Monday, July 29, 2013

Roasted Tomato Basil Bisque + Ben's Famous Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I'm pretty sure tomato soup popped up in my dreams on Friday night.

I say this because on Saturday morning, I woke up and NO JOKE the VERY FIRST THOUGHT in my mind was "I NEED TOMATO SOUP!"

It really was. I tell no lie!

The weather was a little rainy, and slightly dreary...perfect weather for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Does it get any more comforting than that?

I have a very simple recipe for tomato soup that use frequently, but this weekend deserved a little something different.


I prepped the recipe as usual, but soup looked a little tooooo soupy when I was done. Thankfully I had about 1/4 cup of whipping cream (cheaper store brand YEAH!!!!) leftover from a previous recipe and poured that goodness right in.

Apparently I wanted bisque, not soup. But oh, was it ever so delicious. I love it when experiments turn out so wonderfully. I can't wait to make this again.

Last-minute change to recipe = brilliance.

The trick is to combine roasted Roma tomatoes with no-salt-added diced tomatoes (from a can -- GASP!) with seasoning. I usually use plain diced tomatoes, but this time used the kind with green chilies. It was actually an accident that I didn't realize until afterward, but no regrets here! It added a little extra KICK to the flavor, and mixed so well with the red pepper flakes I threw in early on.

Can I take a moment to declare my love for store brands? There's no shame in these, peeps. Same taste, better price, happier wallet. 'Nuff said. There are very few items, though, that I'm completely loyal to a particular brand. But more on that in another post.

Back to Saturday.

As all of the bisque-y goodness was happening, The Fiance' stopped by and offered to help with lunch (aaaawwww :) ).

People, apparently I am marrying the Master of All Grilled Cheese Makers. Seriously. I'm not exaggerating.

Okay maybe I am a little. But still, these were seriously the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever tasted. I think we all know who will be making the grilled cheeses from now on ;)

I have no idea what the boy did, but he did it GOOD. Maybe one day he'll teach me and I can share the recipe on here :)

As for the soup, here are some lovely photos of the process and the recipe below.


Roasted Tomato Basil Bisque
Serves 4

6 Roma tomatoes
2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, divided
Sprinkle of salt
Sprinkle of pepper
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Dash of garlic powder (about half a teaspoon)
1 tsp chopped onion (or a few sprinkles of onion powder)
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes with green chilis
2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp of basil

Slice the Roma tomatoes and arrange on a baking sheet (preferably covered with foil that has been sprayed with a light layer of cooking spray). Drizzle tomatoes with 1 tsp EVOO. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may need a tad more oil, but they should not be greasy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes, then broil until they are just beginning to darken on top. For my oven, this took about 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp of EVOO in a saucepan on medium-high heat and let garlic, onion and red pepper saute' for just under a minute (it might get dark, but don't let it burn). Pour in diced tomatoes, broth, and cayenne and let simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the basil.

Lower the heat to medium-low when mixture begins to boil, then add your Roma tomatoes. Stir well so everything is nicely combined.

Using an immersion hand blender, blend the soup until it reaches the desired consistency. I left mine slightly chunky. If you don't have a hand blender, pour soup (a little at a time - it will be hot!) into a normal blender, then pulse until desired consistency. Return to saucepan.

With heat still on medium-low, add in the whipping cream a little at a time, stirring constantly. When bisque reaches the desired thickness (and a little red color), your dish is ready to enjoy.

Serve alongside warm grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Baked Chicken Parm

Awhile back, I mentioned that I made Baked Chicken Parmesan when my friend Jessica came to visit.

I've also made it a WHOLE LOT few more times since then, so I'm excited about sharing it here on the blog!

I love traditional chicken parmesan when I go out to eat, but I don't always love eating fried food. Enter in this baked version that I personally believe is just as fulfilling (okay, let's be honest...MORE fulfilling) as the fried version.

PAUSE: I've literally JUST returned from a work trip, and my mind is mush right now. Example? I keep typing "friend" instead of "fried." I love friend food; not always fried food though. I felt the need to clarify JUST IN CASE it happens again -- along with any other typos that may occur in this post!!!! =)

The trick is to cut the chicken in half lengthwise before you prep and bake it. Smaller portions mean you'll notice- I mean - have room for enjoy more of the other stuff on your dessert, am I right? Of course I am. Everybody loves dessert ;)

I also use whole-wheat pasta to lighten this dish up. If you've never had whole wheat pasta, it has a slightly grainy texture comparatively. It may be an adjustment, but after just one or two tries I really didn't notice the difference anymore. Now I don't even miss the other stuff.

