Category Archives: Food

I Believe In Nashville

HEEEEYYYY…..YOOOOOUUU….GUYYYYYYS!!

Guess what? I’m still alive.

Thought I’d stop by to unload some pictures from my recent trip to what we like to call, Nashvegas. That’s right, Nashville TN. I spent about a week there visiting my one and only brother and a few friends that used to live in Texas. It looked liked coffee, food, more coffee and more food. Take a look…IMG_9302antique archaeologyIMG_9293tex-mex Chuy'sIMG_9337IMG_9335Elvis NashvilleIMG_9345IMG_9347IMG_9343IMG_9348IMG_9344Barista Parlor, Nashville TNBarista Parlor, Nashville TNIMG_9332crema nashvilleNashville skyline

(P.S.- I’m pretty sure you can’t hardstyle with a smile on your face! Oops.)

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It’s Sunday

It’s Sunday, and I…

went to church this morning. Go ahead, I’ll take that virtual pat on the back. I actually tried out a new church today. It’s kind of a country church. I mean it’s a LOT of a country church. 98% of the congregation was 65 and older (with the exception of the pastor and his wife who appear to be in their early 30’s, kind of unusual). We sang hymns straight from the book accompanied by an organ and a real live piano. There were reports from the sick, an open floor discussion about the Easter service and as the pastor called it, a “hillbilly powerpoint” presentation. I’m not gonna lie, I kind of liked it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lively spirit-filled church with modern up to date worship, but there was something refreshing about just getting back to the basics.  Singing the same inspired words that have been sung for years and years before. A solid message straight from the Bible without all the hoopla of supplemental technologies- just a marker, some paper and a clothesline. Church without all the pretense. We took communion and thinking back on it now I realize it was much needed.

Obviously I didn't take this picture today seeing that we are in the middle of winter. I just wanted to give you a visual.

Obviously I didn’t take this picture today seeing that we are in the middle of winter. I just wanted to give you a visual.

It’s Sunday, and I ….

made cookies. I don’t really know how to segue into chocolate chip cookies from church, so there, I just went for it. I made cookies. I was craving some good old fashioned chocolate chippers so I thought I’d just whip up a batch. However I was disappointed to find that we were completely out of butter! You can’t make cookies without butter! Or can you? Come to find out…you can! I searched for a butter substitute and found that you can use olive oil as a replacement for butter in your cookie recipe. Now I was skeptical to say the least. So for your sake (you totally twisted my arm) I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Just in case some day you find yourself in the same predicament and you are as leery as I was about baking with olive oil. I used the chocolate chip cookie recipe from a cookbook I have called “Baked: New Frontiers In Baking.” It’s a cookbook put out by the “Baked NYC” bakery and they have got some serious goodies.

The thing I liked most about using olive oil was that I didn’t have to get out my beaters. I’m kinda lazy in the beater department. If I don’t HAVE to get them out I would quite frankly rather not. The olive oil mixes so easily with the sugars that all you need is a spoon. Totally my kind of mixing. Here’s the recipe for the “Baked” cookies. The only thing that I had to change was substituting 3/4 cup of olive oil in place of the 1 cup of butter. That’s it.

chocolate chip cookies

I’m going to go ahead and tell you now that the dough doesn’t taste the same. Sure it’s edible, but the olive oil is quite overpowering in the raw dough stage. You’ve been warned.  Notice the recipe says to refrigerate the dough for 6 hours. I’m sure you really should do this. This probably makes your cookies taste different somehow, but really…6 hours? Ain’t nobody got time for that! If I’m making cookies, I want them now, am I right? So I did not wait the allotted 6 hours of fridge time. Guess what…they still tasted good.

Now I do want you know that you CAN taste a difference in the cookies.  They do have a slight olive oil tang, if you will.  I used a regular extra virgin olive oil because it’s what I had in the cupboard. Maybe if you had a light olive oil the taste would be less pronounced, but really it’s not that noticeable. I gave one to my dad to try and didn’t tell him that I hadn’t used butter. When I asked him if he thought they tasted different, he said no. Of course once I told him they were made with olive oil instead of butter he noticed the taste, but not before he was aware. So there you go. If you’re ever out of butter and you just have to have some chocolate chip cookies…get out that jar of olive oil and get baking.

