Cougars for Life


Bf and I met in at College of Charleston even though we didn’t date until after he graduated. I would love to say that we met romantically in Spanish 202 or that we shared a pedicab one night or even that I bumped into him on the street… but no. We met at a bar…. THOUGH friends… but still at a bar.

So when we headed to my friends’ Casey and Will’s wedding in Charleston this past weekend it gave us a chance to revisit our Alma Mater and reminisce. We walked those familiar streets, pointed at buildings where we had class and noticing all the changes that have occurred since we left. It was really nice to do that together. It also made us feel really old together. College was the greatest times of both our lives so far and we both miss those times. Sniff. Well, I miss it until it gets about midnight and I get sleepy.

Here’s a picture tour of my our campus:

I know you may not find it interesting to see where I had class in college. But.. here you go anyway. I probably walked in that building 300 times with my iPod blasting some country song and booty shorts.

I graduated from the School of Education at C of C, but when I was there, there was no building for it. We were crammed in with the Phys Ed majors in the P.E. building. I’m jealous that now there is actually a building for my major.

Bf and I walked St. Phillips St. pointing at our old buildings and telling stories from our college days. I think that maybe we were trying to out-do one another with awesome college stories… although he had heard all mine and I have definitely heard all of his.

The college looked so beautiful that it looked like a movie college. It looked so… collegiate. I loved these hanging banners.

My college roommate sent me a message yesterday saying:

“I just got an email from CofC saying there are having a moonlight breakfast tonight in the cafeteria! Remember how we used to LOVE when they did that. Haha… maybe you should drive down so we can go.”

I burst out laughing not because the Caf was so much fun on Moonlight night, but because I had absolutely no recollection of EVER going to Moonlight night! I just thought we went to the Silver Dollar and drank Miller lite.

I don’t know when they started this whole “CougarPalooza” business, but I want in.

C of C was built in 1770 and it has beautiful architecture. This is one of my favorite arch ways on the entire campus. My college roommate, Kathleen, just to walk here together, always in awe of how pretty the campus was.

This is another gorgeous iron door that leads to the Cistern on campus.

There have been some famous names that have walked through those doors:

NAFEES BIN ZAFAR, CLASS OF 1998

Academy Award winning visual effects engineer (2008 award for technology) who contributed his talents to the special effects in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,”“Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and “Flags of our Fathers,” among others.

PADGETT POWELL, CLASS OF 1974

Powell is an award-winning writer and novelist. He has published four novels, including Edistoand Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Men.

FRANK BLAIR (1916-1995), CLASS OF 1934

Blair was an early cast member of NBC’s “The Today Show”, serving as a newsman and anchor from 1953 to 1974

ROBERT MILLS (1781-1855)

Mills studied at the College in the late 18th century. He is considered by many to be the first American-born architect. Mills designed the Washington Monument as well as the Department of Treasury building and the U.S. Patent Office building.

And more…

This is the Cistern where I graduated in ’07 and Bf graduated in ’04. We were both 5 year students we loved school so much. At least that was my reason.

Bf asked “Do I look like I college student?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely” I replied.

The day I graduated it poured down rain. The ceremony was outdoors. We all got drenched, but didn’t care. I was just so excited for what was next.

We had to take a picture next to the new cougar outside the new gym. 

New new new new new… now everything is new. 

But isn’t it always like that? The second you leave, everything changes. We made such good memories as college students from our outings with friends, to the beach, to the jobs we had. It was nice to get to go back and remember.

Spring Green Beans

Mmm… Green beans. I love green beans. I used to snap greens beans with my mama on the porch. It was 1991, not 1951, but we kept with the southern tradition alive.

Now that its Spring, I have been struggling to come up with sides for dinner. I had gotten into the habit of brussels sprouts and caesar salads, but not I want something new, fresh, and light. 

So I thought of green beans… but not just any green beans… Green Beans with caramelized onion and balsamic vinegar.

They were just what I need to brighten up my meal. The green beans were crispy, the onions were sweet, and the balsamic vinegar was vinegary (how else do you describe vinegar?!).

