perfectly perfect hard-boiled eggs

These have been a summer snack time staple – say that three times fast!

I don’t know about y’all, but I tend to get in a groove of sorts when it comes to my daily routine. For weeks at a time, I’ll hardly deviate from a certain breakfast {steel cut oats loaded with fresh fruit and granola is a particular favorite}, a mid-afternoon snack {fruit and cheese plate makes for a wonderful workday treat} or an after-dinner treat. There’s something quietly comforting, knowing exactly what to expect out of your lunchbox, when there are so many variables that can affect how you day goes.

That’s where this gorgeous little gem comes into play. I don’t know what took me so long to remind myself of these treats, but I tell you, I don’t know how the hubs and I have made it through so long without these! Formally reintroduced to us from my wonderful mother-in-law on our earlier summer trip to Tahoe, I was smacking my head because I hadn’t made these in so long. These were a daily staple in our hiking packs – perfectly contained in their “natural” tupperware {egg shell for the win!}, they make the perfect snack on the go. A perfect balance of protein and vitamins, these will keep you going without holding you back.

Ever since that wonderful trip, said eggs have become commonplace in our refrigerator. It’s safe to say that, come our weekly grocery trip, a dozen eggs will be bought solely for the purpose of hard-boiling. They’re just perfect; I don’t foresee us tiring of them anytime soon!

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Perfectly Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs {adapted, minimally, from Martha Stewart}

Ingredients:

12 large eggs, room temperature

9 cups of water, room temperature

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

*special ingredients – large sauce pan, slotted spoon and colander, large bowl full of ice 

To Prepare:

Place eggs in a large sauce pan. Cover them with water by 1 inch, and add in the vinegar, stirring to combine. Be careful and stir gently; you don’t want to crack the eggs.

Slowly bring water/vinegar mixture to a boil over medium heat. When the liquid has reached a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Transfer eggs to a colander; place under cool running water to stop the cooking. Eggs can be peeled and served immediately, or stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

beer can chicken

I’ve found that, in my years of cooking, the simplest dishes are oftentimes the most show stopping.

Take for instance, a roasting chicken. Such a simple and humble dish, but when served with the right accompaniments, it becomes transformed into a meal more that ideal for serving to guests. The aromatics will transport imbibers to previous memories, perhaps of their childhood, or other fun times associated with said dish.

I’ve taken a summertime twist on this classic roasting chicken – because, let’s be real, who wants to turn on the oven for anything in the middle of the summer? Take a look at this beauty:

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What we’re marveling at is a classic “beer can chicken”….or “beer butt bird”, depending on your preference. I cannot claim credit for this exquisite dish, however much I’d love to. It’s a dish that screams summer to me, so much so that I make it a handful of times each season. The beer does an amazing job of keeping the chicken moist and tender – so much so, you’ll hardly find yourself needing a fork, for both shredding and eating. A few ears of fresh corn and a big salad make this the super dish of summer.

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Beer Can Chicken {recipe adapted from All Recipes}

This is one dish where you simply can’t go wrong. A few minutes of prep work – rinsing and drying the bird, and giving it a spice rub massage – is all that’s needed. I’ve outlined a simple spice rub below that the hubs and I have enjoyed as of late, but feel free to get creative with your own! And don’t be intimidated by the size of the bird; in fact, I may even go a bit bigger the next time, as the leftovers here are glorious! Shredded up for chicken salad, or tossed in creamy alfredo, you cannot and will not be disappointed. 

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken {I used a 5 lb. bone-in, skin-on bird}, with innards removed

1/2 can beer, preferably one more mild in flavor {a pilsner worked great}

cooking spray or olive oil

spice mixture of your choice*

special tools: large roasting dish with handles, heavy duty aluminum foil 

To Prepare:

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat; between 400 and 425 degrees is ideal. Line your baking dish with aluminum foil, making sure to cover all surfaces {this aids in clean-up later on!}. Spray the bottom with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Place the half-full can of beer in the center.

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*Prepare your spice mixture, or feel free to use a pre-packaged one. I mix a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and chili powder in a bowl to rub the bird down with.

