Skinny Banana Nut Muffins

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I might have met my future employer today.  Career fairs are so…exciting.  You have all of these college students – mostly graduating seniors – earnestly waiting in lines to talk to more than three dozen different companies.  I’ve been told to have a thirty second “commercial.”  Professors say that’s how you sell yourself to recruiters.  Personally, having a slight obsession with everything from the Magic Bullet to OxiClean since I was a little girl, I thought I would have no problem creating an infomercial for myself.  After talking out loud to the mirror for about an hour and going over my script, I thought my commercial was ready.  I mean…I would hire me.  At the end of the day and after all of the firm handshakes, I have three interviews tomorrow and hopefully a few callbacks in the next week.  Can I not be a professional college student for the rest of my life?

For all you recent grads – hopefully you’re enjoying life and staying busy.  And hopefully you’re employed.  Here is a recipe to have on hand when you need a quick breakfast on-the-go.  These muffins freeze really well, too!  And did I mention they are actually healthy?  The pictures probably don’t give off the “low-fat/low-sugar” vibe.  Also, I promise I’m not a muffin fiend.  I just really really really like muffins.  They’re basically cake, but they’re acceptable to eat in the morning.  I should probably not post another muffin recipe for a while…

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Skinny Banana Nut Muffins: (little maddie’s original)

Prep Time: 8 minutes          Cook Time: 10-12 minutes          Servings: 24 muffins *

  • 1 3/4 cup flour **
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 6 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend ***
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or any other fat – melted butter, vegetable oil, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or any other milk)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt (like Chobani)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 400°.  Spray 2 muffin pans with nonstick spray.  Mix dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a small bowl.  Mix mashed bananas and sweeteners in a large bowl.  Heat coconut oil and almond milk in a small saucepan until liquified.  Pour almond milk mixture into banana mixture and stir to combine.  Add vanilla and yogurt to banana mixture and stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold until just mixed together.  Fold in walnuts.  Using a cookie scoop or a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter into greased muffin pans.  Bake for 10-12 muffins or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.  Enjoy for about 5 days and if you have any left just wrap them up and freeze!

*This batter made 24 regular muffins, but as you can see from the picture they are a bit short.  If you want taller muffins, just add more batter to each muffin tin and you’ll end up with 12 fuller muffins.  I like the short little portion-controlled guys.

**The recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups flour.  I used 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour.  If you’re gluten-free, use all gluten-free flour!  If you could care less about nutrition, use all-purpose flour for the full 1 3/4 cups!  Just do whatever you like.

***I experimented with Truvia Baking Blend for the first time with this recipe and really liked it!  If you like another sweetener, use that!  The 6 tablespoon measurement for the Truvia is based on 3/4 cup white granulated sugar.

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love, maddie

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

IMG_8453Brrr. It’s literally freezing in Blacksburg. Blistering wind + a high of 14° = Depression.

But do you know what you can do to make that snow storm outside your door seem like a sunny day in Virginia Beach? Make soup! Especially warmly spiced roasted veggie soup or puréed soup that feels like silk as soon as it hits your taste buds. Lucky for me my Aunt Val just got me an immersion blender for my birthday! It’s a super nifty piece of kitchen equipment that I’ve always wanted. I actually told my family I couldn’t fit any more kitchen gadgets in my teeny tiny apartment (with my slow cooker, Dutch oven, ice cream maker, food processor, etc.), but nevertheless I received the immersion blender, a pressure cooker from Morgan, and a cooling rack + cookie sheet set from Nanny. They know me too well. You can still make this soup with a regular blender though or even keep the vegetables in chunks, but the immersion blender is so quick, fun to use, and really easy to clean. I should probably be a telemarketer for KitchenAid.

IMG_8440IMG_8441IMG_8447IMG_8442IMG_8443IMG_8444IMG_8446IMG_8448IMG_8449IMG_8450Roasted Sweet Potato Soup: (little maddie’s original)

Prep Time: 10 minutes          Cook Time: 30 minutes          Serves: 4

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 box chicken stock (32 oz.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • S & P to taste
  • plain nonfat greek yogurt (like Chobani) + cilantro, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425°. Toss sweet potatoes and carrots with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, or until tender. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot. Sauté onions in pot until translucent. Add garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper. Add spices and cook until fragrant. After sweet potatoes and carrots are done roasting, place them in the pot with the onion mixture. Pour in the chicken stock and maple syrup. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Purée soup with immersion blender until smooth or ladle soup in batches into a regular blender. Spoon finished soup into bowls and top with greek yogurt and cilantro. Enjoy!

