Saturday, December 29, 2012

For the Four Legged Furry Foodie

Amidst the delicious holiday baking that happened in my kitchen this Christmas season, it dawned on me that my curly little (giant) doodle monster deserved some special Christmas treats, too. Dogs may not have the sophisticated palates of us humans, but that certainly doesn't mean they can't be spoiled every now and then.

I found this dog treat recipe via Pinterest and it couldn't have been easier. With only four ingredients, I feel good about giving these to the Wrigster. We made one batch of these cuties and packaged them up for some of Wrigley's furry friends and still have a tupperware full in our pantry. Christmas trees, fire hydrants and hearts! What more could a dog want? 

We loved spreading a little Christmas cheer to Doodles and dog cousins far and near.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
recipe via Brown Eyed Baker

1 cup all natural peanut butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl, combine flour and baking powder and whisk together. In another bowl, mix milk and peanut butter. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix well, creating a dough.

Knead dough and roll out to 1/4" thickness on a floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly brown. 

Store in an airtight container.

 *These treats have been taste tested and approved by Wrigley Leonard Moore.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone peace, love and a very Merry Christmas.

Mark, Nina, Wrigley and our first little lovie (arriving in June 2013!!!)

P.S. Yes. #wearehavingababy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dark Chocolate and Mint Chip Clouds: Hey, That's Pin-Tastic!

Today's pin-tastic post is brought to you by the fabulous Skinny Taste. Mint + chocolate + clouds in the same sentence as pertaining to dessert? It's a dream come true. 

These minty cloud like cookies are puffs of dreamy delight that literally melt in your mouth. Ashley treated me to these last week after our Monday night workout and I have already whipped up two batches of these sweet clouds. Even my "I kind of prefer a cookie with more substance, you Nido lovies love anything that's entirely sugar" speaking husband can't help but grab a cloud to go when he passes through the kitchen. 

These light and airy cookies make a great addition on a cookie plate delivered to neighbors or on a dessert at a Christmas party!

Minty fresh. 

Dark Chocolate and Mint Chip Clouds
recipe from Skinny Taste

3 large egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup dark chocolate and mint morsels (Nestle)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cover a nonstick cookie sheet with a silicone pad or parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together in large bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar a little at a time, then vanilla, beating well after each addition until you get stiff peaks, the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is glossy.

Fold in mint chocolate chips. Drop mixture by tablespoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or just until dry. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet. Cool completely on wire rack. Store covered, at room temperature. Makes about 30 cookies.

NOTE: I found these Nestle Dark Chocolate + Mint Morsels at Target.


Check out all of the other  pin-tastic delights on I Love You More Than Carrots!

i love you more than carrots

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Visit from Dudley the Elf

The air always has a little bit more magic in it at the Nido house. I may be biased, but I only speak from my heart. Add the red twinkle lights, the smell of sugar cookies and cinnamon and a mile long list of traditions and the magic can be felt from miles around. My family is pretty darn amazing.

The story of Dudley the elf made its debut on my blog last year and it deserves to be shared every year. There is nothing quite like it and I am fairly confident that this perfect little elf is most likely what caused the Christmas crazed girl in me. I'll never stop believing. Thanks, Dad. 


Long before Elf on a Shelf, the Nido girls had an annual, magical visitor straight from the North Pole. Too shy to see us, he would appear after we were asleep, and visit with my dad over mugs of hot cocoa. His visit came after our family tree was lit with red lights and decorated from head to toe. This is a tale, as told by my dad, is near and dear to my heart. So many of my favorite memories of the magic of Christmas, all lead back to Dudley the elf.

The Tale of a North Pole Ambassador
written by: The Elf Whisperer

On a snowy winter’s evening in mid-December 1989, after locking the doors and taking a gander at the sparkle and glow of our home we created for Christmas, I reduced everything to darkness and was headed up the stairs when I was startled by a rustling noise coming from the direction of our kitchen. Frightened, I eased my way down the steps and around the corner, only to find a strange little man sitting at the kitchen table. He had a luminescent glow about him and was so short that his feet didn’t even touch the floor. He smiled, but didn’t say a word. Suddenly, I felt I was having some crazy dream, until he spoke.

“Where are the girls?” he said.

Okay, I thought that maybe I’m crazy, but I’ll play along so he won’t harm me. “They’re in bed”, I said.

“Did Nina say her prayers?” he asked.

