Friday, April 30, 2010

Five O'Clock Friday: Mint Juleps

This weekend, a very famous Southern tradition will take place. It is the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. (That's a horse race, my friends. Its for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.) Its kind of a big deal.

One tradition that is synonymous with the Derby concerns fashionable hats. This particular event gives ladies (and some men) the excuse to go all out and wear the biggest, most ridiculous looking hats you have ever seen! I love it! Its so British.

Ever since my appearance as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (the mayor's wife in The Music Man) in high school, I have been obsessed with hats. I love them, but don't have the occasion to wear them often. When I was in New Orleans recently, there was a display for a hat shop at the Ritz. I just stood and stared at them for a while. It reminded me of when Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler went on their honeymoon. She had hats like that. (Okay, so maybe my hat fascination dates back to the junior high days when I was completely obsessed with Gone With the Wind.)

Anyway, if I ever go to the Kentucky Derby, then I'm totally spending a whopping load of money at the New Orleans hat shop, Fleur de Paris. I don't care how much it costs. I think it would be completely decadent to have an original hat from a proper shop.

Enough about hats....

That brings me to the actual point of today's post. Another famous Derby tradition concerns booze. More specifically, whiskey. Or bourbon. Or Kentucky whiskey, which is bourbon. I honestly don't know much about booze, so I really don't know the difference. But, whatever-you-call-it-booze is mixed with mint and sugar, and turns into mint julep. This is a very famous Kentucky tradition, or so I hear.

In honor of the Kentucky Derby, which takes place this weekend, let's drink mint juleps and wear hats. I bet it would be fun!

The Early Times Mint Julep Recipe
Taken from the Kentucky Derby website

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Crushed ice
Early Times Kentucky Whisky
Silver Julep Cups

Directions: Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

The best times are enjoyed responsibly. Early Times Distillery Co., Kentucky Whisky. 40 percent Alc. By Volume. Louisville, KY 2006.

And since I was on the site, I'll post a bonus recipe because 1. I like vodka, and 2. this sounds good!

The Oaks Lily®

1 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix
3 oz. Cranberry Juice
Splash of Triple Sec

Directions: When the ingredients are mixed, place the pinkish cocktail in an official Oaks Lily® glass (stem-less wine glass) with crushed ice, add a straw and garnish with an orange wedge and cherry.

SIDE NOTE: While updating my blog, I realized I haven't posted since last Friday. Its been such a busy week. Don't judge me for posting two boozy recipes in a row. I'll get some food on here soon. Maybe I'll post something special from the grandmother birthday party I'm attending on Saturday!

Happy cooking! Don't drink and drive, and drink responsibly!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Waiting out the storm....

Did you know you can have a more serious tornado watch than just a regular ole tornado watch? Yes, its called a PDS watch. That means…holy crap you better look out and nail down your petunias watch…or, in technical terms, a “potentially dangerous situation” tornado watch. We’re under one of those right now, and I’m just sitting at home waiting for something bad to happen.

You know what’s weird? I used to be super scared of storms…but today I’m sitting here kinda wanting one to happen, but at the same time, as a homeowner, insurance carrier, not super rich person…not wanting one to happen. I like the excitement and drama of tragedy, but I really don’t like the effects of it. Am I totally weird or what?

When I was in college I went through a couple of…incidents…that made me scared of storms. The first was my junior year in college. I was at home painting my kitchen, and it was raining. All of a sudden, you couldn’t see outside because of all of the wind, rain and debris flying by. My roommate was on her way home from school, and called as the sirens went off. She couldn’t make it home, so I recommended she get out of the car and in the ditch. Then I frantically tried to scoop up the cats and get in the bathroom. It was really scary. I called my mom, and she told me just to call down and it would be okay. (She didn’t realize what was going on outside.)

After the fact they said it wasn’t a tornado, but straight line winds. They were in excess of 100 miles per hour. That’s like a big ole hurricane hitting land 5 hours north of the coast. It was crazy. The roommate finally made it home, with thanks to some city workers who found her and brought her and her car to the house, and we sat in the bathroom with no power for a while. We finally got out and drove around. It was bad.

