Friday, December 18, 2009

The meaning of Christmas

So many times I feel like I get bogged down in just making it to Christmas to really sit down and think about the meaning behind the holiday. We spend so much time preparing our homes and lives, but tend to forget about our hearts. However, there is one song out of all the thousands of Christmas songs out there that makes me pause and think about why we celebrate.

The song, Joseph's Lullaby by MercyMe, is a simple ballad from the perspective of the man who raised Jesus. He was not his biological father, but he did serve in the role of an earthly father while Christ was growing up. Everytime I hear this song I think about Jesus as a baby. He was fully God and fully man. He was tiny and vunerable, but could command the earth and the winds. He cried, coulnd't walk or crawl, yet he was, from the beginning, God.

The words of this song move me, especially when I look at my niece and nephew and see them growing each day. Christ had to grow up just like the rest of us, and didn't even begin his ministry until he was a year older than I am now. He went through life just like us so that he could be sacrificed for the sins of the world. To think of how he came here, as a tiny, fragile baby is so humbling to me. Why would God lower himself to that? Because he loves us and wants to save us. It is all so amazing!

Anyway, read the words below, then watch the video I found on YouTube with scenes from The Nativity Story and The Passion of the Christ. Picture our very big, very powerful God as a baby, and remember this is why we celebrate this holiday. (Even though, as Daisy pointed out on Bones last week, Jesus was most likely born during the spring because that's when the census was taken. We celebrate now because it was to counter a pagan holiday.)


Go to sleep my Son
This manger for your bed
You have a long road before You
Rest Your little head

Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?

Go to sleep my Son
Go and chase Your dreams
This world can wait for one more moment
Go and sleep in peace

I believe the glory of Heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight
Lord, I ask that He for just this moment
Simply be my child

Go to sleep my Son
Baby, close Your eyes
Soon enough You'll save the day
But for now, dear Child of mine
Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight



Thursday, December 17, 2009

dancin babies....

Below is the 5th most watched video on YouTube in 2009. Why is it December 17th and I am JUST NOW SEEING THIS????




Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....

Most Watched YouTube videos (Global):
1. Susan Boyle - Britain's Got Talent (120+ million views)
2. David After Dentist (37+ million views)
3. JK Wedding Entrance Dance (33+ million views)
4. New Moon Movie Trailer (31+ million views)
5. Evian Roller Babies (27+ million views)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Give me a V! Give me a ICTORY! Give me a 2009 Egg Bowl Champs!!!

The only game that really matters all year long is the one that happens around Thanksgiving. This year's Egg Bowl was one we were dreding at first, but one of THE BEST games I have been to in a while. Why? Because we freakin KILLED "that school up north!"

Now, to give you an idea of where the name came from, when Dan Mullen started out as our head coach last winter, he decided to stop referring to our biggest rival by their name. He just calls them "that school up north." It caught on around here, and even ESPN decided to use the phrase in their wrap up about Saturday's game. I bet that really pissed some Rebels off! Ha! So here's the clip (found curtosy of my grad student). I'm proud to be a Bulldog! GTHTSUP!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cranberry Raisin Bread


Decided to start the Thanksgiving baking a little early this year. I needed something to do while my dad watched bloody, murder shows on TV. (I could go watch TV in the other room by myself, but this is family time...)

So, I was reading a Taste of Home magazine that my mom picked up and stumbled across this bread recipe. I decided it would be a great Thanksgiving morning treat since we usually have to leave early for our Thanksgiving trip to Laurel, and because my parents usually are busy prepping food before we leave.

One new thing I got to experience while making the bread was using a pastry blender (pictured above). I have never used one before, but my mother skilled me in the art of using a pastry blender to cut butter into your batter. It is a very useful tool, and I'll be very happy to accept the gift of my mom's extra pastry blender that she offered.

Anyway, the bread is in the oven right now, and smells fantastic. I'll have to update you later on how it turns out. I sure hope its as yummy as it smells!


Step 1: Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup cold butter (1 stick)
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. grated orange peel (Which we didn't have, so we didn't use.)
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries (Fresh is best!)
1/2 cup golden raisins (We used regular.)
Directions: In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients; cut in butter until crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, orange juice and peel. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in cranberries and raisins. Transfer to a greased 8x4 inch loaf pan.

Step 2: Streusel
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cold butter

Directions: Combine brown sugar and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 3: Glaze
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. orange juice

Directions: For glaze, combine confectioners' sugar and orange juice until smooth. Drizzle over bread.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's cooking this Thanksgiving?

Holidays are always a time for me to show off my cooking skills and really wow the friends and family. Or, at least, I attempt to. The cooking is really more for me because I thoroughly enjoy doing it. I always like to try something new, but have to return with a few favorites this year. So, here's what's going down in the Pape kitchen this week:

Returning Classics:

Tamale dressing with fresh cranberry salsa

New Attempt: (I have attempted a cheesecake once, and it failed. But...that was a long time ago when I was in college. I will have some kind of cupcakes as my back-up plan.)

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 stick melted margarine
3 tbsp. sugar
1 ½ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix margarine, sugar and graham cracker crumbs in bowl. Press mixture firmly onto bottom and 1/2-inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 8 minutes; cool slightly. After removing crust from oven, increase temperature to 400°F.

Cheesecake:
3 packages fat free cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups Mini Chips Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl until well blended. Add pumpkin and eggs; beat until well blended. Stir in small chocolate chips; pour batter into prepared crust. Bake 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 250°F; continue baking 60 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven to wire rack. With knife, loosen cake from side of pan. Cool completely; remove side of pan. Refrigerate about 5 hours before serving. Cover; refrigerate leftover cheesecake. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

Snacks and sides:
I'm also providing tamales for our Thanksgiving meal on Friday, as well as some MSU jalapeno cheddar cheese as a pre-lunch snack.

That's my contribution for the year! I'll let you know how the cheesecake turns out!

Happy cooking and happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sheri's List-O-Things to help any single woman embrace 30

Tonight I am hosting a 30th birthday party for my friend, "M," and there are a few necessities I believe every single, 30-year-old gal must have. I'm really just making these up because I know in 7 months I will be celebrating the big 3-0 myself. So, here they are, in no particular order...and I'm sure the list will grow as the day goes along...

1. Chocolate - Doesn't matter how you get it, just get it.
2. Cupcakes and/or cake - Tonight we have vanilla with vanilla icing. "M" is not very adventurous with her foods. Probably wouldn't like my crazy cupcake ideas. However, because of her request my house smells of vanilla cupcakes. It is delicious!
3. Mexican food - Nothing like something spicy to get you in the mood! (There will be no "getting in the mood" tonight though. Just us girls.)
4. A stripper - Which I did not hire. But it would have been funny!
5. A really good moisturiser - You gotta be careful of wrinkles.
6. Hair dye - To cover up all the gray. Though, I started graying at age 19, and I've been dying my hair since age 16, so nothing new for me.
7. Tequila - Whether in the form of shots or in a mixed drink, its a must. (Honestly though, I'm a red wine girl. The margaritas are all for "M.")
8. A really nice, expensive handbag and/or pair of shoes - By the time we're 30, most of us have enough money to buy one really nice accessory. Reminds me...I should go shopping.
9. More tequila - After all...we ARE still single and we DO live in the South and we ARE turning 30. If you are an old maid at 24, then you are a REALLY old maid at 30! Tequila is the best anti-depressant ever! : )
10. Great girlfriends to say how young and vibrant you look and to say that 30 is no big deal.

