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potluck goodies – 7.4.12 – blueberry cherry clafoutis

Yes, this post about the 4th of July is long overdue.

But, like I said, July’s been busy. So I hope you’ll forgive me. 🙂

Three and a half weeks ago, we enjoyed a pretty awesome Independence Day celebration.

Jessica and Brent had us over for a cookout at their house, which is in the middle of nowhere. But, strangely enough, the little rural fire department just down the road from their neighborhood hosts an impressive fireworks show every July 4th, and this year, we were invited to set up our tailgate chairs in Jessica and Brent’s front yard, sip a cold beer or three, and enjoy the festivities!

The party itself was fantastic. Great company, of course (much of the same bunch we hung out with at the wedding a few months ago), but also, great food!

Brent made a spicy and delicious low country boil. We stuffed ourselves with salads and sausage balls, red-white-and-blue Rice Krispie treats and a crazy chocolaty layered dessert in a trifle dish, a loaf of my very first sourdough, and the blueberry cherry clafoutis that you see here:

full o’ fruit!

I was going for a red, white, and blue dessert with the cherries, blueberries, and custardy cake, but as you can see my dish turned out to be a little more like deep purple and warm, golden brown. Not that I’m complaining. 🙂

This sweet treat was inspired in part by an abundance of fruit in my refrigerator, but I doubt I would’ve thought of it on my own without some help from my blogging friends.

Daisy over at coolcookstyle posted her Cherry Clafoutis recipe (adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1) just a couple of weeks after Putney Farm posted their Cherry Clafoutis recipe (adapted from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook).

Unable to decide which recipe to follow, I combined the two.

Not willy-nilly, either–I actually made myself a little chart to compare techniques and quantities of ingredients between the two recipes, then merged them into one. (Yes, I’m a nerd.)

I loved that Putney Farm spiced their clafoutis up with lemon and cinnamon, but Daisy’s recipe proved easier to execute because it didn’t involve individual ramekins or cooking the cherries first.

And, of course, I made a few changes of my own, subbing blueberries for half of the cherries and Greek yogurt plus 2% milk for the whole milk/heavy cream.

Having not made or eaten a clafoutis before, I can’t tell you if mine turned out to be technically correct, but I can describe it for you: imagine a dessert that’s part-cake, part-custard, and bursting with fresh fruit–without being super-sweet. That’s exactly my kind of dessert, and if that strikes your fancy, I’ll bet you’d like a clafoutis, too!

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1-1/2 cups blueberries
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting and/or vanilla ice cream for topping (both are optional but highly recommended :))

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9″x13″ baking dish. (You could probably use a smaller dish instead for a thicker clafoutis, but you’ll probably want to adjust the baking time and/or temperature if you do.)
  • Spread the cherries and blueberries out evenly over the buttered pan.
  • In your blender, combine the rest of the ingredients except for the powdered sugar and blend for about 1 minute. Or, mix in a bowl with a stick blender, an electric hand mixer, or a whisk until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the batter over the fruit. (Be gentle so you don’t shove the berries around too much in the dish.)
  • Bake for about 1 hour or until your clafoutis is puffy and golden brown. (Daisy notes in her recipe that the cake will sink a little, like a souffle or a frittata, after you take it out of the oven. So when this happens, don’t worry! It’s supposed to do that.)
  • After allowing your clafoutis to cool for 5 or 10 minutes, feel free to dust it with powdered sugar before cutting yourself a big wedge, which you are then welcome to top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Now that I’ve made my first clafoutis, I’m interested in trying other variations.

First, I think next time I might reduce the amount of flour just a bit (and maybe also reduce the baking time or temperature) to see if I can achieve a more custardy, less cakey result.

And while clafoutis is traditionally made with cherries (which I adore), they’re not really suited to hot, humid Southern summers, so next time I’ll probably experiment with some local and seasonal fruits like figs or peaches, which grow all over around here (even in my yard, when the pesky squirrels don’t get them first!).

Of course, Wikipedia informs me that once you vary from cherries, your dessert is now properly called a flaugnarde…but please forgive me if I fudge a little and call mine clafoutis anyway. It sounds prettier. 🙂

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project in progress, 6.10.12 – Micah’s home-cured bacon, part 2

Shame on me.

