Wednesday, March 27, 2013

{Recipe} ~ Baked Spaghetti

This recipe could feed an army! I made it a few weeks ago (so much cheesy, pasta goodness - definitely before the Paleo Challenge) and Lauren and I ate it for at least 6 meals. I even halved the original recipe, and managed to fill a 9 x 13 casserole dish!

The best part? I made my own spaghetti sauce in the crockpot! It smelled heavenly when I came home from work. I'm not sure I can ever go back to store-bought sauce again.

Baked Spaghetti
adapted from Plain Chicken

12 oz spaghetti
16 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
8 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces sour cream
3/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese , divided
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
Spaghetti sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, drain.

In large bowl, stir together sour cream, ricotta, half-and-half, mozzarella, oregano, basil, pepper, garlic, salt, and half the Parmesan cheese. Add spaghetti and toss until well coated.

Pour spaghetti mixture into 9x13 pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Top spaghetti with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Cover dish aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes.

While pasta is baking, warm spaghetti sauce in a pot on the stove. Cut the casserole into squares and serve with a topping of sauce!

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff
1 lb. ground turkey
3 Tbl. minced onion flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 cup water
2 Tbl. sugar
1 Tbl. dried oregano
1 Tbl. dried basil
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Cook ground turkey in large skillet until browned. Transfer to 5 quart slow cooker. Stir in all remaining ingredients, mix well. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Happenings

There's been a change of plans!

Instead of starting my Paleo challenge on April 1st, I've decided to start today! That's only because I'm going to need my game face (and party pants on) when..


When Hangout Music Festival released their final headliner (Stevie Wonder), Ryan and I were less than enthusiastic. We were hoping for someone way cooler, and our excitement for the festival quickly waned. We hadn't bought tickets yet, so we just decided not to go.

And then somehow, after my sister was freaking out about John Mayer going on tour again, we were looking at tour locations, and this idea formed that we should go to New Orleans to see him perform at the Jazz Festival. Next thing I knew, our hotel was booked, Katie's flight was booked from San Francisco, and I was making a list of restaurants doing some research on the city!

I am so, so excited about this trip! I've never been to New Orleans and was desperately needing something to look forward to at the end of busy season that wasn't two months away (our trip to Tahoe/SF) (<-- yes, I can be a bit impatient)!

Our plan is to attend the festival on Friday (when John is playing) and then again on Sunday to see Dave Matthews, B.B. King, Earth, Wind, & Fire, etc. and spend Saturday sightseeing! Ryan and I will be making the extra long road trip on Thursday night after work so we can wake up bright and early and get the party started!

Have any of you been to New Orleans? Tell me everything! I've been using my trusty Foursquare app of "must see's" and I already made reservations for us at Emeril's restaurant NOLA. I may or may not be a tad excited. Woohoo!

I'm linking up with Helene for Travel Tuesday!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

House Hunting No More

I suppose the title of this post could be a bit misleading. A "I FOUND THE PERFECT HOUSE AND DON'T HAVE TO LOOK ANYMORE" type exclamation.

I assure you that it is not.

Let me rewind back to last week.

I went and saw another house. It didn't have the same potential as others, but it had a nice brand new kitchen and a cute back porch and fenced-in yard. Suffice it to say, this house sucked in reality. It was the same age as the house I grew up in, but they had made none of the upgrades my parents have made (new windows, new blinds, updated bathroom, etc.) Whomp whomp.

So again, I was back on the disappointment train. When I turned all drama queen on my mom (who kindly drove to Greenville to look at the house with me), she finally said, "Why don't you just stop looking?" And I kind of had this gut feeling that maybe I just wasn't going to find the right house. I kept having an internal battle with myself about upping my budget, but I really didn't want to and didn't need to. So I was back to square one.