Some people are awesome and make their own spaghetti sauce, but I'm even more awesome and I use the good stuff out of the jar. It's especially helpful when you're VERY hungry and have a strong desire to eat RIGHT THEN, as I usually tend to be around supper time. I usually use either marinara (YUM) or traditional, but use whatever type of spaghetti sauce your heart desires - I wouldn't recommend Alfredo, though.

It's so fancy, yet so easy.

Let me know if you make this - I'd love to hear your thoughts :)

Baked Chicken Parmesan
Adapted from Skinnytaste - Serves 2-4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or more, if that's your thing)
2 tbsp butter, melted
Italian seasoning, to taste (I use Chef Paul's)
1 jar of spaghetti sauce of choice (marinara works great)
A few sprinkles of part-skim mozzarella cheese (about a tsp per chicken half)
Whole wheat spaghetti noodles

Prep: Preheat oven to 450. Cook pasta al dente and set aside. Melt butter, and in a separate bowl mix breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise, making 4 pieces of chicken. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray to prevent any sticking.

Lightly brush butter onto each side of chicken pieces, the dip chicken into the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture. Place each slice of chicken onto a sprayed baking sheet, the sprinkle the top of each with Italian seasoning.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, then flip chicken over and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon about a tablespoon of sauce (or a little more, if you're like me and like sauce!) onto each piece, then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Let it bake in the oven until cheese is completely melted.

To plate, place your cooked pasta onto the center of the plate, and spoon over with spaghetti sauce. Place one piece of chicken on top and add just a dash more of Italian seasoning.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jesse & The Rippers & A New Recipe

It's been an interesting week. Tres intéressant. And I'm slightly exhausted.

I mean, caring for a Royal Baby can be exhausting.

From the labor, to the the the press announcement at the hospital, then the OFFICIAL placement on the golden easel, then the Town Crier.

Oh the Town Crier.

And then there was that moment on the steps, when they waved and chatted and laughed and looked fabulous. Then hopped in the car and drove away.

Whew. What a week.


Anyway, aside from All Things Royal (which I love. So much. So very, very much), in all actuality it's been a bit of a tiring month week.

Is this real life? I need sleep.

However, I'm about to show you something that I'm pretty sure is going to make your day. It definitely made mine - and it's only 10am!

I'm talking about Jesse and the Rippers, everybody. JESSE AND THE STINKIN RIPPERS. On that show with that guy that used to be on that show that airs LIVE from New York every Saturday night.


JESSE AND THE RIPPERS. Full House anyone?

Shoo doo be doo DAH DAH DAH!

Jesse and the Rippers recently reunited on Jimmy Fallon. Please watch this. It gives me almost as much joy as the Royal Baby.


By the way. Holmes in the white polo? That would totally be me.

Dude in the suit? That would be The Fiance. We're completely awesome like that.

I find it fascinating how John Stamos has never aged. He even got the perfect 90's hair back for the show. Then again, when was Uncle Jesse's hair NOT perfect?

And Aunt Becky? Loved her. Aunt Becky, Uncle Joey, DJ, and Gibbler FO EVA.


And Comet. We can't forget Comet. And Steve. Steve was always cool. To this day I STILL squeal when he's waiting at the door in a tux for DJ's prom even though Michelle has amnesia and DJ has no dress but somehow looks GORGEOUS as always and OH EM GEE I LOVE DJ on that last episode.

Oh childhood.


Last night was a late supper night and I needed something FAST and HEALTHY. Enter in THIS:

I don't know what it's called, but I call it Delicious.

Kind of like a vegetable-filled seafood jambalaya.

I came upon this recipe via Chocolate Broccoli. Please check out her site, it's adorable.

I had a lot of this stuff on hand already, and if I didn't it was something I would normally buy at the store.

Frozen veggies, frozen shrimp, Uncle Ben's 90-second brown rice? Helloooooo healthy one-dish meal.

The great thing about this meal is that everything is already cooked when you put it into the skillet. Just heat and season and You. Are. Done. Boom.

I used the Broccoli Stir Fry frozen mix for veggies, frozen shrimp already cooked, and Uncle Ben's brown rice. This might have taken me 15 minutes, tops. Maybe.

Then I made biscuits from scratch and all was well with the world.

I hope you make this dish. And I hope you eat it while listening to Jesse and the Rippers.

