Friday, April 11, 2014

i'll be here...

photo cred
In a couple of hours, Joe and I are off for a weekend of wine tasting in my dreamland - Napa Valley!

He's been traveling so much lately, particularly to California, so we decided it was time I tag along and see the sights with him for once.
I mean for a $5 plane ticket, why not?  {Thank you, Delta Skymiles!}

We have a full day planned tomorrow, but there are two things I'm particularly excited about:
1.  We are visiting the Kathryn Hall winery {which, if you've been reading along, you know is where our engagement wine came from}, and;
2.  We're doing an olive oil tasting!  I don't think I've ever had really good olive oil, so I am really interested to see if I can tell a significant difference.  Hopefully I don't get spoiled!

What are you up to this weekend?
Did you make any good meals this week?

Please do tell!
I'm currently in a healthy food rut.
After seven bowls of zucchini soup this week {literally...seven...so many leftovers}, "rut" is probably the understatement of the century.

Hope your week didn't drag by as slow as mine did!

Monday, March 24, 2014

blueberry muffins with a cinnamon crumb topping

Am I the only one that watches Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every time it's on television?
I have so many shows on my DVR right now it's sickening, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just started and I can't seem to turn it off.
Maybe it's how delicious they make the chocolate look?
I mean who doesn't want to swim in a chocolate river?
No girlfriend of mine would turn that down...and if you would, I'm not sure I trust you.
#getmeinthatriver

That literally has nothing to do with these muffins...except that they are also quite delicious.
And that I halved the batter to make a chocolate chip version too.
Because, duh.

Joe is traveling again this week {third week out of four...it's safe to say I'm over it}, so Sunday morning I decided to make us breakfast while we got in our last cuddles for the week.
I did a test run of these muffins about a week ago since I had never made muffins from scratch before, and I can tell you now - I'll never go back to the boxed stuff.
These things are just as moist, filled with fresh blueberries, and are topped with a crispy cinnamon crumb topping that's to die for.
I could eat the blueberry version every day if I had the choice {or anything blueberry really, if I'm being honest...I'm going through a serious blueberry kick these days}, but if you've been following this little blog of mine at all, you know Joe loves his chocolate.
Morning, noon, or night, I'd venture to say that's one of his favorite foods.

So, naturally, he requested chocolate chip muffins.
Thankfully, because I made them from scratch, it's really simple to just split the batter in half and do two different versions at once!

But if you're a fruit gal like me, I totally recommend the blueberry version.
So good.


recipe adapted via
Things you'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup frozen {or fresh} blueberries

For crumb topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/6 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, cubed
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly spray muffin pan with cooking spray.  I use the large muffin tin {the one that makes 6 jumbo muffins} because I'd rather have one large breakfast muffin than two smalls ones.
Totally up to you though - any pan will work fine!
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl, and whisk together to remove lumps.
In a separate bowl, mix together vegetable oil, egg, and 1/3 cup of milk.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
I always end up having to add a splash or two more of milk because the batter is too thick...so I probably end up adding closer to 1/2 cup total.
You don't want your batter to be runny, but you don't want it to be too thick either.
The photo above is the right consistency.


If you're doing the all-blueberry version, now would be the time to gently fold in a cup of blueberries.
I use frozen wild blueberries, but fresh would work too!
If you're making a half-and-half version, fold 1/2 cup of blueberries into one half of batter and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips into the other half of the batter.
{Feel free to mix up the fruit you use too!  I think chopped strawberries would be divine.}

For the crumb topping, mix sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon in a small bowl, using a fork to smash up the cubed butter.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 of the way full, and top generously with crumb topping.
It's going to feel powdery, but don't worry!
The butter will melt in the oven and work some serious magic.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out relatively clean.

Let them sit for about five minutes, and then serve while still warm!

These muffins are light and fluffy, and I'd definitely venture to say that the crumb topping is what makes them.
It kind of makes them taste like you bought them at a coffee shop or a bakery.
They're just a bit fancier than your everyday muffin {making them the perfect special weekend breakfast, if you ask me}!

Go ahead and plan on trying these out ASAP.
You'll thank me, I promise!

Did you do anything exciting over the weekend?

Besides our Sunday muffins, Kayla came over for a slumber party, Joe and I watched Frozen twice {totally obsessed}, and we got our engagement photos done in Athens!
It seemed only appropriate to do them on campus at UGA, since that's where we met.
I haven't gotten them all back yet, but I'll leave you with the sneak peek our photographer sent me.


