Come On In My Kitchen

One room is practically finished which means it’s only appropriate to give you a glimpse into the house we are turning into our home.

The kitchen is one of the things that sold me on this house  [the other is the outdoor fireplace, but you’ll have to wait to see that transformation for a few weeks]. It’s a huge space that screams entertaining and has an island begging to be covered in flour and sugar on a regular basis. Also? Hello granite countertops and gas stove/oven. I’m living the dream!

Err…we. We are living the dream 🙂

You’ll notice there isn’t anything wrong with the kitchen in it’s present state (except for the lack of a fridge), but we wanted to inject a little of our style into it. The red walls are ventian plaster and perfect for Hog fans living in Texas. Yay for no painting in this room! Adam and I luckily have similar styles and visions for the house which has made it quite fun to toss ideas around. Ultimately, we wanted a kitchen that was welcoming and inviting with a bit of a vintage industrial undertone and once the breakfast nook is completed I think we will have achieved our goal.

We took a road trip to Fredericksburg – my FAVORITE small town ever because of its quaint shops in the downtown – and visited our favorite store red. Red is full of amazing vintage finds and contemporary patterns, not to mention one of a kind junk turned art accessories and mid-century style furnishings.

Basically? It’s my dream.

We went in red for inspiration more than anything and walked out with 3 light fixtures! Two to replace the too-formal-for-us island pendants and one to replace the completely not us light in the dining room (for almost 75% off which I LOVE and you’ll also have to wait to see – I’m such a tease).

Adam assured me that switching the pendants would be an easy job.

Ha!

We really are new and naive homeowners.

It took Adam several choice words and at least an hour to switch the first pendant because the electrical box itself wasn’t centered in the hole among other problems which he tried to explain to me and I just ignored didn’t understand. The second light was much easier to switch and he was practically pleasant to be around during the installation. He even let me snap a picture of him hard at work. Gotta love a handy hubby!

I really love how our new slightly vintage and slightly industrial lights look above the island.

The stools were also a happy accident. My parents visited this past weekend to help us unpack and organize a bit. Friday, while mom and I were out and about, we made a last minute stop at World Market. These stools compliment what will be our breakfast table chairs perfectly and also helped add an industrial feel to the kitchen.

Best of all? They were on sale and I got both for the price of one if regularly priced. Score!

Also, my mom? Is a pantry genius. Such a HUGE help, thanks mom!

The stools and the pendants were the big initial aesthetic changes in the kitchen, but the fridge was a necessity that Adam has been enthralled with ever since it was delivered.

Why?

Because it has one magical feature.

The water dispenser has an auto fill option. This means that you can place any pitcher or glass under the spout hit auto fill and walk away. Water is dispensed into the container without spilling and it is even measured in ounces on the screen for you. We’ve tried many different types of containers in hopes of tripping it up and we haven’t yet. So yeah, we bought a fridge and our favorite feature is the in-door water dispenser. What does this say about us?

Finally, we had to put a little Razorback spirit around the kitchen. 🙂

In the near future I want to add some rugs or runners around the island and in the “if money was made on trees” very distant future I’d like to replace the backsplash with some nice white subway tile and maybe refinish the cabinets.

For now the kitchen suits us perfectly and we couldn’t be happier!

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Christening

We finished unpacking and organizing the kitchen and I cannot stop cooking on our gas stove. Seriously where has this been all my life? I feel like I’m on Food Network.

Ever since we bought our house I’ve said that our island was begging to be covered in flour and today it happened. Consider my kitchen officially christened.

Recently, I learned of fellow Austinite, Hilah’s, cooking blog. All of her recipes look fantastic and late this afternoon I decided to tackle an entire, made from scratch, taco dinner using her recipes. Partially because Adam had been craving tacos the past few today, but mainly because it meant I could cover our island in flour. YES!!

I’ve always been intimidated by making tortillas, but I really shouldn’t have been. They were super easy and Hilah’s recipe called for only 5 ingredients.

I mixed unbleached flour, baking powder, and salt before adding in oil and skim milk.

