Life moves pretty fast….

Within a time span of seven days, from February 27-March 6 to be exact, so many parts of my life began to fall into place.  It’s crazy how everything exciting in life seems to happen all at once.  This week has been an absolute whirlwind.  I have been dying to blog about all of the exciting and scary changes ahead, both to share and to to have a moment of reflection for myself.

February 27: We took home this little bundle of joy.

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Macy

Macy

Her name is Macy- Macy Mae to be be exact.  We had been talking about adopting a dog for the longest time now, but we never felt 100% ready for the added responsibility.  Then, it hit us.  We will never be 100% ready!  Life is always crazy and always busy and we are never going to want to walk a dog at 6am.  But, as any dog owner will tell you, the payoff is so worth it.  We finally just took the leap and did it.  We said ‘yes’ to the dog.  I would be lying if I didn’t mention the insane anxiety that the added responsibility gave us at first, but a little over a week in, we have fell into a routine and love her to death.

Obligatory rant:

Please, please, please if you are thinking about getting a dog, ADOPT!  The Humane Society and Rescue groups are loaded with the sweetest, kindest, friendliest, healthiest dogs of ALL ages and ALL breeds.  You can be placed on a list for a certain breed or seek out breed-specific rescues in your state, if you have a breed preference.  Of course, I’m partial to mutts, but to each is own :)  Not only are you adopting a family member for life, but it opens up a spot for another precious dog to come in from a kill-shelter or owner surrender.  I am so passionate about this, I could go on forever.  But, I’ll leave it at this: don’t shop, adopt!

March 1:  Celebrated Ryan’s 26th birthday

It is so crazy to admit, be we are getting old!  My man is in his last year of his ‘mid twenties’.  We went out to a nice dinner at J. Alexanders on Friday and celebrated out with friends on Saturday.  We really enjoyed the food at J. Alexanders, but I have to admit that I am partial to Houston’s [for that price range and cuisine].

Celebratory Drinks

Celebratory Drinks

Grilled Artichokes

Grilled Artichokes

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

Salmon

Salmon

The grilled artichokes were delicious!  The foodie in me is embarrassed to admit, however, that I have no clue how much of an artichoke to eat.  Oops.  The ‘not your ordinary’ mac and cheese was also delicious, but practically swimming in the cream and cheese.  I felt as though I were eating cream with macaroni in it.  Two bites was plenty.  My salmon was very good, served with a dill sauce on the side.  However, I have had better salmon at a restaurant [Bonefish Grill and Season’s 52 to name a few].  Either way, it was a lot of fun to have a reason to try a new restaurant.  Happy Birthday Ryan! … (Let’s see if he actually reads this)

March 1:  Signed up to run my first 10k

True story: I talk about “goals” and things I want to accomplish, but then, surprise, life gets too busy and it doesn’t happen.  Case in point: run a 10k.

Funny story:  I decided, after a particularly unproductive and difficult gym session, that it was time to 1) get back in shape, and 2) accomplish this frickin goal.  So, I came upstairs, and in the heat of the moment, signed up for the 1st 10k that takes place on a Sunday in my area (because I work on Saturdays).  I didn’t care about the cause, I simply wanted to cross this item off of my bucket list and have a reason to push my butt to run every week.

So, I am now signed up to run the “Gumbo Lumbo Green Turtle Gallop” on April 7.  Yes, I am running 6.2 miles for sea turtle conservation, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Sometimes, you have to stop talking about things you want to do, and just do it!

March 6: Official Job Offer!!!

I was officially offered a full time pharmacist position post-graduation.  And the kicker?  It is located right where I live.  Those of you who aren’t currently on the hunt for full time, well paying, post-grad school jobs in desirable/saturated areas may not fully understand, but this is huge!  I finally feel as though my hard work is paying off and I am getting what I deserve.  I can officially say I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is bright!

Honestly, I have been through some rough patches these past few years, and it feels pretty amazing to feel all of these good changes on the horizon.  It is not always easy to “just stay positive”or “just keep pushing on”, and many times I wanted to seriously punch people in the face for uttering those phrases to me.  But, life really does move in cycles, and things really do get better.  And sometimes, good things do happen to good people.

So many of our days are spent wishing more exciting things were happening or yearning for x amount of days/weeks/months to pass.  Then, when we finally arrive at that accomplishment/goal/vacation/ending we want so bad, it all happens so quickly, that we don’t even appreciate it as it’s unfolding.

This week was splendid and eye-opening for me, and I want to cherish this feeling of happiness, gratefulness, and uninterrupted joy.  I want to forget about my anxieties and fears of all the added responsibilities ahead of me, and just savor this feeling.