I had no more fence in my backyard, and a few missing shingles, but that was, rather luckily, all the damage to my house. The way the storm passed over, my home was protected by the ones around me. However, the bank on the edge of my neighborhood lost a brick wall. Wal-Mart, a stone's throw away, lost a big part of the roof. Some of my neighbors had major damage. A HUGE old, oak tree was completely uprooted. It was scary stuff.

Not long after that…incident…I went to work for the second summer in a row at a church camp on the MS coast. We watched a major tropical storm hit Houston and flood the city, waiting for it to make its way east. It came. We had lots of tornados, and we spent the night sitting in the stairwell of our staff house waiting to see what was going to happen.

The next morning I woke up and went to work. I had about a 2-3 block walk from my house to the office. I probably could have taken a boat to work that way. The water in the parking lot was up to mid-calf. I can’t believe I walked through that in flip flops…

Several of us checked on the 700+ guests we had on campus. Everyone was okay, but we had no power and we were flooded in parts. As the public relations intern for the summer, I answered the phones. Concerned parents and friends called trying to decide if they should come get their kids. At this point, they were okay. We just were water logged.

I worked my first crisis communication situation as a 20 about three-fourths of her way through her college education. Talk about trial by fire! I was working with about 2 hours of sleep under an intense amount of stress. I remember snapping terribly at one of my friends that day, but I don’t think they knew the kind of calls I was fielding at the time. I learned a lot about that storm, Tropical Storm Allison, to be exact. I learned a lot about being a communicator and a lot about how to handle stress in very serious situations.

I think I’m actually better at keeping calm when something super important is on the line. I mean, I totally stress myself out at work sometimes. I tend to be…a little tightly wound…to quote my boss. I know this. I’m a perfectionist. However, when it comes to a crazy, scary situation, like bad weather, I can keep my calm. Hmmmm….

It took a while for me to get over my fear of storms after that. But not long after these incidents I moved to Texas. I lived through lots of storms in my near 7 years there. I’m okay with storms now, though I do admit I get a bit nervous. I just don’t freak out like I used to.

So, I’m sitting here, watching the news…realizing we are under a PDS tornado watch, and keeping my cool. I’m waiting for it to come, but not too expectantly. I don’t think anything bad will hit my area. I know I said I kinda wanted it to, but really…if I think about it…I don’t. I like my house intact. And I just redid my yard.

I do have to send thoughts and prayers to my fellow Mississippians who have been hit by tornados today. They are out there. There has been some major damage in some areas. I hope everyone is okay.

God, watch over us. Protect us. Guide us. Be with us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Notice the lack of photos on my blog? Its because I need a new camera. I'm just sayin....

Five O'Clock Friday: Sweet Tea Vodka

So, the other day I was catching up on some Google reader action, and I came across a post on iced tea. I love tea. I'm Southern, though, so down here we drink tea instead of water. Tea with lots of sugar in it. Its really healthy, I promise.... *crickets...*

In the post, the blogger introduced me to something I have never heard of before - Sweet Tea Vodka. WHAT???? Someone made vodka taste like sweet tea? I love vodka (in moderation). I love sweet tea (but weak and only slightly sweetened). I can't believe some drunky drunk went off and combined the two! They must be Southern.

As soon as I read about this, I was sitting in my office in giddy shock...wondering if anyone in town carries this new mysterious wonderfulness. Then in walks my VP coming to congratulate me on a job well done. And what do I do?

Me: "Did you know they make sweet tea vodka?"
diarrhea of the mouth
VP: rather enthusiastically - "YES!! My friend in blahblahblah introduced it to me!"


The first words that come out of my mouth to the boss at 8:30 in the morning were about booze. I bet his thinks I'm a lush. But, honestly, I think he knows me better than that. And...during our discussion on sweet tea vodka, he did say this was the best conversation he had all day. Whew!

So far I haven't been fired from my job for talking to the boss about booze early in the morning. He did go on to thank me for helping with an important project we were working on. So I think I'm okay! But about open mouth, insert foot! I still can't believe I blurted that out to my boss.

Moving on....

