Wednesday, November 30, 2011

25 Holly, Jolly Movie Nights!

Sometimes I think I am a 6 year old stuck in a 26 year old's body but in my opinion, life is more fun this way. I believe a younger version of Nina takes over especially this time of year.

Example #1 of my childlike tendencies- The 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family starts tomorrow!! The twenty five day movie marathon kicks off tomorrow with the Nido family Christmas favorite, The Santa Clause. I own this movie, but there is something special about a movie being shown on TV. I'm old fashioned like that.

And if you're really a Yuletide freak like me, you'll head over to ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas official website, and print out your schedule. Holly, jolly movie night wishes to you all for the next twenty five days!

Bacon, Arugula & Tomato Stuffed Chicken

It's always fun to take beloved flavor combinations and give them new life (ie: Israeli Cous Cous that tastes like Thanksgiving or a Sweet Dip that tastes like Pumpkin Pie). Most of my recipes come from inspiration I see on the Food Network or on other blogs or food magazines and of course my parents' cooking but I try, at least once a week, to make up a recipe of my own. This system is working out quite well and I'm building a long index of recipes that I can call my own. WIN.

Last night's dinner was inspired by the classic BLT. We love stuffed chicken breast around here and everyone should know by now that bacon makes everything taste better. Add fresh tomatoes and sauteed arugula for a peppery bite and you have a gourmet weeknight dinner in less than an hour.

Bacon, Arugula & Tomato Stuffed Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups fresh arugula
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup red wine (whatever you have opened in your kitchen)
salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook bacon and after done and removed from the pan, reserve some of the bacon grease. Using the same pan, saute garlic until fragrant then add the arugula until it starts to wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes and crumbled bacon. With all of your chicken breasts laying flat, top each with the filling. Roll up and in a baking dish, cook with the rolled side down so that the filling stays contained. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Cook for 25 minutes or until done.

While the chicken is cooking, slice the Baby Bellas and place in a heavy bottomed pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat. Saute for 10 minutes or so and when the mushrooms are nice and browned, add about 1/4 cup red wine to add flavor and pick up any brown bits from the pan. Serve mushrooms over chicken.

NOTE: If you don't want to roll the chicken, you can use thicker breasts and cut a pocket in them to stuff. Just secure with a toothpick to hold it shut.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Handmade Holiday Cheer: Advent Calendar

Advent is such a special season and growing up, my family created so many traditions that became a fixed part in our celebrations during the month leading up to Christmas. Each week, we would light our Advent wreath and read from a special Advent devotionals book. During these four weeks, among the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, our Advent traditions kept us grounded and reminded us why we celebrate Christmas. While Advent wreaths are lit every Sunday, for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, Advent calendars are typically twenty five days in length and start on December 1st.

My mom and I rolled out the craft supplies while I was home and we spent the majority of our Saturday with stamps, punches and delightful little embellishments. Being crafty and creative with my mom is one of my most favorite ways to spend time together, especially during the holidays. I am absolutely in LOVE with the Advent calendars we made! This was not a quick project but the tiny details are what make this calendar so personal and special. It's not December yet and there is still time to make your own! If after checking your list twice you find you don't have time for this project this year, you can stock up on these supplies so that you are ready for next Christmas!

Here are some up close shots of my favorite details. How cute are the little pearl snowballs, the mini tags, the glitter and rhinestones! I adore mini sized bling.

All of the supplies listed below can be ordered through my mom's Stampin' Up! website. She will get you set up and help you order everything that you need. (you can also access her website through my sidebar to the right. Just click on the Holiday Mini catalog image) If ordering this entire list of materials is a little too much, I suggest at least ordering the stamp set and filling in the rest of the supplies from your favorite craft store. Whether you want to order these supplies or use this as inspiration to make your own version, I promise the work is worth it! All of the calendar squares are glued on a 12 x 12" canvas. A bow is tied around the frame to complete this cheerful creation!