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Rinse chicken under cold, running water. Pat dry very thoroughly; any residual moisture will prevent the skin from crisping up. Place on a plate and rub down with spice mixture, making sure to get into all the crevices and inner cavity. I also like to rub it on the breast meat, underneath the skin, for additional flavor.

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Fit whole chicken over the can of beer with the legs on the bottom of the pan; make sure it stands upright on its own. Sprinkle any remaining spice mixture into the cavity {this may cause the beer to foam slightly}.

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Place the baking dish with standing chicken onto the preheated grill, making sure it’s not directly over any burners {in this case, indirect heat is best for cooking}. Close the lid and cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the bone and juices run clear, about 75 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 180 degrees.

Remove the pan from the grill and cover entirely with foil. Let it rest for 10 minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute.

Using tongs, carefully lift the bird off the beer can {discard this}. Break down the bird and serve with your choice of sides!

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Let’s discuss: Have you every tried making beer can chicken? If you cook this regularly, or any other sort of roasted bird, what is your favorite thing to do with the leftovers!

tzatziki

Is anyone else overwhelmed with the mass amounts of cucumbers cranking out of your garden?

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Let’s see a show of hands.

I will admit, I’ve had to great creative over the past weeks with the amount of produce being dropped off on my doorstep. After all, a girl and her hubby can only handle so many slices of cucumbers {sprinkled with a little coarse salt, obviously} as an afternoon snack. I’ve done everything from infusing water with these guys, to spiralizing them in salads, and layering them with soft cheese wedges.

And then I remembered that I had yet to make one of my favorite cucumber snacks – tzatziki dip! This wonderfully tangy appetizer is one of my favorites – in fact, a Greek restaurant right in our downtown area makes perhaps one of the best I’ve had. I’ll eat it by the spoonful, it’s that’s delicious.

With the idea set in mind, and friends coming over for a night of cocktails/games/cooking, I knew that this would be an excellent time to tweak my recipe. Oftentimes made with sour cream and whole fat yogurt, I wanted to lighten this up slightly so that it would still be delicious, but with healthier benefits. By swapping out the aforementioned yogurt with 0% Greek, the creamy consistency is not lost, nor is flavor. The tart bite of this yogurt pairs perfectly with the zangy lemon. Fresh, spicy garlic is added in for flavor, and dill acts as the balancing beam between the flavors. A little salt and pepper rounds it all out – you’re left with nothing but a bowl of dip so bursting with flavor {and protein! thanks to the Greek yogurt} you won’t miss a thing.

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Tzatziki {makes about 3 cups}

This not only makes a wonderful dip to set out amongst other appetizers, but I absolutely love to spread it on veggie sandwiches, or use it as a topping on salads. To really ensure full flavor, make it a few hours before serving, to let the flavors truly marry together.  

Ingredients:

3 cups of Greek yogurt {I used Chobani 0%}

1 large cucumber, washed and dried well

juice of 1 fresh lemon

3 large clove garlic, minced

1-2 tbsp. dried dill, or to suit your taste

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Using a box grater on the largest side, process the cucumber. I prefer to leave the skin on, as I like the crisp texture and vitamin boost it provides. If using a cucumber with seeds, grate only the fleshy outer area.

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Squeeze out any excess water and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic, lemon juice, dill, and salt and pepper. Whisk in the Greek yogurt until combined. Fold in the grated cucumber using a spatula, making sure to fully incorporate.

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Serve alongside assorted veggies, pita bread, and crackers! Dip will last 4 days, tightly covered, in the refrigerator…though it never seems to last more than a day or so in our household ; )

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Let’s Discuss: what’s your favorite brand of Greek yogurt? Do you prefer cooking with a certain variety? 

 

homemade pizza dough

This is a trip down memory lane for me, y’all.

Since I was in elementary school, my mom has had a bread machine. Homemade breads, pretzels, muffins and the like were never short in our household growing up; in fact, I’m fairly certain the 5 of us would burn through at least one large loaf a week. I have fond memories of coming home from school and walking into the house smelling of fresh bread, which I would then slather with Nutella {old habits die hard, I suppose!}. But I have to say that one of my favorite memories associated with said machine was ‘homemade pizza night’.