Then I kneaded the dough into a ball before letting it rest for 30 minutes.

The last step before cooking was rolling the dough into tortillas. In total, I got 10 tortillas out of this recipe.

Cooking the tortillas was easy peezy yellow cheesy. All I did was throw a tortilla on a hotter than Hades cast iron skillet, let one side start bubbling up, then flip to cook the other side. Super simple and fast!

I ate the tortillas along with Hilah’s Fluffy Mexican Rice and beef mixture from her Cripsy Beef Tacos.

We loved this meal and I have a feeling the tortillas will be made on a weekly basis so that we have some on hand anytime we want them.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I’ve always loved cooking, but leftovers? Not so much. I mean, I can enjoy them for lunch the next day, maybe dinner too, but typically after one additional meal I’m totally over it and want something different.

Now that we’re married, and basking in newlywed bliss, it’s been wonderful to fix a recipe and know that it won’t go bad before I tire of eating it – because there’s 2 people to eat the leftovers!

Last week, as we began to decorate our little abode for Christmas I decided to get in the kitchen and cook a meal. It had started getting chilly outside and I wasn’t really in the mood for soup or chili. Thankfully, Pinterest came to the rescue with Lemon Roasted Chicken and Hasselback Potatoes.

The chicken was phenomenal. Both Adam and I devoured it. Adam even requested that it be a regular meal in my arsenal – I’m good with that!

We both thought the recipe could easily be adapted for chicken breasts, though I cooked it as directed using chicken thighs. In fact, we’ll probably try it with chicken breasts next time. Mmm…next time, my mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

Added bonus: the chicken was just as delicious reheated the next night for dinner!

Now, I’m not gonna lie and tell you the potatoes tasted as good as they looked coming out of the oven. I mean, they were good, but the flavors didn’t blend throughout and sometimes you were stuck eating plain roasted potatoes with no seasoning.Plus, they were a pain to slice and season thoroughly  – which probably explains why the flavors didn’t blend.

Next time, I think I’ll use the same seasonings but toss them with potato wedges or slices instead of the fanned whole potatoes.

Lemon Chicken

from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to blend.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425Ëš F.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade.
  5. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned.
  7. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.
  8. Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Baked Hasselback Potatoes

from Chicho’s Kitchen

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed (leave skin on)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped chives for garnish
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ËšF (220ÂşC).
  2. Slice each potato crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals, cutting to within 1/4 inch of the bottom. Be careful not to slice all the way through. The potato will fan out a bit as it bakes.
  3. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
  4. Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully insert pinches of this mixture in between the slits of the potatoes.
  6. Rub the outsides of the potatoes with residual oil.
  7. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. The inside should be cooked through and the outside of the potato should be a bit crispy.
  8. Garnish with additional parmesan and chives!

Noses are Deceiving

Now that [almost] all of the boxes are unpacked and I’m slowly able to start accessorizing rooms, I’m feeling more settled. Adam’s old “grandma chic” bachelor pad apartment is starting to feel like the home in which we’ll start our life together.

Every day this week I’ve made a concerted effort to make a visible dent in a random room as far as organization goes. I’ve stored books and papers from my old cubicle in my old dresser we refinished, hung pictures, replaced lamp shades, put away our china, and pulled out my Scentsy.

Y’all have one of these, right? I’m obsessed with mine. I love letting the scents permeate my apartment and now that I’m working from home all day you better believe I have it on all day every day.

Back in September, on a rare trip to Wal-Mart, I bought some wax cubes by Better Homes & Garden. I wanted to have seasonal fragrances like Apple Strudel, Pumpkin Pie, Blueberry Muffin, and Gingerbread. Tuesday, was my first day to use my Scentsy warmer since moving and I chose to put in a Gingerbread cube. I put it in mid-morning and had forgotten about it until Adam came home from work that evening.

He walks straight to the kitchen looking for a freshly baked batch of cookies. I felt horrible that the Scentsy led him astray so that night, we worked late cleaning the counters and putting away the remaining wedding gifts and serving pieces I already owned. Essentially, we made the kitchen usable.