Of course, I thought that this would be a hohum-no-big-whoop side at first. I didn’t take any pictures. Then I tasted it and put down my fork, grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of shots while simultaneously slapping Bf’s hand away from my plate.

If you are like me and struggling for Spring sides, or just want to try something new….

Green Beans with Caramelized Onion and Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients:

1 lb green beans snapped on the gross end

2 tablespoon Canola Oil

1 large red onion

1 tablespoon sugar

balsamic vinegar

kosher salt

fresh cracked pepper

Directions:

Snap green beans to get rid of the brown connection end. While preparing green beans, add 1 tablespoon Canola Oil to a skillet. Add sliced red onion and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Continue to caramelize onions while cooking green beans (about 10 minutes over medium high heat). Blanch green beans for 1 minute. Add Canola Oil to large skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add green beans to hot oil. Cook green beans until they begin to brown in spots and until cooked to your liking. When green beans are cooked add caramelized onions to the green bean skillet and mix. Add salt and pepper. Plate green beans and onions and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar. Bon Appetit!

In other news: If you remember from forever ago… I am still on the hunt for the perfect cooked salmon dish. While I don’t post about them as much as I did before, I am still at it. I don’t know why I refuse to quit! Who cares if I hate cooked salmon.

“I do! I do!” says me.

This is salmon attempt #8? I think about 8. It’s very close to the first salmon dish I made (seen here). I’ll keep trying… There has got to be one out there that has my name on it!

This one was very similar to the first one, except with more green onions and the sauce wasn’t heated first. I keep trying these similar recipes out of fear. I know that I don’t despise  Ginger Salmon so I just keep cooking variations of the same dish.

I am going to be bold soon and make a salmon dish that does not contain ginger… I think I can I think I can…

HUSK, Charleston, So. Car.

HUSK IS…

Centrally located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk, the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group, transforms the essence of Southern food. Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.

I love that the rule is: “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door.” That sounds like my kind of place.

Charleston: Husk Restaurant

Husk is in this great old house on Queen Street. The bar is in a separate building, which I thought was so awesome. The bar had open windows… dark wood… home brewed booze. Perfect.

I was with the usual suspects (My pal Jordan and Bf John).


  

 

We were seated and the place just bubbled with people having a great time. The menu frequently changes, which is an aspect I always like in a restaurant.

The menu was extensive enough and everything sounded delicious.

I am a chronic duck orderer. I love duck. I get it all the time. But then again… I get it all the time. So, I was prepared to go a little off type this time. 

But how off type to go was the question…

They had crispy pig ear. I couldn’t do it (you know… because of Oinky).

Jordan ordered some Scotch (or Bourbon or something else brown) and it came with this awesome sphere of ice. I have been trying to figure out how they did that for days. We probably spent a large portion of our dinner discussing how we think they did it.

The wine menu was AWESOME! I mean… it was hard to choose! The wine menu listed descriptions of the wine that included what the wine had hints of (i.e. strawberry, wood….). I chose a great Sauvignon Blanc that had hints of oyster juice. I desperately wish that I could remember the name… Maybe I could call them…

For a starter I had Venison Summer Sausage with a Salad of Arugula, Roasted Corn and Marinated Tomatoes, Pickled Green Tomato Vinaigrette. It was very good and got me really excited about what was to come.

For my supper I had SC Flounder with Roasted Cauliflower, Sweet Citrus Rind Puree and Brown Butter. It was wonderful.


Jordan had Fudge Farms Pork Shoulder and Crispy Belly with Creamy Anson Mills Farro and Field Peas, Boiled Peanut Relish. Um… so yum.

Bf had Border Springs Lamb Leg Terrine with Ambrose Farms Asparagus, English Peas, Red Pepper Hollandaise. It was by far, the best Lamb I have ever had. EVER.

I am so glad that we were able to squeeze in an awesome dinner on our quick weekend to Charleston. I will definitely be returning and I can see why Sean Brock won the James Beard award for “Best Chef Southeast.” Go Sean.

If you are in Charleston, stop by. If you can’t make it for dinner, stop in for drinks, its what I always want to restaurant to be like.

