Saturday, December 18, 2010

Erika and Meg's Excellent Adventure: Chapter 1

Yesterday began our road trip adventure, which started off with our first blogger meet up in Richmond, Virginia. We met Brian for lunch at Ipanema, a vegetarian restaurant in the city. First off, I have to thank Brian for taking some time out of his day to come hang out with us. We had such a great time chatting about blogging and just listening to his passions. He also gave us great suggestions on where to go in the city. When you are in a new city, ask the locals where to go. You will never be let down!

Ipanema is the cutest little "hole in the wall" restaurant. The menu is posted on a chalkboard which offers a wide range of salads and sandwiches to choose from. It was so difficult choosing because everything looked delectable. The prices were also budget-friendly: which was perfect for this road trip! You can always learn so much about a city through their food!


Brian ordered the Ceasar Wrap, which is his usual, so he says!! I can venture to say that it is delicious since he frequents this restaurant often and cannot seem to stray from this!


Erika ordered the Grilled Panini with grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, and provolone cheese. The flavors married perfectly. The roasted red pepper offered a sweetness while the eggplant gave the sandwich a bit of heartiness and the creaminess from the provolone finished the sandwich off with perfection. I ordered the portobello and feta sandwich. My love for mushrooms and feta guided me directly to this. The woodsy flavor of the portobello and the tang from the feta was a delicious combination. There was a basil pesto that added a nuttiness to the sandwich that took it from an average lunch to a memorable meal. I always say that I know I enjoyed a meal when I cannot stop thinking about the dish I ordered and crave it! Each of the plates came adorned with a side of sweet potato fries, which I am almost positive are baked, not fried. They were caramelized perfectly, which accentuated their natural sweetness. It is like eating candy :). I was also so excited to hear that is the side because Erika and I had been talking about them in the car! Ipanema definitely would make any meat-lover contemplate becoming a vegetarian! Remember, TRUST THE LOCALS!


We also came across this Diner's Drive-ins and Dives find about 1 block from the restaurant we ate at!! Didn't get to eat there, but was cool seeing it. :)


We also went around to some great boutiques. Check out www.styleactivist.com to see what we did and where we went in Richmond! This stop was definitely one for the books. Erika posted some live footage from the trip...It's great. You must check it out!

Check back tomorrow to see what adventures Charlotte brings us. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

National Cupcake Day

This post is a day late since National Cupcake Day was yesterday, but don't worry, I did celebrate.


I had cupcakes on every spare surface in my kitchen!!! Let me just tell you, it was a Cupcake Dream!!! I spent every bit of free time I had this week preparing for the different cupcake events and orders that I had!

I made Peppermint Bark, Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream, Death by Chocolate, Vanilla with Vanilla Buttercream, Vanilla with Dark Chocolate Buttercream, and Gingerbread with Ginger-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting! I made mini, regular, and giant cupcakes!!

Unfortunately the snow is falling and the Christmas party that many of these cupcakes were for was cancelled. The one day that I need the weather to cooperate and it snows. :(

On a lighter note, Erika are leaving tomorrow for Richmond!! Woohoo!! Erika and Meghan's Excellent Adventure has finally arrived. I was planning on coming home and packing, but my party has been cancelled and I am snug on the couch sitting by the fire! This week has been exhausting. Secretly, I am waiting for Erika to get here so she can help me pick out my outfits. Everyone needs a personal stylist and I have no doubt that Erika will be very successful one day!!

So, tonight, I will open a bottle of wine, pack and enjoy her company in anticipation for this adventure that I have been excited about since we planned it!!

Follow me and Erika on our road trip to warmer climates, palm trees, and tropical drinks (aka jumbo margaritas)!


Enjoy!

Meghan Rae

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Cookie Traditions

Picture courtesy www.adirondackbaker.blogspot.com

One of the most exciting parts of the Christmas season is all the baking and cooking I get to do. Along with baking around 12-13 dozen cupcakes a week, I now have an excuse to bake even more! Last year, I started what I am going to make as a family tradition. Everyone in my family chooses their favorite cookie, and I bake it for them!! That way we have this ridiculous amount of cookies around and everyone gets their favorite plus a sampling of all the other choices. My family is very traditional, and they are not big on trying new things. So, I always try and make a new kind of cookie for myself to get a little variety in there.

Since Erika  and I have spontaneously decided to add a little adventure in to our lives, I am attempting to cram all of this baking in to the week and a half. Not to mention, the Christmas party I am baking cupcakes for next week. Needless to say, I am a little overwhelmed, but excited all at the same time. I think the hardest part for me will not be packing my entire wardrobe for a 7-day road trip!

Anyways, I wanted to share with you guys some of the cookie recipes I'll be baking for Christmas! (No, I am not going to make cupcakes. My family gets to eat them almost every night.)

My father's favorite cookie is a Thumb Cookie. I never make them any other time, but Christmas. I'm not sure why. It may be the pound of butter in them, but they are certainly not difficult to make. Regardless, they are rich and crunchy and topped with a drizzle that adds the perfect sweetness to the creamy, buttery taste of the cookie.

