Wishes for a great New Years!

Even though I have no Internet and am currently on my iPhone, I couldn’t let the last day of the year go by without wishing everyone a happy and safe last day of 2011. I look forward to a year of personal and professional growth and many new memories.

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Happy new year’s eve and thanks for reading!

Blackbird ideas (aka Natalie)

I’ll Be Reading Ya

Christmas is over and I am already missing it. I love Christmas and I have a severe Christmas hangover when it is done. I jetted home today from Spartanburg, SC to Atlanta. When I arrived back home there were a TON of books waiting for me from Bf’s family.

The first book I got was Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. Um… yeah!

You remember me and Paula Deen?

From Bf’s mom and Susan I got Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn In the South… signed! Lovin’ it!

I love Hugh Acheson and can’t wait to cook something from his cookbook. I gave A New Turn in the South to Bf’s stepsisters for Christmas: Take One.

Bf’s mom and Susan also gave me Canning For A New Generation. I am SOOOO excited about this one. I looked through it and there are some awesome recipes for jellies, and jams, and marmalades…. and more and more and more.

I am going to get canning first thing in January.

Susan and Kat also got me Recipe for Press. I have never heard of this book before but after a scan I realized that it is a well written, well-advised, super-informative book. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this.

I feel like I am going to get a lot of good advice from this book.

My library sure got stocked up this Christmas!

These books will help me fulfill my New Year’s Resolution this year (details to come on that baby). I love my books and I can’t wait to see what ideas I come up with in 2012.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Its….

Yep. Soup season is in full swing and after Christmas: Take One and I was ready to immersion hand blend the crap out of some soup. First on the list was Creamy Tomato Basil soup. This weekend Bf and I hit up our favorite (well, my favorite) weekend lunch spot, Alon’s Bakery, and had a great cup of Tomato Basil Soup. I couldn’t get enough. I had to try it out at home as well.

Here is what I started with:

This is a super-simple recipe (which you can find the printable version here) which requires a few fresh ingredients and about 30 minutes on the stove top until its ready to eat.

I got started by heating up Olive Oil in my pot, Julia. Then I added in the diced fresh tomatoes and onion.

After about 5 minutes, I added in the garlic and let it all cook for about 1 minute.

Add crushed tomatoes and water. Simmer over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes.

Muahahaha.. time for my new immersion hand blender. I couldn’t wait to test this baby out!

Before the blending got underway… I needed to add in my fresh basil leaves.

Then, the blending began. That’s not my hand by the way. Its Bf’s. He yanked that blender out of my hand as soon as I placed it in the soup. Looks like he wanted a turn too.

I blended the soup until it reached my desired consistency. I like mine a little chunky so this was perfect.

I added in a generous amount of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Then, add in the cream. You could use heavy cream, I just used regular whipping cream. If you are looking for your soup to be a little on the lighter side, you could add in milk instead.

Then, my favorite part… I love the swirls that cream makes in tomato soup.

Bf couldn’t resist getting in the for a taste after the swirling took place.

Ok maybe he couldn’t resist getting in there for a taste or two after the swirling.

I topped the soup with some fresh basil (just because I had a leaf or two left) and served it with a grilled cheese. Why? Because what on earth goes better with tomato soup than grilled cheese?! Nothing.

Yum, I love how the soup still had some fresh basil chunks in it. Of course you could blend it as much or as little as you wanted.

I am seriously digging soup season. I can’t wait to get out there and try some new soups. I am planning on making Skinny Broccoli and Cheese soup this week too. Yum yum.

To print this recipe click here.

Hey! Did you know:

You can follow me on Twitter here.

You can follow me on Pinterest here.

You can follow me on Facebook here.

You can also click the “like” button on the right side of my blog. You can get me that as a Christmas present this year. 

Inspired by Food For My Family

Christmas: Take One

I love how the older I get, the term family gets bigger and bigger. Family to me now includes my family (of course), friends, friends of family, family of friends, and so on. I love this. Its the #1 perk of getting older.

This past weekend, one side of Bf’s family met together to exchange Christmas gifts and cheer and boy… did we have a good time. Bf’s stepsisters and their husbands were there. So were Bf’s sister Kate, his dad Jack, Jack’s girlfriend Terry, Bf’s Uncle Randy, Aunt Sally, and cousin Anna Louise. Let me help you to visualize:

We had an amazing Christmas meal complete with turkey and dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce, you name it! It just don’t know how Terry manage to “cook” all of that food inside (inside joke for Terry and for anyone else at Christmas: Take one).

After our feast, we settled in for a gift exchange.

Let me show you my loot!

A SUBSCRIPTION TO FOOD & WINE MAGAZINE!??! How did they know!

Um, have you read my blog. What a great gift.

HILARIOUS COCKTAIL NAPKINS?!?! How did they know?!