How does he know her name, I wondered? I wasn’t sure what to do next but he seemed pleasant enough, so I answered his questions. “Yes she did” I said.

“But, before that you had to discuss what she was going to have for breakfast in the morning” he said. “Her palate is quite mature for her young age. That’s going to be trouble for you when she grows up”.


He squinted and the corner of his mouth turned up in a half-smile that told me he knows more than I can ever imagine. “What about Andi? Has she quit talking and gone to sleep yet?” he said.

Now I was worried. He knew too much about my precious girls for my liking. “What do you want, and who are you anyway?”

“The name’s Dudley and I come from the North Pole. I’m the Chief Elf and everything goes through me.”

“How did you get here and why did you choose us?”

“Serendipity” he said. “I was out for a ride and saw the warm red glow from your Christmas tree. I couldn’t resist.”

“Okay, so what do you want from me?”

“Just a mug of hot cocoa.”

Still wary of this funny-looking little fellow, I asked how he got here. “Olaf” he said

“Pardon me?”

“Olaf” he said again.

“Is that a foreign car I’ve never heard of?” I said.

“No. He’s a reindeer. One of the spare ones. My favorite. Let me show you.”

He led me out to the porch where to my astonishment, was a large smiling reindeer. He had a fuzzy brown rack with enough points to hang 20 stocking caps, bells around his neck and a saddle strapped to his back. Now I was convinced that this wasn’t a dream and I wasn’t on Candid Camera. We returned to the kitchen and I fixed each of us a mug of hot cocoa. We chatted about all kinds of things, but he was especially interested in Nina and Andi and their activities. He asked if I would take him up to their bedrooms so that he could give them a kiss on the cheek. We tiptoed up the stairs and went into Andi’s room first. He bent over and gave her a kiss on the cheek and of course, she didn’t stir. We proceeded to Nina’s room, and being the light sleeper, as soon as he kissed her, she grumbled and rolled over. Dudley made a beeline for the stairs and ran down to the kitchen.

I followed him and asked “what’s the matter?”

“I’m shy. Your girls can’t see me. Only you.”

“How long have you been doing this” I asked.

“I’ve been the chief since I was 348 years old.”

“How old are you?”

“572 years. I must go.”


“I must be back to the North Pole by daybreak.”

Before he left, he reached into his pocket and pulled out two small trinkets to leave for the girls, and promised he would be back next year and the year after that.........

He returned the following year and every year after that and still does today, always bearing three small trinkets. His arrival is always the evening after our family Christmas tree is put up. How does he know? He waits for the warm red glow. Since that first December night, we added one more daughter, Natalie to our family. As the girls got older, my kitchen table chats with Dudley changed as did our beverage of choice. We now chat over a pint of ale and discuss their boyfriends, husbands, college, careers and whatever else is on our minds. Even though he has never seen them, he knows them as well as I do. Dudley knows...........

Mike Nido, aka The Elf Whisperer, lives a quiet life with his family in Charlotte, North Carolina and still waits up every year for Dudley.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Treats at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's just might be the most magical place in all of the land during the Christmas season. Besides the happy hustle bustle that is always apparent in the store 365 days of the year, the presence of holiday treats adds a little something extra and I have to use all self control to make sure I don't place one of everything in my shopping cart. But then again, how fun would that be!? 

Our pantry shelves seem to be stocked with extra fun things around Christmas time and thanks to Trader Joe's, we have some new favorites around here. 

Chocolate Rings with Sprinkles...these are simple, fun and the Nido girls are sprinkle-holics (or sugar addicts as Mark calls us) so these should go without saying. I made a cookie plate for my parents and placed a few of these little sprinkletastic rings on the plate to add some color. Love them.

Peppermint Joe-Joe's...OMG. If you are like me and a lover of all things chocolate kissed with mint, then rush to Trader Joe's and grab a few boxes of these. Apparently the Peppermint Joe Joe's were so popular last year, that they ran out and could later be found for ridiculous prices on e-bay. I would probably purchase a box on ebay if it came down to it. I prefer to eat them Santa-style. With a glass of ice cold milk.

Gingerbread House...I picked this up for my sister's and I to decorate next week. We like to pretend like we are five.

Dark Chocolate Powerberries...addictive little buggers. My sweet friend Mary Katherine introduced me to these and once you pop, you can't stop. Berries equal vitamin C and dark chocolate equal antioxidants, so you might as well categorize these in the super foods group.

Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows...oh how I love you. I bought these last year for a hot chocolate bar and thank goodness Joe's brought them back for Christmas 2012. Let them melt in your hot chocolate or enjoy them plain like I do. Every time you walk past the pantry. 

Cocoa Truffles...not too sweet, super chocolatey and melt in your mouth mmmm mmmm good. These would be great in any holiday gift baskets or with a nice bottle of red as a hostess gift!

If I make it until December 25 without a re-stock on these Trader's treats, it will be a Christmas miracle. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vanilla Bean Scones

I won't even try to take credit for these perfectly, super vanilla-y breakfast slash really more like a not too sweet dessert pastry treats. When she's not busy being a PA and saving the children of Charlotte, Andi has been quite the baker over the past few weeks. It seems as though she's arriving at our doorstep everyday with treats of all kinds. I have begged, and begged, but since my sweet sister is too shy to share this herself, and three batches of these babies later, I'm doing it for her.

These scones are nothing short of melt in your mouth magic. They are light, fluffy, and when glazed on all sides, the freshness stays in, keeping these just as good on day five as they are on day one. We love them with coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon or a sweet treat before bed. These would be the perfect addition to your Christmas baking day.

This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman and I highly recommend it. Andi and I are already thinking of ways that we can experiment with different scones. Cinnamon chips anyone!?

You can find the recipe for these Petite Vanilla Bean Scones HERE

Note: Andi uses vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla beans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Tradition: Advent Angels

I love the Advent season and all of the excitement and reflection that comes with it. My family always focused on the meaning of the Advent season, and the special time leading up to Christmas! 

I can't remember when my family started the tradition of the Advent Angels, but it was always one of our favorites growing up. This tiny spiral bound book, The ABCs of Advent, sat in the middle of our Advent Wreath on the kitchen table, with daily reflections and activities to read and do as a family. If my memory is correct, my parents got the idea of the Advent Angels from this very book. 

Every week, we drew names and whoever we got, we were to be a secret Advent Angel for that person. Each Sunday, as we lit the candle for the week, we would all put our names on a small piece of paper and into a pile in the middle of the table. Snickering and making googly eyes and funny faces, my sisters and I would always laugh uncontrollably, trying to hide the name that we had drawn. By the time Christmas arrived, we all had the chance to be an angel for each person in our family of five. As a little Advent Angel, you just do nice things for the person you have for the week, usually once a day. My mom was always famous for fancy, crafty treats on our pillows at night and my dad liked to send Wizard of Oz postcards in the mail with nothing but a little angel outline drawn. I remember leaving glitter everywhere and I always thought it was the funniest thing to prep everyone's toothbrush for the night, ready and waiting by the sink. The point of the angel tradition was to take a few minutes out of our days to do something nice for someone in our family, even if it was a tiny yellow post-it note with a heart left on the bathroom mirror. 

This is another Nido family tradition that I adore!! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pottery Barn Inspired Wreath: Hey, That's Pin-Tastic!

This project isn't technically a Pinterest find, but it's pretty pin-tastic if I do say so myself! I whipped this wreath up last year (and even posted about it) after falling in love with a similar one I saw in the Pottery Barn catalog. $100 for a wreath seemed a bit ridiculous to me so I decided to make it myself! (you know, because at Christmastime there are more important things to spend ridiculous money on. like a personalized Pottery Barn stocking for my doodle) 

My friend made a similar one a few years back and let me in on her secret- HOT GLUE! This wreath couldn't be easier to make and I think it makes a cheerful statement on our front door. I'm especially loving the way it looks on our red door this year. It's held up wonderfully for two years and I think I spent a total of around $20 for everything.

To make this wreath, all you need is some colorful ornaments, an artificial wreath and your trusty hot glue gun. I fluffed the wreath and glued the ornaments all over, alternating sizes and colors. 

Don't forget to check out all of the magical Pinterest inspired posts on I Love You More Than Carrots today!

i love you more than carrots

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Traditions: An Early December Visit from St. Nicholas

Growing up, one of my very favorite Christmas traditions was on December 5, the eve of The Feast of St. Nicholas, when my sisters and I would each leave out our shoes before we were tucked into our beds. We lined up our shoes outside of our bedroom doors and went to sleep knowing a special visit from St. Nicholas was upon us. My shoe of choice was almost always a ballet shoe. In the morning, we would wake up to find a tiny treat waiting for us in each of our shoes. 

