June 2014 archive

Old Faithful Cheeseburger

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It was a Friday night and as usual, all four of us kids were huddled around the televison. Every friday, we would grab blankets and our favorite snacks in anticipation of watching our favorite TV shows. Depending on the season, my mom would either make buttery popcorn for us to enjoy or cheesy parmesan pumpkin seeds but tonight was different. We didn’t see any delicious snacks coming our way any time soon so we just settled for those wax candies that look like soda bottles. Then it happened. My father came through the front door and the house was immediately filled with the familiar aroma of the double arches. My dad brought us cheeseburgers from McDonald’s! They were special in that instead of being doused in ketchup and mustard, they were plain. I never had a plain one before and as I opened my snack deprived mouth, the pure flavors of beef and cheese were on my tongue. No distractions, just delightfully simple. Cheeseburgers are one of my favorite meals to this day and yes, I have come very far from McDonald’s finest. To me, it’s extremely important to have a flavorful patty that if need be, could be eaten without any condiment and still be delicious. So add on your favorite toppings or not, but enjoy my rendition of the classic.

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Let’s start with our ingredients!


From Left to Right: fresh thyme, dried oregano, garlic, hamburger buns, ground beef, hot sauce, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, and american cheese.

We put the ground beef, dried oregano, hot sauce, dijon, and worcestershire sauce in a
mixing bowl. Then, we mince our garlic and thyme and add those into the bowl as well. If you use dried thyme, use about 1/2 a teaspoon. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper!

Instead of using our pretty paws to mix these ingredients up, we will use a fork! A fork is working triple duty: mixing the ingredients, keeping our meat fluffy (not dense), and saving our manicures (not mine, yours?). Either way, use the fork until everything is mixed. I forgot to season until the last minute. Forgive me?

Now, we make 4 meatballs, using all of the meat. From these meatballs, you can make patties, whatever thickness you want. I like thin burgers so I do this extra step. If you like them thick, you are more than welcome to skip this step. We lay them on a surface, evenly spaced apart.

Cover the meat with plastic wrap and grab a heavy, cylindrical object i.e. a rolling pin or a Christmas wine bottle. We use the heavy object to roll the meat to about 1/4 inch patties. They ain’t perfect, but they are good.

Heat up a skillet to medium high heat with a tad bit of olive oil. Season both sides of the patties with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the patties. Since they are so thin, they only need about 2 minutes per side to cook. Also, you might need 2 spatulas to flip them. After they are flipped, immediately add your cheese of choice so it gets nice and melted!

Here comes the fun part! If you do 1 patty cheeseburgers, then this recipe serves 4. If you want to do the double decker I show in my pictures, then this recipe serves 2. Just place cheeseburgers on your bun of choice and enjoy the juicy, cheesy goodness of a classic cheeseburger! Cook these up for 4th of July or any other night of the week! They definitely satisfy any good burger craving.

Community

Intention is vital to any relationship, whether it’s a marriage, a friendship, or familial bond. Too many times in our lives, we lose close friendships due to the lack of intention. Sure, we all get busier and busier as we age but if we don’t stop and grab a coffee (or maybe a glass of wine) with the ones we love, we can lose some special bonds. Sometimes, people will fade out of your life for the better and what you lose in that friendship, you gain in your sanity. But if you are at home, waiting for a friend to reach out, grab that smart phone and just send a simple text. That moment of intention can make a person’s day.

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I have a group of friends that are in the same place of life as Chris and I. We are all married couples starting families. But we are also all 9-5er’s who have pets, kids, and hobbies that keep us pretty busy day to day. We decided last year to meet on a specific night, every other week and share a meal together. Although we may see each other for a quick drink or birthday hang other times in the week, we are committed to showing up at the home of whoever’s turn it is to host and bring food. This has been some of my favorite memories and I’ve grown closer to these precious people more than I thought I ever would. This time refreshes me, encourages me, and helps me walk away with a support network whenever I am in need. Plus, there are few sweeter things in life than sharing a homemade meal with your dear friends.