And finally....having a really hot man in uniform hang around your house is never a bad thing. Maybe I'll accidentally set something on fire tonight and get the firemen to come to the party!

Here's to 30!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dessert Decisions

As you know, from reading this blog, I love to cook. Holidays are especially my favorite because I get to be fun and creative with my recipes. Desserts are some of my favorites, and if the family would leave it up to me completely, I could create and entire spread of things I want to try out. People should really invite me to more holiday parties just so I get to play guinea pig with my new recipes.

So, I had Thanksgiving all figured out. I was going to make a pumpkin chocolate chip cheesecake and an assorted cookie tray which includes: double chocolate chocolate chip cookes, pumpkin cookies, and cranberry walnut white chocolate cookies. But then I was looking up cupcake photos for a work project today and discovered lemon meringue cupcakes.

OMG! GYP!

And now I'm torn...because I could imagine making these with red velvet cupcakes, my famous chocolate coconut cupcakes (I am the only one who calls them famous, but they are a crowd favorite), and pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Oh the possibilities!

I have no idea what to do! Maybe I can save the cupcake idea for Christmas. Maybe that's smart. But I want to try the lemon meringue ones NOW!!! Maybe I should make some and bring them to work....Hmmmm....

Thoughts? Feelings? Suggestions? HELP ME DECIDE!!!

Happy cooking!

Cookie Swap...

I want to host a cookie swap in December. Has anyone ever done this? Any fun ideas to share????

Monday, November 16, 2009

Extra! Extra! READ all about it!

Its been a while since I updated my reading list. I have finished several titles since this was posted, and am on a current non-stop, a book a week (almost) frenzy. I don't spend much time reading, but do like to indulge in story time about an hour before bed each night.

Update/Opinion on Finished Books

1. Swapping Lives by Jane Green - Liked it. I like most everything by Jane Green though. She writes British chick lit, and I'm a fan of sappy stories. Swapping Lives is about two women who think the grass is greener on the other side, and embark on a quest to discover, or rediscover, who they really are. I can relate to that because I seem to always be searching for the next step. It was a cute novel, without being too sappy and lovey. Great beach/plane read.

2. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger - I actually listened to the book on tape during my summer travels. This book was okay, but to me, a lot like "The Devil Wears Prada." Same premise of a girl trying to make her way with a tough job, and then giving it up at the end. It was just okay....I'm not going to give this a rave review, but it wasn't just horrible like....

3. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin - Why was this horrible? Because the heroin in the story is completely disillusioned. She spends the almost the entire time blaming her husband for ruining their marriage because he wants to have a baby and she doesn't. But...she's the one who walked out and left him. And her best friend is just encouraging her anger and resentment the whole time. Seriously? This is why women get a bad rap for being crazy! I didn't like the main character of this book at all....and I didn't like the book.

4. Miss Julia Strikes Back by Ann B. Ross - I bought this book at Walgreens on my way to the airport leaving Idaho. I should have gone with the other choice I found because I didn't even finish this book. It was THAT annoying to me. The main character, Miss Julie, is a busy older lady that was just annoying to me. And when they introduced a lazy, drunk fat detective into it, I just had to put it down. Did not like it at all.

5. The Penny by Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bedford - This is a Christian lit book that I typically stay away from, but gave it a chance. It took me a very long time to read this book because some of the content was emotionally exhausting. The main character struggles through finding salvation and self worth, and is a victim of physical and sexual abuse. The book was good, and I enjoyed the story of grace and salvation, but dealing with the abuse was hard. I used to volunteer and later work at a shelter that hid abused women and children. I have seen what this does to a person first hand, and it is very difficult. That was the most emotionally taxing job I have ever had. And though they didn't go into detail and describe all that Jenny, the main character, went through, it still brought images of beautiful children that I saw scarred by anger, hatred, and sin. I would recommend this from the stand point of it showing God's grace and the progression of sanctification, but, like I said, it was a hard read emotionally. I cried several times, and I typically like to read happy books before bed.

6. Second Chance by Jane Green - This is the 3rd or 4th Jane Green book I have read, and again, I liked it, even though it was a bit different than the others. This one was kinda sad at times too because it dealt with grief and the aftermath of losing someone you love. But it also dealt with a group of friends coming back together and rediscovering their bond after many years of being separated. There is one character that they concentrate on more than the others, but it is really a story about multiple characters and how their lives intertwine. It was a fast read, and a great one for beach, plane, or before bed.

Books in the que:

1. The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum - I have about two nights left with this one. Its a story about a 29 year old single girl living in NYC and trying to figure out life. You would think I could relate to the character! ; ) She's a bit harder than me, though, and has a few more walls built up. What I will say is that they use the "f" word A LOT in this book, which bothers me. Because when you read it, it gets stuck in your head. Also, I can tell the author of this novel is not a very happy person. But, I'm enjoying the book so far.

2. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella - Just watched the movie last night and can't wait to get into the series of books!

3. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophea Kinsella

4. Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella

5. Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham (The Shopaholic writer under a different name.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BBQ Bonanza - Pulled Pork Sammies

I'm always trying to come up with new recipes to try for my family when they come up for football games. This week I was craving bbq, so I decided to try making it from home for the first time. It ended up being really simple, cheap and a definite crowd pleaser. I took the long route with cooking it, though, and let the meat slow cook over night in the crock pot. But, it can be done faster if you desire. However, I think patience paid off with this dish!

Ingredients:
1 pork tenderloin
1 bottle of bbq sauce (Or 1 1/2...Pick your favorite flavor)
Optional: onion and bell pepper
hamburger buns (I used wheat.)
Yield: 1 lb. pork tenderloin made about 10 small sandwiches

Directions:
Place pork tenderloin in crock pot. Cover with half of your BBQ sauce. (Or full bottle depending on how much liquid you need.) Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Remove bbq from crock pot and place on plate or in a baking dish. Take two forks and begin to shred the tenderloin. Now you can either return the shredded pork to the crock pot and the bbq sauce that is in there, or you can pour that sauce or new sauce on the pork in a baking dish.

I cooked my tenderloin all night long, and then put it in the fridge until lunch time. I pulled it out of the fridge and heated it with more bbq sauce in the oven at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. Depending on when you are cooking/serving, you can decide on what method works best for you.

Side note: I think it would be really delicious to add chopped bell pepper and onion to this recipe. I intended to do that, but forgot. I am definitely trying that next time.

After your bbq is finished cooking, then just slap it on a bun and you're done. The meat takes a while to cook, but its very low maintenance. Like i said, I cooked it overnight, so I just popped it in the crock pot and went to bed. Its a very low maintenance meal.

Side Suggestions: I made some homemade coleslaw and baked french fries. It would be great with potato salad or just some chips. Also, I provided mustard, sliced onion and jalapenos to dress the sandwiches. Quite yummy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Que sera....quesadilla

Yesterday I tweeted that I was going to try out an alternate version of a recipe that was in one of Rachael Ray's recent magazines. I love reading her magazine and figuring out my own take on her dishes. She included a recipe called Quesadilla Casserole that sounded pretty AMAZING, so I finally gave it a whirl last night.

