Monday, August 15, 2011

A Note on Motivation

Ah, motivation. In relation to my blog it has been hard to find lately (oh, you've noticed?).

My last month has been spent putting more time towards my job search and though I still haven't found a full-time position, I'm now writing copy for Gilt City Atlanta and I recently started managing the Facebook account of a local non-profit, Hiring for Hope.

And can I share a secret? Every once in a while, anyone who cooks for a living or writes about food (chef, recipe developer, food stylist, me!, etc.) gets tired and needs a break. Luckily for me right now, I work for myself and for free so I can a) take that break and b) admit all this to you.

But now that I'm settled into my new roles, I feel better about going back to the blog. I've been working on some new recipes to share and I hope to be back and posting regularly very soon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grilled Lemon-Rosemary Chicken

Time has just slipped by this week and I almost forgot to post this week's recipe! Again, since it's a holiday weekend, I wanted to share this early so we can all enjoy the long weekend.

I really love this recipe because of the fresh lemon and herbs. It's amazing how much more flavor these ingredients give to the chicken, and it's totally worth the time.

The chicken can marinate for as little as 30 minutes, which fits my needs for a quick dinner perfectly. You can pair just about any vegetable, grilled or otherwise, with the chicken.

If you haven't already decided on a Fourth of July menu, I would highly recommend this because it means less time cooking and more time with loved ones.

I hope you all have a great weekend and a very Happy Fourth of July!

Grilled Lemon-Rosemary Chicken (Serves 4)
1 lemon, zested
Juice from the lemon
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced OR 2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (about 1 Tbsp.), roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a gallon-sized plastic bag.

2. Place chicken breasts in the bag; seal and move the chicken around so the marinade coats it well.

3. Marinade for 30 minutes, but no more than an hour.

4. Preheat your grill to medium. Take the chicken from the bag, discarding the marinade. Grill the chicken about 6 minutes each side.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Auburn Recap

We had a very nice trip to Auburn despite the heat. The Toomer's Oaks did not look good at all and I'm afraid they may be lost for good. To give you an idea of how sick they look, below is a picture of one of the trees in August 2010.

And I took the following photos this past weekend.

On a brighter note, we had some free, highly entertaining antics from my friend's cat, Albus. Here, he's gone incognito on the back porch.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage & Peppers

One of my favorite go-to dinners is chicken sausage. There are many flavors available inspired by Italian, Latin, and American cooking so I'm never bored. And these are often pre-cooked which makes for a super easy supper. This kind of sausage is great all year and you can warm these up in a pan or on the grill in about ten minutes.

Different flavors also mean you can pair the sausages with all kinds of veggies, pasta and grains. I decided to pair this particular sausage with fresh sweet bell peppers and tomatoes. Fresh herbs and garlic really help bring the sausage and veggies together.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Heading to Auburn

Hi all! I am driving to Auburn, AL to visit a good friend this weekend and I hope to have some great pictures to put up for you next week. The town is much more photogenic than people might think and I especially want to see the Toomer's Oaks and how they are doing.

If you aren't aware, these 130-year old live oaks were poisoned by a very angry Alabama fan. They anchor a very important landmark in Auburn, Toomer's Corner, which sits between one edge of campus and the main drag downtown. 

Considering the events of this year I was very lucky to see these trees almost a year ago and they were truly beautiful. Auburn fans roll the trees with toilet paper after a football victory, among other events. I'm not sure where this tradition originated and I do find it a bit ironic!

We didn't have a chance to go into Toomer's Drugstore last time I visited so that will be another item on my list. Between the lemonade and the old-fashioned soda fountain it sounds like a good place for lunch. I just need to persuade my friends we should go!

I hope everyone has a great weekend and safe travels if you're heading out like me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Family Recipe: Turkey Burgers

Since this Sunday is Father's Day and I will have a busy weekend, I've decided to move up my weekly recipe. And if you'll allow my somewhat biased opinion, I think these turkey burgers would be a great Father's Day meal. 

They are super easy to prepare, but make sure you chill the formed patties in the fridge before putting them on the grill. They tend to come apart otherwise.

These burgers have become a dinner staple in my house and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. And a very relaxing, Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Turkey Burgers (makes 5-6 patties depending on your preference)
1 package ground turkey*
1 cup plain bread crumbs or plain panko 
1 egg white
1 can low-sodium chopped green chiles (if you can find Hatch, those are the best!)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp. roasted ground cumin
*My grocery store often packages the ground turkey between 1 lb. and 1.4 lbs. Anything in that range is fine for this recipe.

1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine well.

