Monthly Archives: June 2012

Strawberry, Basil and Goat Cheese Paninis

Yesterday was Jameson’s third birthday. That means he’s 21 in dog years. Should I get him some Bowser Beer? He found this plush soccer ball during our walk yesterday evening, and he carried it the whole way home. I told him he could keep it since he worked so hard for it.

About 30 seconds after this photo was taken the ball was destroyed. Oh well, at least he had a good birthday.

While Jameson was destroying his new found toy, Dan, Katie, Patrick and I got busy in the kitchen. I got this recipe for Strawberry, Basil and Goat Cheese Panini from a great blog I read, Cookie and Kate. I hope she doesn’t mind me reblogging with my triumphs and failures 🙂

This was the PERFECT hot summer night meal. It didn’t take long (the longest part was the glaze and that took 15 minutes), and it was lite but still filling, and of course, delicious. It also gave me an awesome excuse to use fresh basil from my garden and OD on strawberries.

Thanks to Dan for being a great photographer. I think I figured out that the only way I’ll successfully take pictures while cooking is if I have a helper. D – you’re hired!

To make these awesome sandwiches is super easy. Bread+goat cheese+basil+strawberries+salt&pepper+grill. Here is the real recipe, if anyone is interested:

What you need:

Panini

  • 2 slices of any bread of your choice. (I used Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat because it’s nice and thin so it grills up easily.)
  • Goat cheese. The original recipe calls for 1.5 oz, but I say, use however much you want! You can never have too much cheese! I will say though, get spreadable or a block – do not get crumbles. Makes the job much more difficult…
  • 3-4 strawberries per sandwich, sliced
  • 3-4 basil leaves per sandwich. I kept mine hole but you could chop them
  • Pepper to taste
  • Olive Oil

Red Wine Vinegar Honey Sauce

  • 2/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Honey

*Note* The original recipe calls for balsamic vinegar instead of red wine. I freaked out because I could have SWORN I had balsamic vinegar, when apparently I only had red wine vinegar. I tried it anyway and it was still delicious. Improvise!

Instructions

1. Slather both sides of your bread with goat cheese and layer one side with strawberries and the other side with basil. (This is where having spreadable goat cheese would have been helpful…) Sprinkle both sides with black pepper to taste. Combine to assemble your sandwich

2. Rig up a ghetto Panini maker by heating a skillet over medium heat. I used olive oil here, but you can use butter too if you like. Once the skillet is hot and the oil has had time to warm, place the sandwich(es) on the skillet and cover with a plate or something else heavy. I weighed my plate down by putting cans on top of it. Cook until the bottom slice is lightly browned (2-3 minutes) and then flip and repeat. I added some extra oil each flip to prevent stickage.

Told you it was ghetto. But it worked like a charm!

3. To make the honey sauce, combine vinegar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring constantly (thanks Kate) until the liquid is  reduced and syrupy. This took about 15 minutes.

Drizzle over your sandwich or dip, and use the rest for strawberries and/or icecream!

As a side dish I made this super delicious Grilled Corn and Queso Fresco Salad. This was great as a side, but would have been awesome as a dip, too. I didn’t change anything, so I’ll let you venture to the site to read about it. But it was awesome. It will be making a repeat appearance tonight.

And that was dinner! What’s your favorite summertime meal? I’d love more ideas! Leave them in the comments.


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“The World is Not a Wish-Granting Factory”

I just read a really good book. The Fault is in Our Stars by John Green. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes YA Lit. The title of this post is a quote that was used several times in the story, and while my life sufferings do not come close those of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, it’s a quote that keeps coming back to me.

“The world is not a wish-granting factory.” The 16 and 17 year old characters from the book were both suffering from what Hazel calls “a symptom of dying” which is cancer. Their world really should have been a wish-granting factory, but it wasn’t.

My world is not so tough. It’s quite good, actually. But sometimes, I do wish I had a wish-granting factory. I would use it for good, of course. Help those in need and all. Also, I would be a little selfish, as I’m sure most of us would.

Maybe that’s why the world is not a wish granting factory. The world wants us to work for our wishes, so when we get them it’s because we earned them. And if we don’t get them in the end, well, I guess that just means someone else deserved it more.

Happy wishing!

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A Real Try it and See Meal

I’m sensing a common theme to my cooking habits. A few themes, actually:

  1. I eat a lot of chicken. A lot.
  2. I don’t have time for fancy meals during the week.
  3. I love my garden.

Now that we have those out of the way, let’s talk about the impromptu awesomeness that was dinner at my house last night. For those of you who don’t know, I live in a house full of boys. Seriously, even my dog is a boy. It’s my boyfriend Dan’s house, and the two of us live with our two good friends Jake and Patrick, (and of course the pup Jameson). Jake is Dan’s best friend from high school, and Patrick is one of my best friends from high school. He just happens to be dating one of my VERY best friends from high school, so it all works out. Katie often graces our male-dominated household with her lovely feminine presence. Win.

