"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Douglas Fir Sparkletini

I usually try recipes before I post them on my blog, but I wasn't sure if I'd get the chance to try this one this week - and I wanted to post it before New Years Eve.  It looks great and would be wonderful for any Christmas or New Years celebrations.  If you try it, let me know how it is!
Photo from Foodista

Douglas Fir Sparkletini
Recipe from Foodista.com
1 1/2 ounces Douglas Fir–Infused Gin (recipe follows)
3/4 ounce white cranberry juice
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Splash of brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 5- to 6-inch sprig fresh-picked Douglas fir branch, rinsed

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure in the infused gin, cranberry and lemon juices, and simple syrup. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and top with a splash of Champagne. Garnish with a fir sprig and float a cranberry in the drink.
Douglas Fir–Infused Gin (Makes enough for about 16 drinks) Put the fir branch into the gin bottle, cap, and let sit 24 hours. (Do not let it infuse for more than 24 hours.) Remove the branch and discard. The infused gin can be stored at room temperature for up to one year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction - from Jeff

Jeff made a wonderful balsamic vinegar reduction last year for a Christmas party, and I thought it would make a great last-minute Christmas recipe since it only requires a few ingredients.  I've always loved balsamic vinegar, but I'm not sure that I'd had a reduction before.  The consistency is  more like a syrup.  He used it as a topping for slices of brie - it was amazing! 

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
1 bottle of balsamic vinegar (the better the vinegar, the better the reduction)
Powdered sugar to taste

Heat the vinegar in a sauce pan on high.  As soon as it starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium.  Stir and watch closely as the vinegar cooks (some recipes say to whisk the entire time it cooks).  It should cook down to 1/3 of its original size and become much thicker.  Be careful that you don't burn the vinegar on the bottom of the pan!  Once it gets to the right size/consistency, add a little powdered sugar to taste.  Jeff says that you may want to stop cooking it just before you think it's actually thick enough as it will continue to firm as it cools (if it firms too much, reheat it for a minute and add a small bit of water).

The reduction can be served on fruit, caprese salads (tomato/mozzarella/basil), or on cheeses.  If served with cheese, it would be easiest to serve the reduction in something that pours easily (think creamer or gravy boat) next to your block of brie or other cheese.  If you prepour the reduction, it may get too sticky.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

French Onion Soup

Several years ago my mom gave me the Williams-Sonoma French cookbook.  The front cover has an amazing picture of French Onion Soup.  I have been a HUGE fan of French Onion Soup for as long as I can remember!  If it's on the menu, I'm probably going to order it!  Since I've been on Christmas break this week, I decided to finally try making the soup recipe from the cookbook.  I am so pleased with how it turned out!  I will definitely be making this again.  The dark broth and rich texture make this is a perfect soup to serve at fancy Christmas brunch or dinner. 

Two-Onion Soup Gratinee
(Serves 8)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. sugar
7 cups (56 fl oz) beef stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
12 slices baguette, each 1/4 inch thick
1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup (3oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large, nonaluminum Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the red and yellow onions and saute until wilted, about 15 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions are richly colored and caramelized, 30-45 minutes longer.  (If the onions start to brown too quickly toward the beginning of the caramelizing process, you may need to reduce the heat slightly.) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the stock, garlic, bay leaf, and wine to the pan.  Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, toast the baguette slices: arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden, watching carefully to prevent burning, 5-7 minutes.

Add the thyme to the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Discard the bay leaf.

To serve, preheat the broiler.  Ladle the soup into individual ovenproof soup bowls.  Place 2 or 3 baguette slices on top of each serving and sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Place the soup bowls on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source.  Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle a little parsley over each soup bowl and serve at once.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guacamole Bruschetta

I know this may not be a traditional Christmas recipe, but the green and red can make it work!  This is one of my new favorite recipes, and I think it's perfect for any time of the year.  I made this a few weeks ago for a party.  The main problem I had was finding good tomatoes this time of year.  I really couldn't find any that looked great, so I substituted the fresh tomatoes with sundried tomatoes instead.  They still turned out great!

Photo from justataste.com

Guacamole Bruschetta

Yield: 12-15 servings
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 6 min

½ loaf French bread
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, medium chopped
2 avocados, medium chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Slice the French bread on the diagonal into ½" rounds and place on a baking sheet.
Toast the sliced bread in the oven for 3 minutes, then flip each piece over and toast an additional 3 minutes.
Remove the toasted bread from the oven and immediately rub with the clove of garlic (it works best to first cut a small tip off the garlic clove so that the oils will seep out).
Brush the tops of the garlic-rubbed toasts with olive oil and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix together gently making sure the avocado is well coated in the lime juice.
Spoon a portion of the mixture onto each of the garlic toasts and serve.

From: Justataste.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach Torta

This is a recipe from my church's annual Christmas Countdown event.  This year's food was just as good as always!  I really liked this appetizer, and the colors make it perfect for Christmas.

Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach Torta
(from Southern Lady Magazine)
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 (3-ounce) jar prepared pesto
Garnish: chopped sun-dried tomatoes

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, and garlic powder. Beat
at medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Divide cream cheese mixture in half.
Combine one-half cheese mixture and spinach; set aside. combine other half with sun-dried tomatoes.
Line an 8 inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Spread spinach mixture in bottom of pan. Top with sun-dried
tomato mixture; refrigerate for 1 hour.
Invert onto serving dish and remove from pan. Carefully remove plastic wrap. Cover sides of torta with
pine nuts. Spread pesto on top of torta. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with sundried
tomatoes. Serve with crackers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom & Gruyere Tartlets

I made this amazing appetizer for a party a few weeks ago.  These tartlets were a big hit!  They take a little bit of time but aren't too difficult to make.  The flavor is so great - I wish I had some right now!