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love, maddie 

Blueberry CHO Muffins

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I splurge at the grocery store on occasion. A box of $4 raspberries. Cheese from the fancy section of Kroger. Steak instead of chicken for dinner. Whatever the ingredient may be, sometimes I just can’t resist. Well one day I bought a box of fresh blueberries because I was really craving them. Then I put them in my refrigerator when I got home. Next thing I know I was digging my poor box of blueberries out from the back of my fridge two weeks later. They were wrinkly, squishy, and definitely not edible anymore. I was traumatized. $3 just thrown in the trash. And they looked so good at the store! Lesson learned. From now on, when I cave and get the good stuff, I keep everything in the front of the fridge and if it even looks like it could go bad in 2 days I throw it in the freezer. That’s where these blueberry muffins come in. One Sunday afternoon I felt like baking…saw the frozen blueberries and the rest is history.

The CHO comes from the plain 0% Chobani yogurt that I put into the muffin batter. It adds lots of protein and makes the muffins super moist! Sour cream could be substituted, but that would just be silly because sour cream is loaded with fat. Protein > Fat. I also subbed 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. Not much, but it makes me feel better when I down 3 of these puppies. This muffin batter is actually more like a cookie dough, so don’t be scared if you find it to be a little thick. They come out perfect!

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Blueberry CHO Muffins: (adapted from smitten kitchen)

Prep Time: 10 minutes          Cook Time: 20-25 minutes          Servings: 10-11 standard muffins

  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (you could just use all AP flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375°. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl (or you can use a standing mixer). Add the egg, yogurt, and zest. Beat to combine. Sift the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Beat to combine (do not over mix or the muffins will be tough). Fold in the blueberries. Spoon into well-greased muffin pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy!

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love, maddie

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Soup

IMG_7855Wait a second – am I really a senior in college? Are you sure I’m not an awkward freshman running around the drillfield trying to figure out in which direction my class is? You Virginia Tech grads know that pretty much all of the buildings on campus look exactly the same since they are all made with Hokie stone. Well, sadly I am a senior. That means in May I’ll have to start doing real person things. You might be asking yourself what “real person things” are. These things include but are not limited to: finding a job, going to work, doing responsible activities with your paycheck (i.e. paying taxes, investing, buying insurance, paying rent on a real place that’s not your parents, and hopefully saving most of it), and bills, bills, bills. Anyway, hopefully the transition from college to the real world isn’t too bad. I guess there’s nothing wrong with crashing with my parents for a couple of months after graduation right? More time for family bonding!

One of my favorite cuisines to cook at home is mexican. I love anything with lots of citrus, jalapeños, avocados, or cilantro. My second family (which actually really is family) have the same infatuation with mexican food that I do. In fact, every summer when my whole dad’s side of the family goes to our beach house in Corolla, NC, this family always makes a mexican themed dinner when it’s their night to cook. I never complain. My uncle is famous for his pico de gallo – he could seriously jar it and sell it. And my aunt makes a delicious pulled chicken that she cooks in a crock pot – full of flavor and really easy. My cousin, Hayley (who is also the model for my blog haha), isn’t the biggest fan of cooking, but she looks really pretty standing in the kitchen doing whatever her momma tells her to do. I think this family and yours will be big fans of this cilantro lime chicken soup made in a slow cooker!

IMG_7847IMG_7851Look at all of those goodies! This recipe is super easy. You only have a couple of things to chop, the rest is just throwing things in your slow cooker. I topped my ginormous bowl of soup with a cilantro lime crema that I made with Chobani greek yogurt. They recently sent me a shipment of yogurt, so I’ve been using a lot of Chobani lately – mexican layer dip, chicken salad, and yummy smoothies. This week I’m making some frozen yogurt! Check back here soon to see how it turns out.

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Soup: (adapted from little kitchen, big bites)

Prep Time: 15 minutes          Cook Time: 8 hours          Serves: 4-6

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans corn
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans black beans
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 (32 oz.) box of chicken stock
  • S & P to taste
  • lime wedges, avocado, cilantro, and scallions for garnish

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low. Take chicken out and shred with two forks. Place chicken back into slow cooker. Serve with garnishes and cilantro lime crema.

Cilantro Lime Crema

  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Place all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Enjoy!