Cajun Shrimp and Rice

Adapted from the blog Chocolate Broccoli
Makes 4-6 servings

1 pouch of Uncle Ben's 90-second whole-grain brown rice
Zero fat cooking spray
1 pound peeled and deveined (and cooked, if you can find it) shrimp
1 tbsp of Tony's  (or other Cajun seasoning)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Sprinkle of onion powder
1 package of frozen broccoli stir fry veggies, thawed
1/2 tbsp of Italian seasoning (I use Chef Paul's, but a nice mix of oregano and basil would still work)
1/2 tsp of paprika
1 can no-salt added stewed tomatoes
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
dash of cayenne pepper
sprinkle of salt
dash of pepper

Spray a bit of cooking spray on a skillet over medium-high heat. Throw in your shrimp and sprinkle with Tony's, toss to coat evenly. Saute shrimp for roughly 4 minutes or until done. Remove from skillet, but keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat your olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic powder first, then throw in your veggies, paprika, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your rice, then add to the skillet once it's done. Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook/stir until everything is evenly combined and thoroughly heated.

Serve warm with homemade biscuit or french bread.

Monday, July 22, 2013



There is no font large enough or bold enough to convey my excitement at the moment.



The Easel Announcement:

"Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4:24 today.
Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well." 

He said: "God save the Queen!"

Royal Baby Watch - Part Two - I'm Having CUPCAKES TONIGHT!


What a way to start a Monday, folks!

Powered up the computer this morning only to find THIS:

It's now a jolly ol' 4pm over in London as I type this (10am here in The City), and no news of a baby yet.

{short break to do some "real work" in the "real world"}





It's now nearly 2pm in The City and STILL NO BABY!

But that's okay -- and because there's not much else that's relatively exciting going on today -- and because I feel a dire need for attention -- and because I've really really really wanted to blog for the past few days --- I present you with pretty pictures from recent times whilst out 'n' about:

GIANT flowers amongst the rocks by the lake -- a bright, happy sight on a day that MIGHT have been a little rocky. Get it? Because it's in the ROCKS? Yeah, I'm awesome.

On a deeper note...maybe this is the Lord's way of telling me to try to be the "bright & happy" while in the middle of a hard and rocky place. Oooohhh.......

Because sprinkles make everything better :) Especially on fro-yo by a fountain.

This little miss stole my heart the moment I saw her. She belongs to The Fiance's sweet granny. 
And my heart  =)

Starting to register! One of us MIGHT have had 
a little TOO much fun -- not saying any names though ;)

Key Lime Pie. From scratch. Oh yeah. That happened.
Recipe coming soon -- and I cannot WAIT :)

How to tell you're with the right person -- he humors my Royal obsession.
Please forgive my atrocious grammar error. I was way excited.
Or maybe it was autocorrect ;)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Royal Baby Watch - Part One

Okay folks, it's getting real. I know many people roll their eyes at the mere MENTION of the Royal Baby - or anything dealing with the Royals - but I for one am fascinated and oh-so-excited about this whole baby thing.

NEWSFLASH: I was watching E! just now over lunch (helloooooo "Sleepless in Seattle"!!!) and a scrolling headline popped up that said the Queen quite "abruptly" left a cricket match just a short while ago - prompting speculation about the Bebe'.

However, I haven't been able to confirm this (obvi), and Google/Yahoo/MSN/Twitter/NOTHING has said a word about this. Oh E! shouldn't get my hopes up like this.

I guess it's possible that the Queen just didn't want to watch cricket.

Le sigh.

I'll admit that I've been a fan of all things Royal ever since speculation started about Will & Kate's engagement a few months before it actually happened. Yes, I am on a first name basis with them now; I'm that awesome.

I was one of THOSE people that saw a documentary about Will's life and courtship with Kate -- one of those that ended with the big question, "Will they or won't they????" -- and proceeded to scream "I LOVE THEM!" as the ending credits rolled.

I'll also admit that I wore a fascinator whilst watching the Royal Wedding, and that I woke up at 3am that morning just to watch it live. I was also one of thousands that SQUEALED the moment she stepped out of that car.

Let's re-live that moment, shall we?

Aaahhhhh --- I love it! Pure glamour.

I missed the kiss on the balcony, however, because at 6am I jumped in my car and drove to Nashville for a half marathon. No worries here, though :)

What I won't admit, though, is that I MIGHT have a can of pink icing and a can of blue icing in my kitchen, waiting to be used for royal cupcakes. Cans that I PROMISE have been there since WAY before I had that idea (which was today) - I honestly just thought they were pretty, especially since I have NO IDEA how to make icing a bright neon color.

(I know you're laughing. And that's okay, because it's pretty ridiculous)

Plus, come on. It's a good occasion for a cupcake. And ANY occasion is a GOOD occasion for a cupcake.