Micah and I have been enjoying his home-cured bacon for a few weeks now, and I haven’t even updated you on the progress.

My most humble apologies!

Quick recap:

Micah cured a pork belly to make homemade bacon. When it was curing, it looked like this:

pork belly curing in salt, sugar, and lots of garden-grown rosemary

For this step, Micah for the most part referenced a very detailed article from Oregon Live. Other sources for the curing part of the process include this recipe from Saveur and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe (because Ruhlman, author of a book called Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, is pretty much The Man when it comes to curing meats).

No pink salt (Insta Cure No. 1/sodium nitrite) was used in our curing process because a) it was listed as “optional”; b) we didn’t have any; and c) added nitrates/nitrites are chemicals we try to mostly avoid.

Micah also left out the juniper berries because, well, where on earth do you buy juniper berries, anyway? So extra bay leaves and rosemary took the place of those.

Our slab of pork belly cured in the salt/sugar/seasoning mixture for about a week, during which time it was flipped and rotated occasionally and released a fair amount of moisture. Then, Micah cleaned off the cure and it was time for smoking.

Micah wanted to cold-smoke the bacon rather than hot-smoking it (which would have cooked it instead of leaving it raw). Of course, we don’t own any kind of fancy smoking appliances, so (as usual) we improvised:

Micah’s DIY cold smoker, constructed from everyday household items

Micah got the idea for this from the LA Weekly blog and (again, for the most part) followed their instructions, subbing an aluminum beer can for the tin can that they suggested.

To make your own cold smoker, you need….

  • a soldering iron (preferably one that’s never been soldered with before–we picked up a cheapie from the hardware store for about $15)
  • a large roasting pan
  • a wire rack
  • a tin or aluminum can, with the top almost completely removed so it makes kind of a flip-top lid
  • wood chips
  • ice packs
  • foil

You can see in the picture basically how all this is put together. The wood chips are inside the PBR can, and the soldering iron rests inside of that where it heats the wood to create smoke, but no fire–pretty cool! Once you’ve got your roasting pan smoker set up, you just put whatever food item you would like to smoke onto the rack, turn on the soldering iron, and cover the whole rig with aluminum foil to keep the smoke in.

The day Micah smoked his bacon, he had the smoker going pretty much all day, changing the woodchips out about every hour or two. Our whole house and porch and yard were enveloped in an intoxicating aura of porky smoke, which was fabulous. Even our hair and our clothes smelled like bacon. And I have to admit, while I always find Micah attractive, somehow he’s extra sexy when he’s bacon-scented. 🙂

When the bacon was done smoking late that evening, it looked like this:

just look at that smoky golden glow….

And it smelled incredible.

Since the whole slab was about three pounds, Micah cut it into six 8-ounce hunks, and we froze all but one of them.

Then, finally, it was time to try the bacon!

Micah sliced it nice and thick.  This is what it looked like raw:

nice ‘n’ streaky

And then we cooked it up good and crispy in a cast-iron skillet:

<insert drool here>

The verdict?

Amazing.

This bacon tastes like bacon squared, perfectly smoky and porky and delicious. The only change Micah said he will make next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time!) is to cure the bacon for a slightly shorter amount of time, maybe 4-5 days instead of a week, as this batch is almost, but not quite, on the verge of being too salty.

I think we’ve devoured half of this batch of bacon in just a few short weeks, enjoying it on burgers and sandwiches, with eggs and toast for breakfast, and crumbled over a bed of tangy, spicy collard greens:

served with black-eyed peas, summer squash, and cornbread, naturally

Not only has this project sold us on curing our own bacon from now on, but it has also inspired us to branch out into other curing and smoking experiments–I am itching to try making our own smoked salmon!

In the meantime, we’ve still got a pound and a half of beautiful home-cured, home-smoked pork belly in our freezer, and I can’t imagine it will last much longer.

After all, everything’s better with bacon. 🙂

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date-night dinner – 6.29.12 – disorderly josephs

I have to hand it to my mom and dad. Statistically, there is no way they should’ve been good parents.