I took the basic ingredients and the method and created my own version. If you are vegetarian, you can stick to Rachael's version. However, I was craving a little beef last night. (*gasp*....I rarely eat beef, I know. But ground turkey just wasn't going to cut it for me last night.) Anyway....I also had half a bell pepper left over from Sunday night's fajita fiesta, so I just decided to follow Rachael's steps, but incorporate my own ingredients. Here we go:


Ingredients:

1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey
4 oz. can of green chiles
1 can drained black beans
1 cup frozen corn
shredded cheese
5 tortillas (I used fajita size? The medium ones between the small taco and large burrito kind.)


Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown meat with onions, bell pepper and olive oil in skillet. Flavor meat with chile powder and ground cumin to taste. (Or taco season if you have one of those packets. I just use my own ingredients.) If needed, drain off any excess liquid/fat after meat is cooked. Add green chiles, corn and black beans to meat and cook for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  • Place one tortilla shell in bottom of pie plate or other round oven pan. Spread thin layer of meat mixture over tortilla and sprinkle shredded cheese over layer. Add another tortilla shell and repeat layers unti you run out of meat. For the top layer, you can use either meat or a tortilla. I used a tortilla.
  • Heat in oven for about 20 minutes. If top tortilla starts getting too brown, cover with foil. Remove from oven and slice and serve like pie pieces. Top with sour cream, salsa, jalepenos, or whatever you desire!
_____________________________________________

In the end, this was a pretty great dish! I'm sure Rachael's version is just as good, if not better than mine, but mine was pretty darn good! As far as my side suggestions, this is a pretty harty meal on its own, so I didn't have any sides. But...I did snack on tortilla chips while I was cooking, so I would suggest serving with chips and salsa!

Happy cooking!!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My foray into doing yardwork after dark.

So, I let this daylight savings time/falling back deal sneak up on me. I didn't know it was this weekend until someone reminded me on Saturday. Before I knew it, we were back to it being completely dark at 5:30 p.m. That's only 30 minutes after I supposedly get off work, and really, I usually don't get home until nearly 6 each night.

Well, this creates a problem when you let your weekends get overbooked, and you live alone, and you have lots of yard work to do. There's really no time after work to get things done outside, and Lord knows I am not one to get up even a minute before I have to in the morning. So, today I rushed out of the office at 4:45, got to Lowe's, bought a rake, and was home, changed, and outside by 5:15. Not leaving me much time, but enough where I thought I could get a good start on my leaf cleaning up duty.

After I got my 6 piles in the front yard somewhat neatly stacked, it was getting too dark to see. I had my porch, garage, and outside lights on, but it really doesn't illuminate anything but the front of the house. And since we don't street lights in my neighborhood (and everyone disconnects their gas lamps because its too expensive to run), I decided to do things the Mississippi way. (I do live here after all....)

So, what do Mississippians do when its dark and they need light? We turn our cars around and point the headlights in whatever general direction we need! I may have grown up in a city, but I spent plenty of time parked in the middle of a pasture in my younger days. (Wait, that somehow sounds bad....no shenanigans. I promise.)

I'm sure my neighbors thought I was crazy. I mean, its not like I drive some big pick-up truck. I drive a silver Infiniti QX-56. Not exactly your pasture kind of vehicle...Its kinda prissy if you think about it. (Very soccer mom-ish.) BUT...it worked. I had enough light to transfer my piles into leaf bags. And now my yard isn't covered in a quilt of dead tree matter, which should make things easier for the lawn guy tomorrow.

Anyway, I have never done yard work in the dark before. I'm really not a fan of it, and you can't really do much more than what I accomplished tonight. I probably wouldn't plant or weed my flowerbeds in the dark, but, for what needed to be done, the headlight yard excursion was productive. Now off to bake some salmon.....Living alone is fun!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Never underestimate the bottom-of-the-barrel food!

Sometimes I think my best dishes are the ones where I have to get really creative. I once made a calzone with random leftovers that needed to be cooked or thrown out. I also put an exotic spin on mac-n-cheese with the limited ingredients I had at the time. And on SEVERAL occasions I have made up different pasta dishes because of a lack of choices in my house.

Tonight was one of those times when I was just running out of options. I have been putting off a trip to the grocery because I like to cook what I have before making a big run for food. Tonight things were looking pretty sad. But, on a whim, I decided to go Chinese with my limited resources. The result....an EXTREMELY delicious meal! Here's how it went:

Last minute stir fry

Ingredients:
1 small chicken breast
1-1.5 cups of mixed vegetables (the leftovers I had in the fridge were corn, carrots & asparagus)
1 pack of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice - Jasmine
lite soy sauce
salt & pepper
EVOO

Directions:
Chop chicken breast in small pieces. Cook halfway through in about 1 tablespoon of EVOO. Add desired amount of soy sauce. (At first, probably about 1.5 tablespoons.) Cook chicken thoroughly. Add vegetables and more soy sauce. (If vegetables are frozen, you will probably want to add them earlier or cook separately. Mine were leftovers in the fridge.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. For the rice, the Uncle Ben's Ready Rice is microwaved for 90 seconds. Pretty easy! Empty rice on plate and top with stir fry.

Side Suggestion: I had two small egg rolls in the freezer that I baked. You don't necessarily have to have a side with this though.

__________________________

This dish was simple, fast, and really delicious. The only seasoning it had was lite soy sauce, with a little salt and pepper. And though I didn't have traditional stir fry vegetables, what was left in my fridge worked very well. It never hurts to experiment every once in a while. You never know what you are going to end up with! Could be the best thing you ever made!

Happy cooking!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crikey! I've lost my mojo!



No seriously. I'm serious. I have really lost my mojo. But in the way you are thinking. I have lost my baking mojo. Case in point:

1. Tried to make a batch of April's Super Yummy Brownies about a month ago. I put them in the wrong size dish. They burned. The texture was all wrong. They turned out to be super YUCKY!

2. Saturday I attempted to make a simple batch of pumpkin bread. Except I substituted Splenda for sugar and self-rising flour for all purpose flour + baking soda. The bread was flat, a weird color, dense, and not tasty.

3. I recently burned break-n-bake cookies. Who does that?

For those that know me well, or those who have tasted my delectable treats, you know this is very un-Sheri like. I've been baking since I was a kid. I was a semi-finalist in a cooking contest last year. I don't screw stuff up like this. Ever. That is...until now.

I'm blaming Mississippi. I haven't done a lot of baking since I moved. I could also blame work for keeping me busy and distracted. Really, the cause is inexplicable. I have no idea why my dishes are failing, and failing so often. I mean, this is me. The gal who wants to own her own bakery one day. Why am I having such a hard time in the kitchen?

I plan on redeeming myself over the next few weeks. I have to work myself out of this slump before the mad rush of holiday baking season. My family will be counting on me for lots of tasty treats. Maybe I'll start with my "never fail" banana bread, or something easy like a boxed cake. Whatever it is...I gotta shake it! Life is so empty without cooking! : )

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Things that make me happy on a crappy day - Tuesday, Oct. 27 Edition

Sometimes I get really stressed out at work and I let all of the frustrations really get to me. Today I decided to quit complaining and start focusing on the good/fun things that happen. Here is a list of my happy things from today:

1. Several folks commenting on the cuteness of my new feather headband.
2. I don't have a headache for once!
3. My can of Diet Coke tastes particularly good today.
4. Starbucks made an error in my favor, and accidentally shipped me an extra travel tumbler. One of them was slightly cracked, so I guess that makes up for sending a slightly defective (but still usable) product.
5. The free Starbucks VIA in my package tasted really great.
6. My grad student posted a link to the awesome Banks interception/touchdown from Saturday night. Watch below!
7. A dear, old friend of mine became a father of a baby girl today!
8. I was home by 6:00 p.m. and in my pj's.