Photo from browneyedbaker.com

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom & Gruyere Tartlets
Yield: 16 3-inch tartlets
Prep Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 20 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
16 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup white wine (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)
2 sheets puff pastry (thawed according to directions on package)
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (can substitute any variety of Swiss cheese)
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten together (for the egg wash)
Handful of parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and the thyme and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
6. Unfold the thawed sheets of puff pastry and cut out circles from the dough, placing them evenly spaced on the baking sheets. Using a very sharp knife, make four small scores around the perimeter of the dough, about ¼ to ½-inch from the edge.
7. Top the rounds of puff pastry with a small spoonful of the onion and mushroom mixture, trying to keep the filling within the score marks. Top with the shredded Gruyere cheese. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with the egg wash.
8. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

From: Brown Eyed Baker

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baked Brie Bites

Photo from: Plain Chicken
I finally had some time to try some new recipes recently!  This is one of my favorites - not only is it really tasty, but it's also REALLY easy!!  I found it on pinterest, and it was originally posted on Plain Chicken.  It's easy to throw together right before you have people over because it doesn't take much prep work.  This is a great way to serve cheese because you don't need a knife or crackers.  And, since it's sweet, you could definitely serve it as a mini-dessert!

Baked Brie Bites (from Plain Chicken)
mini phyllo tarts (from the freezer section)
Ile de France brie, cubed
brown sugar
chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.
Place a cube of brie in each phyllo tart. Sprinkle each tart with approximately 1/2 tsp brown sugar. Top with approximately 1/2 tsp chopped pecans and a dollop of honey. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until brie is melted. (use more or less of each ingredient according to your preference)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pomegranate Hummus - from Gretchen

Photo from: Ask in Your Face
 Like the last two years, I'd like to devote all of the posts in December to recipes that are particularly great during the Christmas season.  Gretchen was gracious enough to share this recipe from her husband's aunt.  It's a festive way of serving hummus.  You can find many hummus recipes on the internet or buy it from your local store.  Gretchen mixes her hummus with a can of chick peas and cumin.  Once it's mixed, she tops it with the arils of one fresh pomegranate.  Sometimes, you can find the arils at the grocery store.  But, if not, you can pick them out of a pomegranate.  This video gives great instruction on how to easily get the arils out of a pomegranate.  This dish makes a beautiful presentation for holiday parties.  Gretchen serves her hummus with pita chips from a local Greek restaurant, but these can be purchased at the grocery store as well.

*Christmas Recipes from 2010 or 2009.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Guest Post!

I'm excited to have my first guest post by Brett H. of the Blog Content Guild!  I decided to post this today since many of us are looking for good deals on Black Friday.  Read below for great grocery shopping tips!

Underrated Versatile Grocery List Items
Does it seem like the items from the grocery store don’t last long enough? Or that you’re always in and out of the grocery store, making several trips a week? If this is the case, then you may want to reconsider the items on your grocery list. It’s all right to have an impulse buy once in a while, but making several trips a week can be costly.

Many of us know about the advantages of buying in bulk or getting 2-for-1 deals, as well as couponing. However there are other ways that you can save money on your groceries while saving yourself that extra trip to the grocery store. Here are some items that you can both buy and store for months and use for a variety of things, minimizing your grocery store jaunts.

• Condensed cream soup - Whether you prefer the trusty mushroom or want to change up your soup with chicken, broccoli, or potato, the choice is yours when you want to take a shortcut from making a creamy base from scratch. By adding chopped, cooked meat and one package of frozen mixed vegetables in a slow cooker for about 2 hours, you can have one easy entree. Soups also make great leftovers allowing you to enjoy this treat for days to come -- no extra trips to the grocery store needed.

• Dry milk - As far as drinking this type of product by itself, dry milk can be an acquired taste, however, this ingredient is excellent for mixing in dishes that call for regular milk. If you want to minimize your time in the kitchen, make a one-quart bottle of liquid and use for cooking and baking. If you bake sporadically, you can just add dry milk to dry ingredients when recipes call for regular milk (3 tablespoons of dry milk for every cup of liquid milk). Additionally, dry milk can be added to the bathtub, an at-home spa treatment that will leave your skin soft and moisturized. Forget those expensive bath products!

• Food storage bags - These bags are excellent for marinating meat overnight providing more coverage without the bulkiness of a large bowl. They can also take the place of a dredging station. For coating meat and vegetables, add your dry ingredients to a quart-size (or larger) bag. Shake to ensure even mixing and, after food is added, secure and shake for a few seconds. Once all of your food is coated, dispose of immediately. Make your own instant rice by pouring in one cup of regular rice and mix in a ¾ cup of warm water. Refrigerate and heat bag contents for 1-2 minutes and add a teaspoon of water if necessary. These bags can also be used to freeze food for a short period of time.

• Ginger root - Besides adding a spicy kick to international dishes, ginger root is helpful to those with gastrointestinal problems. Chop a ¼ inch piece and steep in 1.5 cups of hot water for at least 15 minutes. Add honey or raw sugar and drink as hot as possible. In a matter of minutes, indigestion or stomach pain will be relieved.

• Plain yogurt - Not only is it better for than sour cream if you’re trying to watch your weight, but yogurt but can be used to make fruit and cereal parfaits that can be enjoyed any time of day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta

I got home earlier than usual from work yesterday, so I actually had time to try a new recipe during the week!  I looked around on pinterest to find something new.  It led me to this great food site - foodgawker.com.  It was so hard to narrow down the choices!  I decided on this pasta dish because of the quick cook time.  It's pretty simple since you can use frozen shrimp and dried herbs.  I'm not usually a fan of creamy pasta sauces, but this one was great because it's not too thick.  We added some Parmesan to thicken up the sauce - it had a wonderful flavor!
Picture from Chaos in the Kitchen
Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta
recipe from Chaos in the Kitchen
serves 4, prep 5 min, cook time 30 min
•4-8 oz fettuccine or linguine
•10 tbsp butter, divided (I used 8)
•8 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
•2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
•1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
•2/3 cup boiling water (from your noodle pot)
•1 lb cooked shrimp (I used frozen - but only about 1/2 lb)

1.Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook your pasta. I usually only use about half of an 8 oz box, preferring fewer noodles.

