Sunday, April 25, 2010

Someone Needs a Shower

Another weekend. Another wedding shower. Another trip to Florida.

I have been best friends with Megs since we were in Mrs. Hickenbothom's preschool class at age four. I grew up with this girl; we shared more memories than I could ever carry; she is my sister. So I guess this means I am getting a brother-in-law.

I flew to Florida for Megs' wedding shower. It was a couples shower which was really fun. There were games, amazing food, cute decorations and great company with a surf-n-turf theme. All the lovely bridesmaids really pulled together to create an amazing event.

Probably my favorite part of the game portion:

Amazing food:

The full spread including everything from venison meatballs to shrimp and scallop ravioli:

Meagan and Jonathan make a great couple, mostly because their combined name is "Jeagan" and their kids will be studs, but also because they complement each other better than anyone I know. They deserve each other. I have never seen my best friend happier, and I cannot wait to celebrate the big day.

As a huge HUGE bonus, my brother's family came down to my parents' house in Tampa for the weekend for some quality time with "Aunt Lindsey."

Charlotte (just days from being a year old)..."A" is for Apple:

Olivia looooooooves coming to her buela and grandpa's house in Tampa...cannot imagine why:

Side note: I love the painting on the wall in this picture (sorry it is blurry). My parents have had it for about 20 years, and it has never become old or ugly to me. It is the reason I like the "old world look," because lots of things like that will never go out of style. There is something to be said about old pictures that have been recreated and printed and have survived hundreds or even thousands of years (and make it into people's homes still today). This is obviously just a recreation of an original painting, but it is my favorite thing in my parents' house.

When you live across the country from so many people you love so deeply, you end up cramming a lot of quality time into the couple times a year you get to visit. There are only so many meals I share with my family each year so I always want them to be special. It is almost like I get to experiment all year long and use some of my favorite recipes for these rare get-togethers.

This is one of those recipes. I made it for the first time only about a month ago. It is yet another recipe from my gal pal, Paula Deen's cookbook. Succotash is a dish that is made a variety of ways. There are wildly different recipes from the one Paula gives (I am pretty sure she even has more than one recipe for it herself). I don't think you will feel the need to look any further after trying out this version.

The Only Succotash Recipe You Need:

(recipe by Paula Deen)

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 chicken bouillon cube (I used beef) or 1 tsp granulated bouillon
one 10 oz package frozen lima beans or butter beans (I used lima)
6 slices of bacon, cut into tiny pieces
one 10 oz package frozen corn kernels (or 3 ears fresh corn (I think we all know I used frozen)
2 tbsp butter
pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, add the first three seasonings and the bouillon cube to 2 cups of water.
Add the lima beans (or butter beans), and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking until the beans are tender and some of the water has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, sauté the bacon until very crisp.
Drain off all but 1 tbsp of the bacon grease, and add the corn to the skillet with the bacon; cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, ad the beans to the skillet with the corn and bacon.
Spoon over a little of the bean liquid to mix in.
Add the butter and pepper to taste.

It is almost even more delicious the next day as leftovers!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day of Fresh

My dad is one of my absolute favorite people in the world.

He is a generous, hard working and sensitive man. He and my mom sacrificed so much for my brother and me. Growing up, I have so many great memories from being a part of several sports teams to going on trips to other countries. I used to have big slumber parties at my house in middle school and high school with all my friends, and my dad would always have bagels and orange juice waiting for all of us by the time we made it out of our sleeping bags. My parents made all those memories possible, and I will always be so grateful for all they have provided.

Here I am, living in LA as an adult, and my dad never stops giving. I was fortunate enough to have him in town all weekend. He spent his Sunday afternoon teaching me to start my own vegetable garden. He works in the plant business so I knew he would know what to do. I have always wanted to start a vegetable garden, something simple. But I didn't know how to start a successful one. My dad showed me how to turn up the soil, get rid of the weeds, fertilize and plant stakes to tie the vegetable to as they grow. Here is the short version:

Here is what you will need:
3 big bags of soil
1 cup fertilizer (to get started)
1 roll of gardening sheet (resembles a black plastic bag material) which is for keeping the weeds from growing
long wooden stakes
a shovel and a hook rake
vegetables and herbs!