Don’t tell me that that dog doesn’t look just like Chum. And I am sure that she thinks that is her name.

AN IMMERSION HAND BLENDER!??! How did they know?!

Mary Delia reads my blog and told me that she saw what a pain it was for me to pour hot soup into a food processor. Great gift. I have already made soup. It was so easy!

A BEAUTIFUL PAINTING OF LAZARETTO CREEK?!?! How did they know?!

Lazaretto Creek is a creek in Savannah where we go boating all the time. It is so beautiful and I can’t wait to hang it up and dream of being there.

Here is a little closer look:

And a little closer:

I also got myself a little something (HOW DID I KNOW!?!) I got this cookbook for some friends and just had to get one for myself as well… a little Hugh Acheson never hurt anyone.

After the gift exchange, we settled in for a viewing of Anne Bolling and her husband’s wedding in Mystic, Conn. this past summer. It was really sweet.

Ah… home movies. That is a tradition in my family at Christmas time as well. I love the ones from back in the 90’s at the beach. I’m going to have to bust a few of those out when I head home in a few days.

We hung out a little longer and drank some Christmas coffee and the first evening of Christmas came to an end.

What a fun night! I love this part of my Atlanta family (and I love the other parts too!) and I can’t wait for Christmas: Take Two. In a few days I will get to celebrate Christmas: Spartanburg Style with my own family and I am literally counting the days…. like a kid on Christmas. 

I’m Loving It.

Oh my gosh. After a crazy busy week of work, Friday night filled with order-in Thai food, and a good night’s sleep (up and at ‘em at 8 a.m.) I am ready to go! I have a few gifts left to buy for friends and family and then I am ready to celebrate the holidays. I am looking forward to sleeping in my bed at my parent’s house and hugging on family til their eyes pop (hello Emily and Erin). And… well, let’s be honest. I am about to die even thinking about my baby nephew that I haven’t seen since Grandpaw’s 80th birthday!

Um… I know. He is the cutest baby ever. His hat is from Susan’s store Blabla Kids (hat here). Its beyond precious. The baby is growing up so fast and I am missing it. But, I am lucky that my sisters just got iPhones so now we can video chat with one another when they are babysitting. I woke up last Sunday to a call from them:

Please do not judge me by my picture. It was early. I had on no makeup. Insert any other excuse.

Yeah, I was looking real rough in that one. So rough that I pulled up my photo editing program and replaced my face with a gingerbread cookie.

Anyway… back to the baby. Uh. I. can’t. wait.

So now that Emily and Erin have iPhones, we have been in a little bit of a photo editing battle with iPhone apps. Or, I have been in a battle. They probably haven’t even noticed. I keep seeing their photos on Instagram and am filled with envy. I keep thinking “How did they do that?!”

I love the multi-picture frame look of the photo and they have been using it so much that I had to figure out what app is was… and share it.

They had been using Photostitch to bring the images together… but it lacked a lot of control that I wanted. So I found another program called PicFrame that I have been using which has tons of templates to choose from and lets you have more control over your images. Obsessed.

Clearly:

Yep. That’s my morning. I keep trying to find pictures around that I can import into PicFrame. I swear my iPhone is filled with more photo editing programs than I know what to do with. For the above photo I framed it in PicFrame and then used Be Funky to add effects.

My family all gathered in Greenville, NC yesterday for my cousins graduation from ECU (I was at work) and the twins took this great picture:

I loved it.

Oh yeah, Happy Graduation Abby!

She’s so pretty.

I love a good app so I thought I would share.

I kind of took last week off to work on finishing my Master’s degree (more on that here) and to get ready for the holidays. While I was chilling I came up with some great accidentally delicious recipes to share, so more on that later.

Have a great weekend!

Wheat Beer Bread

One thing that I hate… I hate when bread goes bad. Like, grows mold goes bad. And bread at my house always goes bad before someone eats it all. I have tried freezing it, but all that happens is that I end up with a rock hard (and smushed) lump of bread in the bottom of my drawer freezer with no clue of when its from. I hate that. So I had the genius idea to bake my own loaf of bread.

Duh. Why didn’t I think of that before? One thing that I didn’t want to deal with though was going out and getting yeast for my bread… enter: Whole Wheat Beer Bread. With beer from my fridge I was able to make a delicious, hearty loaf of bread in just about an hour.

I started by adding whole wheat flour, raw sugar, baking powder, and salt to a large bowl. Oh, and preheat oven to 375.

Then, I poured in a beer. Simple as that! You could use anything from a backyard beer to a fancy pants beer (or a Mothership Wit) and the yeast from the beer will make the beer rise.

Pour in beer….

Then stir to make the dough. Once the ingredients are mixed and a dough begins to form, use your hands to finish combining.

Spray your bread pan with non-stick spray.

And add dough to the pan.

Put in the oven at 375 and bake for about an hour.