Anyway, I digress. Dinner. Impromptu awesomeness. Naturally, and I swear I’ll get better at this people, I didn’t take pictures of the finished products. I got too hungry and we ate it all up. I got home and Patrick was in the kitchen talking some nonsense about how he’s going to try to make mashed potatoes without cream, milk, cheese, or anything that’s good in the world. He told me he wanted to try “Vegan Mashed Potatoes” because he was “fascinated.” I wasn’t fooled. He was trying to healthify the best food on earth. I tried my best to be supportive as he whirled up his Rice Milk and started boiling his potatoes (with no butter or sour cream in sight), but I had my doubts.

To mask the fear that was consuming my mind, I decided to make myself useful by coming up with what we would eat WITH these “mashed potatoes.”  I decided on chicken (duh), but couldn’t think of what to do with it. Dan gave me the idea to do something with honey mustard, and I was off!

I whipped up some honey mustard and used it as an egg wash so I could coat the chicken in bread crumbs. I threw it in a baking dish and baked at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile… Patrick was busy with his own creation. When we finally met at the end to devour each others’ creations, I think we were both pleasantly surprised. Vegan mashed potatoes? Sort of delicious. And as healthy for you as a potato can be, considering it’s a potato. They were creamy and flavorful and, well, as delicious as if they had butter and cream and cheese and deliciousness. Okay, they might have been better with cheese, but what isn’t, honestly?

Here’s what we did:

Weirdly Delicious Vegan Mashed Potatoes:

 Ingredients:
  • 5 or 6 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil (or Sunflower Oil)
  • Seasonings to taste (we used fresh green onions and chives, basil, and garlic, plus salt and pepper to taste)
To make the rice milk add one cup of rice (white or brown) to four cups of water and one tablespoon of olive oil. Blend until liquid.

Steps:

  • Boil potatoes until soft (skins on or off, your choice), set aside
  • Mix together rice milk and olive oil, and add softened potatoes to mixture.
  • Mash until smooth
  • Add seasonings

Honey Mustard Chicken:

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts or strips, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lite Corn Syrup
  • Diced fresh parsley
  • Bread crumbs (about a cup)

Steps:

  • Combine honey, mustard, corn syrup and parsley
  • Dip chicken into honey mustard mixture to coat
  • Coat in bread crumbs
  • Layer chicken in a baking dish and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. (Spray if you have a spray bottle)
  • Bake on 375 for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center

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Garden Roulette

Mondays are tough. I have a riding lesson in Haymarket at 7:30 am Monday mornings, and I don’t get to work until 10. That means I stay until 7 pm, so by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is put together an elaborate dinner. Luckily, I now have a whole garden of fresh herbs to choose from, and my tomatoes have slowly started to ripen. I had some defrosted chicken in the fridge, so, it didn’t take a ton of creativity to decide what to do:

Chopped some parsley, basil, and rosemary. Sliced my tomatoes. Slabbed some olive oil, salt, and pepper on those bad boys, and baked at 375 for 25 minutes. This is what my friend Gretchen would call a game of Pantry Roulette. In this case, Garden Roulette. I’ll try to post a recipe, but it’s really just a little of this and a little of that. Change it up however you want!

Fresh Herb and Tomato Chicken Breast:

  • 3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2-3 small to medium sized tomatoes
  • Handful of freshly chopped parsley
  • 5 large chopped basil leaves
  • Sprig of chopped rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Chop herbs and slice tomatoes
  2. Cover chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper
  3. Cover with fresh herbs and layer tomatoes on top
  4. Bake in 375 oven for 25 minutes
  5. Devour

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Weekend Festivities

It’s 8:26 on Monday night. I was hoping to have written this by 8:26 this morning. Sunday night got away from me, and then so did Monday. So here we are!

I had such a great weekend. Often times I find myself preferring to spend time at home with Jameson and Dan, but this weekend was jam packed of friends and family, and every now and then, that is just what I need.

Friday night was my work’s summer happy hour. Of course, my friend Jayme and I said all along we would, “only go for about an hour.” Well, famous last words, right?

I got home around 1:00 am. All around, good night. Thanks, Cvent!

Saturday, I woke up bright and early and headed to Harrisonburg to see one of my best friends, Kristin, and her boyfriend, Andrew. We had such a great day! We spent most of the day at Blue Hole, which is a nice little swimming hole near the West Virginia border. We sat around in the sunshine and chatted for over four hours. Naturally, I didn’t take any pictures. I really need to get a handle on this blogging thing. My favorite part of visiting Harrisonburg, (aside from Kristin of course!) is Billy Jack’s. I have searched all of Northern Virginia for wings as good, and I just can’t. Someone, please point me in the direction of delicious wings! We spent the evening sitting on the porch, drinking beer, and having great conversation. Thanks for having me, guys!