2.While your pasta is cooking, cook your shrimp if necessary and reserve. If your shrimp are pre-cooked and frozen, quickly thaw them under running water.

3.In a large skillet melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat and saute mushrooms until soft and brown. Season with salt and pepper.

4.Reserve cooked mushrooms and melt remaining butter in the skillet. Add minced garlic, cream cheese, and herbs. At this point, I generally feel like something has gone terribly wrong. The cream cheese doesn’t really melt and starts to look almost curdled, don’t worry about it! It will all smooth out and be wonderful when we add the water. I promise.

5.Simmer cream cheese mixture until well blended. Get a scoop of boiling pasta water from your noodle pot and mix it in, stirring quickly to smooth out the sauce.

6.Keep sauce hot and add shrimp and mushrooms, mix well and simmer (stirring often) until everything is hot and thickened, about 10 minutes-you wont ruin this sauce by accidentally boiling it so don’t worry.

7.Toss sauce with cooked noodles and serve.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and Fennel

As I've mentioned several times this year, we have had a freezer full of venison that we've been trying to make our way through.  While I spent some time grading papers last weekend, Kent made this wonderful dish using venison sausage (found on allrecipes.com).  It made such a large meal that we were able to have it for dinner several nights.  This is a hearty meal and perfect for cool weather.  The fennel gives the dish a different taste than many other pasta dishes - it's sure to please!

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and Fennel
1 pound hot Italian sausage links
1 (16 ounce) package rigatoni pasta
1 (24 ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
2.Fry the sausages in a large skillet over medium heat, turning frequently until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the skillet, cool slightly and slice into rounds. Add the garlic, fennel and onion to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, then add the roasted red peppers, basil, sliced sausage and pasta sauce. Heat through over low heat until warmed.
3.Combine the pasta with the sauce and vegetables in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread the mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses over the top. Garnish with a few fennel leaves left from the bulb. Cover with aluminum foil.
4.Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove the aluminum foil. Set the oven to broil, and cook for another 5 minutes or until cheese is browned.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Warm Crab Dip - from Gretchen

My friend, Gretchen, made this dish recently to bring to a cookout.  It was such a big hit - everyone kept going back for more (especially me!).  It makes a great appetizer for any meal and would be a wonderful dish for a late Fall football party.

Warm Crab Dip
2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
1 chopped green onion
1 lb flaked crab meat

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.  In a bowl, mix cream cheese, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese until smooth (I usually add more cheddar.)  Stir in the green onion and crab meat. Pour into the casserole dish and top with the remaining cheddar.... (again, I add more).  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Serve with crackers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food Sites

I hope everyone's noticed some of my favorite food sites that I've posted on the bottom right sidebar of my blog.  I wanted to take a few minutes to showcase some of the ones that I haven't mentioned before.  One of my sweet neighbors from Montgomery (whom I used to babysit!) has a blog called, Baking the World into a Sweeter Place.  She is an AMAZING baker and caters for parties (did I mention that she's still in high school??).  She posts about the parties that she bakes for and about some of the delicious recipes that she makes.  I think the next one I'm going to try will be the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes - yum!

One of my new favorite food blogs is written by a sweet lady named Mary.  We've emailed several times as I asked her some questions about the set-up of her blog.  Her blog, One Perfect Bite, contains recipes from all around the world.  She publishes a new post every day, and most of her posts are on the healthier side.  I keep trying to decide which recipe I'm going to try first since they all look so wonderful!

I hope you enjoy these two wonderful food sites!  Feel free to share any of your favorite recipes and food blogs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wine Wednesday: Washington Hills Summit Reserve Last Harvest Riesling 2009

This is my first Wine Wednesday post in quite a while (I know T.J.'s been missing them!). For New Year's Eve last year, Kent and I decided to have a Wine & Cheese party and invite some friends.  Our friend, Jeff, brought along this Riesling.  I've tried it several times now and really like it!  It's fairly sweet, so I've enjoyed drinking it more like a cocktail when we've had friends over for drinks.  Most of the reviews I've read say that it has a fruity taste of apples, peaches, or apricots.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Restaurants in Review

Lately, Kent and I have had the opportunity to visit a few restaurants in Birmingham that we've been wanting to try.  During Birmingham Restaurant Week, Kent and I finally made it to Veranda.  Veranda is a wonderful restaurant in Southside.  They have an amazing full menu for the restaurant, but we decided to sit in the bar area and take advantage of the bar menu.  The bar menu includes appetizers, sandwiches (I got the oyster po boy), and a few other items that would make for a great dinner any night of the week.  Kent and I are both looking forward to going back soon!

Last night, Kent and I tried a newer restaurant in Mountain Brook Village called Ollie Irene.  Kent has been talking about going there for weeks!  We loved the atmosphere, and the food was great!  Kent had the boudin balls and the burger with blue cheese; I had the shrimp bisque and mussels.  We both enjoyed our dinners and plan to return!

