Monday, January 30, 2012

Birthday Weekend Recap

Things that made me so incredibly happy this weekend:

  1. It was my 21st birthday (for all of you out there who have escaped the barrage of reminders that pepper my posts as of late.)
  2. My beautiful birthday cake (pictures to come.)
  3. The Passion Pit album downloaded for my by my roommate and now it has dominated my listening pleasure (check them out here and here.)
  4. The prayer written inside of a birthday card from my grandparents, reproduced below:
Dear Lord,
Please bless this granddaughter with all that she may need as she seeks to do Your will in life and follow where You lead. Give her guidance in decisions, give her joy in little things, let her know You're always there, no matter what tomorrow brings. Fill her heart with the happiness she's so deserving of for the way she's blessed her family with her gentle faith and love.
This is our prayer for you, Kate

It brought tears to my eyes.

And last but not least... this yummy dinner inspired by the unseasonably warm weather consider it is almost February and I am used to only eating soups and stews at this point of the year.

The makings of a yummy tuna salad - a curious craving but a craving none the less.

My tuna salad dressing contains celery leaf, flat leaf parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, red pepper flake, and salt. The salad itself is tuna (of course!), minced onion, celery, and red pepper. Simple but sublime!

Served as a sandwich...

... and salad.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cranberries are not Just for Sauce

In fact, I have been using them all over the place (see here.) Since it is no longer cranberry season and you can't find the bright, tart little joys in the produce department anymore, I thought I would write about a meal I made my family back during winter break, right before I had my wisdom teeth removed, as a final "hurrah!" before having to give up chewing and solid food in general for a few days. 

For those of you who have had the procedure done, I hope you had as much luck as I did - I slept through the whole thing and was never in pain. I, of course, have my wonderful parents to thank for that, as they took good care of me while I was reduced to a less than independent state to say the least. My mom was reminiscing I'm sure while feeding me mushy foods during the first 12 hours after the operation as I drifted in and out of a euphoric sleep. I remember very little, but according to my sister, who is always looking for an opporunity to get my goat, disappointedly reported that I did nothing of interest.

This mean was a way to also use some leftovers in the fridge, including a forgotten half bag of cranberries from Christmas. I made a quick pan sauce with them, containing strawberries and fresh thyme, and deglazed the pan with a splash of white wine and chicken stock to round out the flavor after searing my pork chops in the skillet.

I served these panko crusted and roasted pork chops with herbed quinoa which, if you have never worked with it, is really a miracle grain. Just as versatile as pasta or rice but so incredibly healthy. I chopped up a lot of left over fresh herbs to dress this ancient grain, including tarragon, thyme, and rosemary, and then drizzled in sunflower oil and lemon juice.

I threw these last two photos in here an encouraging image to all home cooks out there. I am probably one of the messiest cooks you will ever find, and most of the time when I am at home I have to tell my mom not to come in the kitchen less she freak out at the monstrous mess I have made. The good thing about these messes, which sets them apart from most obnoxious sties, is that they are edible.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Choose to Chew my Green Goddess Smoothies

There are lots of things that make me curiously happy, like a pair of jeans that fit perfectly, a surprisingly warm day in the middle of January, the fact that my birthday is only four days away, and Greek yogurt drizzled with honey and toasted almonds for breakfast. What made me exceptionally happy today, however, was when my dinner plans turned out even better than I could have hoped. You know the old saying that starts out "best laid plans of mice and men..." and sometimes you feel like the man and sometimes you feel the mouse, but regardless your plans "gang aft agley."

