You know you have a best friend when...

Today Milena and I decided to have our last lunch "date" before embarking on our exciting journeys abroad next semester. She is truly the best thing to happen to me since I moved to Charleston last January. If you have been following my blog even remotely, you have probably noticed that Milena acts as my right hand in nearly everything. It's hard to call it chance when someone as remarkably compatible, adventurous, loving, loyal, fun, funny, intelligent, talented, challenging, and beautiful of a person enters your life. Because of this, I know that God undoubtedly had a hand in Milena and I meeting last January. For this I am forever thankful.

Onto lighter things and foodie talk :) Today, with little hesitation, we agreed to try the newest Mexican restaurant, Caliente, in West Ashley known for it use of fresh and local Lowcountry ingredients.

In addition to the excitement of trying something new, we also decided to use this time together to exchange Christmas gifts.
We had barely settled in our seats before we were greeted with house-made corn tortilla chips and a fresh, spicy salsa!
And before I could ask the server for a water, Milena chimed in, "and we would like to start with your fresh guacamole." We had both read a review before coming to Caliente that described their guac as the new "standard." Our review: Simple, uncontrived avocados with fresh and chunky tomatoes. Quite delicious!
Milena and Santa have a dance off...
As per usual, we wanted to try everything on the menu so we decided to split two of their lunch specials. First shown, veggie fajitas with black beans.
Second, chicken taco and steak enchilada with Mexican rice
We hated everything. Lies. But we both agreed that our favorite element was the cheesy steak enchilada followed by the most flavorful element, the sauteed vegetables in the fajita dish.
Best friends are great at a lot of things, but have you ever realized how well they gift?! Milena nailed it by creating and writing the most thoughtful card and giving me the most unique ring handcrafted by a local Charlestonian. The "thank you" symbolizes the most simplest of prayers - giving thanks.

Balsamic Glazed Winter Vegetables

Skillet Balsamic Glazed Winter Vegetables
Adapted from
(Serves 3-4)
* 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 12 ounces mixed baby potatoes, quartered
(I used purple-skinned and fingerling potatoes)
* 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (to taste)
* 1 tablespoon good quality Balsamic vinegar
* Drizzle of honey (optional)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the garlic, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Add the dried thyme and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir to evenly coat the vegetables with the oil and thyme.
2. Let the potatoes and Brussels sprouts caramelize on one side for about 4-5 minutes. Stirring occasionally to make sure that the other sides of the potatoes and Brussels brown evenly, continue to cook until fork tender (about 10-15 additional minutes).
3. Drizzle the Balsamic vinegar over the vegetables. Toss in the skillet so that the vegetables are evenly coated and the vinegar thickens a bit. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve immediately.

Simple Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

This might just be the simplest and most delicious 3 ingredient salad! I bought some beautiful red and golden beets at the Farmer's Market last Saturday, as well as some of the best looking and spiciest arugula I have ever seen and tasted.

Preheat your oven to 450 F. To prepare the beets: Simply wash them, trim (cut-off) the roots, wrap them in foil and let them roast in the oven for 50 minutes. While the beets are in the oven, I prepare my dressing: whisk together 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp orange juice, 2 tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar, fresh chiffonaded basil, salt and pepper. Once the beets are done, and can be easily pierced by a fork, let them cool. Then you can peel off the skin and thinly slice the beets placing them over a bed of arugula and lettuce blend. Lastly, dress your salad with the fresh vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.

I also LOVE to add "crunch" to my salad by spreading goat cheese on seeded flat bread crackers, then breaking them up into mini croutons all over the salad. The addition of the "make shift croutons" really sets this salad apart :) My favorite cracker to use is Suzie's Spelt Multiseed Flatbread