And yesterday? Because I wanted an excuse to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Adam got his cookies. Dark Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip.

This time, the scent he smelled as he walked through the door is edible! Given the fact that he ate almost an entire dozen by himself in one hour, I’d say he thought they were scrumptious!

Dark Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/4  cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed until creamy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla until all ingredients are blended.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating well as you go.
  6. Stir in chocolate.
  7. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.

Yield: 5 dozen

A Kitchen Experiment

If you know me in real life, or are a regular reader of my blog, chances are you’ve either read about my mother’s famous Dishpan Cookies (aka Crack Cookies) or tried them for yourself and agreed.

Cookies

Well, kids. Hold on to your seats, because you’re in for a treat! Tonight? I created Dishpan Muffins. Yep, you read right. Muffins!

Last week I ran across a recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins on the blog How Sweet It Is. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had a solid foundation from which to create my version: Dishpan Muffins.

I mixed and measured. Poured and baked. Cooled and ate. And upon trying my first bite I referred to myself as a culinary genius.

Obviously, I don’t have self-esteem problems.

These muffins are moist, sweet, and have a lovely hint of spice to them. Promise me you’ll make them immediately, okay?

Promise?

Good.

Dishpan Muffins
inspired by How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (any kind will do)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 1/3 cup cornflakes + a little extra for sprinkling on top
  • Raw turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Add oats to a bowl and add milk. Let soak for 5-10 minutes, while you prepare the first few steps of the muffins.
  3. In a large bowl, combine egg and brown sugar and whisk until smooth and caramel in color.
  4. Add in vanilla and butter, whisking well. Try to smooth the batter as much as possible – there still may be some small butter chunks.
  5. Add flour, oat mixture, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix until smooth.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips, coconut, and cornflakes .
  7. Line a muffin tin with liners and pour about 1/4 cup batter into each line.
  8. Sprinkle the tops with raw turbinado sugar and slightly crushed cornflakes
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cooked through.

Yield: 15 muffins

Confessions of a Real Housewives Addict

Full disclosure?

I’m addicted to the Real Housewives franchise of reality television.

As in, you say Orange County and I still shed a tear over the breakup of Jo and Slade. New York City? I immediately think of the crazy catwalk Ramona did in a fashion show. Atlanta? I think of the dysfunctional relationship of Kim and Big Poppa. New Jersey? Someone needs to get Danielle a straight jacket. Beverly Hills? The home of $60,000 children’s birthday parties. D.C? The party-crashing Salahis.

This obsession for the RH franchise is pointless, but it’s like a trainwreck, I. Can’t. Stop. Watching. Unfortunately, the effects of RH last much longer than the 1 or 2 hours it’s on each week. Take, for instance, this summer when my family drove through Georgia en route to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We pass through Atlanta and the only thing that goes through my head is Don’t be Tardy for the Party.

Apparently, the trend for Real Housewives turned [bad] singers has continued. Countess LuAnn, from New York City, released Money Can’t Buy You Class this spring and Danielle, from New Jersey, released a collaboration with Lori Michaels aptly titled Real Close this summer. Fortunately, though not all the housewives are wannabe recording artists. Kandi, from Atlanta, was a member of the group of Xscape and is a Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter. She released Fly Above last fall. So there is some street cred mixed in.

But it’s not just my music collection that’s seen the effects of RH…

This obsession has also influenced what comes out of my kitchen, thanks to the Skinny Italian cookbook by Teresa Giudice, from New Jersey. While she’s most notably known for table-flipping in the general direction of Danielle and shoving Andy Cohen down during the reunion special this past season, she’s also a “writer”. Who knew?

I picked up the cookbook during a regular Barnes & Noble browse with Adam as a joke, just to make him uncomfortable as we meandered around the store. Then, I started looking through the recipes. Oh, the recipes. My mouth was literally watering as I read through the ingredients for each dish. I was all “Adam! Look at this!”, “This sounds amazing!”, “OMG I HAVE to make THIS!”. Begrudgingly he took a look, and, to my surprise, said “That does sound good!”

