Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Join My New Years Resolution Challenge

It's that time of year again...the time to make your New Years Resolution! Can you guess what the most common resolution is? You got it...weight loss. But, this year I would like for you to change your thoughts about weight loss. Instead of promising yourself to lose weight, why not promise yourself to get healthy? By changing your lifestyle and becoming more aware of your all around health, you will naturally lose weight. Not to mention, your entire body will feel the benefits of a healthy lifestyle! This goes for anyone wanting to improve their overall health. 

This is going to be the start of my New Years Challenge. Starting on January 1st, I will be posting weekly nutrition tips and advice on how to eat healthy during our busy schedules. I will also post more on how to prepare delicious and nutritious foods while also maintaining an appropriate workout schedule. Balance is key!! Please feel free to comment and email me questions throughout the year to help you stay on track. Lets bring in 2015 the right way!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Best Gingerbread Cookies

If you're like me, then you LOVE gingerbread! While typical gingerbread cookies can be hard and crunchy, I prefer ones that are soft and chewy. This recipe will give you a perfectly indulgent cookie!

3 cups All-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1½ sticks of softened butter (12 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons of milk
Icing for decorating (optional)

In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Drop in butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is "mealy," like sand, about 15 seconds. With food processor running, add molasses and milk through the top process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass.

Divide dough in half and use a rolling pin to roll into ¼ inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. Place in refrigerator at least two hours (or overnight) or place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm.

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Once dough is firm, remove parchment from dough and cut out cookies using a gingerbread man cutter or any other holiday cutter. Place cut outs on baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake until centers are just set and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 2 minutes.

Gather scrapes, and continue rolling and cutting until all of the dough is used.

Use icing to get creative with decorations! Kids will love doing this!

Joule Cafe and Tupelo Honey in Raleigh, NC

Soy latte from Joule Coffee in Raleigh
Amazing NC Mountain Trout with Roasted Tomatoes and Salad from the new Tupelo Honey Cafe in Raleigh, NC

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas from my Family

Hello everyone! Just in case you missed it, my family and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Every year we create a "special" Christmas Card to send out to our family and friends. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pumpkin Soup

Hurry and get your pumpkins while you still can! You don't want to miss out on this recipe! Chilly weather is ahead of us and there isn't much that is better than a hot bowl of soup on these cold nights. 

For garnishing seeds:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For soup:
4 cups of pureed pumpkin
6 cups of vegetable broth (chicken broth would work too)
1 cup of chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, mined
1 teaspoon of chopped parsley (or a few dashes of dried parsley)
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme (or a few dashes of dried thyme)
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
A few dashes of black and/or white pepper (I used a mixed peppercorn grinder and put in a few "twists")
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream

Spread pumpkin seeds into a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and dash with salt and pepper. Back at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until toasted. Set these aside for garnishing!

Now, in a large pot, combine the broth, pumpkin, onion, thyme, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Next you will have to puree the mixture. I used a blender, but a food processor will work just as good. I small batches, puree the soup and put in a separate bowl. Once all the mixture has been pureed, but back in the pot and bring to a boil once again.

Blending the soup

Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and serve in small bowls! Remember to add the toasted pumpkin seeds!

Cream has been added
Pumpkin is by far one of my favorite seasonal crops. It is flavorful, versatile, low-calorie, and loaded with vitamins; especially vitamin A, coming in with 12231 IU (245% daily value) in 1 cup! It also only has about 50 calories in 1 cup! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hazelnut and Chocolate Meringue Cake

This week I was invited to a potluck with my co-workers. I wanted to make something new and seasonal, but I was stumped. After searching the web for new ideas, I came across this amazing recipe from Food & Wine and adapted it to fit my own cooking style! Meringue is a very technical thing to make. I had never made it before, but I decided to give it a shot! Below is the recipe and outcome. 

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups finely grinded hazelnuts
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips 
6 ounces melted dark chocolate
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Chocolate shavings, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Spread the hazelnuts on a third baking sheet and toast for 12 to 14 minutes, until browned. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a towel and rub to remove the skins. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Lower the oven temperature to 225°.
In a bowl use a standing electric mixer if you have one fitted with the whisk (if you have one) or just use a regular electric hand mixer fitted with a whisk (Which is what I did) and beat the egg whites with the salt at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. 

Before being beat
After being beat! I love seeing the change!
Gradually beat in the granulated sugar at high speed until stiff. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate down the side of the bowl and gently fold until the meringue is lightly marbled.
Folding in hazelnuts and mini chocolate chips
Marbling with the melted dark chocolate
Spread the meringue into three circles (approximately 8 inch diameters) and bake for 2 hours and 30 minutes, until crisp; rotate the pans halfway through baking. 

Before going into the oven: 8 inch meringue spreads
Turn off the oven, slightly open the door, and let the meringues cool completely.

In the bowl of the standing mixer, beat the cream with the confectioners' sugar until firm. 

