serendipitous reflections

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Offhanded comments

You know when sometimes you make an offhanded comment, and it comes back to bite you in the ass. Well I did that. Remember the dinner we had for Dean's boss a couple of weeks ago. I made a comment to Bill that we should have a dinner for the staff to show our appreciation for all they do. I said I would do the most of the cooking if they wanted to pay for the food. We kinda through out some dates like the third weekend of may or first weekend of June, before it got to hot to do it outside. While I was gone to Mississippi, they decided we needed to do it this weekend. So while I was traveling on Monday, Barbara was frantically calling me to plan this. Mind you, Dean already said I would do it, but when it was brought to him, they said two other women would be helping me cook. It turns out that I will be doing everything, but one appetizer and one dessert. Really it's ok because I enjoy cooking for a crowd, but I wish I would have had more than two days to prepare. I like to put thought into who I'm cooking for and what I'm making.

It's just going to be a cookout. Here's the menu...nothing too exciting.
Cheese and sausage dip (Office manager is making it)
Layered taco dip
Hamburgers (I'm going to saute mushrooms and top with swiss cheese; and all the rest of the normal toppings)
Mustard potato salad
Pickled mostaccioli (it's a zesty pasta salad)
Baked beans
Corn on the cob
Lemon Pie (Barbara is making it.)
Not your mama's banana pudding

Barbara is also making sangria. It's pretty darn good. We had it the time we went to their house for dinner.

So wish me luck that my refrigerator can hold food for 30-35 people.

the piano sounds like a carnival

Apparently, I'm just a sucker for a piano man, but I am really enjoying the Phil Vassar CD I bought last week. I know, I know...I've already posted how much I love Phil Vassar's CD Shaken Not Stirred, but I just wanted to say it again. I guess it goes back to my love for the original piano man. Growing up I could listen to Billy Joel for hours. As a matter of fact, I still can.

I'm just a sucker for smooth voice and a piano.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Philly Steak Sandwich

I made these sandwiches the night before I left on my trip. They were so good and so filling. Dean had two more dinners from our leftovers. I went to my butcher and had him cut a London broil into thin slices for the meat. It worked out wonderfully. Also he was so accommodating. It's hard to find good customer service, but the Fresh Market is top notch. This sandwich made Dean and I both think of college because there was little place on campus called The Grill. We would go there and have philly cheesesteaks. The buns were grilled in butter...yum-o!! Eating these made us think back to those late night snacks.

The key to these sandwiches is thinly sliced meat and caramalized onions. Dean would have liked it if I had added green peppers, but since I'm not a fan of green peppers, I didn't. Sorry Dean...next time.

I paired these sandwiches with Cheese and Herb Oven Fries. A lot healthier than chips.

This is another great recipe thanks to Rachael Ray. Rachael gave a lot of good tips on how to make these taste like they were right off the streets of Philly. The addition of garlic salt and black pepper at the end of cooking the meat add so much flavor.

Philly Steak Sandwich

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 large yellow skinned onions, sliced very thin
Coarse salt and pepper or steak seasoning blend

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 drizzles
1 1/2 pounds lean beef tenderloin or sirloin, ask butcher to slice the meat very thin
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 slices provolone cheese

Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Add onions and season with salt and pepper or steak seasoning blend. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until onions are soft and caramel in color.

Heat a heavy griddle pan over medium high to high heat. Wipe griddle with a drizzle of oil using a paper towel. Sear and cook thin sliced steaks until brown but not crisp, about 2 minutes on each side. Cook steaks in single layers in 2 batches and tenderize by cutting into meat with the side of your spatula while they cook. When the steaks are browned, just before you remove them from heat, sprinkle them with garlic salt and pepper. When all of the steaks are cooked, line each of your split rolls with 2 slices of provolone cheese. Pile 1/4 of your meat and onions on to the griddle and mix together with your spatula. Pile the meat and onions into rolls on top of the cheese. The heat from the meat and onions will melt the cheese. Repeat for remaining servings and serve.


Ringers all around

One of the funniest things about my trip was all the phones. Every one us, with the exception of my niece, has a cell phone. It was so funny because we had all these different cell phone ringers ringing all weekend plus the house phone ringing. By the end of the weekend, I was dreaming about cell phones ringing.

And don't get me started about having to find the phone that was ringing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dorothy was right

I returned home safely late last night without any problems. The return flights went much smoother than the flights over to Jackson.

