It's about time for another update on our kitchen remodel and it's all about ROCKS. More specifically - granite. It's pretty much been the topic of all conversations in our house for the last two weeks. 😅 Before you start emailing me, I already know that quartz is the go-to kitchen countertop material right now but I just wasn't convinced that it was the right thing for me. 🤷🏻♀️
My search for the perfect rock for our countertops began relatively innocently. I wandered around some local flooring stores perusing squares of smooth granite but when I couldn't find "the one", I decided to expand my search. I realized that the problem could have been that I stink at visualization. 😅I don't think that my brain actually possesses the ability to look at a 24" square and imagine it as a countertop in my house. 🤷🏻♀️ So, I headed to granite suppliers where I could wander in and out rows and rows of giant slabs of granite. Turns out it's much easier to envision a rock in my kitchen when I'm standing in front of a slab that's larger than life.
When I found this giant piece of granite - it was love at first sight. I'm a happily married woman, but I've got a new love in my life. 😂 I think my heart actually skipped a beat when I turned the corner and saw this perfect slab of granite that was without a doubt - MEANT to be in my kitchen. When you know - you know. 💁🏻♀️ I'm just happy that my first love was beside me when I found my new love. ❤️
Petrology is the study of rocks. And after two solid weeks of "studying" slabs of granite - I've basically decided that I am a pertologist. (I'm pretty sure that I just made up that word.) 😅😅 I learned a lot about different kinds of granite and rocks over the last couple of weeks but I'm not an expert - by any means. I'm just a girl who fell in love with a beige rock. 😅
Beige is the key word lately. It perfectly describes my new kitchen palette. I chose beige cabinets, I have beige walls, beige trim and now - a beautiful beige countertop. 🤷🏻♀️ I've never looked at so much beige in my life.
Since beige seems to be the theme - I'm sharing my recipe for a very beige colored Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese. The color may be neutral but the flavors in this macaroni and cheese are anything but bland. The smoky cheese really adds a beautifully bold gusto to this classic dish. Don't let the beige color fool you - this macaroni and cheese packs a punch. 👊🏻
Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni noodles
½ cup butter
4 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon mustard powder
2 cups half and half
4 oz cream cheese
3 cups smoked Gouda cheese
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese
Top with additional cheese and place under the broiler until browned.
Now that my countertop search has come to an end, I can focus on making meals again.😅 Countertop shopping is consuming - What can I say? I logged a lot of hours traversing the state to find granite suppliers this month. 🤷🏻♀️ It was all worth it in the end though. Now that that's done - I can get back to cooking.
I don't enlist the help of caterers very often. I hate to admit it but, it's partly because of my pride.😬 I'm in the food business and I feel like I should be able to handle the food for my own parties. 🌮It's also because it's not always in my budget to order food from an outside source. Not to mention the fact that I really enjoy making party food. I wouldn't have chosen a career as a caterer if I didn't love it. 💁🏻♀️
Even though it pains me to admit it, there are times when even this self-proclaimed catering superwoman needs to call in reinforcements. I don't take for granted all of my family and friends that pitch in to help every single time that I get over ambitious and get in over my head. (And trust me - it happens a lot.) 😅 But, I have to be careful not to wear out my generous team of volunteers.
Hold onto your hats friends - cause your girl did something completely radical. I hired not 1 but 2 caterers to help me with a party next month! I realize that this isn't an extraordinary feat for most people, but for me - it's absolutely un-heard of. 😂 Perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that I'm completely at peace with my decision to pay for catering help because I know how much stress it will take off of me. 🤗
I actually found it really fun (and somewhat enlightening) to be on the other end of the food ordering pendulum. I quite enjoyed being the cateree instead of the caterer, for a change. (Is that a word? 😅) It forced me to look at things from a whole new perspective.
I will never again question when someone orders a tray of simple dark chocolate brownies because I realize that quite honestly, sometimes a brownie really is just the perfect dessert. With that being said - please enjoy my latest dairy-free chocolate brownie recipe. It's rich and chocolatey and delicious and amazing. 🍫
Olive Oil Brownies
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Bake 35 minutes at 350. Cool 30 minutes in pan before slicing.
Does the world really need another brownie recipe? If you ask me, the answer is a definitive, YES! Brownies make the world a better place. A rich, fudge, gooey brownie can satisfy a sweet tooth like nothing else. So here I am - putting just one more - necessary - brownie recipe out there into the world. You're welcome.
