The jig is up. Zucchini bread is just cake.

Zucchini has taken over the garden.  Now, this is probably my fault for ignoring all spacing guidelines.  Okay, it’s definitely my fault for ignoring all the spacing guidelines.  The poor green bean plants couldn’t compete for space or sunlight and they are a thing of the past.  The tomatoes are doing well and the zucchini is flourishing.

So. Much. Zucchini.

So. Much. Zucchini.

I gave a few away.  And what else does one do with So. Much. Zucchini except make some zucchini bread?

I found three different recipes and got to work.

Yogurt Zucchini Bread

A classic recipe

A classic recipe

Easy Zucchini Bread with chocolate chips

I never got a picture of this one.  It came out a little dark on the edges and I overfilled the pans a bit so it’s not as pretty.  The flavor is okay with some mini chocolate chips in the bread and a few sprinkled on top.

Caramel Frosted Zucchini Bread

Just cake.  Seriously.  Two cups of shredded zucchini in this bread and you wouldn’t even know it. Zucchini just melts away when it’s baked. I like that this one had raisins and walnuts in it.  Adding a caramel frosting certainly doesn’t up any nutrition factor.  This one came out too sweet for me, but it did photograph the best.

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I now have a crap ton of zucchini bread.  And while they taste good, I don’t think I love zucchini bread.  So… I’ll freeze some and bring some to work and give some to the neighbors.  And figure out something else to do with the rest of the zucchini from the garden that won’t quit.

 

In other kitchen news, my friend Kristy did indeed come over and the kitchen lights did indeed get up!  Now… Kristy’s husband ended up joining her on her trip here so my dreams of girl power electric work didn’t happen.  We pretty much just let Jon take care of them.

Okay, so Jon and Kristy did most of the work while I ran up and down the steps to flip the circuit breaker occasionally.

Okay, so Jon and Kristy did most of the work while I ran up and down the steps to flip the circuit breaker occasionally.

Love them!

Love them!

The lights needed to be a flush mount since I don’t have very tall ceilings.  And since I’m trying to embrace some of the vintage charm of the house, I like the milk glass look of these.  I went to a vintage/flea market thing this morning and managed to only walk away with a milk glass bud vase to put on the counter.

Ode to the sister who just had a baby

I intended this to be a post about my attempt to grill pizza.  It’s going to be about a little more than that.

Before I got to dinner, my sister – the one who recently had a baby girl – and I spent some time on Facetime.  Her husband was out helping his dad so Em had my baby niece Avery on her lap the whole time.  I got to make faces at her and watch her giggle and wiggle and even squeak a few times.  Em and I chatted about alllll the upcoming family wedding and baptisms and baby showers and I got to see her be a mom for a little bit.  She mentioned a few events she had to pass on because of aforementioned baby niece.  As we were getting ready to go – her to put Avery to bed and me to make dinner and drink wine – we talked about what we were having for dinner.  She said she was probably having scrambled eggs because she needed to get grocery shopping.

Now, I love scrambled eggs.  Love ‘em.  But as I started to prepare for the pizza grilling adventure, I felt a slight twinge of wishing I could be there to have Em over for dinner also.  I know she occasionally reads this blog (Hey sistah!) and I felt bad that I’d be posting about all the leisure time I have to make pizza and drink wine on the patio.  I thought maybe I should keep the pictures to myself.

Except…the grass is always greener.

To my dear sister, I think you’re amazing!  You have this marriage that you have worked at making work.  You and Al play sports together and have couple friends and you know his email password and you have that photo frame full of the wedding photo booth photo strips.  Every time I pass it I think about how many times I’ve started some kind of photo tradition with an ex and how they don’t matter anymore…  Now you have this crazy adorable baby girl who you get to teach things to (hopefully a second language – I just really want some toddler in our family to be able to speak a couple languages) and you get to experience this thing that I never will.  I know I never wanted to have kids, and I’m okay with my choice, but it does close the door to a whole world of experiences and emotions.

So, tonight, while you dealt with your giggling, yet fuss face of a daughter, I made pizza on the grill.  I promise you, your night was more fulfilling.  Doing whatever you want when you want can be very dull.  If there is no one there to eat the pizza, did it even exist?  (Well, it did, because I took pictures…)  I’m so ready to have my person, to build a life, to be helpful and supportive to someone else.  But tonight, the fact that I figured out how to grill pizza is all I’ve got.