Because really, life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around one in a while, you might miss it.-Ferris Bueller.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan- A Very Tasty Use of Leftovers

I made a dish the other night (to be posted for meatless monday) that left me with leftover eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  If that doesn’t scream eggplant parmesan, nothing does!  I knew I wanted to try a baked variety to keep this dish on the healthier side.  (Yes, I realize fresh mozzarella is not necessarily “light”, but that’s all the more reason to not fry the eggplant!)

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I consulted a couple of different recipes and came up with this adapted recipe.  It turned out DELICIOUS, so I wanted to pass the inspiration on to you guys.

Note: the trickiest part in posting this recipe comes with the baking times.  I found mine to require way less baking than suggested, probably because I only made this using the 1/2 eggplant I had leftover (only needed enough to feed two).  I am going to post this as I did it for two people, but if making it for more people just be aware that your baking times will be longer.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan for Two

(Adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe and this Whole Foods recipe)

You will need:

  • 1/2 a large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 TBS italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 TBS parmesan cheese, plus 1tsp divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • about 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thick and chopped into chunks (or you can use shredded mozarella, regular or 2%)
  • Salt and pepper (look at how much salt is in your breadcrumbs.. you may not need to add any)
  • Jarred marinara sauce (or homemade), about 1.5-2 cups, divided

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs,  6TBS parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil.  Transfer mixture to a flat surface such as a plate or cutting board.
  2. In a small bowel, combine the egg and 1 tsp water and lightly beat together.
  3. Line a large baking sheet (may require 2) with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  4. One by one, dunk each slice of eggplant into the egg, shake off excess, and then press firmly onto the breadcrumb mixture.  Turn the slice over and press firmly on the other side as well.  Transfer eggplant to lined baking dish.  Repeat for all eggplant slices.
  5. Bake the breaded eggplant in the oven on 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them over.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes & remove from oven.  Keep a close eye on them at this point so they don’t burn.  Mine cooked for a total time of 30 minutes and they were perfectly brown.
  6. Line a 9X13 baking dish lightly with some marinara sauce, about 1/4 a cup or so.
  7. Transfer the breaded eggplant to the baking dish and layer with marinara sauce then fresh mozzarella cheese.  Keep repeating the eggplant-sauce-cheese layering process until all of your eggplant and cheese are used up.  Dust the top with a light coating of parmesan cheese, about 1 tsp (optional).

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8.  Bake at 410 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown and bubble.  Baking times vary- mine only required 10 minutes.

This recipe was so tasty, I highly encourage you guys to give it a try.  It can be a very healthy and filling meal if you use low fat mozzarella and pair with a nice big salad.  It is delicious enough for a date night in but easy enough for a weeknight meal as well.  This happens to be another one of those versatile recipes that will please kids, adults, vegetarians, and pretty much anyone that likes sauce and mozzarella cheese (i.e. EVERYONE!).

If you are cooking for two such as myself, on Monday I will be posting another great recipe to utilize the rest of the eggplant and mozzarella cheese, so stay tuned.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

One Sweet Day

I hope everyone had a great Valentines Day yesterday.  Whether single or with someone, it’s a great excuse to eat chocolate and drink wine!

We split Valentines into two nights, with Ryan taking me out for a nice dinner last night and Sunday night I will be cooking him a dinner.  What I’m making Sunday was intended to be a surprise but he already knows what it is, so I will just have to keep it as a surprise for you guys.  Can’t spoil a good blog post, can we?

Last night we went out to Mortons Steakhouse for a special dinner and oh my gosh were we blown away.  We had only been one time before, but we each ordered the same thing as last time because it is that good.  Ryan got the 12 oz. filet and I got the shrimp alexander.  In case you are wondering what type of  crazy goes to Mortons and doesn’t order steak, it’s me!  For those of you who haven’t noticed, I don’t eat red meat.  Not to worry- Ryan will be guest blogging on here for all of this blogs meat needs.

Back to this shrimp alexander.  Before attempting to describe something so heavenly, I’ll give you  a visual.

Morton's Shrimp Alexander

Morton’s Shrimp Alexander

I hope you all appreciate the picture because honestly, it is a little embarrassing to snap a picture of your meal at a very nice restaurant, especially when everyone around you is on an intimate date.  I think this should be an initiation act for rookie food-bloggers .  I feel more official now ;)

Now, my attempt at giving this amazing dish a description.  These large, succulent shrimp are wonderfully breaded (don’t believe they’re fried, not sure though) in the most perfect mix of seasoned bread crumbs.  The real out-of-this-world part is the sauce.  Now, normally I am not a “sauce girl”.  I feel sauces usually just add empty and unnecessary calories to a dish that already tastes great.  So, if I am raving about a sauce/dip and practically slurping it up (i.e. this tzatiki sauce), you know it is awesome.  The sauce is a Beurre Blanc sauce- a wine and butter mixture- that is heaven to your mouth.  It is buttery and creamy without tasting too rich, and it pairs with the breaded shrimp beautifully.