Today's Five O'Clock Friday is in ode to the new found sweet tea vodka...I must locate some. And when I do, I'm making this:

Mighty Mint Tea

Fresh mint
sweet tea vodka
lemon wedges

1. Place a few (6-10) mint leaves in the bottom of a lowball/old fashioned glass. Sprinkle with sugar and muddle leaves. (Basically, muddling requires you to put mint in the bottom of a glass and crush it with the end of a wooden spoon. Or you can use a mortar and pestle.)
2. Drop in a few ice cubes and pour in vodka. If you don't want an entire glass of vodka, mix half and half with tonic water or club soda.
3. Stir and garnish with a lemon wedge. Serve and enjoy!

Remember kids...only drink in moderation, and DON'T drink and drive!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Open really, really mean person...

Dear evil thief who keeps stealing my Diet Coke's at work,

I HATE YOU! No, seriously...I do. I know hate is a strong word. I was taught not to use it. But you keep freakin stealing my Diet Cokes. WHHHHHYYYYY????? Why do you have to do it on those days when I'm having a really bad day and am in need of a Diet Coke? Why do you steal at all? Why are you so dishonest and unethical?

I'm sorry if you can't afford the $0.75 machine in our kitchen. That's why I bring my own. So I don't have to spend so much. But then YOU keep stealing from I end up not saving any money anyway!

I'm a nice enough person, and I don't steal from you. I even buy candy and put it on my desk for the entire building to come enjoy! Sometimes I even bake treats! So, why steal from me? Seriously???

I just want you to know, in this open letter to whoever you are, that I lick all of my Diet Coke cans PRIOR TO putting them in the kitchen. So...that means you are getting a bunch of my slobbery spit when you steal my drinks? Revenge? I think not. I call that justice! If you get sick...its your own damn fault for being a thieving liar! That's the price you pay for dishonesty! So take that, sucka!

I realize I'm being harsh. But that's because I'm a victim. And when something as precious as a Diet Coke is stolen...well...there's no more Miss Nice Girl!

Stop stealing from me. Its not very nice.


PS - To my readers. I'm frustrated. I like open letters. I think this will be a new regular on my blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The best turkey meatloaf EVER!!!!

Last night I decided to use the leftover meat I had from Saturday's cookout to make a meatloaf. It was already seasoned, and all I needed to do was a few things to make it more loafy. Turned out to be the best turkey meatloaf I have ever made! And...I make a pretty darn good turkey meatloaf! Here's what happened:

**All of my measurements are estimates. I eyeball the ingredients and feel it out as I go....

1 to 1.5 lb. ground turkey
2 tbsp. Chicken Marinade (Worcestershire)
1 tbsp (or palmful) parsley flakes or 2 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1.5 teaspoon Cavendar's Greek Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tbsp horseradish
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped & sauteed
1/2 bell pepper, chopped & sauteed & sauteed
1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped & sauteed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 to 1 cups shredded mozzarella
4 oz. tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop and saute onions, bell pepper and mushrooms. Set aside. Mix meat, all seasonings, eggs, and bread crumbs. Add sauteed vegetables and mix well.

Transfer meat to loaf pan and form into a loaf. Spread tomato sauce over meat and bake in oven for 1 hour.

Remove meatloaf from oven and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Side suggestions: Mashed sweet or regular potatoes, salad, baked or boiled vegetables.

Leftover suggestions: Slice two thin pieces of meatloaf and microwave for 1 minutes. Throw on a slice of mozzarella cheese. Toast two pieces of bread, and spread mayo on each side. Lay on meat and have a meatloaf sandwich. Yum-o!

Trust me when I say this meatloaf was fantstico! LOVED IT!!!!

Happy cooking!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Greek-Style Stuffed Turkey Burgers

This weekend was spring homecoming at the ole alma mater. My brother and sister-in-law came to visit, and we tooled around town, grilled out, and hung at my house. The weather was beautiful, and it was a super fun Super Bulldog Weekend!

Saturday night I invited some friends over for a little homecoming cookout. I was inspired to create a new turkey burger after watching an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network. They didn't use turkey, I don't think, but some of the same ingredients.

The family helped with the creation, and we ended up with massively large and delicious, and somewhat healthy, burgers.