And then later that night, I met Ryan and his coworkers at Wild Wings for dinner. One of the couples at the table was married, and I actually adore their house and the location. Somehow we got on the topic of house hunting, and realtors, and Ryan just casually says, "Yeah, I don't really think it's a good idea to buy a house." UM WHAT?! Ryan and I are usually pretty good communicators, so I was kind of just stunned by his statement. I didn't want to cause a scene in front of everyone, so I just brushed off the comment until we got home.

And then the conversation went like this, "When were you planning on telling me that it was a dumb idea to buy a house??!?!?!" I can be such a real treat sometimes.

To be fair, Ryan has told me before that he's not entirely tied to his job here in Greenville. He likes it just fine, but he wouldn't have a problem leaving if he found a new one. He also misses his family, which I completely understand. And he has asked me if I'd be willing to move to Texas with him.

I think I just wanted to buy a house so bad that I figured if I was settled in Greenville, then Ryan would stay and settle here, too, with me. But I'm not really compromising here, am I? I get to keep my job that I love, see my family any time I want, and gallavant around Greenville happy as a clam. That's not fair.

So no matter what the future holds, I decided to put the house hunt on hold indefinitely. And truthfully, I feel kind of relieved having done so. I'll have so much more money to save (and spend!) not having to furnish an entire house upon moving in. My rent currently is cheap, I have an awesome roommate, we live right downtown and 3 minutes from our office, I have a huge bathroom and walk-in closet, and all the space I need. Why did I want to move again?

But thank you to all of you for the kind words of encouragement while I was looking! I really appreciated it and know that it just wasn't meant to be for me right now. I'm already excited about the free space in my brain that won't be occupied by house hunting woes!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge

I have something exciting terrifying exciting news to share!

I've decided to do the 30 Day Paleo Challenge. Eek!

I actually kind of hate any kind of "diet," but busy season has not been kind to me (I've gained 6-8ish pounds since last fall). Don't get me wrong, I'm not doing this challenge specifically to lose weight, because honestly, I just feel like crap. This is meant to be a lifestyle experiment instead of a diet. My stomach hurts all the time and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the amount of processed grains I eat (i.e. english muffin for breakfast, triscuits/popcorn/cheerios as a snack, sandwiches on wheat bread for lunch, rice/pasta for dinner, etc.)

I in no way believe I have a gluten allergy, but I'm curious to see how I feel if I cut these things out of my diet. Another contributing factor is alcohol. And while I don't drink heavily every night of the week, I can definitely tell after a night out that every meal I eat afterwards just makes me feel "off." I can not tell you how many times I've looked over at Ryan and said, "my tummy hurts" (<-- yes, sometimes I act like a child). I think I can directly link it to the food poisoning I got back in July. My stomach hasn't really been right since, and I can't say I've done anything to make it better.

So April 1st is going to be the kickstart of this challenge! It's the end of busy season! I'll actually have free time again! I can leave my computer at work and not think about it until the next morning! I can leave the office before the sun sets and get a workout in! Oh happy day!

While I'm not extremely well-versed on the whole "paleo" thing, and I don't even really like the term, I can definitely work with this graphic of what to eat/what not to eat:

I can already tell you what will be the most challenging: breakfast. I eat some kind of grain every morning, usually along with peanut butter. Both of these are not allowed! Sad. So I'm going to have to get creative when it comes to breakfast, and figure out how to make a smoothie that doesn't involve at least a little splash of milk. I also eat a banana almost every day as a midmorning snack, which isn't allowed either.

Giving up sweets will be no problem at all, seeing as I don't really eat them anyway. I'm going to have a hard time giving up cream and sugar in my coffee (fat free half-n-half and 1 packet of Splenda), so I may end up just giving up coffee altogether.

However, seeing as I'll be out of town for work for an entire week in April, I'm going to try my best to stick to the diet, but I'm kind of at the mercy of restaurants and hotel breakfast buffets. Woof. It's not like I have the option of whipping up a healthy dinner for myself in my hotel room.  I'm not going to be super picky in trying to specify what kind of oil my food is cooked in at a restaurant, and if all else fails, I'll just order a salad sans cheese and no dressing!