Ultimately, this shrimp was so amazing that I can say without a doubt it is the best shrimp I have ever had.  Therefore, I will most definitely be adding this to my “Best Thing I Ever Ate” page.  And for those of you who would love to try this dish on a special night out at Mortons but can’t bear the thought of not getting a steak- worry not!  This dish is available as an appetizer!  But I warn you- an appetizer portion of this will be nothing more than a tease to your tastebuds.

I do have to mention that, surprisingly, the side dishes and desserts at Morton’s do not overly impress me (for $12 a pop).  We tried the potatoes au gratin (which has bacon although not stated on the menu- annoyance #1), the truffle fries (good but can get elsewhere), and the chocolate soufflé (good but can get elsewhere).  In my opinion, you go to Morton’s for the entrees, plain and simple.

I know some feel Valentine’s Day is a silly, commercialized holiday, but I am a sucker for it.  Even though we should treat our loved ones special every day of the year, realistically life gets busy and stressful and that doesn’t always happen as intended.  Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to relax, appreciate the important ones in your life (significant other, parents, friends, pets, yourself), and most important of all, eat chocolate and drink wine!

My Valentine & I (photo not taken on Vday)

My Valentine & I (photo not taken on Vday)

All my favorites

All my favorites

How sweet was it of Ryan to get me all my favorite candy.  Can you tell I like “red” flavors?  And dogs?

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Misha's Black Bottom Cupcake

Misha’s Black Bottom Cupcake

And no occasion would be complete without Misha’s Cupcakes (read about my obsession here).  We finally branched out and tried some new flavors.  This one is is a black bottom: chocolate cheesecake cupcake with buttercream frosting.  Yum.

Now that is what I call one sweet day!

How did you all spend your Valentines Day?  What delicious treats did you eat?

Fried Mac n Cheese: What Heaven Tastes Like

I wouldn’t normally be one to blog about a dish from a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant such as the Cheesecake Factory, but I have the itch to blog and this appetizer was a-maz-ing.

What brought us into the Cheesecake Factory in the first place was the fact that we had a $75 gift certificate from the holidays to use and a free slice of cheesecake (admit it- their cheesecake is to die for).

Fried Mac n Cheese

Fried Mac n Cheese

We started off with this fried mac and cheese appetizer that was seriously delicious.  The fried portion was perfectly crispy and seasoned, and the inside was ooey and gooey macaroni and cheese.  Not questionable cheese filling with a piece of pasta, but actual macaroni and cheese that would have been awesome on its own.  Equally as delectable was the sauce served on the bottom of the plate.  The best way to describe the sauce is creamy tomato sauce meets romesco sauce.

Our entrees were ok but nothing to write home about.  Our cheesecake of choice was the Oreo cheesecake which is not pictured because it wasn’t around long enough to capture a photograph :)

I highly recommend that the next time you are in the mood for a drinks and appetizer type night with your friends or hunny, hit up the Cheesecake Factory and order t0 this fried Mac and Cheese.  We have $10 left on our gift card (don’t you love it when that happens),and our plans literally include a return trip for Fried Mac n Cheese and wine.  And maybe cheesecake…

We all know that chain restaurants are not quite as exciting as home cooked meals or fancy dinners out, or even hole-in-the-wall foodie finds, but sometimes we just end up at one of these places for a meal and are pleasantly surprised.  Similar story? Share!

Fresh Spinach Konafa

Since the image of this glorious appetizer is most likely what lured you in, I must admit right off the bat that I did not cook this!  This fresh spinach konafa is from a Greek restaurant, Taverna Yiamas, in Hollywood, Fl.

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This dish is very similar to spanakopita.  It is made with shredded phyllo dough, feta cheese, and spinach, all sandwiched together and grilled (fried?) to perfection.

Now, over the past year or so I have developed somewhat of an obsession for Greek Food.  I have tried numerous Greek restaurants and have strong, unwavering opinions of who makes the best kebobs, saganaki, tzatiki, hummus, spanakopita, etc.. Let me tell you, Taverna Yiamas makes the best konafa/spanakopita I have ever had.  Period.  The service/ambiance at this place leaves much to be desired, but that becomes irrelevant as soon as you bite into the konafa.

What makes this dish outstanding and different from other spanakopita-type dishes I have had is the crispiness of the shredded phyllo paired with the creaminess of the abundant feta cheese and fresh spinach.  We always order the exact same thing (konafa appetizer with schwarma pitas), so that is the only food I can vouch for from this restaurant.

Ironically, we stumbled upon this place via Groupon, and it was definitely one of those places that surprised us for the better.  Like I said, the ambience and service is sub-par at best, but the konafa is so good I would eat it off the floor if that were my only choice (kidding.. kind of).

Anybody else obsessed with Greek &/ Mediterranean food?