I had made kale pesto while still on break and threw it in the freezer for a day such as today where I ran wide open since 9am and returned home famished. I tossed this pesto with sauteed broccoli, whole wheat rigatoni pasta, and topped with diced tomatoes and shredded Romano cheese. It was a beautiful concept as I was brainstorming my dinner walking home from classes, much like a kindergartner meticulously plans his after school snack down to every last detail, but as I was mixing it all up my excitement waned a bit when the proper creamy consistency of traditional pesto was lacking from my pasta (due to the fact that I omitted the customary Parmesean cheese in the pesto in order to cut calories and fat.) I added a little of the pasta's cooking water, with all that gummy starch, and again I was curiously happy as I plated my pasta dinner... which just occurred to me contained many of the elements of a Green Goddess smoothie. I always preferred chewing my vegetables anyway.

For those of you who may be curious, my pesto was comprised of blanched kale leaves, toasted walnuts, fresh basil, olive oil and a little water to bind, seasoned with salt and red pepper flakes. This is of course just a jumping off point as you can base your pesto off of anything you would like, including spinach which I have done in the past with great success.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pizza of a Sweeter Persuasion

My 21st birthday is in one short week and, while preparing myself mentally for the stark reality of turning one year older, I have been making plans that will help me celebrate such a momentous occasion. I have decided to go home my actual birthday, which just so happens to conveniently fall on a Saturday, to spend with my family. We will be dining at McCormick & Schmick's which, so I've heard, is a fabulous fresh and locally proud seafood restaurant. I think seafood is one of the most decedent ways to celebrate, so I am thrilled to be trying this place for the first time, surrounded by family, cioppino, and a killer wine menu. Afterwards we will be convening back at our home to savor Mommaw's birthday cake (which I am thinking will be lemon cake with raspberry filling - one of my favorite flavor combinations and such a departure from the cold, dreary weather we have been having as of late.)

The weekend after I will celebrate with my friends by dining at my favorite restaurant in my college home town, Saul Good. Afterwards I am inviting everyone back to my apartment for homemade birthday dessert and coffee. The beauty of this arrangement is that: 1. I have a perfect reason to bake all the sweets I want because I will have all these wonderful friends to savor them with me, 2. I have all day Friday to prepare for such a festive event, as I don't have classes on Friday's this semester - heavenly.

I have been doing a lot of cookbook, blog, and recipe reading to decide which desserts I would like to make, and in the brainstorming process my roommates suggested a fruit pizza. An interesting option, and as I had never made one before, I wanted to give it a test drive. Let me tell you, they are every bit as fun to make as they are to eat!

Basic no-roll sugar cookie recipe that I used half for the pizza "crust" and the other half was dedicated to actual cookies to throw in the freezer for an occasion where sweets are necessary.

Pizza sauce - made of whipped cream cheese and fluffy sweetened cream cheese to lighten the frosting.

The final product! Pretty right?

Glazed here with a little melted honey to make it pretty.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cabinet Clean Out

Now that the semester has started for real, after the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I am falling back into a routine with my new course schedule, which means that dinner is again my responsibility - gone are the days were dinner was dinnertime was a group effort between my mom, myself, and my dad. And after having my wisdom teeth removed just over a week ago, I am just now reveling in the fact that solid food is no longer off limits. It is so lovely to be reintroduced to foods that you used to take for granted. Oyster crackers were like an early birthday present when I was able to eat them again, along with meat of any variety and apples. And 

This week, be it filled with getting used to classes and reading syllabi, has also been a lot about getting back into the swing of things. I have cleaned after the month long break, purchased my textbooks and a parking pass, entered all my due dates into my calendar, and finally managed to fill my fridge with food other than leftovers. That being said, however, I have not given any thought to dinners this week, and have only managed to heat up leftovers and use items out of my cabinet. Which is never a bad thing; thank goodness I had some things in the freezer to thaw out as I get settled into my new schedule. Tonight I combined black beans, corn, canned tomatoes, sauteed onions and peppers, and some grilled chicken to make a pasta dish of sorts. Filling, healthy, and it cleaned out my fridge some, so no complaints at all.

