The Easiest Bolognese Sauce Ever

Hi lovelies!

There are some days when you are just craving comfort food. For me, this usually happens on cold, winter nights and when it’s raining – it’s intensified! While at work, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a pasta with a bolognese sauce that night. Not sure what triggered this epiphany  I had – perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was really missing our honeymoon in Italy.

Let me just start out by saying, I’ve been trying desperately to brush up on my cooking skills since the hubs and I are big fans of good cuisine and like to consider ourselves “foodies”. I wanted to find a recipe that was easy to follow but one I could potentially build on. If you search on Pinterest or Google “bolognese recipe”, I guarantee that you will find thousands. The one that I ended up going with was simple, fresh and a recipe I could certainly add my own little flair to.

So here it is.

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What you need:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1 celery stalk (chopped)
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. ground chuck beef
  • Shredded or grated Romano cheese
  • The pasta of your choosing

Directions:

In a large pot, add the olive oil and cook on medium-high heat until it’s almost smoking. Add in the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes soft and almost translucent (approximately 7-8 minutes). Next, add in the chopped celery and carrot and saute (around 5 minutes). Turn the burner to high and add in the ground beef. Stir until the beef is broken up and fully cooked (no longer pink). Lastly, turn your burner on to medium-low heat and add in the tomatoes and parsley, stirring occassionally until the sauce thickens (about 30 minutes).

While the sauce is cooking, go ahead and cook your pasta in a separate pot. Once the sauce is thick and your noodles are done – it is ready to be served. Pour the bolognese sauce over your bowl of pasta, top with the shredded or grated Romano cheese and enjoy!

What’s great about this recipe is it lends itself to be eaten as is or you can get creative and add your own touch to it. For the olive oil, I used a local, basil-infused olive oil to give it a little extra flavor. I also added some dried basil and Melting Pot’s garlic and and herb seasoning because – well, the stuff is good on everything! Something I’d like to attempt next time? Adding a little bit of red wine…but that’s for another day!

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Club W | The Stitch Fix of Wine

Hello lovelies!

I cannot believe how the year is flying by! Adjusting to a new job and getting settled in our new home has been a whirlwind, but 2015 has been shaping up to be a good one. I typically like to write my blog posts around items I’m swooning over and products and services I am infatuated with. Well – this one is no different.

As we’ve seen, monthly subscription boxes have taken the world by storm. From treats for your dogs (BarkBox) to makeup (Birchbox & Ipsy), to clothing (Stitch Fix) to fashion jewelry (Rocksbox) to children’s clothing (Citrus Lane) to even having recipes and fresh ingredients delivered right to your doorstep (i.e. Blue Apron – although there are a plethora of others), the consumer shopping experience is changing dramatically. It not only offers convenience, but also a unique, personalized experience that you do not receive in a normal retail environment.

Being the marketing junkie that I am, this is all truly a dream. Why? Because it’s the perfect example of why Big Data is changing the experience of the customer. Most of these sites have you take a survey to determine your taste, likes and dislikes and based on your feedback, a carefully cultivated subscription box of hand selected items is delivered right to your door. Not only does this offer a customer the option of providing continual feedback on what they received so the company can continue improving the user experience, but also allows the consumer to try products they may not have been exposed to before. Not to mention, the packaging and marketing collateral in these boxes are usually swoon worthy.

So enough of my marketing soapbox…here is what I have to share. To all my wine lovers out there – let’s talk about Club W. Today, my boss received a beautiful box today that immediately grabbed my attention. Of course, I had to ask what was in the box which is when she proceeded to tell me that she signed up for something called Club W – a subscription box of wine.

Now if you know me, I had to do it. Why? A. I’m a sucker for this stuff and B. come on, it’s wine. So why is this subscription box so cool? You sign up, take a survey regarding your taste and palate and then Club W selects different wines that you might like based on the answers you provided. See below for my personal user experience – it was exceptional.

Step 1: Take the questionnaire to determine what your “Palate Profile” is.

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Step 2: Club W hand selects wine based on your taste and provides their recommendations (you can also change the settings to display up to 12 different red wines and 6 different white wines).

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Step 3: Learn about the wine: you can hover over each bottle for a description or you can watch a video showcasing their wine experts diving deep into the flavors of each bottle.