So, let’s talk about that.

Start with a really hot grill.

Start with a really hot grill.

I prepped a plate full of potential pizza toppings.  Prosciutto, mozzarella, peso, tomato sauce, basil, goat cheese and Sarah's Farm Fresh tomatoes.

I prepped a plate full of potential pizza toppings. Prosciutto, mozzarella, pesto, tomato sauce, basil, goat cheese and Sarah’s Farm Fresh tomatoes.

I had a hunk of Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough.  I wanted to test the process before I loaded up a pizza with all the delicious ingredients.  I made a mini margherita pizza.  The dough puffed up more than I expected, but other than that it worked great.  The dough didn’t stick to the grates at all.

Baby test pizza

Baby test pizza

The process was to take a section of dough and work it until it was fairly thin.  I sprayed one side of it with some olive oil spray and then tossed it right on the grates.  I closed the grill lid for about 2 minutes and then flipped the dough over.  I then topped the dough with the chosen ingredients and closed the lid for another minute.  I moved the pizzas to the top rack of the grill while I cooked the next one so the cheese kept melting, but the crust didn’t burn.  They cook pretty quickly.  And they all tasted pretty delicious.

The pesto, prosciutto & goat cheese

The pesto, prosciutto & goat cheese

The margherita deluxe

The margherita deluxe

The everything.  Pesto, marinara, prosciutto, mozzarella and goat cheese

The everything. Pesto, marinara, prosciutto, mozzarella and goat cheese

The empty wine glass.

The empty wine glass. 

 

 

Whole 30, Day 15 – good food tastes good

It’s oddly easy this time around.

Sure, I miss the wine and ice cream, but I’m not lusting after them.

According to the Whole30 timeline, I’m in the wacky dreaming yet feeling good phase.  Almost.  Last time I did this I remember that I slept sooo much better, which isn’t too hard, because I’m generally a terrible sleeper.  This time I’m fighting against myself and sleep.  I’ve gotten into bad habits with tv watching at night and it is really counter productive.  I also think I need I need to kick this cat out of my room at night again…

Oh Oliver.

Oh Oliver.

Because as adorable as the purring and nuzzling are during waking hours, they are exactly the opposite amount of adorable while trying to sleep.  Quinn, the good cat, has always slept at the foot of the bed.  Oliver has decided he needs to lay on the pillows, and right next to my ear.  Sorry Ollie.  You’re getting kicked off the island.

Back to the Whole30.  My friend Claire and I both pinned the same picture of a Mango Curry Grilled Chicken dish last week and I made that last night.  It was out of this world delicious.

The marinade is thick.  I had three large chicken breasts in it.  My only regret is not putting more in this amazing mixture.  Don't forget to reserve some for sauce before adding the raw chicken!

The marinade is thick. I had three large chicken breasts in it. My only regret is not putting more in this amazing mixture. Don’t forget to reserve some for sauce before adding the raw chicken!

Cutting up the mango took the most time.  Otherwise, the rest of the ingredients went in the food processor and then poured over chicken.  I marinated my chicken for about 5 hours.

Then onto the grill!

Then onto the grill!

The grill needed a good cleaning afterwards since the marinade is thick and goopy.  Worth it!

I served it with cilantro lime cauliflower "rice" and an avocado.  PLUS, the reserved portion of the marinade as sauce.

I served it with cilantro lime cauliflower “rice” and an avocado. PLUS, the reserved portion of the marinade as sauce.

No time to take a better picture because I was ready to eat.  I remembered that about W30 also.  I’m hungry at about 6pm, so dinner has to be pretty quick after I get home from work.

Speaking of delicious food, how is it that Brussels sprouts have become part of my favorite breakfast?!

Sunday morning, W30 Style.

Sunday morning, W30 Style.

