Monday, December 20, 2010

By Request, Bolognese

Cozy Sundays at home call for comforting dinners. Comfort food for an Italian is a big bowl of pasta and a glass of wine to enjoy alongside it. I'm sorry to all of the creators of the low-carb diets but I will never be able to fully follow your dietary restrictions. Not only does pasta satisfy my Italian cravings, but it feeds my soul. Mark requested pasta with a Bolognese sauce yesterday and I couldn't have thought of anything better to enjoy on yet another snowy Sunday. I hopped onto the Food Network website and found another winner from my TV kitchen here, Giada. This recipe is full of flavor and quick as an elf to put together. I would have loved to serve this sauce over Paparadelle pasta but unfortunately I could not find it at my grocery store. Linguine was just as good of a vehicle for the sauce but something about those thick noodles are so enticing. There is no need to open a jar of sauce when making it yourself can be so easy.

Simple Bolognese Recipe

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 (28 oz. can) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup flat leafed parsley, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt & Pepper to season

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. When almost smoking, add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onions become soft. Add the celery and carrot and saute for another 5 minutes. raise heat to high and add the ground beef. Saute and stir frequently breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, Season with salt and pepper. Finish by tossing the sauce over cooked pasta and serve with Pecorino Romano.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slow Roasted, Tabbouleh Filled Tomatoes

As I sit here typing away, I am still digesting the goodness that I am about to share. In my blog reading and recipe browsing, I came across this idea and why I hadn't thought of this before, only the food Gods know.

Tabbouleh (pronounced Ta-boo-lee) has been a favorite dish of mine since my mom started making it and packing it in our lunches years and years ago. Tabo-what!? I love telling others what I am making and seeing the confused looks on their faces when they have no clue what it is as well as have no clue how to pronounce the colorful name. Tabouleh is a Middle-Eastern salad made of bulgur wheat, parsley, mint and finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions. Bulgur is rich in fiber and even packs some protein! Tabbouleh has just about the freshest flavor imaginable as all of the ingredients are bound together by a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. I have made a few batches of this Middle-Eastern treat for MM and he loves it as much as I do! Well, tonight I decided to try a new twist on the way I served it. Lately, I have fallen in love with slow roasting tomatoes. After drizzling with a little olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper, something so simple becomes so much more. I recently came across the brilliant idea of slow roasting vine ripened tomatoes and stuffing them. Princess Jasmine's fare immediately came to mind and there was the inspiration behind tonight's accompaniment to citrus cilantro yogurt marinated chicken breast.

recipe adapted from several sources

1/2 cup Bulgur wheat
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
Juice of one lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 drizzles around the bowl)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 vine ripened tomatoes, centers cut out

Cook bulgur according to the directions on the package. Look hard at the grocery store but chances are, your store will have it tucked away. The bulgur will have to sit, covered for up to 30 minutes so while it is sitting, cut up all of your vegetables and herbs. When cutting your parsley and mint, chop it as fine as possible. This will fluff up the final product. Once the bulgur has absorbed all of the water, fluff with a fork and add in all of the fresh ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil, add the juice of one lemon, salt & pepper then mix together. Refrigerate before serving. This can be made in advance and in fact, is better the next day when the flavors have had time to get to know each other and live happily ever after.

Slow roasted tomatoes:
Drizzle the prepared vine ripened tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a 250 degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve tabouleh inside.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moore Christmas Magic

The tree is up and the halls are decked. Casa Moore is looking as magical as ever and the Christmas spirit has taken over. Every corner has been kissed with Christmas...even the air smells festive in here! We made our way in the snow last week to pick out the perfect Fraser Fir. The 10 ft. tall beauty glows (thanks to 1200 lights) in our living room every night and is big enough to even take a nap under. MM and I are both lucky enough to have nice little ornament collections of our own making our tree covered with 59 combined years of beauties. It's pretty safe to say that we have plenty of ornaments...I can only imagine how full our tree will be 10 years from now. I can't wait to keep adding to our already enormous collection. The sweet ornament above was a bridal shower gift from my sweet CAC Muffin. It was the very first ornament that went on the tree!

