Friday, March 30, 2012

Tiramisu Trifles

This simple and scrumptious dessert is easy entertaining at it's finest. Not only is it super quick to prepare, but it's pretty darn good for what I consider a "Tiramisu cop-out". Creamy mascarpone paired with ricotta, plenty of cocoa and a hint of amaretto for a little zing! Crushed oreos add extra decadence and richness and it's just oh. so. good. A little fresh whipped cream, raspberries, and chocolate shavings for garnish and you are ready to go. There is also something thoughtful about individual sized servings. I think it makes for a delightful presentation! Make these up to a day ahead of time and wow your next dinner guests.

Tiramisu Trifles
adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. Amaretto
1 tsp. espresso granules
1 cup crushed Oreos, cream filling scraped off with a knife
Fresh berries
Chocolate shavings

Using a butter knife, remove cream centers from oreos and place into the bowl of a food processor. (One row of Oreos yields almost a cup of crushed cookie). Process the cookies until they are nice and crushed.

Combine 1 cup of whipping cream and powdered sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until cream is whipped and stiff. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Combine both cheeses, cocoa powder, amaretto, and espresso into the electric mixer bowl. Mix until combined. Add this mixture to the bowl of whipped cream, and gently fold until you no longer see any white streaks of whipped cream. This is the base mixture.

In a clean electric mixer bowl, or using a hand mixer, whip up the second cup of whipped cream. This will be used for layering and garnish.

To layer your dessert, put down a layer of base mixture, a layer of whipped cream, a layer of crushed cookie, and another layer of the base mixture. Make sure you reserve whipped cream for your garnish.

Just before serving, top with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and chocolate shavings.

*I served these in my Crate & Barrel Double Old-Fashioned Crescent bar glasses. Stemless wine glasses would also be a fun option.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wine of the Week: Red Decadence

My wine find this week is pretty much life changing. A few weeks ago, my friend Erin told me that she picked up a bottle of chocolate red wine. I have tried some chocolate wines in the past that were thick, opaque, and resemble chocolate milk when poured out of the bottle. There is nothing wrong with this, but those wines were so sweet and tasted more like a liquer than anything. Plus, the milky appearance just didn't sit well with me. When I asked Erin to tell me more, she quickly calmed my nerves and said that this was a red wine that has been infused with chocolate! I was not able to find the brand that she recommended, but I did find something similar, and at the perfect price point! I sipped on a few glasses this week while cooking and with dinner, but this wine would be even better on its own for dessert.

"The combination of deep ruby red wine with a natural chocolate essence is like liquid truffle in a bottle". Need I say more? That back label on the bottle, I assure you, is not lying.

I purchased Red Decadence at my local market for $8.99

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses: Volume 2

Well, this vlogging thing is kind of fun and I'm back again this week for Stop and Smell the Roses, hosted by Mandy over at House of Rose! I decided to film on my couch, just so that I could be more comfy, and realized midway through that my shirt matches my yellow medallion gallery! Totally unplanned, but I would also be lying if I didn't like the matchy matchy-ness going on in this video. At least yellow is a happy, sunshiney color!

Last week was such a wonderful week! I celebrated my 27th birthday on Friday and Mark totally blew me away with a surprise weekend getaway. He sure does know how to make my heart all swoopy swirly inside.

Our whirlwind weekend was a self guided food tour and we savored every bite. We enjoyed a delicious Spanish/Caribbean dinner on Friday night at Carnivale and found our way to a tiny Italian bistro near our hotel for Caramel Ricotta Cheesecake and Amaretto coffee to end. Saturday, we enjoyed our time in the city and spent much of our Saturday afternoon sipping Italian beers and tasting small plates at one of our very favorite spots, The Purple Pig. We fell in love with this place during our anniversary weekend in September and as fate would have it, we parked our little behinds at the same spot at the bar right in front of the open kitchen! We love watching the chefs work their magic and we even got a few extra treats sent our way. I didn't want my birthday weekend to come to an end. Thank you, Mark, for making me the happiest girl in the world!

I hope you all are having a wonderful week. Don't forget to stop, smell the roses, and find something to be thankful for each and every day!