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Step 4: Add your bottles to your cart and check out! FYI – They are running a killer promotion right now and most of their bottles of wine only run around $13/each.

Step 5: After you receive your order and try out the wine, Club W invites you to review the different bottles you received.

Y’all – I’m simply bursting with excitement over this! I should receive my Club W box soon (expect a follow-up post on it). But in the meantime, check out the wines below that were recommended for me! Stay tuned – I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out! Interested in trying it out too? Get a discount using my promo code link: https://www.clubw.com/jarminoei

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Food Truck Frenzy

In case you haven’t heard…food trucks are all the rage. Of course they have been for quite some time, particularly on the west coast. But my beloved city, Charlotte, is experiencing a large growth in the food truck game lately and I can’t lie…I’m kind of loving it! I am big on doing everything on a local level – supporting neighborhood businesses is big for me. Especially because I am a native Charlottean and I love nothing more than standing behind those who put their heart and soul into a vision and made their dream a reality. NoDa Brewing Company being one (yay craft beer) but also my dear friends, Kevin and Matt, who have started their very own food truck, New Wrap Order.

This was something I’ve heard Kevin talk about through the many years he has been in my life. And rightfully so, the guy is talented. He went to Johnson and Wales for culinary so let’s put it this way – he knows what he’s doing. When he told the hubs and I that he was going for the gold, to say we were excited for him is an understatement. Watching Kevin and Matt take a dream and see it through has been inspiring. Nothing tugs at my heart strings more than seeing someone take a leap of faith, put everything they have into something and to put it frankly…make it happen.

Two nights ago, we attended a family and friends night Kevin and Matt hosted for their food truck. In light of their first real event/public launch of their truck today (Food Truck Friday in Matthews), I am sharing my favorite food trucks in town and also the ones I am dying to try! Enjoy!

New Wrap Order (the new kid in town)

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Exhibit A – Kevin & Matt’s food truck, New Wrap Order. New Wrap Order is exactly what you would think: internationally inspired wraps but also bowls for all of you avoiding carbs! Two night ago, I tried the Caribbean Wrap – Jamaican jerk sauce, crispy plantain chips, black beans, white rice and toasted coconut (and comes with your choice of meat – I picked steak). I also got to to taste the “wonchos” – think nachos with wontons instead – and there are three different kinds: Traditional, American and Asian Style! Let me tell you…the Asian Style was out of this world. I am confident that they are going to kill it in the food truck game and excited to watch it come to fruition! More information can be found here.

Ooowee BBQ

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Now, I thought I had tasted the best BBQ in Charlotte as we frequent Midwood Smoke on a fairly regular basis. But I have to say, Ooowee BBQ definitely gives them a run for their money. I was fortunate enough to try their food at NoDa Brewing a couple of weeks ago. No words. The BBQ is ridiculously on point and the mac and cheese is killer. Not to mention they do a little something called BBQ Sundaes…and it is exactly what you would expect. Layers of mac and cheese, baked beans, your choice of meat, dry rub cole slaw and topped with BBQ sauce. They even serve it in a sundae container. Lots of points on creativity but even more on the cuisine itself. More information can be found here.

Papi Queso

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If you know me, you know I love cheese. Better yet, grilled cheese. So you can imagine how this food truck won my heart long ago. This is not some plain, boring grilled cheese – this is grilled cheese on steroids! From mushroom gruyere to a grilled cheese with prosciutto and honey walnuts…this truck is on point. More information can be found here.

The TIN Kitchen

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In my opinion, TIN Kitchen is a Charlotte food truck staple. They offer a little bit of everything – from tacos to quesadillas to salads and sliders – everyone will dine happy here. My personal favorite is the Chicken Tinga Tacos — chipotle chicken braised with tomatoes and charred onions, topped with salsa verde and queso fresco crumbles and scallions. This is a food truck that I will continue to support for life. More information can be found here.

Maryland Crab Co. 

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Have you ever wanted fresh seafood? I know…it sounds strange that a food truck could potentially provide this but believe it or not, Maryland Crab Co. does! This food truck launched in 2013 and it has been a great addition to the town. They found that people could not find fresh seafood in Charlotte and why would they? After all, we are no where near the coast. However, Maryland Crab Co. brings fresh MD crab to the Queen City. From soft shell crab to shrimp to crab cakes – this place has it all. More information can be found here.