When my mom found out she was pregnant with me, she was fifteen and my dad was barely eighteen. They were party kids, recklessly making mischief in our tiny town where, honestly, there was little else to do besides skinny-dipping in the lake or getting sloshed on Boone’s Farm.

Mom and Dad could have given me up, could have stayed trouble-making teens for at least a few years longer before gradually easing into the responsibilities of adulthood.

Instead, they got married, got jobs, had my brother Dave (so I wouldn’t be an only child), bought a house, settled down.

They grew up.

I remember one evening when I was little, sitting on the sofa and watching my mother iron. I asked her how old she was. “Nineteen,” she said. And all I could think, at three and a half, was that my mom was so old.

Now that I’m pushing 30, my own nineteenth year a whole decade gone, I shudder to imagine what kind of mom I might have been at that age. I was so impulsive, so self-centered, so careless. Such a kid.

Could I have enforced bathtimes, naptimes, mealtimes, bedtimes? Could I have woken in the night, time and time again, to feed and comfort a wailing child? Could I have handled potty training, or changing the sheets and flipping the mattress when accidents happened?

My parents, young as they were, did all of these things and more.

Once, when Dave and I were very small–not even in school yet, if memory serves–Mom and Dad took us for a rare dinner out. To hear them tell it, Dave and I were holy terrors: loud, misbehaving, and embarrassing the heck out of our poor, young, helpless parents. Mom and Dad were mortified, ready to snatch us up by the ears and carry us out kicking and screaming.

At some point during this meal, another diner in the restaurant approached our table. I’m sure my mom and dad braced themselves for a well-deserved tirade at their incompetent parenting of us unruly brats. But instead of complaining, this woman paid my parents a compliment. Dave and I, she said, were two of the quietest, most well-mannered children she had ever seen.

Yes, Mom and Dad always had high expectations for our behavior.

Mealtimes, for example, were a ritual that no one questioned.

We always sat around the table together, whether Dad had grilled burgers or Mom had made up a Crock Pot of fifteen-bean soup. We sat around that table together even on those rare occasions when supper was a pepperoni pie from Pizza Hut or submarine sandwiches from our local (and now defunct) deli, Ol’ Haileys.

The table was always set with silverware and paper napkins.

Dave and I always drank milk with dinner–no sodas or sweet tea in our house–and we ate what Mom or Dad had made for us, no exceptions, no special orders. We were expected to try new foods before we decided we didn’t like them. And if there was dessert, we could enjoy that sweet treat only after we had finished our dinner.

I say that no one dared question this sacred ceremony of supper, but that’s not entirely true.

My mom and I reminisced the other day about one of our very favorite meals: sloppy joes (Manwich from a can, obviously) with macaroni and cheese (Kraft from a box, naturally). The messy meaty sandwiches perfectly complemented those creamy orange noodles, all washed down with a tall glass of milk (of course).

But one night, for some reason that I promise I would tell you if only I could remember it, I decided I was not–do you hear me? NOT!–going to eat sloppy joes.

The napkins, the silverware, the glasses of milk were already on the table. The sloppy joes were already assembled on our plates, the macaroni and cheese already heaped beside them.

And I said, “I don’t like sloppy joes.”

“Yes you do,” Mom said. “You’ve had them before.”

“Well, I don’t want sloppy joes,” I said.

“Fine,” Mom said.

Young as she was, she knew she couldn’t win a battle of wills with a four-year-old. But she had size and authority on her side, so when she said what she said next, I had no choice but to obey. “Go to your room,” she said.

And I did.

I stalked to my room, sulked in my room, eventually sobbed in my room because I really was hungry and I really did want sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese, and my room was closest to the dining room, so I could hear everyone else eating and enjoying their sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese–enjoying their suppers while I moped, miserable and hungry.

When Dad finally came to get me, much later, I walked with him back to the dinner table. There, right where I had left it, was my lonely, cold plate. Cold sloppy joe. Cold macaroni and cheese, almost solid from sitting out for so long.

