Friday, March 30, 2012

Rice Casserole

 
When we were growing up we would have Sunday dinner at the dining room table every Sunday.  Though we always sat down to dinner together throughout the week, Sunday's were special.  We would sit in the dining room as opposed to the kitchen table, we would use the fine china and the silver, light candles and, for a while there, Mom even made us listen to classical music.  I cannot remember a time in my life when we didn't have Sunday dinner.  

For the longest time I never even questioned it....it was just what we did on Sunday's.  Typically the meal would be a little more complicated as Mom and Dad would spend the afternoon cooking....time they simply didn't have after work during the week.  We would have hors d'oeuvres beforehand and my parents would each have a cocktail before we sat down to dinner.  As I look back on those times I realize those are some of my favorite childhood memories!  

My parents would sometimes make martinis and though my brother and I were, of course, too young to have a drink they would throw their olives up the air and let us catch them in our mouths.  I guess they knew they were in trouble when we started requesting they not shake the olives before throwing them in the air....I suppose a love of a good martini just runs in the family.

As the years passed, I realized not only was this a special family time for us, but it was also the time in which my parents enstilled in my brother and me the importance of good table manners and how one was supposed to behave at the dinner table.  We weren't bad kids, and honestly we never acted out at dinner with others, but just because it drove our mother crazy, sometimes, on the ever so rare occasion, Allen and I would take our mashed potatoes and push them through our teeth onto our plate....it was simply referred to as "The Wheel".  I realize how disgusting that is, but even to this day it makes me laugh!

I still love to think back on all the times we had drinks and appetizers out on my back porch, which to this day is my "happy place".  There was something magical about sitting out there under the enormous tree in the middle of the porch enjoying the late spring, early summer evenings.  

We still do Sunday dinner most every week and it is a tradition that warms my heart and rejuvenates me for the coming week.  Though sometimes we are tired and it may sound nice to sit on the couch at home and go to bed early, each week I am so happy that we have continued this great weekly tradition and look forward to many more to come!

This dish is one that has been in our family for years, it is after all one of my brothers favorites!  So simple, yet it takes the basic side of rice and turns it into to a dish that according to my mother is "Sunday Dinner Acceptable"!

Rice Casserole (Aunt Nellie, 1977)

1 stick butter
2 medium chopped onions
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup rice (not minute rice)
1 can Campbell's Beef Consomme
1 cup water, fill soup can 3/4 full -- if using the microwave only do 1/2 cup
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onions and green peppers in butter (this can be done on the stove or in the microwave).  
 
Add consomme, rice, water and salt and pepper.  
 
Bake in covered casserole at 350 for 1 hour.
Serve hot!
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

A to Z Survey

I recently saw this template on one of my favorite blogs, gracefulfitnessblog.com and thought it looked like it would be fun to try o here it is....Me, A to Z!

A is for age: 29 possibly for the rest of my life but realistically only until April 27th

B is for breakfast today: Grab the Gold Bar and a cup of coffee

C is for currently craving: Blueberry bagel with cream cheese....and pasta....I am ALWAYS craving pasta!

D is for dinner tonight: Hopefully some sort of fish with a side of steamed vegetables...I am trying to be good during the week, but in all honesty it will be a handful of almonds and some cheese and crackers

E is for favorite type of exercise: Interval Running and Walking...I just like being outside so this satisfies that craving as well!

F is for an irrational fear: Dead animals....they absolutely 100% cannot hurt me but for some reason I feel like they are going to come to life and tear my eyes out...oh, and mice! YUK/EEEKK!!!

G is for gross food:  I don't like anything that has a chipotle flavor to it....that's all you can taste....it just doesn't make sense to me!

H is for hometown: Nashville, TN (aka my favorite place in the whole world)

I is for something important: My family...there is nothing that makes me tear up/laugh/snicker and smile all at the same time!