Stop and Smell the Roses

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fettucine with Porcini Mushrooms

Just because we're living the (extremely) low-carb life this week does not mean that you all should do the same. In fact, I wish I could kick the low carb way of life to the curb, make this rich, heavenly bed of pasta, and have all of you over for dinner. It's that good. We would open several bottles of wine, listen to Italian cafe music (that is, if I'm willing to take a break from Lionel Richie's new duets album which has now been on repeat for the past 24 hours), and I would probably even finish the meal by serving everyone some homemade Nutella gelato. Because greens are good for us, a simple greens salad would find its way onto our plates in between dinner and dessert. It's good for digestion.

The following is my proud and successful attempt to re-create one of the single best meals to have ever had come into my life. During my family's 2007 Italian holiday, I enjoyed Fettucine with Porcini mushrooms on several occasions and each time, I fell in love all over again. Maybe it was the Italian air and the extra wine, but my taste buds have never been happier. I made this for Mark on Valentine's Day with and for my family when I was home in Charlotte in April. Both bowls were equally exquisite...although the Valentine's edition may get an extra gold star because I actually made my own pasta. In true Italian style, Mark and I enjoyed the pasta as a first course on Valentine's day, followed by grilled filet and a simple greens salad. My family and I ate it as a main dish, because my dad says that sometimes, "the pasta likes to be by itself". Either way, this creamy, earthy, mushroom laced goodness took me back to one of my happy places.

Fettucine in a Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce
recipe from Emeril Lagasse

1/2 cup stemmed dried porcini mushrooms (shitake, or other mushrooms are fine as well)
1 cup hot water
1/2 lb. Fettucine, Paparadelle, or Linguine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tsp. minced garlic
1.5 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Handful chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving.

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for approximately 15 minutes, to let the mushrooms reconstitute. Drain the mushrooms through a strainer, reserving the liquid in a clean bowl. Squeeze the mushrooms to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside. Again, do not dispose of the mushroom liquid (a.k.a. liquid gold).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 7-8 minutes, until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, over medium head, heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook for about two minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms, and stir while cooking those for another 2 minutes. Add the reserved mushroom liquid, bring it to a boil, and stir while cooking until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 1 and a half minutes. Next, add the cream, thyme, salt, and pepper and return to a simmer. I never measure salt and add it a little bit at a time to taste. Remember, you will be adding parmesan cheese at the end, so don't salt it too much. Cook this mixture for about 5 minutes, until the cream is thick and reduced. Add parsley at the very end.

Drain pasta, and mix in the skillet to coat with the sauce, adding the parmesan cheese. Serve in pasta bowls and garnish with parsley and more cheese if desired.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Weekly Eats: Lean, Clean & Green

After a weekend of many magical birthday treats, it's time to get back to lean and clean eats this week. With that being said, I won't be posting our weekly menu since we'll be sticking to lots of lean protein with veggies and salads this week. We try to stick to this formula most of the time but after a weekend of nonstop eating, it feels good to really focus on putting super healthy things on our menu.

I flipped through the April issue of Cooking light yesterday morning while drinking my coffee and there are so many delicious things that I can't wait to try! There are always a lot of fresh, healthy ideas that inspire me as I travel through the pages. If a recipe isn't as clean as I would like it to be, I clean it up myself and merely use the recipe as a guide. When you start doing this, it becomes second nature!

Here are some of my favorite places to get clean eating inspiration:

Here are some of our favorite salads and sides, all from my recipes archive on the blog! These pair well with simple grilled or roasted chicken, steak, pork, or fish:

Greek Country Salad (one of my very first recipes I EVER posted!)

You can make even the pickiest of vegetable eaters eat vegetables simply by adding olive oil, salt, pepper and roasting them! Broccoli, green beans, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes...I roast them all and Mark seems to gobble it up.

Roasted Red Pepper Pistachio Pesto tastes good on just about anything (even scrambled eggs) and something like an Olive Tapenade, that seems so fancy, really is so simple.

As the Tone it Up! girls say, it's a "lean, clean, and green week" around here!