St. Nicholas, who is best known for his generosity and gift giving is largely celebrated in countries all over the world. This is where the spirit of kindness, giving and love came from, especially as it pertains to the Christmas season. I absolutely love this tradition and when I think about what I want to pass down to my own children someday, this is definitely at the top of the list! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tri-Color Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Avocado, Cilantro+ Lime

Quinoa doesn't make an appearance on our menu very often but when it does, Mark and I gobble it up. It's so versatile, fairly healthy and I especially like that it takes on the flavors its paired with. I buy this tri-color quinoa at Trader Joe's and it looks so beautiful when cooked and prepared with other bright colors. Tomatoes add sweetness, avocado adds creaminess and the addition of cilantro and lime brighten up this entire dish. This tasty quinoa salad can be warm, at room temperature or chilled. It's even better for lunch the next day. 

Better yet, make a big batch on Sunday night and enjoy this tastiness all week!

Tri-Color Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Avocado, Cilantro + Lime

1 cup Trader Joe's tri-color quinoa (or regular quiona)
2 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
olive oil (a drizzle)
salt + pepper, to season

Cook quinoa according to instructions on package. Chop up tomatoes, avocado and cilantro, and add to cooked quinoa. Toss with lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to season.

Serve immediately, at room temperature or chill in the fridge.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moore Menu!

With the Christmas season officially here, the calendar is quickly filling up, last minute plans are made, and it is always a given that extra treats will be consumed. With that being said, I like to make sure that our kitchen at home is stocked with delicious and healthy meal options so that on nights at home, we can control what we eat by keeping it fresh and healthy. If something doesn't get made, we always find a way to use up the fresh ingredients and all of these meats freeze well for future use!

Here is what our meal plan looks like this week!

Asian Turkey Meatballs (Skinny Taste)
Tri-color quinoa with cilantro and lime
pan roasted green beans with garlic and soy

Beer Braised Beef (Pioneer Woman)
baby greens salad

Baked Chicken with tomatoes, basil & artichokes
sauteed spaghetti squash

Flank Steak Salad

Blackened Grilled Chicken
Avocado mousse
Avocado, tomato + orange salad

and...a Sunday night homemade pasta treat!

Wishing you all a delicious and festive week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aunt Lil's Fresh Apple Cake

There is something about Christmastime that makes me cling to tradition. My family is filled with them and these are the moments we look forward to all year long. Love, family and friends trump all this time of year and the air has just a little bit more joy and magic in it. I wish I could bottle it up.

When it comes to family tradition and things passed down through generations, a handwritten recipe is a gift that keeps on giving all through the year! I love looking through my mom's recipe box, seeing a variety of beautiful writing, in the form of a recipe, that has been passed down from a friend, a grandmother, a great grandmother, aunts and great aunts. 

This apple cake is something I remember eating my entire life. My grandmother makes it often, it's on my mom's rotation and last week, I made one of my own for one our our Thanksgiving celebrations. This recipe is simple and best of all, this cake is wonderful for dessert, breakfast or even an afternoon sweet treat! The sweet and crunchy crumble top is the very best part!

Aunt Lil's Fresh Apple Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 3ggs
2 and 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large apples, peeled and chopped fine

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake ingredients in an electric stand mixer. Pour in greased 9 x 13" pan. Sprinkle topping on batter, gently pressing into dough.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shop Small

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We certainly did! Between starting our holiday with the 5 mile Charlotte South Park Turkey Trot, ending the weekend with a relaxing Christmas decorating Sunday, and lots of family and food in between, we have so much to be thankful for. 

Small Business Saturday may have passed, but that doesn't mean you should forget about your local businesses when you go out to do your Christmas shopping. I, for one, love supporting small businesses. Small business owners are living their dreams and sharing what they are passionate about. Gifting these items is extra special because there is always some sort of story to tell. 

Here are just a few of my favorite small businesses. I'll keep this list updated!

I may be biased, but Pour Olive's oils and vinegar are the best of the best! Hop into the store and let Sophie and Doug come up with a perfect pairing to take to your next dinner party as a hostess gift or create a one of a kind gift basket for the foodie in your life! Follow Pour Olive on Facebook for special deals and new product news. If you aren't local to Charlotte, give the store a call. Pour Olive will gladly ship! My favorites are the Chemlali Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Fused Olive Oil and Fig Symphony Balsamic.