Quit my job? WHOO HOO! Cupcake time!

Got a new job? Give me TWO!

Rough day? Cupcakes help.

Good day? CELEBRATE!


I can't imagine our dear Royals doing anything but laughing at all of the frenzy happening right now. I really wouldn't blame them at all. It's ridiculous, but let's face it - it looks like there's finally some HAPPY mixed in with the "World News" portion of the media. Amongst all of the crazy that's happening these days, all of the sadness, the struggles, the anger -- there's a ray of sunshine that comes alongside this sweet, innocent, and historical happening.

Because when he or she decides to come into the world, he or she will have no idea just how important they really are. Not just as the future heir to the British throne, but because we'll finally see some "happy" on the news.

And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.

Anybody want a cupcake? :)

***Note: Not my photos :)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Red Beans and Rice Casserole

Get ready -- This recipe is going to knock your socks off.


Ready to drool?

Don't say I didn't warn ya!

Okay so that was a wimpy pic. But believe me, this is one FANTASTIC AMAZING dish!

Red Beans and Rice CASSEROLE.

Yes. Casserole. You really CAN make a casserole out of {almost} anything.

And get this: It's topped with GUACAMOLE.

Trust me when I say it's nothing short of delicious.

Back story: Last week, by the time Thursday rolled around I had had roughly 5 hours' sleep over the course of 2 days combined. I absolutely, positively could NOT function by the time I left work. I came home, kind of zombie-walked into the kitchen, threw a few things into a casserole dish and put it in the oven -- then set my alarm for an hour and a half nap. Glorious.

Two hours later, I might have woken up, turned off the oven, and immediately returned to sleeping.

I only vaguely remember doing any of this.

Is sleep-cooking a thing? Because I might have it.


I slept for about 4 wonderful hours, then woke up due to a growling stomach. Good thing I had THIS wondrous concoction waiting for me!


Who says you can't eat supper at 10pm? In Spain they do it all the time!

Thirty minutes later, I was out again and slept until 7 on Friday morning.

It was a good night.

This recipe is not my own - I've adapted it from Jenna of EatLiveRun - check out her awesome blog when you get the chance! I made a few recipe additions of my own, but hers is the origin-NAL.

Make this. You and your belly will be VERY happy.

Red Beans & Rice Casserole
Serves 4

For Casserole:
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups of veggie or chicken broth
3/4 cup of brown rice
1 -8oz can of tomato sauce
1.5 tsp of cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Tony's, to taste
a few dashes of hot sauce
a dash of cayenne pepper

For Guac:
2 avocados
juice of 1 lime
a dash of cumin
a dash of garlic powder
a dash of Tony's

For casserole, combine everything into a 9 x 13 casserole dish and mix thoroughly. Cover very tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake at 350 for an hour and a half. Do NOT - at ANY POINT - lift foil. Once it's done, serve, top with guac and enjoy.

For guac, mash the avocados until they've reached your desired consistency - I like mine a tad chunky. Squeeze in your lime juice and add seasonings, mix well and add a dollop onto your serving of casserole.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Two Years

Two years ago today I moved to The City.

Two years ago today The Fiance' moved from The City to North Carolina for his job.

We hadn't met at that point, but yet we barely missed each other.

It's funny to look back and see how different everything was back then, and how different of a person I was then compared to now.

It's kind of mind-blowing to see the difference just two years makes.

I'll stop there before I get sappy and emotional.

No wait! I'm already there!


This week makes two years that I've been with this particular job -- and what a whirlwind that has been!

When I first started, I was in a corner cube that had previously been used for storage, and items were shoved around haphazardly in an effort to make space for me. For two weeks my computer had problems connecting to the system - making email and work in general very difficult, and the next month was spent answering everyone's questions as to WHY, exactly, I'd moved to a city where I had no family, friends, or really any connections.

The job seemed interesting, really, and I was up for an adventure.

Since then, I've been blessed to get to know many people within this company, as well as travel a good bit, plan a few events, have a few pieces published, and wear a costume or two. Literally.

I've also moved to an office (with a DOOR that I can CLOSE when the hallways get loud!) and given a new title and responsibilities. I've also gone through two supervisors and seen quite a few co-workers come and go. It's weird to see just how much has changed in just two years - professionally and personally.

I read once that it can take someone around two years to truly "get adjusted" to a new place to live.

I'd like to think I'm fairly adjusted, but not quite settled. Maybe it's my restlessness, maybe I'm a little homesick. Or maybe it's time for a new adventure. Either way, I guess we'll see.

How's that for a Monday?