Of course, then I HAD to buy the cookbook and I’m so glad I did. So far I’ve made 3 dishes/sauces from it and all of them have been exceptional, but my favorite is the Arrabbiata (or Angry Sauce) for pasta.  It’s spicy, but not light your tongue on fire. It’s got a great flavor depth to it and tastes even better the next day as leftovers.

Arrabbiata Sauce
from Skinny Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent. About 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in red pepper.
  4. Stir in Basic Tomato Sauce, lemon juice, and pepper.
  5. Bring to simmer.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until lightly thickened. About 15 minutes.
  7. Simmer up to 40 minutes, the longer it simmers the hotter the sauce.
  8. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Yield: approximately 3 3/4 cups, enough for 1 lb pasta

Basic Tomato Sauce
from Skinny Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed or diced in their juices
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add basil.
  4. Simmer for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Yield: approximately 3 1/2 cups, enough for 1 lb pasta

Life List

In my blog-stalking, I’ve recently noticed lots of “life list” posts or blogs and thought I should get on the bandwagon. One, because it’s probably a good idea to think about what I want to accomplish in this life. Two, because it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun to dream, isn’t it?

So, following in the footsteps of Walking the Long Road, Damn You, Little Rock and If You Ask Me here’s my life list.

  1. Go back to Prague and come home with crystal.
  2. Flip a house.
  3. Take a cruise in the Mediterranean.
  4. Gamble in Vegas (and maybe even win big).
  5. Buy a house and make it a home.
  6. Adopt a dog. [If it’s a Corgi name it Radar.]
  7. Read more classic literature.
  8. Watch all of Julie Andrews’ movies.
  9. Take the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria.
  10. Take my parents on a vacation.
  11. Trace my family genealogy.
  12. Make homemade ice cream by myself.
  13. Own a paperie.
  14. Take an autumnal trip through the New England states.
  15. Relearn how to throw pottery. [I was in elementary school the first time. Does that even count?]
  16. Travel abroad with Adam.
  17. Write a novel.
  18. Get aforementioned novel published.
  19. Visit Paris.
  20. Sit and sip in a Parisian Cafe.
  21. Win the lottery.
  22. Learn to surf.
  23. Visit all 50 states.
  24. Take a road trip through Tuscany.
  25. Have a street named after me (even if it’s just my driveway).
  26. Get my M.Ed.
  27. Update my blog on a regular basis.
  28. Resist the urge to change my blog address again.
  29. Visit the Storm King Art Center.
  30. Broaden my culinary horizons (aka find more foods I like).
  31. Learn to tat.
  32. Learn to crochet.
  33. Carry on the tradition of my Great-Aunt Lila and Great-Grandmother Mama Ward’s handmade snowflakes.
  34. Host Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family.
  35. Buy a real ironing board.
  36. Actually iron.
  37. Make fresh pasta.
  38. Get married. [once]
  39. Become a mother.
  40. Adopt a child.
  41. Find the most ridiculous items possible in a Dollar Store and share them with the world.
  42. Meet Meryl Streep.
  43. Go to the Ellen Show.
  44. Go snow-skiing in Colorado again.
  45. Volunteer with Ozark Mission Project.
  46. Grow a succulent garden.
  47. Attend the Olympics.
  48. Be an Olympic athlete. In curling.
  49. Go to the Oscars.
  50. Go to Wimbledon.
  51. Bowl a perfect game.
  52. Create a signature dish.
  53. Visit Nantucket.
Free graphics found on pugly pixel. Personalized by me.

Shrimp Addict?

I should probably start this post with a confession. For the past 3 days, my main source of protein at each meal (except breakfast) has been shrimp. I may have a problem.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

I had mentioned earlier that my local K-Roger let me down, but luckily Fresh Market came through for me. I don’t normally drive 30 miles for groceries, but since I was already in Little Rock visiting my parents last night to pick up some things I was able to grab the 2 necessary ingredients for Sunny Anderson’s Shrimp in a Garlic Pepperoni Sauce from Fresh Market on my way home. Plus, stopping at Fresh Market gave me the excuse to pick up one of my favorite treats, chocolate covered banana chips. Some serious yum right there folks!