Husk

843.577.2500
76 Queen St.
Charleston, SC 29401

Driving South Carolina

I am a South Carolina girl and there is nothing better than backroad drivin’ and starin’ out the window. Bf and I drove from Charleston, where we attended a friend’s wedding, back to Atlanta today. I got a little Hipstamatic crazy. It was a long drive.

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Ah… I love small towns.

Oinky For Sale

OINKY FOR SALE! Apparently… I had no clue that we were selling him until I stumbled upon this:

Here is the link (thats kind of small): Oinky? Leaving? So I guess if you are interested in a miniature Vietnamese Potbellied pig… contact me.

Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

I love to bake. Its rare that I do though. With cooking, you can’t always tell little mistakes, like mis-measurements and such, but with baking… its oh so clear. See picture below.

Now, maybe its just me, but cake shouldn’t be runny, right? Like bubbly over the sides and foaming bubbly. Major Fail.

I wanted to make a cake. Bf hates sweets, unless they aren’t too sweet and I got my hands on this recipe that I thought he was sure to love. This way, I wouldn’t be the only one eating the cake/making myself feel bad about… well myself. After Fail #1, I kept my chin up, cleaned out my cake pan and tried again and this is what I got:

Thats right. I got a perfect Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk cake and boy… was it good. Bf was cake moaning and I was patting myself on the back. This cake was so light and summery (and PERFECT for Easter) that I even ate a slice for breakfast. 

This was the last slice of cake. It was gone before I could even get my camera out. I swear the lot of them were a lot more substantial and lovely.

I have to share the recipe because it was the best cake I ever made. And the best part, it was simple (as long as you get the measurements right).

Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ½ sticks Butter, Softened
  • ⅔ cups Sugar Plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons For Sprinkling On Top
  • ¼ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 whole Egg
  • ½ cups Buttermilk, Well Shaken
  • 5 ounces, weight Fresh Blueberries

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the middle of oven. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan and line with waxed paper. Spray the waxed paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches, mixing until just combined. Add berries and fold in with a spoon. Pour batter into cake pan, spreading and smoothing the top. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (this makes it a little crispy on the top)

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate and cut into 8 slices.

Serve plain or with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Recipe from Valery. Thank you Valery. Thank you.

Nail Effects

I am obsessed with doing my nails. I have always been this way…. so has my mom… so have my sisters. Maybe its genetic. Painting my nails makes me feel fresh and clean and ready to go. Its weird. A bad nail polish has also been known to ruin my day. I always keep fingernail polish remover and cotton pads at my desk just in case of an emergency. Seriously, the problems I have….

One day at work a colleague of mine came in and I immediately noticed somethin-I-aint-seen-before going on with her nail (yes, just one). I had to know all about it. Her daughter is in middle school and loves Sally Hansen Nail Effects. They are nail polish strips that you press on to your nail. Genius. There is no dry time which allows you to continue to use your hands, as things other than fans, for the next 2 hours.

This was my first go with these awesome Nail Effects. I went for the gold. They must be pretty popular because the Walgreen’s I went in only had a sparse few to choose from.

There are a bunch of different choices, but I went with gold (since it was a week day). They come in these convenient little strips.

The strips are in all different sizes so that you can custom fit each nail. It was around this time that I realized that all of my nails are relatively the same size (except for my pinky… that would be creepy) so I had to use some scissors on a few to cut them down.

The gold glitter was thick and uniform. Ah, a nail freak’s dream.

Following here are the worst tutorial pictures I have ever taken. I wasn’t aware that my camera focus was on me and not on my nails. So smart. Please bear with me.

First you peel the clear top layer off the polish strip (referred to now as simply p.s.)

Then, rip the bottom tab.

I seriously have no idea what I am demonstrating doing in this picture. Just pretend I am reiterating how important it is to peel the clear strip of the top of the p.s.

Then you peel the p.s. off the white strip at the bottom. These things must be a pain to make with the c.s., p.s., w.s….

Ah, and now the magic. Once the polish strip p.s. is peeled off then you can place it at the base of your nail and smooth as your work toward the tip of your nail.

I found that it was important to press the p.s. on firmly to get it to attach to the nail well.

Last, you gently pull the remainder of the p.s. off. I pulled in a downward motion so I wouldn’t pull off any of the polish that was already on my nail.