Supplies Needed

HM= Holiday Mini Catalog
IB= Idea Book & Catalog

· 25 & Counting Stamp Set, #123792 wood ($44.95), #123794 clear ($32.95) HM

· Big Shot Die Cutting Machine, #113439 ($99.95) IB

· Peekaboo Frames Die, #124587 ($32.95) HM

· Northern Frost Die, #120901 ($21.95) IB

· Snow Burst Textured Impressions Embossing Folder, #124096 ($7.95) HM

· 1" Square Punch, #124094 ($15.95) IB

· Scallop Square Punch, #119884 ($16.95) IB

· Scallop Circle Punch, #119854 ($16.95) IB

· Doily Triple Layer Punch, #122465 ($23.95) IB

· 1-3/8" Circle Punch, #119860 ($15.95) IB

· 1-1/4" Circle Punch, # 119861 ($15.95) IB

· Postage Stamp Punch, # 122344 ($15.95) IB

· 1-3/8" Square Punch, #119877, ($16.95) IB

· 1-1/4" Square Punch, #119865, ($16.95) IB

· Glimmer Paper, #121792 Red and #124005 Silver, $4.95 HM

· Dazzling Details Iridescent glitter glue, # 124117, $2.50 HM

· Designer Buttons, Holly Berry Bouquet, #125636, $8.95 HM

· Mini Jingle Bells, #124116, $2.95 HM

· Baker's Twine, Early Espresso #123124, $2.95 IB

· Crochet Trim, Victoria, #118481, $6.95 IB

· Jewels, Rhinestones, # 119246, and Basic Pearls, #119247, $4.95/150ct IB

· Holly Berry Bouquet Designer Paper, #124004, 12.95 HM

· Cardstock: Wild Wasabi #108641, Real Red #102482, Early Espresso #119686, Very Vanilla #101650, Whisper White # 100730 (all cardstock $6.95/24 sheets, vanilla and white have 40 sheets/$8.50 IB)

Supplies Note: I realize this list is pretty pricey when you add it all up! I am fortunate that my mother has a craft room filled with everything we need when we tackle a project. She has built her stock over the course of several years. I'm slowly adding to my inventory...

Happy Crafting!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peace, Love & Good Food is Official!

Santa came early and with him he brought me a dot com! As of today, my sweet little blog has moved and can be accessed by visiting the web address below:

You can still use and you will be redirected to the new site.

Thank you all for reading!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I am a big believer in finding joy in the little things. To me, this means taking time out of your day to find extraordinary in the ordinary and being thankful for the things we so often take for granted each day. The more thanks we give in our lives, the more there is in life to celebrate. Though it shouldn’t take one day of the year for us all to be thankful, our minds are naturally drawn to giving thanks during the holidays and especially in the month of November.

It’s my very favorite time of year and we are so lucky and blessed to be able to spend our holiday weekend with the people that we love the most.

A note to the Lovies- I have the Cinzano! Don’t drink the spiced apple cider margaritas until we get there!

Sending love and blessings to you all this Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Handmade Holiday Cheer: Pumpkin & Apple Butter

The most wonderful time of year upon us and I can't keep myself from trying new recipes to share with family and friends during upcoming holiday celebrations. I have a long list of treats that I want to make before Christmas gets here and this past weekend, I started with some seasonal butters! Since we travel for the holidays, I always try to find something that aside from being homemade, will also travel well. I made apple butter in the crock pot and pumpkin butter on the stove in my Le Creuset Dutch oven. Both are super yummy and could not be any easier. I also now the trick to making your house smell all warm and cozy and festive. Ours smelled like a holiday dream on Sunday with these butters cooking! And how darling are these mason jars all wrapped up with a simple bow. These are perfect to keep on hand during the season to give to your friends or to bring some Christmas cheer as a hostess gift at your next gathering.

When I test tasted the apple butter, I felt all happy inside, like the apples and spices were hugging me. It then occurred to me that substituting the apples for pumpkin would be an equally cheerful treat.


Crock Pot Apple Butter
adapted from Bakin' on the Side

7 apples (I used a combination of Honey Crisp and Jonagold)
2 cups apple cider
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. pumpkin or apple pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt

Peel, core and chop apples then add them to the crock pot. Add cider, sugar and spices, mix together well. Cook on high until it starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 6-8 hours, stirring every hour. The apple butter will be very thick and dark brown when done. To get it to the right consistency pulse about 10 times in a blender.

Pumpkin Butter

1 29 oz. can pumpkin
1.5 cups apple cider
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, turn down to low and simmer for an hour until thickened.

*1 batch of both the apple and pumpkin butter fills two mason jars. Both can easily be doubled, tripled, or if you have a gigantic crock pot- quadrupled!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nina + Mark and The Great Whipped Cream Debate

Source: via Nina on Pinterest

The conversations that take place at our dinner table are always the best. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we vent and sometimes we finish dinner with the feeling that we have just made the world a better place and that all problems have been solved. We have even fallen over in our chairs a few times (no lie). Then there are the times that we get on the most random of topics, and just go with it.

