Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's here.

Since we last spoke, the season has turned from summer to autumn.  

I once again dream of all things pumpkin, trees shedding their leaves, and of course chili, soups and stews. But I have to tell you. The best thing about fall? The. Best. Thing. 

All. Of. It. 

Full fledged, in it to win it football Saturdays. Squash, gourds and greens of all shapes and sizes flooding the farmers markets. Dining outside because you can't bear the thought of wasting a moment of this gorgeous weather. 

Crisp air. Lattes. Long walks. Pie. Scarves. Football. Boots. Saturdays.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy {Game Day} Saturday!

Greetings from Oxford, Mississippi!

Here's hoping for a W for the Rebels {over the Texas Longhorns}, a fabulous tailgate {with even more fabulous food} and lots of catching up with old friends {reminiscing about the glory days}.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Currently Obsessed: Overnight Oatmeal

It's cold, it's creamy and it's low maintenance. What more could you possibly want in a breakfast item?

Combine 1 cup rolled oats with 1 cup of milk {any kind; I used 1% but I bet it would be ah-mazing with almond milk} and a teeny splash of vanilla extract.  Give it a stir then cover and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

While you're busy resting those eyes and getting at least 8 precious hours of beauty sleep, the oatmeal will be absorbing the milk and vanilla, turning the perfect consistency just before you wake. When you're ready to eat the following morning, top with agave nectar or honey, a few tablespoons of nuts and your favorite fruit. 

Note: It actually took me two mornings to go through this amount because it was so filling. {Who knew a bowl of oatmeal could be so satisfying?} I haven't kept it any longer than two days so I'm not sure how long it will keep in the refrigerator. My guess is no more than a few days.

Go ahead, give it a try.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dutch Oven Lovin'

I'm a sucker for anything that can be cooked in my favorite all-time kitchen appliance:

So when I racked my brain for what to cook in my {beloved} dutch oven this week, the following recipe {filled with tasty veggies, hearty beans and just a few of my favorite spices} was the perfect answer:

Healthy, Hearty & Oh-So-Easy Vegetable Stew

{Shopping List}

From the produce department:
3 stalks of celery with leafy greens
3 carrots
1 medium sized yellow onion
2 cups of chopped collard greens
From the packaged foods aisle:
1/2 cup orzo pasta
32 oz carton vegetable broth
16 oz can pinto beans
16 oz can red kidney beans
16 oz can diced tomatoes
*all canned items should be low sodium
From your well stocked spice cabinet:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Chop onion, celery and carrots into bite sized pieces, reserving the leafy greens from the celery.  In a dutch oven over medium heat, saut√© onion, carrot and celery for 4 to 5 minutes.  Season with salt, black pepper, turmeric, paprika, chili powder and cayenne pepper.  Pour in the entire carton of vegetable stock, 3 cups of water and (undrained) can of diced tomatoes. Drop in 2 bay leaves, stir, then replace the lid and reduce to low heat.  Let simmer for at least 45 minutes. 

Drain both cans of beans and rinse under water until there is no foam as the water hits the beans. Turn the burner up to medium and toss in collard greens, celery greens, pinto and red kidney beans, and orzo. Give the pot a good stir then replace the lid and cook for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through the collards are soft in texture. Remove bay leaves before serving.

{Note: The orzo will get bigger and absorb more water the longer it sits.  It's particularly amazing the next day topped with a splash or two of hot sauce.}

Yes, I am aware that cooking a thick and hearty stew the second week of September is a bit premature {considering it is still very much summertime in this part of the world}, but sometimes a home-cooked bowl of goodness is exactly what you need to calm your senses and recharge your batteries for a busy week {ahem, month} ahead.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Birthday Dinner

Yet another birthday is on the horizon, that of my darling Ross. 

As one can assume, he just "doesn't care" what we do for his birthday.  Let me brief you on our recent conversation about his birthday plans:

Me: Do you want to go to Caf√© Thirty-A for your birthday dinner?
Ross: Sure.
Me: OMG, I'm drooling over their menu. So excited.
Oh wait, your birthday is the day you get back from Surf Expo {in Orlando, a 6 hour drive}. Are you going to want a home-cooked meal after dining out all week?
Ross: Yeah, let's eat at home.
Me: What do you want?
Ross: Chicken tacos or bbq.
Me: Key Lime Pie or birthday cake?
Ross: Key Lime Pie or a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.
Me: {...?...} Okay!