My dear friend Jen and her mom Jan started this little business of theirs about a year ago and I am so proud of them! Jan make the most darling camera bags, make pouches, ipad cases and the famous Rosie Posie necklaces! Additionally, Jen does fantastic custom design work including goodies for kids' birthday parties, invitations, stationery and so much more.

Wrigley's cousin Ozzie has been sporting a custom made Silly Buddy bow tie and collar for awhile now and he is extra dapper and polite when he wears it! These collars and bow ties are excellent quality and made with so much care and love. The cousins have ordered matching green and red peppermint stick striped bow ties for this Christmas season!! Wrigley is especially excited for his very first bow tie (and visit from Santa).

As an independent Stampin' Up! demonstrator, my mom runs her own small business. In addition to selling Stampin' Up! products and hosting workshops, she also sells her creative goods! Together, we made my wedding invitations and the result was stunning. She doesn't stop at stamping either. My mom is also a gifted artist and has done tons of beautiful custom painting. She is working on a blog/website to showcase her work and I will share that once she is ready.

Spread the love this holiday season and support your favorite small businesses!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Italian Sausage + Parmesan Egg Muffins

I'm a huge fan of eggs for breakfast! I try to start my day with protein to give me energy and keep me full. While in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago for a baby shower, I fell in love with the egg muffins that were part of the shower brunch. They were full of flavor and I was mostly impressed that the muffins didn't sink, like most fritattas and egg muffins tend to do. Thankfully, I learned the secret trick- baking powder! Just 1/4 of a teaspoon and the muffins puff up perfectly. A kitchen problem solved. Thanks for the tip, Erin!

 These savory bite sized breakfast muffins are packed with protein and tons of flavor. If you're running a Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving, whip these up to enjoy either pre or post race! They're the perfect way to fuel for a run without feeling as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey as well as a great snack to enjoy after the miles have been run. Additionally, add these to your next weekend brunch spread or holiday pajama party breakfast. I don't usually like leftover eggs, but these egg muffins taste just as good heated up in the microwave. When I made these a few weeks ago, we had breakfast for a few days and they are perfect for busy mornings to grab on the go!

To make these 100% Paleo, take out the parmesan, although I do think the little bit of cheese makes these extra tasty!

Italian Sausage + Parmesan Egg Muffins

1 dozen eggs, whisked
1 lb. mild Italian sausage, ground (or removed from casings)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 tsp. baking powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute sausage until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the same skillet, saute onions for 3-5 minutes, until translucent and fragrant. 

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and combine sausage, sauteed onion, parmesan, half and hald, baking powder and season with salt and pepper. Pour into to compartments of a non-stick or well greased muffin tin.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Petite Pumpkin Spice Donuts {Hey, That's Pin-tastic!}

Clearly, my favorite pins are of the tasty variety. Time in the kitchen is like therapy to me and I love the instant gratification I get when I find something to make, crank up some dance worthy tunes, and spend a few hours in the kitchen knowing I'll having something to enjoy and share with loved ones. This is in my Italian blood.

When I scroll through my Pinterest feed I can almost feel the weight gain as I pin each sweet treat, but then I find a good crossfit workout or sexy abs routine and it kind of cancels out the guilt. Like I really care anyways. Tis the season for delicious sweets, festive flavors and pumpkin EVERYTHING. Literally.

My sister and I obsessed over this pin for not even 24 hours before we rushed out on a mad search for a mini donut tin. It turns out they are harder to find than you think but if we would have stopped at trusty Bed, Bath and Beyond in the beginning, we could have saved an entire day.

These pumpkin spiced gems are perfect with morning coffee, afternoon tea or by themselves as a quick mid-day treat. They can even be fancied up for an autumn dessert like I made for dinner with friends last week. Vanilla bean ice cream topped with sauteed cinnamon sugar apples and finished with a petite donut on top was nothing short of heavenly.

I kind of believe that everything is better bite sized. And that eating seven tiny donuts is better than one regular sized one. 

Petite Pumpkin Spice Donuts
recipe from Blue Eyed Bakers

1 3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1.5 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk

For coating:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1-2 tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter mini donut pan and set aside.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture and stir until just combined, careful not to over mix.