2. Form the mixture into 5-6 patties. Chill in the fridge for 15-20 to keep them from falling apart during cooking.

3. You can cook these in a pan over medium-high heat, cooking 5 minutes each side; or on the grill over medium heat for 6 minutes on each side; or on a Foreman Grill. Serve on a hamburger bun with you favorite toppings.

Optional garnishes: salsa, sour cream, fresh cilantro, grilled onions and peppers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wishful Wednesday: Pink Flamingos

I didn't know that this is what I wanted to celebrate my next milestone birthday, but I'm going to go ahead and spread the word among my friends.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spotlight: Glas Designs

When I was in Florida a few weeks ago my friend and I hung out at a local art in the park event. One booth in particular caught our attention: Glas Designs, run by a couple from the Panhandle, had very unique pearl and leather jewelry.

I hadn't seen anything like their designs before since a lot of folks pair pearls with metal. I was also very impressed with the size of their pearls and the wire-wrapped rings that were on display at the front of their tent.

Linda, one of the owners, was creating additional pieces to sell as we stood and chatted with her and after deciding on the style of ring I liked, she wrapped it for me on the spot. This was wonderful since she could fit the ring exactly to my finger and I could watch her work.

I was tickled that the whole family was present at this art fair: Linda worked for the most part with the pearl jewelry; her husband Jason sat behind the tent and created glass beads which they also use in the jewelry; and their two children helped ring up and bag the sales. Even the dog was hanging out by their car!

They have a website that you can visit to see some more of their items. Linda also told us that they travel frequently to Gulf Coast events to sell their jewelry, so if you are in the area they will be visiting I would highly recommend stopping by their tent.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Perfect Summer Salad

This week's recipe has two parts. My brother discovered I this Citrus-Basil Vinaigrette a few years ago and we created the salad above to pair with it. It's one of my favorites and also one that my family requests at gatherings a lot. I start with mixed baby greens and add sliced hearts of palm, toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, and mandarin orange slices. Dried cranberries, cashews, or strawberries would also be delicious. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Shelving the Book Reviews

One of the characteristics of a blog that I love is change. I know that five years down the road, my current blog may have evolved in a completely different direction and it's exciting to know that I can tweak and hopefully perfect what I'm writing.

That being said, I've realized that while I personally love reading, writing book reviews hasn't been very inspiring for me the way that writing about my craft and cooking projects has been. 

I can trace this reluctance to my school days. I loved learning about new authors and classic literary works through our summer reading program, but I balked at the idea having to write papers about what I'd read.

So for now I'll put away my regular book reviews and reserve them for those books that inspire me enough to write about it. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wishful Wednesday: Verre Tealight Holders

Verre Tealight Holders by Roost via Red Sail

I stumbled upon these beautiful tea holders the other day and fell in love. Turquoise is one of my favorite colors and I love the contrast of different patterns and shapes. I can just imagine how wonderful they would look great lined up on a mantle or table, or scattered across a bookshelf. 

I've spent a lot of time wandering around the site and am impressed with lots of items that I think of as the warm-modern. There are lots of vibrant colors and simple lines. Another thing that struck me about the site is that the products aren't just fun and pretty, they're also functional things you can use in your home. They're going to live and grow with your home, as opposed to just being around.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chalkboard Picture Frame

This chalkboard picture frame project was inspired by this frame at the Home Decorators Collection. I immediately loved the idea of being able to write messages on the frame as you change out the photos, but I wanted a budget-friendly version.

It dawned on me that I could simply buy chalkboard paint and basically achieve the same result. I had a plain wood picture frame sitting around that I hated, but I knew would work perfectly for the project.

The prices are approximate based on what I paid and what similar items sell for currently. Technically I didn't invest any money in the sandpaper since we have sheets hanging out in our garage from years past but you can find it cheap at Walmart and home improvement stores.

You Will Need:
1 wood or wood composite frame (like these from Target) -- $5
Sandpaper (use a medium grain, 60-80 grit) -- $3
Chalkboard spray paint (I used a Rust-Oleum paint) -- $5

1. If your frame is varnished, gently sand the surface. Wipe residue away with a clean, damp cloth.

2. Apply 2-3 coats of chalkboard paint according to directions. Remember to always spray paint in an open, well-ventilated area. Put down clean drop cloth to paint on. In my project I've used an old plant tray.

3. Once dried, break in the paint by gently rubbing chalk over the writing surface and wipe clean with a damp cloth.

4. Put your favorite picture in the frame and write your message!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Family Recipe: Butterscotch Pie

This is a butterscoth pie that I made with the help of my grandmother. This is a pie that she used to make for my grandfather's birthday, and also one that she hadn't eaten in a long time so there was an even greater pleasure in learning how to make it.