Who is planning a beach vacation this summer? 🏖After we all spent last summer social distancing and staying close to home, I'm starting to get the feeling that EVERYONE is planning to get out and travel this summer. 🧳 I know this because, waterfront rental properties are harder to find than ever before. I get it. I was feeling the need for a little beach therapy this summer, too. 🏡
My goal was to go to British Columbia but since that isn't within the realm of possibility for 2021 - B.C. will remain on my vacation bucket list, for now. 📝 Instead of travelling outside the country, this year I'll be safely exploring Northeast Ohio instead. Even though it's not a new location for me, the shores of Lake Erie, is actually one of my favorite summer destinations. 🚣🏽♀️
The small towns that line the shores of Lake Erie offer amazing restaurants, breweries, wineries and fresh fish to offer and you know that I'm all about the food on vacation. 😅🍷 But, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all of the great recreation that the great lake provides as well. Boating, skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, fishing, sailing - the list goes on and on. 🛶
Being on, in or around the lake is my therapy. 💦 Put me on a boat, in the middle of the lake and I'm one happy girl. 🚤 Speaking of boating these zucchini boats are simply delicious. (How about THAT transition? 😅😅😅) Seriously though - this is the perfect side dish or main course for anyone looking for a low fat, tasty, meat- free recipe.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup rice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 packet Sazon Goya Con Azafran seasoning
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Colby Jack cheese
Place under the broiler until cheese is browned.
I've served these zucchini boats as a main course for a weeknight dinner and I've served them as a side dish. It's become my go-to accompaniment for hamburgers and steaks because meat eaters can eat them as a side and non-meat eaters like me can skip the burgers and eat the zucchini as the meal.
I got this recipe from one of my besties. And take it from me, when your friend invites you to dinner, makes something super tasty and vegetarian and then shares the recipe with you - you know she's special. Love you @cyndie.lee. 😘
In classic Amy fashion - I'm posting my super cute Easter desserts 2 days AFTER Easter. 🤦🏻♀️ Sorry. I realize that it's too late to be making yellow chick macaroons for your Easter dinner guests but I'm hoping that just maybe you can find another reason to make these adorable, buttercream filled cookies. 🤷🏻♀️🐣
Two days late is pretty much my new normal these days. Laundry - cleaning - sending out birthday cards - yup - pretty much 2 full days behind on all of those things this month. 😅Contrary to what my social media accounts might lead you to believe - I don't have it all together. It's probably more accurate to describe myself as just barely holding anything together. 😂
Macarons are a perfect example of how disorganized my life can be at times. I've gone through the process of making macarons dozens and dozens of times and I still manage to mess them up --- every single time. 🤦🏻♀️ I get lumpy cookies or I end up with cookies that spread too much or I don't get the much desired "feet" on the bottom of my macarons. It doesn't seem to matter just how much macaroon experience I have - there's always something that goes wrong with my first batch and I end up remaking them.
It's safe to say - macarons are finicky, quirky and temperamental little cookies. Ironically - those are the same adjectives that I would use to describe myself on most days. I'm basically a macaron in human form. It takes at least 2 tries for me to master most tasks and I really am mostly made up of mostly sugar. 😅😅
Now that I've pointed out all of the difficulties and frustrations that I've experienced in my macaron making, you're probably thinking "Why would I ever make those?" My goal wasn't to discourage you but to challenge you. That's the reason that I continue to make macarons over and over again. The process is hard but the rewards are soooo sweet.
3 egg whites - room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Pipe circles onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Tap pans on counter to release air bubbles. Let sit 30 minutes. Bake 20 minutes at 300.
Pipe buttercream on the bottom of half of the cookie shells.
Top with another cookie shell.
Since Easter is over - I hope that you'll save this recipe for next year or better yet, find another reason to make these super cute chick macarons. Fourth of July yellow chick macarons anyone?
Well, it happened again. I got caught up in all of the gorgeous Georgia Spring weather - I planted flowers, I planted my garden and drug out all my summer plants that were spending the winter indoors. 🌺 I should have known that it was too good to be true. Tonights forecast is calling for below freezing temperatures! 🥶
So what I do when the weatherman calls for frost in April? I bring in the plants that I can and the rest of them get covered with bags and sheets to protect them from frost. I got some strange looks from the neighbors while I was draping white sheets over the bushes tonight. Maybe they thought I got my holidays mixed up and was putting out super tacky Halloween decorations in April. 👻 😅
The cold weather definitely caught me off guard this week. As for the pollen - I've come to expect that with a Georgia Spring. I decided to officially concede the war on pollen. I bought plant pale yellow flowers to coordinate with the golden dust that's blanketing my porch. 💛 I'm hosing off my patio every morning and making pollen soup on the sidewalks. My black car is yellow and I'm sneezing like never before but I'm throwing up the white flag and giving up the fight to keep the pollen at bay.
Since I'm seeing yellow everywhere these days - I figured, why not make some sunny yellow cupcakes? I feel like everyone should have a basic homemade vanilla cupcake recipe in their recipe book. One that's simple and uses ingredients that you already have on hand and tastes way better than box mix cupcakes. A vanilla cupcake recipe that you can add things to like sprinkles or mini chocolate chips. A recipe that your family will ask you to make over and over again. A vanilla cupcake recipe EXACTLY like this one!
Very Vanilla Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 2% milk
Even though these sweet little cakes are perfectly decorated for Spring, the decorating possibilities are endless. Green for St. Patrick's Day, red for Valentine's Day and pink and purple for Unicorn Day. Give me a party theme - and I'll come up with the perfect cupcake decorations. It's one of my many strange talents. 😅 Anyway - enjoy the recipe - it's a good one.
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