Picture from OllieIrene.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Corn Chowder with Potatoes, Poblanos, and Smoked Gouda

I made this soup for the first time earlier this month, and it's great for Fall.  My favorite thing about it is that it can be made in the slow cooker but only takes 3-4 hours to cook.  I will say that the smoked gouda is very apparent in the taste, so if you don't like smoked gouda, you might want to use a different cheese.
Picture by Ben Piper (Foodista)

Corn Chowder with Potatoes, Poblanos, and Smoked Gouda
From:  Foodista and 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker
4 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound small potatoes, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cups water
4 cups fresh or frozen corn
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and diced, or 1 (4-ounce) can diced roasted chiles
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup grated smoked cheddar or Gouda cheese, divided
Salt (preferably smoked)
¼ cup grated smoked cheddar or Gouda cheese
Chopped chives, for garnishing
1.  In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onion for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
2.  Transfer the onion to a 7-quart slow cooker and add the potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and water. Cover and cook on LOW for about 4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender.
3.  Mash some of the potatoes against the inside of the cooker or use a handheld immersion blender to puree a small amount of potato and thicken the soup slightly.
4.  Add the corn, chiles, half-and-half, and ¾ cup of the cheddar. Add the salt to taste and continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes, or just until all the ingredients are hot.
5.  Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with the remaining cheddar and chopped chives.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Crunchy Ramen Noodle Slaw - from Julie

My friend, Julie, brought this wonderful slaw to a cook-out that our Sunday School class had recently.  It reminded me of one of my favorite side dishes that we used to have in the Tri Delt house in college.  I had forgotten how much I missed it!  This is perfect to take to cookouts and barbecues.  You can always change it up and use romaine lettuce instead of the cabbage/slaw mixture if you'd rather have a bigger salad.
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 pkg. Ramen noodles (crushed) – Chicken flavored
¼ cup slivered almonds (toasted)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup sliced green onion

Mix all ingredients together and toss with dressing

¼ cup oil
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
¼ cup chopped green onion
Seasoning packet from noodles (chicken)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Look what came in the mail!!

I love Garden and Gun magazine!  And I was so excited when this month's edition came in the mail, especially since it's about Southern food.  It includes foods from different restaurants around the South.  Dishes in Alabama include the baked grits from Highlands Bar & Grill and tomato salad from Hot and Hot Fish Club. Most of the other articles in the magazine feature specific foods and restaurants - I can't wait until I have time to really read it!  One of my favorite sections is the "short list".  A chef from each southern state gave a list of his or her 8 favorite restaurants within the state.  I haven't heard of many of these and look forward to trying out some new places around the South!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Biscuits and Gravy

I didn't grow up eating biscuits and gravy - in fact, I don't think I ever had them until about a week ago!  Kent has always loved having breakfast for dinner.  And, since I've been crazy with my new work schedule, Kent's been doing a lot of cooking lately!  Last week he made biscuits and gravy one night - I have to say that they were pretty amazing!  Even if you don't like gravy, the biscuits are great on their own.

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.)
Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.
Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

1 lb sausage
3-4 tbsp flour
3-4 cups milk

Brown sausage.  Add flour to sausage (add amount to make fat into paste-like consistency), season with salt and pepper, cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add milk (#of cups equal to # of tbsp of flour) and stir; cook until desired thickness.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Angel Wing Cupcakes - from Mavis

My grandmother's sweet cousin, Mavis, baked these cupcakes this summer.  They make a great presentation and are easy to put together.  Of course, they taste great, too!

Angel Wing Cupcakes
1 box white or yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup water
⅓ cup vegetable oil
Powdered sugar for dusting
Vanilla (or cream cheese) icing

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix at a low speed for 4 minutes. Mix on medium speed for 5-6 minutes.  Put mixture 2/3 full in cupcake pan - line the cups with paper fillers. Cook for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  When the cupcakes are done, allow them to cool for a few minutes.  Cut the tops off gently.  Then, cut them in half (to make "wings").  Spread icing over the flat tops of the cup cakes.  Turn the wings on their sides and place them on top of the icing (see picture).  Then dust the cupcakes with powdered sugar.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quiche - from BLC

My adorable friend, BLC of TCSK, recently sent me this recipe.  Kent tried one of her breakfast quiches a few months ago and is still raving about it!  She adapted if from the Joy of Cooking cookbook by adding in whatever ingredients she has in the fridge - so feel free to add anything to the mix!

Breakfast Quiche
3 eggs
2 cups of cheese
1 cup of spinach
Sausage/bacon/ham/etc. (as much as desired)
A dash of salt and pepper
1 pie crust

Spray cooking spray into a pie dish, lay down the pie crust, stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and pour onto pie crust.  Add a top layer of cheese with a dash of paprika.  Bake it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Homemade Salsa - from Susan

My friend, Susan, makes wonderful homemade salsa - she even grows all of these ingredients in her garden!  She brought me a copy of the recipe this week, and I couldn't wait to share it! 

Homemade Salsa
4 medium tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 jalapeno
Cilantro to taste
Juice of half a lime
2 tsp. minced garlic (or more)
Salt (lots to taste)

Combine all indredients in food processor and serve.

It's (one of) the most wonderful times of the year...

Where are you going to eat this week??  We've already been to The Silvertron Cafe and have friends heading to Highlands and Ocean.  So many great options...  Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Baked Honey and Jam Brie - from Lacey

My friend, Lacey, recently made this wonderful appetizer!  I asked her to share the recipe and wanted to pass it on.  It's great for parties and get-togethers!  If you like Brie, you'll definitely like baked Brie!  Enjoy...

Baked Honey and Jam Brie
Phyllo dough (in the freezer section - also spelled "filo" or "fillo")
Large slice of Brie
Honey (local honeys bought at farmer's markets are always good!)
Jam (any flavor)
Butter, melted
Pecans or Walnuts

Lay 7-10 phyllo dough layers alternately turned with melted butter brushed in between layers on a surface and pour about 1/4 cup honey in center of dough. Place the wedge of Brie over honey. Spread jam (any flavor) over top of Brie. Top with pecans or walnuts. Then pour additional honey to cover nuts. Wrap phyllo dough around Brie and then place additional layer on top to have a smooth wrap. Place on cookie sheet and put in oven for 5 min at 350. Keep an eye on it so the cheese won't run out.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

Okay.  So, let me just start by saying that I will never even come close to describing how amazing this dish is!  It's definitely the best thing I've made all year.  Basically, I'm saying that you MUST try this recipe - and if you like cheese at all, you will be blown away!  After trying the Rocky Road Brownies that I posted in June from the blog, Plain Chicken, I decided that I needed to try some of her other recipes.  This is the only one I've made so far, but it's divine!  I purchased the gnocchi at the store (it takes forever to make!) and it worked wonderfully.  We love using gnocchi in pasta dishes (it's a pasta made from potatoes).  Besides the gnocchi and cheese of course, the white pepper in this recipe really makes the difference.  This dish has so many great flavors - I hope you like it as much as we do!  And, don't even attempt to count the calories - trust me, it's worth every single one!