My three-year-old brother, I’m fairly certain, was messily slurping on the fudgsicle he’d earned for cleaning his plate.

I remember all of this so well: the argument with my mother, the haze of the setting sun filtering through my bedroom curtains as I wallowed while they all ate, the anger I felt before it dissolved into pitiful, hungry shame.

But I have no idea whether I ate that cold sloppy joe or went back to bed without eating a thing.

Either way, my mom and dad won.

It took me at least one more tantrum to learn my lesson for good–but the egg salad incident is another story for another time.

You’d think sloppy joes might dredge up painful memories for me, that the very thought of messy meat on a bun might propel me into a rage or a fit of tears.

But actually, despite my traumatic experience with these saucy sandwiches, I love sloppy joes. They make me smile with child-of-the-80s nostalgia, the same way I smile when I think of my teenage aunt Missy’s asymmetrical perm or those matching Easter dresses my mom sewed for us with the flowers and the puffy sleeves.

So when Micah and I were brainstorming ways to use up a surplus of sandwich buns we had leftover from that Hudson family cookout we hosted two weeks ago, one of the first things we thought of was sloppy joes.

Instead of ground beef or turkey, we defrosted a pound of ground pork breakfast sausage from Moonshine Meats, because it was what we had a lot of in the freezer. And since we don’t keep Manwich around, we used some of this stuff to sauce our sandwiches:

Emily G’s Berbere Sauce

Emily G’s is a Georgia-based purveyor of jams, sauces, and seasonings, and this particular sauce was the food item in our wine club box from Shiraz last month. I was familiar with berbere because of that Ethiopian meal I cooked a couple months back, and I had a hunch that the smoky, spicy, sweet flavors of the sauce might make a perfect sloppy joe.

When I told my mom about this meal, she laughed. “Those are too fancy to call sloppy joes,” she said. “What you made were disorderly josephs.”

this is actually a leftover disorderly joseph that I ate for lunch yesterday
(the lighting was better, and I liked the looks of that blue plate)

There’s really no recipe for me to tell you, but here’s how we made them:

  • Wrap four sandwich buns in foil and heat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, brown 1 pound of medium heat pork breakfast sausage in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Drain off some of the fat, then return the skillet to the heat.
  • Stir in 4-6 tablespoons of the berbere sauce or another tomato-based sauce (depending on how disorderly you want your josephs to be).
  • Cook until the sauce has heated through and thickened a bit. You can add a sprinkle of flour if you want to help this along.
  • Once the meat is done cooking, get your warm buns out of the oven, open them up, and fill each one with a scoop of messy, meaty goodness.
  • Eat and enjoy–with plenty of napkins. 🙂

The beauty of sloppy joes is that you can really sauce them with whatever you happen to have around. Barbecue sauce and ketchup are perfectly reasonable options, not to mention salsa or marinara. Or you could sloppify your joes with a homemade sauce of fresh or canned tomatoes and whatever seasonings you feel like throwing in. The possibilities are truly endless.

In the fuzzy foreground of the above photo, you can see what we ate on the side, but here they are again:

notice the white plate? this was the first time we ate this meal

Micah made these delicious oven-baked french fries from a recipe on Fork and Beans for Shira’s Spiced Potato Bakes. We didn’t change a thing about the potato recipe, which Shira did quite a nice job explaining in the original post, so I’ll let you go visit that.

We did change up the dipping sauce, though, mostly because we had an excess of fresh parsley and no fresh cilantro. So here’s what I put in ours:

  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of this together in a small bowl and keep it cool in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.

While sloppy joes disorderly josephs, oven-baked fries, and beer might not sound like much of a date-night dinner, I assure you that this lovely meal was perfectly suited for a happy Friday evening with my honey, just as it was perfectly suited for a lunch of leftovers yesterday.

And what if I make this supper for my kids some day and my own four-year-old daughter turns up her nose at one of my sloppy joes? Well, I would gobble up that poor, neglected sandwich in a heartbeat. 🙂

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know your food

I already posted this video with my other Red Clay writings last week, but I wanted it to also have its own link here because the message is pretty important to me. If you’ve already watched it, feel free to view again or not. If you haven’t, I would love for you to take a look and tell me what you think:

Click here for image credits.