I had a wonderful visit with my family. The whole crew was there. (Chris, Jackie, Andrew, Aaron, Brit, Dad and Sue) It was an unusual visit for this time because we are usually there during a holiday, and no one really has anything going on. But this visit Chris, my brother, was in New Orleans having a mini-high school reunion. Jackie, my sister-in-law, was working on a couple of house deals. Brittany, my niece, was in Gulfport for a select soccer tournament. And my teenage nephews, Andrew and Aaron, were busy with their girlfriends or "friends that are girls." The phones were always ringing or being texted or texting. It was so awesome to see how much they have grown up, but oh so sad at the same time. I always feel nostalgic after I come back from my brother's.

My Dad and Sue bought a really nice condo in Jackson so they will split their time between Bonita Springs, Florida and Jackson, MS. (I will add the the link when Sue sends it to me.) They are both really excited about it. I think this is something they have wanted to do for several years, but this was the right time and the right place.

I'll add some more stories later tonight or in the morning. I had a great visit, but there's no place like home.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Jeni returns

Jeni's flight keeps bouncing from on time to 25 minutes late. I expect they'll make up the time in the air and she'll get in around midnight. That means an end to my off-the-wall ramblings and random thoughts and a return of the recipes and Jeni's fun stories...

A clue!

We have this little two-and-a-half year old who comes in to get adjusted with her mom and two sisters. The other day, she was walking down the hall and passed our office manager's office. She is a big Clemson fan, and on her desk is a Clemson Tiger's business card holder in the shape of a big tiger paw print. She stops and points as she exclaims, "A clue!"

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Thought missing

I had a thought. It fleeted by, somewhere in the periphery of my mind's eye. When I turned to look for it, it was gone, probably hiding under the futon with the cat.

Where your eyes don't go a part of you is hovering
It's a nightmare that you'll never be discovering
You're free to come and go
Or talk like Kurtis Blow
But there's a pair of eyes in back of your head
They Might Be Giants, Where Your Eyes Don't Go
(Their most profound song, by far.)

Darkness is coming

The Weather Channel is predicting darkness... I have the Desktop Weather feature downloaded and it's been turning black lately and not providing data. So I figure this means forboding doom, apocalypse or night.

New Messenger features

I really like the new features on MSN Messenger. The winks are funny, and the nudge always makes me laugh. The other feature is the "What I'm Listening To" that shows what's playing on Media Player. When I'm dragging at work, I'll log on just to see what Jeni's listening to and she'll give me a little nudge and give me that boost to get going again.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ignorance makes me sad

South Carolina essentially moved forward toward making cockfighting a felony (five years in prison) while tabling making repeat offenders of domestic violence a felony (currently a misdemeanor -- 30 days in jail). The ignorance is further illustrated by the comments of certain State Representatives. Fortunately, the Democrats speak some sense.

Cache found

I went and did a little Geocaching today. My day got a late start as we had a flat tire on Jeni's car when I came out this morning. So I had to spend two hours at Sam's getting it replaced (not patched... ugh). After coming home and eating some lunch, I headed out to Harbison State Forest and found a cache that had caught my eye a while back. I had to do some trail hiking (Stewardship Trail), although I could have cut quite some distance if I took the road instead. The mosquitos ate me up a bit because this cache was near the river and it rained yesterday but overall it was fun.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Geocaching link

I was going to use a logo from the Geocaching website and put a link on the sidebar. I was really impressed with myself for managing to do what most third graders can probably already do. But as I read the fine print, Groundspeak makes the following request: You will need to include the following language in small text somewhere on the page where the Groundspeak Geocaching logo appears: "The Groundspeak Geocaching Logo is a trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission." Please make the "Groundspeak, Inc." part of the statement a link to our home page (http://www.groundspeak.com).

I was just doing a little more press for them, but I don't want logo disclaimers cluttering things up even more. So I'll just continue link to the Geocaching site when I mention them. Oh well, it was a fun exercise.

Butter vs. Margarine

We got an e-mail from a friend the other day about butter vs. margarine and the risks of margarine. In the e-mail, it makes reference to the fact that margarine is "one molecule from being plastic." Well, I had heard this before, even going to the extent of someone saying that if you put margarine out for a week, there won't be a single bug on it. Jeni asked me to look it up on Urban Legends and sure enough, the entire e-mail was there ... they're just amazing about that! It does tell us what we already know: trans fatty acids are bad, very bad, very very bad. The one molecule from plastic is essentially true, as well, but as the researcher puts, there are many things that are one molecule away from being something else. Either way, I'd stick to natural butter in moderation over trans fat laden margarine.

Don't wash away my caching day

The predicted weekend rain is blowing this way. The temperature dropped rapidly and the little blue Weather Channel box is flashing red. Jeni is in Jackson, Miss. visiting family and I was going to get some satellite-aided exercise tomorrow morning before the NFL Draft. But it appears we really will be getting the much-needed rain.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Shaken Not Stirred

Since watching Nashville Star this season, I have become a huge Phil Vassar Fan. I got his CD, Shaken Not Stirred, yesterday. I've listened to like 10 times. I highly recommend it. Go get it!!