Homemade whipped cream is so easy to make!
Remove the meringues from the parchment paper. Spread the whipped cream on the layers and stack them. Garnish with chocolate and refrigerate or freeze the cake overnight. When ready to serve, cut into wedges and serve at room temperature. 

Finished cake with meringue/whipped cream layers

Original Recipe Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/hazelnut-and-chocolate-meringue-cake

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Caprese Skewers

It's the holiday season and I'm sure you're getting invited to all kinds of parties, whether they be with co-workers, friends, or family! This simple, yet elegant Hors d'oeuvre will be a hit at your Christmas party!

2 pints of cherry tomatoes
one container of small mozzarella balls
Fresh basil leaves
Drizzle of olive oil
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar 

You will need:
Hors d'oeuvre spears

These are probably one of the easiest things to make. All you have to do is spear a cherry tomato and follow that with a mozzarella ball. Once you have enough spears, slice the basil leaves and sprinkle over the top. then drizzle the dish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These are great and can be made ahead of time if needed. just refrigerate until ready to serve!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giveaway Time!!

I hope everyone has a "delicious" Thanksgiving today! To help in getting into the holiday spirit, I will be giving away this beautiful Tazo mug along with their amazing Passion tea! In the words of Tazo, Passion tea is "an exuberant herbal infusion of hibiscus, orange peel, rose hips and passion fruit flavors. Tart rose hips and citrusy lemongrass woo the voluptuous blooms of hibiscus flowers. An infusion that's bursting with life and tinged with the color of true love to make sure you never have to live a day without passion." I couldn't define it any better!

To enter my giveaway, simply follow me on Instagram @aubreyjarman and follow the directions under the picture! The giveaway starts at 7:00pm and a winner will be chosen within 24 hours! Good Luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Raleigh Bloggers Dinner

So happy to have helped host the first ever Raleigh Bloggers Dinner last week at the Stockroom in Raleigh, NC, with Sara Kate (sarakatestyling.blogspot.com)! With her amazing styling skills and my cooking ability, we were able to put together a beautiful evening full of fun and laughter. The lovely ladies of Head to Toe Chic, Spray Paint and Mascara, The Daly Dress, Belle of the Blonde, Champagne and Suburbs, Sugar and Shine, and Kendall Lynnette Photography were among those who attended. It was nice getting to know these local bloggers. 

With the help of Sara Kate's boyfriend, we were able to cook up chicken and steak kabobs, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes (with topping tray), and a kale and butternut squash salad. We also made cucumber water and delicious blackberry mojitos!

Big shout outs to Autumn Glow and Design for the invites, place cards, and pie cards, to Classic Party Rentals for the China, to Swagger Gifts for the monogrammed glasses, to Eclectic Sage Florist for the flowers, to Sharon Bui for her day-of help and coordination, and to Kendall Lynnette for the awesome photos! Below are a few of my favorite shots from the dinner as well as a few of the recipes featured. 

Kale and Butternut Squash Salad

1 bundle of kale
1/2 pound butternut squash, diced
1/4 olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, de-shelled
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread diced butternut squash on sheet and drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil, honey and sprinkle salt and pepper. Roast squash for approximately 15-20 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, tear the kale leaves from the stems and set aside in a large bowl. Whisk together the 1/2 cup of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard. salt and pepper the dressing to taste. 

Before serving, toss the kale with the dressing and pumpkin seeds. top the salad with the butternut squash.

Roasted Vegetable Medley (super easy and personal side dish)

Any variety of vegetables (use whatever vegetables you prefer...I used cauliflower, broccoli, red onion and okra for the party)
1/4 Olive oil
salt and pepper

This is a quick and easy dish that everyone can make! All you do...chop up your vegetables and toss together in a backing dish. Then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Get creative and add any other herbs and spices that you may prefer!

Bake the veggies for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees!

Blackberry Mojito

A couple pints of fresh blackberries
a bundle of fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup lime juice
Sparkling water
a fifth of your preferred alcohol

Muddle the berries, mint, lime juice, and alcohol together. Scoop into cups and fill the rest of the way up with the sparkling water. This tastes great without the alcohol as well.

For dessert we were able to indulge in these delicious pies!
Pear Pie made by Sugar & Shine/ Apple Grape Pie made by Spray Paint and Mascara
 I'm so happy to have met these wonderful bloggers and I can't wait until our next party!

Top row (left to right): Head to Toe Chic, Sharon Bui, Champagne and Suburbs, Spray Paint & Mascara
Bottom row (left to right): Me, Sara Kate, Belle of the Blonde, Sugar & Shine, and The Daly Dress

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Almost Turkey Time!

Last Thanksgiving, I volunteered to prepare my family's turkey. Having never made a turkey before and was a little bit nervous. I mean, what if I ruined it?! What's a Thanksgiving without a delicious roasted turkey?! There was no backing out now. Everyone was relying on me. As I spent days googling  "how to prepare a turkey," "best turkey ever," "delicious turkey," I ended up combining a few of the techniques I read about. 