Fry bacon.  Remove from pan.  Add a diced, cooked sweet potato (I microwave it while the bacon is cooking) to the bacon grease to get the edges a little crispy.  Add shredded Brussels sprouts, cook for another minute, move sweet potatoes and sprouts to the side of the pan and cook two eggs as you like them on the other side of the pan.  (I’m sure you could do that in a separate pan, but I like to cook the eggs in what’s left of the bacon fat too.  Mmmm.)  The yolk broke on the left egg in the picture.  I like them runny so it mixes in with the hash and gets extra delicious.  Sunday morning is hauling this plate of delicious, a cup of coffee and the newspaper into the sunroom where I watch Food Network and flip lazily through the paper.  Seriously.  Sunday mornings.

 

In non W30 news, I’m having a paint color crisis.  After much blog browsing, Houzz, Pinterest and HGTV.com browsing, I had narrowed down my paint color for the kitchen walls.  I thought it would be a light, but still noticeably green color.  I put a little sample on the wall and it looks gray.  And drab.  And way darker than expected.  I put a second coat on some of the sample patches (there are now 5 random painted spots in the kitchen to see it in different lights) and not much improvement.  I guess I can see if the nice people at Benjamin Moore can lighten up this can of paint, or I buy a new gallon.  Stay tuned….

Whole 30 – Day 4

According to the wonderful Whole30 Timeline, today and tomorrow are the “Kill all the Things” days.  Since I’ve only come into contact with the cats so far, I can’t say that I want to punch anyone… yet.  But, I do have a big day of meetings, so wish everyone luck.

There’s the saying about when the student is ready, the teacher appears?  That’s how I feel about this round of W30.  I am embracing the challenge.  I sat in front of a plate of cookies at this celebration thing at work yesterday and I was happy just to smell them.  I know that if I had one I would have found a way to have a dozen more cookies throughout the day.  The sugar dragon is real, yo.

Last night I made one of my favorite W30 dishes – the Pad Thai from Well Fed.  I have leftovers of it packed for lunch and that makes me very happy!

 

Italian pork roast

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OMG.

I do not use that lightly.

When trying to eat all Paleo/ Whole 30 like I rely on the fantastic Well Fed cookbook.  I made the Italian Pork Roast today and it was amazing.  It came together super fast, I made the spice rub (salt, pepper, fennel, oregano, thyme, and a bit of crushed red pepper) last night and this morning jabbed at the 5lb roast with a paring knife and stuck some garlic cloves in it.  Into my new crock pot (a larger, programmable version of my old baby one, one of many lovely Christmas gifts from D) and have been eyeing it until 7pm (directions call for a 14 hour cooktime, I gave it 13.  Girl has gotta eat, yo).image

I pulled it out of the crock pot and kept picking at it like it was a turkey at Thanksgiving (I like to hover around Grandpa when he carves the turkey).  I just kept putting hunks of shredded pork in my mouth.  No plates, no meal, just meat.  I eventually roasted a bunch of brussel sprouts, reduced some balsamic vinegar into a glaze and drizzled that over them so I had some vegetable component.  It was good friends.  Very, very good.

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Meat never photographs well, but you gotta believe me it was delicious.  And I have lots of leftovers… come on over.

In other news, the Arctic Air made it’s way to Columbus today:

wpid-20140106_161222.jpgI’m in there somewhere.  In the one minute I had my mitten off to take this picture and text it to D (telling him I was making a face at him underneath it all – more specifically the notorious “duck face” which he made me promise to leave in 2013) my fingers nearly got frostbite.  No joke.  It took 20 minutes for them to stop stinging.  -2 degrees doesn’t mess around.

Pinterest – nailed it!

I’m heading to my super adorable friend Becky’s annual S’mores party this evening.  Never wanting to show up empty handed, I thought I’d make some interesting cookies to bring as graham cracker substitutions for warm and gooey toasted marshmallows.

My first thought was to make a sweet potato cookie.  Hear me out… My favorite Thanksgiving dish is the mashed sweet potatoes with the broiled marshmallows on top.  Almost every other Thanksgiving side dish from my youth I’ve created a more upscale version of as I’ve gotten older, but I still kind of love the old school sweet potatoes.  So, I thought a sweet potato cookie with a warm and toasty marshmallow would be kind of amazing.  Except…the cookies are not delicious.  They kind of just taste like bland white flour.  I cooked the second sheet tray of them until they were a little crispier, so I’ll bring those along with me as kind of an experiment, but my sister reminded me my cookie reputation would be on the line so I should maybe do a take two.