(There is just something about a man playing the piano.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Well thank you very much

I would personally like to thank the city of Columbia for taking all day to fix a broken water main. I couldn't wash dishes, clothes, or myself. There was a glimmer of hope when I heard my neighbor's dishwasher, so I ran in and started the shower. Much to my dismay, there was some water, very little water, tee-tiny bit of water, and did I mention it was scaling hot water at that. I ended up just washing my hair with a cup and a lot of tears. And the bonus to this is I have no skin left on my head. So thank you very much!!

(When I called about this, I found out that they are going to have to cut all the water off from 6pm to 10pm. Nice.) We will be going out to dinner tonight.

Talk Dirty to Me

Speaking of Bret Michaels...For my 14th birthday, my mother gave me three tickets to the Ratt/ Poison concert. I invited my friends Tiff and Nikki. We thought we were so cool because this was one of the first concert we got to go to without a parent. I will never forget that night. Picture it: a hot June night, Roanoke (VA) Civic Center, three teenage girls being dropped at the front door with money in hand for t-shirts and such, the smell of Aussie Instant Freeze Hair Spray coming from our big ass hair (Nikki had like 3" bangs), torn jeans, and in all 20,000 girls' minds just the thought of seeing Bret Michaels up close....my god!

Well we got to our seats which we were pretty good, and close to some boys that we knew from school. We decided we would go between the floor, our seats and their seats. As the concert progressed, we were having a great time singing at the top of our lungs and dancing. I went up to sit with our friend Chris, who had always been a "wild child." Chris' brother, who was 3 years older than us, had always taken Chris with him to parties and such. So Chris was well seasoned at 14. Anyway, I went up sit with "the boys" and Chris offered me a cigarette. I said "Oh, no I can't. Tiff and Nikki would be so be so disappointed. They'll tell their moms." That was my excuse because I was afraid to smoke in front of these boys because they all knew how to smoke, and were really experienced. I had only stolen a few cigarettes from my mom and tried smoking them with bad Nikki (not good Nikki that was with me at the concert). And honestly, Nikki smoked most of them. I just got used to the taste. This may explain why she smoked for years, and may still smoke for all I know, and I don't. But I ended up giving into peer pressure, and smoking. Chris assured me that they couldn't see what I was doing. By the way, Chris was really good that this. It turned out that they were clove cigarettes. They taste like you are smoking potpourri. So it wasn't really that bad. And by the end Tiff and Nikki ended up smoking one also.

Next to being so cool that you actually got to go the concert, was to wear your concert t-shirt the next day to school. I still remember what mine looked like...white t-shirt with Poison written in lime green and a picture of the band on the front with all these bright accent colors like hot pink and more lime green. It was hot, trust me. (snicker, snicker)

That was probably one of the best concerts I ever went to not because of the music or the smoking, but because we had such a great time...we were so cool and independent. (Cool is a relative term.)

On a side note, the funny thing about the clove cigarettes was that you could buy them at the mall near the Civic Center. There was tobacco shop and you could just go in and buy them. So the parents would take us to the mall before the concerts and we would go buy the cigarettes. It is actually pretty funny to think about it now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bret Michaels does country

Call us nerds if you must, but we have gotten a kick out of seeing Bret Michaels on Nashville Star.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Saturday Night Dinner

Dean and I had his boss, Bill, and his fiance, Barbara, over for dinner. We had a wonderful evening of conversation and food. They love to come over for dinner because I make everything from scratch. They gave us a wonderful "thank you" gift; it was partly for dinner and partly for Dean doing a lot of above and beyond work, with very little thanks. They gave us a Henckels Santoku 7" knife (one I have been coveting for quite some time). And let me tell you, it's sharp. Just the point of it cut my hand pretty good.

So thank you, thank you, thank you for my, I mean, our new knife!

Fiery Shrimp Cocktail

To start the dinner, I fixed a fiery shrimp cocktail (Thanks again to Rachael Ray!) I served them out of martini glasses for a little extra touch. This shrimp cocktail has a wonderful kick thanks to the Louisiana Hot Sauce. I only varied from the recipe in two places. 1. I used Louisiana hot sauce. 2. I boiled and peeled my own shrimp. I boiled them with 1 Tbl of Old Bay just until they turned pink.