You see, every Friday, the family would congregate in the kitchen, crowding around the countertops and bumping elbows to decorate their own pizza. My mom and dad would usually share a large one {split down the middle}, and my 2 sisters and myself would each get our own. I can honestly say that it’s fairly easy for me to cluster my youth by pizza topping categories. The best memories are oftentimes associated with food and communal table gathering, especially with my foodie family, so I’m sure you’re not too surprised by this.

But anyways – as I said, even up through high school, Friday night was always reserved for this family tradition. Sure, as we got older, high school football games on Friday nights may cut into the evening time, but it was still always important for us as a family to keep up this tradition. It’s one that, when I moved away for college, I would anticipate with such enthusiasm upon trips home. It’s real serious.

And today, this is a tradition that my husband and I now share together. The first time he was able to experience homemade pizza, I’m pretty sure he looked like he was in absolute heaven. Paired with a nice bottle of red wine {for you over 21ers!}, this meal is the perfect way to decompress from a long week at work – sit back and let your bread machine do the work, prep a few toppings, and before you know it, you’re tucked in on the couch flipping through your Netflix :)

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Homemade Pizza Dough

this is the recipe that my mom has used for as long as I can remember. It can be adapted to be done in a standing mixer, but the method and recipe will be slightly different. If you don’t have a bread machine, check out this post from Shutterbean. You’ll just need to carve out a little extra prep time. 

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups water, room temperature

3 tbsp. light olive oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. honey

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. yeast {for use with a bread machine}

optional: 1 heaping tbsp. of vital wheat gluten 

extra flour, for dusting your board

cornmeal, for baking sheets/pizza stones

*special equipment: bread machine

To Prepare:

In the following order, add the ingredients into the well of your bread machine: water, olive oil, honey, and the all-purpose flour {make sure to evenly cover the water so the yeast will not mix early with it}. In one corner atop the flour, add the salt. In a separate corner, add in the vital wheat gluten. Lastly, form a slight well in the center of the flour and add in the yeast. Cover it lightly with the flour.

Set according to your manufacturer’s instructions. The particular model that I have has a dough cycle that runs for 1 hour 50 minutes, or if I’m in a pinch, I can run it on the quick cycle for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Once your dough has completed, turn it out onto a surface dusted with flour. Divide the dough (I typically get 4 personal-sized pizzas out of one batch) and roll out to desired thickness. Lay each onto a baking sheet or pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal.

Now, it’s time for the fun part!!! Let yourself get as creative as you’d like with your toppings/sauces…after all, that’s the best part of making pizza at home! I’ve listed below a few of our favorite, tried-and-true combos…

-marinara/mozzarella/parmesan/pepperoni/mushroom

-marinara/mozzarella/mushrooms/sausage

-marinara/mozzarella/parmesan/pepperoni/sausage/olives

-fresh tomato slices/romano cheese/caramelized onion/spinach/chicken

-salsa {as the “sauce”}/mexican cheese/chicken/pineapple/red pepper flakes

-no sauce{!})/sausage/spinach/blue cheese/hot sauce {drizzled on after coming out of the oven)

-fresh tomato/spinach/proscuitto/caramelized onion/mushrooms

-alfredo sauce/chicken/sausage/diced tomato/basil

…of course, feel free to experiment! Classic combinations are a never fail, so don’t be afraid to go with what you love!

Once you’ve completed your masterpiece(s), place onto baking racks in oven. I typically let mine go for 15 minutes, then rotate pans (top pizza onto lower rack, and lower pizza onto top rack). Depending on your oven, you’ll need anywhere from 8-15 more minutes to complete the cooking cycle. If you like your’s bubbly and crisp like I do, start your pizza on the bottom and let it finish cooking on the top rack.

It’s pure heaven if you sprinkle a bit of fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt on top once they come out of the oven.

Enjoy! This will certainly be a tradition in the making, much as it has been in my family.

lately: beer & bourbon festival

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Ross and I at the beginning of the festival, showing off our glasses!

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…because sometimes Kelly and I make goofy faces.

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Cortez Cigars make an appearance every summer and it’s always so neat to see them hand rolled.