I’m also sharing  my video with Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday for June 29th.

If you’re as interested as I am in slow food, local/sustainable foods, whole foods, etc., visit their site. I had never seen it until one of my friends from Red Clay mentioned it to me the other day, and I have to say, it’s pretty amazing.

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gratitude, long overdue

Y’all, I owe apologies and special thanks to two of you.

I was nominated for two blogging awards, one in late April and one in mid-May, and I have not yet properly acknowledged or expressed my appreciation for either!

If it makes anyone feel better, even my real-life family and friends don’t usually receive prompt written notice of my gratitude. When Micah and I got married, our thank-you notes didn’t all get sent until more than six months later. It was real bad.

So, first, a sheepish apology and heartfelt thanks to glutenvygirl for the Sunshine Award, which is given to those who creatively and positively inspire others in the blogosphere:

This gal does some amazing things with gluten-free cooking, but her blog is worth visiting whether you’re gluten-free or not. 🙂

Next, an equally embarrassed and late thanks to johnnysenough hepburn at Feed the Piglet for my second Liebster nomination! (Liebster, which means ‘favorite’ in German, is a way to recognize your favorite blogs that have fewer than 200 followers.)

Feed the Piglet is another blog that’s definitely a must-visit. Lots of impressive burgers/patties/fritters, not to mention an amazing series of bulgur wheat salads and some very creative dips and spreads.

While I’m flattered to receive honors from both of these folks, the best part is passing the kudos on to some of my very deserving blogging colleagues.

So, first off, here are my five nominations for the Sunshine Award:

  • Two Writing Teachers – Talk about long distance! These gals collaborate from 565 miles apart, not only to share amazing writing activities and resources, but also to inspire teachers like me to write on our own (which is something many teachers will tell you they don’t have time for). Whether you’re a teacher or not, visit this blog–you’ll be inspired.
  • Pedagogy of the Plants – This blog is written by one of my real-life friends, Cameron, who teaches 3rd grade at my school. Stop by and check out some gorgeous photography of the flora (and fauna) around our neighborhood, lots of lovely examples of creative urban gardening, and some delicious vegan recipes.
  • Vegetarian ‘Ventures – Micah and I are not vegetarian, but we eat and enjoy many meatless meals. And with awesome vegetarian blogs like this one to inspire us, I imagine we’ll be cooking up plenty more veggie-centered dishes in the future.
  • Acorn in the Kitchen – This unique food blog is full of great photos and recipes (as you would expect), but it also incorporates fascinating food-related videos and some wonderful lessons in music appreciation, with many posts that celebrate both a delicious recipe and a talented musician. Very cool stuff.
  • Savory Salty Sweet – What a clean, crisp, gorgeous blog! Besides the awesome alliterative name, this blog features some of the best food photography I’ve seen, with exciting recipes punctuated by vibrant step-by-step pictures. Simply amazing.

And now, (ignoring the part about <200 followers because I honestly don’t know how many followers any of these bloggers have) here are my five nominations for the Liebster Award:

  • A Modern Christian Woman – Since Stephanie started this site in April, I’ve watched her blog grow and blossom into something amazing! Every time I stop in, she has added more and more mouthwatering recipes. Truly awesome!
  • Fork and Beans – Like I mentioned above, I’m not a vegan, a vegetarian, or a gluten-free gal–but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy cooking like one! Cara’s story of how she came to cook and eat this way is honest and inspiring, and her recipes are pretty darn inspiring, too.
  • spontaneous tomato – Kick-ass name aside, Allison’s blog also gets props for some really amazing recipes, with lots of focus on fresh fruits and veggies, eating with the seasons, and cooking foods that are simple but delicious.
  • simply dish – Just visiting this blog, with its bright and colorful layout and color scheme, is enough to put a smile on my face. Stop by for some great recipes–especially baked goods–and just a bit of whimsy. 🙂
  • Peri’s Spice Ladle – “Indian-inspired food for the Global Palate.” Need I say more? Whether you’ve cooked and eaten lots of Indian dishes in your lifetime or whether you’re adventurously testing those spicy, savory waters for the first time, you absolutely must drop by this blog for inspiration. Delicious!