Fiery Shrimp Cocktail

1/4 cup hot pepper sauce, eyeball it (recommended: Tabasco)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 lemon zested and 1/2 lemon juiced
2 ribs celery, from the heart, finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 pound small to medium peeled, deveined and cooked shrimp, tails removed
4 pieces leaf lettuce

Combine hot pepper sauce, ketchup, lemon zest and juice, celery and parsley in a small bowl. Add shrimp and coat evenly. Chill 20 minutes, then line 4 cocktail glasses or small dishes with leaf lettuce and top each with 1/4 of chilled shrimp. Posted by Hello


Warm Apples and Goat Cheese Salad

For the salad I made warm apple and goat cheese salad (Thanks Paula Deen!) This salad was so refreshing. The dressing has a wonderful flavor and the Granny Smith apples and toasted walnuts adds a nice crunch. I used watercress lettuce instead of the spinach. And instead of mixing the dressing in a jar, I just whisked it in a bowl. The only hard part of this recipe was getting the apples and cheese off the baking sheet.

Warm Apple and Goat Cheese Salad

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 Belgian endives, cored and separated into leaves
1 bunch watercress or spinach, washed
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
4 ounces mild goat cheese, small log
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Using a glass jar with a tight lid, combine the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper, and shake well to blend. Add the oil and parsley and shake.

On 4 plates, arrange the endive leaves like spokes around each plate. Arrange the watercress or spinach in the center. Preheat the broiler, and arrange the sliced apples slightly overlapping in 4 fan shapes, place in broiler pan. Cut the cheese into 4 slices and top each apple fan with slices of cheese. Broil until golden for approximately 5 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully place the apple slices and cheese on top of the endive. Drizzle the dressing over the salads and sprinkle with walnuts

Posted by Hello


The Main Event

For the main course, I served pork tenderloin with jezebel sauce, dirty mashed potatoes, and creamy Parmesan spinach. The pork tenderloin, jezebel sauce, and dirty mashed potatoes are my recipes, and the creamy Parmesan spinach is Rachael Rays'. The pork is moist and it almost melts in your mouth. Serve it as an entree or as Hors d'Oeuvres (small biscuit, pork, jezebel sauce, and if you want sauted onions.)

Marinated Pork Tenderloin
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C dry sherry
1 C red wine
1 Tbl dry mustard
3 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or 1 Tbl garlic powder
2 lbs pork tenderloin
1/2 C apple cider vinegar

Combine first 8 ingredients in a shallow dish or heavy duty ziplock. Add tenderloin. Chill for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove tenderloin from marinade; reserving marinade. On the stovetop, combine marinade and vinegar. Heat to a boil. Keep an eye on this or it will boil over. Reduce heat to low and let simmer.

Grill tenderloin until fully cooked. While cooking, baste the tenderloin several times with heated marinade and vinegar.

Let meat stand 5 minutes before cutting so the juices can redistribute. Slice meat on an angle and serve with jezebel sauce.

Jezebel Sauce
1 C apple jelly
1 C orange marmalade
1 (6oz) jar prepared yellow mustard
1 (5 oz) jar prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp black pepper

With an electric mixer, beat apple jelly and orange marmalade in a mixing bowl at med speed. Add remaining ingredients; beat at med speed until blended.

Yields 3 cups*
*I half this recipe when I make it, unless I'm preparing 3 or 4 tenderloins. Also you can vary the horseradish to your tasting. If you like things that have a good kick, go heavy on the horsey. If not, go light on the horsey.

Dirty Mashed Potatoes
6-7 med red potatoes, cubed and skins on
1 stick butter
6 oz cream cheese
1/2 - 1 C heavy cream or milk (depending on how rich you want them)
fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over high heat, bring the potatoes and water to a boil. Boil until "fork" tender. Don't over boil. You want them to soft but not mushy. While the potatoes are cooking, put the butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl to allow for them to soften. When the potatoes are done cooking, drain of the water and add the potatoes to the mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, begin mixing the potatoes on low to med speed. Once the potatoes begin to "mash", turn the mixer up to med speed and begin to stream in the cream. These potatoes are supposed to be thick and lumpy, so don't over beat them. At the very end, add in chives, salt and pepper.

Creamy Parmesan Spinach
3 boxes frozen spinach, defrosted
2 (3-ounce) bricks cream cheese
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped*
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, 2 rounded handfuls
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
(1/2 tsp nutmeg)**

Place spinach in microwave to defrost. Place boxes on a dish to defrost the spinach because it will leak. While spinach defrosts, place cream cheese and onions in a medium sauce pot over low heat. While cream cheese is melting and spinach is defrosting, continue forward with meal prep then return to spinach. When the cream cheese melts, add Parmesan and black pepper to the cheese. Drain spinach in clean kitchen towel, wringing it out until dry. Stir spinach into sauce, season with a pinch of salt, to taste, if necessary and let the spinach sit over lowest heat possible 10 minutes, stirring occasionally

*I grated the onion instead of chopping. I didn't want my guests to have super onion-y breath.
**I added nutmeg to take a little bit of edge off the spinach.

