USA vs Brazil + Myrtle Beach

Guess who just got back from a 4 day weekend? If you guessed me, then congratulations, you’re a winner! I took a bit of a technology hiatus this weekend while I was kickin’ it at Myrtle Beach and it was SO nice. I might have to do that more often, it was a much needed break!

But first, let’s rewind back to Wednesday for the USA vs Brazil soccer match. A few months ago I found a deal on Livingsocial for 50% off Club Level tickets. The deal was just too good to pass up, so I bought them! The only downfall was that game day was on a Wednesday night. Luckily, we crept our way around rush hour traffic somehow and ended up at FedEx field with enough time to have a solid tailgate.

My only complaint was that it didn’t last longer! 2 hours flew by and before we knew it, it was time to go in.

Livingsocial seriously hooked us up with these seats. The Club Level was a lot nicer/less crowded than other areas of the venue. The bathrooms were cleaner, there were lounge areas where you could sit in the air conditioning and watch the game (if you needed to), and you could see the whole field from our view without being too far into the nosebleeds. The game itself was not anything to write home about. The only shining moment came with the lone USA goal to make it a 2-1 game, but in the end Brazil ended up blowing us out of the water: 4-1. Oh well, the outcome was expected. It was still a fun event for a Wednesday night!

The next morning I woke up bright and early to prepare for a full day of driving down to Myrtle Beach. Luckily, I really only had to drive 2 hours by myself to Richmond where I met up with Jim. He drove the remainder of the way. I like being the passenger on long road trips!

Apparently when boredom strikes, my swag comes out in full force.

We stayed at the Schooner II Beach & Racquet Club in Myrtle Beach, which honestly, I would recommend to anyone looking for a place. The rooms were huuuuuuge. We got a one bedroom condo, but could have easily slept 6 since there were a pull out couch AND some rando bunk beds. Plus there was a full kitchen and a sweet balcony that overlooked the ocean.

Balcony View

Aside from Jim’s epic sunburn (which he forbid me to photograph, LAME), the trip was a relaxation success. One of the best parts about going on vacation is, of course, the free license to essentially eat whatever the hell you want. The first night we had pizza from Mellow Mushroom, which I had never been to (but upon further research, I’ve learned that there is one located in DC! Definitely going to have to hit that up soon) but is apparently pretty popular.

This was so good, but I could only eat half. I saved the rest for lunch leftovers for the rest of the week. YUM!

Unfortunately, due to my inadvertent technological hiatus, this was the only food snap shot I took all weekend. Bad, bad blogger! I know. However, other notable eats of the weekend included:

  • Crab dip from Joe’s Crab Shack
  • Coconut Crusted Shrimp also from Joe’s
  • Peanut Butter Cup ice cream from Kirk’s 1890 Ice Cream Parlor (good ice cream, but the place smelled funky)
  • Really good Caesar Salad from Carolina Roadhouse (it came with a croissant drizzled in honey? on the side, whoever thought of that deserves a high five)
  • Marinated Sirloin also from Carolina Roadhouse (marinated in fruit juices, soy sauce, garlic, and spices. You could really taste the fruit juices!!)
  • The best margarita EVER also from Carolina Roadhouse (can you tell I really liked this meal?)

For the record, besides the ice cream and margarita, I wouldn’t have touched these foods with a 10 foot pole before about 2 years ago. It was a pretty adventurous weekend!

To make up for my lack of foodie pictures. Here are some awesome ones of the beach!

So fun.

Anyway, now it’s Monday and that means it’s back to reality. I went for my first run in about 2 weeks today…yikes! It didn’t go so well, but I got to test out my new Garmin watch. So far, so good. It’s slightly confusing to figure out what all the buttons on the bezel do, but I think that’s because I haven’t read the manual yet. I’ll get to it. It’s time to start marathon training again. Also time to resume my diet. Someone has to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress in a few weeks. EEK!

What’s your favorite part about vacation? Food? Relaxing? Sightseeing? Something else?

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Aunt Cait Update: It’s a………..

The suspense is killing you, right? It was killing me too!