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese
(from: Cuisine at Home via Plain Chicken)

1 pound purchased or homemade gnocchi
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
1 tsp basil
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and place gnocchi in a single-layer in a 1-1/2 quart shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and Dijon. Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine Gruyere and fontina, then add by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful. Once all cheese is melted, add basil, salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano over top. Bake gnocchi until they puff and cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vidalia Onion Bacon Pie

My mother-in-law made this recently when we were at their house for dinner.  It was great, and everyone loved it!  It's similar to the Sweet Onion Corn Bake that I also got from my mother-in-law a few years ago but has different flavors and textures.  Both of these are great ways to use up those big bags of Vidalia onions!

Vidalia Onion Bacon Pie
Pie crust (we used a premade crust from the store)
1 tablespoon butter
3 medium Vidalia onions, slivered
2 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (plus more for topping)
1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
4 slices thick, smokey-styled bacon, cooked and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown.  Drain if necessary.  Combine eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Whisk well.  On bottom of pie, sprinkle half of the cheese.  Top with corn kernels, onions, and bacon.  Pour egg mixture over top.  Top with remaining cheese and freshly ground pepper.  Bake 40 minutes until top is set and browned.  Serves 8.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Turkey Meatballs with Quick And Spicy Tomato Sauce and Whole-Wheat Spaghetti

When I went grocery shopping last week, I saw that the ground turkey was on sale.  I've only cooked with ground turkey once or twice before, but I was sure that I'd be able to find a great recipe on Food Network since Rachael Ray and some of the others use ground turkey pretty frequently.  I picked a few recipes and sent them to Kent.  He thought this one might be the winner, so we gave it a try!  It was really filling, and we both really enjoyed it!

Turkey Meatballs with Quick And Spicy Tomato Sauce and Whole-Wheat Spaghetti   



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid included
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced canned chipotle en adobo and sauce, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves 
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 pound ground turkey meat
    • 1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread, crusts removed, pulsed into crumbs
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
    • 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
    • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 box (16 ounces) whole-wheat spaghetti


    Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil for pasta.

    Make Sauce:
    In a 4-quart saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, chipotles, oregano, rosemary, and salt. Bring all the ingredients to a low boil, reduce heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until liquid has evaporated slightly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. While sauce is cooking, make meatballs.

    Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the turkey with all other ingredients in a large work bowl. Form into 2 1/2 -inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned and almost entirely cooked through.

    Meanwhile, remove rosemary sprig from sauce and add fresh basil. Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and cook additional 10 minutes, or until sauce has slightly thickened and meatballs have absorbed some of the sauce. While the meatballs are cooking, cook the whole-wheat spaghetti according to package directions.

    Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and meatballs, toss and heat through over medium heat. Divide evenly among 4 pasta bowls and garnish with parsley and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan.

    Yield: 6 servings (1 serving equals about 1 1/3 cups pasta and sauce, plus 2 meatballs
    (Please excuse the weird formatting issues.  I'm not sure what happened and can't seem to fix it!) 

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    D.C. & Maryland - Part 2 - Sally and Trent's Wedding!!

    After spending three days in D.C., we headed to the Eastern Shore near the Chesapeake Bay for Sally and Trent's wedding!  We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast, The Oaks, on the shore between St. Michael's and Easton, Maryland.  Both towns were so cute and had tons of great restaurants (it's also where Wedding Crashers was filmed!).  On Thursday night, some of us went to the newly opened Big Pickle Bar in downtown St. Michael's for dinner and drinks.  Of course, I had to try the fried pickles (they were great!) and had barbeque tacos which were super good!

    at The Oaks before dinner

    getting ready to go to The Big Pickle Bar!

    On Friday, all of the girls went to The Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton for Sally's beautiful bridesmaid's lunch hosted by some of her sweet family friends.

    the Ole Miss girls on the porch of The Bartlett Pear Inn

    Friday night Sally and Trent had their rehearsal at The Oaks.  Then we went to Trent's family farm for the rehearsal dinner.  The food, the band, and the fireworks were amazing!

    Ole Miss girls getting ready to go to the Farm

    Before the Rehearsal Dinner
    On Saturday we got ready for the wedding and spent a little time in St. Michael's.  We went to a great local restaurant (St. Michael's Crab and Steak House) and had crab cakes, raw oysters, and steamed crab - so yummy!  Kent and David ventured to the Crab Claw restaurant on Friday and highly recommend it as well.

    Saturday night, Sally and Trent got married!  They had a beautiful wedding on the water followed by a wonderful reception in the ballroom at the Oaks.  After a sweet toast from Sally's dad, we had a lovely seated dinner and everyone danced all night!  The hors d'oeuvres, crab cakes, and fillets were amazing - not to mention the wonderful wedding cakes!  We lit sparklers and rang bells as the newlyweds made their get-away!  What an unforgettable wedding weekend!  Best wishes to our sweet friends!

    With the Bride and Groom!

    First Dance!