Posted by Hello


Raspberry-almond cake

And for dessert, my favorite raspberry-almond cake. This is by far one of my favorites. I have been making it for about 9 years now. However, I will not post this recipe because it's my shock and awww recipe. I would hate to show up at the same event, and some else has made my cake. This is not my best looking cake that I've ever made, but man it did taste good. I usually put sliced almonds on the sides and cover the top with fresh raspberries. I got lazy with this one. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 15, 2005

Uncle Sam

All the taxes(Fed, SC and IA) are done, checks written, signed, sealed up, and ready to go to the post office. I've had them done for awhile, but didn't want to pay my uncle the money until the last minute.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Emma Jean the Cleaning Machine

When I was growing up, we had a woman, Emma Jean, who would come in and clean our house with the exception of my room. It was too messy even for the housecleaner. She was a hoot and half. She had whitest, bleach blonde hair I personally have ever seen, and she'd come rolling into 606 with her country music just blaring out of her Monte Carlo. The first order of business was to drink a pot of coffee with my mom and catch up with the week's past events. (She cleaned for about 6 other families. And as I have said in my other posts, gossip runs rampant in a small town.) Then they would decide what needed to be done. Since it was pretty much just my mom and me, and she didn't clean my room unless all the clothes were off the floor, they would decide what "high points" needed to be cleaned. Then she would turn all the TVs on to channel 2, the community notice channel, because it played music all day. After that it was fury of cleaning and singing. One of my favorite moments with Emma Jean was one morning during the summer, I was trying to sleep in, probably sleeping off the night before, and here she comes down the stairs with the vacuum, belting out "Angel in the Morning." It was so incredibly funny in my teenage mind, and in my 31 year old mind it still makes me laugh. I relayed this story to a friend of mine, Victor, who also had his house cleaned by Emma Jean. Now even as adults we still laugh about Angel in the Morning.

Anyway, I wish I still had Emma Jean coming over once week, hick every two weeks would be awesome.

Detained again

On one my favorite shows on TV, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, they were doing a segment called "Where are They Now and Who were They Again?" Jon Stewart started talking about John Ashcroft and Regent University. Whenever I hear Regent, my ears perk up because a good friend of ours, Jeff, received his law degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach (The school run by evangelist Pat Robertson). Well Regent has gone from ultra conservative to conservative infinity.

Look out Virginia, John Ashcroft is coming to town.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Geocaching ... travel bugs

I enjoy keeping up with several travel bugs from the Geocaching that Jeni and I have done, or our family has released. Noah's Bug is really going places. There is one bug we have on our watch list that is driving me nuts, though, because the lady who has him is taking him to cache after cache, making log entries, and keeping him. She has had him for months (picked up February 4 ... Kelly's birthday), and some days, I will get about 20 emails telling me of her log entries. Yes, I could remove him from my watch list, but I still want to know where he ends up.

Star Wars scene

OK ... I'm a big dork and probably should reveal the extent of it to everyone, but this just made me laugh out loud. Thanks to the great folks at Target, I was able to make my own personalized Star Wars scene. The part where they load everyone into the Millenium Falcon was my favorite, becuase anyone who has played with the original figures has done that exact thing many times. I hope you enjoy.

Balsamic Chicken Salad

This salad has a super fresh taste. Basically I topped an ordinary garden salad with some marinated chicken that I grilled.

Balsamic Chicken Salad

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 large lemon, juiced
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 chicken breast, cut into pieces
coarse salt and pepper to taste

Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl or large food storage bag. Coat chicken evenly in marinade. I let the chicken set for about 5 minutes.

Over med or med-high heat, drizzle 1 Tbl olive oil in a non-stick skillet or grill pan. Add chicken and cook for about 7-10 mins, depending on the size of the pieces and the amount.

Serve warm over a garden salad and top with balsamic vinaigrette (homemade or store bought).
Posted by Hello


Monday, April 11, 2005

They hated to spread gossip

I came across this story and I found it very interesting for two reasons - 1. I remember these murders happening because I grew up in a town only 20 minutes away from where the murders took place and murder was so rare in our area it really took center stage; and 2. After I went away to college, I never once thought about this case again. But as with all small towns there is always some kind of personal drama in a big story like this one.** (ie: "You know the mayor in the story, well he's so and so's dad, and you know what ...yada yada yada") You get what I'm talking about if you are from a small town. Let the gossip fly!

I sent a friend of mine an Anne Taintor postcard that said "they hated to spread gossip." She too is from a very small town and understands the irony of the postcard. And I believe this is the card Tiffany gave Lisa on her 30th birthday. And the icing on the cake is this card. It could be used over and over. My friends are going to get sick of getting that card for every occasion.