Being the Sugar Plum Fairy that I am, I had been on the lookout for the perfect Christmas tree skirt since September. I am very particular about this piece of the tree and since this is something I want to have for years to come, I wanted to find just the right skirt. Well, come Thanksgiving, ad the perfect tree skirt had not yet landed in my hands. While home in Charlotte for Thanksgiving, sweet MOD inquired if we had a tree skirt yet. She winked and said nothing more. I don't know how that girl's mind is so in sync with mine, but I swear, she always just KNOWS. No less than two weeks later, did a beautiful package get delivered on our doorstep with the most gorgeous Christmas tree skirt I ever saw! This was our wedding present from MOD and S2H and let me tell you, it was one of the best presents! Not only is it a gorgeous red velvet and ivory trimmed skirt, but it has our name embroidered in the center. This is a fantastic Wedding Gift idea if any of you out there are in search of the perfect something. Our skirt is from my favorite, Pottery Barn, and can be found here.

MM's favorite childhood ornament. He insisted this be in his line of sight.

One of my very favorites when I was little...I love the miniature cookies on her tray and it always reminds me of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters! I do believe this ornament is dated 1989.

Ballerinas and Barbies can be spotted in several spots on the tree!

Red and gold ornaments in candle pillars make great Christmas sparks.

A little holiday pop for our table. Check out the gold and white printed Badgley Mischka tablecloth I found at TJ Maxx for under $20.

Ornaments, ornaments everywhere!

Even my nightstand has a little Christmas bling...MM really didn't know what a sucker for the season I am! There may or may not be jingle bells tucked in his pillow every night, too.

Santa is watching! Look what my sweet mom slipped in my bag when I was home for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowed In

We are officially snowed in and have been relaxing by the light of the Christmas tree all weekend long. It has been the perfect sort of lazy weekend that I have a feeling we will get to enjoy more often now that the wintry weather has arrived. I must have known today was going to be the perfect day for a huge pot of chili...all the ingredients were just waiting to be loved together. I found this recipe from Cooking Light and adapted it a bit, adding some more vegetables, more beans and a little secret ingredient of my own. The original recipe calls for red wine but since I didn't want to waste any of the delightful bottles we have in stock here, I popped open a bottle of Shock Top which ended up giving it the perfect kick! All of the spices mingle so perfectly together that absolutely no salt is needed. Another win for this healthy recipe! I love to make this chili in the crock pot but this recipe is quick and simple and if made on the stove, would take a fraction of the time and be just as tasty! Snuggle up and make this during your next snow day.

Kicked Up Turkey Chili
recipe adapted from Cooking Light

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. ground lean turkey
2 cups chopped onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. finely chopped jalapeno (to cut the heat, remove the seeds)
1 bottle beer
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can light kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can medium chili beans

Cook turkey meat on medium high until cooked through. Mix all above ingredients in a crock pot and stir together. Cook on high heat for 3 hours. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend and cheers to a happy week ahead!! Special thanks and lots of love to my sweet West Coast Lovie for her help with my new blog header and to sweet MOD for the inspiration to freshen things up a bit!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Elf Magic

Dudley the elf is a special little guy and only makes an appearance around this time of year. For those of you who may not know, sweet Dudley flew down to the Nido house a few times during the Christmas season. He is too shy to be around too many humans so he would sneak in after we were fast asleep and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with my Dad. He always left three Christmas treats for me and my sisters and off he would go, back to the North Pole, to finish Christmas preparations. We may be older, but Dudley still flies down on a Reindeer and has graduated to dirty martinis or a nice glass of scotch ;) I can guarantee when MM and I have our own little peanuts someday, Dudley will make some special visits to them, too.