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

I did have a little company in the kitchen. I know, I know, dogs should not be allowed in the kitchen, but Ruby just sits on that rug so patiently, watching, almost like she’s trying to learn. Unfortunately for her she didn’t get to try one.Ruby

 

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Railroad trestles and a Chicken Pot Pie

So, truth is…there’s not a whole lot to do around here. Sometimes you’ve got to find entertainment in the simple things. Usually around here the every day things are all you’ve got.  Like a trip to the grocery store for example. You’ve got to take something like getting those groceries and turn it into something that feels more like an experience. Not too long ago, my sister and I did just that.  We went to the grocery store. We decided to put our legs to work and make the trip on foot. We got our groceries and then on the way home decided to take a different route crossing over the railroad trestle. We proceeded to take some dorky pictures just for fun. Then once again mother nature had her way with us and began pelting us with a nice ice/snow mixture. Once we made it home, a delicious modified version of this chicken pot pie was in order.Erin WalkingBoots on RailroadErinRailroad trackscrazy facesRailroad tracksRailroad tracksbeginning snowerin snow poseMelissa snow pose

I saw this recipe in the February issue of Bon Appetit magazine and decided it needed to be “what’s for dinner.” The great thing about this recipe is that it’s just a starting point. You can change it up however you’d like. I modified it quite a bit with vegetables that I had on hand and a few others that we picked up at the store.  I added chopped carrots, celery, parsnips, green beans, chick peas, mushrooms and zucchini in addition to the onions, garlic and kale it called for. I also substituted red potatoes for the butternut squash.

veggies

I decided to add some cream cheese to the mix which takes away from it’s healthy factor, but adds to it’s delicious creaminess factor. I like to think the addition of kale balances it out some, right? No skillet? No problem, I put mine in a casserole dish. I’m telling you, so easy.  Pretty much anything goes!chicken pot pie

We didn’t have much time so a hand made crust was out of the picture and I’m always trying to find ways to skimp on cash, so I decided to grab a tube of crescent rolls in place of the puff pastry crust it called for. Puff pastry is almost $6 around here, yikes! 
chicken pot pie
chicken pot pieGo ahead, make an adventure out of the mundane. Then cozy up with some warm, creamy and comforting chicken pot pie. I promise it’ll help a little as we ride out the rest of winter. Dig in.

Get the recipe here (mine actually looks nothing like theirs at all, but thats ok. make it however you’d like it.)

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Erin’s Golden Birthday

So my sister was complaining that I didn’t include even one picture of her in my last post, 2012-Year In Review. I told her it was because I had only seen her for one week this past year until mid-late December. Sad face. She insisted that we had some good photos together from this year. I’ve got this one…I think it’s a great photo:). Hipster stache

Well, I decided I’d dedicate this whole post to her instead and tell you all about her Surprise Not-So Surprise Golden Birthday Party.

My sister, Erin, celebrated the big three-zero birthday last week. It really seems impossible that we can be this old. Her and I are only 15 months apart, so that’s always a little reassuring that I don’t have to get old all by myself. But geez…30?!! It really does seem just like yesterday that we were riding our bikes up and down the sidewalk in front of our house. Stopping at all of the power lines, pretending they were actual stoplights. It seems just like yesterday we were driving down the road singing along with N’sync and Plus One at the top of our lungs (oh wait…that wasn’t me, just Erin. Let’s be clear here). Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were cramming as many friends as we could possibly squeeze into my little green Malibu, opting to spend hours studying and hanging out at Starbucks when they kicked us out of the dorms for church? I feel like it was just yesterday that we spent 10 months barely an arms length away from each other when we traveled the country working for Camfel Productions. Yesterday I tell ya! Yesterday! I guess that’s what happens when you grow up, the old folks warn you about it all your life. It’s finally sinking in. Life really does just fly by, I’m ready for it sllloooowww down.

Well, I didn’t come here to get all sentimental and freak out about being old again, really I came here to share with you the 30th birthday celebration that we had for Erin’s golden birthday. What’s a golden birthday you might ask? I hadn’t ever heard of it myself until my friend Natalie turned 27. A golden birthday is when you turn the age of the day of your birth. Make sense? My birthday is September 10th, so my golden birthday would have been when I turned 10 years old. Erin was born on December 30th and she turned 30 this year. You’ve got it now.

