and Summer!

Come May, I've got a pretty exciting lineup of vacations planned for the rest of the year. Bear with me while I dream about the future...

Ryan and I made a pretty spontaneous decision to go to Hangout Music Festival this year! Ryan's been before, and I figure I'm only going to be young enough to camp out in a tent for 3 days and jam out to countless bands on the beach for so long, so this is going to be the year!

We're still waiting on the last headliner to be announced before we buy tickets, but it's a pretty great lineup so far:
The remainder of the month of May is going to be a whirlwind, as Ryan is the groomsman in our friend's wedding in Columbia, SC, and then the next morning we're hopping on a plane to:


My family typically takes a trip around Memorial Day as it always falls on my parent's wedding anniversary. We haven't been out to San Francisco to see my sister in at least a year (she's made several trips back East though), so we've decided to head west for our vacation. If you remember last year, we met her in the middle in Arizona and had a blast.

The agenda is looking roughly like this: 3 days in Lake Tahoe, 3 days in Napa/Sonoma, and a final day traipsing around San Francisco. Rough life.

Ryan has only been to California a few times when he was younger, so I'm excited for him to go back with me! I've already started compiling a list of restaurants I want to hit while we're there (Bakesale Betty's being one of them - Katie start taking notes!)

The best part? I get to cross another state off my list!

Having a relative who lives in San Francisco definitely makes it easier; she's a built-in tour guide! She starts thinking way in advance about restaurants we need to try and makes sure we visit the best wineries. I'm only hoping the weather will cooperate!

I think I've only been able to capture one non-foggy picture of the bridge!
Then we'll be able to sit and enjoy our wine outside!
Bella Wine Cave, Sonoma, CA
As if that isn't going to be the trip of the lifetime, Ryan and I have another trip lined up that I'm super excited about. I love that Ryan's family still lives in Texas, because it gives me a chance to explore a new state all while spending time with them! Last year, we took two separate trips to San Antonio and Dallas but we always lose almost a whole day flying back and forth. 

Ryan's mom and stepdad are generously taking us back to Mexico at the end of July and I'm pretty pumped about waking up to this view again:

And since we're already flying to Texas, I suggested to Ryan that we just take an entire 7 days off and visit San Antonio first before going to Dallas and flying to Mexico. 

You know what else I dreamed up? We can rent a car and stay in Austin for a night or two!

I've only been to Texas twice, but people are always telling me what a great city Austin is, and I've been dying to go. In true Charlotte fashion, I've already started a list of restaurants that we must visit in our 24+ hours in Austin. But I'd love some more suggestions if y'all have them!

Can you tell I'm ridiculously excited for this year? I know March and April will fly by and then it'll be a whirlwind of travel and hopefully moving into a new house (I still haven't found one)!

Do y'all have any fun trips planned this year? Do you have any suggestions for my trip(s)? Napa, San Fran, Lake Tahoe, Texas?!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Life Update

I feel like I just fell off the face of the planet for a week or so!

Let's rewind back to last weekend first.

Ryan and I celebrated our Valentine's Day at home on Thursday night (I cooked dinner - recipe coming soon and we had these for dessert) but we went out on the town on Friday night. I have annual coupons to several of the nicer restaurants in Greenville because of my donations to United Way, and I thought Valentine's would be a perfect time to use one of them!

We went to Soby's, a restaurant that I love but haven't been to again since I've moved to Greenville. We had a fantastic dinner of bacon-wrapped tenderloin and potato crusted flounder and headed home with full bellies.

 Ryan surprised me with these gorgeous flowers Friday night when he came to pick me up for dinner! It was such a different arrangement, which he said he helped pick out! I was proud of him!

I had promised myself I was going to take most of Saturday off from work to catch up on some other things (laundry, packing for Charleston for work) and I'd work Sunday instead. They were calling for snow on Saturday (I never believe them when they say it's going to snow), but Ryan and I headed to Coffee Underground to enjoy one of my rare mornings off.

We made it back to apartment just in time for the "snow" to start falling. We didn't get as much at my apartment as other parts of Greenville did, but it was still fun to be curled up on the couch and watch the flurries out the window!

This was early on during the snowfall

I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing, doing laundry, and napping.

Sunday, I was off to Charleston for a week for work, but not before stopping at The Bohemian for brunch. Their bloody mary bar and jalapeno pimento cheese is pretty hard to resist.

And then, next thing ya know, I was in Charleston!

I hadn't been in Charleston since the Cooper River Bridge 10K, so I was excited to meet up with my bestie, Rachel, for dinner Sunday night. She chose Basil, the most fabulous Thai food I've ever had. Then I was tucked into my hotel for a long week ahead.

While this client was more than exhausting, we managed to hit up quite a few delicious eats while in Charleston. Every night we had such a hard time deciding because there are just too many restaurants to choose from!

The eating highlights of the week: sushi at O-Ku, seafood at Coast, tapas and people watching at Social Wine Bar, drinks at Proof Bar and Pavilion Rooftop Bar, and dinner at my all-time favorite restaurant Red Drum in Mt. Pleasant.