And...a # 9 last minute submission thanks to Facebook. Here's a great cover of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. *sign*

Friday, October 23, 2009

Loyalty. Pride. Passion.

At my office, we have adopted the tagline "Loyalty. Pride. Passion." to be the theme of our fiscal year. Though the phrase appeared on our stationary during the middle of FY 08-09, the notion didn't take off until this summer. Now it underlines everything we do for our division marketing efforts. Its a "State" of mind that we have adopted, and a way of life for the many loyal, proud and passionate alumni that now grace the halls as staff and faculty members.

Whether "my competition" stole the theme from our letterhead or not (I am now forbidden to speak to the competition marketing folks about anything we do because they did kinda steal one of my ideas, and I helped them), it (as in the theme) also adorns our beloved Davis Wade Stadium on massive size banners depicting scenes of our underdog football team and fans.

I think our tagline really captures the spirit of the university here. It goes beyond our goals of giving and stewardship, beyond being a fan of our sports teams, and really sums up the State "state of mind." There is a spirit around here that really exudes family, togetherness, and devotion. It is so much more than being a fan of a university. It is fidelity, dedication, zeal, enthusiasm, commitment, devoutness, and any other word that describes loyalty and love.

I'm very proud to be a part of this family. Its not a movement or a phase. Its always been like this around here. From the time I was a kid going to football games with my parents, to my four years as an undergrad, and now, to my life and career as an adult...this place has always been the same. Its special, and its something that really can't be described in words or pictures. It has to be felt. You have to walk along the historic Drill Field or spend time with friends and family in The Junction to realize what State is all about. It truly is a remarkable place.

I guess all of this mushiness is due to an article I read this morning in the New York Times. Its on misfit football team and prize new head coach. I believe the media did us justice, for once, in talking about the love and devotion of our Bulldog family. They understand that we are always an underdog, but we always fight, we always love, and we will always be loyal, proud, and passionate for our school.

To borrow the tagline from one of my clients....We are


Forever your university,

Forever your family...

Forever maroon and white.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wisdom from NBC's "The Office"

I feel like this some days. Maybe today is one of those days.

Quote by Oscar in the episode "Mafia."

Pam and Jim are on their honeymoon, so there's not the usual balance between "sane" and "others." Toby has mentally checked out since June. It's a very dangerous time. The coalition for reason is extremely weak.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

A special thanks to my friend Kim for posting this on her blog. She made this dough with her one-year-old as a bonding experience. I think that's a great idea to get kids into cooking. I love when Will helps out!

I am definitely going to try this next time I need pizza dough. I bought a pre-made crust yesterday for my at home pizzas. Its okay, but I would prefer whole wheat.

Are we in need for another blog-a-thon? What's your favorite homemade pizza?

Momma Hopper’s Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (Dough)

Ingredients:
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water (80-110 degrees F)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 1/4 c. all-purpose whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Italian Seasoning
Yellow Cornmeal
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Yield: Enough dough for 2 large pizza’s.

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, dissolve brown sugar and yeast in warm water. Let set for 10 minutes.

2. Stir salt and olive oil into yeast solution. Mix in 2 1/2 cups of flour (half of this amount should be whole wheat, and half should be white) until well blended. Add in more flour until dough is no longer sticky and easy to work with. (You may not need all 3 1/2 cups or you may need much more than that amount–it depends of the weather!)

3. Knead dough with hands for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and soft. Add more flour to dough as necessary.

4. Place dough ball in a well oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Set the bowl in a warm location to let the dough rise until double in size (about 1 hour).

5. After 1 hour, punch down dough and divide into two tight balls. Allow to rest for one minute. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

6. Roll dough out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle pizza crust with Italian seasoning. If using a pizza stone, lightly dust top of stone with flour and cornmeal. Place dough on stone and brush outer edge (where the crust will be) with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Poke inner (non-crust) area with a fork to create air holes. Bake crust on lowest rack in oven for approximately 5-10 minutes (depending on thickness) just until lightly browned. Remove from oven to add toppings.

Side note from Kim: You may wonder why not 100% whole wheat…the dough can tend to taste rather grainy, which is also why I think my mom would add a little brown sugar when dissolving the yeast…to help give a little sweetness to the whole wheat. I have done this using only whole wheat only, but I personally prefer doing 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour.



PS - This dude is my pizza inspiration...and I kinda have a crush on him. He's got mad skillz!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Must have kitchen gadget!!!

While browsing through The Pioneer Woman's blog today, I came across another "must have" for my kitchen - a personalized cake pan! O. M. G. How have I lived this long and NOT had one? The design I think I am going to order is the Bake-A-Cake that says "From the kitchen of SP." And probably in red. Or maybe blue since I already have a lot of red in my kitchen. Either way, I MUST have one of these cake pans!

So, aside from this, I was thinking last night. Maybe instead of my dream of opening a bakery, I should just open a restaurant. I mean, I cook more than I bake, so I'm getting a lot more experience in that area. I could always sell baked goods at my restaurant, but open a little diner as the main part of my business.

Since I'm in a college town, I'm thinking of an affordable place that offers good, ole home cooking, but from a healthy perspective. I'm always trying to find ways of turning my favorite Southern dishes into something that's low-fat and not completely terrible for you! And if it was cheap enough for college students to afford, I think I would have a pretty good market in this town.

Alas, for now, these are just dreams of mine! I would have to save up a lot of money before I could even BEGIN to think about quitting my job and starting my own business. I'm thinking the 10 year plan I had for myself is turning more into 20! I mean, its going to take at least 15 to pay off my mortgage, and there is NO way I can save that much money before my house is paid for. That is...unless I win Monopoly money at McDonald's (ha ha! Twitter followers know what that means.) So for now, they are all still just dreams of mine...dreams that will hopefully one day turn into reality.

But back to the subject of this post...I need a personalized cake pan.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chili Mania

To kick off my blog-a-thon recipes, I am including a somewhat surprising entry. Below is a chili recipe from my dear friend Jacob. Chili is a great dish for those perfect, nippy fall football days. In fact, we'll be having chili prior to MSU vs. Georgia Tech at my house this weekend. (But most likely my own recipe...)

Anywho....thanks to Jacob for submitting a recipe for the blog-a-thon. If others want to submit something, just send me an email.

Jacob's Deer Chili

Ingredients:
1 pound ground deer meat
1 pound regular ground beef
1 can HOT rotel
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 jalepeno
3 habenero peppers
1 packet of East Texas Chili seasoning
Optional-1 or 2 cans of kidney beans

Directions: rown the ground beef first, draining all the fat and juices. Then brown the deer meat and mix the meats together. Add the diced tomatoes, Rotel, beans and chili seasoning in a large pot on the stove. Have it on a low setting. Cut the jalepeno and habenero peppers and add the seeds (be careful while cutting habeneros). Stir together and simmer on the stove or fire for a good 30 minutes. Add anything else for personal taste.

Suggested sides: Fritos, cheese, crakers, corn bread, sour cream or tortilla chips.

Disclaimer - I have never attempted this recipe or tried it when Jacob has made it. I hear its good, but its hot if made with all those peppers. And, this recipe is coming from a dude that eats frozen dinners and boils hot dogs when his new wife isn't cooking for him. (At least...when I lived near him that's what he would eat. Heart you JWL!)