In my opinion your 30th birthday isn’t something to mess around about. It’s kinda like 16, or 21….you’re 30! So we wanted to do it up, we decided to just go with the whole golden theme for her party. We asked the guests to wear something gold or sparkly. The blingy-er the better! We also tried to keep it a surprise, but that proved really hard to do. My mom runs a coffee shop/cafe here in Michigan so we decided to have the party at the coffee shop in order to accommodate enough people and to keep it on the down low. We picked up some 50% off Christmas decorations to help with the decor. We bought a few tubs of gold and sparkly bulbs, strung them on fishing wire and hung them like garland across the ceiling. Above each table we hung a gold balloon.bulbs erins bday

For the tables themselves, we glittered and then spray painted some mason jars gold and put a battery operated tea light in each.  Then placed them on top of a little piece of gold tulle and sprinkled the table with rolos and Hershey’s Kisses with Almonds.

Around the windows and on the fireplace mantel we hung gold tinsel  (also on sale in the Christmas decorations) and pinned old pictures of Erin at different stages in life. picture garlandpicture garland 2picture garland 3

One of my favorite ideas was my Mom’s. She suggested that we pull all the shelves out of the display case and fill it with the gold balloons that we bought. I only got light headed a few times…totally worth it. We did come up a little short on balloons, but I think it was close enough.balloons

Now that we’ve got the decorations out of the way, let’s talk about  food. We were looking for something that would feed around 35 people without a lot of work. We decided on a grilled cheese bar since it was December in northern Michigan and all you want to eat is warm and comforting food. We set up the bar with 4 different choices of bread, several different kinds of cheeses and a plethora of grilled cheese toppings. At the end of the bar we had a flattop griddle and one of our friends was kind enough to also grill sandwiches on the coffee shop’s panini grill. You can’t have grilled cheese without tomato soup right? So we also served up some tomato soup and white chicken chili. Goldfish crackers worked well as both an appetizer and crackers for the soup. Other sides included Crunch and Munch, pretzel rods, Golden Teddy Grahams and chips and salsa.

//I’ve yet to host a party where I’ve had time to take pictures of the set up before the guests actually arrived. Maybe someday I’ll get there, but in the mean time you’ll have to excuse the less than perfect pictures of the half eaten food//grilled cheese bargrilled cheese menuIMG_3651

goldfishIMG_3843

We served Boston Coolers for the drinks. It’s one of my sister’s favorite treats and it also happens to be gold! I didn’t get a decent picture of them, because I was too busy drinking them. Oops.

When each guest arrived we had them take a craft stick with a photocopied picture of Erin’s face from one of her childhood pictures. I think this was one of my favorite things. Erin’s…not so much:).IMG_8956

No birthday party is complete without a few games right? I found this 1982 trivia game online and printed one out for each guest. We put them on the tables so they could fill in the blanks while others were arriving and also while they were waiting to get in line for the food.

This is also the only picture you can see the gold centerpieces in at all

This is also the only picture you can see the gold centerpieces in at all


We also played a game of True or False. We complied a list of statements about Erin, some true some false. When we read the statement each person had to hold up a piece of paper that said either “True” or “False.” Surprisingly Grandma didn’t win.truefalse gameI know what you’re thinking…where’s the cake?!? We served chocolate cupcakes with golden, peanut butter frosting and gold sprinkles topped with a Reese’s minis. These cupcakes were delicious if I do say so myself!

IMG_3738IMG_3865And last but not least, the highlight of the evening was the photo booth that we set up in the corner. I know, I know, photo booths are SO last year (although this was last year, does that count?) BUT you can’t deny their ability to be quite entertaining. With some good props and the right people photo booths can actually be lots of fun. We found a cream colored fabric that had little gold specks in it in the fabric center at Walmart. The wreath was a clearance Christmas find as well and then I just cut out and painted the sign that says “cheese” and the number 30 out of poster board. Here are just a few of the many pictures from the night.IMG_3677IMG_3707IMG_3719IMG_3747IMG_3801IMG_3866

We've affectionately given my sister the nickname Louiseezy, or just weezy for short. That's what the "Weezy Gang" sign is about.

We’ve affectionately given my sister the nickname Louiseezy, or just Weezy for short. That’s what the “Weezy Gang” sign is about.

IMG_3899IMG_3936

Okay, I got a little carried away there. Here’s just one more picture though of a group of us that have been friends for somewhere around 20+ years now. Crazy! I don’t remember the last time we got a group picture, our lives span from Illinois to Texas and all the way to China. I feel so lucky that most everyone happened to be in town this year to help us celebrate!IMG_3916

Happy Birthday Erin! 30 years later I’m still proud to call you my sister. I hope you have the best year yet.

//In case you’re wondering where I got my awesome sweater…I found it the day before the party at a thrift store up here in the middle of nowhere. Be jealous.//

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Texas.

Cafe Brazil Mexican Food

Ah, TEXAS.