Last Friday, Erin and Robert found out the sex of their soon-to-be little one. They had a very exciting and creative way to share the news with the whole family (including themselves!). On Friday, my sister went to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound. Once they had determined the sex, she asked them to hold off on telling her, but rather to write it down on a notecard and put it into a sealed envelope. They then, brought that envelope to a bakery where they asked the baker to make the icing on the inside of the cake blue if the notecard read: boy, and pink if the notecard read: girl.

On Friday night, my whole family met up at my sister’s house for a dessert-first (!) dinner party! We were all itching with excitement. So much so that I don’t even really know how to describe the moment. Luckily Naturally, I caught the whole thing on video. So, I think it’s best if you just watch:

Excuse my obnoxious screaming. We were all overjoyed! IT’S A BOY!!!

The cake was actually delicious, made even better by that bright blue icing. Congratulations Erin and Robert!!!!

Perhaps you are wondering why I took an extreme close up of my mom in the video. Well, here’s the reason: my mom was 100% convinced that Erin and Robert were having a girl. When we asked her how she was so sure (I mean, there’s a 50-50 chance that it could be either) she said she “just knew” because she had a “motherly instinct”. The fact that she was so adamant about it being a girl clearly made me want to wager some money against her. I swear, I don’t have a gambling addiction! I placed a “friendly” $5 wager on it being a boy, after which we proceeded to trash talk for about 2 weeks. It was sweet vindication when I saw the blue icing! Thanks for the easy $5, mom! [For the record: she’s thrilled that it’s a boy. I’m sure she would have been thrilled either way, actually!]

Not only did I find out that I’m getting a nephew on Friday, but I also tried jambalaya for the first time. I told you, I’m on a cajun food kick! I really liked it. Robert made his with sausage, shrimp, rice, beans, onions, peppers, and tomato. Everyone thought it was super spicy, but I didn’t think it was spicy enough! This also marks my very first bean experience. Be proud, y’all. Be proud.

Of notable mention for the weekend, I also went to my first National’s baseball game of the season. So much fun! Would do again.

What a happy weekend. 😀

Another Productive Weekend

I know I’ve been sort of slacking on my blog posts lately. I had two in mind for last week, but neither really came to fruition. Oops! I’ve been focusing on my dieting and exercising though, and am getting ready for the Monument Ave 10k which I am running next weekend!

Regardless of my excuses, this past weekend was busy and FUN! I got more accomplished than I thought I would.

I hung out with my family, which is always a crazy time. My brother was in town from school, so we all headed up to my parent’s house.

That’s what you get for stealing my phone and taking unattractive pictures, brother.

Of course, since the family all got together, that meant that we ate…delicious food. And a lot of it! This weekend I had my very first Brazilian Steakhouse experience and it was OMGood. I think I ate about 5 lbs of just pure meat. My favorites were the bacon wrapped filet mignon, the lamb t-bone, the pork ribs, and the parmigiana crusted pork. Holy moly. I will write a full post about it soon!

So like I said, we don’t just go to Fogo de Chao any old day of the year. We were celebrating multiple occasions: my dad’s (belated) birthday, my parent’s wedding anniversary, and my sister being pregnant. So much in life to celebrate!!

With all that food being consumed, I decided I need to run more. To up my motivation factor, I went out and bought new running shoes.

Really though, my old shoes were over 2 years old, have trained and run 2 marathons with me, and were literally falling apart at the seams. I can’t wait to try these guys out today for the first time. I’m hoping to break them in well enough to run in them next weekend! I usually don’t go for Nike, but I couldn’t find any Adidas that were under $125 at the mall, so I sucked it up. I hope they don’t give me blisters…but it’ll be worth it since they’re bright orange!

Staying in the mindset of getting in shape, I also went out and bought a new bathing suit this weekend from Target. I’m officially ready for summer!

After shopping, I came home and helped my dad bottle his homebrew beer, while simultaneously getting a physics lesson on the specific gravity and density of beer. Must be an engineer thing.

Oh, and then I went and chopped off 10 inches of my hair. WHAAAAAT! I love it. It’s so much lighter and easier to manage.