Wendy's Chili (from my sister-in-law)

Ingredients:
2lb ground beef
29 oz tomato sauce
29 oz tomatoes (diced and stewed)
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 med onion (chopped)
1/4c chopped celery
1 bell pepper chopped
3 T chili powder
3 t cumin
1 1/2 t pepper
salt to taste
1 can water

Directions:
Brown beef. Saute veggies. Add water and tomatoes. Cook down until soft add tomato sauce and beans and spices.Stir. Add meat. The longer you cook the better!!!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blog-A-Thon

For those that don't know, I have a cooking blog. (See list to right.) Most of you who know me know that I have a cooking blog though. Anyway...I have several friends coming in for homecoming in two weeks, and we need your ideas for the best tailgating recipes. I'll be posting some of mine, but would LOVE to hear yours!

So...visit the blog, and email me your recipes!

Happy cooking!

Fall Blog-a-thon: Tailgating Favorites

It's been a long time since I've done a blog-a-thon, so let's recap what this is all about. Blog-a-thons are where I put out a request for a certain type of food. Friends and family submit their favorite recipes, and then I post them online to share with the world.

This month's blog-a-thon is all about tailgating, a time honored tradition at many colleges and universities. In two weeks, my alma mater/employer will be celebrating homecoming. To commemorate the annual event, several of my friends will be coming to town to enjoy a weekend of football, fun, and, of course, food.

In order to plan for our event, I would love to hear from YOU some favorite tailgating treats. Email your recipes to me, and I will post them online for others to see. You may also submit recipes on Facebook.

I hope you guys will participate!!! Here's to football, here's to friends, and here's to food!

Happy cooking!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chicken Spaghetti (Bok, bok, bee-gok)

Random facts:

1. Whenever my family eats chicken, whether at home or out somewhere, my father believes it is necessary to make “chicken noises.” It is kinda funny as a child, very embarrassing as a teen, and “just dad” as an adult. My father is now on a quest to teach my nephew the art of chicken noises.

2. I’m quite a fan of chicken. In fact, I eat very, very, very little red meat, and stick mostly to chicken, turkey and fish. Chicken is very much a staple in my diet.

3. The person who made the below recipe famous is my maternal great-grandmother. (Mother of my mom’s mom.) I have several friends who barely knew their grandparents, much less a great-grandparent. But I had the fortunate opportunity to be very close to my great-grandmother, Grandmother Chandler. She kept us at home as babies while my mom taught, lived with us, and was around quite a bit during my childhood. I best remember her for lunchtime tuna salad and Nutty Bars. But apparently Grandmother Chandler’s famous recipe was her chicken spaghetti.

I haven't made this recipe before or even tried it…I don’t think. But I have heard several people in my family talk about this particular dish. And since I had a request from a former teacher of mine, I thought I would go ahead and post the recipe. Guess I’ll have to make it now sometime!!!

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
1 large bell pepper
1 large onion
1 bottle ketchup
1 can English peas 1 chicken
1 pkg. spaghetti
1 can mushroom soup
Optional: Chicken stock

Directions: Boil chicken in large stock pot for about 45 minutes. Bone, chop, and set aside. Saut├ę chopped large bell pepper and large onion in butter in large skillet. Add 1 bottle of ketchup, 1 can of English peas, and chicken. Simmer 45 minutes. Stir in 1 pkg. of cooked spaghetti and 1 can of mushroom soup. Simmer 15 minutes before ready to serve. You may need to add chicken stock to keep moist. Not good too dry.

Grandmother Chandler’s Suggested sides - Serve with tossed salad, spiced picked peaches and garlic bread.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alone in my principals...

Though this song is really about a break up, it helps set a humorous stage for my post...



There’s no real hiding or denying that I’m an older, single lady. I guess in the grand scheme of life I’m not really “older.” I’m only 29, but for the culture and context in which I currently live, being single past 24 is older.

The other night I had a few girlfriends (and fellow singletons) over to cookout and watch a football game. Our conversation covered everything from religion, to football, to politics, and, of course, being the singletons that we are, dating and men. I always find it interesting to hear other Christian’s perspectives on the do’s and don’ts of courtship. I realize I tend to be on the conservative, almost uptight, end of dating “world-views,” and differences in opinions/customs/choices is always refreshing, challenging and reassuring to me.

So, we get to chatting about boys. (Yes, we are all in our late 20’s, but can still refer to them as boys.) There were several questions raised during the topic of conversation that dealt with who, how, and what goes on with dating. A few of the questions covered dating divorced men, what’s too old or too young, being set up verses an online dating service verses letting things happen naturally, and much more.

One of the more intriguing conversations, though, dealt with sex/sleeping together/the appearance of evil/etc. This is something I have discussed with several Christian friends before, and where I get the label “uptight” when it comes to my views on dating. So, what’s acceptable and what’s not for Christians who date? I’m going to list a few of the opinions that are held by many Christians I know (but not necessarily the ladies I chatted with), and then list my opinion on the topic.

Disclaimer – I know that I’m completely opinionated and I don’t try to hide my feelings. But this is my post and my blog. If you reading, just know you are getting my sole views based on personal conviction, and I do not expect or anticipate everyone or even anyone to feel the way I do. On with it…

1. It’s okay to sleep together in a bed, as long as you aren’t having sex. Therefore, napping, spending the night or any general sleeping side by side is okay.

Sheri: Well, no, that’s not okay. One reason is because I know how humans are, and I imagine it to be extremely difficult to lay and/or sleep in a bed with a man you are extremely attracted to with no hint of “hanky panky” there. Doesn’t it say that even just looking at someone and lusting is as bad as doing it? (Matt. 5:28) I can imagine being in bed with someone and the thought crossing my mind…so…its best to avoid any mattresses.

2. Since we are women of a certain age (and yes, I’m making myself sound older than I actually am), maybe its okay for us to “sin a little” before marriage (i.e. do the hanky panky…not to be confused with the hokey pokey) in order for us to keep the boys interested.

Sheri: Okay, that one doesn’t fly with me either. Yes, I understand that men are driven by sexual desire, but so are girls. It’s part of our created nature. But God has called the unmarried to be celibate. Now Paul does say in 1 Corinthians that if you burn with passion, then you should probably get married. But if you can handle it, remain a virgin. It does say, though, that passion is for married peeps...And when I say passion...I mean the hanky panky.

3. PG-13 topic - As long as you are not having intercourse, then it’s not really sex, and its okay to conduct the act with your boyfriend/girlfriend.

Sheri: If the word sex is in it, its sex. Don’t be fooled by the “everything but” argument. That’s a load of crap.

4. Its okay to hanky panky with someone you are engaged to. After all, don’t you want to find out if you have sexual chemistry before you legally commit to this person for a lifetime?


Sheri: Not gonna fly with me either! I understand that hanky panky is an important part of marriage, but physical connections are NOT what make marriage work, and they are NOT what you should base your life on. Intimacy is much more than just sex. It’s about sharing your life with someone. If you have nothing to base a relationship on besides the physical stuff, then it’s going to be a long rest of your life trying to find something else to build upon.

So, I’m conservative. Big deal. I don’t think that you should have sex, sleep with, or be physically intimate with someone before you get married. That’s just my opinion. I know my limitations, and I believe my personal convictions are based on how I feel I should live my life. I do understand that most other people don’t agree with me. And that’s okay…convictions wouldn’t be called “personal” if that weren’t for a person.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the topic. I didn’t base this post on scripture, but on where I feel God has led me in my spiritual walk. If you want, I can dig up some versions to support my claim, but really, my thoughts/opinions/convictions were based on my relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Coming up next….my thoughts on falling in love and how to find “the one.”