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wine of the Week: The Spanish Quarter Tempranillo

I totally judged this wine by the label so I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into. I must say though, this surprise buy now has me wanting to stock up. I mentioned my new love for Tempranillo a few weeks ago and this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo is such a friendly sip! It's slightly sweet, but not too fruity. Perfect to sip on in the warmer weather.

I purchased The Spanish Quarter at my local market on sale for $6.99, regularly priced at $8.99.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Stopped to Smell the Roses (a.k.a. my very first VLOG!)

Welp, I finally worked up the courage to film my very first vlog! Mandy, from House of Rose, has been hosting this vlog link up for about a month now and I keep promising her that I will join the fun. So Mandy, my entrance into the vlog world is dedicated to you. Thank you for encouraging me get some guts and branch out of my comfort zone! The purpose of this vlogging link up is to share something we are thankful for each wek. Since this is the first time I'm participating, I decided to thank all of YOU! I blog for myself, and I blog to remember but I'm so thankful to have made new friends along the way.

A few things I would like to note...

1. After watching this I realized how excited I seem! I would apologize but I really am this energetic in real life. Most days, I don't stop. Ask Mark. He'll tell you!

2. Do I sound like I'm yelling? I really think it sounds like I'm yelling. But I wasn't! I promise.

3. Whoahhhh I seriously talk with my hands. This is nothing new but it's funny to watch in person. I've tried sitting on them, but it's unnatural. I'm Italian. This is me

4. I kind of, sort of, LOVED filming this! I had no idea how I would feel after filming myself but it was really, really liberating. And not as weird as I thought it would be! Virtual cooking classes, anyone!? (I did promise Mandy I would post an egg poaching tutorial!)

Thank you to sweet Mandy for hosting the link up. I love watching everyone's videos and I'm excited to add mine to the list!

Awesome Blossom Thermal Tote Winner!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my Thirty-One Giveaway last week. A special and extra thank you to Pam for sponsoring this contest and providing a fun prize! I loved the thermal tote so much, that there is one on the way to my house right now!

The winner of the Awesome Blossom Thermal Tote is...

Carolyn, from Southern Belle of the West and the delicious Half Baked Co.!

Carolyn, e-mail me ( so that Pam can get your treat in the mail to its new happy home in California.

I have a few other fun giveaways coming up so make sure you stay tuned for those. If you're still interested in making some Thirty-One products yours, please don't forget to check out Pam's online store. She's the best!

Thank you all again! xxox

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Diaries of a Derailed Menu Plan

Well, it hasn't taken long for this week's menu plan to totally derail and take a different course than I had planned. You see, that's the case a lot around here. I mentioned this last week, but sometimes, we just go with the flow. Just because I make a neat and tidy plan, doesn't mean that I always stick to it. But truthfully, it is more than okay. The purpose of my meal plans is really to just use as a guide.

Monday, I packed up my work bag and headed into the office for the last half of the day. This was unexpected and not how I had planned my day. I was planning on going to the market mid-afternoon for our week's worth of groceries. (Plan, plan, plan...can you tell I'm a compulsive planner!?) On my way out the door, I grabbed some chicken thighs that I had in the freezer and set them out to thaw. I knew I had some avocado, tomato, bacon, and romaine. Grilled chicken thighs and BLT salad with avocado was dinner. This automatically slides Monday's salmon to Tuesday night, and you get the rest.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening, when it's time to start making dinner. Mark told me that he had salmon for LUNCH. Of course, I expected him to pay attention to the menu on the fridge and know that since we didn't have salmon on Monday, that he should clearly KNOW we were going to have salmon on Tuesday, and that he should plan his meals accordingly. Duh. Well, the menu was in my purse, a lovely place for it to be. I quickly threw flank steak in my go-to marinade and made a fresh chopped salad and roasted red pepper pistachio pesto to eat with our flank steak. The yummy Thai marinade that was the highlight and most drool-worthy item on this week's menu will have to wait for another week.