These 2 making googly eyes at each other are Mike and Chelsea. Excuse Chris's photo bomb.

These 2 making googly eyes at each other are Mike and Chelsea. Excuse Chris’s photo bomb.

This week was our turn to host in our new home. The hostess prepares the main meal and everyone else contributes a side, drink, and dessert. I decided to go with something that wouldn’t be a nightmare to throw together for a group. Surf and turf is always a pleasant summer option, reminding me of days as a kid at my parents’ backyard pool. I served juicy sirloin steak, cut into bite-sized pieces (all fat removed) for easy eating. I seared the meat with butter on high heat for only a minute, just to brown but not cook. The surf aspect is succulent Lemony Garlic Roasted Shrimp. Make sure you have rice or bread for that luscious sauce!


Fresh watermelon, crisp veggies with a yogurt ranch dip, balsamic squash and mushrooms, a refreshing and deceivingly strong red sangria, and a luscious peach cobbler also graced the presence of our dining room table.

My beautiful friend, Dana, preparing her balsamic vegetables.

My beautiful friend, Dana, preparing her balsamic vegetables.

I am beyond blessed to have the friends that I do and I hope this inspires you to be intentional with your community of friends. Happy Friday!

Roasted Lemony Garlic Shrimp

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My husband is “allergic” to shrimp. We have constant arguments around if he’s allergic or just being a big baby. He says he feels funny after eating it sometimes and other times, he’s perfectly fine. The reason I argue his allergy with him is because I LOVE shrimp and I LOVE cooking it. But I rarely do since he doesn’t feel comfortable eating it. Shrimp is great in the summer; you can barbecue it or serve it as a cocktail. I love roasting it with herbs, spices, citrus, and of course, butter. I try to make this whenever we have people over or if we are going to a potluck, just so I can get my fill. The choices for the shrimp are wonderfully endless but let’s start with the basics. Shall we?

Shrimp is laid on a sheet pan. We pulse lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt, and most importantly, cold butter in a food processor until combined. The delectable butter is spread over the shrimp and roasted until just pink.

This shrimp is best if the shells are off, it’s more appealing eating depending on your dining setting and the flavors get into the shrimp more. But they are still delicious and fun to eat with the shells, too. Just a little more work. Last time, I promise, please do something with those buttery, garlicky, lemony juices. Please and thank you!

Roasted Salmon with Caramelized Onions and Fennel topped with a Pea Shoot Salad

Salmon is always a must for me during the week. Whether I make it into tacos or place a simple white wine sauce over it, it tends to be an easy meal regardless. And that’s what I need during the week: easy peasy.
This meal is hardly a recipe, just one of those “throw together” gigs. The onions and fennel add a nice warmth to the salmon, while the pea shoot salad adds a vinegary freshness. If you have never had pea shoots before, they taste similar to alfalfa sprouts (yum!) but are crisper and cleaner. For multiple reasons, I prefer Wild Sockeye Salmon over the Atlantic Farm Raised Salmon. I’m not imposing on your salmon beliefs, just encouraging you to try it out!

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I generally like to cook my salmon in the oven versus pan frying it so my house doesn’t smell like fish for the next couple of days. Also, I’m not a salmon skin fan so I don’t care if it’s crispy or not, it’s coming off! The oven is at 275 and the fish is seasoned with salt and pepper. Then it is cooked to a medium, about 20 minutes(although 15 minutes for medium rare is the preferred way to go and you won’t get as much as that “white stuff” if you cook it medium rare). Since I just mentioned it, let’s talk about that “white stuff”. It is also called albumin and it is the result of the fish releasing fat and losing moisture as it cooks. So the less time you cook it, the less albumin will be on your fish. I’ve done my thorough research on why the “white stuff” occurs and have decided I’ve been too hard on myself. The white stuff won’t stand between me and my salmon. It can be removed just fine!

