Sunday, December 13

A Seattle Souvenir!

We’ve been keeping a secret, which may be the reason for my lack of posting here!  Two weeks after returning from Seattle, we found out we were expecting.  The newest member of our family is due June 19, 2010 and we could not be more excited or feel anymore blessed! 


I’ve been documenting the pregnancy so far and you can read more about it at Baby Stafford’s blog! 

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Now that I’m getting more energy back and feeling much better I hope to update you on everything else we’ve been up to since Seattle including a full post of our trip.  Seattle holds an incredibly special place in our hearts as many life changing moments have occurred there.  First we were engaged on Alki Beach during my first trip.  Second we got the greatest souvenir of all when we went out to celebrate our 3rd Anniversary.

Monday, October 19

Homecoming Queen

ECU Homecoming 09 005 A few weeks ago my little sister, Sara called me with the fantastic news that she was nominated for ECU’s Homecoming Court.  Not wanting to miss this chance we made plans to go to Greenville for the weekend regardless if she made the top 5 or not.  We knew it would be a fun weekend of tailgating and a great football game anyways. October 2009 100  October 2009 103October 2009 110October 2009 112ECU Homecoming 09October 2009 088October 2009 104

Being that Ben is a student at ECU in their distance program he was able to vote for Sara.  His vote definitely counted since she made it to the top 5.  After a panel of interviews and a week full of parties and appearances she rode in the Homecoming Parade and was introduced during half-time on the field.  We all held our breath as Sara was announced ECU’s 2009 Homecoming Queen representing Kappa Delta.  I think everyone had a few tears in their eyes. 

ECU Homecoming 09 001October 2009 151October 2009 154 ECU Homecoming 09 004After half-time we ran down to meet her for pictures, and watched by the end zone where she and Tremaine , the Homecoming King, raised the No Quarter flag at the beginning on 4th Quarter.  ECU Homecoming 09 006What a wonderful weekend full of good food, friends, family and wonderful memories!  Congratulations Sara…Ben and I are so proud of you!ECU Homecoming 09 007

Fall Chicken and Cider

The chilly weekend got both Ben and I in the mood for fall.  Our menu for the week has already included Taco Soup, which was perfect for a lazy Sunday.  I knew we would have chicken tonight, but I was in the mood for something quick, easy with a fall flavor…I stumbled upon Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce and it was perfect with 5 ingredients! 

By cooking the chicken in the bacon renderings, it gave it wonderful flavor.  The bacon and cider complemented one another too.  Our sides included wild rice and maple roasted brussel sprouts.  This will definitely become one of our favorite week night meals. 

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Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce (Cooking Light)

  • 4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  bacon slices, chopped
  • 1/4  cup  minced fresh onion
  • 3/4  cup  unsweetened apple cider
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Add chicken to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add onion to pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring constantly. Add cider and broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Stir in cooked bacon; serve sauce over chicken.

Sunday, September 20

Hops & Hillbillies

Saturday five us loaded up the car and headed all across the Piedmont of NC for beer and food!  Chris, Sam, Shane, Ben and me started our day off at Natty Greene’s for lunch in downtown Greensboro.  It was our first time as Chris, Sam and Shane went to UNC-G and discovered Natty Greene’s several years ago.  I am always amazed at the local breweries we have in our state – so many fun places to eat and try new craft beer. 

Natty Greene’s has so many beers on tap we could not decide, so we opted for the sampler tray of 6 different beers to start with.  After sampling the Old Town Brown, Hessian Hefe-weizen, Elm Street IPA, Autumnfest Vienna Lager, Full Moon IPA and New Garden Milk Stout, Ben decided on a pint of the Elm Street IPA.  I was enjoying taking sips from each, so I kept the sampler for myself!September 2009 020