J is for current favorite jam: Green Door Gourmet Fig Preserves especially on top of a block of cream cheese with some yummy crackers

K is for kids: My nephew Emory and my baby cousins, Whitney, Richard, Noah, Elijah and Avery...they make me happy (oh and they aren't all "babies" anymore but they always will be in my mind)

L is for current location:  At home getting ready for work

M is for the most recent way you spent money: At the grocery....I really should buy Kroger stock with the amount of funds I send their way!

N is for something you need: The white balance on my DSLR has recently stopped working and I would like for someone to fix that for me....any takers?  No? Dury's here we come!

O is for occupation: Advancement Coordinator for a private school

P is for pet peeve: People talking on the phone in front of me like I care what they are talking about....especially while I am trying to concentrate on something.  Baically, inconsiderate/thoughtless/rude people....I just don't see the point in their behavior and it makes me want to slime them like they used to in the old Nickelodeon show "You Can't Say That on Television"....does anyone but me remember that show?  They used to pop out of lockers and chat with each other....incredible!  God bless the '80's and early '90's!

Q is for a quote: "You can't ride two horses with one ass" ~The movie Sweet Home Alabama

R is for random fact about you: I really don't like my food to touch...it's weird, I know, but it really bothers me!

S is for favorite healthy snack: Almonds....I could eat an entire bag in one sitting!

T is for favorite treat: Pasta....any way you want to give it to me....oh, or Mexican but isn't that everyone's?  I mean how can you go wrong with cheese dip and a margarita????

U is for something that makes you unique: evidently my laugh....people always tell me when they are coming to meet me that they can easily find me because they hear my laugh.  I like to think that it is an endearing laugh as I feel certain it isn't a Fran Drescher laugh!

V is for favorite vegetable: Broccoli...hands DOWN!

W is for today’s workout: Running/Walking early this morning

X is for X-rays you’ve had: On my wisdom teeth, my shoulder and my kidneys....none of which were related to the other....that would be one crazy ailment though if they were!

Y is for yesterday’s highlight: Taking the dogs for a walk with one of my oldest and dearest friends who recently became a neighbor of mine again!

Z is for your time zone: Central Standard BABY!!!

Thank you Janetta for this template!
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Killer Garlic Shrimp


Over the years I have thought I was a shrimp fan but the more and more I have it I am not so certain.  Every once in a while I will have a shrimp dish that knocks my socks off but in reality, those dishes seem few and far between.  Who can really pass up shrimp and grits?  No one south of the Mason-Dixon line, that I know for sure!  Shrimp medley....one of my absolute favorites! Shrimp, Mango and Jicama Salad was a total surprise to me that I fell as madly in love with it as I did!

With that being said, I have never really been a fan of shrimp cocktail, though I think my grandparents will never fully accept that information as it is most definitely one of their faves.  

Don't get me wrong, I will eat shrimp cooked most any way, but I just don't love it the way I love, say, beef! You heard me, I am a beef-eating carnivore and proud of it!  I really can't help it and to be honest, I am not ashamed of this fact!  Shrimp does not bring out the same exuberance in me that I find with a good filet.  

It always seemed to me that the recipes I thoroughly enjoyed with regards to the Gulf's most famous crustacean took longer than I have on a regular week night.  That opinion completely changed when my best friend, Nicoll, cooked this shrimp dish for me one night and I was hooked....so simple, so scrumptious, so quick and easy!  Seriously it made me re-evaluate my outlook on your basic shrimp!  I hope you enjoy!

Killer Garlic Shrimp
original recipe from Two Dudes One Pan

2 lbs. extra large (10 to 15 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 limes, cut into wedges
Place shrimp in a large bowl and toss with garlic and oil.
 
Note: I typically mince my garlic myself but for this recipe I find that I this works better:

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.  Heat a stainless skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the salt to the shrimp and toss to combine, then add the shrimp and the marinade to the hot skillet.

