Tuesday, July 29

Congratulations to the Graduate!

This past Sunday, Ben officially graduated with the first part of his degree in Network Technology. After 3 years of working full time and taking classes, I couldn't be more proud of all of his hard work.

We hosted a celebration brunch for our families on Sunday morning. Everyone had a great time and Ben received a ton of wonderful gifts. Thanks to everyone who brought food...everything was wonderful we appreciated all the help since we just got back from vacation. But, mostly we appreciate all the support you give us.

Now, it's onto the next phase at ECU...all of the hardwork will be worth in the end!

Back From Our Vacation

...And we're a little sad it's all over. The week went by way to quick and I'm already itching to plan at least a little long weekend getaway soon since it was so nice to relax and do absolutely nothing!

We ate way too much and enjoyed everyone's cooking until we were stuffed to the gills. We also got the chance to eat out for lunch several days. Tortuga's is always our first stop for lunch before check into our house. Monday, Sara, Adam, Ben and I went to Awful Arthur's in search of Oysters...they were delicious. On Tuesday, we drove up to Corolla and Duck and ate at Fishbones and more oysters and crabcake sandwiches. My dad also took us to a cute little mexican inspired seafood place called Chili Peppers.

Other than eating, we lounged by the pool, sat on the beach, went for a couple of early morning runs and read a ton of books. It doesn't sound that exciting, but it was exactly what Ben and I needed after the past few hectic weeks. We didn't even mind the rain for almost 2 days. Sitting on the deck, even during the rain, was relaxing.

Saturday, on the way home, we stopped in Greeneville to check out the ECU campus. Ben will be starting a IT distance program in August, so we toured the campus and stocked up on our ECU paraphernalia then had a BBQ lunch before heading back home.

Friday, July 18

Our VACATION is finally here!

We're off the Outer Banks for a week! You'll find us going for long runs, reading on the beach, relaxing by our private pool, and whipping up some delicious meals in the kitchen. An entire week of rest and relaxation! For all you visual people here's our house! See you when we get back...ready to celebrate Ben's graduation.

Tuesday, July 15

Jenni's Semi-Homemade Dinner

There is no Sandra Lee in our house, but she'd be proud. In an effort to use what we have and not have a ton of food go bad while we're on vacation next week, we made a quick and easy dinner Sunday after a super hard working weekend. We've been craving Mexican on and off for several days and I think at one point mentioned making fish tacos at the beach.

I remembered I had some frozen fish filets stuffed in the back of the freezer, tortillas and cheese. We didn't have any type of sauce, so I literally whipped up a homemade tartar sauce with mayonnaise, lemon juice, onions, dill weed and cilantro. These really hit the spot. A little lettuce, cheese, extra cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice made these a big hit with Ben. He was quite impressed and I was excited to add another quick and easy meal to our list when we're in a pinch.

Awesome run!

This is probably one of my best runs...it definitely doesn't top the Cooper River Bridge 10k, but it felt amazingly good. I switched up my running route and did it backwards this evening. At the end I felt like I could have done another mile, which is progress from the past few weeks when it's been a struggle to finish. It gives me great confidence that I can train for this half marathon in Nov.

I love love love my Nike+ Sportsband. It's pretty accurate when compared with mapmyrun.com. And now everyone can see my awesome runs and the progress I've made.

Sunday, July 13

Vacation 2008 Countdown...

Only 6 days left to our vacation at the Outer Banks. I've had little time to think about what I'm looking forward to the most on vacation this year, but after the past few weeks of crazy work hours I'm mostly looking forward to the relaxation.

After spending all weekend finally unpacking the last few boxes, hanging up pictures and getting the house presentable for Ben's graduation party, we've started talking about what we're looking foward to the most.

~Cooking and eating some of the yummiest homemade food ever. We each have our day to cook breakfast, dinner and dessert and while most people hate cooking on vacation we love it. We finally get the time to spend in the kitchen, try out a new recipe or make a old favorite that we all anticipate.
Ben's menu:
Lemon yogurt, berry swirl with homemade granola parfaits or Breakfast Pizza
Maple Glazed Salmon, roasted veggies and horsradish-sour cream mashed potatoes
Lava Flows
Smore's Brownies

Jenni's menu:
Strawberry Pancake Rollups
Spiked Iced Cappuccinos
Lasagna, Caesar Salad and garlic bread
White Russian Tiramisu

~Catching up on our books to read list. We made a big trip to Border's the Friday and picked up several new summer reads. I'm almost halfway through Water for Elephants, but I hope to read:
Vanishing Acts-Jodi Picoult
Plain Truth-Jodi Picoult
Second Chance-Jane Green
Honeymoon-James Patterson
The Friday Night Knitting Club-Kate Jacobs

~Sleeping in a few days, but getting up before breakfast to run more than 3 miles. This is the beginning of my training for the half marathon, so I'm looking forward to my running not taking a back seat to the house, work and everything else.

~Lunch at Tortuga's Like, Outer Banks Brewing Company and The Weeping Radish.

~Night swimming in our private pool and soaking in the hot tub after dinner.

~Playing a round of golf with an amazing view.

~Sipping on mimosas for breakfast every morning.

~Playing many many rounds of Wii bowling.

~Peaceful dreams...no crazy night sweating dreams about work!

~Spending more than just 15 minutes together each day.
Lately we've been relying on some old standby's for quick dinners, but in the past couple of weeks I've made two new dishes.

I realized I'm not a big pesto person. And as much as I want to love it, I just can't. After I picked up frozen gnocchi as Trader Joe's and found a recipe for Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus and Pesto, I was sure this would be a "pesto-y" recipe I'd like. It was good...we ate it and the leftovers, but I'm not sure I'd make it agin. I'm sure if you love pesto, then you'd love this recipe. The best part was it took less than 20 minutes to make.

Gnocchi with Asparagus, Shrimp and Pesto (Cooking Light)

2 quarts plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
1 (16-ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi (such as Vigo)
4 cups (1-inch) slices asparagus (about 1 pound)
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons preshredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
4 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add gnocchi to pan; cook 4 minutes or until done (gnocchi will rise to surface). Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl. Add asparagus and shrimp to pan; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Drain. Add shrimp mixture to gnocchi.

Combine remaining 1 tablespoon water, basil, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor; process until smooth, scraping sides. Drizzle oil through food chute with food processor on; process until well blended. Add salt and basil mixture to shrimp mixture; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

The other recipe we tried was awesome. I've been buying huge packs of fresh chicken breasts and grilling them on the weekend (well...Ben grills them). We each have a serving and then use the rest throughout the week on salads for lunch and toppings for pizza. This BBQ chicken has a dry marinade with tons of flavor and a little on the spicy side. I made a white BBQ sauce to go with it, which was cool and a great combination. I'd also make a wonderful salad dressing too.

Grilled Chicken with White BBQ Sauce (Southern Living)

1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
10 chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)
White Barbecue Sauce

Combine first 7 ingredients. Rinse chicken, and pat dry; rub mixture evenly over chicken. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Seal and chill 4 hours. Remove chicken from bag, discarding bag.

Grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 180°. Serve with White Barbecue Sauce.

And finally...I don't have a recipe for this since Ben made it up, but it was by far one of his best pizza's ever. I'm sure it had 300 calories per slice given the amount of cheese, but it sure was worth it. He lost his white pizza sauce recipe, so made one up by making a roux, adding milk, parmesean cheese, white wine and garlic. He sauteed shrimp and mushrooms in a several spices including chipotle pepper. The rest of the topping included spinach, fresh basil from our small herb garden, slices of pepperjack cheese and fresh mozzerella. This was the real deal and really restaurant quality.