Tonight I’m going to see THE HUNGER GAMES!! Ahhhh! And I am super pumped about it. I’ve read all the books and have heard great things about the movie. I have high expectations in general, so I hope it doesn’t let me down. Either way, I will still love the boy with the bread.

Hello there, Peeta!
(source) 

Has anyone seen The Hunger Games yet? How is it? No spoilers!

The Cajun Experience

Remember when I started this blog in hopes that it would help me try new foods? Well, I’ve been slacking on that.

However, I’ve had a serious craving to try cajun food lately. I had never eaten it before, but a few weeks ago I went to visit friends in Roanoke, Virginia and they took us out to dinner at The Quarter. I now wish that I had blogged about that experience because the food was incredible! I tried fried alligator (it tastes like chicken, I swear it actually does), had my first BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich (a little late to the game, as always), and even tried the creole shrimp dip which was so, so good.

That’s when my friend, Meredith, mentioned a Groupon for The Cajun Experience in downtown DC. I jumped at the chance to tag along.

The restaurant was pretty small from the outside. I actually walked right past it the first time since it blends in with the surrounding businesses and apartment buildings in the Dupont area. It was on the bottom floor of a duplex which totally threw me off. Once I finally made it (I was running a little bit late, oops!), Meredith had already ordered the Hush Puppies to share.

They were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside (just as hush puppies should be) and had a slight taste of cajun seasoning. What I was not expecting were the surprise jalapeños inside which provided a special little kick but weren’t overpowering. I would have eaten like ten of these if I could have.

Meredith and I were total dorks and ended up ordering the exact same thing. We both got the Shrimp and Grits. While we waited for our food to come out, we enjoyed good conversation and caught up. I noticed the restaurant was much, much smaller than I expected. The place only had a few other tables besides ours, most of which were full. I doubt it could have held over 100 people maximum. No wonder they suggest that you call ahead for reservations!

Here’s a picture from their website, since mine all sucked. (Source)

My meal was pretty fantastic too. Exactly what I was craving! The grits were bacon, cheddar and jalapeño and were pretty much the reason that I ordered this meal in the first place. I’m a sucker for anything with bacon. I’d never had grits before and was a little bit surprised by the texture. I’m not sure if this is something that I will incorporate into my everyday eats, but they I enjoyed them in this dish. Of course, the star of the show was the shrimp creole. I ate this up SO fast.

So what did I learn from this experience?

Well, two things: 1) that I love cajun food. Like…a lot. Did you know that New Orleans is the #1 food town in America. There’s so many authentic cajun dishes that I want to try, and so many places to try them! New Orleans trip anyone?

And 2) I really need to work on my dim-lighting food photography.

Any tips on how to take pictures in dimly-lit areas such as restaurants?

Baltimore Crab Pizza

I’m sorry for the scarcity of posts this week. It’s the holiday season and there are some pretty big changes happening in my life (I will discuss in a later post), which have kept me inexplicably busy.

This post has been a long time in the making though. I moved to Maryland after college about two years ago and quickly learned that there are two things Maryland is known for: crab and football. As part of becoming an official Maryland resident, I knew I had to try crab. My co-worker/friend Mike(y), constantly would go on, and on, and on, and on, and on (no exaggeration here at all) about how awesome crab was and how it was a crime that I had never tried it. My first attempt was in crab cake form at a restaurant in Baltimore. I was impressed. Later that summer, I went on a crab boat where we actually had to crack our own shells and pull the meat out. I only had 3-4 crabs that day (it’s hard work!), but I thought they were delicious and craved more.

That’s when the idea to make crab pizza was formed. I am on a crab kick and pretty much want to try every concoction I can possibly dream of. What could be better than combining one of my new favorite foods with one of my classic favorites?

Nothing, I tell you, nothing.

We decided if we were going to do this, we were going to do this right. Mike lives in Baltimore, which is known for their crabs. Before I arrived for pizza making he went down the street and picked up a dozen crabs from L.P. Steamers. I’m pretty sure he also tested one for quality control before I even got there…typical.