My grandfather passed away earlier this year, so knowing how to make this pie is very special to me. He loved to cook and was very good at it, though he had an maybe an odd sense of what was tasty. Think salmon loaf. But then on another day he might make an incredibly flavorful and tender beef stew with potatoes, carrots and onions.

The pie is fairly easy to make. The real work comes in making the filling; it takes patience to not burn or curdle it. It's technically a pudding so if you've never made one before, this is a great recipe to start with because it's so basic (and I hope I've made the directions clear enough!). Also, if you aren't interested in making the meringue, whipped cream will do just fine.

I do want to point out that this flavor is real butterscotch; that is, the flavor is derived from butter and brown sugar. This will not resemble butterscotch syrup, chips or Jell-O pudding. I find it more enjoyable because it isn't nearly as sweet.

It occurs to me as I write this post that you could try adding butterscotch chips when you add the vanilla (Step 7). If anyone tries this before I do, let me know how it turns out!

Butterscotch Pie (Serves about 8)
1 9-inch refrigerated piecrust, baked according to package
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue, if desired)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (use anything but skim)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Bake your piecrust according to the package directions. Let it cool completely while you make the filling. Tip: Don't forget to poke the crust with a fork at 1-inch intervals along the sides and bottom.

2. Separate egg whites from yolks into a small bowl. Beat yolks gently, just enough to break them and mix. Reserve egg whites if you desire to make the meringue. Tip: Cold eggs separate more easily; once separated, let them come to room temperature for the meringue.

3. Cut sugar and butter together in a separate bowl. Add flour to sugar mix and combine well.

4. Add sugar mix to yolks and mix well. At this point it will still be pretty dry.

5. In a small saucepan, combine milk, salt, and water. Warm the mixture over med-high heat until it just starts to bubble. Add sugar mix and whisk until dissolved.

6. Continue whisking until mixture thickens, about 20-25 minutes. You're looking for a thick, pudding-like consistency.

7. Take mixture off the heat and mix in vanilla. Cover with a towel while you prepare the meringue. (If you're skipping the meringue, let it cool completely before filling the piecrust and storing in the fridge. You want to chill it for several hours to let the custard set before serving.)

8. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

9. In a deep, metal bowl beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed with a hand or stand mixer until very foamy.

10. Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar at a time every 30 seconds to the egg whites. Continue beating until meringue has stiff, glossy peaks. When you check the meringue, the peaks should hold stand straight.

11. Add vanilla and beat into the whites. Make sure you still have stiff peaks.

11. Spoon custard into piecrust and smooth -- be careful as it will still be warm. Spoon meringue on top of pie filling and use a spatula to spread evenly over the pie.

12. Bake pie 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees until meringue is golden brown.

13. Let cool completely on a rack before serving. You can store in the fridge for a couple of days, covered with plastic wrap.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Back to Birmingham

Last weekend I visited a group of friends remaining in Birmingham after our fellowship with Time Inc. ended. I hadn't returned since moving out in December and it was a wonderful feeling to return to my 2010 home.

The first place I stopped was at Olexa's to have lunch with two of my friends. Diane Olexa, the owner, started her business as a wedding cake caterer. Olexa's is still famous for its buttercreme cake but their cafe offers really great lunch food.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

FR: Panko-Crusted Tilapia with Dill Sauce

This week is I wanted to share a fish recipe that's great for any time of the year but especially now during these hot summer days. Paired with fresh veggies and fruit, this makes a satisfying and light meal.

I like mixing Cajun seasoning with the panko to give the fish a kick and the dill sauce cools it all down. If you don't like Cajun seasoning, I would recommend adding some pepper and salt to add flavor to the panko. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Treat: Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp from Delicious sweet-tart flavor, cinnamon-y granola topping paired with vanilla ice cream. Oh, and it's super easy to make. 

Fresh rhubarb starts showing up in grocery stores in late April/early May and having some in the house is the perfect excuse to make a crisp or pie. Some chains will even carry frozen rhubarb. Just make sure to trim away any green parts and leaves because they are poisonous. We used a vanilla granola from Whole Foods to add extra flavor and it definitely made a difference!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

FR: Brownies Made Better

I'm heading back to Birmingham this weekend to visit my Southern Progress friends, one of which is letting me crash on her couch. She's a food stylist and recipe developer (among other things) so I was a little worried about what to get her as a thank you.