Pick-A-Fruit, Any Fruit, Cobbler

I come from a Southern family. Now, neither of my parents were born in the true South, but they were both raised here, and have family from here. With most true Southern families, one of the traditions that is passed down is cooking, baking, or anything to do with food.

My family is no different. I come from a long line of fantastically wonderful cooks. Cooks that not only created some of our favorite family dishes, but cooks that left their recipes behind! And last fall my mom let me sit down with those recipes and copy them for my cookbook. Yippee!

Tonight's post is courtesy of my late, Aunt Becky of Texas. She had a famous fruit cobbler recipe that is really easy and flexible. Easy, because it takes just a few items that can almost always be found around the house. Flexible because you can change the fruit based on season, availability, and taste.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup milk
4 tbsp. butter
3 apples, peaches, pears or about 3-4 cups of your favorite fruit

Directions:
Step 1: Slice fruit and heat on medium in saucepan with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Stir constantly and heat until thickened.
Step 2: Mix batter - 1 cup sugar; 1 cup flour; 1 cup milk.
Step 3: Melt 4 tbsp. butter in baking dish. (I used a 9 inch pie pan.) Pour batter in pan and pour in hot fruit. Bake until brown at 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.


I have made this with fresh peaches before, and it was pretty good. But tonight's creation with Fuji apples was OFF THE CHARTS! I'm not the biggest cobbler fan ever, but I could have eaten this whole thing in one sitting. (I didn't though...I had a normal size portion.)

Here are some pictures of my process (along with some of my tips for those less skilled in the kitchen...and who say my recipes are "too hard.")...


Tip 1 - Slicing and peeling apples - Never my favorite job, but made much easier with a few handy gadgets. I peel my apples with a swivel potato peeler. Fast and easy. Then I slice the apples with this handy, dandy apple slicer below. It not only cuts the apples in pieces, it also cores it. Now, I will say that you have to sometimes cut a bit of extra core out, and I cut the slices in half after using the gadget, but...its MUCH faster than doing it all by hand.




Tip 2 - When cooking apples, put them in before the flour and sugar. Let some of the juices heat up and seep out of the slices. Then add the sugar and flour and heat on medium. Be sure to stir constantly so the flour and sugar don't burn. The flour and sugar will coat the fruit and become thick.

Tip 3 - When adding the fruit on top of the batter mixture, poke down with a spoon or spatula to help it settle. The batter will rise, but it helps to mix the fruit in a bit.



Final product is beautiful and yummy! Tip - Just eat and enjoy!!! Wow all your friends or a loved one by serving this simple, fast, and easy dish!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Family. Fun. Football

This weekend we celebrated my mom's birthday and opening weekend of college football. Since I've returned to our little college town, my family decided to get season tickets they did when Joey and I were in college. And since the opening weekend happened to fall during my mom's birthday, the whole clan (including my dog-niece) came up for the event. (Mabel may look like a cocker spaniel, but she's really a Bulldog!)

Another milestone besides opening day and the birthday took place this weekend. We took Will to his first MSU event. I've been developing a scheme to brainwash him since birth, and it helps that Nana, two aunts and an uncle are all Bulldog alum. (His mom and dad went to MC.)

Everyone made it in time for lunch on Saturday, and about an hour prior to kickoff we headed out. Will was running around like a wild man, but since we were leaving during his normal naptime, we weren't sure how long he would last at the game. About 30 minutes into our 7 mile drive (lots of traffic), the sky started to turn black. Not a good sign.

We finally made it to our parking spot about 10 minutes before the scheduled kick-off. Not 5 minutes later the bottom dropped out of the sky. There was no hiding from it till we made it to the stadium, and we all ended up soaked to the bone. Kick-off was delayed about 30 minutes, and the storm ended up passing. We were able to make it the rest of the day with just a few light sprinkles, so it wasn't a complete disaster.

Like we assumed, Will fell asleep shortly after kick-off. Poor kid. I have no idea how he slept with all the shouting, cowbells, band music and general football noise. But he did, but was up in time to watch the end of the 2nd and the half-time shows.

When he finally woke up, he didn't know what to think. He was watching the biggest tv he had ever seen in his live, and with over 54,000 people in attendance, he had never seen anything like this before. It was a bit much for a 2-year-old to take in. However, by the time the Sonic Boom of the South took the field for their half-time performance, he was really getting into the football groove!

We went on to win the game 45-7 against fellow Mississippi school, Jackson State. It was the great start to our season, and to our new head coaches tenure as a Bulldog. I have to say that I, like Will, was almost too distracted to watch the game. There was so much excitement and energy in the air that I couldn't quite focus on the field. Its much easier for me to pay attention to a game on tv than live and in person. But, to me, going to a game is less about watching it, and more about the experience and social atmosphere.

After the game we returned home wet, tired, and ready for some dinner. My sister stayed at home with the baby and helped prepare some of the dishes while we were gone. You can read a full account of the menu on my cooking blog, and try out some of our yummy family recipes.

Needless to say, with my parents, both of my siblings, their spouses, and the niece and nephew, we had a pretty full house. The kids had to take the floor, and I slept on the pull-out sofa, but we made it work for my little 3-bed, 2 bath house. I wouldn't recommend them all visiting for a week, but a short weekend was a lot of fun. This weekend has been a great start to what I hope will be a great fall full of visits with my family, and new Bulldog memories made.

Idaho-Idaha-Idahi

Several weeks ago I took a little vacation to visit my good friends from seminary who live in northern Idaho. I have been there before, but haven't visited since they bought their new house and had their first child. It was very exciting to one, get away, but also to finally meet little L for the first time!

I arrived in Idaho late one Friday afternoon. As soon as I set foot outside of the airport I thought I was in heaven. It was overcast, and the temperature was in the 50's. A nice break from the 90+ I am used to living in the South. This was the great start to what I knew would be a great weekend.

That evening I went to dinner with my Idahoan friends (who are actually both Mississippians, but I met them in Texas), and got to meet L. She's hilarious! At first she didn't want anything to do with me, but we soon became good friends.

Saturday morning Jana and I got up and decided to go to a local farmer's market. While there we were inspired to purchase a few items and make a delicious pasta dish and a local favorite dessert. Jana and I had a great time tag-teaming in the kitchen for these two Sunday treats.

After the farmer's market we went to town and took a stroll on the world's longest floating boardwalk. Little L met a local duck and had a up-close-and-personal visit. We thought about taking a hike that afternoon, but ended up meeting the husband and some of his co-workers for lunch in a nearby park. After lunch we met a gentleman who asked us for about $0.87 (it was a very specific and low amount) to buy some gasoline. As he was walking off, he yelled to his friends "Let's do this," which we thought was funny and it then became the theme for the week.


Later that afternoon Jana and I went for a very short hike by ourselves and sat on the lake's edge and chatted for about an hour. It was so good to just sit there and catch up on life. She's one of my dearest friends, and it had been nearly two years since we'd had the chance to hang out.


Sunday morning we woke up and went to church where my friends have been serving for the last 3-4 years. (I forget how long...) Then Jana and I came home to make our yummy creations. After lunch we decided to go on that hike. Jana convinced her husband to go with us, so we packed up in the car and drove to Farragut State Park for a hike around Lake Pond Oreille. Now, for those who know me well, you know I'm not very "outdoorsy." However, I give it my best go when I visit Idaho, and I really, really enjoyed the beautiful scenery and outdoor recreation this part of the country has to offer.