I LOVE Thanksgiving and think it might quite possibly be the most perfect day of the year. It's the official kickoff to the holiday season without all of the material things and stress of checked off lists that seem to consume our brain throughout the month of December (I'm just as guilty as anyone). On Thanksgiving, families gather together for cherished time, traditions and enjoy the happiness that is being together. It's a holiday about peace! And love! And good food! Duh.

Being Italian, I often get questions like "do you eat turkey on Thanksgiving?" "Do you eat pasta instead?" Do you stuff your face with pasta first AND THEN dine on the holiday bird". Just because we're Italian does not mean we're un-American! Of course we eat turkey. Lots of it. My mom makes the most amazing stuffing in which she adds Italian sausage...and that's just about as Italian as our Thanksgiving Day gets. We have been known to add the occasional pumpkin gnocchi or butternut squash ravioli to our meal but you will never find a meatball or pile of paparadelle on our Thanksgiving table.

The point of this all being that the Thanksgiving meal we enjoy with Mark's family is so similar to what my family has always made. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce...the works. But where the difference lies is really so trivial, yet huge at the same time. While discussing pumpkin pie last night at the dinner table, Mark expressed his love for cool whip. And not a small puff, a whipped explosion! I explained to him that so much cool whip overpowers the pie and doesn't allow you to savor the pumpkin. It's also way too sweet for my liking, which is why next to homemade whipped cream that my mother so often spoils us with, I prefer Reddi Whip! Growing up, Reddi Whip had a constant presence in our refrigerator and to me, pumpkin pie is not the same without it. Mark tends to disagree. The whipping cream war continues.

So, I'm taking a Thanksgiving poll this Thanksgiving week! What dollop do you prefer on your slice?

P.S. Go Team Reddi Whip!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Grapefruit-Ginger-Honey Dipping Sauce

This is one of those meals in which I assessed what we had on hand, and created it on the spot. I enjoy kitchen challenges like this that force me to think quickly, and use up what we have. Plus, a Saturday night in sounded great to us. Coconut and shrimp is always a match made in heaven and a sweet dipping sauce sounded like the perfect finishing touch. Everything came together beautifully (in under an hour!) and I've already added this to our mile long dinner rotation.

Coconut Shrimp

1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (milk, buttermilk, whatever you have in hand)
2 eggs, beaten
1.5 cups raw, shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning (Emeril's Essence is my favorite)

Soak peeled shrimp in 1 cup of milk for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat 2 eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl, mix coconut together with creole seasoning and set up a dipping station. Transfer shrimp to egg bowl. Take a few shrimp at a time and coat in coconut. Place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until nice and crispy.

Sweet Grapefruit-Ginger-Honey Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup honey
Fresh lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1/2 fresh grapefruit, juiced
1/2 fresh lemon, juiced

Whisk up and use for dipping. This would also be an excellent salad dressing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


How is it Sunday night already!? I need about 27 hours in my day. Or perhaps I could start a petition to make work weeks consist of two days while weekends last for five. Who's in?! I recently started an incredible new job and while I'm loving every minute of it, being on a new "schedule" is really kicking my tail. I talked to my Sweethearts (my grandparents) this afternoon and my Grandma pointed out that she knew that I was busy because I hadn't blogged in a few days! Ha! I think I am finally getting into a groove and after two weekends away, it was nice to finally have a relaxing and productive weekend at home.

1. The clean eating plan was derailed on Friday. Who sticks to eating restrictions on Friday nights anyways? We went to our favorite little Italian Bistro for THE BEST pizza and gelato, Followed by a movie at home. I also brought out the Christmas pajamas. This is our idea of a perfect date night!

2. 2011 seems to be the year of big TV farewells. When Meredith left Today, I got a little teary eyed. Probably a 2 out of 10. When Oprah left, I was a blubbering mess. Definitely an 8 out of 10. I completely cried my eyes out while watching Regis's final show. The tears started when Regis knocked on Kelly's door and did not stop the entire hour. 12 out of 12 for sure.

P.S. And yes, I have always thought that Mark resembles (a more athletic version of) Buble.

3. "Look! I got bangs!!". Remember that from Legally Blonde? Well, it seemed to be the theme this week. My BFF and I were on the same wavelength and didn't even talk to each other prior to our hair appointments. I think I have finally figured out how to style these things.

3. I have had apple butter cooking in the crock pot all afternoon and our house smells amazing! I'll post the recipe this week- wrapped up in small mason jars and finished with labels, these will make such nice little hostess gifts to have on hand during the holidays!