It was a little flatter than I expected but still as hearty and delicious as I had planned.

A little butter (and maybe a little honey) to your bread. And take a bite.

It tastes like homemade (and satisfaction that I made it myself). Making homemade bread has got me hankering for baking other types of bread. Can I make white bread? Sourdough? Banana? Blueberry? Chocolate?!?!?!  Maybe I can…

Whole Wheat Beer Bread Recipe

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 ounces beer
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a bread pan and set aside. Carefully measure flour and combine in a mixing bowl with remaining dry ingredients. Pour in beer and mix, it will eventually start to form a dough. When dough forms, use your hands to finish combining. Transfer dough to your bread pan, pressing down gently so it spreads out even. Bake for 1 hour.

Recipe from the Happy Herbivore

Southern Bacon-Braised Turnip Greens

Being born and raised in the South, sometimes I just want a bowl of greens. This cold weather has me craving warm, soupy, flavorful foods and turnip greens were just the thing. They hit the spot and reminded me of my mother’s greens back in Sparkle City. I can still see myself sitting at the island in the pig and chicken themed kitchen eating greens doused in pepper sauce. Yep, that’s a good memory.

Do people outside of the south eat greens? Turnip or collard.

Ingredients

1 large bunch of turnip greens

4 slices of bacon, roughly chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup chicken broth

1 pinch of sugar

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon (or so) of hot sauce

Let’s get started!

Chop the turnip greens roughly and place in colander. Rinse green really well to make sure that they are free from dirt and/or debris.

Toss a few slices of chopped bacon into a pot or dutch oven. Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large pot or dutch oven until well browned.

Once the bacon has begun to brown, add in chopped onions.

Toss in garlic.

There is nothing better than this trifecta of ingredients: bacon, onions, and garlic. Talk about making your kitchen smell good.

Add the greens to the pot.

If your greens begin to overflow the pot, you can add them in in batches until they all get a chance to wilt. The turnip greens will shrink down significantly. 

Add in salt and pepper.

Pour in chicken broth.

And add in the white vinegar.

A couple dashes of hot sauce seal the deal.

Then, cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium-low. Stirring occasionally, let the greens cook on the stovetop for about an hour.

Like I said, the greens wilt significantly.  I am always surprised by this… and a little disappointed. I need to make a note-to-self to always make more.

Serve it up!

Now, even though these greens have vinegar AND hot sauce… I like to add a little pepper sauce to them as well. I mean, why not?!

I love a good bowl of greens. Turnip… collards…. whatever! This recipe would work great on both.

Yum. Even my little bowl looks southern. If you are reading this blog and you recognize this little bowl as yours… it probably is. After one of BF and my parties, it was left. So I absorbed it into my collection as my own. I think that that is how I have acquired about 70% of all of my cups, plates, and bowls. Don’t leave anything at my house.

For a printable version of this recipe click here. 

“Meme”gle Bells

Bf’s grandmother is Meme (pronounced “Meem”). This has always confused me, as to me, I want to read Meme as “Mee Mee,” but no… its “Meem.” Clearly I am not the only one perplexed by this spelling:

I thought that this was pretty funny. There were even some forums on why Meme is pronounced “Meem.” The best answer that I found was: How would you pronounce “theme?” Yep. “Meem.” Works for me!

Anyway, last night Bf and I (and Kate… Bf’s sister and Kat… Bf’s mother and Susan… owner of the amazing Blabla Kids) headed over to Meme’s house to help decorate her Christmas tree and dine on some awesome shrimp creole. As soon as we got there, I pulled out my camera  only to realize that the battery was dead. This happens to me all the time!  So I whipped out my phone to capture a couple of pictures of our festive holiday evening.

Meme is an excellent cook. Her food can cure what ails you and I am a testament to that. Her food can bring you out of a bad mood lickety split. I have also never eaten more than I eat when I am at your house. Unless you have eaten so much you have to lie down, you haven’t eaten enough!

She was making my favorite last night: zipper peas. They are delicious and kind of taste like black-eyed peas… only better. In addition to zipper peas she also cooked up some shrimp creole (yum!), some corn (yum!), bread (yum!), and pumpkin pie (even more yum!).

She had her table set up as well. It looked beautiful.

Before we got down to eating, we nibbled on some of her famous Ro-Tel dip. 

Its amazing how addicting a little cheese and a little tomato can be.

Then it was time to eat!

After eating, we got straight to work on her Christmas tree. There were a few electrical issues. Bf was on it.

He is not much for decorating, but he sure loves fixing a problem.

After the lights were strung, we got out all of Meme’s ornaments and started hanging.

Bf was the only one tall enough to put the angel on the tree.

And in less than half and hour, the tree was complete! Man, I couldn’t believe how quickly it all came together. WHen I decorate my tree, it usually takes me a solid hour or more… but I am the only one doing it. When there are just a few more people, decorating is complete in the blink of an eye!