I’m gonna miss you. Only 2 weeks left.

 

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Right Now, Recently, Soon Will Be…

Right Now…

I am craving chocolate and trying my best to refrain.

I am listening to lots of the Lumineers.

I’m about to brew a fresh pot of coffee.

I’ve got a lot on my mind.

Recently…

I attended Barista Nation Dallas. I learned some new things about coffee, but mostly learned how little I know anything about coffee. yikes.

I’ve been knitting and re-knitting a lot. My friend Rachel came for a visit and got me excited about it again. I then proceeded to screw up two attempts at a hat before throwing it across the room. I am proud to say that I am almost finished with my current project (fingers crossed).

My brother turned 28 and we celebrated…twice. We rented a karaoke room one night and had a bonfire the next. It was tons of fun.

I went with friends to Buzz Brews, it’s been awhile and the Hare Krishna was calling my name.

I’ve been watching Project Runway Allstars. I just can’t help myself. I love the drama…I mean clothes.

Soon I Will Be…

Eating chocolate, most likely.

Starting a new chapter of my life. Making more major decisions.

Drowning in Christmas music

Attacking my closet…Lord help me!

Packing up my belongings and saying goodbyes.

Spending more time in person with my family.

Freezing my butt off.

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#thankful

It’s Thanksgiving. I decided to make the 8.5 hour drive to Kansas City to visit IHOP. I know what you’re thinking…8.5 hours for pancakes?! That’s ridiculous! Before you get too confused, IHOP actually stands for International House Of Prayer. I’ve been here for about 24 hours now. It’s more than I thought it would be. I’m ready to move in. Haha. Anyway, since it’s thanksgiving and I’m here reflecting I thought I’d make a list (because I love lists) of a few things I’m grateful for this year (obviously there are so many more things)

1.Seeing that I’m sitting in a prayer room right now, it seems fitting that I would list God first. Of course I’m thankful for God, but lately I’ve been learning how thankful I am for His unconditional love for me. It’s hard for me to understand, because there are very few people in my life that I can honestly say I would be able to love unconditionally. No matter what. Yet he loves me not because of anything that I’ve ever done. Not because I deserve it, but just because. It’s hard to grasp, but I’m learning.

2. All of my senses. I take them for granted, I really do. I’ve got 20/20 vision dang it!

3. Even when I say I’m broke, I’m not really that broke. I’ve never had to live on the street or go hungry. I might not have much money to my name, but I’ve never had to go without.

4. The other constant in my life aside from God is my family. I’m grateful that I have a family who I can always count on. I could be 45yrs old and I know that my parents would still have my back. I’m thankful that they’ve always been supportive of me and my decisions (well maybe except for the dreadlocks), even when I made stupid ones. I’m privileged to have a family that gets along and actually cares about each other. I wouldn’t trade it.

5. Since I was about 10 all I ever wanted in life was my driver’s license. Guess what…I’ve got one, I’ve got a driver’s license! Just be clear I’ve had one for quite some time now. I know it sounds silly, but I am truly thankful that I can drive. Sometimes I can’t believe that people trust me to drive a speeding bullet down the highway. Sometimes I can’t believe that I trust other people to drive speeding bullets toward me with only a painted line on the road separating us, but how great is it to be able to travel?

6. So I don’t know what my next step in life is going to look like. This current chapter is coming to a close and I don’t know where I’m going to live or what I’m going to do next. I’m thankful that I have options. That I don’t have to worry, because I know that things will work out. This one I guess is kind of hard to explain, but there are so many things I could do or places to go where I can provide food and shelter for myself. Not everyone gets that chance. There are people who don’t get options.

7. I’ve got some friends that are so close that I actually consider them my family. I am grateful for those friends that are a constant in my life. Friends that aren’t afraid to call me out on things, or who are there willing to just listen to me vent. Friends who can speak into my life and help me make sense of things. Friends I can joke with, who I share common interests with and who I can just be myself around. Yeah, those friends. Thank you.

8. Skin. I am thankful for skin. This is kind of a joke, but not really. My old college roommate and I used to tell each other this when we would complain about our skin breaking out. Haha. My skin is still breaking out and is in rough shape, what’s up with that? But I’m thankful for skin, because you know some people don’t even get skin (yeah, I know it’s not true but it helps me keep my complaining in check).

9. Where would I be without the thrifts? Thrift stores make my life possible. That might sound like an exaggeration, and it might be, but I’d say about 90% of the things I own came from the thrift store. My wallet just can’t seem to bring itself to pay full price for very many things anymore. What can I say, I LOVE to thrift.