Happy Monday, friends!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

getting engaged - part two

Hi friends!
Hope your week is going well and that you enjoyed part one of our engagement!
If you missed that, feel free to catch up here.

Without further ado, let's finish this love story.

--------------

Where we left off, life was good.

Joe and I were settled in Alpharetta and doing really well at our jobs.
We hadn't talked about getting engaged since the wine incident, and even though I was a little sad it hadn't happened yet, I was very content in our relationship.

Before we knew it, it was December - our five year anniversary, Christmas, and New Years.
December has always been one of our favorite months {clearly because there's a lot of celebrating to be done}, and this one was no exception.
We had a lovely, low-key anniversary on the 19th, and then spent some time at Joe's parents' house for Christmas.
For New Years, we had planned to have Kayla and her boyfriend over for a couple of days to celebrate.
They were set to arrive on December 30th, and I couldn't wait!

I remember that day being a very normal day.
I had to work and Joe didn't, so he was tasked with cleaning the apartment before our friends arrived {which obviously had me slightly panicked...will he get it all done in time?!}
I was grumpy because something at work wasn't going my way, so basically I was watching the clock - ready to get off, have drinks with my friends, and relax for the next couple of days.
Because Joe was in charge of cleaning {and I know that he would choose Xbox over actually cleaning any day of the week}, I texted him a few times throughout the day to make sure things were getting done.
But he never answered.
Which is so strange, because normally we talk pretty much all day.  If an hour or two goes by that we haven't touched base, it's unusual.
So by 3:00, I was straight up worried.  Worried enough that I told my manager that I needed a minute to FaceTime him because this was so unlike him not to answer.
And thank goodness, he finally answered...only to tell me he had been playing Xbox and was just about to start vacuuming.
What?!  Please start cleaning, they'll be here in two hours!
That's pretty much how the conversation went.
My manager laughed once I got off the phone, and at 5:00 she wished me luck on the cleaning, to which I responded, "If he hasn't vacuumed, he's dead."
If I knew what he had really been doing all day, I never would have said that!

{What he was really doing all day was ring shopping with Kayla and July...

...and buying me the most beautiful ring!}

I got home, and thankfully the apartment was spotless, so I proceeded to tell Joe all about how awful my day was - so awful that I didn't even feel like changing out of my work clothes for dinner.  {These days I'm kicking myself for that...}
Our friends arrived around 6:00 and brought their dog along with them, which AJ was less than thrilled about.
I remember offering at least three times to take him to daycare, and everyone kept insisting I didn't leave {which I totally didn't understand...why is everyone being so weird?! It's not a big deal!}, until finally Kayla suggested we go freshen up for dinner.
The two of us went into the bedroom and started touching up our makeup and chatting about our day.
After a moment or two, Joe peaked his head in and asked me to come to the living room real quick, which I assumed would just be him asking me a question about the plans for the night...

He quickly walked over to our Christmas tree, so {still oblivious} I followed him to see what he needed.
When he turned around, he handed me a glass of red wine...

"Taste this - is it good?  Do you know what wine this is?  Do you remember what you said about this wine?"

It immediately clicked, and all I could said was "yeah...I do..."
{In my head I was thinking is this really happening?!  NOW?!}

He took my glass, set it down on the TV stand, and took both of my hands in his.
Then he said the things I had been waiting to hear for five years.
I wish I could remember it all verbatim, but after he said, "I can't wait to have kids with you one day," I honestly think I blacked out from the realization that this was actually happening.  Here.  In our apartment.  On what seemed to be a normal Monday night.

He asked me to marry him right there in our living room, in front of my best friend and her boyfriend, and obviously I said yes immediately!

That wasn't the last surprise of the evening though.
Joe had planned a celebration for us {clearly he was confident in the 'yes'}, so immediately afterwards, his family and a ton of our friends were at our place, toasting and celebrating and admiring my sparkly new addition.


freshly engaged :)

It was the single most perfect night I've ever had, hands down.