**All of my measurements are estimates. I eyeball the ingredients and feel it out as I go....
1.5 to 2 lb. ground turkey
2 to 4 tbsp. Chicken Marinade (Worcestershire)
3 to 4 tbsp (or palmful) parsley flakes or freshly chopped parsley
3 to 4 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2-1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2-1 tbsp Cavendar's Greek Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2-1 tbsp ground oregano
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella

1. Heat grill on high heat.
2. Saute onions and bell pepper in olive oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until all vegetables are soft. (About 3-5 more minutes)
3. Mix remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.
4. Take palm size of meat mixture and form into a thin patty.
5. Spoon sauteed vegetables on top of patty and sprinkle with mozzarella.
6. Take another palm size of meat and form another patty. Place on top of patty and vegetables, and crimp size to enclose vegetables and cheese.
7. Repeat 7 more times.
8. Grill burgers for about 10-15 minutes per side, or until juice squeezes out clear.
9. Serve on whole wheat bun with tomatoes, lettuce, and condiments.

Side suggestions: Potato salad, grilled squash and zucchini, chips, baked fries, etc.
Wine pairing: Biltmore Malbec or a Syrah

I do have to admit these burgers take a little more prep time than usual, but they were SOOOO worth it! Plus, I had a sous chef, aka my brother, aka grillmaster and master chopper. He cut all of the vegetables in record time and grilled the meat. Okay, he did most of the work. I just figured out the seasonings and put it all together. We were co-chefs. And Lauren helped too. We had three cooks in the kitchen, and actually prepared it quite fast....

I, rather unfortunately, had leftover raw turkey. I bought and mixed too much, and only made 8 burgers. (I wasn't sure how much meat I needed.) So, with the leftovers I made THE MOST AMAZING TURKEY MEATLOAF EVER tonight. I'll make you wait in suspense for that recipe!

After dinner was done, we spent the evening in the backyard taking and hanging out with friends. New friends and old friends, but all great company. It was a perfect spring night, and I can't wait to have many more like it to come!

Happy cooking!

Friday, April 16, 2010

An open letter to whoever makes up the AP Stylebook rules...

Dear AP Style Decision Makers,

You have totally crimped my style today. I like correcting grammar. I like telling people, nicely albeit, when they are wrong. I like the fact that I am one of the few people on my block that knew that Web site was supposed to be spelled out like Web site and not Website or website. But then you went and changed the rules today at your silly little conference. Now all those folks out there they always misspelled Web site get to be correct because you changed the official spelling from Web site to website.

I realize this affects only a small portion of the world's population. But for those of us who make a living by following your rules, its just an annoyance. I really liked being right. I really liked telling people I was right and pointing out in my handy dandy Stylebook that I was right. But now they are right, and that's just wrong!

Thanks for listening to my complaints today. I know you changed the spelling because lots of other folks complained. They are just dumb. And wrong. And I"m right. Except now I'm wrong. But the thing is...I know the correct way to spell website now, so when all of my fellow colleagues and PR folks spell out Web site, I can start correcting them.

a right writer

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Arts & Crats To-Do List

Now I know what to do with all of those old jars....will make a great centerpiece for my outdoor dining table...

Picture (and idea) borrowed from:

Guess what's for dinner...Saturday night...

I've been working on something special for this weekend. Its spring homecoming on campus, and my brother and sister-in-law are coming to visit. (We're all alums.) Since we all love to cook, we have a full weekend planned of grilling and eating and laughing. Should be fun!

I've been planning Saturday night for a while now. Let's see if you can guess what I'm making. (If I already told you, don't be a cheater! Let the other's guess!) Here are my ingredients:

ground turkey
bell pepper

Can you guess it? Its gonna be good! (At least I hope it will be!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

For the love of burritto...

I used to live in Texas. If you didn't know should. Its a very important piece of the "who I am" puzzle that makes up me. I moved there in 2002 to attend seminary, and left in December 2008. Up until mid-2008, I was sure I would never leave. Especially the Fort Worth area. I loved that place. It was full of activity, life, and lots of great places to eat.

Shortly after moving to Texas, some friends of mine introduced me to the Chipotle burrito. Its a life-changing experience. Trust me! Whether in a bowl or in a wrap, it is a jumbled mess of goodness containing your meat of choice, black beans, cilantro-lime rice, cheese, sauted veggies, and whatever else your heart (or tummy) desires. I typically chose chicken, but their pork was wonderfully flavored as well.