Dudley found his way to the Midwest last night and left us some holiday treats! He usually appears after the tree is decorated but he must have been as excited as we were about the 10 foot beauty we brought home last night that he decided to show up early! I can't imagine what he has up his sleeve after the lights and ornaments go on tonight. A plate of delicious Nighty Night cookies were in the kitchen when we woke up...he was a busy little elf. They sure are sweet but we all know that elves stick to their four main food groups...and they LOVE sugar. He left a few jingle bells in his path to let us know he made a swift visit! I think he even made a little mess in MM's laptop bag.

Nighty Nights

2 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly incorporate sugar and continue beating until all mixed in a stiff. Fold in chocolate chips. My mom sometimes adds peppermint extract and green food coloring for extra holiday cheer. Drop cookies onto cookie sheet. I used a tablespoon but they are much cuter if you use a smaller spoon for little cookies that make sweet little puffs. Place in preheated oven and turn the oven off. DO NOT PEAK UNTIL MORNING!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just Because

Hello, hello! A special little lovie requested I keep my daily posts going. She seemed to be a bit concerned that I hadn't posted anything here I am. I really have nothing profound to share, so here is a quick hello, a little profession of the "ginormous" love for my sisters (Ozzie, too) and some Christmas Miscellany.

Did You Know?
"If Santa's sleigh carried just one Barbie doll and once action figure for every girl and boy on the planet, it would weigh 400,000 tons and need almost 1 billion reindeer to pull it. To deliver his presents in one global night time, Santa would have to visit 1,500 homes a second and, allowing for chimney descents and cookie breaks, he and his reindeer would have to travel at roughly 5,000 times the speed of sound" -Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas, Jonathan Green

If you have seen The Santa Clause, you know that this nightly trip is not only possible, but you saw it happen before your eyes...even with the houses that don't have chimneys.

Happy 24 days until Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deck the Halls

It's December 1st and Christmas is now 25 days away! Thanksgiving brought many blessings and it was such a treat to be back in Charlotte surrounded by so much LOVE. In true Nido style, we laughed, we danced, drank Muffin's legendary dirty martinis and as per usual, had food so overwhelmingly stunning as it was delicious, it could have been on the cover of Bon Appetit. I am literally beside myself with holiday cheer and our house is quickly becoming kissed with Christmas in every corner. I am riding the Holiday High! We're going to get our tree this weekend! I have also requested we pick up Peppermint Mochas at Starbucks on the way so that we can sip on holiday cheer as we pick out the perfect Fraser Fir. I can't wait to carefully unwrap every ornament and tell MM the story of how it came to be. HA!

Although the tree is not going up until this weekend, that has not stopped me from decking the halls in other nooks and crannies! A few weeks ago, I posted some Christmas inspiration from my favorite go- to for home decor, Pottery Barn. Well, last week, I picked up some supplies and a real wreath from a local nursery and created a cheerful and welcoming piece of love for our front door. I found some gold and red ornaments at Target and attached them to my wreath with floral wire. I sat down in front of Oprah's Favorite Things last Monday and started creating. The entire project took all of about an hour and I love the way the wreath looks on our door. Not to mention, the Pottery Barn look alike retails for $79. I made mine for under $20. I can't wait to create a few other special projects I have up my sleeves. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Always in Need of a Sweet Ending

I once heard that "dessert is the point of every meal", and well, it kind of stuck with me. Ending on something sweet is a weakness of mine and MM is quickly becoming more attached to dessert than I am! It's a good thing that 2011 is only a few weeks away and we can make some healthy adjustments to our after dinner sweet fix. Until then, we will embrace the magical flavors of the Christmas and enjoy all it has to offer...and then some! After all, it only comes around once a year. And we don't have any patience for Scrooges, right!? Very good.