4. Pumpkin protein pancakes sounded like a good idea for a healthy breakfast this morning. There are some things you just can't make healthy. I'm sticking to the unhealthy version from now on.

5. Thanksgiving is Thursday and I can't help but think about all that I have to be thankful for. I also have my Mother's homemade stuffing on my mind. Get in my belly NOW. I cannot wait to drive towards this beautiful skyline!

6. Christmas cheer has entered our home! Well, sort of. I don't like to put up my decorations until after Thanksgiving, but I'm getting everything ready so that when we get home from the Carolinas, we can begin decking the halls. I made some things for our Christmas table scape today and I'll finish up the wreath for my front door before we leave for Thanksgiving. I put up a small tree in my office this weekend just because I couldn't stand to wait!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Clean Eating Challenge

The Moores have had a BUSY November so far and with the most wonderful time of the year upon us, it's about to get even busier. We spent last weekend in Atlanta for our Goddaughter's baptism and this past weekend in Dallas visiting friends who just adopted AND had a baby! When you are with friends you haven't seen in a long time, there's always an excuse to eat dessert and drink those few extra beers. Such a wonderful time we had! But after two weekends away, Mark and I were adamant about cleaning out our systems and eating a super clean diet until Thanksgiving. Travelling tires us out so combine that with indulging a bit more than usual and we are tired, bloated, cranky lovies.

Mark is always game for a healthy challenge but I needed one more person to keep me accountable and my blonde sister (Sophie) was the lucky one! She is the ying to my yang and my accountability partner in so many areas of my life. We decided on Sunday to do this clean eating challenge together in our respective households- everything is more fun with a friend! We came up with guidelines and a shared Google document with our meal plan/ideas for the week. Our focus is lots of lean proteins, vegetables and fruits that are low in sugar and packed with fiber. Since we're really trying to eat clean, we also cut out dairy (eggs are liquid chickens, and therefore, considered a meat), complex carbohydrates and starches. This should go without being said, but ice cream night is cancelled this Wednesday as well as next and sugary treats have been put away in hiding. Sadly, the wine that we both love to sip on while cooking dinner has also been cut out- but just for this challenge!

The meal plan that Sophie and I came up with is so tasty and incorporates bursts of different flavor every night. It just proves that a healthy menu doesn't have to be a lackluster one. Here are some of our dinner choices:

Grilled Ribeye
Baby greens with plum tomatoes, sweet red peppers and dijon balsamic vinaigrette

(minus cheese and breadcrumbs, add mushrooms!)
Pan roasted green beans

Romaine with plum tomatoes, avocado and lemon vinaigrette

Ginger Garlic Shrimp
Roasted broccoli

Lean Sirloin Burgers with Guacamole

Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin

The best part about this challenge is that 2.5 days in and I feel so great! I don't feel as bloated as normal and when I'm full at dinner, it's not the same kind of full as when I go for that extra helping of my dad's Penne a la Vodka or that extra piece of perfect pizza with roasted mushrooms and arugula. I never weigh myself. As in I never do it. Ever. I know it sounds crazy, but my weight usually fluctuates within a 10 pound range and as long as my clothes fit me the same, I feel like I am on track. But when we got home on Sunday, I was curious as to what the scale said. I wasn't mad, but I was on the upper end of my 10 pound area and just feeling blah. Fast forward to this morning (Wednesday) and taking into account that I probably have some extra water weight this week, but I was seven pounds lighter than I was on Sunday! I realize a lot of this is water weight but results are results and as someone who has lost 40 plus pounds in college, seeing my weight go in the right direction in numbers is remarkable and encouraging.

I am by no means a health expert and cannot promise any sort of results. I am just sharing what works for Mark and I when we are trying to detox after lots of over indulging.

Here's to eating healthy before the Holidays!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Neapolitan Pizza Dough

I've been keeping this recipe all to myself for quite a few months now and I decided it was time to be nice and share. Sharing is caring and after all, Christmas is coming and Santa is watching. I wasn't really hiding the recipe though. It was more like 50% of me wanted to surprise everyone with this perfectly crafted and hand tossed dough without giving away the secret just yet! The other 50% of me wanted to make 100% sure that this new dough recipe was not a one hit wonder.

Back in June, Mark and I found the very best pizza in Central Illinois and immediately after consuming it, I went on an obsessive search to find something that would yield mouthwatering results. I found this recipe on a random google search and I wish this guy would start blogging again because this recipe makes him worthy of BFF status. This dough is perfectly airy, delightfully chewy and still strong enough to withstand a topping party.