Go forth and visit all of these wonderful blogs when you have the time. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

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project in progress – 6.3.12 – Micah’s home-cured bacon, part 1

in the beginning….

Micah has cured hog jowls to make guanciale many times, always with delicious results.

Once, Micah even butchered a whole pig’s head himself, slicing off two big, beautiful cheeks that yielded about three pounds of bacon, not to mention simmering the rest of the head for hours into several gallons of rich, porky stock…and then scraping the remains together into a loaf of headcheese, which we both discovered we really don’t like, at all.

Did you know that you really should shave or burn the hair off of a pig’s head before you cook with it? Neither did we, until we were faced with that hog’s stubbly mug.

And there’s something really unnerving about seeing a pig’s giant face every time you open the refrigerator.

Now, I’m not squeamish about where meat comes from, or, at least, where this meat came from. It didn’t bother me that our hog jowl bacon once had a face (in fact, was a face), because I know that this particular pig lived in squishy mud and green pastures before he so graciously gave his life up for us. No nasty feedlot, no cramped pen full of sewage, no yucky chemicals or drugs. He was surely as happy as a farm pig could be.

I’m not going to argue that any animal deserves to die, and I’m not going to evangelize about the marvels of meat to my vegetarian and vegan friends. All of us must make choices we are comfortable with. I am comfortable with eating animals if they have been treated humanely, respected, honored for what they provide us.

This pig, unlike any other pig I’ve eaten, ever, had a face that I got to see, had features I can still picture. He was scraggly with coarse, short hair. His ears curled and flopped just a tad, right where they came to a point. His snout looked perfectly suited for rooting, and proud of it, too. He smirked. His eyes were closed, but his tongue stuck out of his mouth just a little. What a joker.

As much as we enjoyed the guanciale and the stock, Micah declared he’d never buy another pig’s head after that.

Until a week or two ago.

“You know what we oughtta get?” he inquired, in the midst of a conversation about how we have too much food in our freezer. “Another pig head.”

I’ll let Micah handle that on his own if he wants, and of course I’ll be happy to help him enjoy the fruits of his labors.

Except the headcheese. Unless maybe we find another, better recipe…

In any case, we don’t have room in our fridge right now to store a whole pig head or to cure a pair of hog jowls.

Why?

Because Micah is already busy curing a pork belly to make regular old bacon. Of course, given the gorgeousness of this slab of meat (from our friends at Moonshine), not to mention the generous heaping of fresh rosemary from a friend’s garden, I feel pretty confident that this bacon will be anything but ordinary.

Micah’s been reading up on the process, including how to cold-smoke the meat after it cures, and I’ll share links to his resources plus more photos of the progress very soon.

Also, this means you can certainly expect to see some recipes featuring this lovely bacon once it matures.

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whoa, thanks!

Assia’s Kaleidoscope is one of my favorite blogs, and one of the first I started following when I entered the blogosphere back in March. This gal makes beautiful baked goods, scrumptious-looking savory dishes, and the prettiest Easter eggs I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but her photos are simply gorgeous. Visit her blog and I guarantee you’ll be impressed. It’s the kind of blog I hope this one might become, one day when I’m better at both cooking and photography. 🙂

So, I’m both honored and flattered that Assia nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger Award!

It’s surely not deserved, but I’ll accept it humbly and say thanks to Assia.

(Thanks, Assia!)

Now, there are three parts of accepting this award: thanking and linking to the nominating blogger (done), sharing seven interesting things about myself, and nominating seven more blogs for the award. So, here goes!

Seven things about me:

  1. I’ve been to Europe and South America, but never to the west coast.
  2. I have two cats. Both fluffy. One ginormous ginger named Cheesepuff, and one tiny tabby named Magellan.
  3. Micah and I got married at one of our favorite restaurants in Athens, Farm 255.
  4. We plan our vacations around where we want to eat.
  5. I can’t ride a bicycle. Seriously. (I own one, though, and Micah keeps saying he’ll teach me!)
  6. My mom is an undefeated (6-0) amateur kickboxer.
  7. I’m kind of a slob, a terrible driver, and habitually late for most things (but have lately been improving on all fronts).