While flipping through my December issue of Martha Stewart Living, I spotted a little treat that my taste buds could not resist. I whipped up these little miracles last Sunday night and my taste buds are still dancing. Rarely do I ever have all of the ingredients needed to mix up a spontaneous dessert but this was an exception. I blame it on fate. We just HAD to have them. I have a lifetime love affair with chocolate and never had I experimented pairing it with cinnamon. The flavors worked so well together, giving it that extra kiss of Christmas and holiday cheer. The single tablespoon of Cabernet required for this recipe seem minor but trust me and do not leave this ingredient out. I served our Spiced Molten Cakes with a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a chocolate drizzle.

Molten Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes
Recipe from McCormick Gourmet Collection

4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon or other red wine
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 tsp. Saigon Cinnamon or Roasted Saigon Cinnamon (McCormick Gourment Collection)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir with a wire whisk until chocolate and butter are both entirely melted. Stir in wine, vanilla and sugar until well blended. Stir in eggs and yolk. Stir in flour and spices. Pour batter evenly into 4 (6 oz.) buttered custard cups or souffle dishes. Place on baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand one minute. Carefully loosen edges with a knife and invert onto serving plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trotting, Giving Thanks & A Little Unexpected Treat

The 2010 Christmas spirit has officially taken over. I woke up this morning with "We Need a Little Christmas" stuck in my head and I couldn't help but sing it out loud. I don't even love that song and never choose to listen to it purposefully but being that it's track # 1 on the Christmas album that has pumped up my runs over the past week, I am just going to go with it. As much of a Yuletide freak as I am, Thanksgiving Day is actually my favorite day of the year. I love the joy leading up to Christmas day and the season as a whole. Thanksgiving day is just the beginning, and I love it! With Thanksgiving day and the breath taking eats that seem to always find themselves at the Nido house for the holidays, comes a house full of loved ones, belly laughs and toasting to the holidays with bottomless cocktails. And just so that we don't feel so guilty for eating an absurd amount of food, we all get up and run the South Park Turkey Trot 8k which in my opinion, is our official family kickoff to the Christmas season! The buzzer goes off, we cross the starting line, Christmas music is blaring and we trot our little hearts out. I cannot wait until MM and I fly South to celebrate! We have so much to be thankful for this year.

In the spirit of being thankful and joyful, I have ended my Oprah boycott and am looking forward to starting a Gratitude journal. Oprah introduced this idea a few years ago and I think it is a wonderful idea. I have now heard three people in the past few weeks reference this project and I am feeling compelled to start one of my own. I have always been a fan of journaling but it always comes and goes in spurts. This is the perfect way to get back into it and anyone reading, I encourage you to keep a Gratitude journal not only during the Christmas season, but in all seasons. Our lives today move so fast and it's easy to look past the small things in our days that may make us smile or those moments we want to share with others. It only takes 5 minutes a day and if we get into the habit of highlighting those moments in our days or the people that light up our faces, we may find there are more things to be thankful for than we ever thought. If we focus on the happy, it becomes harder and harder to find a reason to stop smiling. Try it.

And before I end this post, I leave you with another little gem to try...
I am a regular gum chewer but I never get overly excited about finding the "perfect chew". The thought of going without dessert is made a little bit easier with these amazing treats! I was introduced to Dessert Delights last week and it was love at first chew! I have tried all three flavors and the Key Lime Pie has the key to my heart. The flavor has so much dimension that you can even taste all elements of a real piece of Key Lime Pie...even the crust! Call me crazy, but grab a pack of this the next time you are at the grocery store.

Happy Thanksgiving week!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer is SINGING LOUD For All to Hear

I have a weakness for Christmas music. If I could, I would make an excuse to listen to it year-round but that little voice in my head always tells me to save these sacred tunes for their appropriate time of play. This doesn't mean I sneak in some of my favorites in July, but I save up my childlike excitement so I can blast it all season long. I. LOVE. IT. ALL.