Let's start with the before shot:

Pull all those weeds out from the root, and churn up the dirt to loosen it; go as deep as you can. Then put about 1/2 of your fresh soil on top.

Roll out the black material (it looks like a black garbage bag but is breathable so the water will go through, but the weeds cannot grow through it.

Place the other half of the fresh soil on top of the black material:

Toss the cup of fertilizer all over the surface of the soil (you will need to repeat this every month).

Stick a long knife into the ground and cut a "T" into the material where you want to plant a vegetable. Clear a space for it by moving some soil out, and place the plant into the ground. The base of the plant should be below the black material, and the stem should come out of it:

Spread the dirt back around the base of the plant, and press down gently.

Don't plant the vegetables too close together. The herbs can be a little tighter.

I will let you know how this all progresses, but I think we are off to a great start.

Water heavily at first:

This is about a 4'X3' area, and I have heirloom tomatoes (green and red), red, yellow and green bell peppers, zucchini, mint, cilantro and scallions. We put a little fence around the area as to keep the cats and dogs out of the patch.

I decided to make a nice light meal with vegetables (mixed potatoes and asparagus) and fresh ground almond from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market.

Besides, we had to save room for our inevitable trip to yogurtland. I just really had a great day with my dad, and I couldn't be happier.

One Fantastic Day Almond Crusted Tilapia:

4 Tilapia filets (this can be any comparable white fish)
1/4 C canola or vegetable oil
3/4 C ground almond (this can work with ground pecans as well)
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put he beaten eggs in one shallow bowl and the ground almond in another.
Pat fish to dry.
Dip a filet in the egg.
Allow excess to drip off before placing it into the dish with the almond. Coat the entire surface with the ground almond by flipping it over a couple times.
Repeat this with all 4 filets.
Heat oil in a large heavy pan over med-high heat.
Place the filets in the pan, and cook on each side for 30 seconds.
Move pan (if oven safe) to the oven. (If pan is not oven safe, you can place filets on a baking sheet instead).
Bake at 400 degrees F for about 3 minutes for small filets and 4-5 minutes for large ones. The fish should flake apart easily.
Sprinkle some fresh ground almond on top!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mixed Salad Moments

A wedding means everyone in your life that you love and care about are all in the same room at the same time to support you....

...a "tossed salad" (if you will) of people in your life.

Christy and Joe Nammour were married last weekend. Christy was my roommate for three years in college and has been an amazing friend for about the last 7 years of my life. I was so happy to get the chance to stand beside her as she promised her life away to a wonderful guy. The also look really really ridiculously good together which is also really important.

The weekend was so fun. Everything went according to plan. In the limo on the way to the church, all the bridesmaids were just sitting there, ready to go. Christy just looked so calm. There were no nerves (except for the ones at the thought of lots of people looking at her at the same time). It seemed like things were just the way they should be and that is all there is to it.

The happy couple should be on the island of St. Lucia about now, toasting away in the sun at their all-inclusive resort.

The guests at the wedding included family on both sides, friends from high school, college and post college and then family friends. I know a lot of people shy away from this sort of situation because it can become difficult when different groups that are separately a part of your life all come together. But this happens to be my favorite thing about weddings. It is probably just your wedding and your funeral where all these people from various parts of your life are all mixed together in the same room. I call these events "mixed salad moments"...or at least I call them that now since it transitions so nicely into the following delicious recipe.

Sunset Magazine is something I treat myself to every once in a while. It costs almost $5.00 per issue so I don't usually buy it unless something really catches my eye. The picture of this salad on the cover last month jumped out at me; I had to have it. Well, I did, and it was worth every bit of the $5.00 I spent on the magazine.