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    D.C. & Maryland - Part 1

    Tuesday was our third wedding anniversary - I can't believe we've been married three years!  To celebrate, we spent several days in D.C. before heading to a best friend's wedding in Maryland (more to come on that soon).  We arrived on Monday afternoon, July 4th.  After a sketchy cab ride to our hotel, we went to meet my brother, Bee, on the Mall to get ready for the fireworks.
    Fireworks in front of the Washington Monument

    With Bee on the Mall!
    On Tuesday we went to the International Spy Museum, which was a lot of fun!  We went to a great French restaurant, Bistro Bis, for lunch.  That night we went to the Nationals game with Bee and a friend from high school, Robbie.  Kent was supper excited that the National's stadium has concessions stands run by Ben's Chili Bowl, a famous hotdog stand in D.C.  The hotdogs did not disappoint!
    Go Nats!
    Kent and me at the Nationals game
    Bee, me, and Robbie
    On Wednesday, we went to lunch at Central Michel Richard, and it was so great!   We went on the recommendation of our friend, Lee, who has spent some time in D.C.  Kent had their burger, and I got the tuna burger.  We both loved it.  (The restaurant won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2008.)  We spent the afternoon shopping and walking around the Art Museum.  Wednesday night we went out to celebrate our anniversary at The Tabard Inn.  This was such a fun place!  It's in the bottom of an old hotel and is really pretty.  The food was amazing; we had oysters, gumbo, crab, cheeses, and wine.

    Outside of The Tabard Inn
    Before we left on Thursday, we had lunch at Matchbox.  It's a really neat casual restaurant known for its pizzas.  We had a great lunch and then were off to Maryland for Sally and Trent's wedding!

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Pesto Chicken

    I found a simple recipe on-line a few weeks ago for baked pesto chicken and decided I had to try it.  I changed around some of the ingredients to get a slightly different flavor.  It is super easy and is ready really quickly!  Kent and I both loved it and decided we would have to make it a regular dinner item!

    Baked Pesto Chicken
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    1/2 cup refrigerated basil pesto (just use the jarred pesto from the grocery store)
    1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/2 Parmesan cheese

     Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the chicken in a glass casserole dish and cover with pesto.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.  Remove from oven and top with tomatoes and cheese.  Place the dish back in the over for 3 - 5 minutes until cheese is melted.

    (Recipe adapted from www.food.com)

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Rocky Road Brownies - from Plain Chicken

    Kent's sister made these brownies for Father's Day, and I have to say that these are the most amazing brownies I have ever had!  She got the recipe from Plain Chicken, a recipe blog whose author also lives in Birmingham.  She has really amazing recipes - I have several I've been wanting to try!  I will definitely be making these brownies soon!

    Picture from: PlainChicken.com

    Rocky Road Brownies
    from Plain Chicken and 
    adapted from The Fat Witch Bakery
    6 Tbsp unsalted butter
    2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 large eggs
    3/4 cup unbleached flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 cup butterscotch chips
    1/2 cup pecans, chopped
    1 1/4 cup miniature marshmallows

    Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9x9-inch pan.

    Melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate and 2 Tbsp semisweet chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.

    Beat the sugar and eggs together until frothy.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix until incorporated.  Measure the flour and salt and sift together directly into the batter.  Mix gently until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remain.

    Using a spatula, spread half of the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.

    Meanwhile, stir the butterscotch chips, pecans, marshmallows and remaining 2 Tbsp chocolate chips into the remaining half of the batter by hand.

    Spread the marshmallow mixture evenly over partially baked layer.  You may have to use your hands to spread it evenly.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.

    Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 1 hour.  Cut just before serving.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Grilled Lemon Chicken with Satay Dip

    Just before Christmas, Kent and I were at a friend's house, and I noticed that she had The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook sitting in the kitchen.  I picked it up to look at some of the recipes and immediately knew it was a cookbook I needed - I love everything Ina Garten makes!  I was looking for a new chicken recipe a few weeks ago and was sure that this cookbook would have a good one.  I'm really excited about this one because the grilled lemon chicken recipe is a good standard recipe, but the satay dip (a thai sauce) makes it taste completely different.  I kept the chicken breasts whole with the dip on the side when I served them, but Ina suggests cutting the cooked chicken breasts into strips and putting them on skewers to make an appetizer with the dip.  If the satay dip is not your thing, the chicken works beautifully on its own or as part of another dish.

    Grilled Lemon Chicken
    3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
    3/4 cup good olive oil
    2 tsp. kosher salt
    1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1 tbsp. minced fresh tyme leaves (1/2 tsp dried)
    2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts

    Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.  Pour over the chicken breasts in a nonreactive bowl.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.  Cook on the grill and serve! 

    Satay Dip
    1 tbsp. good olive oil
    1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
    2/3 cup small-diced red onions
    2 cloves minced garlic
    1 1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger root
    1/4 tsp. creshed red pepper flakes
    2 tbsp. good red wine vinegar
    1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    2 tbsp. soy sauce
    1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I used sunflower seed butter.)
    1/4 cup ketchup
    2 tbsp. dry sherry (I used a white wine that I already had open.)
    1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

    Cook the olive oil, sesame oil, red onion, garlic, ginger root, and red pepper flakes in a small, heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat until the onion is transparent (10 - 15 minutes).  Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, ketchup, sherry, and lime juice; cook for 1 more minute.  Use as a dip for chicken - it can be served warm or cool.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Roadfood Eating Tours

    A few days ago I happened across this website called, Roadfood.com.  It's a site that allows you to look up restaurants in different states, review them, ask questions, etc.  It also allows you to look up recipes and buy merchandise.  But, my favorite part is that it features a list of eating tours across the United States, including Louisiana Cajun Country Boudin Sausage, Memphis Barbecue Loop, New England Shore Dinner, and Yankee Donut Destinations.  Their main idea is to show folks "the most memorable local eateries along the highways and back roads of America".  For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, it's probably not surprising that Kent and I plan many of our travels around making sure that we get to sample the best local foods - what can we say - we love to eat good food!  I'm hoping that we'll get to try some of the recommended restaurants from this website soon!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Hush Puppies!