10. Last but not least, I am thankful for Mexican food. This might sound trivial, but I’m about to leave the land of tex-mex bounty to a dry and barren land where good mexican food is pretty much unheard of. Ahhhhh! I’m tearing up already.

My Thanksgiving lunch. It was pretty delicious.

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Fair Days

a

So it was my first time ever to the State Fair of Texas last week. I’ve lived in Texas off and on for the past 13 years and I’ve never made it once. We decided to head to the fair while my mom was in town, mostly because we wanted to get her on that ferris wheel since she’s completely and utterly afraid of heights!

When we were teenagers we went to an amusement park called Michigan Adventure. We tried so hard to get her onto one of the roller coasters. She finally agreed to give “Zack’s Zoomer” a chance. Let me preface this by saying “Zack’s Zoomer” was a roller coaster for CHILDREN . Not just a smaller scale roller coaster, but an actual ride for kids. I’m not even sure there were seat belts. She screamed the entire length of the ride and wouldn’t let go of the grip she had on that bar to save her life. Of course like the good children that we are, we like to tease her about it any opportunity we get.

So we spent the afternoon/night wandering the midways checking out cars, livestock, extreme BMX stunt riders, all things fried food, and a variety of bands. We managed to get the best chair massage ever, catch the parade, ride on the gondola thing, see  a mulit-sensory fireworks/pyro show and most importantly get our picture taken in front of Big Tex the icon of the Texas State Fair since 1952. Did you know that Big Tex was once a giant Santa Claus constructed to bring commerce to a small town in Texas? He stands 52ft tall, wears a size 70 boot and a 75 gallon hat on his head. Interesting.

If you hadn’t noticed, the ONE thing we didn’t manage to do was actually ride that ferris wheel! Once we made our way over to it, we found that it was closed for maintenance that day. Total bummer. Maybe another time, the weather was beautiful though and it finally started feeling a little bit like fall!

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Am I the only one?

The saga continues. The one about me losing my head if it wasn’t attached.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like this?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who forgets to put the totally necessary, very important, 2 cups of sugar that are required to make No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Bars into the No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Bars. Oops.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who leaves the bathroom with toilet paper hanging out of the back of their pants? This has never happened to you? Well I guess I’m just the lucky one, because it’s actually happened to me not once, but TWICE. Two times. Thankfully this time I spotted it myself in the bathroom mirror before I took the walk of shame through Barne’s and Noble. Yeah, totally embarrassing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who reads the directions to a recipe and then goes and forgets to perform the most basic steps?  Like first spraying your baking pan with cooking spray and second brushing this puff pastry with egg and sprinkling it with sugar before baking? Sure, it still turned out okay when I took it out of the oven with only 4 minutes of baking time left to pour egg and sugar on it.

Am I alone in this?

Let me tangent on this Blueberry Tart for a just minute though. You’re gonna want to make this. Go ahead, get yourself some frozen puff pastry, some fresh blueberries and get this thing in your oven! It’s so simple to make and tastes so delicious. Don’t be like me though. Spray that pan with cooking spray so you don’t have half of your crust stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then go ahead and brush your pastry with some egg and sugar. Do it…before you put it in the oven. Trust me. Here’s the recipe for this bad boy. I can’t complain about my mishaps too much, because as you can see I ate half of the pan in one sitting. And then the other half for breakfast the next day. Uh…maybe don’t be like me here either, maybe you should pace yourself…or share.

Anyone else out there losing their minds this week?

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Peachy Keen Pie

Things are just plain peachy around here this weekend. First off, a friend of mine brought me 10 handpicked peaches from her grandparent’s backyard. (I know, I’ve got great friends right?) Those 10 peaches sat on the counter in my kitchen for a few days until I decided at 11:30 last night that they needed to become peach pie. Oh man…peach pie they did become. Actually they became the best peach pie I’ve ever made. Then I should probably tell you that it was actually the first peach pie I’ve ever made, so I’m not sure that counts.  I’m thinking that it might even detour me from ever making another one for fear that it could have just been beginners peach pie luck. Yeah, that good.

My Kentucky friends are in town visiting for a few days. Yes, I shared the peach pie. That would just be plain rude not to share the best peach pie I’ve ever made. In keeping with the peach theme, we even spent part of the afternoon trying to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser on original Nintendo. This is where I want to say “Life’s a Peach” when best friends are around, but that’s just peaches and cheese:).

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