Oops, this is last. File the edge of the nail to smooth it out.

And BAH BLING! Glitter nails. These glitter nails were about 100000 times easier than any glitter polish I have ever used. Glitter polish is hard for me to get on evenly thick and can get clumpy and rough. These were smooth as… well…. just pick something smooth to compare it to.

Like I said before there are MANY choices. Sally Hansen makes plain polishes as well if you are into the glitter or the patterned.

The box claims that the stay on for “up to 10 days” which was not my experience. I left mine on for 2 or 3 days and they said on pretty well. I cant stand my nails chipping and once I saw a little bit of the p.s. missing, I had to take the p.s. off. You can use nail polish remover on them to get them off. Picking at them like crazy works good too.

I think that I am going to go for a plain polish next time to see if they stay on longer. At $10 (and if you are not a nail freak) then they are pretty fun and definitely something a little different.

Asian Beef Soup

I have been on an Asian kick lately. After I made those Korean type noodles I began the search for another Asian dish that was easy , quick, and tasted authentically like Asian food. I found a great recipe on www.tastykitchen.com that I tweaked to make my own version of Asian Beef Soup.

I started with about a 1 pound flank steak and sliced it thin.

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Thinner is better and it needs to be perfectly bite size. So think about it like that.

I threw the sliced flank steak in a large ziploc bag to marinade.
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I added 1/2 a lemon (squeezed) to the meat.

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Then some kosher salt was thrown in.
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I added in some olive oil.

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And last, some soy sauce.

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I sealed the bag and placed it in the refrigerator. The plan was to let it marinade over night… but then I made dinner plans with a girlfriend. So the meat ended up marinading for three days. It was still good and uber flavorful.

Oh, and the bag was rolled and not zipped because after I got all the goodness in there, I realized the bag was broken. Great. No worries, I got creative.

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So, three days later… I added a quart of Beef Stock to a pot.

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Then I added in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the pot.

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Do you like my nails? Mmmm… me too. I will tell you more about them tomorrow.

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Then I grated in some fresh ginger over the pot.

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Bring the pot to a low simmer.

In the meantime, add mushrooms and 1/2 a minced onion to skillet with some vegetable oil.

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Let them soften up and (hopefully) brown a little.

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There is something soooooo goooood about mushrooms and onions….

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Once the mushrooms and onions have softened up, add the bok choy to the skillet.

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Bok Choy is one of those great ingredients that I always forget about. Keep stirring to get the Bok Choy to wilt and turn dark green.

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Once bok choy is a rich dark green, it is done! The bok choy reminded me of collard greens.

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Chuck the mushroom and bok choy mixture into the soup pot.

Get the meat out of the fridge and its time to add it to the mix.

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Put it all in the pot together and let the meat cook until it is no longer pink.

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Here is an up close shot. Yum.

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Then, its time to cook the Chinese (Mein) noodles. I found these at my local grocery store, but if you can’t, then I am sure that you could use spaghetti noodles or angel hair pasta as well.

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The noodles are so thin that they only take about 3 minutes to cook.

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When the noodles are cooked, drain ‘em. Add the sesame oil to the soup pot. Sesame oil gives the soup that traditional Asian flavor. The sesame oil is crucial. I am serious. Its more important than the broth, the meat, and the noodles. For real.

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Squeeze in time to finely chop a scallion. I can never get my scallions super thin, unless I spend significant amounts of time on them. Clearly I was in a hurry tonight.

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In addition to my love for sesame oil, I have a soft spot for Sriracha. I plopped some noodles into a bowl and drizzled some Sriracha on them.

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And then I drizzled a little bit more, but I like mine souper spicy (get it?).

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Mmm… I could probably just eat them like that.

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Then, I ladled the soup mixture on top of my Sriracha noodles.

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What! Yeah, I just made that.

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It had a hint of a Pho taste which I loved. The more broth that you add to your bowl, the soupier it is. I loved the broth. After bowl #1, I definitely did the bring-the-bowl-to-mouth-and-slurp. I’m not embarrassed.

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Give it a try. Its really simple and you definitely do not have to marinade your meat for 3 days. You could marinade over night or even just a few hours. Or you could be like me and make other plans and leave your meat alone.