Using a pastry bag or a steady hand and a spoon, fill each donut cup with the batter.  The donut cups should be fairly full, but not overflowing. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until donuts spring back when gently pressed (if you're using a larger donut pan, allow them to bake for 12-15 minutes).  Turn donuts out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes.
While the donuts are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another.  When donuts are still hot (but not too hot to touch), quickly dip each donut in melted butter, then coat in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Serve immediately.
Check out all of the other pin-tastic creations today on the fabulous I Love You More Than Carrots! AP, you are the best! Thank you, as always, for hosting!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crockpot Beer Carnitas Tacos with Pineappla Salsa

I can say with the utmost confidence that this might very well be the MOTHER OF ALL TACOS. I order a similar taco from one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants and I just can't figure out for the life of me why it took me this long to re-create my own version of this decadent bite. Slow cooked pork with the flavors of full bodied beer and authentic Mexican spices combined with the sweet and spicy kick of fresh pineapple salsa make for one helluva taco. I'm a huge fan of pulled pork in the crock pot- it is seriously a no-fail method! For added texture, I mixed up some avocado and sour cream with lime and sea salt to make an avocado mousse that added even more pizazz to these carnitas tacos. 

We enjoyed these with good friends on Wednesday night and we all left the table with giant and full bellies. And they were even better for lunch the next day.

Make these. Tonight.

Crockpot Beer Carnitas Tacos
recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats

2 lb. pork loin roast
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Plug in crock pot and set on high heat. Mix seasonings together. In a crock pot, add pork loin, beer and sprinkle seasonings all over. Cook pork on high for 6.5 hours or on low for 8-9 hours, turning occasionally. 

Once pork is fully cooked and pulls easily, using two forks pull apart and shred.

Serve on fresh corn or flour tortillas with pineapple salsa and avocado mousse. For a delicious Paleo friendly version, wrap the pork, salsa and mousse in a lettuce wrap. 

Pineapple Salsa

1/2 pineapple, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of one lime
1 Tbsp. honey
pinch of salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least an hour before serving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Doodle Shenanigans

This little doodle of ours is a constant source of entertainment.

Exhibit A: He just learned how to steal Mark's hat.

This four legged furry friend of ours is the BEST.

Peace, love and Doodles :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunflower + Pumpkin Tree Bunch Fall Bouquet

I have said it time and time again, but I love being within minutes of Trader Joe's! I don't do all of my grocery shopping there, but certainly a large chunk of it. It's a great place to pick up specialty items, pantry extras and some of the best wine. The Holidays are my favorite time of year at Trader Joe's because everything is always so festive and cheerful. I picked up these bright, happy sunflowers for $3.99 and the mini pumpkin tree bunches for around $6.99 and quickly put together this seasonal bouquet that has been sitting on my kitchen island for a week and a half now! The sunflowers are huge and these mini pumpkins are actually  My cousin had a similar arrangement on her kitchen counter for a girls lunch date a few weeks ago and I knew our home needed a matching one. If you live near a Trader Joe's, pick up some of these darling pumpkin tree bunches to add some fresh seasonal accents to you home!

Hope everyone enjoyed a lovely weekend! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hey, That's Pin-Tastic: Spiced Apple Cider Caramels

I just love Halloween week! My sisters and I have the best Halloween memories and dressing up and trick-or-treating was always one of the highlights of the entire year. I have been embracing all things orange and black, burning my pumpkin candles and during the day while I'm working at home, Wrigley and I like to listen to the Spooky Sounds of the Season on Music Choice. We're partial to Thriller and The Monster Mash. (it's a graveyard smash!) Alas, I took a Halloween dance party break this afternoon to link up with my favorite AP because this recipe is one to be shared this week. 

This week's Pinterest inspired treat is the perfect sweet ending to the glorious month that is October. My sister discovered this recipe and I immediately re-pinned it, hoping we could spend some time in the kitchen making them together. Candy making is something I haven't spent a ton of time doing but I'm learning that it's a slow process that requires some patience. My biggest piece of advice is to take your time and carefully follow instructions to ensure the best results. A candy thermometer is a must, too. 

These Spiced Apple Cider Caramels are soft, perfectly chewy and have a delightful balance of cider and caramel. Like a caramel apple, in decadent caramel form. We are packaging these little treats up to send off in festive care packages to some special lovies. Our afternoon in the kitchen was well worth it! Even Ozzie agrees.

Spiced Apple Cider Caramels
recipe from Not So Humble Pie

2 cups Apple Cider
2 Tbsp. mulling spices (I like Fresh Market's)
2 cups pure cane sugar
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup corn syrup
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
pinch kosher salt

Start by combining the mulling spices (Fresh Market's mulling spices come in powder form and dissolve into the cider) and apple cider in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced to about 1/2 cup, set aside. 