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This was a find! We got to sample our namesake bourbon, and it was H.E.A.V.E.N.L.Y. …if only we could have taken some home!

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Watching them pull pork – it was so cool! I was like a kid in a candy store.

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Ross and Chris after tasting some delicious beers.

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One of the many local food trucks posted up under tents!

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A little cornhole action, showcasing the theme of the festival.

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Cloudy skies and rain couldn’t deter our fun!

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Over 40 types of bourbon and more beers than we could count. Pulled pork and good ol’ Southern food for days.

This was the third summer in a row we’ve ventured down to Cary, N.C. for the annual “Beer Bourbon & BBQ Festival” and, true to form, it was a winning time. We sampled a good amount of tasty brews and beverages, but the best part? Spending time and catching up with friends we don’t get to see nearly as often as we’d like. I feel so lucky we were able to make the trip, and we are already counting down to next summer’s shindig!

lately: our beach trip!

The hubs and I spent an amazing week {just the two of us!} living large on the shores of Carolina Beach. Blessed with absolutely perfect weather, plenty of activities, and within walking distance to just about every amazing restaurant/bar in town, we made sure to live up this trip! Take a peak into how we spent the week.

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one of the many beer flights we sampled during the week {this was on our way out, at the Flying Saucer in Raleigh}

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the view from our balcony

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a rosemary-infused cocktail that the bartender created just for us! {we basically closed it down and hung out with the staff, it was so fun}

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rare grilled tuna with an arugula salad, grilled peaches and jalepeno foam

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oyster back {oyster on the half shell eaten after enjoying the cocktail of gin/pickled onion/cilantro}

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one of the things on our “beach bucket list” was to make a sandcastle – we blew this one out of the water!

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at the Shuckin’ Shack {another item on our list was to do an oyster shooter every day – again, we rocked that!}

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bringing home with us – Attimo Wine enjoyed, porch sitting style, after an amazing day on the sand

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home for the week – 3rd floor of the Marriott

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great wave riding this week!

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walking along the pier after dinner on Tuesday evening

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we made sure to document our presence when we were at the Fat Pelican!

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sunshine and tan lines

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cocktail night!

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we found the hidden bookcase entrance to the Green Light Bar{!!} in Raleigh

thirsty thursday: peach-ginger sangria

Peaches are in season, so naturally, I’m in heaven.

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Maybe it’s because the perfectly ripe flesh reminds me of the colors of a summer sunset, but peaches have always served as a symbol of summer. What is more perfect than that first bite, bursting with flavor and dripping with sweet juice?

I’ll find any excuse to put peaches in just about anything I can think of during this time – whether it is sliced raw in salads, grilled and garnished with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, sliced into my bowl of cereal, whirled up in a smoothie…I think y’all probably get it by now. I’m a peach-a-holic.

So when I stumbled across this perfect summer cocktail a week or so back, I immediately sent it to my husband. He’s just as avid a peach lover as I am, so naturally, we decided to prepare it over the weekend. With a few slight modifications to the original recipe, we’ve created our new go-to summer sangria.

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The sweet peaches are perfectly balanced with the tangy addition of grated ginger, and the fresh lime juice helps counteract the bright Grand Marnier.

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In using a sparkling rose, along with club soda to finish, you are left with a slightly fizzy and perfectly refreshing cocktail. I highly recommend you try this out as soon as you can – you’ll be glad you did!

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Peach-Ginger Sangria {adapted from Love & Lemons}

{makes 1 pitcher}

Ingredients:

1 bottle of sparking semi-sweet rose wine

1 cup Grand Marnier

3 large peaches

grated ginger, about 1/2″

juice of one lime

one cup of club soda {provides a nice effervescence}

ice, for serving

*optional garnishes include mint, basil, peach wedges, slices of lemons and limes

To Prepare:

Muddle one of the peaches with a few splashes of the Grand Marnier in the bottom of a large pitcher.

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Slice the remaining peaches and set aside.

Add remaining ingredients, except for the club soda and peaches, into the pitcher. Stir to combine.

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Add in the sliced peaches and top with ice and club soda. Serve in glasses, along with optional garnishes.

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