Sunday was Father’s Day, so I stopped by my parents’ Bed and Breakfast, The Mark Addy Inn to surprise my parents. It was so nice to see them and spend a stress-free afternoon with them. A few of their guests gave us extra tickets to a Polo match at a local winery, so we spent the afternoon watching ponies chase a ball in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

With some company.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

I left after we got back to the inn, so everyone could take a well deserved nap, and so I could drive home for dinner with Dan’s parents.

Aside from the fact that I clearly didn’t take enough pictures, it was such a great weekend. Thanks to everyone who made it so fun.

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Career Pathing

Part of my motivation for creating Try it and See Blog was to explore myself as a working woman and find different paths I can take with my career. Right now, I have a great job. I work for a growing company with people I enjoy, and get paid decently for my line of work. But, something is missing, and I’m hell bent on figuring out what that something is. For now, of course, I’m completely content. But that’s not to say my mood could shift tomorrow and I’ll be itching for something else; something more fulfilling.

It’s funny. We had a “Career Pathing” meeting at work today, where management shared all kinds of opportunities for growth within my company. I was, and am, excited by some of those prospects, and in the short term will probably pursue some of them. But for me, long term, I’m leaning towards a more rewarding career. Something that I will enjoy and will give me daily satisfaction.

This fact may be seemingly unrelated, but I promise it will make sense soon: I love  animals – mainly dogs and horses. Not like how all little girls say they love puppies and ponies (though that is how I phrase it most of the time), but I really, truly love and admire the human to companion animal relationship that is formed under the right circumstances. I’ve known for a long time that I want to help create those circumstances and form those relationships somehow. The question now, is how?

The relationship I have with my dog, Jameson, is priceless. He has been a part of my little family for a little over two years now, and it’s just crazy to me how we got to know, love, and trust this creature. We let him into our home and immediately loved and trusted him. He sleeps in our bed. He eats our food. And he has giant teeth and jaws strong as hell. I’ve seen him rip “indestructible” toys apart with hardly an effort, so what makes me think he won’t do the same to me some day? I don’t know. I just know. That’s the beauty of the relationship. There are no words needed. We feed off of each others’ body language and eye contact. I know when he’s hungry, and when he needs to go outside (and why), and when he wants to get under the covers and go to sleep. I want to help others form this strong connection with an animal, so both parties can benefit from it.

I’ve been thinking about a career in the animal care field for quite some time, and I’ve tossed lots of ideas around: Dog daycare, training, rescues, vet tech, canine physical therapist. I’m sure there are more options out there, but my knowledge of the field is sadly limited, even with all the research I’ve done. I went on a few interviews for vet tech positions this year, and came to the conclusion that, while I respect the veterinary field 100%, it is not one I would be happy in. Out of all the other options, I keep coming back to training and daycare. Jameson and I are enrolled in an Intermediate Obedience class at the moment, and so far we love it. He’s a great learner, and we have a lot of fun. I’m going to keep going to class, and maybe even ask the trainer if she’ll let me apprentice with her in a few of her future classes, to see if it is something I would consider for the future. There is a lot of work that goes into canine careers, and sadly, little monetary reward or benefit in most cases, which has been my biggest deterrent. That is one thing I know I’m going to either need to get over, or throw my thoughts of an animal related career out the window.

So, I’ll keep trying, and hopefully, eventually, I’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

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Wednesday Work and Play

I generally like Wednesdays. As a good friend (hi, Brandon!) said today, “It’s Wednesday, so I can ask how was your weekend, and ask what are you doing this weekend!” Translation: We are smack dab in the middle of the week. It’s all downhill from here. (That sounded way more optimistic in my head.)

Anyway, I digress. I generally like Wednesdays. They go pretty quickly at work, and Wednesday is my day to take care of and ride Maja, my free-lease horse I’ve been working with for the past year or so. Hi, Maja!

It’s a pretty sweet setup I have. Her owner has two young kids, and she doesn’t have time to make it out to the barn every day. Enter me, stall cleaner extraordinaire! I clean her stall two days a week in exchange for free rides. Love.

There’s just one problem: Maja and her family are moving at the end of the month. I am so sad, and I don’t have anyone else to lease or work with after they leave. Not for lack of trying, either. I guess I’m just spoiled, and now I don’t want to actually PAY to ride anymore.

So, if you know anyone who is looking for someone to exercise the horse and clean their stall, hit me up!

Anyway, I usually stay at the barn for about two hours. So it’s tough to make a nice dinner on Wednesdays. Enter Honey Spiced Glazed Chicken:

I didn’t change much here. The only thing I did differently was use chicken breasts instead of thighs, and it was still delicious. The best part? it took all of 20 minutes to prepare – beginning to end. 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking. And it was delicious. Say what?! I’ll let you venture to the original post for the recipe, since I hardly changed anything. She deserves the clicks more than I do. 🙂 One word of advice though – line your pan with tin foil. I did, and it was the best decision of my life.

I’ll leave you with this.Man, I’ll miss that pony.

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