King of Pops

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So…it’s not a truck per say. But same kind of concept. If you have not had the luxury of eating one of these popsicles in your life, you are doing a disservice to yourself. I am quite serious. King of Pops has little carts all around Charlotte and their mission is to bring fresh, all-natural popsicles to the area…and they definitely deliver on their promise. They have a schedule that you can check out on their site that tells you exactly where they will be. They provide an array of seasonal pops as well as some staples. With flavors like Cereal Milk Fruit Loops, Chocolate Tarragon, Coconut Lemongrass, Grapefruit Mint, Lemon Ricotta (my personal fav) and Pineapple Cilantro – you will never be disappointed with the selection. More information can be found here.

Now…the trucks I have not tried yet but am dying to…

Yummi Banh Mi

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Okay, so I am not 100% sure what this truck is about other than one thing…bahn mi. A delicious, traditional Vietnamese sandwich. I’ve seen it driving around Charlotte and I’ve actually contemplated following it (is that weird?). At any rate, I will be finding this one soon so I can get my hands on a delicious sandwich! More information can be found here.

Sugar Handmade Gourmet Donuts

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Yeah…I have no shame admitting that I love donuts. I don’t do them regularly but when I do, I want a good one. Don’t get me wrong, I love cupcakes too but there is something really fresh and almost chic about gourmet donuts. Everyone sees Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ but a homemade donut just simply cannot be beat. When I saw this food truck the other day I nearly peed my pants (not really, but you catch my drift). I mean, they have a beignet donut for goodness sakes. This is definitely a food truck worth trying! More information can be found here.

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Recipe Box | The Best Steak You’ll Ever Have

Happy Saturday y’all and happy GAME DAY to all of my fellow Carolina Panther fans!

Tonight, we are facing the Seattle Seahawks and its a big deal for those of us here in Carolina! Last week for the game, we all gathered at our friend Joe’s new pad and brought an assortment of delicious food to share. I made my famous sausage balls but there were some other notable treats (i.e. – caprese skewers, pigs in a blanket, chex mix and mimosas). For those of you who are gathering tonight to watch some football, may I suggest making the best (and I do mean the best) steak you’ll ever have. And get this…it is not done on a grill.

Now bear with me folks, I know this sounds crazy. But with it being unusually cold here, making this incredible, tender filet mignon can be done in a pan and finished off in the oven (restaurant style). This steak can be cut with a butter knife, and it’s decadent, full of flavor and absolutely to die for.

How did I find out about this? A girl friend/coworker told me about it…and I’m telling you, I will never eat a steak any other way again. I’m dead serious. We paired our filet with a spinach-artichoke dip twice baked potato. I’ve included that recipe as well. Enjoy!

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Best steak ever

 Recipe: Best Steak Ever

What you’ll need:

  • Filet Mignon (however many you need)
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Directions:

  • Pour a little olive oil on each steak (both sides)
  • Grind a substantial amount of fresh pepper on both sides of the steak. Do not be shy, you want to coat it enough so that it almost forms a crust.
  • Sprinkle a good bit of sea salt on both sides. Do not be shy with this either…the salt will help tenderize the steak.
  • Let the steaks sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that salt and pepper goodness sinks in.
  • While steaks are marinating, take the half stick of butter and soften slightly so it is easy to mold.
  • Chop 1 tablespoon of parsley, garlic clove (minced) and zest the lemon to get 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. By hand, mix the softened butter, parsley, garlic and lemon zest and form into a log. Put in the fridge to chill.
  • Once steak is done marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Put a little bit of butter in a baking dish and place it in the oven and let it sit while it preheats.
  • Put some olive oil in a pan on high (about 3-4 tablespoons).
  • Place the steaks on the pan when it is screaming hot.
  • Pan sear both sides of the steak until it is brown and forms a crust from the salt and pepper – approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Once finished, take the steaks and put them in the buttered baking dish in the oven and let them cook for about 6-8 minutes for medium rare. About 9-12 minutes for medium (You do not have turn the steaks over).
  • Remove the steaks from the oven, and plate. Take the special butter you made out of the fridge, and put a dollop on top of each.
  • Enjoy!