Wish me luck guys - I can't wait to chronicle the adventures!

Has anyone tried something similar to this? A cleanse of sorts? I know wholeheartedly that cutting out some of the crap in my diet is going to make a 100% difference. I'm excited!

As a side note, with Google Reader disappearing, feel free to follow me over at Bloglovin'! Just click the button below (and on my sidebar)!

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

{Recipe} ~ Orange Skillet Chicken with Fruit Salsa

A.K.A. one of the easiest, most delicious meals ever.

I loved the look of the recipe when I first saw it (so many colors!), but it forced me to cook with things I hardly ever eat (Oranges? They make my hands smell for days. Kiwi? Ew, they're fuzzy. Pomegranate? How in the heck do you de-seed those things?!)

But I decided to give this recipe a try anyway. And it was freaking amazing. And so simple! All I had to do was chop up the fruit (I cheated and bought pomegranate seeds from Trader Joe's) while the chicken cooked in the skillet and I boiled some brown rice on the stove. Instant delicious dinner for the win!

Orange Chicken Skillet with Winter Fruit Salsa
from Iowa Girls Eats

Ingredients:2 chicken breasts
extra virgin olive oil
garlic salt
1 cup orange juice
1 orange (or two small oranges)
2 kiwis, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

  1. Peel then segment orange over a bowl, squeezing leftover juice into bowl. Add kiwi and pomegranate seeds then stir to combine and set aside.
  2. Brush or mist chicken breasts with olive oil then season liberally on both sides with garlic salt and pepper. Saute over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes a side, or until cooked through. Remove to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Add orange juice to skillet then use a wooden spoon to scrape up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Let orange juice reduce until syrupy. Plate chicken then top with orange pan sauce and winter fruit salsa.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Weekend Update ~ St. Patty's Day + Family

Ryan and I were both pretty darn excited to have his family back in town this past weekend. He only gets to see them a few times a year, so we always have so much fun when they come to Greenville and it's awesome to show them our cute little town!

Friday night, we had a pretty amazing dinner at Rick Erwin's, the well-known (locally owned!) steakhouse in Greenville. The steaks there are incredible and we had a great waiter - he even packed up another two loaves of freshly-baked bread for me to take home! What can I say? This girl loves her carbs.

We always find ourselves at Nose Dive afterwards for shots cocktails.

We might be holding hands here..

Total Bros

Laurel and Scott (Ryan's Stepdad)
Little Bro ("Ryan, your girl makes me look good" - gotta love him!)
 And while I must say, these pictures came out nicely - let me take you on a tour of the pictures that it took just to get 5 presentable ones...

So yeah, there's that.

Ryan hasn't quite figured out that if he just smiled for the first picture, we wouldn't have to take 15 more...

We were all moving a little slow on Saturday morning, but finally made it out to Smoke on the Water for lunch. We wanted to sit outside since the weather was gorgeous (hello 70s and sunny), but everyone else in Greenville had a similar idea. All we needed was some greasy burgers and mac and cheese and we were ready to celebrate St. Patty's Day!
We went to Liberty Tap Room afterwards, since they have one of my favorite outdoor patios. However, all the tables were full there too. We all piled into a booth inside (boo) and settled in for hours to play a game Ryan's brother, Mike, taught us.
Everyone writes down the name of a person (real or fictional) on a napkin and then passes it to another person at the table. You show your napkin to the group, but can't look at it yourself. You then have to ask the group Yes/No questions in order to figure out who you are ("Am I real? Am I female? Am I alive?" etc.) If you get a "no" answer, your turn is over and it moves on to the next person in the group. It's a pretty funny game and keeps everyone engaged and laughing. We played so many rounds, we all finally had to start keeping notes to keep it straight!
Some of the funniest and hardest to figure out amongst the group were Santa Claus, Mrs. Piggy, Smokey the Bear, Forrest Gump, Adam Sandler, and Celine Dion.