And guess what? My turkey turned out to be one of the most amazingly juicy turkey's I've ever tasted! This is what I did:

Turkey of any size
Stick of butter
Herbs of your choice (I used Thyme and Rosemary)
Salt and pepper

Meat thermometer
Roasting pan and rack

If frozen, go ahead and thaw the turkey. Make sure to give yourself enough time with this step, my turkey took a few days to thaw in my refrigerator. Once completely thawed, rinse the bird off with some cold water to ensure that it is clean. Place the turkey on a roasting rack. 

Let the butter sit out until it is room temperature and soft enough to mash. In a bowl, mash the butter together with your chosen herbs. Once thoroughly mixed, use your hands to spread the herb-butter under the skin of the turkey. You may need to use a knife or fork to help you separate the skin from the breast meat. Lather the butter under the skin, leaving butter "chunks" throughout. Use any excess butter to spread on the outside of the turkey (covering the wings and legs). Sprinkle entire bird with salt and pepper.

Now, this is where it gets technical. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and roast the turkey for 20 minutes, UNCOVERED.

Once the first 20 minutes is up, take the turkey and place it into a roasting bag. The bird may be extremely hot. I used forks and tongs to transfer it. 

Now that it is in the bag, place the covered turkey back on the roasting rack and place back in the oven. Turn the heat down to 250 degrees and roast 20 minutes for every pound that the turkey weighs. You may have to adjust the roasting time depending on your oven, etc. I used a convection oven, which probably aided in the roasting speed to my turkey.

Make sure you have a meat thermometer that can go in the oven and stick it into the thickest part of the bird. You want the breast to reach an internal temperature of 165-170 degrees and the thighs to reach 175-180 degrees.

When you take the turkey out of the oven, it will probably be easiest to cut the bag open to remove the bird. (Sorry for the blurry picture!)
Finished product!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween Weekend in New England

Hope everyone had a fabulous Halloween weekend! Fortunately, I had a little bit of down time from school and work and was able to take a mini vacation and fly up to Rhode Island to visit my friend, Lauren (of loalamode.wordpress.com). I had only ever been to NYC, so this trip was a more "real" taste of New England. While I was visiting, I knew I couldn't leave without having some authentic New England lobster and clam chowder. Lauren told me that I HAD to try a classic New England lobster roll before I left. So when we drove up to Newport, I decided to get one there! We were told by a Newport local to eat at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Benjamin's Raw Bar (http://www.benjaminsrawbar.com/).

The lobster roll did not disappoint. Made from fresh local lobster and accompanied by creamy cole slaw and fries, it was amazingly delicious! You can bet that I ate every last bite!

Overall, Newport was amazing. It's the kind I place I would want to retire to if I ever became rich ;)

Downtown Newport, RI.
Rocky shoreline in Newport, RI
On my last night in Providence, I was able to finally try some clam chowder from a restaurant called Providence G (http://www.providencegpub.com/). It was everything I expected it to be. Hot, flavorful an loaded with local clams and potatoes.

I think it is amazing how different regions of the US have so much to offer. This is what makes me obsessed with traveling! There's nothing quite like immersing yourself in a new town, city or culture.
Can't wait to see where I have the opportunity to go to next!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

With Halloween this weekend and Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years right around the corner, you may be attending office parties or be getting invited to other holiday parties with friends! 

These Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls are a perfect fit for any party. They are my go to "crowd pleaser." With few ingredients and a decent shelf life, these treats can be made easily and ahead of time. 

18 oz crunchy peanut butter
2 sticks of butter
2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 cup of coconut
1 lb of powdered sugar
1 cup of crushed pecans
2 bags (11.5 oz each) of Hershey's Milk (or semi-sweet) Chocolate Chips

Mix everything together except the chocolate chips. I usually start by using a fork to incorporate everything, but end up mixing it my hands because the mixture gets so thick.  Once thoroughly mixed, roll the mixture in 1 inch balls and place on a paper towel.

This is how the mixture should look after everything has been thoroughly mixed
Before melting the chocolate and dipping the peanut butter balls
Once all of the mixture has been rolled, it is then time to melt the chocolate. You can do this by either setting up a double boiler, or simply melting the chips in the microwave (if you do this, make sure you stir the chips every 30 seconds to keep them from scorching).

Once the chips are melted, start dipping and rolling the peanut butter balls in the chocolate. Set the chocolate dipped balls to the side on some wax paper or aluminum foil to harden. Once dried, place balls in an air tight container!

I made about 70 balls with this recipe, though I varied the sizes a little bit. 

Also, this dessert can be make with other nut butters. I once made these for someone with a peanut allergy, but I substituted the peanut butter with sunflower butter and they were just as good! So, please experiment and let me know what you come up with!