**and even with the really small ones.

Hollins' Girls go Molly Ringwald

Once again, as promised here is a picture from Tiffany, the pink plaid bridesmaid's dresses from Stephanie wedding. I think they look beautiful. The bride's magazine picture doesn't do these dresses justice. Plus the setting makes everything look gorgeous. If I'm not mistaken, all the women in the picture went to Hollins College with Tiffany and Stephanie. (Tiff can correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.) Posted by Hello

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pretty in Pink....plaid

Well here is a picture of the dress that Tiff wore in a her friend's wedding. The funny thing is usually the models make the dress look awesome, and when "real" women put them on, they look like crap. But in the case of this dress, the real women made these dresses look fantastic! If I can get Tiff to send me one of the pictures from the wedding, I'll post it. Posted by Hello

Orange County Choppers

As promised here is a picture of the autographed OCC hat that my friend Tiff received for Easter. Now that' pretty cool. Please note the picture in the foreground: that is Tiff at her friend Stephanie's wedding. She had to wear this pink plaid bridesmaid dress. It actually looked beautiful! Posted by Hello

Salmon Cakes Salad

We really enjoyed these salmon cakes and salad (Thanks Rachael Ray!). I didn't change the cakes recipe, but I did only use the romaine hearts and spinach instead of all four greens. We love tomatoes so I added Santa Sweets. The vinaigrette is very tasty. I've used it on a spinach salad and it was wonderful. I used the new pouches of salmon, I think they are produced by Chicken of the Sea. There is no draining or yucky things that are sometimes in the canned salmon. If I had leftover fresh salmon, I would have used that.

Salmon Cakes Salad

2 (14-ounce) cans salmon with bones, drained
2 egg whites, beaten
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
A few drops hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper - 1/2 pepper from a jar, drained, then chopped Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan

1 head frissee lettuce, coarsely chopped
1 endive, sliced
1 romaine heart, chopped
2 cups baby spinach leaves, from bulk bins of market, just over 1/4 pound
1 navel orange, peeled and chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
Salt and pepper

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat.

Combine salmon, egg white, bread crumbs, crab boil seasoning, hot sauce, parsley, roasted red pepper and salt and pepper. Form 4 patties, 1-inch thick.

Add vegetable oil to hot pan, 1 turn of the pan. Add patties and cook about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.

Combine greens, chopped orange and red onion in a salad bowl. Combine orange zest, vinegar and a splash of juice from the zested orange in a small bowl. Whisk in extra-virgin olive oil to desired bite and constituency for dressing. Dress and toss salad. Season the salad with salt and pepper, to taste then divide among 4 plates. Top salads with warm salmon cakes and serve with Ham and Rosemary Scones or warm pumpernickel bread and butter, as a close-second choice.

Posted by Hello


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Open-Faced Chili Burgers on Grilled Portobello "Buns" with Smoked Cheese

Another winner from the kitchen of Rachael Ray.

Dean and I really enjoyed these burgers. The portobello "buns were so good. I started looking for low-carb recipes because we were having Dean's boss and fiance over for dinner and they are currently on the South Beach Diet. I ended up making something else for them, but thought this recipe would be awesome. The burgers have a lot of heat but the portobello and cheese help balance it out. The only thing I would do differently is I would not work the ground sirloin too much. The burgers were starting to fall apart a little when I grilled them. I used my cast iron grill skillet for the burgers. I didn't make the Macho Gazpacho Vegetable Chunk Salad

The oven baked herb fries are becoming a standard in our house. I have made these a ton of different ways. In the picture I used Italian seasonings and shredded Parmesan cheese. Another favorite is with rosemary and parm.

Open-Faced Chili Burgers on Grilled Portobello "Buns" with Smoked Cheese

4 portobello mushroom caps
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball the amount
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, a splash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it, plus extra for drizzling
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons dark chili powder, a palm full
1 tablespoon steak seasoning blend (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
8 ounces smoked white cheddar (recommended: Cabot brand) or smoked gouda, sliced
2 roasted red peppers, drained, available in salad bar and deli sections of market in bulk or in jars
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves or flat-leaf parsley
Macho Gazpacho Vegetable Chunk Salad

Preheat grill pan or large nonstick griddle pan over medium high to high heat. Brush mushroom caps with damp towel to clean them. Scrape away gills with a spoon. Combine Worcestershire sauce with balsamic vinegar, then whisk in 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Brush mushrooms with dressing. Grill mushrooms on hot grill pan or griddle for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until tender. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Combine meat in a bowl with onion, garlic, jalapeno, tomato paste, chili powder and steak seasoning blend. Form meat into 4 large (1 1/2 inch-thick) patties. Grill meat 4 to 7 minutes on each side for medium-rare to well done burgers. Melt cheese over burgers during the last minute or 2 the meat is on the grill. A loose foil tent will help the cheese melt quicker.
While the meat cooks, grind the roasted red peppers in a food processor with cilantro or parsley.
To assemble, place a portobello cap-side-down on a plate and spread a spoonful or 2 of the ground roasted red peppers into the cavity. Top with a chili-smoked cheese burger and serve. Macho Gazpacho Chunk Vegetable Salad makes a great side dish.