And this brings me back to my original point on 'perfect timing.'
If Joe had proposed back in year one when I was ready, we wouldn't have been surrounded by all of the amazing friends we've made over our years together, it wouldn't have been as personal and intimate as it was {in our shared living room of the place we both call home}, and {biggest of all} we wouldn't have been able to afford the wedding we both envision having with each other.
It was so important for Joe to make sure we were taken care of {education, careers, savings} before he felt comfortable taking us on this next step, and now I understand why.
Wedding planning so far has been virtually stress-free because we're so settled, and for that, I am grateful.

That guy of mine, he's smart.

So there you have it folks.
That's the story of how we got engaged.

For those of you that are wondering, the wine we had was a Kathryn Hall cabernet.
I think it was this one, but I'd have to double check to be sure.
It was amazing though, and totally worth the wait {much like our engagement!}.

Lastly, since I was lucky enough to get engaged with my best friend present, I have a video of the whole thing that I will cherish for the rest of my days.
Thanks, Kayla!

It's a little dark, but you can hear the sweet words he said and I love it.
I can't wait to show it to our kids one day.
Enjoy!

video

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

getting engaged - part one

We've been engaged for two and a half months now, and things have finally calmed down enough to where I feel like I can actually write about it.
I know, about time!

Let me just start by saying this.
I've always had an irrational fear of becoming that bride - you know, the bride that never stops talking about her wedding and annoys everyone within a 20 mile radius because she can't talk about anything else.
My MOH can attest to this.
She may or may not have told me once that it's like pulling teeth to get me to tell her details about the wedding...I just don't want to be that bride!
So, naturally, I didn't want to turn this into a wedding blog either.
But as I thought more about it, I realized something.
This is the perfect place for me to share wedding stuff.  Whoever wants to read it can read it, and I don't have to feel like I'm talking about it all day everyday in real life {although sometimes I am...the half of me that isn't worried about being annoying loves to relive it all :)}.

So without further ado, I'll start from the beginning.
The story of our engagement.

Joe and I have been together for five years - that's five years full of college and tailgates and graduations and new jobs and moving and buying our first puppy and vacations and laughter and tears.
All of that and more.
And I've known since year one that I was going to marry him.
I just couldn't see myself with anyone else.
He was so different than any other guy I had dated.  No guessing games, no lying.  I always knew where I stood with him, and I loved it.
Being with him was so easy.  He was total husband material.

One thing I've always loved about him is how level-headed he is about big decisions.
He puts a lot of thought into the future, and he doesn't take decision-making lightly.
If I had it my way, we would have been engaged before I graduated college.
Why wait?!  We're meant to be!  Let's do this!
But he would always brush it off - we're not in the right place, things need to happen before we can get there, and my personal favorite, stop asking me about this, Amber.
There was a lot of frustration over the years regarding these responses, but looking back on it now, I'm actually grateful.
Grateful he was smart enough to wait until the timing was right.  I truly believe it made all the difference.
And to those of you that think "the timing will never be perfect," you may be right - but from my experience, timing was everything, and it was pretty darn close to being perfect.
I'll tell you why.

One particular night last summer, we went out to dinner after work - our Friday routine.
We were having a great time together, and on our way home Joe suggested that we crack open a fancy bottle of wine he brought home for us from his trip to Napa Valley.
We had been holding on to that bottle for a few months because it was pricy, way more expensive than anything we'd buy ourselves on a regular night, and in my head I just assumed we'd be saving it for a very special occasion - i.e. our engagement.
I hadn't told him this before though, so when he suggested we open the bottle I just blurted it out - I was thinking we'd drink that when we get engaged!
Obviously, blurting it out in the middle of a date {completely out of the blue, by the way} was not the most smooth way to suggest this, but what can I say?
After four and a half years together, I hardly felt the need to dance around my thoughts and feelings.

Long story short, we did not drink the wine that night.
Joe was hardly thrilled with my revelation, and the wine went back in the corner of our kitchen - out of sight and out of mind.

Six months or so passed without either of us mentioning the wine incident, and besides the occasional complaint to my girlfriends {I'm a girl, what do you expect?!}, we were really happy.
I got a new job, Joe was doing really well at his job, and we had settled into a comfortable routine together in our new city.
Basically an unmarried married couple, if that makes sense.
I had no idea whatsoever that soon he would give me the surprise of the century.



----------

Because this post would be the longest and wordiest post I've ever shared if I continued the story, I'm breaking it into two parts.
Please don't hate me!
And tune in later this week for part two {plus a video of the big moment!}!