Without a doubt, my favorite Christmas album of ALL TIME. It was the first Christmas CD I ever owned and "All I Want For Christmas is You" just might be my favorite song in the history of songs. Yes, it's overplayed, but I love now just as much, if not more than I did in 1994.

These 5 heartthrobs will always make my heart skip a beat. A little bit of Christmas pop from my favorite boy band always makes me smile. I will never stop being a teenybopper. EVER.

I grew up listening to Harry and could sing every song by heart. Because of him, I love the standards and the Classic American Songbook. I love the originals on this album, the big band versions of holiday favorites and of course, some calming tunes for quiet Christmas evenings.

My Christmas music collection is exponentially growing and today, I added a little more sparkle to my Christmas jams. Now, not only have the voices behind Glee changed my TV viewing life, but they have provided me with sweet holiday sounds shuffle in with the rest of my favorites. The entire album is as fantastic as I expected! A great mix of classic songs, pop twists on old favorites, and even a mash-up! Tuesday nights have not been the same since Glee premiered and I think the show is brilliant. Every re-make the cast records is better than the one before. It takes all self control for me to actually stay sitting while I have my weekly TV date. I don't think I have ever loved a show so much, besides Full House. But now that Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) has a recurring role this season...BE. STILL. Getting back to the music that has made me smile all day, I do believe this piece of Christmas bliss now ranks up there with my top favorite Christmas albums of all time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Stuff a Mushroom

Mushrooms. You either love them or hate them. We just so happen to be on the loving end of this spectrum. With that being said, I'm always looking for creative ways to enjoy the mushroom. We love them roasted onto a homemade pizza, folded into a well loved risotto or sauteed into our morning eggs. Last week, I decided it was time to make a star out of our fungi friend. My favorite stuffed mushrooms that typically come from the Nido family kitchen were the inspiration behind this dinner side-dish delight. I must say, for re-creating this masterpiece on my own, after a pinch of this and a dash of that, I think we have a new favorite at our house! I served them alongside Turkey Basil Burgers and a Greek Country Salad.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 pint large baby bella mushrooms, button mushrooms or white mushrooms (Whole)
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
Sprinkles of shredded parmesan cheese
Quick pour of red wine
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil, to drizzle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms and pat dry. Gently snap off the ends and scoop out excess stem in the mushroom cap, leaving a nice sized well where the stuffing will go. Save the stems and chop up into small pieces. Heat a medium sized skillet on medium heat and drizzle olive oil with two swirls of the skillet. Add garlic, shallots and mushroom stems and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After this has sizzled and become fragrant, add a quick pour of red wine. (This was a last minute addition and I do believe this created another dimension to the mushrooms. So much richness in the filling and it really highlighted the flavor of the cooked mushroom) Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, chop fresh flat leaf parsley and place in a medium bowl with some bread crumbs and a few sprinkling pinches of parmesean cheese. Add the sauteed stems, shallots and garlic and mix all together. Carefully spoon the stuffing into the mushroom caps, rounding the filling at the top. Place stuffed mushrooms in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to look "shriveled" and the stuffing is sizzling.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The Beauty of a Frittata..."

When you're a foodie, you are always ready to be inspired for your next kitchen creation. I find that I am always thinking ahead to the next meal and really gearing up those taste buds! As a little girl, my parents would tuck me into bed and instead of reading a bedtime story, I wanted to talk about what I was going to eat for breakfast the next day. Some things never change.

image via {here}

Switching gears for a second, last night, Mark and I went to see "Morning Glory" and enjoyed every second of it. The film was fantastic and Rachel McAdams, as always was just so stinkin' adorable. Diane Keaton is the most gorgeous 60-something and her humor is always on point. Harrison Ford was the icing on the cupcake for this one. I found myself laughing at him the most! I highly recommend this movie...even Mark enjoyed it just as much as I did! And after seeing it, I am still convinced that I need to fulfill my childhood dreams of becoming Katie Couric and work at a news station someday. This will not give any part of the movie away, but a few references to Frittata were made and our mouths were watering. 45 minutes into the movie and we knew what we were having for our Sunday morning breakfast.