Cook until the shrimp are curled and slightly firm to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often.
Transfer the shrimp to a serving bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes and cilantro.  Serve immediately, with limes on the side.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My secret love....

Ok, well let's just get it out there...it is nothing I am proud of but I am obsessed even though it goes against EVERYTHING in which I so fervently believe.  For years I have been preaching that I refuse to use margarine as it is only one molecule away from plastic and why would anyone ever want to cook with that let alone ingest it.  Well my friends, I confess!  I absolutely, unabashedly, shamefully love spray butter.  It has been hiding in the back of my refrigerator for years, out of sight of anyone who might go snooping looking to rat me out! 

I can't help it!  It's not my fault.....REALLY!!!  You see what had happen'd was....I was introduced to it in college, it took me by storm, I was ill-equipt, unprepared really to handle how much I would become addicted to it!  Now it is just my shameful, albeit healthier, condiment to most vegetables and in some isolated incidents, on bread.  

I mean seriously though people, it has zero calories and 70% less saturated fat than butter!  Now I am just trying to justify it to myself....forgive me!  In all honesty, I simply refuse to stop using real butter!  I do believe that regardless of the fat content, I would rather ingest something that is natural as opposed to something that is literally one molecule away from plastic.....obviously excluding my guilt pleasure!


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Monday, March 26, 2012

Jess Rice's Oven Roasted Chicken

How many times have I gone to the store to get a rotisserie chicken and thought to myself, "Self, you can really make your own rotisserie chicken" and proceeded to buy the pre-made one and go on my merry way?  A million....that is how many times!  

Several years ago my cousin Jess, who I honestly believe is the queen of homemade staples, said that she had a wonderful recipe for a roasted chicken which I of course was dying to try.....a couple of years ago....and had I tried it yet? NO!  

Well finally someone asked me if I had a recipe for your basic roasted chicken and the thought crossed my mind, well yes, in fact, I do!

With my new found motivation I went to the store to grab the very few ingredients and cooked myself a homemade roasted chicken.  As I was putting all the ingredients together it literally took me longer to take the pictures than it did to assemble.  

It was at that moment that I began thinking how ridiculous all my previous excuses had been for not making it earlier....i.e. "I don't have the ingredients" or even better "I don't have time to put all that together".... ridiculous!

Jess Rice's Roasted Chicken

4-5 lb chicken
oregano
minced garlic
garlic powder
salt and pepper
lemon
 
Mix the spices and garlic on a plate. 
 
 Quart the lemon. 
 Press the lemon on all sides into the spices. 
 Stuff the lemons into the cavity of the bird and rub the outside of the bird with the remaining spices. 
 
 Place in a roasting pan. In a 325 degree oven cook the chicken for 35 minutes per pound but DO NOT open the oven while it cooks. Once it is done turn off the oven but leave the bird in. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
So there is it friends, the easiest recipe EVER!
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Pesto Gnocchi

 
Ever since I first had gnocchi at a small little Italian restaurant in Atlanta I seem to have cravings for it every once in a while.  Nothing says comfort quite like gnocchi in a good vodka sauce but maybe that's just me!  It has become one of my favorite indulgences.  I love finding new ways to cook it and serve it.  

Recently I came across a recipe where you actually roasted it but to me it is so much better cooked the ole fashioned way....in a pot of water, but the rest of the ingredients peeked my interested....it was tossed with pesto which I had never had before.  

In the summer I am always looking for ways to use up my enormous amount of basil from the garden so I end up making tons of it to freeze and use for the rest of the year.  After seeing this recpe I ran with it and grabbed some pine nuts and Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and went on my merry way!  Holy cannelloni it was delicious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pesto Gnocchi
2 packages of gnocchi
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablepoons homemade pesto
Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, grated
Toasted pine nuts
  
Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. Drain completely. Toss with with pesto, grated cheese and top with pine nuts.
  