Friday, March 14, 2014

5-ingredient chocolate pie with vanilla whipped cream

It seemed appropriate to share this recipe with you today, what with it being Pi Day and all!

Last weekend, I got in one of those moods where I just had to make a pie.
Particularly pie crust.
I really love making pie crust.
It's so easy to make, and it just tastes so good.
Happiness resides in freshly made pie crust.

So on Sunday, I had big plans to make a pie.
Until we ate so many stuffed peppers that I couldn't bring myself to move from the couch.
Attractive, I know.
It ended up working out better though, because I made it on Tuesday and got to share it with my coworkers the next day!
The last thing we need around our place is a whole pie for just the two of us.

Personally, I'm more of a fruit pie kind of gal.
Apple, peach, blueberry...you name it, I love it.
But Joe has this idea that it's not really dessert unless it's made of chocolate.
{Okay, he has never said that...but considering how much chocolate I've seen him eat over the years, there has to be a little bit of truth to that.}
So chocolate pie it was!

recipe via
For pie:

1 refrigerated pie crust {or make your own! I always use Carla Hall's recipe}
3 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 stick melted butter
1 can evaporated milk
*optional: a pinch of cayenne pepper for a bit of heat!

For whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If you made your own dough, roll it out and place in a pie dish.
I haven't quite figured out how to correctly pinch the edges yet, but practice makes perfect, right?
Using a fork, poke holes in the crust.

In a bowl, mix together cocoa powder and sugar.
Whisk in eggs, melted butter, and evaporated milk.
Carefully pour mixture into the crust.
Don't worry if there's lumps - as you can see, mine was a bit lumpy, but it still turned out great!

Bake for 50 minutes.
When it comes out, the batter will look like it's risen a little.
As it cools, it will fall a bit and set more.

I'd suggest letting it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it.
You don't have to let it cool all the way though!
We ate it warm, and it was dreamy.

For the whipped cream, put cream and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whip {with the whip attachment} on speed 8.
Slowly add sugar, and whip until thickened.

It's ready when peaks have formed!
It takes about 30 seconds or so, I'd say.

Serve up the pie with an obnoxiously large dollop of vanilla whipped cream, and enjoy!

If you need an easy dessert for a party or holiday dinner {or for just a random Tuesday, if you're like us}, I'd absolutely suggest this.
It was a real crowd-pleaser!
Joe ate two slices in one sitting, so I deem that a success.
Plus, it only has five ingredients!
It doesn't get any easier than that.

The whipped cream is obviously optional, but let me just say, it was divine.
This was my first time making whipped cream in the Kitchenaid, and I can't wait to do it again!
It was so easy, and the possibilities are just endless.
I can't wait to sub the vanilla for peppermint extract to make a peppermint version!
Don't you think that would be an amazing way to top a big glass of hot chocolate?

Oh, the possibilities.

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?
Or St. Patrick's Day?

Joe and I are attending a birthday party tomorrow afternoon {happy 1st birthday, Stella!}, and I'm going shopping for a new pair of jeans.
Big weekend, clearly.
There's talk about throwing a trip to Mexican in tomorrow night, so I'm not complaining!

Regardless of your plans, I hope you start your weekend off right - enjoying some chocolate pie!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

overnight banana oats

I'm writing this tonight in the hopes that you are as lame as me and instead of celebrating Fat Tuesday, you're sitting on the couch with a glass of wine watching Couples Therapy on the DVR.

No?
Just me?

Fine.
But trust me when I say that you should prep this breakfast tonight before you stumble to bed.
You'll thank me tomorrow, I promise.

I've been saying for months that I was going to try overnight oats, and yesterday I finally remembered to do it!
It only took about a year.
And shame on me, because this breakfast was the bomb.
I should've known I'd like it just based on the fact that I can make it ahead of time.
Is there anything worse than having to pack breakfast in the morning when you're exhausted and would rather just:
A. go through a drive-thru, or;
B. skip breakfast altogether?

I wish I was the kind of person that could skip breakfast.
I just can't do it.
When I wake up in the morning, I'm ready to eat my own arm I'm so hungry.

Clearly it's best case scenario that I wake up and breakfast is already made.

recipe adapted via
Things you'll need:

2/3 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 banana, sliced

In a mason jar {or any jar with a lid}, combine oats, almond milk, vanilla extract, and syrup.