The final product:

It was great to be at Meme’s last night, getting into the Christmas spirit. It was also night to munch on some zipper peas for lunch today. Don’t mind if I do…

In other news: We got our yearbook pictures back today at work. I dread this day. What will be stamped in time for children to remember me by for years to come?!?!

I think that it is a little  cruel to make adults take the same school pictures as the kids. I posed against the same tiny little fence that everyone else did. Do you see the fence? Naw, I didn’t think so.

Hey did you know:

You can follow me on Twitter here.

You can follow me on Pinterest here.

You can follow me on Facebook here.

Gifts for Under $50

This year Thao and I are continuing our tradition of exchanging gifts. Easy right? Naw. I thought to myself the other day “How on earth am I supposed to know what she wants if she doesn’t have a Pinterest page!” Then, I calmed down and started thinking… what do you get someone for Christmas who just got married this year (like 2 months ago)? Think think think. The I had the answer: knives. Girlfriend needed some knives. She registered for some but didn’t get them. I totally had this in the bag.

Bf and I had dinner with Thao and her new husband last weekend and when we got to their house she said “Oh let me show you what my in-laws got me for Christmas!” Guess what they got her? Knives. Back to the drawing board.

So I have been searching for the perfect gift for a while now. I have found many, many, many things for under $50. I thought that I would share a few. They may be things I would like for Christmas… and they may not be…

For the kitchen:

I could do this category all day.

Stamped Spoons

Soup and Sandwich plate

Reclaimed Slate Cheese Slate

Glass Milk Carton Creamer

Ombre Water Pitcher

For a girlfriend:

I love Etsy jewelry for gifts… and Anthropologie. How can you ever go wrong with Anthropologie?

Little Circle Necklace

Gold Bangles

Gold Teardrop Earrings

Morse Code Necklace

For a dude:

Ridged Guitar Picks

Titanium Multi-Use Collar Stays

Bull Catch All

Personalized Beer Holster

For a wee lil’ beebee:

Fortune Cookie Slippers

Baby Oxford Socks

Balthazar from Blabla Kids

Hold Me Tight Tear Pillow

For Thao:

Image from here.

I think that I have a case of there-are-too-many-things-in-the-universe-to-decide-from syndrome. Why is it so hard to buy something for the person that you know the best? Is it because you know what they hate? I know that I will think of something, but I just don’t think that I can top my karaoke-loving best friend’s gift last year:

The iKaraoke

You can check out what I am wish-listing here.

Hey, did you know….

You can follow me on Twitter here.

You can follow me on Pinterest here.

You can follow me on Facebook here.

 

 

 

 

Summer in the Winter

It’s rainy in Atlanta today. Rain for me means bad hair. It the kind of bad hair day where you can’t tell if my hair is dirty, greasy, or frizzy. Its like it is all of them… wrapped into one. Its not cute. Let’s just say that.

Well, this nasty weather had me craving summer again. It was bound to happen sooner or later and well, it has happened. I am dreaming about the beach, sleeping late, the warm sun, and of course, Islamorada. This gross day has had me dreaming about:

Yep, boating. Ah… boating boating boating boating boating. There is nothing better than the feeling of the fresh salt water breeze in your face sitting on the front of a boat.

That got me thinking about something that I have in my freezer that has a hint of summer to it… shrimp. I had some shrimp from the summer, but I ate them. So these shrimp are from November, but they are still summery.

What I had in mind was some Summer Shrimp and Avocado Salad. Think of it as a quick ceviche.

All you need is:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lb jumbo cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatos, diced
  • 2 hass avocado, diced
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 2-3 limes, juice of
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Tabasco (green kind/jalapeno)
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
Start by squeezing the lime juice into a bowl with the onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil. This will help take the bitterness out of the onion.

While the onions sat in the lime juice, I got to chopping my vegetables. I am not really a fan of tomato seeds, so I seeded all but one of my diced tomatoes. After I sliced up my avocado I made sure to squeeze a little lime juice on them so they didn’t turn brown.

I also boiled my shrimp during this time. You could buy shrimp that are already cooked, but if you can go fresh… go fresh.

After I peeled my shrimp, I placed them on the cutting board to be chopped. I found the perfect bite size piece to be about three chops per shrimp.

I added all of my veggies to a large bowl and topped with the shrimp.

Then, poured my lime juice/onions on top.

A final sprinkled of Tabasco… and I was ready to mix.

After a quick (and kind of gentle) toss, it was ready!

Yum! This was the perfect dinner to pick me up out of my winter slump.

But, it may have got me craving summer a little bit more. Sometimes I just need a break from the cold (and rain). When you can’t jet off the Islamorada at a moments notice… I guess a little dinner switch-a-roo will have to do!

For the printable version of this recipe click here.