Herb and Cheese Oven Fries

3 all purpose potatoes, such as russet, cut into thin wedges
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, just enough to coat
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or, 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme, parsley Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Place potato wedges on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with just enough oil to coat. Season with Italian dried seasoning, salt and pepper. Roast potatoes and turn after 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese liberally on potatoes and roast another 10 minutes, serve.

Posted by Hello


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Super Foods

Ten Super Foods you should eat according to Nutrition Action Healthletter.

1. Cantaloupe -- A quarter of a delicious melon supplies almost as much vitamin A and C as most people need in an entire day.
2. Sweet Potatoes -- A nutritional All-Star - one of the best vegetables you can eat. They're loaded with carotenoids, vitamins C, potassium, and fiber. Mix in unsweetened applesauce or crushed pineapple for extra moisture and sweetness.
3. Fat-free (skim) or low fat milk (1%) -- Excellent source of calcium, vitamins, and protein with little or no artery-clogging fat and cholesterol. (soy milk can have just as many nutrients - if the company adds them.)
4. Kellogg's All Bran Original or Post 100% Bran -- A half-cup serving of bran cereal provides more than a third of the fiber you need for an entire day - to reduce the risk of constipation, diverticulosis, and heart disease.
5. Oranges -- Great tasting and rich in vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber.
6. Broccoli --Lots of vitamin C, carotenoids, and folic acid.
7. Whole grain bread -- It's higher in fiber and about a dozen vitamins and minerals than enriched white bread or wheat bread.
8. Watermelon -- Excellent source of vitamin C and carotenoids - and it tastes great! Perfect snack, dessert, or picnics.
9. Beans -- Inexpensive, low in fat, and rich in protein, iron, folic acid, and fiber. Choose garbanzo, pinto, black, Navy, kidney, or lentils. Eat them as a side dish or snack, in a torilla with salsa, or a in soup.
10. Spinach or Kale -- Loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, calcium, and fiber. Steam'em and eat'em.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sometimes the government surprises you

Every once in a while, the government actually surprises you and says something that makes so much sense that you can only hope and pray that the people have not become so jaded that they can actually hear the message. There is a billboard near our apartment that reads "Sometimes the best medicine is no medicine at all." This is an awareness campaign by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control to make people more aware of the overuse of antibiotics. And while I do not agree with exactly everything the website says, the overall message and objective is sound and worth sharing. Their objectives: To decrease inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics for viral infections; and To help parents understand that antibiotics are not always indicated for respiratory illness and that they should discuss alternative treatment options with their healthcare provider. Let's hope the message does not fall on deaf ears. (OK, full disclosure ... the alternative treatment options link is my influence, not theirs.)

Chicken Nuggets with Honey Mustard Sauce

These are some of the best chicken nuggets I've ever had thanks to Paula Deen. The sour cream and onion chips add such a unique flavor. I'm sure you could use any flavor of chip you like. This recipe took no time at all to prepare, maybe 10 minutes prep and 15-20 minute cooking time. I baked these in my cast iron grill skillet. The grilling ridges help keep the chips crispy on the bottom. I also sprinkled a little paprika on top after the butter to give it a nice golden appearance.

Chicken Nuggets with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

2 cups crushed sour-cream-and-onion-flavored potato chips
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
6 chicken breast fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup butter, melted
Honey Mustard, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the crushed potato chips in a shallow dish. Beat together the egg and milk in a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken cubes into the egg mixture and then dredge them in the chips. Place the chicken nuggets on a baking sheet and drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. The chicken nuggets can be frozen after baking. Serve with your favorite sauce, such as honey mustard or ranch dressing.

Honey Mustard:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice or juice from 1/2 lemon
Horseradish, to taste
2 tablespoons orange juice (more or less as needed)

Combine all ingredients except orange juice; stir well. Thin to pouring consistency for dressing or dipping consistency for dips with orange juice. Cover and chill for 2 or 3 hours. Posted by Hello


Buffalo chicken salad

Once again, Rachael Ray has come through with another quick and delicious meal. This recipe is quickly becoming a household favorite. When I make this, I don't change a thing. At first I thought about using bottled blue cheese dressing that I had in the fridge, but thank goodness I didn't because the blue cheese crumbles are wonderful. This recipe is pretty healthy in comparison to actual buffalo wings. No skin, no deep frying, very little butter, and lots of veggies. For hot sauce I use Louisiana Hot Sauce. It has good flavor and just enough heat to really enjoy having all the cool veggies and blue cheese dressing.