After imagining what this dish tasted like for 3 days, I was excited to make it after Jazzercise. Once I got home, I opened up my MacBook and cranked up my Eat & Greet playlist, because it’s the perfect mix to have in the background while you cook.

I’m not gonna lie, there was a bit of prep involved: chopping a full HEAD of garlic, dicing 16 ounces of pepperoni, removing the tails off a pound and a half of shrimp, but in the end the prep was worth it. The flavors were intense and not spicy like I was expecting, though next time I probably won’t use quite so much pepperoni or olive oil.

Shrimply Delicious

Yesterday, as I was watching Food Network in bed, I was absolutely delighted by the Shrimp in a Garlic Pepperoni Sauce Sunny Anderson made on Cooking For Real. I mean, I love pepperoni, I love garlic, and I looooove schrimp. Mmm mmm wonderful schrimp. [Don’t adjust your vision folks, I typed schrimp] My mouth was watering as she made it and I could practically smell its goodness through my television, so it should come as no surprise that I would make it for dinner Sunday night.

After my Sunday Jazzercise ritual, I went to my neighborhood K-Roger to purchase the necessary ingredients. Unfortunately, K-Roger had other plans, which included not having 2 of the ingredients I needed: Pepperoni that didn’t have Hormel in the name and Adobo seasonings. I was defeated and schlepped to the front of the store for a fresh start. As I schlepped, I remembered my go-to shrimp recipe that I hadn’t made in quite a while (okay, maybe a year), and my mood brightened. Garlicky Lemon Shrimp anyone? I promise it will change your life.

Garlicky Lemon Shrimp by Rocco DiSpirito

Ingredients

  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (I use the juice of 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (I use shredded)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Italian Style)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add cheese and bread crumbs (coat evenly).
  5. Spread shrimp on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  6. Bake 5 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serves 4

A World Without Ro*tel?

Ro*tel Cheese DipArkansas: The Birthplace of Cheese Dip.

Cheese Dip: The State Food of Arkansas. The staple appetizer at practically any restaurant you visit. The required tailgate food. The perfect topping for chips, chili, rice, and, yes, even burgers. It’s simplicity can be summed up in 2 ingredients: Velveeta and Ro*tel. A match made in heaven if you ask me.

Being raised in Arkansas, I’ve never even considered that some people have never had the pleasure of tasting this delightful dish, not to mention being oblivious to the mere existence of Ro*tel. This weekend, however, I learned that one of my dear friends “up North”, Jules, was one of those unfortunately oblivious souls. Upon finding this out, it became my mission yesterday to force her to make Ro*tel Cheese Dip, or as I like to call it – Ro*tel. In a series of IM conversations, a phone call, tweets, and the offer of a Skype session, I convinced Jules to gather the necessary ingredients and make Ro*tel for dinner.

Me: So in two weeks, I’ll be attending the World Cheese Dip Championships in North Little Rock with Adam.

Jules: What IS this obsession with cheese dip in Arkansas?

Me: Well, number one it’s fabulously delicious. Number two it’s the perfect dish.

Jules: I’ve never understood why a restaurant in Arkansas, no matter the cuisine it serves, has cheese dip on the menu. Are you all really that addicted?

Me: Yes.

Jules: So tell me this, how does one buy cheese dip?

[I tweet this question.]

Me: Well, what kind of cheese dip are we talking about?

Jules: You mean there’s different types?

[I tweet this question.]

Me: Yes, yellow and white are the most popular.

Jules: What’s the difference?

[Jules tweets.]

Me: In my opinion, yellow is not as smooth or spicy as white. I typically order white cheese dip whenever I’m at a restaurant. But at home I make yellow, using Velveeta cheese.

Jules: I’m not a big user of Velveeta, but my husband was raised on it.