Thumb Cookies
1 C shortening, room temperature
1 C butter, room temperature
1 C brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
4 C all-purpose flour
1-2 C chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 F.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in the egg yolks until combined. Add the vanilla.
In three additions, slowly add the flour. Mix until combined.
Beat egg whites until frothy.
Roll the dough in small balls. Dip the dough in the egg whites and roll in the chopped walnuts.
Place on baking sheet and make a thumb print in the cookie.
Bake for approximately 5 minutes.

Picture courtesy of zooyummy.com
Drizzle:
2-3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1-1 1/2 C powdered sugar
3-4 T milk
a few drops of food coloring (your preference on the color)

Cream the butter. Add the powdered sugar until combined. Pour in the milk. You want the mixture to be fairly runny. If need be, add some more milk. Pour the drizzle in the middle of the cookie once cooled. Enjoy!!

My mother loves Snowballs, also known as Russian Teacakes. Once again, we only ever have these during Christmas time!

Snowballs
Yields: 4 Dozen
1 C margarine*
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanill
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C chopped walnuts
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions: heat oven to 400 F. Mix margarine, 1/2 C powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt and nuts. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set, but not brown, 8-9 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while warm; then cool. Roll in powdered sugar again.

*I used half butter half margarine.

Picture courtesy of makefive.com
I have only made the dough right now because I want to bake them on Christmas Eve. The dough is stored in the freezer for now. It is nice to know that they are ready to bake when I am!!!

Hope you guys enjoy!! I would love to hear what cookies you are baking for your family. This weekend I will be making Roll-em up cookies, chocolate chip cookies, triple chocolate cookies, and I'm thinking about macarons for myself!!

Merry Christmas, bloggers and Happy Baking!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Erika and Meg's Excellent Adventure-Healthy Eats

As many of you know, Erika and I are headed on a road trip in less than two weeks!! While traveling, it is easy to stray from healthy eating because "junk food" is more easily accessible. We do not want to  be eating out every meal because our budgets and our waistlines do not allow for such a splurge. I have put together a few healthy snacks  that will allow us to save some money and stay healthy!!!

1. Blueberry-Maple Muffins
One of my favorite websites to find healthy recipes is Eatingwell.com, and I will be making these for a grab and go breakfast. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I want to make sure we always have something that provides and energy and nourishment.

2. Spiced Nuts
I absolutely love any kind of nut...almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, peanuts. I'm going to make some spiced almonds to snack on.

3. Multigrain Chips
Costco has organic multigrain chips I am absolutely obsessed with. I'll be packing these, for sure!

4. Carrots, Celery and Cucumbers
It is easy to consume too many calories from snacking. Eat vegetables is a good way to eat more while consuming less calories. Vegetables contain a lot of water as well so they are filling and keep hydrating.

5. Fruit
I'll have some organic apples packed. Apples travel well and contain vitamin C to keep our immune systems strong during travel and exhaustion.
 6. Gum
Riding in the car for long hours can get boring. Mindlessly munching tends to happen often. If I get the urge to snack even though I'm not hungry, popping in a piece of gum usually curbs my craving.

7. Water
Paying over $1 for a bottle of water can get expensive. Buying them in bulk will help keep our costs down, and it will also keep us hydrated!!

8. Cookies
I'm also going to be baking up some healthy, low calorie cookies. After all, it is the holidays, and they are healthier cookies!! One batch will suffice.

Strategies to avoid Mindless Munching:

1. Stay hydrated.
2. Chew gum.
3. Always eat breakfast.
4. Pre-portion everything before leaving.
5. Pack books and magazines.
6. Play road games.
7. Go on a road trip with your best friend!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Recipe Renovation #3

I have to be honest, I tried and failed at renovating a burger. I wanted to make a salmon burger, but it did not turn out so well. The texture was a little weird and I did not like the taste of the salmon. However, I decided to make something else that was actually delicious!!

I have a true love for risotto! It is rich and creamy and melts like butter inside your mouth. I also like to consider myself in a committed relationship with Quinoa. It is my favorite grain and is a complete protein. So, I decided to make a...

Curried Butternut Squash Quinoa Risotto

6 C reduced sodium chicken stock, simmering
1-2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 C Quinoa
1/2 Medium Butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1-2 tsp curry powder
s & p, to taste
Handful of chopped spinach
Parmesan cheese to garnish
1 T butter, optional
 In a dutch oven, combine evoo, squash, and quinoa. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

 Slowly add the simmering chicken broth, one to two ladles at a time. Continue stirring.
This takes patience, but don't stop stirring. 

Once all or most of the broth is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through, add the spinach, parmesan, and a tab of butter (if using). Stir vigorously, until thickened!

Serve with a lemon wedge and an arugula salad with a squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle of EVOO. Add parmesan cheese, if desired. 

Enjoy, guilt free!!! 

Meghan Rae