 

 Recipe: Spinach-Artichoke Dip Twice Baked Potato (Serves 6)

What you’ll need:

  • 3 Large Baking Potatoes
  • 2 Teaspoons of Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 9 Ounce Bag Fresh Spinach (Roughly Chopped)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cream Cheese (Softened)
  • 1/4 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sea Salt (For Seasoning Potato Skins)
  • 6.5 Ounce Jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts (Drained and Chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 Ounces of Shredded Fontina Cheese (Or a Similar Cheese)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Pierce the potatoes with a fork all over.
  • Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and put in oven for approximately 1.5 hours or until cooked all the way through (soft inside).
  • Take out of the oven and let them cool slightly.
  • While potatoes are baking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat; add garlic and spinach. Cook the spinach until it is wilted (approximately 7 minutes).
  • When spinach is done, take out of the pan and put it in a strainer. Press against the spinach to remove any excess liquid.
  • When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the middle of the potatoes into a bowl but be sure to leave enough of a border of potato to keep the shape of the skins.
  • Rub some olive oil on the skins and sprinkle with sea salt; set them on a baking sheet.
  • Mix the scooped out potatoes (in a bowl) with the cream cheese, 3/4 of the fontina cheese, sour cream, and melted butter until smooth. Fold in the spinach and artichokes.
  • Place the mixture inside each of the potato halves. Sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese and remaining fontina cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (or until cheese is melted on top).
  • Enjoy!

Travel | Windy City Round Up

Hello lovelies! I feel like a horrible blogger because I skipped a post last week. But do not fret – I will be posting twice this week to make up for it. In the meantime, I am dying to share our mini vacation we just came back from with you!

I’m coming to find that one of my favorite subjects to write about is travel. The hubs and I just got back from a long weekend in Chicago and let me just tell you…it blew me away (figuratively and literally). Shahin and I are big fans of tradition and although we’ve been together almost 7 years, we’ve only been married 7 months and have wanted to implement customs in our marriage. One we have established is an annual trip with one of our favorite couple friends to an uncharted area (or at least for most of us). Last year, we took on New York City, which was ridiculously fun (will touch on that trip in a separate post), and this year we chose Chicago. Why? We’ve all heard remarkable things about the “Windy City” between the places to see, activities to do as well as the cuisine and social scene. None of us had been there before except Shahin who had only visited when he was much younger.

The hubs and I have discussed many times before that it is not often you find a group of people you can comfortably travel with. Let’s be real for a moment: think about all of your friends. They’re amazing and you love them dearly but consider spending several days with them at a time…how many could you travel with without eventually wanting to pull your hair out? I can assure you, it will probably just be a handful. Erich and Rachel are the perfect travel buddies, we always have the best time together. Even more, we each play an important part in the planning and execution of our vacations. Erich always tracks down the best deals (without fail) while Rachel and I research and choose our activities, restaurants and watering holes (priorities). I like to consider Shahin a “game day” kind of guy. He’s not one to do any initial planning but he will be the spontaneous life of the party when we get to our final destination as well as our GPS (he has an amazing sense of direction).

Here’s a run down of what we did with some notable places and moments:

Thursday
• Had Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati’s. It was quite delicious but really heavy. In fact, I was almost sick after eating one slice. Glad I gave it a try but I will stick with NY style all day, every day.
• Visited the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), which is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,353 feet. We stepped out onto the glass box, which extends out about 4 feet from the skydeck – totally worth the sweaty palms!
• Ate dinner at an oyster bar across from our hotel that had a very old school/1920’s Chicago vibe called Shaw’s. We enjoyed oyster shooters and listened to live jazz.
• Found the most talked about new hot spot in Chicago for 2014: Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki style speakeasy in a back alley with no signs on the door indicating where it is with just a bouncer out front. It was essentially an underground playground for adults/secret society of the most beautiful people in Chi town. Lively, vibrant and a very happening lounge with heavenly concoctions in unique tiki glasses.

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Friday
• First thing in the morning we walked to Intelligentsia and had the best cappuccino I’ve ever tasted.
• Stopped at Glazed & Infused and picked up some Maple Bacon Long John donuts on the way back to the hotel.
• Visited beluga whales, dolphins, penguins, and fish galore at the Shedd Aquarium – one of the largest aquariums in the world.
• Took in the most breathtaking view of Chicago seen from outside of the Adler Planetarium.
• Ate Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo’s, which was recommended by a friend (thanks, Mike). Oh and the chocolate cake shake we ordered to go along with it…sinfully good.
• Did a little shopping on Magnificent Mile and hit up the holy grail (AKA Topshop).
• Dinner and margaritas at Frontera = wowza. The Meyer lemon margarita from the special Spring menu was divine.
• After shutting the place down, we decided to continue with the tequila (rule #1 of tequila drinking: you should never mix it with anything else) and popped into Mercadito, where I consumed passionfruit margaritas with a smoked paprika rim…and it was the most glorious drink I’ve ever had.