Me: Okay, then you HAVE to make Ro*tel. If your husband was raised on Velveeta, he’ll love you more than ever after you make this dip.

Jules: What’s that?

Me: Ro*tel? It’s diced tomatoes and green chilies.

Jules: How do you spell it? R-O-W-T-E-L-L-E?

Me: [laughing] No, R-O-star-T-E-L.

Jules: You mean there’s actually a star in its name?

Me: Yes.

Jules: Can I buy it up here?

[I look up where to buy Ro*tel online]

Me: Yep, there’s 5 stores that carry it in your town! Go. Now.

Jules: Where will I find it?

Me: Probably in the canned vegetables, next to the tomatoes. You’ve seriously never seen or heard of Ro*tel before? Wow.

Jules: Okay so besides Ro*tel, what else do I need to make this cheese dip?

[Jules tweets again.]

Me: 1 pound of Velveeta and 1 can of Ro*tel.

[I tweet a reply correcting Jules.]

Jules: How do I prepare the Velveeta?

Me: Dice it up and throw it in a bowl, then pour the Ro*tel on top. Nuke it until it’s nice and melted, stirring about every minute and a half to 2 minutes. I usually drain the Ro*tel because I like a thicker dip, but you can leave the juice if you want a thinner dip, totally up to you.

Later that afternoon…

Jules: I have my grocery list ready! What goes good with the dip for dinner?

Me: Ha! It’s always just my meal.

Jules: Seriously?

Me: Seriously, but you could do tacos, burgers, fajitas, or chili.

Jules: We should just dip our burgers in the cheese dip. Just kidding.

Me: Even better, you could top your burgers with cheese dip…and bacon. I’m serious.

Jules: Ok, I’m heading to the store.

Later that evening…

Jules: So 2 lbs velveeta and a can of rotel?

Me: NO!!!! 1 lb to 1 can.

Jules: So if I make 2 lbs I use 2 cans?

Me: Yes, that’s typically how math works.

Jules: Ok, heating up now.

Me: Ok, how is it? I need an update?

Jules: It was verra verra good! I am stuffed. We all enjoyed it, ate lots.

Me: Yay! Nothing makes me happier than a new Ro*tel lover.

And that, my friends? Is how I convinced Jules to make Ro*tel for the very first time. Everyone loved it and her daughter Caity, who I’m told does not like Velveeta, deemed it “pretty good”.

So to Jules and her family: I’m glad I could educate you on the state food of Arkansas. May you have many many more bowls of cheese dip and Ro*tel in your future!

And for anyone who’s interested in the history of cheese dip here’s a video:

“In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip” from Nick Rogers on Vimeo.

image via Adam Kuban on Flickr

Where I’m From

I am from a two stoplight town, from Flywheel Pies, Sonic and chocolate turtles.

I am from the “big yellow house,” with intricate woodwork, Santa hanging from the front porch, and fireplaces alive with crackling embers.

I am from the fragrant gardenias and tasty honeysuckle, the peaceful fireflies and pesky mosquitoes.

I am from Wards and Owens, Ottie and Grand Merle – storyteller and gardener, Spaghetti maker and Oatmeal Crème Pie giver. Teacher.

I am from stature, grocers, Hog fans, volunteers, and friends.

From the parents who walked 3 miles uphill in the snow – barefoot and the relatives who offered wooden ice cream bars to innocent children [read: me].

I am from hearty Thanksgiving meals after raking leaves in toboggan caps and indelible family karaoke nights.

I am from faithful Methodists, from a sanctuary illuminated by stained glass, the kneeling pads sewn by my grandmother.

I’m from the South, great grand-daughter of Curtis. From Old Mike, El Spotro, Curley Wolves, and county fairs.  From fried chicken and banana pudding.

From women who sew, smock, tat, needlepoint, and crochet, from a Vietnam veteran.

I am from white-bordered photographs, stored in boxes, yellowed with age. The crunch of tires on a dirt driveway and the snap of tree limbs breaking under ice. A daughter shaped by her small southern town and the food she ate.