Then I calmed down and realized I could bake her a treat. I chose Bea's Brownies, which are named after my great-great aunt. These brownies include two delicious layers; Hershey's syrup and lots of eggs make the brownie layer cake-moist and the frosting is basically an old-fashioned fudge (butter, sugar, milk and chocolate chips) that sets quickly and melts in your mouth.

Oh, man, just writing about them makes me want to run downstairs and cut a huge piece for myself! Must resist...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Swanky Gardens & Atlanta Braves

This weekend was very busy for me. On Saturday I went on the self-guided Artful Garden Tour with a family friend and had the chance to peek in the private gardens of some very nice homes in the West Wesley Road, Ansley Park, and North Druid Hills areas. I also attended my first Braves game of the season. The weather wasn't great but it's always an adventure at Turner Field!

Car, really, somebody glued this stuff to their car.
My favorite garden, off Habersham Road.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

W is for...

Wascally wabbits -- we used to have a neighborhood coyote to take care of the rabbits, but he or she is clearly gone.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Evoking the Sea with Jewelry

I finished working on two pairs of earrings this week that remind me of the ocean because of their blue colors. 

I first turned my attention to these sad hoop earrings. I probably bought them at Claire's in high school and used to wear these ad nauseam. I eventually tired of them, especially after the silver pieces became so dirty.

I wanted the convenience of pre-made hoops so I went to my local bead store to purchase them. This is a good video to watch if you want to simply buy wire and make your own hoops.

I followed the same pattern on the original earrings and reused the original turquoise beads. I'm really pleased with how they turned out, especially since my wrapping skills aren't perfect.

I made this second pair of earrings to match a necklace that I bought at Forever 21. I purchased the necklace for less that $10, which is great because the handwork involved in making something like this would take hours to finish.

I used faceted chalcedony teardrops, glass beads, and crystals to complete the look. I bought a small amount of chain to create a nice dangled effect; this also gives enough space to let the various beads hang down and look extra pretty.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yum...Coconut Cream Pie

Okay, this getting-back-into-blogging-after-personal-trauma thing has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. Luckily over Easter I had the chance to engage in some therapeutic (that's a hard word to spell!) baking. I give you an excellent coconut cream pie, above.

The filling is creamy and thick without being overly sweet and there's just enough shredded coconut in there to create a nice texture. I decided to top the pie with meringue, which is something that I recently learned how to make thanks to my grandma.

I will post the procedure that I followed in making this particular pie, but I'd like to note that I cobbled this recipe together from a pie recipe on and a meringue recipe from Sunset magazine.

You can skip the meringue and substitute whipped cream. But, if you've never made meringue, you should definitely try it! Sunset's directions are clear and easy and it's totally worth trying.

If you'd like some more information on making meringues, these websites are helpful: (also check out the sidebar articles)

Coconut Cream Pie with Meringue Topping (Serves 8-10)
1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
1 cup coconut milk
4 eggs
3 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3 egg whites (reserved from above)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Press pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate and use a fork to poke holes at a 1-inch interval around the bottom and sides of the crust. Bake for 9 minutes until just golden brown. Let cool completely while you're making the rest of the pie.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt over med-high heat. Slowly add milk to the mixture, stirring well after each bit to keep the sugar-flour mix from lumping up. Once you've added the milk, add the coconut milk and mix well.

3. Whisking constantly, cook the milk-sugar mixture until it thickens and starts bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook 2 more minutes. Remove pan from heat.

4. Separate egg yolks from whites. Save 3 egg whites for meringue, letting them come to room temperature. 

5. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks lightly. While whisking the eggs, add a large spoonful of the milk-sugar mixture. This will temper the eggs. Add about a total of 1 cup of the hot mixture to the eggs; return the tempered egg mixture to the rest of the milk-sugar mixture.

6. Put the saucepan back over med-high heat and whisk until it bubbles gently. Cook 2 more minutes; remove pan from heat.

7. Stir butter, vanilla, and shredded coconut into the mixture. Cover to keep warm while you make the meringue.

8. Lower your oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch.

9. In a glass or metal bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until the whites are very foamy.

10. Continue beating the eggs and add the sugar mixture, 1 Tbsp. at a time every 30 seconds. Continue beating until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. You can test this by stopping the mixer and dipping the beaters into the meringue. You're good to go if the resulting peaks stay upright.

11. Use a spatula to fill the cooled pie shell with the coconut custard. Then spread the meringue over the top of the custard and smooth it all the way to the edges of the crust.

12. Bake the pie at 325 degrees 15-20 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.

13. Let the pie cool completely on a rack. Slice and enjoy!

You can cover and refrigerate for a few days. The meringue may weep a little on the top but it won't damage the pie at all.