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love, maddie

Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Paprika

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Less than two weeks left in this beautiful city. It’s crazy to think that this summer is about to end, and that working at the Seabrook Island Club, exploring downtown Charleston, and spending my days off reading on the beach at Sullivan’s Island will just be a memory. Although it is very cliché, I really have grown a great deal since I arrived here in May. Working in an oceanfront restaurant and managing 20 employees have shown me challenges I’ve never had to face before. How do you tell someone who is 20 years older than you and has worked at the restaurant for 10+ years what to do? Oh yeah throw in the fact that you’re a measly little intern. There have been some bad days to say the least. But I also have had some amazing learning experiences that I will take away with me at the end of the summer.

I’ve also grown outside the workplace – I can say that I am happy on my own now. After a 4 year relationship coming to an end, I finally feel like I’m back to my old self. While I still have a few bad days here and there, the good days reinforce the fact that I’m on my own two feet again and it’s all about me, myself, and I (yes, I just referenced Beyonce). One of my favorite things to do on my days off is go to the beach by myself. I’ve never felt more relaxed and at peace. I don’t have to ask anyone when they want to leave. I don’t feel like I have to entertain anyone. I just sit on the beach, look out to the water, and read a book. It seems like I’m doing everything solo – and I kind of like love it. I went to a plantation in the Historic Ashley River district called Middleton Place on my own, just taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. I visited the Gibbes Museum of Art off Meeting Street, walked through the City Market where vendors come from around the area and share their craft, explored the Waterfront Park, and took pictures on Rainbow Row. I still love spending time with friends and family, but I am perfectly fine with spending the day by myself and getting some “me” time. Not gonna lie – it feels pretty awesome to say that.

When I have days off, I usually like to make a yummy dinner at home. We have a pretty limited kitchen here in Charleston, but this meal was perfect because it only required the basics – some mixing bowls and a baking sheet. I’m pretty sure that this is one of my favorite dishes I’ve ever made. It was unbelievably easy, ridiculously delicious, and fairly inexpensive & healthy. The chickpeas get toasted and crunchy, the tomatoes have a sweet, roasted flavor & the chicken is very moist and has a nice kick from all of the spices. Top it off with the creamy spiced yogurt sauce and it compliments the dish with a tangy richness. You could twist this recipe and make tons of different meals with this concept. Mix spices with EVOO, rub it on some chicken and vegetables, throw it on a baking sheet, and put it in the oven. Easy as pie. Also, if you have leftovers, shred the chicken and throw all the mix-ins in some pita bread (I had that for lunch for three days – it was awesome). Hope y’all enjoy!

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Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes, Chickpeas & Paprika: (adapted from Bon Appétit)

Prep Time: 15 minutes     Cook Time: 20 minutes     Servings: 3-4

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 12-oz. container cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 450°. Mix EVOO, garlic, and spices in a bowl. Put 1 tablespoon spiced oil into a small bowl and whisk in yogurt and set aside. Place chicken on baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons spiced oil. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup cilantro to the rest of the spiced oil, toss to coat. Pour chickpea mixture around chicken. Season everything with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cilantro. Serve with yogurt sauce. Enjoy!

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love, maddie

Morgan’s Chicken Piccata

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Morgan – my beautiful, talented, gutsy, independent & selfless sister – shares the same crazy obsession with all things food that I do. So when my sissy and I get together, cookbooks, Food Network & Cooking Light magazines, and researching food blogs for new recipes are always involved. Bobo (nickname for Morgan – very long story) and I haven’t always coexisted as well as we do now. Two strong personalities put in the same room is one crazy room. Never a dull moment. Even back in the day (the 90s), I used to frame Morgan for different things that I had done. For example, my dad and I were looking at a house in Croatan, while my mom and sister were no where near the house – probably shopping somewhere. I decided to be mischievous and go in a room by myself, pick up a fancy vase, and then drop the fancy vase on the ground. What follows might surprise you…after the obviously loud crash of the glass breaking, my dumbfounded father runs in trying to make sense of what happened…my 5 year old self picks up a shard of glass, looks at my dad, and says “LOOK WHAT MORGAN DID!” This was only the beginning of Morgan’s and my loving relationship. Fast forward to Morgan in high school and her annoying little sister Maddie and you’ve got a match made in Heaven. Nonetheless, there are multiple pictures of my sissy and I from our childhood smiling and laughing, and for good reason – we have a ball when we’re together. I think God made sisters so that they will each always have a friend, no matter how weird each sister is. Morgan and I are pretty weird.