Cookies

C is for Cookie…

Cookies

…that’s good enough for me!

Tonight I decided to bake dishpan cookies or, as my coworkers and friends refer to them, Crack Cookies. It’s a recipe my mom came up with after taking her favorite ingredients from different recipes to make a brand new one. These cookies are amazing straight out of the oven and even better if you eat them straight out of the freezer (after baking of course). I think it’s the crystallization of the sugar…at least that’s what I tell myself. In fact, when mom makes these at Christmas, she fills up our Santa cookie jar and places the remainder in the freezer. The ones in the freezer always disappear before the ones in the cookie jar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups corn flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 (12 ounce) package chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coconut

Directions:

  1. Cream first 5 ingredients until light and fluffy in large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in large pan.
  3. Pour creamed mixture over dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Drop by teaspoon on cookie sheet and bake in 350 oven for 8 – 10 minutes.

Note:  Do not overcook. I spray my cookie sheets with non-stick spray before cooking first batch.

Yield: 10 – 12 dozen cookies

Roam If You Want To

As I alluded to in my previous post, my family + Adam took our separate road trips and met for a week of relaxation on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. I feel it’s my duty as a blogger to share with my faithful readers (all 2 of you) a sort of vacation recap, if you will.

We [meaning Dad, Mom, Sister, and me] hit the road on a Friday, immediately after they got off work and I drove the 30 miles to meet them. During my drive down, I pass a woman broken down on the side of I-40. While I’ve passed broken down travelers before, this incident caused me to pay more attention than I usually would. Why? She was leaned up against her Ford Taurus, wearing thigh-high boots, a black mini skirt, partially unbuttoned white oxford shirt and a semi was backing up to help her out.

I make it to my parents’ laughing, because I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. Once I get there I’m shocked to find my dad holding a flip phone. I’m sure it doesn’t sound that shocking, as we are in 2010 now, but my dad has been using a Nokia brick phone for 10 years and has never had a desire to upgrade. Additionally, my mom and sister have upgraded to smart phones so I can only guess how much “tech support” Adam and I will have to provide on this vacation.

We finally get loaded in the Trailblazer and head for the coast. When we make a stop for dinner at a random combination KFC/Taco Bell drive-thru there’s a live chicken walking and grazing in the flowerbed. I guess we should be comforted by knowing the chicken was fresh? Or maybe it had the sense to jump truck? Either way, it provided unexpected entertainment during our wait.

After spending the night in a hotel somewhere in Mississippi, we drive the last 10 hours to the beach. Along the way Dad informs us that the iPod Shuffle we gave him for Father’s Day is an engineering feat, Mom is asking what apps she should add to her Droid, Maddie takes over driving telling us she doesn’t drive below 80 unless required, and I’m doing needlepoint in the backseat. 14 hours on the road together and no one was left on the side of the road, or killed. So far? So good.

When I wasn’t fielding questions from my dad like, How do I make this damn thing call? or I took a picture but I don’t know how to get to it, I was trying to show Adam as much as I could about one of my favorite places in the world. Literally. Our week was filled with drives along the live oak lined, spanish moss draped highways of South Carolina, where we took pictures of the 1500 year old Angel Oak Tree and the village of Rockville at the dead end of HWY 700 and made an unexpected, yet quintessentially southern, stop at the Charleston Tea Plantation. I shared the historic southern charm of Charleston with Adam by taking a horse drawn carriage tour through town and strolling through the straw market buildings.  My sister and I persuaded Adam to drive us to the Firefly Vodka distillery, where we sampled [and subsequently purchased]  sweet tea and lemonade flavored vodkas. We biked all over the Island on beach cruisers, enjoyed BBQ at Mingo Point and scarfed down a celebratory low-country boil, prepared by Adam, for my mom’s birthday. There was beach time too, which might have included a game of Mölkky [in which yours truly came from behind and beat Adam] and an embarassingly unsuccessful attempt of sandcastle construction.