Monday was a stretch for me. Jana had this great idea of going tubing down a river that's located about an hour from her house. I have been tubing and rafting before, but now I'm old and set in my ways...and the thought of doing something adventurous just kinda scares me. I'm not a risk taker, and try to avoid anything that might resemble "going out on a limb," physically. (Tennis is an exception for me. I try to go full-out on the court, but its not like I take dives or anything.)

So, Jana and I packed up the car and headed to the river with one of her friends. Now, let me get back to my first Idaho reaction. The weather had been quite mild for mid-August. In fact, one morning I woke up and it was 46 degrees outside. Needless to say, we knew the river was going to be cold. It doesn't help that the morning of our adventure I made Jana turn on the gas logs in the fireplace so I could sit in front of it and drink coffee...with a blanket around me. I was freezing!

We get to the river, and its a gorgeous day. We stick our feet in the water, and yes, its quite cold. However, we decide to go for it. After a short picnic we buck up and get ready to jump in. The tubing novices that we were, none of us were quite sure of how to climb in the tubes and get going. After a bit of fumbling, though, we were in, wet, cold, but having a blast.
I have to give props to Jana for being so adventurous. She's pregnant, but that doesn't slow her down a bit! The river ended up being pretty slow, and despite a few close calls with "too much booty on the rocks," it was an easy, and relaxing trip down the river. We had a GREAT time, and I'm glad they convinced me to go.


My extended weekend in Idaho ended too quickly. Unfortunately, we all have to go home and go back to work eventually. But, it was one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating vacations I have ever taken. So, despite the shortness, it did its job. Now, just have to wait until November before I get to see my beloved friends again. This time, they get to see me in my new town and new home, and I can't wait to show them around!

Side Note: One of my biggest hesitations about participating in woodsy, outdoor activities is the presence of snakes. I am terribly, terribly afraid. However, several locals convinced me there were no poisonous snakes in that part of the country, so I felt better about going off into the woods and floating down a river. Don't think you'll catch me doing that in Mississippi though. Too many horror stories about encounters with these killing machines.

Football Food Frenzy

This weekend we celebrated two exciting events in my family -
1. My mom's birthday (Friday)
2. Opening day of MSU football

Since it was a weekend full of celebratory happenings, my entire family came to visit. Saturday morning I welcomed 6 adults, a two year old, a 3 month old, and a dog. Needless to say, it was a FULL house!

The game you can read about on my other blog later (http://biglovesmalltown.blogspot.com/). But here, you can read about the menu for our big birthday/football/Labor Day cookout.

On the menu:
Appetizers - Cowboy Caviar with Chips & homemade Chex Mix
Hamburgers with pepperjack cheese
Mixed Vegetable Salad (Recipe in a previous entry.)
Baked Beans (canned)
Mom's Potato Salad (Prepared by my sister)
German Chocolate Cake (Box mix) with MSU Cookies and Cream Ice Cream (YUMMMMM!)

Appetizers

We always have to have at least one, and normally two, appetizers to snack on while cooking the main meal. This week my sister-in-law and I split snack duty and each provided a homemade treat.

Homemade Chex Mix (which I am munching on while writing this blog)

Ingredients:
3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup Cheez-its
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 stick margarine
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce (Tabasco)
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions: Heat oven to 250°F. In large roasting pan, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and cheez-its; set aside. Melt butter in microwave. Stir in seasonings. Gradually pour over cereal mixture and toss until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Also see previous entry on Sweet & Spicy Chex Mix.

Cowboy Caviar
Ingredients:
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
2 tomatoes (seeded and diced)
2 avocados (diced)
3 green onions (diced)
1/2 cup. salsa
freshly chopped cilantro (to taste)
salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a large box. Chill for 1 hour and serve with corn or tortilla chips. (Tostitos or Fritos scoops work best!)

Main Course

Hamburgers - There's nothing really special about the way I fix my hamburger patties. Typically I mix Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, Tony Chateries Cajun seasoning, Dale's, salt & pepper, or really whatever is I feel like adding. However, this time I added a bit of cheese to the mix. I formed the patties it balls, and them made an indention in the center and placed two cubes of pepperjack cheese. Then I reformed the balls, and flattened into patties. When you bite into the burger, you get a surprise burst of cheese in the center. It was actually really good, and I would recommend trying with different types of cheese.

Mom's Potato Salad

My mother has perfected her potato salad recipe. Through the years, she has taught my sister and I how to imitate her creation.

Ingredients:
**This is for about 8-10 servings of potato salad. If you increase the ingredients in increments, you can make much larger portions. We make four large roasting pans each Christmas for my dad's company party. Tastes just as good if you get the proportions right!

3 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
Mayonnaise
Mustard
salt & pepper
Paprika

Directions: Peel & chop potatoes in cubes. Add to pot and boil for about 10-15 minutes. Drop eggs in potatoes to boil at the same time. Potatoes will be done when they are tender and can be pierced with a fork. Be careful not to cook too long because they will mash when mixing. Drain completely, remove eggs to cool, and pour potatoes in a large bowl. Mix in relish, about 4-6 tablespoons of mayonnaise, and 1 tablespoon of mustard. The mayonnaise mixture needs to be eyeballed. Start with 4 tablespoons of mayo, and keep adding until you get desired consistency. Chopped boiled eggs and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle finished mixture with paprika for a little color.


Our first little football cookout of the season was a great success. We ate way too much food and had a lot of fun while doing it! All in all, good times with the fam!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Quickest blog update ever

I haven't posted in a while because:

1. I've been traveling a lot. (I have only spent about 4 or 5 weekends in S-ville since the beginning of May. Been to Jackson, Atlanta, Kansas City, Birmingham & northern Idaho....which brings me to 2.)
2. Went to northern Idaho to visit the Sandersons. We had fun - Pics are here.
3. Work is absolutly insane. Which means...I'm working all the time....but its all good! But, when I get off, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write a blog...because I've been writing all day long.


That's enough excuses for now. This weekend shall be a ton-o-fun. Football opens against JSU. My ENTIRE family (6 adults, 2 kids & a dog-niece) are coming to visit, but just for one night. It shall be a full house folks! And we're taking Will to his first MSU football game, so that's pretty exciting!

More to come...more to come...Just not sure when...

PS - Started the red door transformation this weekend. BUT...it rained on Sunday, so I didn't get to apply the last two coats. Will post pics when I'm done.


PSS - How have I made it three months and not posted a picture of my beautiful, wonderful niece? Here she is "sunbathing" in her little GAP swimsuit I bought her! A full blown Maggie post will come soon!

Monday, August 17, 2009

LIVE FROM IDAHO (Part 2): Huckleberry Buckle


For some reason every time Jana says "huckleberry buckle" I think of the hokey pokey and start doing a dance in my head. However, huckleberry buckle is in fact not a dance, but a yummy type of cobbler that is local to this part of the country. (I guess...huckleberries are local here.)

What is a huckleberry? Well, its a small, round blue berry that resembles our Mississippi blueberries. Jana swears they have more flavor, and they actually are quite good! However, I hear they are much, MUCH harder to pick than blueberries, so they tend to run on the more expensive side.