Then it was time for dinner! I made reservations for us at Nantucket, since everyone was craving seafood after having steak the night before. Nantucket happens to also be owned by Rick Erwin, and the food is fantastic. I can't say we had a bad dish at the table!
Our girl Victoria is now engaged! Weee!
 We finished the night off with lots of green beverages (they even dyed Ryan's mom's wine green!) at Nose Dive, and Ryan had a drink named after him!
Once the parents called it a night (at 1 am), the kids made one last bar stop, On The Roxx, which is where all good nights should end. They finally kicked us out at 2 am and we had to drag Mike away from the cute bartender. :)
Ryan and I had a slumber party in Laurel and Victoria's hotel room Saturday night, which provided some great laughs. I sure love this family!
Sunday morning came, we had one last meal at Tommy's Country Ham House, and everyone ate absolutely way too much (Mike ordered a patty melt with a side of western omelet). It was hard telling everyone goodbye, but we have Mexico to look forward to!
We got back to Ryan's apartment, and while I'm unloading the car, Ryan thought it'd be nice to take a little nap:
And that pretty much sums up our weekend!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Blog Turns One!

One year ago today, I started this little blog to be my corner of the internet, a place where I could chronicle my "grown-up" life in Greenville, as well as my travels and everything in between. I absolutely love being able to write whatever my heart desires, and then be able to look back on the times.

Thank you to my few readers who come here daily and leave encouraging words. I'm grateful for each of you!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

{Recipe} ~ Chocolate Mint Cookie Bars

These easy cookie bars would be the perfect treat for St. Patty's Day this weekend!

I made them to take to Augusta last weekend, but we were all so full from oysters, I never even got them out of my bag. Plus, the twins had given up sweets for Lent, so I didn't want to tempt them too much.

However, I do believe my coworkers are enjoying them today. Nothing like a good sugar rush to get you through the day!

Chocolate Mint Cookie Bars
from Plain Chicken

1 box yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp milk
1 cup Andes mint chips (I couldn't find these in the grocery store; I chopped up regular Andes mints instead)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cookie spray. Set aside.

Mix together all ingredients and spread in prepared pan. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until lightly golden. Allow to cool completely and cut into bars.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend Update ~ Oyster Roast

It's always hard to go back to sitting at my desk on Monday morning after such a wonderful weekend!

Back in February, our college friends had planned an oyster roast at our friend Drew's house in Augusta, SC. Unfortunately, his fiance Lindsey's grandmother died the weekend we had planned our reunion, so we had to postpone it.

Well we lucked out with our rescheduling, as this weekend was the warmest weather we've had since last fall. I ended up getting quite sunburned after sitting outside for 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday. My pale skin hasn't seen the sun since October!

It's always fun getting back together with college friends. I've known most of them since grad school, although Ryan has been friends with them since freshman year of college. I just kinda adopted them as my friends too.

Here's a few scenes from the weekend:

Side note: The other two girls on the trip, Lindsey and Haley, are identical twins, so you'll definitely have to do a double-take! But after spending the whole weekend with them, I can now official tell them apart!

Clockwise from top left, #1: Haley and Travis (Ryan's roommate) high-fiving. The best part of the picture is Sadie, the dog, sitting in the chair beside Haley. She's totally convinced she's a real person.

#2: Drew and Sadie! Ryan and Drew got the dog in college when they lived together. Drew took the time to train Sadie to hunt with him, so when they graduated, Sadie went to live with Drew. Ryan's still upset about it; he was so excited to spend a weekend with Sadie! All the guys were joking that he loves that dog more than me!

#3: We definitely ate our fill of oysters. We bought 3 bushels for only 8 people. I don't really want to see another oyster for at least 6 months. Haha.