The food was just as good and we all got something different.   The portions are enormous and I got the Smokin’ Turkey Wrap: oven-roasted turkey with crisp applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, provolone cheese and chipotle raspberry mayo wrapped a sun-dried tomato tortilla.  They have several sides, but I highly recommend the pesto pasta salad.  Ben got the Chipotle BBQ sandwich with fries.  September 2009 029 After lunch we headed west to Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem for Beer School and City Beverage for a beer shopping spree.  They have a class complete with power-point presentation, quiz, beer-tasting, brewery tour and graduate certificates they developed for their employees and are now offering to the public.  We all thought it was well taught, but being pretty knowledgeable about beer already most of it was a refresher, especially for Chris who recently completed real Beer School!  For $10 to taste all of their beers on tap, it was a good deal and pretty fun.  September 2009 023September 2009 027September 2009 030September 2009 044We wrapped up the night with dinner at the Hillybilly Hideaway in Walnut Cove, NC.  This amazing homestyle, all-you-can-eat restaurant located in the middle of no where is about 20 minutes north east of Winston-Salem.  It is only open Fri-Sun. and was completely packed, but the wait was worth it.  We stuffed ourselves to the point of being miserable with fried chicken, bbq spare ribs, cream corn, green beans, pinto beans, creamed potatoes, slaw, cinnamon apples, country ham, biscuits, cornbread and the sweetest tea imaginable.  September 2009 047September 2009 051September 2009 053

Saturday, September 19

The Best of Both World’s Pizza

Friday night we could not decide between pizza or Mexican…so Ben made us taco pizza after we had it a few weeks ago when we actually went out for pizza!September 2009 015He used a whole wheat crust and used our newest favorite salsa, Pomegranate Chipotle as the “sauce”.  The added ground beef cooked in taco seasoning, tomatoes and Mexican cheese.   Once it was cooked he topped it with shredded lettuce and extra cheese.  September 2009 019This was better than what we had in a restaurant and has been deemed as one of his best specialty pizzas!September 2009 014We also had fun doing a mini-beer tasting to compare our top Oktoberfest beers and some pumpkin beers.  Bells Octoberbfest won out over Otter Creek Oktoberfest and Ben and I had different opinions on the Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin and Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale, but all three are delicious and some of our favs!September 2009 012

Tuesday, September 8

Macadamia Nuts and Mahi-Mahi

Fish is always an easy dinner for us since it cooks quick.  So when I ran across this recipe which actually called for Tilapia, I was excited to try it.  Mahi-Mahi was on sale and I thought I’d spice up some plain couscous with the leftover coconut milk. 

I loved the heartiness the nuts gave the fish and the coconut added just a little natural sweetness.  For the couscous I used 1/2 cup of coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups water, then added salt and pepper to taste.  I tossed in some extra chopped macadamia nuts for extra crunch.   My only complaint was the lack of presentation..I should have added some colorful veggies!August 2009 147 

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi-Mahi

  • 5 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) coarsely ground, roasted macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing foil
  • 4 (6 to 8-ounce) mahi mahi fillets
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together the nuts, panko, flour, and butter. Set aside.

Place a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and brush it liberally with vegetable oil. Place the mahi mahi on the foil and sprinkle each fillet with salt and pepper on both sides. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush each fillet with the coconut milk. Divide the nut mixture among the tops of the 4 fillets, patting the mixture to spread and adhere to the fillets. Return to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Happy 21st Birthday Sara!