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Saturday
• Shahin and Erich stayed in their rooms (recovery mode) while Rachel and I picked up some coffee and stopped for a peanut butter cup donut at Firecakes. WIN!
• Did a little more shopping.
• Met the boys over at the Navy Pier where we rode the Ferris Wheel.
• Visited a 2-story Italian market called Eately.
• Ate dumplings and #hotasianbuns at Wow Bao.
• Had pre-dinner cocktails at CH Distillery, Chicago’s only distillery cocktail bar. This place makes their own alcohol and they’ve created a very chic and trendy atmosphere around it. Let me just start out by saying…they completely NAILED it with the drinks. The Moscow Mule Rachel had was ridiculously good and my unique beverage called The Baron Takes Tea (Earl Gray infused CH key gin, lemon, simple syrup, egg white and soda) was unbelievable.
• Had a 10:15 reservation at Girl and The Goat which every food blog, Chicago magazine, social media outlet and local Chicagoans rave about. Not to mention it was rated #1 on Urbanspoon Chicago as the hottest restaurant in town. Done and done. It’s tapas style so each couple had about 4-5 menu items each and we all did some sharing.
Here is what we tried:
o Seared tuna: Incredible.
o Diver scallops: Sweet and delectable.
o Goat carpaccio: Served with smoked trout roe and olive maple vinaigrette – I cannot even deal.
o Ham frites: Served with beer cheese…need I really say more?
o Onion bread: With tarragon butter and pepper chutney alongside it – holy hell.
o Tortone bread: Served with rocoto cream cheese and pepita salad – also amazing.
o Wood oven roasted pig face: Yes, you read that right. And no judging allowed because you never know unless you try. It tasted like the most tender BBQ you’ve ever had in your life – so surprisingly delicious.
o Fried pickles: The only one I was not head over heels in love with. They were tasty but let’s be honest…we are all from the South. Call me biased but they just simply cannot do it like we do.

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Sunday (Our last day but we made it count)
• Walked around and took in some last minute views.
• Enjoyed brunch at The Purple Pig – another one we’ve heard so much about. They don’t take reservations but we waited in line to get in before they opened (True life: we’re not in North Carolina anymore).
This eatery was also a tapas/shared plate restaurant and we had some appetizing bites:
o Meatball slider with parmesan and arugula: YUM!
o Razor clams with oregano, olive oil and lemon: Can you really go wrong with any clam?
o Chicken thigh kebabs with fried smashed potatoes and tzatziki sauce: An excellent combination.
o Octopus with green beans, fingerling potatoes and salsa verde: My favorite item we had.
o Fried pig’s ear with crispy kale, pickled cherry peppers and a fried egg: Made my taste buds dance.
o Fried petit basque cheese with membrillo: Basically a fancy mozzarella stick – so obvi it was delicious.

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What an incredible four days and three nights in the Windy City! It’s clean, beautiful and there is too much to see and do in just a short amount of time…you truly need a lifetime! We definitely painted the town red and made every minute count. On our way back to Charlotte, we were discussing what our next adventure would be! Of course we’ve created a bucket list of places to go but we’re thinking an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Mexico is a must. Who knows what 2015 will bring but it’s safe to say that we will have many years to come traveling with these two because they’re tying the knot next year. This means there are many couple trips together in our future – yippie!

Our list of places to visit include (but not limited to):

  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Washington D.C.
  • Boston
  • San Francisco (we can’t get enough of it)
  • San Diego
  • Austin
  • Arizona
  • New Orleans
  • Maine
  • Paris
  • London
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Amsterdam
  • Prague
  • Oktoberfest in Munich (sounds like trouble)
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Machu Pichu
  • Brazil
  • Buenos Aires
  • Istanbul
  • Greece

We may need to start doubling up on trips each year! Definitely cannot wait for our many adventures to come! What are places you’re dying to see or have been that are ridiculously amazing? Do share in the comment section below!

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