    Kent helping with the crawfish at our SS party!

    I know I haven't posted as much lately, but there has been a lot going on around here!  For instance, we've had tons of fun going to several crawfish boils this spring!  We loved going to crawfish boils when we lived in Oxford, but haven't been to many since then.  We went to one at a friend's farm in early spring, one in our neighborhood in May, and then one with our Sunday School friends last weekend - so fun!  We decided to try making a few dozen hush puppies to take with us to our recent SS crawfish boil.  They were a big hit, so I wanted to share the recipe.  These would be great with seafood all summer!

    Jalapeno Hushpuppies (By Emeril Lagasse)


    • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoons hot sauce
    • 1/4 cup minced onions
    • 2 fresh jalapenos, minced
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • Essence, recipe follows


    Preheat the fryer to 365 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, hot sauce, onions, and jalapenos, together. Stir in the eggs and milk. Mix until fully incorporated. Fry 1 tablespoon of the batter at a time. Fry the hushpuppies for 2-3 minutes or until they are golden brown. Stirring constantly will ensure over-all browning. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate. Season with Essence.

    Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

    • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    • 2 tablespoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
    Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
    Yield: about 2/3 cup

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    New Finds...

    Many of you know that I'm not a big fan of peanut butter (meaning that I never eat it unless it's packed with sugar and surrounded by chocolate in a reese's cup!).  I've finally found some alternatives.  My friend, Sally, told me in college that I should try almond butter - a few months ago I finally gave it a try!  And it's amazing!  Unfortunately, some grocery stores either don't carry it or only carry the organic brand that cost $20+ for a jar!  So, recently, I found sunflower seed butter.  If possible, it's even more amazing than almond butter - and it costs about the same as peanut butter.  So far, I've only eaten these new finds with apples as a snack.  I haven't ventured into sandwiches with jelly yet - one step at a time...

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Toomer's Lemonade (according to some)

    Toomer's Drugs in Auburn is famous for their lemonade.  Kent found this recipe that claims to be the one that is used at Toomer's.  We're not sure if it is, but it's definitely good!  And this time of year, cold lemonade always sounds good!

    Picture by: Deborah Ory
    Toomer's Lemonade

    Put 5 lbs. sugar in a gallon jug and fill the jug with water. Stir or shake until sugar dissolves and solution is clear. (Hot water makes the sugar dissolve more quickly.)

    To make 1 gallon of lemonade, pour 1 pint of lemon juice and 2 pints of simple syrup in a gallon container.  Finish filling the container with water and ice. Stir.

    To make one large lemonade (16-oz.), squeeze the juice of one lemon into a 16-oz. cup, add 4-oz. of simple syrup and finish filling with water and ice. Stir.

    **Kent says, If you'd just like to make a 1 gallon mixture, use  2.5 cups of sugar, 2 cups of lemon juice (from about 15 lemons), and fill the rest of the gallon jug with water.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Homewood Gourmet's Baby Bleu Salad (from Chef Franklin Biggs)

    This is a great summer salad recipe from a wonderful restaurant in Homewood!  I have also included the recipes for the dressing and roasted pecans.  I can't wait to try it!

    1-1/2 lbs. Baby Lettuce Mix (sometimes called mezclun or spring/summer mix)
    6 oz. Blue Cheese, crumbled
    2 cups Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
    4 ea. Oranges, peeled to the flesh and sliced (2 slices per salad)
    2 pt. Strawberries, hulled and quartered (2 Tbsp. per salad)
    6 oz. Sweet and Spicy pecans (recipe below)

    Toss baby lettuce mix with balsamic vinaigrette and blue cheese, using enough dressing to coat lettuce but not drown them. Place in center of plate. Scatter oranges and strawberries over the salad. Top with sweet and spicy pecans.

    Balsamic Vinaigrette (for 12 salads)
    1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
    1/3 cup Dijon Mustard
    1/3 cup Honey
    2 TB Garlic, chopped, browned or roasted
    2 tsp Fresh Shallots, chopped (optional)
    2 cups Olive Oil
    Salt and Pepper

    Whisk vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, garlic and shallots until thick. Slowly add olive oil as dressing emulsifies. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Sweet and Spicy Pecans (makes six ounces)
    2 cups Water
    1/2 cup White sugar, mixed with water to make a syrup
    6 oz. Pecans, whole
    4 Tbsp. White Sugar
    2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
    1/2 tsp. Ground dark red chilis

    Mix sugar and spices together. Briefly soak the pecans in the sugar mixture, drain lightly and toss nuts with spice/sugar mix to coat. Lay out on a roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes at 350° until golden brown.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon

    I know, I've been such a bad blogger lately!  Things seem to have gotten a little crazy, so I haven't had as much time to try new recipes lately.  But, I did want to go ahead and share the pasta side that we made on Easter to go with our salmon (we made the salmon following a different recipe that I mentioned last time, but they are very similar).  The pasta had a soft flavor and didn't overpower the fish.  It definitely works well pared with other dishes.

    Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon
    1/2 pound whole-wheat spaghetti pasta
    1 clove garlic, minced
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    4 (4 oz) pieces salmon
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
    3 tablespoons capers
    1 lemon, zested
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.

    Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add the fish to the pan and cook until medium-rare, about 2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the salmon from the pan.

    Add the basil, capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture and toss to combine. Set out 4 serving plates or shallow bowls. Place 1/2 cup spinach in each bowl. Top with 1/4 of the pasta. Top each mound of pasta with a piece of salmon. Serve immediately.
    From: Giada de Laurentiis

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Easter Lunch

    Kent and I had a wonderful Easter celebration.  We went to church on Sunday and then had several friends over for lunch.  We prepared a few items that I've posted on the blog before, like Salmon with Lemons, Capers, and Rosemary and Fruit Tarts.  My favorite new thing that we made was Watermelon and Cantaloupe Salad with Mint Vinaigrette!  We served it in our mint julep cups.  It was so refreshing - I'll be making this all summer!