#4: Poor Lindsey got folded up in her tailgate chair! I had to make her smile for a picture before we rescued her.

#5: This is where my sunburn comes into play! The longer we sat outside, the hotter we all got. The sun was beaming down and I finally had to shed my sweater and jeans for a tank top and a pair of shorts! My skin was so happy to finally get some Vitamin D!

And there's a little snapshot of my weekend! The weather is supposed to be gorgeous all week and in the 70's through this coming weekend, which I'm so excited about! Ryan's family is coming this weekend (a St. Patty's Day tradition) and I cannot wait to see everyone!!

I hope y'all took advantage of the gorgeous weather this weekend, too (that is, if it's nice where you are)!

Friday, March 8, 2013

{Recipe} ~ Lobster Mac & Cheese

If you're looking for a decadent recipe, look no further.

This lobster mac & cheese is a perfect way to impress people with your fancy cooking skills, without being overly complicated and dirtying up every dish in the kitchen.

I had never cooked lobster before, so that was certainly an interesting experience. I couldn't bring myself to buy live lobster (obviously), but I picked up a lobster tail and boiled it in salted water. Ryan actually took care of the hard part and peeled the shell away from the lobster meat while I made the sauce. I would've just bought already-cooked lobster meat, but I didn't see it at the seafood counter at The Fresh Market. Better luck next time!

Ryan and I definitely loved this dish, especially since we paired it with perfectly grilled filets. Who doesn't love surf & turf? Between bites, Ryan mumbled something about it being the best meal I had ever cooked for him, so I consider that a huge win!

Lobster Mac & Cheese
from Annie's Eats


Thursday, March 7, 2013

House Hunting Update

I think I've had too many disappointments while house hunting to call this even remotely "fun." I had to wait a few days before I even wrote this update because it's taken me a few days to get over it.

You see, there haven't really been that many houses on the market that I was even remotely interested in. There was the house that I loved but the seller leased it two days before I was supposed to go look at it. Then there was the perfect house in the not-so-perfect location.

This whole time, my realtor kept telling me, "March is going to be the month we find your house. I can feel it."

So on Friday, March 1st, when she sent me a new listing that came on the market that day, in the perfect location, perfect price, perfect size, perfect everything, I immediately emailed her back and asked if we could see it that weekend.

I never heard from her on Saturday. But I was busy working in Anderson and then we had a wedding shower for friends on Saturday night, so I didn't really think much about it.

Sunday morning rolled around, and I texted my realtor at 8 am asking if we could go see the house. She replied that she was busy with showings all day but that she could make an appointment for Monday after work. While this wasn't ideal as I knew there were probably people looking at the house all weekend, I had to agree.

So Monday came along, my mom tagged along to look at the house with me, and I just knew it was the one. I was already planning furniture layouts. The house had double front porches and a back porch. It had the open floorplan I wanted and tons of closet space. My realtor and I set another meeting for Tuesday afternoon so I could walk through the house again and put an offer on the house.

I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I swear I dreamed about that house all night long.

Tuesday came. I went to work. My coworker asked me how the house showing went, to which I giddily replied, "It's definitely the one."

Not 15 minutes later, my phone rang, and it was my realtor. My heart immediately sank because she only ever calls me when she has bad news. Apparently, someone had put an offer on the house Sunday night and the selling realtor had forgotten to update the listing. So basically the house was already under contract when I fell in love with it on Monday night.


Why does this keep happening to me? The house had been on the market less than 72 hours. How is that possible?? As everyone keeps saying, "I know you're disappointed, but it just wasn't meant to be."

Ugh, I know that's true, but sometimes I really hate that saying.

So I've kinda lost interest in the whole house hunting thing. I just don't have the flexibility in my schedule to drop what I'm doing to look at a house 5 minutes after it's put on the market. And I'm not really into this whole cut-throat market where houses are getting snatched right out from under me. Maybe the right house is out there waiting for me, yet to be put on the market.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.