We recently celebrated my little sister, Sara’s 21st Birthday.  Being it was a Sunday night we opted for a sophisticated Cocktail Party, dinner at McCormick & Schmicks and cake instead of a  late night out on the town!August 2009 097I was in charge of the Cocktail party and the menu included Blue Cheese Pecan Dip with celery, Fig & Goat Cheese Bruschetta, Hummus with veggies and pita chips, and a cheese platter.  No cocktail party would be complete without cocktails!  I mixed up Raspberry and Cranberry Cosmos plus wine and champagne.  August 2009 098August 2009 099August 2009 100Before dinner we gave Sara our gifts…she loved the wine and champagne glasses, wine tags, napkins and other fun wine things we gave her.  Her BIG 21st birthday gift was an amethyst David Yurman ring.  It was beautiful and one of those might be going on my gift list very soon!August 2009 104At McCormick & Schmick’s we had a fun surprise.  When I called to make the reservation and let them know we were celebrating Sara’s birthday, they informed me a birthday message would be on the menu!  For dinner most of us ordered the Salmon stuffed with Brie, Shrimp and Lump Crab meat or the Halibut with sautéed leeks, Gnocchi and lump Crab.  August 2009 113August 2009 114August 2009 118After dinner we enjoyed a family favorite cake, Pineapple Cake…and we were thoroughly stuffed, but it was all so delicious.  August 2009 123 Happy Birthday Sara!

Monday, August 10

It’s All Greek To Me

The past few weeks we have been eating a little lighter to balance out all the amazing food we ate on vacation.  While I browsing the Complete Weight Watchers Cookbook a recipe for Turkey with Feta topping caught my eye (or taste-buds) since I have been craving Greek food with lots of Mediterranean flavors.  I decided to adapt the recipe using chicken and added a Greek vinaigrette that we used as dressing on our salad.  Also on the menu was couscous, which cooks in less than 5 minutes and is a Greek staple.  This recipe was really quick and easy, which was perfect for an evening where we both went on a run.Topsail Island 2009 667

Greek Chicken

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup greek vinaigrette
  • 6-8 sundried tomato halves (not oil-packed)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1.3 cup crumbles low fat feta cheese
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Marinate the chicken breasts in the vinaigrette for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Bake chicken in oven proof glass dish for 20-25 minutes until juices are clear.

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes and boiling water; let stand 2 minutes.  Drain and finely chop; return tomatoes to bowl.  Stir in the cheese,  shallot, garlic, basil and oregano.

Top the chicken with tomato and cheese mixture; broil 4-5 minutes until cheese is soft and slightly melted.

Thursday, August 6

Wilmington Day Trips

While we were vacationing in Topsail we took two separate trips to Wilmington.  One day the entire family went for a little stroll through downtown Wilmington on the Riverfront, shopping at the Cotton Exchange and lunch at Dockside in Wrightsville.  Topsail Island 2009 379Topsail Island 2009 381Before lunch we strolled along the riverfront and saw the Battleship as well as the Coastguard docked.  We were intrigued with the “stickers” on the side of the ship and asked one of the crew getting on the ship and he confirmed the marijuana stickers were the number of drug busts that had done and the six round ones above that were for cocaine.   All the others are other awards.  It was really cool to see how proud they all were.  Topsail Island 2009 397 Topsail Island 2009 399Topsail Island 2009 412  Topsail Island 2009 430 Topsail Island 2009 422For lunch we headed over to Wrightsville Beach to Dockside for lunch.  It was hot, so we ate inside on the 2nd floor with a perfect view of the Inter-coastal Waterway.  They even had a decent selection of beer, which I definitely enjoyed with my crab cake sandwich.   Topsail Island 2009 448 Topsail Island 2009 439Topsail Island 2009 444While walking from the Cotton Exchange towards the Riverfront we came across Front Street Brewery.  We actually had intentions of coming back, but made solid plans once we saw the place and their menu.  Topsail Island 2009 391

On our way home, we took the long detour and stopped at Front Street for a sample tasting and we loved the Scottish Ale so much we each had a pint.  Knowing we’d be getting home late, we decided to try two appetizers for lunch so we could eat local rather than fast food off 40.  The homemade salsa had just the right amount of heat, but the best was the Buffalo Blue Cheese sticks – Amazing!  We had plans to eat dinner at my mom’s since we were picking up Freddie since they doggie-sat for us, so we picked up a growler of the Scottish for everyone to enjoy!  It was the perfect ending to a perfect week at the beach.Topsail Island 2009 661Topsail Island 2009 662Topsail Island 2009 664Topsail Island 2009 663