The moral of this story is an obvious one- just go with the flow. Granted, it's just the two of us and we don't have mini mouths to feed so for right now, this is what works for US. I learned from my mom to keep a well stocked pantry as well as fresh items that are always good to have on hand. The pepper pesto has become a favorite around here and pairs well with any meat and even on pizza. Pistachios, roasted reds, and garlic are staples around here. Fresh chopped salads are another thing that I'm always prepared to throw together. I start with a can of beans, a can of artichokes, and add any other fresh veggies I have! (it also makes excellent leftovers for lunch). Perhaps this is inspiration for another post- those items that I always replenish once they have been used.

So there you have it, real life in my kitchen. I'll work on a post with my kitchen staples soon! It makes dinner menu changes on a whim much, much easier.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekly Eats

My menu is up and ready to go for this week! I sat down with my Pinterest food boards and looked for some inspiration, as well as my freezer, fridge, and pantry to check and see what I have waiting to be used. Had I known that the weather was going to be back deck-margarita-drinking-let's fire up the grill-weather, I would have planned for more meals for my grillmaster to cook outdoors. The warm weather is here to stay, at least through this week, so you better believe we'll be taking advantage of it. Someone in our house has a birthday this week and I think that a weekend full of fun and cupcakes is in order.

Tuesday- Thai Flank Steak + Asian slaw with peanut dressing (similar)

Wednesday- Grilled chicken + Spinach strawberry salad with goat cheese, pistachios, and balsamic

Thursday- Pulled pork taco salad with guacamole

Friday- My birthday!!!

Saturday- TBD

Sunday- Grilled steaks with pepper & caper salsa + baby greens salad

A few other bites I might make this week:
Greek Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip (for apple dipping!)

Also, if you're and iPhone user, and still stumped for recipes this week, check out Giada's new app, Giada's Daily Bite. It's a free app to promote her new cookbook being released next week. For 15 days, there is a new recipe posted daily! Monday's parsley garlic butter and Sunday's pepper & caper salsa were both featured on this app. If you're like me, you'll also get a little chuckle from the "sound bites" section, where you can learn the proper Italian pronunciation from Giada herself!

Don't forget to link up with Molly over at Duchess of Fork! I'm also shaking it up and linking up with Rachel of In No Simple Language, too! So many great menu link ups. is the LAST DAY to enter my Thirty-One Giveaway. Hop on over to {this post} if you want to win a fabulous Thermal Tote.

Happy menu planning and happy Monday!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Black & White Gallery Wall

This St. Patrick's Day post has nothing to do with bright green, and a lot to do with classic black and white. I've had this gallery wall completed for several months now and am just now getting around to blogging about it! Since I have my whimsical wall of yellow mirrored medallions in our family room, I thought a cleaner, more uniform gallery wall would be a nice contrast on the opposing wall. There is something soothing about black and white photos and metallic frames added just enough texture. I purchased the 11x14" frames from Hobby Lobby for around $12 each. For a custom framed look, I bought white photo mats from Amazon.

Each black and white photo is 8x10". The gallery includes our very favorite wedding photo and I smile every time I walk by. I'm now inspired to create more gallery walls in our home. Next, I may tackle the wall behind the desk in my office for what I'll just call "Nina's office makeover, volume 2".

In the spirit of the Irish holiday today, we ventured into the green sea of downtown! We have been having some fantastic weather in these parts and today was another beautiful day. There were so many festive families out and about. We had lunch at a cafe in our little college town and watched the parade as we ate. For "dessert", we headed to an irish pub for for a mid-afternoon brew.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wine of the Week: Bella Sera Pinot Grigio

Have no fear, I wasn't going to leave you all without a featured wine of the week! I have a crisp and bright white for you today, just in time for a "Yay! Tomorrow is Friday" Happy Hour.

Most of the time, I like to pop open a bottle of red, but every so often, white wine seems more appropriate. I opened this on Sunday night to enjoy with our Lemon Shrimp with Broccoli & Peas. Paired with this fresh meal and the dreamy Spring weather, a glass of this pinot grigio was just heavenly.