Now, I pride myself on making a pretty amazing classic chocolate chip cookie.  I’ve made all kinds and they are always delicious.

For this event, I thought I could do it with a trip of chocolate chip varieties (milk, semi-sweet and dark chips) and I thought I’d look through all the recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest and find a thinner cookie recipe.  Which I did

The Canal House cookie recipe

The Canal House cookie recipe

It seemed perfect!  The blog author described it as thin and chewy, crisp edges and a little salty – I thought that would be great for the marshmallow goodness.

Now, a few things could have happened here.

1. This is the first time I’ve tried really baking in my Columbus kitchen…with it’s electric oven.  It’s just different.

2. It could have been a butter issue.  I didn’t use super high quality butter (it was butter though, not margarine, not something generic…)

3. I felt it was light on flour in the recipe, but I’m used to thicker cookies.

Here’s what I just pulled out of the oven…

Cookie tragedy

Cookie tragedy

 

NAILED IT!

NAILED IT!

 

So…. I think I’m going to pick up a six pack of my new favorite beer, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, and let that be the thing I bring tonight.  There will surely be enough junk food there already.

 

More 5 minute meals

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The key to 5 minute meals?  Prep work.

I made a lot of brown rice last Sunday.  Scoop some of that into a bowl and throw into microwave.

Vegetables that just need a rough chop before being thrown into saute pan.

Crumble goat cheese on top of everything and enjoy!

I’m so happy asparagus is back in season.  It’s best cooked so briefly that it’s still crisp, but naturally tender.

30? I can do it in 5.

Welcome to my 5 minute meal.

 

Start with a whole wheat tortilla I warmed up in the microwave.  Add "salsa chicken" that has been in the crockpot all day.

Start with a whole wheat tortilla I warmed up in the microwave. Add “salsa chicken” that has been in the crockpot all day.

Add a vegetable.  I had romaine, I had spinach, but I chose to slice up some raw brussel sprouts.  More crunch, more nutrients, more better!

Add a vegetable. I had romaine, I had spinach, but I chose to slice up some raw brussel sprouts. More crunch, more nutrients, more better!

Add dollop of greek yogurt.  I think I covered all four food groups, yes?

Add dollop of greek yogurt. I think I covered all four food groups, yes?

I read a blog where the author has made “salsa chicken” a few times in her crock pot.  It’s as easy as adding chicken and a jar of salsa to your crock pot.  Come home to yummy chicken that shreds apart and can be used in a variety of ways.  I finally got around to getting that in my crock yesterday morning.  I knew I’d have a tight turn last night and was already planning on needing dinner fast.  I always have tortillas around.  I grocery shopped Tuesday night and had no shortage of “lettuce” options (kale, spinach and romaine are in the fridge right now) but I chose my new favorite – shaved brussel sprouts.  Then I added just a bit of greek yogurt from the container I had on hand.

The reason for my tight turnaround was a coffee meeting that ran longer than I expected.  I was meeting a woman I met at a local Organization Development Network meeting and just a bit stressed out about it.  I’m always a little stressed meeting people who appear super put together.  This is a woman who is a couple years younger than me, is lovely, has a PhD, a ginormous diamond engagement ring and every hair was in place.  (Sometimes I’m intimidated by people with perfect hair because my curly hair is perpetually messy.)  But, she had reached out after we met and asked if I wanted to grab coffee sometime and chat some more and of course, I said yes.  It turned out to be a great time and we had some really productive conversation.  I feel like I woke up yesterday with questions and somehow she answered them.  Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I left the cafe with a clearer picture of my OD point of view, a few prospects for other contacts, and a great vacation idea!

I ran home from that meeting, which went longer than I anticipated, and had about 40 minutes before I needed to jump on a call for a school project.  That’s when I threw together my 5 minute meal and pretty much inhaled it.  I ran downstairs for a cup of coffee to sip on during the call (I was expecting it to be a long one) and got a crazy nice compliment from one of the coffee shop guys.  It turns out there was a rumor going through the coffee shop that I was moving and so I walked in and he shouted across the shop “Tell me it’s not true!”  I assured him that at this moment it was not true, and then he proceeded to tell me I’m awesome, that I deserve everything great, it’s time I settle down with a nice man, etc.  It was almost overwhelming how happy he was that I wasn’t leaving and the outpouring of nice things that relief led him to say.  It’s the kind of thing that just makes your day.