With that in mind, here's the menu I came up with for Ross' birthday dinner:
{You're all invited, of course.}

Home Made Guacamole

photo & recipe courtesy of Scarletta Bakes

photo & recipe courtesy of Annie Eats {I add lots of spices to my version, recipe to come...}

photo & recipe courtesy of the eclectic cook {still debating whether to use her recipe or Emeril's}
Dinner's on tonight around 7:30pm. Wish me luck!

P.S. Click here to read about Ross' birthday last year {well, mostly about his birthday cake and the debacle that ensued during my race against the clock.}

P.P.S. Happy early birthday to my BFF Sarah Bush, who I had the luxury of visiting with last weekend. Hope your day is as fabulous as you are :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Just Lovely

I'll be spending my weekend doing absolutely nothing.

If this were my bedroom I'd never leave.
The biggest commitment I'll make is going to the Seaside Farmers Market

Other than that? Nothing at all.

Just relaxing, continuing to detox from last weekend {Game Day} by eating lots of fruits and veggies {no alcohol, thank you}, and spending plenty of time with my girl, Dex.

I hope you have a lovely weekend too.

{P.S. If you missed the opening weekend of Ole Miss football, read and watch this.}

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The perfect salad

The one glorious summer I lived in New York City, I would eat a chopped salad nearly every day for lunch.  This is when and where my salad addiction started.

My internship was in midtown, and if you're familiar with this part of the city then you would agree that quick and delightful lunch spots are heavily sprinkled down 6th, 7th and Broadway between 34th and Times Square. Thus when it came time each day to hop into the elevator and wander the streets to pick up a bite for lunch {in the sweltering heat} I would often head over to Chop't to order my salad of the day.

The special thing about this heavily trafficked lunchtime locale is when they say "do you want it chopped?" And that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world.  There is nothing I mean, NOTHNG worse than a salad which features lettuce leaves the size of your fist. I mean really, how are you supposed to eat that like a lady? It completely detracts from the salad experience, not to mention your table manners.

So how, you ask, do you make this perfect chopped salad at home?

Well, I hate to say it, but if you follow my instructions your salad will look nothing like this.  It's pretty and all, but how are you supposed to eat it? One ingredient at a time?

My secrets and tips for the most satisfying salad

It's all about the perfect combination of textures chopped it into bite-sized pieces.

something crunchy... I usually combine two kinds of greens for the perfect amount of crunch. My favorite combo is chopped romaine hearts and spinach. Mixing in corn will add crunch to otherwise un-crunchy greens (like arugula or baby spinach). I also like to shred carrots with a vegetable peeler to sneak in this healthy veggie without it being too overbearing.
something creamy... avocado and/or cheese. At the moment I've been on a feta and avocado kick. Even though avocado is high in fat, it has so many benefits that make it totally worth the splurge. To balance it out I'll only include a tablespoon or so of feta. 
something salty... olives! just a few and chopped into tiny pieces adds a ton of flavor.
something sweet... I love grape tomatoes OK really any kind of tomato or mandarin oranges.
lean protein... I've been on a turkey lunchmeat kick lately, but equally as delicious are black beans, chickpeas, rotisserie chicken or a hard boiled egg.
salt and pepper... what? yes! it's the most important part of any salad because it brings out all the yummy flavors.
tangy dressing... the salad dressing aisle is your oyster. or just make your own.

Combine all of your chopped ingredients in a large bowl, pour your favorite dressing over the top, then toss, mix and stir with a fork until every morsel is coated. {What's worse than a non-chopped salad? A salad with dressing on top and dry ingredients on the bottom. It's just wrong.}

Which brings me back to my story...

Since those few precious months in NYC, every summer, like clockwork, I crave salads like crazy.  Just ask Ross how many times between May and September I say "let's have a big salad for dinner." If you ask me, I'd say at least three times a week (which is of course in addition to eating "a big salad" for lunch). If you ask him he'd say "EVERY damn DAY!" {What can I say, he loves it.} Truth be told Ross doesn't mind having "a big salad" every few nights as long as it's extremely filling and satisfying.  And I'll be frank with you guys, I do two things very well: cooking Mexican rice and tossing together "big" salads. The latter just happens to be what's on the menu as of late.

{However, I am thinking this recipe will make a come back the moment I feel even the slightest chill in the air.}
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