Seven blogs I’d like to nominate:

  1. Sauce Boss – a self-proclaimed “Culinary Dark Genius”–need I say more? (an amazing pastry cream recipe, too!)
  2. Boozed + Infused – infusing booze with carrots? oatmeal? mushrooms? fascinating!
  3. Memoirs of an Amateur Chef – lots of great recipes, and she grows her own mushrooms! (could they go in Boozed + Infused’s vodka…?)
  4. Throve – makes beautiful juices, and shares my love of fruits, veggies, global flavors, and kitty cats 🙂
  5. Life, in recipes – read the latest post, The Return of the Prodigal Blogger, and you’ll love her, too
  6. Growandcook – someone who shares my taste in food and my sense of humor
  7. The Ranting Chef – great recipes, fun guest posts, and product reviews

I was planning to end this post here, but then…

Throve nominated me for a 7×7 Link Award!

I feel honored and flattered to be getting all this attention. I hope I can live up to the hype. 🙂 Thank you, Throve, for so kindly thinking of me!

For this award, my job is to thank and link to the nominating blogger (yep), list seven random facts about myself, list seven of my posts in the seven different categories (see below), and nominate seven more bloggers. So, let the lists of seven items continue!

Seven (more) random facts about me:

  1. I used to have a bad clothes shopping habit. Now, I have a bad borrowing-too-many-books-from-the-public-library-at-once-and-not-having-time-to-read-them-all habit. (And I haven’t bought a single brand new clothing item since December, unless you count bridesmaid dresses.)
  2. I do not have, and have never had, any wisdom teeth. Does this make me a freak of nature or more highly evolved…?
  3. I can wiggle my pinkie toe independently of my other toes. A guy in high school called me an ape for this.
  4. Foods I dislike: mayonnaise, raw onions, raw mushrooms, coleslaw (unless it’s made with vinegar instead of mayo)
  5. Foods I love: chocolate hazelnut spread, cheese, good pizza, more cheese, handmade pasta, and cheese
  6. I like board games, but I really, really suck at video games.
  7. I once baked a pie on Georgia Public Television.

Seven posts in seven different categories:

  1. Most beautifulbacon, mushrooms, and asparagus (with an egg)
  2. Most surprisingly successfula series of unfortunate events (long night, long post…)
  3. Most controversial – I got a lot of flack from my flesh-and-blood friends and family about the not too offal post 🙂
  4. Most pride-worthy – an Ethiopian feast!
  5. Most underrated – the beef stew we made the other night – so yummy, but not very popular with the clickers…
  6. Most helpful – my first whole wheat oatmeal muffins post–you can put anything in these and they’ll be good!
  7. Most popular – it’s a tie between Paula Deen married Alton Brown and they made a meatloaf baby and not my Mammaw’s pimiento cheese

Seven more nominations:

  1. Frozen Moments – amazing recipes, plus breathtaking photos of Alaska!
  2. The Postmodern Housepartner – someone who shares my love of avocados, asparagus, and deviled eggs
  3. Going Dutch – visit for gorgeous tulips, an adorable little girl, and some great recipes
  4. domestic diva, M.D. – funny stories plus good, simple, yummy recipes (and Fiesta dishes like mine)
  5. glutenvygirl – great recipes whether you’re gluten free or not!
  6. Kitty’s Dolceforno – some delicious baking going on here….
  7. feed the piglet… – so many cool burgers and fritters, both meaty and meat-free

And now, for a taste of things to come….

…my best friend is getting married in 8 days!

Jessica and I have been friends since 5th grade (it’ll be 21 years in August), she was maid of honor at my wedding, and now I’m matron of honor in hers. We’re looking forward to traveling to a cabin in the mountains for a small, intimate ceremony on the 28th, but before that….her bridal shower is Saturday (tomorrow!), and since I love this gal so much, I’ve been cooking up all sorts of Southern delicacies for her and her guests. What tasty morsels are in store? Stay tuned for a full report this weekend. 🙂

Congrats to Jessica and Brent!