Ok, back to the meal. While the salmon is roasting, take half an onion and half a fennel bulb and thinly slice. Add to a skillet with olive oil at medium heat and cook until a deep golden color (about 20 minutes). To assemble the pea shoot salad, just combine pea shoots (about 1 cup per person), rice vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Take the salmon out, remove skin (if you wish), top with caramelized onion mixture and pea shoot salad.
Tip: If you want an even simpler meal for these hot days of summer, don’t cook the onions and fennel. Just thinly slice (almost shaving them) and add into the pea shoot salad!

PS. This recipe is for 2 people, using 2 salmon fillets. Adjust according to your taste and family!

Around Charleston in 5 days

When going to a city I’ve never been to before, the first thing I research is places to eat. Sure, I will also need a place to rest my head at night but finding a place to stay is more daunting to me than finding a superb restaurant. So I did my Trip Advisor research and then some. We were only staying in Charleston for 5 days so that meant I had to narrow down my search to only 4 places for dinner! I decided to pick 2 places and the other 2 I left to chance (because there is nothing better than coming across an adorable hole-in-the-wall dive on a random stroll through the neighborhood). I wish I could go back and do it all 2 more times but if you ever find yourself lost in the streets of Charleston, I can point you in the right direction.

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The Charleston Grill caught my attention, due to its large and very creative menu, their nightly jazz band, and its exquisite decor. Chris and I went here for our anniversary dinner and it was everything I dreamed it would be! The menu is split up into 4 themes. Within those themes, you can choose appetizers and entrees. You can also mix and match those themes (please!) so you can get a bunch of different bites. The menu makes it easy for anyone’s eating lifestyle to find something they can truly feel good about. The menu does change but I have a feeling if I go back in a year from now, I will be just as thrilled with the menu choices as I was last week. I would recommend the crab cake as a starter and then pick anything with lobster for your entree. Oh and for a cocktail? Get the Effen Good because that is exactly what it is!

This is the amazing crab cake appetizer. No Old Bay and still the best I've ever had!

This is the amazing crab cake appetizer. No Old Bay and still the best I’ve ever had!

Our favorite place to lunch in Charleston is Butcher and Bee. We were told about this place by a friend who had visited Charleston and couldn’t stop raving about it.Butcher and Bee is a cozy sandwich shop but with a gourmet twist. As you walk up to this unlikely eatery, you notice it’s a local favorite because every seat is taken and there is a line to place your order. Stepping into the restaurant, you are met with smiles from all of the employees and a big waft of butter hits your nose. Do you really want to be anywhere else? Their menu also changes daily but in such a very good way. Our first visit consisted of a Pickled Shrimp Po’ Boy and Roast Beef Sandwich with Chimichurri and smoked onion jam. We went back the next day and encountered the best fried chicken sandwich we have ever had. It sounds like a simple thing but when you have had many a fried chicken sandwich in your life, originality isn’t what comes to mind when thinking about them. This deliciousness was topped with a special garlic aioli and dill verde sauce. You need this in your life! This is the kind of place you can go to a hundred times, never get the same thing, and be perfectly content every time. Also, when I call a restaurant cozy, that means you will be sitting next to or across from a stranger. Think of this as a chance to embrace the southern hospitality and strike up a conversation! Tip: The house brewed sweet tea is served in ice cold mason jars. Adorable!

These are the most amazing fries! Perfectly seasoned with an irresistible homemade ketchup. The little cutie in the back is a Pork Cuban.

These are the most amazing fries! Perfectly seasoned with an irresistible homemade ketchup. The little cutie in the back is a Pork Cuban.

Another fun lunch spot is Home Team BBQ. We stumbled across it after a very hot but pleasant visit to Sullivans Island. We showed up in bathing suits and sand dusted hair and were treated very kindly. Start with the BBQ Chips and Queso with Smoked Sausage for an app then indulge in the BBQ of your liking.