Prepare a 9 x 9" pan and line with lightly buttered parchment paper.

In a large, heavy sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and once cup of the heavy cream. Place over medium heat, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, bringing the mixture to a boil. This will take some time. Don't be tempted to turn the heat up. This requires patience.

Once the mixture boils, add the remaining half cup of heavy cream and the apple syrup in a slow trickle so your caramel mixture continues to boil, uninterrupted. Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Then, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each piece has melted. Wash down the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush as needed.

Now clip on your candy thermometer and allow to boil over mediummedium-low heat until the mixture just hits 255°F. This should take about 30 minutes, if your temperature is climbing too quickly you might need to reduce the heat. By the same token, if you're not hitting 255°F by 40 minutes you might want to increase the heat a bit.

Once you've hit the right temperature, quickly remove the pot from the heat and pour into your prepared pan. Don't scrape the pot. Allow the caramel to cool completely before lifting the caramel slab from the pan using the parchment.

(Tip: If you notice tiny beads of butter on top of your caramel, don't fret. Just lightly blot them off with a paper towel.  This is usually from pouring the caramel into the buttered pan, not from the caramel separating (though that can happen if the candy crystalizes).

Cut the caramel slab into small pieces using a sharp buttered knife.  To avoid any arrgh-caramel-sticking-to-knife-headaches, I recommend using a sawing motion, pushing lightly with your buttered knife blade. Wrap each piece in a square of parchment. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wrigley the Doodle

I suppose I have taken an unintentional blog hiatus but we have been busy enjoying life and fully embracing my favorite season! Truthfully, it's refreshing to unplug every now and then and spend time away from the noise of blogging and social media. I might even stay in hiding until the election is over. Plus, it's been so beautiful here! Crisp days and nights, clear Carolina blue skies and lots of fall baking. As excited as I am that the holiday season is just around the corner, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to October. Can't it just stay for a little bit longer?

In other news...say buongiorno to Wrigley!

On Saturday, we added a four legged furry friend to our family and we are so in love! We knew we wanted dog but since we were renting our house in Illinois, we couldn't have one. Clearly, the first order of business once we got settled in Charlotte was to get a pup to call our own. My doodle dreams have finally come true! Wrigley is an 8 week old Labradoodle and truly the sweetest puppy ever. He has been so calm, has the sweetest personality and is just so easy to love.

Wrigley, we love you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Arugula Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Goat Cheese + Blood Orange Cinnamon Pear Vinaigrette

This recipe was developed for Pour Olive.

What started out as a simple side of roasted pumpkin took on a whole new meaning last weekend when I whipped up this salad. The crisp Fall air is certainly getting to me because all I can think about are the flavors of Autumn! Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin...with gingerbread and peppermint peeking around the corner. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

I started out by roasting a sugar pumpkin and the rest just fell into place. I plated up some fresh arugula, sliced fuji apples and walnuts. I crumbled some goat cheese atop the greens and the roasted pumpkin, still slightly warm, made the goat cheese nice and creamy. I added some fall flavors to my Pour Olive pantry stock and the Blood Orange infused olive oil and Cinnamon Pear balsamic were begging to marry together. This made for a delicious pairing and each bite was bursting with the flavors of Fall! Make this for an October dinner party or add it to your Thanks

For a pretty presentation, plate these salads individually with dressing on the side.

For the Salad
Fresh organic baby arugula
Fuji apple, thinly sliced
Goat cheese, crumbled

Roasted Pumpkin
1 sugar pumpkin, sliced into wedges
olive oil for drizzling
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Cut pumpkin half and scoop out seeds until it's clean. Keeping the skin on, cut pumpkin into wedges. Place pumpkin on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil along with a tiny bit of salt and pepper. Bake pumpkin at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy. 

To prepare pumpkin for salads, slice off the skin and chop into large chunks.

Blood Orange + Cinnamon Pear Vinaigrette
1/4 cup Pour Olive Blood Orange infused balsamic
1/8 cup Cinnamon Pear balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

Whisk olive oil and balsamic together briskly until emulsified. Season with salt & pepper, then drizzle onto salad. 

For an orange cinnamon vinaigrette with regular olive oil and vinegar, try adding orange zest to your dressing and sauteeing the walnuts in brown sugar and cinnamon.