When I moved to Mississippi, I discovered that the closest Chipotle was quite a drive Alabama. Just like shopping...I have to hop on Highway 82 and head east to find this non-low-fat, guilty pleasure. Since moving here, I have eaten at Chipotle twice...both times in Birmingham on my way through town. Its worth the detour for me...its also across from the Galleria.

Well, in my complaints about missing Chipotle on Facebook and twitter, several friends have sent me recipes to recreate the delicious dish at home. It doesn't quite compare, but its close. Close enough to appease my cravings. Now...if I could only find the La Playa Maya cowboy enchilada recipe, or if I could import a Sushi Axiom chef into my house, then I would be set and I probably wouldn't miss Texas anymore. (Okay, that's not true. I miss more about Texas than the food...)

Sheri's Cheap Chipotle Knock-Off

Cilantro-lime Rice recipe
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced in strips
2-3 chicken breasts or 4-5 chicken tenders, cut in small pieces
1 tbsp butter
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
shredded mozzarella cheese
sour cream
Guacamole recipe spice things up!
Burrito size flour tortillas

Side note: Would you believe that last night I went to cooking and there was no salsa in my house? GASP!!! I don't think that has ever happened to me before. I mean...salsa is like sugar, or flour, or milk. I am never without it! But last night I was. I was a little disappointed in myself.

Make rice and guacamole according to recipes linked above.

Cut chicken and vegetables. Saute chicken in skillet for about 5 minutes, and season with fajita or taco spices. Add sliced bell pepper and butter. Saute for about 3 minutes. Add onions and continue cooking for about 3 more minutes. Add frozen corn and cook until chicken, onions and peppers are done.

Heat black beans in microwave for about 3 minutes. Warm tortillas for about 1 minute in microwave.

Assembly: Throw it all in a tortilla or a bowl. Oh....typical method is tortilla or bowl, rice, black beans, chicken and vegetables, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, jalapenos.

If you prefer your Chipotle dish as a burrito bowl, try serving a warmed tortilla as a side!

This should yield about 4 burritos/bowls, unless you are feeding hungry boys. Then maybe 1 normal size, 1 hungry boy size, and maybe some measly leftovers! : )
Today I'm mourning the loss of our sweet family cat, Ginger. We adopted her in 1991, which I was only 10 years old. We don't know exactly how old she was, but Ging was around 20-21 in human years. She lived a long and happy life with our family, and we are sad to see her go. She was beautiful, and sweet, and my family loved her very much. She was the best cat a little girl could ever ask for!

Rest in peace, my sweet Gigi! We love you!

(The picture is of Will and Ginger at Easter a year ago. He was very proud of his eggs he found and had to show them to her.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Healthy Springtime Meal...except for the cake part...

Last night a few of my girlfriends and I celebrated J's 29th birthday. It was quite a celebration of life...since we are getting older, much more beautiful, wiser, etc., with ever passing year. It was another perfect day in town, so we decided to dine outside in the back yard. Dinner was full of lots of laughter and conversation, and it was a great night.

Following our meal and dessert, we moved to the other side of the patio and decided to break in my fire pit. That was an adventure in itself. At first I wasn't going to use one of the 2 hour logs...who knew we had that much life to cover in our fireside chat? I first attempted to burn old bills and papers. Well, that didn't go over so I got out the fire log, lit it up, and covered it with the only slightly burned papers, and sat back to enjoy the warmth.

It was a great time! I hope J enjoyed her birthday party as much as I did! I thought it was a blast. In honor of the event, I have posted the recipes for each menu item below. We will definitely have to repeat this night again soon! : )

Grilled salmon

salmon (amount and size dependent on who you are cooking for)
Colorado Spice Salmon and Trout Rub (**Use your own desired seasonings. This is what I used. It contains BLACK PEPPER, SALT, BELL PEPPERS, GARLIC, ORANGE PEEL, THYME, BASIL, ONION AND SPICES 100% Kosher.)
1-3 twigs of fresh rosemary
aluminum foil

Create a foil pouch for fish. (Typically I lay two 1 foot to 1.5 foot pieces down and cover with an additional one at the end.) Lay salmon on foil and rub in spices. Lay rosemary on top of salmon, and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Cover fish with additional foil, and fold up sides to create a pouch. Cook on grill for about 10 minutes, flip pouch, and cook an additional 10 minutes. (Cooking time may vary on amount and thickness of the fish.)

