Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Night Out and the Peony Garden

So I work with these two stunners...


I've mentioned before, in this Kauai post, that I love my job.  A huge part of that love comes from enjoying the people that I get to see and work with everyday.  We joke about how we spend more time together than we do with our spouses!  Which is kind of sadly true if we're just counting waking hours...

Lucky for us we, like each other!  I look forward to Monday mornings to hear how the weekend went for everyone, how is your family?  What did you cook this weekend?  Where'd you go?  We talk about our non-work groups of friends and how even though we don't actually know them, we keep up with them since it beats saying "I went to xyz with our friends" and never knowing who we're talking about.  It is nice to put a name and a face to a friend of a friend.  Which is how this ladies' night came about...

Linda was willing to let us plan a night to get together and spend some time with a few of her friends that we've heard about.  It was especially fun to meet these ladies since Linda is getting married in a few weeks and we'll see each other again at the wedding!

Mo and her newest family member, Max.  They are both charmers <3
Mo graciously offered to host everyone and, let me tell you, this woman knows how to put out a smörgåsbord!!!  I pride myself in being a good hostess and I was taking some mental notes; she couldn't have done a better job making everything perfect but with a totally relaxed vibe that made you feel at home.  Fresh fruit, artichoke hearts, nuts, chocolate, meats, cheese, crackers, shrimp cocktail, and a few specialty cocktails of the drinkable variety.  She rustled up some moonshine from somewhere and had the ingredients for a basil gimlet, my drink of choice - everything was just so delicious!  Then to top it all off, she made some elaborate chocolate cakes that were out of this world.  And I don't fancy myself as a cake lover :)








It was already a festive event and then history happened!  Before this night, there were only 11 Triple Crown winners, but on June 6, 2015, American Pharaoh become number twelve!  Needless to say the night was pretty epic.




^^ Can we just talk about this crazy wall garden??  I need this in my house!




We played around for a while longer and eventually headed off to dinner at Mani Osteria & Bar


We ordered a bunch of dishes to share and a few to not share :) I didn't want to dive across the table to get blurry pictures of everything so I only snapped a few of the dishes that were around me.  I'm sure if I asked they would've let me but Linda has told me that she can go on an entire vacation and not take one picture.  Although this is pretty much the exact opposite of my style, there is definitely something to be said about not taking pictures.

About Mani though.  The food is always way too delicious!  Even their gluten-free options are bangin'.  If you come to Ann Arbor and need to know where to go for a casual dinner, this is the one.

Pickled tomatoes served with toasty bread, smooth goat cheese and an olive tapenade -


A better than classic pepperoni pizza -


Lamp chops -


Mr. fish -



At this point, the post title sounds like we frolicked over to the Peony Garden, slightly tipsy with full bellies and danced among the blooms...

But that is not what happened.  The next day, about 4pm, when I could finally function after spending the day on the couch for probably obvious reasons, Andy and I headed to the Peony Garden.  They only bloom for a short period of time in late May / early June and we were leaving for Italy in a few days - if we wanted to see the peonies this year, we had to go now!






















I was feeling a bit sleepy and puffy but we were both happy that we made it out for a walk in the Peony Garden where Andy and I got engaged a few years ago <3




Saturday, June 27, 2015

DIY Taco Seasoning (and Nachos!)



I realized about five years ago that I could make my own taco seasoning and I haven't looked back since!  Sure, it only cost a dollar to buy a packet of taco seasoning, but have you ever looked at the ingredients?  You probably have everything you need in your spice cabinet to recreate that spicy seasoning without all the yucky preservatives.

Plus a certain sense of pride comes with blending my own seasoning.  You can't buy that!

We typically use this recipe to make tacos (we also like this Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Taco recipe) but on this particular day we felt like making nachos - an awkwardly huge pile of chips, cheese, meat and some fresh veggies - and tucking in to watch Game of Rome!



Although not necessarily part of the seasoning, I like to toss red chili pepper into the mix if I'm feeling hot!



^^ Ground turkey, red pepper and olive oil, ready for the spices!


While the turkey cooked and soaked up all the flavors, I prepped the rest of the veggies for nachos, a perfectly ripe and creamy avocado, a juicy tomato and a crispy red onion.




Once the meat was cooked and drained, the layering commenced!


About 15 minutes later and melty, cheesy, savory, spicy nachos were ready for consumption.  I use a set of tongs to transfer a few healthy sized portions to our plates...


I like to serve nachos with a handful of more diced tomatoes, slices of avocado and hot salsa!




DIY Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 c water
1 lb ground turkey

Directions:

Combine the first six or seven ingredients in a ramekin and stir until combined.  Heat a nonstick skillet and add your oil and turkey, using a spatula to break up the meat.  Once the pan is hot and the meat starts to brown, sprinkle the spice mixture over the meat, add the water, and use your spatula to combine.  Cook, stirring and chopping occasionally, until the meat is cooked all the way through.

Suddenly you're a domestic goddess who can blend her own taco seasoning and make some seriously tasty taco meat for dinner!

Nachos, tacos or baked potatoes are all excellent vehicles to drive this meal into your boca :)