And now I have a 21st birthday to start planning!!! I shall ponder over my pasta. Any unique and fun suggestions would be more than welcome!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas Party: Part II

As promised in my previous post, here is the second half of the Christmas party, the food part! My previous post featured all the glorious floral arrangements (constructed so artfully by my grandma) and can be viewed here. Really, you should check them out, they really are breathtaking, she did such a wonderful job with them. They were catered to each room they were placed in and fit is just beautifully - I answered questions all night long from guests wanting to know who did our flour arrangements!

Here is my mom's and my contribution to the festivities. We stuck with a southern classic Christmas theme, as our home is a colonial Williamsburg replica, and everything turned out simply scrumptious. Feel free to browse all these great pictures, provided by my sister, and ask any questions you'd like!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!

Our hot appetizer table

Crab Cakes with Creole Remoulade

Trio of Homemade Mustard for the Biscuit Sandwiches - Cranberry Mustard, Sweet and Spicy Mustard, and Grainy

Country Ham on Chive Biscuits

Poinsettia Sipper - lime and cranberry sparkling cider

Peanut Brittle (my favorite part of the holidays - these bowls had to be put is rooms very far away from me in order to stay full.)

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Pecan Fudge

Homemade Cookie Tray, filled with family recipes

Spritz cookies, Miniature Pecan Pies, Austrian Jams, and Peanut Butter Blossoms

Spinach Dip - complete with a crunchy water chestnut finish

Goat Cheese Log with Cranberry Jam

Festive Fruit Platter

Asiago, Parmesean , and Italian Herb Pita Crisps

Spicy Spinach Pinwheels

Olives and Cornichon Pickles

Stuffed Strawberry Tomatoes

Cheese Platter with Fig Jam

Our cold appetizer table, complete with our Egg Tree in the corner!

Me before the party, making sure everything is in it's place...

... and me after everyone has left and all the clean up was complete.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

For You Flower Fans out There

I might have mentioned in a previous post that my family hosted a Christmas party a few weekends before Christmas. Having had some time off after finals and to recover from the holidays, I have flipped through the numerous pictures we took of the festivities and wanted to share the cream of the crop with you all. This will be the first of two entries to share this epic Christmas party with you.

All of our arrangements were perfectly matched with each room on our home, (living, family, dining, and kitchen, not to mention the cute bud cases she made for the bathroom and foyer) by Mommaw. She is oh so talented, never ceasing to amaze me with how she makes flower arrangements look like they came straight out of a Country Homes and Gardens magazine.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 for 12 of 2012

I had a friend once who, on the first day of every year, would put her iPod on shuffle and the first 12 songs that played would be the 12 songs that acted as a precursor for each month of the year ahead. Some songs were happy and energetic, the kind you want to go share with the world around you by singing from rooftops, and others were sad and pensive, ones you save for a lonely cloudy day. This was her means of a New Year's Resolution she would stick to, and these 12 songs acted as the way she would welcome in each month; uniquely and with purpose. She didn't seem to take anything for granted, as shown by her devout reverence to every song in her extensive music collection, holding every single track near enough to her heart that she wouldn't dream of denying it the opportunity to rein in the new year. It is with this devotion in my heart that I share with you my promises to myself for the new year.

1. Take time for me.
2. Break a sweat.
3. Take a multivitamin. Everyday.
4. Be religious about religion.
5. Don't take for granted what others lack.
6. Learn how to accept a compliment.
7. Be more generous with my time, money, and understanding.
8. Reach out.
9. Make smart indulgences.
10. Take time to savor every single moment that makes life worth living.
11. Celebrate the small victories.
12. Thank God every chance I get.

There you have it: 12 goals for the next 12 months of 2012. These are goals I have been thinking about for a while (it is December 16th, 2011 as I start this blog post) and ones that I plan to revisit from time to time throughout the year to check up on my progress. I am just like any other person who makes commitments to themselves on the first of the year, starting out with high hopes and already slacking two weeks into the year, but my sincere hopes are that by posting these goals on my blog, I will hold myself to higher accountability, and in turn, will actually benefit from making these promises for once.