Serve warm.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Shells

 
With the move behind us and everything put away it was time to get down to business and start having people over for dinner again.  I can't seem to go more than a week without having friends over for dinner before I start to get a little fidgety.  

Since I have started working at a school I have had one of the greatest bonuses that an job could offer....SPRING BREAK BABY!!!  That's right, I get a week off in the spring without having to take any vacation, personal time or sick days....it's pretty much amazing!

With the start of spring break pending I thought there would be no better way to kick start my week than to have a few friends over for dinner.  With that in mind I began to ponder what I could make.  Since I had re-pinned this recipe on Pinterest recently and received an enormous amount of re-pins I figured it had to be worth trying!

I decided to try it with both ground sirloin and ground turkey.  After taking a very scientific survey, it was pretty much a 50/50 split on whether people liked the sirloin or the turkey more so choose your poison but know they are both delicious!

Mexican Stuffed Shells

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 package low-sodium taco seasoning 
4 ounces cream cheese
20 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 cup taco sauce 
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterrey jack cheese

For toppings:
3 green onions
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a pan brown the ground beef; add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. 
 
 
Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Stir together and mix well. 
Set aside and cool completely.
 
While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to package directions; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board or baking sheet so that they don’t stick together.
   
Pour salsa on bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up. Evenly cover shells with taco sauce. 
Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes with the foil removed. Top with green onions or olives if desired. Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa.

 
 
 So much fun having friends over for dinner!  Tess even finally became friends with Michael!  For those of you who don't know Tess, she is a rescue and doesn't make new friends often! 
This was a big day for Michael!!
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Food Trucks and Night Market

meet n 3 march no merch 
I think there is no better way to support your local community than to support local artist, farmers, and small businesses so it is my goal to do that to the best of my ability.  I try to only eat at locally owned restaurants, I support local groceries and produce stands whenever possible and I love to see the amazing work that comes from so many of our local artists.  Such exhibits like The Harding Art Show and the Harpeth Hall Alumnae Exhibit are amung some of my favorites but one I was not aware of, which proved to be superb, was the gathering of artists and food trucks at the downtown Nashville Farmer's Market I attended a week ago.

I have long been a proponent of the food trucks who have busted onto the scene over the past few years so when I heard they had started having an event at the Farmer's Market on the first Friday night of every month I knew it was something I would enjoy.  Since we are always looking for fun, new things to do around town, it was no trouble at all finding a group of friends who wanted to go with me.  What surprised me the most was the amazing art that was also on display.

There was handmade jewelry, fire blazed pottery, photography, a gentleman painting his original piece in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and just about some of the most amazing works I have ever seen.  My personal favorites were these amazing photos taken in and around Nashville mounted on wood all created by the incredibly talented Amanda Bennett (check out more of her pieces here).
  
After chatting with our local artists and hearing about their incredible works it was time to move on to the food!  Ohhhhhh the food trucks....how I love this wonderful new craze!  It is truly some of the most tasty gourmet food you will find anywhere in town.  Some of the most amazing dishes I have had over the past year have come out of the side of a truck.  

My two favorites are the Grilled Cheeserie and Riff's.  Just imagine, a grilled cheese with marinated mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes on sourdough bread or shrimp and grits that make this southern girl question every other version of the dish I have ever tried!  Check them all out on Facebook and Twitter so you can keep up with where they will be next.  It doesn't matter what you are in the mood for, one of these amazing trucks is going to satisfy any craving!  Here are some of the ones who frequent the night market....
The Grilled Cheeserie always has a long line so just be ready!
Riff's is absolutely the most amazing street fare in the city, in my personal opinion!
 
 
 
 
Riff's Mac 'N Cheese with Buffalo Chicken
Riff's Paella
Live Music is another hit of the night market
Tater tots from the Grilled Cheeserie are always a favorite
 
Check out the night market events here and support your local artists, grocers, restaurants and farmers!!
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