So, while on our farmer's market excursion, we picked up some huckleberries to make a fabulously fantastic dessert. I have to say, it was quite good, and Jana and I worked really fast to whip this sucker out! It was a good team effort, and I recommend trying this if you can find huckleberries. If you can't, just substitute blueberries!

Do the "huckleberry buckle" and you turn yourself around....that's what its all about!!!


INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups huckleberries
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
Add to Recipe Box


DIRECTIONS
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) Grease the bottom of a 9 inch square pan.
2.In a large bowl, cream 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into butter mixture. Stir in milk; mixture will be thick and lumpy. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
3.In a large bowl, combine berries, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup boiling water. Pour over the batter in the pan. Dot the top with remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
4.Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ida-ho! Ida-hi! Ida-like-the-summer-pasta!


Last night Jana and I went to see the movie Julie & Julia, which is based on TWO true stories about one famous and one not-so-famous cook. Being a fan of cooking myself, of course I adored the movie! The film tells the story of two women in their quest to find themselves. It was a great movie to watch with your girlfriends!

In the movie, Julie (the younger character) sets a goal to cook her way through Julia Child's french cookbook for American women who don't have servants. There are over 500 recipes, and Julie spends a year of her life cooking and then blogging about her experience. I wish I could say I got the idea for this blog from the movie, or the book, but, alas, I knew nothing of the story until recently. You can credit the creation of this blog to my mother who requested that I post all of my recipes online.

Anyway, in the spirit of the movie, and after visiting a local farmer's market yesterday, Jana and I decided to blog and cook a new meal. So....here we go with our one-of-a-kind, organically grown, northern Idahoan summer pasta dish.

Ingredients:
1 zucchini squash
1-4 to 1/2 bag of wagon wheel pasta (or whatever you prefer)
1 pint (assorted colors) cherry tomatoes (which, apart from this farmer market, are not NEARLY as yummy)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
rosemary or Italian seasoning to taste
salt and pepper to taste
EVOO (olive oil for you non-Rachael Ray fans)
Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best, but you can also use the canned kind)

Directions:
Wash and chop all vegetables in nickel size pieces. Add 1/2 of the tomatoes and zucchini to a skillet and saute in olive oil. Add minced garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Saute vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until zucchini Boil pasta according to directions on package. Drain when done and return to pot or pour in a bowl. Add the other half of the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour vegetables in pasta. Drizzle with olive oil and mix. Add a salt and pepper to taste and mix in Parmesan cheese.

Side suggestions: Serve with your choice of meat and garlic bread or salad. We grilled chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing and lemon juice. You can also shredded the chicken and add it to the pasta before hand, or use shrimp!

Wine paring: This is a very light dish, one that is good to serve as lunch or dinner. I would pair it with a light, fruity wine like a chardonnay.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fish Tacos: Fast and Easy (Just like Josephine)

Need a super quick meal that will wow your family, friends, or coworkers? Need something that want break the bank? Try the fish taco! Its exciting, delicious, and not-the-everyday-ordinary meal.

Ingredients:

2-4 pieces of any type of fish you like - Mahi Mahi (By FAR my favorite, but on the expensive side), catfish (for the southern folks, or a never-fail tilapia. (*Typically it will take 3 pieces of tilapia for 2 people...who eat at least 2-3 tacos a piece.)
cilantro
lemon juice
lime juice
salt & pepper
tortillas
lettuce (I like romaine)
feta cheese crumbles
Tabasco sauce (if desired)
salsa (if desired)
your favorite shredded cheese (if desired)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking dish with foil. Lay fish down flat and cover with 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. Sprinkle finely chopped cilantro and a pinch of salt and pepper on top. Bake for 6-10 minutes, based on thickness of fish. (Tilapia bakes really fast!)

Remove from oven and flip fish. Sprinkle with more lemon juice, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Return to oven and finish baking. Based on thickness of your fish, it should be another 5-10 minutes. (If you want to broil or grill the fish, it can speed up the process.) Remove fish from oven and chop in big chunks. (I usually just take a spatula and chunk it up.)

Then you just dress your taco! I usually lay my tortillas flat on a plate with a bit of shredded cheese on top, and microwave for about 30-45 seconds. Then I pile on fish, lettuce, and feta cheese. I like things hot, so I top with salsa and Tabasco sauce.

Suggested Sides: Spanish rice, black beans, chips and salsa, or refried beans. Also good with grilled summer vegetables like squash and zucchini.

Wine Pairing: If you really want to choose a wine....something like Fetzer Gew├╝rztraminer. You want it to be light and somewhat sweet. Chardonnays are also good. But honestly....try a Corona Light with a wedge of lime! Nothing like beer and tacos! : )

ALSO GOOD - My shrimp tacos!

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes....


Shortly after I moved to Fort Worth in 2002, my sister and her husband planned a move there as well. We were all relocating for educational reasons, and just so happened to be settling in the same city. When Lynn and Dan came from San Francisco, they wanted to buy a house in one of the older, historic neighborhoods. I remember spending hours driving around looking at all the beautiful houses that skirted the edge of downtown Fort Worth and dreaming of one day owning my own home.

Off of 8th Ave, aka McCart, aka Summit, aka Cleburne (Which eventually turns into Weatherford and Belknap because TX streets change names a lot)…right off of that multi-named road is a neighborhood called Ryan Place. One of the more affluent residences in Fort Worth, Ryan Place reeks of old oil money and southwestern charm. (Texas is, after all, southwestern, not southern. We will save that soap box for another day.) Through the large Greek style columns of the entrance, lies Elizabeth Boulevard, home to Mediterranean and Georgian style homes that are as beautiful as they are large! It is a beautiful neighborhood, and one that inspired a dream 7 years ago.

While we were touring this neighborhood, I noticed one reoccurring attribute almost more than I did the grandeur of the homes. A red front door. Not just on one, but home after home was adorned with this striking feature. I saw all of the houses with the red front door, and immediately fell in love. I knew ONE DAY I would own a home and I could have a red front door.

Fast forward 7 years, and I do own my own home. In fact, it’s a beautiful little three bedroom, two bath brick that is just around the 1500 sq. foot mark. (Though, some of my friends swear it is bigger. I think the interior paint and open floor plan deceives the eyes.) It’s a starter home, and it’s just for me and the two cats, but it is beautiful, and I love it. When I moved in my dad was talking about some of the things we could do to make it a little nicer. Touch up the nicks and nail holes inside, put a new coat of paint on the exterior siding and columns, new fixtures and new hardware here and there. There wasn’t much that needed to be done.

But then it struck me! This is MY house! My very own place that I pay for and can do what I want! No more white walls in every room (like my parents). No one telling me where to hang what picture and that something may or may not be too girly for their tastes. This is MY HOUSE! I want a red front door!

I have now lived in my house for 7 months. So far I haven’t done much be update the fixtures in one bathroom, decorate, and re-do the front flowerbeds. Nothing too big or drastic. But its time for a change! It’s time to finally make my home, MY HOME! So, with that in mind, I’m painting my front door red! Finally, I will have what I have always wanted, a home, my own home, with a beautiful red front door!




** On a side note, I didn’t know how much significance was behind having a red front door. I discovered this when I googled red front door looking for a photo to include with my post. But so you know….red doors are popular and significant. It’s actually Feng Shui concept that represents prosperity, fame, and love. It also represented homes that welcomed visitors during colonial times. Now…granted…in Ireland, a red door signifies the house is paid for. I still have 14 more years to go before I can claim that. But…I think the red door will suit me very well!