    Watermelon and Cantaloupe Salad with Mint Vinaigrette
    1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
    1/4 cup lemon juice, from about 1 lemon
    1/4 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
    1/8 teaspoon amaretto
    2 cups watermelon balls, from about half a watermelon
    2 cups cantaloupe balls, from about 1 cantaloupe

    In a blender, combine mint, lemon juice, simple syrup, and amaretto. Blend until smooth.
    In a large bowl, combine the watermelon and the cantaloupe. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
    Simple Syrup:
    1/2 cup water
    1 cup sugar

    In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Take pan off heat and cool the syrup. Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

    Yield: 1 cup
    Recipe from: Giada de Laurentiis @ foodnetwork.com

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Roasted Corn, Chicken, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

    My friend, Julie, told me about this recipe recently - and it sounds fantastic!  She got it from this cute blog, Keeping up with the Joneses (recipe originally published in Cooking Light).  Their website has step-by-step directions for this dish with pictures.  Julie says that this recipe is a sure hit and can be made any night of the week!

    Roasted Corn, Chicken, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
    1 cup fresh corn kernels
    1/4 cup chopped green onions
    2/3 cup (5 ounces) goat cheese, softened
    10 tablespoons salsa verde (or salsa of your choice)
    chopped, cooked chicken (this was our addition to the 'dillas)
    soft tortillas of your choosing

    Cut the corn off of the cob (one cob should be enough).  Chop 1 - 2 green onions. In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, roast the corn for about 2 minutes or until it starts to brown. Add the corn to the goat cheese and mix thoroughly.  Spread the corn mixture over the tortilla.  Add chicken, green onions, and salsa. Coat a skillet, with nonstick spray and add the quesadilla. Cook over medium heat and watch closely because these burn easily!  Flip it over and toast the other side. Remove from pan and slice into pieces.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Spinach and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

    My mom and aunts always made these sandwiches and used similar ingredients to make my favorite dip when I was growing up.  I've started making these sandwiches to take to parties - they're great for showers and for weekends at the lake.  The extra spinach/cream cheese mixture is great with crackers!

    Spinach and Cream Cheese Sandwiches
    1 pkg cream cheese (8 oz)
    4 tbsp grated onion
    1 box frozen spinach (thaw, drain, and squeeze out water)
    3 tbsp lemon juice
    1 cup mayonnaise

    Cream the creamed cheese. Add mayonnaise, onion, lemon juice, and spinach. Cut the bread into circles or triangles. Use the mixture as filling for the sandwiches.

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    Ground Venison Burgers

    Yes, we still have plenty of venison left in the freezer and are thinking of new ways use it!  I have to say, I LOVE this recipe.  These burgers taste better than traditional hamburgers.  They aren't as fatty and have great flavor from the extra ingredients.  We've made these twice and really love them.  I'm sure we'll be grilling out with this recipe through the summer!

    Ground Venison Burgers

    1/3 cup mayonnaise
    1 teaspoon lime juice
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1/2 teaspoon grated lime peel
    1/3 cup chopped green onions
    3 tablespoons plain yogurt
    2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper*
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    2 pounds ground venison
    8 hamburger buns, split
    8 slices Pepper Jack cheese
    In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, mustard and lime peel; cover and refrigerate until serving.

    In a bowl, combine the onions, yogurt, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Crumble meat over mixture and mix well. Shape into eight patties. Pan-fry, grill, or broil until meat is no longer pink. Serve on buns; top with cheese and mayonnaise mixture.

    (from allrecipes.com)

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    New Blog!

    I started a new blog to help me clean out my closet!  Visit Clothes from a Newlywed's Closet to see if any of these items should have a new home with you!!

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Irish Beef Stew with Dumplings - from Emma

    Emma of 30by30 invited Kate of Bookworm to Bombshell and me over for lunch today.  Emma and Kate are fun friends from grad school.  We celebrated St. Patrick's Day a day early with Emma's amazing Irish Stew.  It's a very hearty stew - definitely a meal all on its own.  She just sent me the recipe, and I couldn't wait to share!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Irish Beef Stew with Dumplings
    4 cups of vegetable broth

    7 small russet potatoes peeled and chopped
    5 carrots peeled and chopped
    1/2 stalk of celery chopped
    1.5 pounds of beef for stew
    Salt and pepper
    7 large cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
    LOTS of rosemary

    Put the broth, potatoes, carrots, and garlic in the pot and let them begin to soften.  (If the top of the veggies is not covered add water to cover.)  Brown the meat in a sauce pan and pour into pot with veggies.  Add celery, salt, pepper and rosemary.

    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons butter
    3/4 cup milk
    Chopped rosemary
    Combine all ingredients and spoon into boiling stew, cover to steam. 
    Emma says, "the recipe for the dumplings said 12 minutes for steaming but I left them in for more like 30 while boiling."

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Book Review - Julia Child's My Life in France

    Last summer I bought Julia Child's My Life in France when Kent and I were visiting Oxford.  I've finally had the chance to read it in the last few weeks.  The book, obviously, details her years spent in France.  It was really interesting to learn about how she first became interested in cooking - she hadn't always been an expert!   Most of the book is spent focusing on how she came to write her first cookbook.  Honestly, I found some of these sections a little too detailed.  She talked about specific ingredients for pages, and I sometime got bored.  I also found her to be a little self-centered and sometimes egotistical.  But, I did enjoy reading about her family life, the house she built in Provence, and her travels with her husband around Europe.  Because her husband was a diplomat and she became a celebrity, they met tons of interesting people, like James Beard!  Reading the book definitely made me miss France - and it made me hungry! 
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