Buffalo Chicken Salad
2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots, available in pouches
2 ribs celery with greens, chopped
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 package, 3/4 to 1 pound, chicken tenders, cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup hot sauce

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine lettuce, carrots and celery in a salad bowl. Combine ranch dressing and blue cheese crumbles in a small bowl.

Add oil and butter to hot pan with the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and sear for 2 or 3 minutes, then add hot sauce. Reduce heat a little and cook 5 minutes more.

Toss salad with dressing and season with salt and pepper. Top salad with Buffalo chicken and serve. Posted by Hello


Denny's Favorite - Waldorf Salad

If you have every spent a weekend at my in-laws house, you have surely had Denny's waldorf salad. It's one of my favorite parts of going to their house. Denny will whip this up for breakfast with some bagel or sausage biscuits. Dean and I sort of got on kick for about two weeks where we were just craving this. It's super easy and the amounts can be adjusted very easily. Dean and I have made this to our tasting...this isn't Denny's exact recipe because he makes it on the fly. Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad
2 large Granny Smith apples, coarsely chopped
juice from a half of lemon
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 C walnuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toast to release the oils*
1/2 to 3/4 C raisins
1/3 C Mayo, regular or low fat
1 tsp sugar
a pinch of salt

In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. Add celery, walnuts, and raisins to apples. In a separate bowl, combine mayo, sugar, and salt. Toss mayo mixture with apple mixture. Chill for 1 hour then serve. Waldorf salad can be served over greens if desired.

* To toast walnuts

Stove top method: for small batches
Toast walnuts before chopping. Over med-low heat, place walnuts in a skillet. Heat until you can smell the oils being released. This should take about 4 minutes. Stir or toss walnuts frequently while toasting. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don't burn.

Oven method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast walnuts BEFORE chopping them into smaller pieces.
Place nuts in a single layer in an ungreased shallow pan or RIMMED baking sheet such as a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. (DO NOT use a baking sheet without sides. You may have nuts all over the oven if you accidentally tip the sheet when removing it from the oven.)
Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until they are GOLDEN brown. A toasted walnut may look more GOLDEN than BROWN. They will continue to brown slightly after they're removed from the oven. Stir once or twice or shake the pan during toasting to aid in even browning.
Remove from pan to cool.
NOTE: The first time you try toasting walnuts, it's better to err on the side of under-toasting than over-toasting. As walnuts toast, you'll notice a change in their fragrance as well as their color.

Posted by Hello


Sunday, April 03, 2005

International House of Football

Our friend Todd runs a website for a computer football game where you manage the team and the computer simulates the results based on your front office decisions and matchups. Recently, one of the "team owners" who is a graphic designer, designed a t-shirt for the league that they are printing through Cafe Press so you can print one without a huge expense. Reactions among his friends range from "oh, what a geek, how'd you ever get Nikki to marry you?" (the girls) to "how cool!" (the guys)

Green thumb

We went to IHOP for breakfast this morning (stuffed french toast -- yum!), and afterward swung through Home Depot and picked up some plants. We were disappointed with the produce options here last spring and summer, especially the tomatoes, so we bought four tomato plants and a variety of herbs for the back porch.

A flat and ink refills

We spent an eternity at Sam's Club Saturday while I had a flat tire repaired/replaced. My rear passenger tire on the Honda had gone flat, which, not being a mechanic (or having much mechanical know-how), I supposed could be patched or plugged. So we went to Sam's where I thought we had bought the tires. Without any question, the girl at the desk takes my info and says "We'll call you." Well to keep this brief and not as frustrating to you as it was to me ... three hours later, three conversations with a manager, and some harsh tones and we finally rolled out of there with a new tire on my car. It appears that they were short staffed, and since, as the mechanic said, "It's just a flat tire," we didn't rank very high, it was two hours before the tire was even assessed to know that the tire needed to be replaced. Poor management in that section, no doubt. They did refund the $9 installation fee for our trouble, which is only $9, but it's the principle.

While we waited, though, we came across the ink refill kits that are compatible with our printer. The cartridges for our printer don't last long, are getting more expensive and harder to find, so this was a score. Jeni refilled them last night (a little trial and error), and they're working real good.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Same comic strip?

So on April 1, I read my comics in the morning like I usually do. It seems that maybe the writers for Get Fuzzy and FoxTrot have been talking. On the same day, they had exactly the same setup and essentially the same punchline.