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Look at that teamwork! A family that pulls pork together stays together ♥

She emailed me this recipe right after she visited me here in Charleston and told me to “tweak” it before I put up a post about it. I really love her measurements and wording of the recipe though, so I’m copying and pasting it directly from the email! Sorry Bobo! Hope y’all enjoy this recipe – she literally makes it once a week so I’m sure it won’t disappoint :)

Morgan’s Chicken Piccata:

Prep Time: 20 minutes          Cook Time: 30 minutes          Servings: 4

As per Morgan:

“Sooooo I’m no pro…but you are so you can make it better :) and I don’t know how to spell anything!!!!! And I’ve had  2 glasses of wine…

3 chicken breasts cut in half and pounded out to 1/2-1/4 inch thick (just all the same), seasoned with salt and fresh cracked pepper on each side.
Chicken Dredge:
  • Plate of flour
  • 1/2 tsp each onion powder, garlic powder, paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 tbps evoo and 1 tbps butter
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 large shallot, small dice
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 3/4 cup good, drinkable white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (can do less…I like lots of lemon!) plus 1-2 lemons thinly sliced
  • More butter
  • Basil and parmiggano reggiano for garnish (optional)
Pasta:
  • Pasta
  • Water
Preheat oven to 350°.
Take room temperature, pounded out chicken breasts and dredge in flour mixture on both sides and shake off excess.
Heat large skillet with tall sides to medium-high heat and brown each side of breasts until golden color appears.  It’s not being cooked all the way through…just being browned on each side before cooking in the oven. Set on plate with paper towel to soak up extra oil and leave alone while making sauce.
Put pan on medium heat and add another tablespoon of evoo and butter to browned bits on bottom of pan where chicken was cooked. Add shallots and stir constantly for about 1 minute until translucent then add garlic for 30 seconds stirring constantly and add capers and lightly smash them to get more flavor out. Add wine and reduce by half, then add chicken broth and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add lemon and cook for 1 minute. Add butter, stir until melted and turn off heat.
Take 9×13 baking dish and place chicken breasts slightly overlapping until all are in dish. Pour sauce all over chicken. Place thinly sliced lemons on top of each breast [the more the merrier :)]. Place dish in oven for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
While chicken is baking, bring large pot of water to boil. Season well with salt and add pasta and cook al dente according to package directions.
Once the chicken is done remove from oven, immediately serve with a bed of pasta, then chicken breast plus sauce and add basil and parmigiano reggiano! It makes it even better! Feel free to add more lemons.  The oven baked lemons and very juicy and delicious :)  I like to add fresh cracked black pepper at the end, as well.  Serve with a glass of the white wine you used to cook!
Enjoy!”
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Love you Bobo!

love, maddie

Quinoa Tabbouleh

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If you’ve never had tabbouleh, you’re missing out! It’s a Middle Eastern dish that is traditionally made with bulgur wheat, but I couldn’t find any in the grocery store so I substituted quinoa instead! Tabbouleh is packed with veggies and herbs and I threw in some feta cheese (even though it’s more part of the Mediterranean diet) because – well – I love feta cheese. I think it goes really well with these fresh flavors. I also added in a green bell pepper because I had it in the fridge and didn’t want it to go bad, but it’s not traditionally used in tabbouleh. If you’re trying to watch your weight or you just want to eat healthy, this dish is definitely for you! Quinoa is the new “it” grain, but it’s actually a seed cultivated mostly in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. It’s loaded with protein and is also a good source of iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Guess what else? Quinoa is naturally gluten-free! So all of you that have to say no to so many grains can say yes to quinoa!

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I’ve been in Charleston for about two weeks now and I’m really loving it! I’m learning a lot working for Seabrook Island Club. A work day for me usually entails working at the Pelican’s Nest (beach side restaurant at Seabrook Island Club) from 10 am – 4 pm or 4 pm – 11 pm. Unless of course I work a double, which unfortunately I have to this upcoming Friday. I have been shadowing the managers these first two weeks, but yesterday I actually opened up the restaurant by myself. So far I’ve learned how to put the daily specials into the POS (Point of Sale) system – how the servers send food to the kitchen/ring up people’s checks; how to schedule the servers’ work week; how to assign table sections to servers; how to input sales data into an Excel spreadsheet to get a manager’s report for the day; and how to deal with problems. Problems can range from a server who rang up a salad with chicken instead of steak and needs the item deleted on the check or angry customers that were disappointed with their meal or service. I’m excited to see what else I’ll learn while I’m here! I think the experience I’m getting is the most valuable thing I’ll take away from this internship. I really am enjoying it though…the people I work with are awesome, the ocean right in front of my restaurant is beautiful, and the thought of my friends and family visiting and me showing them around the city and my work is making me so stoked!