It’s important to recognize the good days.  Two of my favorite people had really bad days yesterday.  You don’t ever wake up knowing when the biggest days are going to be – for better or worse.  There were a lot of reminders of that yesterday.

 

My Friday night. Warning: You will not be jealous.

Stream of consciousness at it’s best comes when I’ve had a few champagne cocktails, as I’ve had in the last hour.

Now, in my defense, I spent the two and a half hours prior to that cleaning my office. Like, I even brought in a friend to help me tackle the cleaning of the office. Mostly, I just like company when I have to clean. Also, I’m super undisciplined unless I’m trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. Even if those expectations are just a friend who is expecting me to clean up my office.

Today is my dad’s birthday. I wrote about it before.  (That post is pretty much when Claire solidified herself in friend for life position – but don’t tell her that – I don’t need her getting all comfortable in that spot on me.)  He would be 63 today.  Which means we’re going on almost 11 years dead.  Which means we’re half way to the point where I’ll have been alive longer without Dad than with Dad.  Time heals all wounds and all, but dang it if I don’t miss him all the time.  He was just so fun.

I’m putting Pinterest to work for me.  That’s right.  I’m taking control, Pinterest.  No longer will you suck me in with your pages and pages of recipes and fashion and dream homes with dream rooms.  Tonight, I take control.

Let me back up a step.  I’m having a few people over for dinner next weekend (including Out of State Mystery Date, aka OOSMD) and I’m trying to find the right recipe for feeding this collection of individuals.  I’ve pinned about 250 recipes on Pinterest.  Surely, one of them is the right one.  So, while I was flipping through the collection, I came across this:

And I decided to make it. It’s 10pm. I’m a little drunk. Let’s slice some apples. I had all of these ingredients on hand and the idea of waking up to the smell of delicious apple cinnamon oatmeal sounded awesome. (PS – I wake up to the smell of delicious things all the time. I live above a coffee shop that bakes all it’s own stuff. This should not have been that big of a deal.) I took zero before pictures because who has time for that when you’re four glasses of champagne into your evening and trying to make overnight oatmeal in a crock pot?! I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

In other news, I spent an hour and a half at the gym this morning! It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. I went to an aerobic/toning class and then I got on a treadmill. I didn’t run much – about 2 miles – and it was intervals – but I got back on the horse! Finally. It’s supposed to be gorgeous in STL this weekend so I’m sure I’ll get another run or two in. Plus, I have a 9am Zumba class on the calendar for tomorrow. I’m back, baby doll. (HIMYM reference, FYI.) I decided not to run the STL 1/2 marathon in April. My next actual run is the April 27 Color Run. I may shoot for another fall 1/2 – perhaps the STL Rock and Roll again. I’m already thinking about the 2014 runs. I’m getting Disney medals – I’m running a race at Disneyland and Disney World and then getting the Coast to Coast medal once I complete both. This is happening.

My mom broke my glasses. She didn’t mean to. It’s a long story. I’ve been wearing my back up ones or my contacts. Then I got an email about a super duper sale at my eyeglass place. Last week I went to pick out a new pair. I pick them up tomorrow morning. They’re kind of hipster. I’m pretty excited about them but a little nervous about what people (ahem, my sisters) will say about them. I’ll be sure to post a picture. No worries.

Okay. That’s about all the news fit to print for the evening. I’m settling into this champagne buzz pretty well. The cat and I are in our places on the bed and it’s nice enough this evening to have a window cracked. Just a little. Then again, I like it cold when I sleep.

I have a great day planned for tomorrow. Pick up the hipster glasses, go to the Zumba, probably get to the Indie Craft Fair, finish writing a 10 page paper/test and then go to a fundraiser party for a local restaurant that is thanking donors as it raises money to expand.  I’m not an impressive donor, but a friend of mine is and I’m his tagalong date.