Our long drive home came all too quickly, but we made the best of it with Cash Cab, Don’t Forget the Lyrics, and Sporcle iPhone apps. Between CDs of Sam Cooke, The Turtles, Joe Cocker and The Beatles, my sister quoted Hamlet, my dad asked us about the Electronic Cowboy in Little Rock, our GPS told us it was recalculating, and we stopped at an interesting gas station in Nashville that had a ladies happy hour.

I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have a family that laughs together, as it makes long road trips more bearable and fly by faster. As for our week spent together on Kiawah Island? It was one of the best vacations I can remember. I’m truly blessed!

Chick Parmesan Sub

Mambo Italiano

Chick Parmesan SubI’ve been looking for easy one or two serving recipes that I can cook when I get home from work. And now that I’m done with Grad School [at least until August] I’m hoping to have more time to cook in my neglected kitchen. After work and a workout I came home and decided to try my first new recipe of the summer…
I actually had no idea what I wanted to eat for dinner tonight, but I surfed on over Tasty Kitchen and decided to peruse the sandwiches. Man, did I hit the jackpot!! I’m a huge sucker for Chicken Parmesan, but the prep is hardly easy and the cleanup, at least for me, takes longer than the cooking. Plus, you can’t ever make just one serving. Luckily, I found I could have the taste of Chicken Parmesan that I love without the frying and the pie tins of egg, flour, and breading strewn across my counter. YAY!
This recipe is simple, hearty, and cheesy and would pair perfectly with a light green salad. Buon Appetito!
Chicken Parmesan Subs
adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1-â…” whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves (cooked)
  • â…“ Jar Of Spaghetti Sauce (28 – 32 Ounce Jar)
  • 2 whole 6″ Hoagie Buns
  • 1 tablespoon Butter (enough to butter the bread)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • Pinch (or more) of Red Pepper Flakes
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasonings
  • â…” cups Shredded Mozarella Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Chop cooked chicken breasts into small 1/2-inch pieces. Heat spaghetti sauce in saucepan and add red pepper, italian seasonings and chicken pieces. Cook until chicken is heated through.
  2. Slice hoagie buns in half.
  3. Mix softened butter and and garlic until well incorporated. Spread garlic butter over bread.
  4. Preheat broiler. Place bread on a pan, butter side up, under broiler. Broil until golden and crunchy.
  5. Distribute the chicken mixture over bread. Top generously with cheeses.
  6. Return to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let set a few minutes.

Serves 2

Note: You can prepare the chicken breasts however you like – baked, sauteed, rotisserie, etc. Leftover is perfect!

Baked Lemon Pasta

Perfect Spring Pasta

Baked Lemon PastaNothing says spring like a pollen covered car. It’s the sign that spring has sprung, that new life is blossoming, and that light, yet flavorful meals are a comforting dinner. My new standby pasta dish? Thanks to Pioneer Woman? Fits the bill perfectly. I mean, seriously, what says spring like lemon? And when you combine that with a bit of garlic and toss with some pasta? It’s not going to disappoint.

You see, one of my favorite movies is Julie & Julia. At the beginning of the movie, Julie arrives home from a stressful day at work and begins whipping up a Chocolate Cream Pie. She says:

“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

Well, this dish serves as that comfort for me. Only my day wasn’t stressful and my ingredients are sour cream, lemon, garlic, and butter. Nevertheless, after you’ve whipped it together once it’s practically mindless to whip up again. And mindless recipes that always come out right? Never hurt anyone.

Baked Lemon Pasta
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • half pound Thin Spaghetti
  • 2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Lemon, Juiced And Zested
  • 1 cup Light Sour Cream
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Chopped Flat-leaf Parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook spaghetti until al dente.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Turn off heat. Squeeze lemon juice into the pan.
  3. Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste, then add more salt if necessary.
  4. Combine mixture with drained spaghetti. Transfer spaghetti to an oven safe dish.
  5. Bake, covered with foil, for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.)
  7. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top after you remove it from the oven.
  8. Top with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Servings: 3