Quinoa Tabbouleh (little maddie’s original):

Prep Time: 30 minutes          Cook Time: 5 minutes          Servings: 4-6

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 bell pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 red onion, quarter sliced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pint cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz. container crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • S & P to taste 

Prepare quinoa according to package’s directions. Place vegetables in a large mixing bowl. When quinoa has cooled, add it to the mixing bowl. Add feta and herbs. Mix in the lemon juice, EVOO, and S & P. Stir to combine. Enjoy!

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love, maddie

Fruit Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing

IMG_6644Today was my first day with my internship at the Seabrook Island Club. Let’s just say that this place is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Everyone that I have met so far is so very friendly, welcoming, and just plain happy. Even the 30 minute drive from my apartment in Charleston is beautiful – the road is lined with trees on both sides that have branches reaching over to the other side of the road. Basically a tree tunnel. So cool. Seabrook Island itself is the perfect combination of a luxurious oceanfront community with a down home feel. The club just completed a $31 million project in 2010 that has completely upgraded the island into one of the nicest communities on the East Coast. They built the Beach Club (equipped with pools, outdoor ocean side restaurant, and poolside terrace looking over 2.5 miles of the beach), the Island House (verandas with views of the ocean and two golf courses, restaurants, events center, and pro shop), and the Lake House (overlooks Palmetto Lake and the 22-acre equestrian center, houses a 6,000 square foot fitness center, pools, and more). I know it seems like I’m selling this place to you, but I promise I’m not. The tour of the island literally just blew me away today and I want to share! But I guess it wouldn’t be a bad thing to sell it to you since I am an employee here now… :) One awesome perk of this internship is I get access to all of these amenities – the 15 HAR-TRU clay tennis courts, two world-class championship “Fully Certified Audubon Sanctuaries” golf courses, and the equestrian and fitness center. Needless to say I won’t be bored this summer. So many activities.

seabrookarialI’ll be updating this a lot more than I usually do – sharing my adventures here in Charleston and on Seabrook Island with you guys. Apparently in 2 weeks I’ll be opening and closing the restaurants at the club by myself, which is kind of freaky to think about. Check back to see how my internship is going and to see what I’m cooking for dinner down here in the South.

I decided to put up this recipe because I won’t be home all summer and what I’m going to miss the most (besides my dogs…and family) is big, delicious, mostly fattening breakfasts on Sunday mornings at my house. I made this fruit salad over spring break at our beach house in Corolla (alongside sausage gravy and biscuits, hash browns, and eggs…yum). I tweaked the recipe from something I learned in my cooking class I took this past semester and wanted to share it with y’all! You can use whatever fruit you have on hand or whatever fruit is your favorite – these are my top picks.

Fruit Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes          Cook Time: —          Servings: 6 – 8 servings

For the Fruit Salad:

  • 1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1/2 pint blackberries
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 cups grapes
  • 1/2 cantaloupe, peeled and diced
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and sliced in half-moons
  • 1 orange, peeled and diced
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 mango, peeled, cored, and diced

For the Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Place all of the prepared fruit in a large bowl. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the prepared fruit. Enjoy!

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love, maddie

Classic Pot Roast with Parsley Gremolata

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I had an unexpected visit from my parents the weekend before spring break due to a death in our family – my great aunt Theresa. She lived in Roanoke, so my parents came to Blacksburg for a couple of days before her funeral. Everyone who met my aunt Theresa was captivated by her spunky attitude and positive outlook on life. She was one amazing woman. I have seen her at the Houck family reunion in West Virginia every year in August since I was a baby, and always loved being embraced by her like she hadn’t seen me in forever. Luckily, my sister, Morgan, and I really got to know her this past reunion as we were one of the first people to arrive in West Virginia. We had dinner with our Nanny and Papa, two of our cousins, and our aunt Theresa and listened to them tell stories about their childhood and past family reunions. It was such a treat. One story in particular really shocked me. When Theresa was in her forties she had a surgery to remove nodules on her throat, but the surgeon accidentally cut her vocal cords. Most people would be outraged if this happened to them, but my aunt Theresa just accepted that it happened and lived her life to the fullest with no animosity towards the surgeon. Although this accident changed her voice drastically and limited her career choices, she battled through all of the obstacles that came her way with strong faith in the Lord and His plan for her. I only wish I could have seen her more before she passed away. From what I learned at the funeral, she was also a gourmet cook. I have a feeling we would have had lots of fun in the kitchen together.