Categories: links, people, recipes | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

supper tonight – 4.3.12 – arugula, goat cheese, and tomato pizza

Last night, I wanted to make Growandcook’s cauliflower soup for dinner.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup.

I said I could make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup and sandwiches.

I said I could save the soup recipe for later and make some nice, hearty pasta with arugula, goat cheese, and tomatoes.

Micah thought about it for a minute, agreed that pasta would be okay…but then said, “Just make the soup. I’ll eat something else if I’m still hungry.”

Argghh!

At this point, I was already a bit hangry (hungry+angry, see previous post about this here), and no matter how whole-heck-of-a-lot-much I love Micah, one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when he disagrees with me until I change my mind…and then decides to change his.

“So what are you in the mood for, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Pizza or something?”

Eureka! This conversation might’ve only taken you a minute to read, but I’m transcribing the condensed version. The actual exchange took at least five or six excruciating minutes.

My normal recipe for pizza dough (and bread, and dinner rolls, and calzones) takes a good three to four hours, as do many yeasty-dough-type procedures with mixing, rising, shaping, rising, and (finally) baking. No way in hell was that going to work.

So, my good friend Google helped me find many, many recipes with titles that combined the words “quick” and “pizza dough.” Some that required instant yeast (which I don’t keep around), and several that weren’t as expedient as advertised. Then, I found this little gem at Oven Love and decided to give it a shot.

The verdict? Although not quite as chewy-crispy-crusty as the long-rising recipe I know and love, this pizza was freaking awesome. And just as quick and easy as Natalie promised it would be.

I might've gone a tad OCD with the spacing of the toppings...

If you ever need to make a pizza from scratch in an hour or less, I highly recommend this recipe. Or even if you’ve got all the time in the world and just want to make a pizza really fast….well, this recipe rocks.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm (105-115°F) water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 4 ounces fresh arugula (we used whole leaves, but would chop it next time for easier biting)
  • 4 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on how big they are
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Grease a pizza pan.
  • Put the yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl (if you have a stand mixer, use the bowl for that).
  • Add the flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until the dough comes together, then knead for 5 minutes (by way of your stand mixer’s dough hook, or by hand on a lightly floured surface).

The dough really does turn out this beautiful! (image by Natalie from Oven Love - click to visit)

  • Press the dough onto your greased pizza pan, spreading it all the way to the edges. 
  • Brush with the 3rd tablespoon of olive oil.
  • If you like a not-so-crispy crust:
    • Go ahead and add your toppings (arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for about 15 minutes.
  • If you like a crispy crust: 
    • Slide your pizza pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. 
    • Remove the partially baked crust to a cutting board. 
    • Top with the arugula, tomatoes, and goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for 8-10 more minutes directly on the oven rack. 
  • Stuff your face with piping hot, delicious pizza! 

The last step: give your husband a big hug and apologize for being so cranky earlier about cooking dinner. And plan to cook the cauliflower soup the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow night, you’ll want to eat the rest of this pizza. 🙂

Categories: links, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Liebster!

So, I’m new at this whole blogging thing, and I didn’t know until recently that one of the cool things bloggers like to do is nominate other bloggers for awesome awards. And I just got picked for a Liebster Award by the Ranting Chef (whose blog rocks the socks off of this one, let me tell you!).

Thank you, Ranting Chef! Your blog is only one of my favorites, so let me nominate some more:

  1. coolcookstyle: everything this woman cooks makes me want to lick my computer screen
  2. FrugalFeeding: because this guy has simple, delicious food down to an art form
  3. trialsinfood: beautiful blog, and she even makes her own chocolates!
  4. Assia’s Kaleidoscope: Assia shares my love of fruits and veggies, and her photography is gorgeous
  5. Snotting black: great food + great pictures + funny as hell

It was hard to just choose five, but if you like my blog, you’ll surely like all of these even more. 🙂

Categories: links, people | Tags: , | 7 Comments

happy pi day!

Click here (or on the photo) to read more about it and get the recipe for my bourbon thyme pear pie. 🙂

Categories: links, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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