How adorable is my kitchen assistant? We spent last weekend in Atlanta with our good friends and sweet little Gabi was attached to my hip. She loves to cook and was so excited to help me every step of the way. (while singing "Five Little Pumpkins" of course!) Love her so, so much!

Neapolitan Pizza Dough
recipe from Italialicious

makes two 15" pizzas

5 cups unbleached, all purpose flour, plus more if needed and for dusting
2.5 tsp. dry active yeast
2 cups warm water
1.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water. Add the sugar and set mixture in a warm place for 1 minute. After 1 minute, check to see that the yeast is active, and that there are bubbles on top of the mixture. Let this mixture sit until it almost doubles in size, around 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of flour to an electric mixer, along with the yeast mixture and second cup of warm water. Using a dough hook, begin to combine. Add the salt and mix in. Slowly add the rest of the flour in 1/4 cup increments. The dough will become stretchy and tender. You may need more than 5 cups, you may need less. Pay close attention to the consistency. When the dough has climbed up the hook, it is done.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times. In a large glass bowl, pour about 1/4 tsp. olive oil. Form dough into a ball and transfer to the glass bowl. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

A lot of how your dough comes out depends on the temperature in your kitchen, the yeast and the temperature of your water. My pizza dough never comes out exactly the same every time. Be patient and don't give up! Give this a shot. I promise when you get it, your pizza nights will forever be changed!

Cooking Instructions-

I highly recommend using a pizza stone not only with this recipe, but always. I use this one from Williams-Sonoma. Place pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Once the stone is heated, remove and immediately place rolled out dough atop the stone. The pizza will begin the cooking process before you place it in the oven. Top as desired and cook for 8 minutes.

Friday, November 11, 2011


"Today is definitely brought to you by the number 11" -Sesame Street

Make sure you make a wish and hug a Veteran today!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Brussels Sprout-Leaf Salad

I love brussels sprouts! Now, I realize this puts me in the minority, but I'm more than okay with it. This recipe has been on my recipe radar for quite some time now and I finally made it! We ate this last night with The Barefoot Contessa's lemon chicken breast and all of the flavors married together so beautifully. If the brussels sprouts that made Mark a believer din't really do it for you, don't give up quite yet! I'm convinced that next to roasted, this is the second best way to eat the little fellas. The sprout leaves are so delicate and loaded with flavor. Arugula is the perfect green to pair with them and the endive gives the perfect amount of crisp. I added a teaspoon of dijon mustard to the dressing to give it a little more oomph. And when you make this, don't think twice about leaving out the roasted almonds. That crunchy, toasty bite is the best part!

Brussels Sprout-Leaf Salad
recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
1 tsp. dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

1.5 lbs. brussels sprouts
2 cups baby arugula
1 head Belgian endive, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup toasted almonds, sliced or chopped
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano

Dressing- in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.

Salad- using a pairing knife, remove the outer leaves of the sprouts. Save the cores for another use. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Place the brussels sprouts leaves in the water for 1 minute. Drain, then put in a bowl of ice water, then transfer to a colander to drain. Put the leaves, arugula, endive and almonds into a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss together. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Mantra Challenge

When my dear friend Crystal Muffin came to visit me in September, she shared this idea with me and I immediately knew this was something I wanted to keep up with. It's a great way to start off the week, get things off of your chest that may be bothering you or just spread some loving thoughts and encouragement. I used to be a devoted journal writer but sadly, I have kind of fallen away from it. When I have the time in my day to sit down and write, I blog. I regret not keeping up with a daily written journal right now but I am happy to say that this just may be the next best thing.

Every Monday, Crystal and I send our Monday Mantra to each other. We are brutally honest yet 100% thoughtful. And I believe our outlooks on the week are much better because of it! If you feel up to it, I challenge you to try out the weekly Monday Mantra (or Tuesday, Wednesday... any day!) Scoop up someone who you are not afraid to share with and can just write it all down and reflect. The good, the bad, the ugly and the really good glittery moments. Because we all could use a little sparkle in our day.

Monday Mantra
MANTRA... (quote of the week)

Source: via Nina on Pinterest

Friday, November 4, 2011

Every Girl Needs a Good Twirl...

...and Fridays are the perfect day for doing just that!