Oh, Friday night.  Pinterest and closet cleaning and open mic night downstairs and champagne and blogging.  I’m really quite okay with this evening.

Sarah meets Smitten Kitchen

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Guys.  I met this lady.

Yes.  This is Deb Perelman, aka, The Smitten Kitchen.

Inspiration of food photography and creator of my favorite strawberry cake.  I cannot stress how much she is exactly the kind of food photographer and writer I strive for.  Simple. Real. Charming. Funny. And very, very talented.

IMG_7696I won’t gush so much.  I’ll mostly let pictures do the talking in this post.  Sauce Magazine hosted an event where she spoke, did a little demo of the dessert that was made (which was really funny, because apparently none of the pre-measured ingredients the staff put out for her were correct and she kept picking something up and commenting on the fact that it wasn’t right – “Just do it like the book tells you – do not pay attention to what I’m doing now.”  You probably had to be there.) and we got a three course lunch, with recipes from the book.  Naturally.

This was part of our first course.  I ate mine before I thought to take a picture.

This was part of our first course. I ate mine before I thought to take a picture.

She said that when she was approached to write a cookbook she was actually pretty against the idea.  So she made all kinds of demands that surely no publisher would indulge.  She wanted to put as many photos in as she felt necessary for each recipe.  She wanted to tell the stories about the recipes similarly to how she did on her blog.  And she insisted on a book with lay flat binding.  The publisher let her have all those things.  And the story she tells about this first dish, a kale/cherry/radish/goat cheese/pecan salad starts with this line “I have spent a good part of the last few years believing that the world would be a better place if we could all stop pretending that kale tastes good.”  See?  She’s funny!

This was the main course.  Once again, no thought of cameras until it was gone.  It was just soooo good looking.

This was the main course. Once again, no thought of cameras until it was gone. It was just soooo good looking.

I know.  I’m the worst.  How could I forget to take a picture of food before eating it?  Oh well.  It was this:

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And it was awesome.

I did remember to take a picture of dessert before inhaling it.  It was a grapefruit olive oil pound cake and it was great.  I’m not a person who eats grapefruit ever, but I love citrus and this was simple and delicious.  My new friend and tablemate (I went to this shindig alone because I don’t have friends who get my food nerd thing here and sure enough, there are other people like me out there.  I was very quickly approached by another lone fan and we were fast friends by the end) and I very seriously discussed licking the plate.

It may not look like much.  But it was so, so good.

It may not look like much. But it was so, so good.

After lunch Deb came around to each table to sign our books.  I loved that!  At other book signings I’ve been to a long line forms and you get about 5 seconds with this person you came to see.  Not with Deb.  She chatted, had a seat at tables, took pictures, etc.  I could tell this made the event organizers antsy because it took longer, but I like that Deb was still doing things her way – just like the cookbook.  If I were just some normal person who had gotten some fame for just being myself – you bet your booty I’d want to spend some real time with the people who thought I was cool and thank them and know them as well.  I am just a huge fan of this woman!

I was also glad for this style, because I wanted to take a minute and tell her that she had inspired me.  I brought one of the 42 pictures of hers that hangs on my wall for her to sign.  I wanted to tell her I had 42 of her pictures hanging on my wall.  I wanted to tell her she was cool.  And I got to do that.  She said she was really touched to learn about the photo collage I have (I had a picture of it and showed her the whole thing also).  Sigh.  Food nerd hero worship.  I’m just really happy I got to meet her.

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I now add her book to my little collection of signed cookbooks…

Rick Bayless, Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman) and Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen)

Rick Bayless, Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman) and Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen)

And now it’s time to get cooking!  There are so many delicious recipes in this book.  AND, they’re just slightly elevated versions of totally normal food.  Nothing is overly pretentious or crazy.  It’s just really good, tested recipes.  I think I may have a houseguest for a weekend in March and my sister and Claire are joining us for dinner one night…I see a Smitten Kitchen menu in our future.

 

I wonder if Deb wants to come over for dinner too.  Thanks for stopping in STL, Deb!  You made this food nerd very happy!

I wonder if Deb wants to come over for dinner too. Thanks for stopping in STL, Deb! You made this food nerd very happy!