When I introduced Mark to this egg delight, he could barely pronounce it, often confusing it with music artist Nelly Furtado. WHAT!? I know, I had the same reaction. A few weekends ago, I made mini frittatas that my sweet friend Allison posted on her blog last month. These were absolutely delicious and after my first attempt at a frittata, I realized, as was also pointed out in the movie last night, that the beauty of them is that they can be made with whatever you had. Thus, the inspiration for our lovely breakfast this morning!

Turkey Bacon, Tomato and Basil Frittata

5 eggs
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes
4 strips turkey bacon, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs and egg whites with the water. the harder you whisk, the more air will be incorporated and the fluffier your frittata will be. Season eggs with a sprinkle of coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. Incorporate tomatoes, bacon, basil and mozzarella, leaving about 1/2 of the cheese to set aside. Pour the egg mixture into a 9 inch greased pie dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top of the frittata. Bake for another 4-6 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Cut like a pie, and serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Heart Pasta

Like every true Italian, I consider pasta as an essential food group. I love new twists on classic pasta recipes and always keep my eyes peeled for creative recipes. Giada DeLaurentiis is usually my go- to for Italian recipes, both classic and trendy. (might I also add that I love her kitchen, her hair and her entire wardrobe!) She uses fresh ingredients and the flavors are phenomenal. Thanks to my Food Network app on my new favorite toy (my iPhone), I have a plethora of Giada's recipes at my fingertips and best of all, video clips! This Lamb Ragut with Mint was a tasty Sunday meal that left our stomachs smiling. The lamb has a unique flavor and gives a traditional meat sauce an extra sparkle. Cooking the lamb with red wine adds a rich element and when the ricotta is added to the sauce, the ever so slight creaminess smooths it out. The addition of mint tossed in with the rigatoni is a wonderful surprise for the taste buds!

Lamb Ragut with Mint
Recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

1 lb. rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup red wine
4 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes until cooked al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook until tender. Add the ground lamb, salt and pepper to flavor and cook until the lamb has cooked entirely. Add wine to the skillet and scrape up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add marinara sauce and cook until the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Add ricotta and stir until mixed. Toss the pasta with the sauce and finish with the mint.

This recipe is 100% food for the soul and thank goodness I married someone who is just as much of a pasta freak as I am. Looks like I'm turning him into an Italian after all.

In other news, I am still pouring over home design blogs and obsessing over do-it-yourself design projects. Anthropologie meets Pottery Barn...I think this is the look I love the most. I can't wait to execute some fun creative projects to share. Happy weekend to you all! I am on my third cup of coffee and cannot seem to get enough of Coffee Mate's peppermint mocha creamer, a.k.a. liquid Christmas. 'Tis the Season!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Twinkle Time!

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away and my holiday heart is glowing! I love the beginning of fall, warm apple cider, pumpkin spice lattes and carving pumpkins. September and October are fresh and inspiring as the leaves change and our days start to chill off. But once November 1st is upon us, my mindset is lit with millions of twinkle lights the aforementioned delights are what make the countdown to Christmas worth it.

It should not be of surprise that I have already brainstormed and found the necessary inspiration to turn our house into a Christmas wonderland in a few weeks. I may or may not have been doing it mentally for several months now! My mailbox was overflowing with Holiday catalogs before October this year. I look forward to these every year as I always draw inspiration and ideas as I snuggle up and flip through the pages. Pottery Barn is a catalog I could LIVE in. I love the classic simplicity of their design. Their rooms have so much character and the details are impeccable. I have dissected the Pottery Barn Christmas 2010 catalog, dog-eared pages and made inspiration boards. My mom and I even had a phone chat and flipped through the catalog together...naturally we loved the same things! It's so much fun to feed off of one another and share ideas. My parent's house is my happy place. I love everything about it and the small loving touches are what make it home. My mom has always had a gift for putting things together and that is, without a doubt, where love for "making nice" comes from. I am so excited I have an entire HOUSE to decorate this year. I may have to start early and naturally, I am not complaining. With a peppermint mocha in my hand and Christmas music in my ears, I'm sure to buzz around like a little holiday elf in no time. Here are a few of my (and my mom's!) favorite Christmas inspiration snippets from Pottery Barn.