After a quick refresher (for me, obviously Mike is a pro) on how to get the crab meat out, we got to it. I forgot how messy this was.

Luckily, we had some help from Layla, Mike’s cat. Pretty sure that nothing would have gotten done without her. Although I think she was just in it for the little crab snacks we were giving her.

She loves some Old Bay.

The concept of crab pizza seemed weird to me at first. My original thought was, “How the heck could that taste good? It sounds kind of weird”, but we decided on a recipe that included a cream cheese filling, and a blend of spices which reminded me of crab dip…except better! We, then, added cheese and a little bit lot of bacon to the top.

See, I’m not the only bacon stealer around here!

The crab filling on this was seriously so good. I could have eaten it alone by the spoonful. We made too much though, and put way too much on the pizzas. When I make this again (and I will) I will probably spread it a little thinner because it was literally oozing out the sides.

Crab Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh crab (I suppose you can buy canned, but it’s way more fun when it’s fresh)
  • Two 8oz packs of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup swiss cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp (or more if you love it like we do) Old Bay seasoning
  • Bacon
  • Swiss cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese

Combine cream cheese, crab meat, milk, feta cheese, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and Old Bay in a large bowl. Spread over pizza crust (we cheated and store bought ours). Sprinkle swiss cheese and mozzarella cheese over the top. Add bacon (or any other toppings) as desired. Bake 10-12 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is melted.

We served ours with some Old Bay french fries which are not pictured because we ate them so quickly that I didn’t have time to snap a photo. Oops! I think I’ve been officially inducted into the Maryland residents club.

A Thanksgiving Day FAIL

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I spent the holiday enjoying the company of my lovely family. I headed up to my sister’s house on Wednesday after work where we celebrated my birthday with some gifts and my favorite ice cream cake!

With my birthday finally out of the way, the entire day on Thursday was dedicated to cooking. My family always spends the whole day in the kitchen. I usually just watch football since I don’t actually know how to cook (hey, it’s a learning process right). I thought about going into the kitchen to help out this year, but I decided that my place on the couch was just a little bit too warm for me to leave. There’s always next year, right?

We always have a TON of food on Thanksgiving, we are Italian after all. There is turkey, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, homemade bread…the list goes on and on. In the past, all I’ve ever eaten on Thanksgiving was pizza. Weird, but true.

So many new foods to try! I’ve never had turkey, I’ve never had green beans, I’ve never had sweet potato casserole. With all those new food possibilities just sprawled out on the table ready for me to sink my teeth into, I’m sure you’re just dying to know what I ate (if you didn’t already guess it from this post’s title):

If you guessed pizza, someone should give you a cookie right now.

I know, I know, I had big time expectations for this holiday. After all, it is a holiday based around food. I thought for sure, I’d be striding for that green bean casserole, taking a huge bite of turkey, and filling my plate with mile high heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy. But then reality sunk in: I don’t eat any of these foods, and I’m not quite ready to make that leap just yet.

My family was giving me a hard time about trying “just one green bean”, citing that I “had” to do it because of my blog. Which, yes, I will admit, I felt mildly guilty after that pizza went into the oven thinking that I was letting myself down. But, then I remembered the tagline of my blog: Tackling life at a different pace. Trying turkey may not seem like a huge deal to everyone. Some people may not be able to understand why it is so hard for me to try new foods. But it is. And for me, trying turkey would be a huge deal. I need to take this thing at my own pace. This year I just wasn’t quite ready to dig into those green beans, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I added mashed potatoes and corn to my plate which have been left out in previous years.

Even though I didn’t try any new foods this year, I’m not giving up hope that maybe in the future you will see some turkey on my plate. Thursday may have been a small step back for me, a small reversion to my ways of the past; but hey, if my life is going to be one step back followed by two giant leaps forward, then I’LL TAKE IT!

Don’t even worry though, I made up for my lack of turkey consumption by eating a cornucopia of pumpkin pie. I’m definitely not afraid of dessert!

Grocery Shopping

I’m a prideful person. That being said, it takes me awhile to admit that I have a problem, or that I am afraid of something, or that I need help.