I purchased Bella Sera Pinot Grigio at a weekly special price of $6.99

Also, don't forget to enter my Thirty-One Giveaway! You have until Monday, March 19, 11:59pm CST.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thirty-One Giveaway!

I’m taking a break from my usual Wednesday wine post to sprinkle some joy onto one lucky winner’s Wednesday! I have never done a giveaway on my little blog so I am doubly excited to be giving away a fun treat to one of you. Thanks to my friend Pam of Our Love Nest for sponsoring this exciting giveaway from Thirty-One!

I have never purchased anything from Thirty-One yet, but Pam is hosting an online party this week and she has been wonderful in helping me troll through the catalog of functional items in gorgeous prints. I’m loving the new print for Spring 2012, Awesome Blossom! I’ve been looking for a good work tote that I can throw everything in when I head into the office from time to time and the Retro Metro Bag seems to have everything I’m looking for. The pockets on either side were the selling feature for me. I like to think I could sneak this tote on a beach vacation as well! It’s perfect for day at the beach essentials. When I told Pam that I was looking for a new cosmetic bag, she suggested the the Cosmetic Bag on page 39. How great would this be for travel? I’m a sucker for feminine black and white prints and the Black Parisian Pop has my name written all over it.

Here’s a bit more about Thirty-One Products:

Our stylish, affordable products are exclusive to Thirty-One. From our signature purses and totes to storage solutions that help organize your life, you'll find something to fit every personality and situation. Each season, we develop new products built on the idea that our products must be functional AND fashionable (and, of course, make great gifts!).

Today, one lucky reader will receive a Thermal Tote in Awesome Blossom! This is the perfect tote to carry to work if you bring your lunches, or even if you are running around town all day and want to pack your own quick and healthy snacks to enjoy on the go. The silver thermal lining will keep your drinks and snacks cold while you bustle about your day. I’m also thinking this could be a beach day necessity? If you can’t tell already, it’s pretty evident that I’m craving a trip to Kiawah Island.

This giveaway will be open through Monday, March 19. All entries will close at 12:01am CST on Tuesday, March 20. A winner will be announced next Wednesday, March 21.

Additionally, there is a chance to win a Thirty-One product everyday in the wonderful land of blogs. Visit Our Love Nest each day this week, to find out which bloggers are hosting.

Pam is also hosting an online party this week! If you are interested in ordering anything from her Thirty-One store, you can shop her party here. The Thirty-One catalog can be found here.

You can enter to win bly clicking "READ MORE" below. Huge thanks to Pam and Britt for hosting the giveaways this week! Good luck!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lemony Shrimp with Broccoli and Peas

Fresh and fast are the two key words that need to be emphasized with this recipe. If we were going to add a third word, beginning with the letter F, I would add FANTASTIC. This was delicious enough for Sunday night dinner, but so easy that it will be making its way into our weeknight dinner rotation. The flavors are so bright and happy. The best part about this is you could really play around with the foundation of the recipe and make it your own. Next time, I'll add even more fresh veggies like asparagus and bell peppers, and maybe even a splash of white wine. I always keep a bag or two of frozen shrimp in our freezer. It's so easy to thaw using warm water and they are peeled and ready in no time. If Shrimp and veggies don't sound like they fill you up, trust me when I say that even Mark was full after eating this. Shrimp is surprisingly filling. And if you still aren't convinced, I'm sure this would be delightful served over quinoa or whole grain cous cous.

Lemony Shrimp with Broccoli and Peas
recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

4 Tbsp. butter (I used half butter, half olive oil)
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest plus 5-6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 lb. fresh broccoli, cut into small florets
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups frozen peas (or one 10 oz. bag)

In a large skillet with a lid, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Add garlic and scallions and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli, lemon zest, 1/2 cup water and season with salt a pepper. Toss together and cover until broccoli is steamed and bright green, around 3-4 minutes.

Add shrimp and peas, cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until shrimp is pink.

Add lemon juice, some olive oil and more salt and pepper if needed. Toss and serve.

I have an exciting giveaway tomorrow that you won't want to miss out on! For a sneak peak at what's going to be featured, pop on over to my friend Pam's blog, Our Love Nest to see what's in store!