I miss you aunt Theresa, and the Houck reunion won’t be the same without you. You influenced so many people throughout your life. Thank you for being such an inspiration to my family and me.

Click here and get to know the beautiful lady I am talking about.

When my parents walked in the door that Friday evening, I had this pot roast cooking for them. It made the house smell amazing! It’s a delicious one-pot meal and warms the soul. I served it alongside a simple salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and of course I had dessert made as well – homemade salted caramel bread pudding and vanilla ice cream. It was a fun night. That weekend before heading to Roanoke for the funeral, we hiked to the Cascades, I showed them my favorite bakery and café in Blacksburg called Our Daily Bread, and went out to a nice dinner when Morgan got here on Saturday evening. Although it wasn’t under the best circumstances, it was wonderful to be around not only my immediate family, but also to see my second and third cousins that I usually only see once a year. I hope everyone enjoys this recipe!

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Classic Pot Roast and Parsley Gremolata: (adapted from Ina Garten)

Prep Time: 30 minutes          Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes          Servings: 8

FOR THE POT ROAST:

  • 1 (4 lb.) boneless beef chuck roast (the recipe says to tie it, but I didn’t know how to and also didn’t realize I was supposed to tie it until after it came out of the oven…oops)
  • Salt and pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Olive oil
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 leeks, chopped and cleaned thoroughly
  • 1 1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 3 branches fresh thyme
  • 2 branches fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

FOR THE GREMOLATA:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper. Dredge the whole roast in flour, including the ends. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Remove the roast to a large plate.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, potatoes, garlic, and salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, and salt and pepper to taste. Make the sachet d’epices (or bouquet garni or sachet bag) by placing the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and cloves in cheesecloth and then tying the cheesecloth with kitchen twine to make a bag. Place the sachet d’epices into the pot. Put the roast back into the pot, bring to a boil, and cover. Place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Turn the heat down to 250° after about an hour to keep the sauce at a simmer.

Remove from oven and stir in fresh chopped parsley. Remove pot roast from Dutch oven and place on a cutting board to slice. Serve with all the vegetables and the sauce. Top with the gremolata.

Enjoy!

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love, maddie

Poblano Jalapeno Chili

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Waking up to snow on the ground is getting pretty old. I think there is a reason I grew up so close to the coast – I’m really not a fan of cold weather. And cold to me means below 50°. You could say this has been a harsh Blacksburg winter. Walking across the drill field with the brisk wind beating against your face at 8 o’clock in the morning isn’t my cup of tea. However, speaking of tea, this cold weather gives me an excuse to have more hot cocoa in one winter than the normal person drinks in a lifetime. Since I’m trying to look on the bright side of things, another positive to the freezing cold is that you get to cuddle up on a couch with a hot bowl of soup – or more specifically – a bowl of this poblano jalapeño chili.

One of my classes this semester is Purchases, Production, and Management. Some of you may know that I was very excited about this course as one of the required texts for the class is THE Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer. How cool is that? Instead of reading about capital budgeting decision methods, the time value of money, or stock valuation (which unfortunately I still have to read about), I am reading about how to make a roux and that 1 pound of dried pasta yields 3 pounds of cooked pasta. I get excited just thinking about it. Another cool awesome part about this class is that there is a “lab” associated with the lecture. Most labs deal with beakers and Bunsen burners, but my food lab deals with chinois strainers and butter. Lots of butter. Anywho…I get to cook in this lab every Monday from 9:05 to 1:50.  About 5 hours of nothing but cooking. And one of the greatest perks to this class (besides getting to cook) is that we eat whatever we make that day for lunch – and get to take home the leftovers. I forgot my tupperware on the first day, but I won’t make that mistake ever again. Now back to the chili…

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Poblano Jalapeño Chili: (adapted from Cooking Light)

Prep Time: 30 minutes          Cook Time: 40 minutes          Servings: 8

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 poblano or pasilla peppers, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 12-ounce Mexican beer (I used Corona)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • plain greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)
  • radishes (optional)
  • scallions (optional)

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned. Remove beef from pan, drain. Wipe pan clean.

Add oil to the same Dutch oven. Saute jalapeños, onion, poblano, and garlic. Saute 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Add beer. Scrape pan to loosen brown bits. Cook until half of the beer evaporates. Add chili powder, cumin, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in beef, tomato sauce, broth, beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.

Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Ladle chili into bowls and top with optional garnishes (cheddar, yogurt, cilantro, radishes, and scallions).

Enjoy!

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love, maddie