I started this blog with the lofty hopes of being able to cook for myself. How many recipes have you seen? Approximately 1. While I have strived at the whole trying-new-foods thing, I have fallen flat on my face at my primary goal: cooking. Recently, I’ve been asking myself why?

Then, the answer hit me: I fear shopping for groceries.

(Photo Cred)

Sounds ridiculous, right? Just saying it out loud makes me a little bit embarrassed. This can’t be a common problem.

Unfortunately, this is not a joke. I picked out dozens of recipes from various cookbooks and online sites that I want to try, but every time the thought of cooking crosses my mind, the feat of grocery shopping for the dish overwhelms to me.

I’ve always lived pretty simply. You can ask my college roommates, my shelf in the pantry was the least full by far. It consisted primarily of pancake mix, granola bars, and two year old lemonade that I refused to throw out. The catch: in college I had a meal plan and access to some of the finest collegiate dining facilities in the country. Have I ever mentioned on here how much I miss college? Because of this, I never taught myself to cook. I never had to. Result: I’ve never had to grocery shop for a meal.

I guess I didn’t take that into account when I started this little blog.

(Photo Cred)

To me, walking into a grocery store is like venturing into a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. As the saying goes, it’s all greek to me. What’s the difference between brands? How do I know what cut of meat to get? I feel like I’ll be wandering around the store aimlessly for hours. This is enough to deter me from cooking. Sound familiar? I do the same thing while trying new foods. Just the thought of trying something new scares me, and that’s enough to make me never do it. How do you think I’ve gone by whole life without eating a single vegetable? Kind of makes me wonder to how many other things in my life I employ this philosophy. Hmmm…

Sorry to get all introspective. Moving on.

Money. I know that organic and “real” food is a bit more expensive than the processed “bad” food. The ultimate American irony, is it not? We’re supposed to eat well, but it costs so much less to eat like crap…and then we all wonder why obesity is such a huge issue. Yes, I have a job. Yes, I can afford it. Yet, my college mentality (read: my I-can-stretch-60-dollars-out-over-a-month mentality) persists. One of my roadblocks to grocery shopping has been this thought, “I’d rather not spend $70 on groceries today, so I might as well not go at all.”

I’m working on ways to overcome this. Peer pressure has seemed to work so far. It’s true that things are less scary when done in groups. So, I would appreciate cooking buddies. [insert shameless plea here :D] But I do know that eventually I will need to overcome this on my own, and that thought is also scary.

What are your grocery shopping tips? Any advice (other than to just suck it up) to help me overcome this fear would be greatly appreciated.

Look Ma’ I’m COOKIN’: Chicken Florentine

The deed is done. The seal has been broken. The first meal has been made. And it was, drum roll please…

PRETTY DARN GOOD!

I mean, I can’t really say I’m surprised considering I recruited the help of my good friend and cooking extraordinaire, Kayleigh, to guide me through my first clueless time in the kitchen. She made sure I didn’t make too much a fool of myself.

Hi Kayleigh!

Really, I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to turn out because I have a knack for messing up recipes. I also wasn’t sure if I would even like the dish because it has SPINACH in it. Yes, hold the phone, yours truly is eating VEGETABLES. The nice part about Chicken Florentine is that the spinach is totally masked with ricotta and parmesan cheeses. It’s like tricking yourself into eating vegetables by convincing yourself that you’re just eating cheese. At least that’s how I rationalized it!

Under Kayleigh’s watchful eye, this recipe turned out to be a success. Today I learned that cooking isn’t like baking in that it isn’t as much of a science, it’s okay if a little more of this and a little less of that gets mixed in. So, we definitely added a few more spoonfuls of garlic in there. Good thing I don’t have a hot date tonight!