Can I also add that the outfit below is perfect in every way. I wish it was practical for real life wear. Giant ruffles, cowboy boots and a perfect buttoned down shirt. I could be happy dressing (and twirling) like this every day.

We're spending the weekend with good friends and my heart couldn't be happier. Hope you all have a happy Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pulled Pork Lettuce Wraps

Crock pot recipes seem to be all over Pinterest lately and as a result of my mindless daily browsing and Pinning, I was inspired to pull mine out. Honestly, my crock pot doesn't get nearly enough love. I have had it for almost two years now (thanks, Andi!) and sometimes, I forget that it's hiding in my kitchen. I'm challenging myself to take advantage of this appliance this Winter because really, it couldn't be easier. The Newlyweds (The McConnells) made this recipe last week and I was instantly cleaning the drool off of my keyboard when MOD sent it to me earlier this week. I added tomato paste, omitted tomato paste and served our pulled pork in lettuce cups with homemade pico de gallo and avocado mousse. Don't turn your nose up when you see cocoa powder on the list of ingredients. I think it's what makes the flavors in the pork pop!

Pulled-Pork Lettuce Wraps
recipe adapted from Real Simple

2 cups store bought salsa (look for low sodium)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1.5 Tbsp. chili powder
1.5 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 heaping Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 lb. lean pork tenderloin with excess fat trimmed off (pork butt or shoulder will work, too)

In your slow cooker, combine salsa, chili powder, oregano and cocoa. Add the pork and turn to coat.

Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Day I Got Retweeted by Giada

You all should know by now that Giada is my go to girl for delicious recipes. I have yet to make something that I don't like. So, last night, I made one of my favorite weeknight meals- Giada's Crunchy Parmesean Chicken Tenders with baked sweet potato fries and a baby greens salad. Every so often, I tweet what I'm cooking and sometimes the link to the recipe, because Twitter is fun for sharing like that.

We gobbled up our dinner, had a nice relaxing evening and when I woke up this morning, I found this:

Mark got up before me and since I am practically legally blind and cannot see the clock across the room, I grabbed my phone to check the time, only to find a Twitter notification from Giada herself! I practically fell out of bed and ran to the living room, my curly hair all over the place yelling to Mark. "SHE TWEETED ME! GIADA TWEETED ME!". If you have been reading this blog for quite some time now, or if you know me well, you know that this made my existence of two plus years on Twitter all worth it! Ha!

And because this event provided me with the type of happiness on par with Christmas morning, I'll share the recipe with you that started it all. These chicken tenders are so easy to make and as you can see by Giada's response, this is a super kid friendly meal. We dipped them in Roasted Red Pepper Pistashio Pesto because every now and then, it's fun to act like a kid. And eat with your fingers.

Crunchy Parmesean Chicken Tenders
recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

Olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
1.5 lbs. chicken tenders
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups freshly grated parmesean
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (I use panko)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Brush 1 Tbsp. oil over each of two heavy large lined baking sheets. Place buttermilk in a large bowl, add the chicken tenders and stir to coat. Let stand 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.

Stir the parmesean and bread crumbs in a pie dish. Add pepper to season. I also add about a half of a lemon's worth of lemon zest. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and dredge them in the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the chicken tenders on the baking sheets and space evenly. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Pistachio Pesto

Pesto is Italian ketchup. It's great for dipping, drizzling and topping. And on a spoon. When I first made this, I walked around the kitchen, shoveling it into my mouth with a mini spatula. When I realized we didn't have enough left to eat with our grilled salmon, I whipped up another batch.

Roasted red peppers are one of my pantry staples and we keep pistachios on hand for snacking. When thrown together in a food processor with some garlic, olive oil and pepper, a magical sauce of sorts is created. This is now the #1 favorite condiment in the Moore house. We have eaten it atop fish and chicken and as an afternoon snack with vegetable dippers. I can only imagine how life changing it would be if you introduced this pesto to brunch and served it over eggs benedict. Or as sauce on pizza. Who am I kidding though? I would be happy eating it as soup. Sigh. If I keep talking about how much I love this stuff, I'll have to go back into the kitchen and eat the rest by way of spoon. Just kidding. Not because I'm not going to do it. But because I already did while Mark was doing the dishes.

Roasted Red Pepper Pistachio Pesto

1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic
10 pistachios
1 tsp. olive oil
fresh cracked pepper

Throw all ingredients into a food processor and blend until you have a nice sauce consistency, but not so much that it is runny. Season with pepper and salt, if desired. (the pistachios add plenty of saltiness)