Homemade Sugar and Spice Donuts at Red Drum. Yeah, that happened.
I originally looked into booking the hotel for the weekend and having Ryan come down and join me, but after realizing the rooms were going to be $250/night, I decided we'd stick with our free original plan to go to the mountains for a belated Valentine's getaway.

We drove up late Friday night and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Unfortunately, we woke up to a rainy day on Saturday, but that gave us a perfect excuse to build a fire and not leave the couch all day. I had to work for several hours, but at least I had a change of scenery!

I've been promising Ryan I would make surf & turf for dinner for months now, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to get in the kitchen and try a new recipe. We stopped at the Fresh Market for steaks and lobster before we left Greenville, and I can honestly say we devoured this meal. I'll post the recipe for this lobster mac and cheese this week also! Seriously so good.

We were graced with wonderful weather on Sunday, so we were happy to finally get out of the house! There's a waterfall nearby that I've been to several times but Ryan has never seen, so we hopped in the car for a quick "hike." The road leading to the waterfall is paved and there are even steps down to get the best view, but somehow I'm actually sore today. Can we say, "out of shape"??


That, my friends, is what I've been up to for the past 10 days. I hope to not pull another disappearing act!

And holy crap, it's almost MARCH! How the heck did that happen??!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Happy Heart Day!

I love love.

I love Ryan, my family, my best girlfriends, my coworkers, my big comfy bed, a warm bath and a glass of wine.

What's not to love? This day doesn't have to be about relationship status. Why can't it just be a day for love?!

And what better way to spoil your favorites than with cheesecake stuffed strawberries?

Yeah, I know. Divine.

I was covered in powdered sugar and strawberry juice at 10 pm last night, but I think these will be the perfect end to the dinner I'm cooking for Ryan and me tonight.

And my coworkers are really hoping there will be leftovers for them tomorrow.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
from Iowa Girl Eats


2lbs strawberries
8oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 full sheets graham crackers, crushed

  1. Cut the tops off the strawberries and, using a paring knife, hollow out the insides.
  2. Combine softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together in a bowl, then transfer to a piping or ziploc bag. Snip the corner off the bag and pipe filling into the strawberries, allowing the filling to come a little over the top of the berry.
  3. Pour the crushed graham crackers into a shallow dish or bowl. Dip the exposed top of the cheesecake stuffed strawberry into the crumbs.
  4. Place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

{Recipe} BBQ Chicken Quinoa

I think I've been living under a rock, as this is the first time I've ever made quinoa at home. For some reason, it's always intimidated me! But it's really easy to make, and is so versatile with anything you want to pair it with!

After a weekend of over-indulging, I was in desperate need of some healthy meals this week. I stocked up on fresh veggies and fruits and I've even cooked double so I have a healthy option for lunch the next day (we've been bringing our lunch to the client this week - yay for not eating out)!!

This recipe was so good, and colorful! It has simple ingredients and includes everything I keep stocked in my fridge (tomatoes, corn, lettuce, chicken - I'm down for a Southwestern themed meal any day). I adapted the recipe a little, but the basic principle was the same!


BBQ Chicken Quinoa
from Iowa Girl Eats

1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well
2 cups chicken broth
2 chicken breasts
salt & pepper
2 ears corn, shucked (or 1 cup corn kernels)

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
 1/2 cup black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped lettuce (the recipe called for cilantro but it's not my favorite, so I switched it!)
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup BBQ sauce (plus more for chicken)

  1. Rinse quinoa very well in a fine mesh sieve under cold running water. Combine with the chicken broth in a saucepan then bring to a boil. Place a lid on top, lower heat to medium-low, and cook until quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt & pepper, then grill over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes a side, or until no longer pink in the center. (Alternatively you could poach the chicken, or use leftover or rotisserie chicken.) Add corn to the grill at the same time, and rotate every couple of minutes to evenly char on all sides. Remove chicken and corn to a plate and let cool slightly. Shred or cut chicken into cubes, then mix with enough BBQ sauce to coat. Slice kernels off the cob.
  3. Mix together Greek yogurt and BBQ sauce in a bowl. Evenly divide the cooked quinoa, shredded BBQ chicken, grilled corn, black beans, and shredded cheese between four plates. Drizzle with yogurt and BBQ sauce mixture, then garnish with chopped lettuce.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

{Recipe} ~ Spicy Chicken Rigatoni and Mini Garlic Monkey Bread

I was craving Italian food last week and decided to whip up this simple pasta dish for Ryan and me. The recipe was really delicious and had a pretty good kick to it (I didn't really measure the red pepper, which is probably why), but we both gobbled it up and it made for great leftovers.
The star of the meal though were these adorable mini monkey bread rolls! I seriously think bread is my weakness; I could've eat the entire basket of these. They're the perfect accompainment to an Italian feast!
Spicy Chicken Rigatoni
Sorry for the unappetizing photo!
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 Tbs crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs chopped garlic
  • 6 oz chicken, sliced
  • 3/4 cup. Marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 lb Rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • additional 1/2 t crushed red pepper (for garnish)


1. In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper and garlic and sauté just long enough for garlic to caramelize and red pepper to release flavor into the oil. Add sliced chicken and sauté briefly to coat in spices and garlic.