Chicken Pita Mixed Salad:

(recipe from Sunset Magazine)

2 boned, skinned chicken breast halves (1 lb. total)
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
4 ounces block feta cheese, broken into chunks
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 cups pita chips
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat (450° to 550°; you can hold your hand 5 in. above cooking grate only 2 to 4 seconds). Coat chicken breasts with 1 tbsp. oil and cook, turning once, until no longer pink in the center and grill marks appear, about 7 minutes total. Let rest 10 minutes, then slice. (My grill was not working on this particular evening so I lightly coated the chicken with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper before cooking the chicken over Med-High heat in my trusty cast iron skillet. It was great.)
While chicken is cooking, in a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, 1/3 cup oil, oregano, and pepper; set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, drop in asparagus, and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
In a medium bowl, combine chicken, cheese, asparagus, tomatoes, olives, and pita chips. Pour reserved dressing over mixture and toss gently to coat. Add arugula and toss once more just to combine.

I served this with some piping hot homemade cornbread (recipe found here on Everyone Likes Sandwiches).

It was one of my favorite meals in a long while. I imagine this would be great with some salmon, shrimp or a crusty white fish instead of chicken.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter Feaster: Brunch Club April

This was not just brunch.

It was Easter brunch, and the day was right. The sun was out, and the food was plentiful. Natalie’s new apartment was particularly inviting, inspiring me to get going on setting up my own new apartment. She even had some indoor gardening started including strawberries, a small lemon tree, an artichoke, fresh herbs, eggplant and quite possibly more.

It was definitely the biggest brunch we’ve had which only means more ridiculously good food for all.

There was just too much food to picture all of it this time around, but some highlights to me included Emily’s fresh fruit salad which involved a heavy blackberry influence, Elliot’s savory spinach dip in a huge bread bowl and Natalie’s hot fresh waffles with raspberry and fruit compote.

Emily’s fresh fruit salad.

Natalie's hot fresh waffles.

Almond bark.

Blueberry Scones.

BreAnna's deep dish cookie.

Eggs (this is really all about my pretty new plate)

Cheese Stix.

Lindzachary's Sausage Quarter Biscuits.

This was a Paula Dean recipe, using canned biscuit dough. I really think this could have been much better with a homemade biscuit dough, but the canned dough sure was convenient. This took about 15 minutes total to make, and these little things can be saved for to-go breakfast throughout the week.

(a Paula Dean recipe)

1 (10-biscuit) can buttermilk biscuit dough (or your favorite biscuit recipe)
1/2 lb ground breakfast sausage (you may like the spicy kind)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Form the sausage meat into 20 quarter-sized (but about 1/4 inch thick) medallions
In a large pan, cook the sausage medallions until just cooked through.
Cut each biscuit in half, and roll into balls so you have 20 small balls of dough.
Place the biscuit balls into muffin tins
Press one sausage patty into each dough ball in the muffin tin. The edges of the dough should come up around the sausage.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until the biscuits are cooked thoroughly.

Simple, y'all!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Moving Right Along

I moved apartments last weekend.

Let me run down the list of excuses for not posting in 2 weeks: the pots and pans were some of the first things packed, the kitchen is not all set up yet, there is too much mess to think about letting dishes pile up, we have not been grocery shopping yet, blah blah blah. Essentially, we have been “checking out” all the take out places around the new place which is always fun.

But I am ready to get back in the saddle, at least for a couple dishes. When I don’t cook, I miss it; even worse, I miss blogging about it. I get realllllllly disappointed when I make something that is not good enough to blog about, not because I it is not good to eat but because I don’t get to share it with you.

I fell back into scouring the internet for amazing recipes last week, and found something that seemed simple and delicious enough to ease me back into the kitchen: Steamburgers. It was a recipe on a food blog I have followed for a while now, Coconut & Lime, which features only original recipes (something that will still take me a looooong while to work up to). They are a sort of crumbly burger with onions and mustard which makes them almost juicier than a regular burger and way more fun to eat. We made some good ole' sweet potato fries to go with them and enjoyed a delicious meal in front of the television with an awesome documentary, Crazy Love.

For the recipe, please visit