Good Ol' BBQ Pork Sandwich

Good Ol’ BBQ Pork Sandwich

We stayed at the Fulton Lane Inn and as I was peeping out of one of our third story windows, I noticed a quaint restaurant across the street with an Italian flag hanging above it’s black awning. Chris and I both are BIG Italian food lovers so we knew this place would be perfect for our last night in Charleston. And friends, it was. Fulton Five has been voted Charleston’s Most Romantic Restaurant for the last 17 years! We were lucky to score a late reservation for a Saturday night (I highly recommend making reservations in advance). The room is small and dim, with a decor that looks untouched since the 1920’s (in a charming way, not in an old, musky way). We indulged in Squash Bruschetta, Italian wine, lamb and sausage tortellini, lobster and fennel orecchiette, and of course, tiramisu. It was truly our best Italian dining experience to date. We WILL return!

Walking up to Fulton Five. Don't you just want to go in?

Walking up to Fulton Five. Don’t you just want to go in?

Although these places were my favorite to visit, I have a few honorable mentions:
Hank’s Seafood has a Casablanca feel being located in an old building close to the water. The Fried Oyster appetizer is definitely a must and if you haven’t had your fill on Southern fried food already, get one of their fried seafood platters (fried oysters for days). They also have more “mature” options if fried isn’t your thing. My husband isn’t a seafood fan but couldn’t stop praising the beef tenderloin.

We become quite the ice-cream connoisseurs on vacation and found Jeni’s to be our favorite. Their flavors are original (Riesling Poached Pear sorbet? C’mon!), and their ingredients are high quality. Good news: they sell pints of Jeni’s at my local Whole Foods.

If you are ever looking for a fun, relaxing, yummy vacation, look into Charleston. You might just run into me….or Bill Murray.

Adventures in Charleston

I recently read an article giving reasons why couples should vacation over spending money on “things”. This has been my philosophy for the last 4 years and has been pretty easy to stick to…until we bought a house. We bought our first house a few weeks before our fourth anniversary and of course, with moving from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 3 story townhouse, there are a millions things you literally need. I didn’t want to do anything for our anniversary. I just wanted to stay in and fill up our new home. But we have had a busy, and at times, very stressful year so taking a mini-vacay had to make the list of priorities. So what if my newly painted walls are empty and we don’t have a full length mirror? What we are getting in return will give more water to our ever-growing marriage than knick-knacks ever will. Plus, drinking a Gin and Tonic (with extra lime) and indulging in fried oysters by the water isn’t so bad either. I like to look at anytime we spend a little extra money or time with one another not as a waste or even a hit to our budget, but an investment in our marriage. One thing that has always brought us together and has centered our marriage is saving money to spend lavishly. We make sure to always do something “just for us” for our anniversary but that hasn’t meant an expensive, exotic vacation every year. Our first anniversary was spent in my Mother-In-Law’s house, when she was away visiting family. Our dinner was homemade Fettuccine Alfredo and a shared pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It was special because it was time spent together with the finances we had. Since then, we have been able to upgrade to places like Colonial Willamsburg (love it!) and Disney World (my happy place!) This year we decided to take a road trip to Charleston, SC. And that, my friends, is where this adventure begins.

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Charleston is full of charming homes and structures that have history literally nailed to their doorways. It’s also hard to describe the place: Georgetown meets Rodeo Drive meets New Orleans?? Regardless of your vacationing style, this place satisfies the simple getaway craving we all get around this time of year.

One of the many absolutely beautiful houses on Kings Street.

One of the many absolutely beautiful houses on Kings Street.

 

I will be posting later about the fabulous places where we enjoyed a bite to eat. I’m still in food heaven. But the moral of the story is to find something that works with your budget to do and love with your significant other. There are few things that bring a couple together more than experiencing a place, hand in hand. Also, I want to move to Charleston.

Chris can't (won't) smile in pictures so this is the best I could do.

Chris can’t (won’t) smile in pictures so this is the best I could do.