2. Add Marinara Sauce first and then Alfredo Sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until sauce thickens slightly and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°. Turn off flame, add butter and peas and incorporate into sauce.

3. Toss with the sauce. Place pasta and sauce in pasta bowl, reserving the majority of the chicken to be placed on top of the pasta. Using a rubber spatula, scrape any remaining sauce from the pan to the pasta. Garnish with crushed red pepper and serve.


Mini Garlic Monkey Breadsfrom Life as a Lofthouse

18 frozen Rhodes Dinner Rolls, thawed. OR use 2 (7.5 ounce) cans Buttermilk Biscuits
6 Tablespoons Butter, melted
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons dried Parsley flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons for sprinkling

Thaw frozen Rhodes dinner rolls according to package directions. (Rhodes rolls are what I used. I love them. If you don't have access to Rhodes rolls than just use the canned Buttermilk Biscuits)

Cut each roll into 4 pieces. Set aside. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Place 6 to 7 roll pieces into the garlic mixture and coat with mix. Place 6 to 7 coated roll pieces into one muffin tin. Repeat the process until all 12 muffin tins are full. Sprinkle all the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Serve warm.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Healthy SELF Challenge

I decided, because of Anna's post, to join in on the "Healthy Self" challenge. It's a nice distraction during busy season to give me something to focus on and work towards a few times a week!

the lean green bean
I signed up for the newsletter and am looking forward to February's challenges:
Monday, February 11
Do a workout that targets your legs
Thursday, February 14
Tell someone 3 reasons you love them
Saturday, February 16
Eat the rainbow
Monday, February 18
Tackle a nagging task
Thursday, February 21
Make a green smoothie
Saturday, February 23
Do 3 planks
Monday, February 25
Workout with a friend
Thursday, February 28
Take some ME time
Everyone should join in the fun with us!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The search continues..

I promise I didn't mean to leave you with such a cliffhanger.

But I'm sure you all know by now, if I had good news to report, I would've done so sooner.

The house was a major letdown.

Actually, the house was perfect. Hardwood floors, ample closet space, a garage, an open kitchen with an island and a direct view of the fireplace, and an extra large patio for entertaining with my best friends and family.

The location - not so much. The house was on a busy street and all you could hear was street noise when you stepped inside. This was probably something that wouldn't bother me; I live on a crowded street now. But for resale value, that was a red flag. And that perfect patio I mentioned? It had a direct view of the street. There were no trees, no fence, nothing in the way of privacy. I've been dreaming of the parties I could throw on my non-existent back porch, but I hadn't planned on inviting the entire city of Greenville to watch. Sigh.

So we're back to square one. I have no houses currently in the running as even a possibility, but my realtor promises me the right house will come along.

In the meantime, I'm dreaming up a color scheme for the yet-to-be-found new house.

I want a dreamy, cozy, dark grey bedroom like this one:

A cream, blue, grey, and yellow living room complete with a sectional couch:
And a bright, airy kitchen like this one:
Finding the right house is only half the battle right? Then you get to decorate and furnish the whole thing!
All images via Pinterest.
What's your favorite color scheme? I am 100% a lover of all things blue, if you couldn't tell already.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

And so the house hunt begins..

You know what's probably a really bad idea? Searching for a house during my busiest time of year.

But I just can't help myself! I'm so excited to buy my first house. But the house hunt is already off to a bumpy start.

I've been casually searching for houses online since around October of last year and there haven't been a ton of homes that have caught my eye. I keep saying if I could just pick up my current apartment and move it into a house; that would be my ideal home. I'm apparently pickier than I thought!

I contacted a realtor early in January, and finally got to meet her last week over lunch. She's awesome and I really think she can find me my dream house. Once she started sending me listings, I couldn't wait to start looking. There was one house I kept going back to over and over again that I thought for sure was "the one" so Melissa and I had an appointment to go look at it last Saturday, along with a couple of other houses I liked but wasn't as crazy about.

Then Thursday came with bad news from my realtor. The house I loved had been leased to someone else. The seller got desperate (the house hadn't been on the market that long) and ended up leasing the house even though they knew they had a potential buyer coming to see the house on Saturday.

I thought I was going to cry. I don't know why I was so attached to a house I had never seen, but every time I flipped through the pictures I could imagine myself living there. So by Saturday, I was less than enthusiastic to continue the house hunting because I knew those houses weren't going to be right for me.

Ryan tagged along, entering his commentary where necessary, and summed it up pretty nicely with, "On a scale of 1-10, these houses are about a 5." Whomp whomp.

But I tried not to get discouraged! I went home Saturday and spent endless hours stalking houses again. And you know what I found? My dream house. It is almost the identical layout of my current apartment (open floor plan complete with kitchen island) and it's brand new. Construction complete last month. And the kicker? It's below my price range.

Is it too good to be true? I don't know. I'm going to look at the house tonight with my experts in tow (my realtor and my mom) and I'm hoping to report back with good news.

Have I just jinxed myself?

I sure freakin' hope not.