This picture says it all. I gasped when I saw this and told Mark that this is my inspiration for our outside decors. I adore houses with wreaths on every window. I have full intentions of giving all of our windows a little bit of wreath love. I love the cluster of ornaments hanging in front of the door and the garland around the columns. I cannot wait to re-create this Christmas dreamland outside of our home!

I love porches. There is something about them I have always loved. The details my mom always gives to her front porch is remarkable and I love to watch it change with the seasons. We love these lanterns to the left of the door and the mercury globes!

When I make my Pottery Barn inspired wreaths, this wreath hanger for the front door is going to be a necessary purchase.

All of the Mercury adds so much sparkle! These vases are uniquely shaped.

With the holiday season, you cannot get enough of all things that twinkle. These Mercury pillars would look great on a mantle with fresh greens, twinkle lights and sprigs of holly berries.

Someday, I would love to have a guest room that I can change with the seasons. Although this bedding is not really "holiday" bedding, the red lends itself to Christmas. I would probably leave this on year round but how charming would this room become with a 7ft Christmas tree in the corner with white twinkle lights and old fashioned ornaments? LOVE.

All images from Pottery Barn

Monday, November 8, 2010

Twice Baked

Pumpkin season is in full force and we just can't seem to get enough at our house. Last week I roasted a pumpkin as a wonderful side dish and yesterday morning we treated ourselves to the delicious pumpkin waffles I made in September. Before the season officially started, I made myself a mental list of everything I wanted to kiss with pumpkin this year and so far the list is well on it's way! I recently made some pumpkin biscotti to send in a few care packages and I could not be happier with how they turned out! Biscotti always seemed so difficult to me but my first attempt was more than a success and most importantly, my special recipients were raving about the little packages that showed up at their doorsteps! These would be great with morning coffee or a nighttime cappuccino after dinner. I added dried cranberries to half of this batch and I wished I had some white chocolate chunks on hand as well. Nuts, dark chocolate and even dried cherries would be great additions to this seasonal treat.

Pumpkin Biscotti
Recipe from Simply Recipes, Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ginger
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and all of the spices into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and stir together to incorporate everything together. The dough will be crumbly when completely formed.

Flour hands and a clean kitchen surface and knead the dough. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Form the dough into a large log, roughly 15-20 inches by 6-7 inches. the loaves should be relatively flat, no higher than 1/2 inch high. Bake for 22-3o minutes until the center is firm to the touch.

Let the biscotti cool for 15 minutes. With a serrated knife, cut 1 inch wide pieces. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Let the biscotti cool completely when done baking. For additional crunch, let sit overnight uncovered. Dunk and enjoy with your morning cup of cheer or bedtime sleepy sips!

Happy Monday, Friends! 47 days until Christmas!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Red Cups!

It's that time of year again. As I say every year, and I will say again, I was born to celebrate this season! The first signs are upon us, in the form on Starbucks beloved RED CUPS! Let's just face it, our seasonal beverages taste better in these. Happy November and more importantly, happy start of the official countdown to Christmas!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Charlie Brown, Coffee Cream Debacle & A Friendly Football Rivalry

One of my favorite TV Specials is on tonight and I could not be more excited! I thought for a moment that I had missed it but alas, at 8pm, I will join Charlie Brown and his pals celebrate "The Great Pumpkin" on ABC. A family favorite that I am so excited to snuggle up and watch tonight! And Shrek is back with a new seasonal special as well. Looks like our DVR will be filled with spooky specials tonight!