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Chicken Florentine:
Taken from Weight Watchers, adapted by Kayleigh (and Caitlin, sort of)
Cook time: 35-40 min

Ingredients

  • 8 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 boxes (10 ox/each) frozen chopped spinach – thawed & squeezed dry
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt & pepper (for each breast)
  • 2 egg whites, beaten with 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs (we used panko, but I’d like to try Italian next time)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven. Spray large shallow baking pan with non-stick spray
  2. Pound breasts until 1/2 inch thick
  3. Mix spinach, cheeses, garlic powder, salt & pepper
  4. Spoon mix onto half side of breasts. Fold over and press edges to seal
  5. Dip breasts in egg whites
  6. Coat with 2 tbsp of bread crumbs
  7. Place in pan. Cook until juices are clear

We served ours with a side of bowtie pasta with mushroom alfredo which we doctored up by adding tomatoes, garlic and italian seasoning. Judging from how quickly Kayleigh’s boyfriend, Nate, devoured the whole thing, I’d say it was a success.

So that’s it, the first meal stigma is gone. Now the question is, what should I cook next?

Things I’m Digging: October

1) My North Face Jacket

Sometime last week while I was enjoying the summer-like weather in Hawaii, October and fall sprung up on the East Coast. This week, as temperatures plummeted, I finally got the chance to pull out my dusty, old North Face Jacket which is my most over-worn comfortable jacket of the winter months. I have missed it dearly during the hot, humid summer months and I’m so glad it’s finally made its triumphant return!

2) Chick-fil-a

(source)

If we’re being really specific here (which we are), I am technically referring to Chick-fil-a’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich (hold the pickle). I had one last week and I CAN’T STOP CRAVING IT! I would eat one everyday this week if I could, but I can’t, because that isn’t healthy…and isn’t that what this blog is all about? But hey, I had one for lunch therefore I’m 1 for 1 so far this week. 😀

3) Pumpkin Carving

My friends and I dabbled a bit in the art of pumpkin carving this season. I haven’t successfully carved a pumpkin since my sophomore year of college. In fact, last time I tried the whole thing collapsed in my hands and I just threw it in the trash. This year’s extravaganza was so much fun, made for some sweet pictures, AND got me in the Halloween/Fall spirit. See if you can guess which one is mine!

4) JMU Football Games

Have I mentioned that I seriously love my alma mater? In college I lived and breathed JMU football in the fall. Now that I’ve graduated not much has changed, other than the fact that I need to put a little more effort (rather than just getting out of bed) to actually attend games. There’s just something about heading down 81, pulling into the tiny town of Harrisonburg, and entering that [newly rennovated!] stadium that just pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings. It’s pretty helpful that most of my friends also have season tickets, so it’s never hard to find people to tailgate with!

5) Self-confidence

Because confidence is sexy, right? There are a few things in my life right now that are actually finally surprisingly working out as I hoped they would. This blog being one of them! It’s nice to find a voice and the ability to express myself through writing. The more I post, the easier I find words flowing from my fingertips. Not only has the blog helped me to feel more confident as a writer, but it has actually helped me feel more comfortable with trying new foods! So, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who continues to support this venture. Whether it’s reading my posts, e-mailing me potential topics, encouraging me to try a new food/recipe, or just subscribing to increase my numbers, the love and support from my family and friends has been overwhelming and has helped me more than you realize.

So, with that: I will try to keep things spicy (and not just in chicken sandwich form) enough for you. On Wednesday, I will be taking my first dive into the wonderful, confusing, and to me, unknown world of cooking. Operation Chicken Florentine here I come.

…and for the record, I definitely had to google how to spell Florentine. I’m in so much trouble.

Photo Friday: Graduating from the Kiddy Menu

Chipotle Edition

Disclaimer: If you don’t realize how big of a deal this post is, then let me clue you in. Just under 3 years ago my family wanted to stop at Chipotle for lunch. My family’s big fans of the restaurant which we didn’t have close to where we lived in southern Virginia. I wouldn’t eat anything there. I complained, whined, threw a fit…but they wouldn’t listen and dragged me there anyway. I refused to eat, citing that nothing on the menu appealed to me (no, not even chips). Shortly after, I found out that Chipotle could make custom made quesadillas which they technically classified as being on the Kid’s Menu. I have been ordering them (and holding up lines at Chipotle) ever since.

So, for me, this is huge:

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