This is the syrup I used.
You want 100% pure maple!

Put the lid on tight, and give it a good shake!
Put it in the fridge overnight, and let the oats do their magic.

In the morning, the oats will have absorbed 90% of the liquid and look like this!
Plump, soft, and full of flavor.

Slice up some banana and toss it in.
Give it a stir, and enjoy!

The original recipe tossed in some chopped pecans too, which I think would be great if you're looking for some texture.
Or a sprinkle of granola.
I will say, though, that it was perfectly delicious with just the banana.
The maple syrup gave it just enough sweetness, and I honestly think the vanilla is the secret weapon.
It took the flavor over the top.

If you're not a fan of banana, feel free to mix it up.
I think blueberries would pair quite nicely with this flavor combo.
Also, feel free to warm it up if you're not into eating your oatmeal cold.

This was my first time trying cold oatmeal though, and I loved it.
Don't knock it 'til you try it!

I'm definitely going to try the other variations of overnight oatmeal on the site where I found the original recipe, so I will gladly report back about those.

What are your go-to breakfasts on weekdays?
I'm always looking for new ideas {considering I've had yogurt and granola every morning for the last year and a half, at least}.

Monday, March 3, 2014

mustard-dipped oven "fried" chicken

I'd say "happy Monday," but I'm not sure such a thing exists.
So, lets just dive right in.

How was your weekend?

Mine was pretty darn amazing if I'm being honest!
One of my bridesmaids hosted an engagement party for us at her house, and it was nothing short of amazing.
I mean above and beyond, times ten.


You can't really read the sign in this photo, but we decided on the hashtag #destefanieverafter for the wedding.
No one warns you how hard it is to come up with a good wedding hashtag!
But if you want to see what's new with our wedding, you can search that on Instagram and have at it.
Or click here to see more photos from the engagement party.

I'll spare you a photo recap here since we have that nifty link above, but I will share one thing.
My MOH, Kayla, taped the speech Joe gave, and it's just to sweet not to share.

video

Thanks again for the amazing party, friends.  We love you all!

Jumping back about a week, I made something to tell you about last weekend and never got a chance to write about it.
Do you ever get a craving that's so intense that literally nothing else sounds good?
Last weekend I had that issue with fried chicken.
Which is so weird, because I hardly ever eat fried chicken.
But out of nowhere on Sunday night, I could not stop thinking about it.

As you know, fried chicken is not so great for a person on a diet.
That's part of the reason it tastes so good, I suppose.
It's not supposed to be healthy.
It's just fried deliciousness that you have to embrace if you're going to eat it.
And I'm all for indulging when the time is right.

Last Sunday was not that time though.
After a weekend of indulgence, I was ready to get back in the kitchen and make something a bit lighter to get us back on track for the week.

So what's a girl to do when she wants to be healthy, but she's also dying for a piece of fried chicken?

Embrace the oven and bake it, that's what.

recipe adapted via
Things you'll need:

2-3 thinly sliced chicken cutlets
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack on top of it.
Lightly spray cooling rack with cooking spray.
In a dish {I used a flat tupperware bowl}, mix together breadcrumbs, Parmesan, cayenne pepper, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and one tablespoon olive oil.
Feel free to add a little more olive oil if you don't feel like one tablespoon was enough.
I added an extra little splash for good measure.

In a separate bowl, use a fork to gently whisk together dijon mustard, two tablespoons of olive oil, water, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

One piece at a time, coat the chicken in the mustard mixture, and then dredge through the breadcrumb mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, flip the chicken and bake for an additional 10 minutes {to give both sides a chance to crisp up}.

Serve with your veggie of choice and enjoy!

This chicken was so so good, I can't say enough good things.
I had never heard of using a mustard coating before, so I was a little nervous about that part {Joe's not a huge fan of mustard}.
But, in this recipe, it makes ALL the difference.
We both loved the flavor it gave to the chicken, and it also kept it extremely moist and juicy.
That, paired with the little bit of heat I added with the cayenne, made for quite a yummy dinner if I do say so myself.

And, because this chicken is baked instead of fried, you can feel a little less guilty about eating more than one piece {because if it's available, you will...trust me}.

Do you have any tricks for oven-fried {or regular fried} chicken?
The mustard mixture blew my mind, so now I'm curious as to what else I can dip it in!