{Image via here}

October is almost behind us and I cannot believe that November is just around the corner! What blows my mind even more is that after pumpkin waffles, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin oatmeal cranberry white chocolate cookies and pumpkin muffins, I feel as though I have not used the pumpkin to it's full potential in my kitchen thus far in 2010. Thank goodness in my world, pumpkin season goes through November. On my list to make: Pumpkin Biscotti, Pumpkin Roll, Pumpkin Risotto and introducing Mark to the Italian culinary delight, the gnocchi, pumpkin style. I also have enjoyed adding a little pumpkin spice to my morning coffee cup by way of Coffee Mate. The only catch is that my local grocery store has seemed to skip over fall and go straight to Santa's favorite flavors! As most of you know, I am a self proclaimed Yuletide Freak but let's slow the season down and enjoy it a little, eh? Alas, Target came to my rescue and I was able to scoop up my seasonal coffee creamer. The extra trip is worth it and my first sip of coffee each morning is exquisite and festive. Let's just hope the rest of this town doesn't figure out my secret stash location!

We are headed South this weekend to see dear friends and celebrate a baby baptism! I cannot wait to see the sweet little ones, spend time with friends and have some Halloween fun. Another perk- a little dose of the South! God bless the Midwest but I am in need of a change of scenery and I think this is just what my heart needs.

In other news, the BIG game is this weekend. In the land of college football these teams may be the "little guys" but may I remind you of the "little" school, Appalachian State that beat Michigan in 2007!? Yes, that's my alma mater! Black Saturday is upon us and how I wish I could be in Boone. App State vs. Furman has always been one of the Southern Conference's biggest football rivalries. Being married to a former Furman running back takes this to a whole new level. I have kept the comments clean this week and have tried my hardest to play nice, but yesterday I discovered that my car had been de-faced with a Furman plate! Thank goodness no one in Illinois knows much about the Southern Conference. If I was driving around in Charlotte, my car may have gotten egged. I love you, Mark, but my blood is black and gold and the only place that purple and I get along is when I see it in my closet, not on the football field. Yes, Furman holds the all time record (21-14), but that doesn't mean anything to me. Maybe because when I was in school, we were winning National Championships. If the Mountaineers lose this weekend, I am in HUGE trouble. But I'm a glass half full kind of gal and I have high hopes for the outcome of Saturday's game. Now let's just hope that MM doesn't get upset when he finds out I'm packing my jersey and bringing it to Atlanta!

And here's a quick reminder to VOTE! Just click on that friendly little Nina button on your right. I am on pins and needles and cannot make it to the top 20 without all of YOU. I need all the love I can get. Please make your loving votes every day and share the link with everyone you know! Post it to Facebook, e-mail your co-workers and spread the Peace & Love!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You've Gotta Try This!

We just finished our dinner and I could not help but share this simple marinade to use when cooking salmon or in our case this evening, Steelhead Trout. I'm confident this would be delightful on any piece of fresh fish! I sampled this recipe a few weekends ago from a family friend and it was so tasty! I wrote it down and I must say, another success in our kitchen. I love complicated dinners and spending time in the kitchen, but often times an easy meal that takes less than 30 minutes in the kitchen can taste just as good as a five star dining experience. We enjoyed our fresh fish with Moroccan cous cous tossed with sauteed red peppers, red onions and zucchini, olive oil and then seasoned with cumin and sea salt. Another fast fix and with a little Moroccan flair, and I'm sure Aladdin & Jasmine would approve.

Speedy Salmon Fillet

3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh snipped basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush 1/3 marinade over the fish. Cook for 5 minutes, remove from oven and brush more marinade on the fish, leaving enough for one more brushing. Remove after 10 minutes and brush with the rest of the marinade. Cook for 5 more minutes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010