Asian Beef Soup

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces, weight Chinese Noodles Or Thin Pasta
  • 1 quart Beef Stock
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • ½ teaspoons Ginger, grated
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, For Frying
  • 4 ounces, weight Mushrooms, Sliced (White, Shitake, Or Portobello)
  • 1 whole Small White Onion, Minced
  • 2 whole Baby Bok Choy, Chopped
  • 16 oz Flank Steak
  • 1 bunch Scallions Sliced Thin
  • 1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 pinch Salt And Pepper, to taste

Cook noodles according to package instructions. In a large soup pot, combine stock, soy sauce, and ginger. Bring to a low simmer. Warm vegetable oil in a fry pan and saute the mushrooms along with half of the minced onion until browned. Add the mushroom mixture to the soup, then repeat with the bok choy and the remaining onions.

Slice the steak as thinly as possible and add the strips to the soup. Allow the meat to cook through, then remove the pot from the heat. Add the scallions, sesame oil. The noodles can either be added to the pot, or to soup bowls. Ladle soup into each bowl over or along with the noodles. You can enjoy the noodles as is, or you can mix ‘em up with a little Sriracha.

Recipe adapted from: Mary Helen on tastykitchen.com

And the Winner is…..

Thank you for those who enter! Now to see who the winner of the lovely Costa Rican wooden spoons and cutting board is….

Drum roll….. bllllllrrrrrr…….

Jennifer Troutman!!!

She posted three places and won the prize!

And started following @blackbirdideas on Twitter.

Jennifer email me your address to blackbirdideas@gmail.com and I will ship it out the next day. I hope you enjoy your prizes!

So Very Tico (and a giveaway!)

I have a new favorite word. Tico.

Tico is a colloquial term for a native of Costa Rica. The plural form is ticos. Why thank you Wikipedia! I kept telling Bf that I wished we were Ticos… or he was a Tico and I was a Tica… I’m not too sure how it works. Unfortunately for me, I don’t think that any one mistaked me for a Tico with my ear to ear grin, constant comments like “It’s beautifuuuul!” (with a southern accent), and my winter white skin.

I was juuuuust liking my skin color as the last day approached. It’s always like that. My tan will fade but hopefully the memories won’t. I got myself a few parting gifts to have something to remember CR by.

Let me show you….

I got an enormous salad bowl with matching wooden spoons.

I can not wait to make a salad in this. I just need to have a dinner party because it is that big.

I love the matching spoons and I just want to hug it and think “Costa Rica.” It has beautiful wood grain and I loved how each bowl was a little different. My pal, Mandy, got a similar bowl on a previous trip and just raved about how much she loved it. Naturally, I had to get one of my own.

That’s not the only bowl I got. What’s wrong with me?! I was just obsessed with the wooden bowls in Costa Rica. These bowls were also very unique.

I liked that mine had a little flaw in it. Its sitting on my hutch right now.

That’s not all I got…. I got you something too. I DID! I SWEAR!

Can you tell what it is?

How about now?

Its a cutting board straight from the streets of Costa Rica. I wish that I had some awesome and interesting story about it, but I don’t. I just thought that it was pretty.

But I also got you the prettiest pair of wooden spoons I have ever seen. Seriously Bf and I were contemplating keeping them. He had to remind me that they weren’t for me a few times. I love how to marks on the spoons look like miniature peacock feathers. These are also straight from my trip to Costa Rica.

So here’s the booty.

Do you want to enter to win that beautiful striped Costa Rican wood cutting board? Do you want to win some naturally intricate wooden spoons straight from Costa Rica? Well…

You can enter to win 3 ways! 3 whole ways, I said! You can enter 1, 2, or all 3 ways.

#1 Post a comment telling me the spot where you had your best vacation.

#2 Follow Blackbird Ideas on Twitter @blackbirdideas and tweet me your best vacation spot

#3 Like Blackbird Ideas Facebook page and write your favorite vacation spot on the wall.

Good luck and I hope you win! I will randomly select a winner Friday at 3 (in honor of the 3 ways of voting) and ship it straight to you :)