Cilantro Lime Rice


1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
3 tbsp butter
2 limes
2-3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Boil 2 cups of water. Add rice, 1 tbsp butter, a dash of olive oil (EVOO), and about 1/2 tbsp or so of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil, cover and let cook for approximately 20 minutes (or until rice is done).

Transfer rice to a bowl and add additional butter, to taste. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes over rice, and add chopped cilantro. Stir and serve!

Squash and zucchini

2 yellow squash
2 zucchini
2 tbsp butter
salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning, to taste

Slice squash and zucchini in rounds of about 1/8-1/4 an inch. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Add butter and seasonings. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling for about 10 minutes, or until soft.

Spinach Strawberry Salad

4-6 oz. fresh baby spinach
6-10 strawberries, sliced
shaved Parmesan cheese
Poppy seed dressing

Add spinach in bowl. Top with strawberries and cheese. You can add the dressing and keep the leaves fresh and crisp, let each individual dress their own salad.

**Also good with chopped walnuts and/or sunflower seeds.

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

Another version can be found here.

1 box yellow cake mix
¾ cup oil
¾ cup water
4 eggs
1 box instant chocolate pudding
8 oz. pkg. chocolate chips
1/2 tub chocolate icing
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together cake mix, oil, water, eggs and pudding. Once smooth, fold in chocolate chips. Pour into greased/floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 50-70 minutes, depending on how quickly your oven cooks. (Look for the cake to spring back when you gently touch it, and for it to begin pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. Transfer cake to plate or cake stand and let cool for about an hour.

Spoon out about 1/2 of a tub/jar of chocolate icing into a microwavable cup or bowl. Heat for about 20-30 seconds. (Be careful not to burn it though!) Remove from microwave, stir chocolate, and drizzle with spoon or spatula over cake. If desired, put about 1 tbsp of powered sugar in a strainer, and lightly tap/dust top of cake.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Turkey Cheesy Peppery Sausage Dawgs

Today was one of those perfect spring days. It was warm, absolutely beautiful, and I spent the entire day outside enjoying God's creation. Sure...I spent it laboring in my yard with my "remodel" project. was a perfect day.

On perfect days like this, I love to cook and eat outside. So, tonight, I decided to fire up the ole grill and cook some hot dogs. It was the....perfect...way to end a....perfect....spring day!

Johnsonville Turkey Cheddar Hot dogs
1 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
hot dog buns
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill. Cook hot dogs for about 10-15 minutes, rotating every few minutes. Saute bell pepper for about 2-3 minutes, add onion and saute about 3 more minutes. Add mushrooms (which are sliced and then slivered) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until soft.

I like to toast my hot dog buns on the grill or in the oven before eating them. Takes about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Dress hot dog bun with desired condiments. Add hot dog and then top with vegetable mix. Eat and enjoy!

Side Suggestions - If you want to go healthy, salad. Or...sauteed or grilled squash and zucchini. Or you can serve baked french fries, cole slaw, baked beans, chips, etc.

Drink - Skip the wine! Go for a light ale! Or sweet tea! : )

Friday, April 9, 2010

Five O'Clock Friday - Ulitimate Girly Cocktail

Several years ago my former boss won a free wine tasting at a local store in Plano, TX. Since he was such a great boss...he invited the entire harem to join him. We were able to sample several new wines that I have never tried before, and that is when I began building my collection.

One of the most wonderful things we tasted that night was a Moscato di Asti. It is a sweet sparkling white wine with a low alcohol content. Its very similar to a Gew├╝rztraminer, if you have ever tried that. (FYI - Fetzer is a good, cheap Gew├╝rztraminer.) I can't remember the brand of moscato we tried, but I remember it was quite delicious. And during the tasting, the store owner suggested the following cocktail made with Moscato. Its very girly and works great for brunch in place of mimosas.

Try it! You'll fall in love!

1 bottle chilled Moscato di Asti
1 bottle chilled pomegranate juice
thin orange slices

Mix wine and juice together in a large pitcher. (Be careful of pouring the wine! Remember...its bubbly!) Pour into champagne flutes or white wine glasses. Garnish glass with thin orange slice. Serve to your favorite girlfriends and enjoy!

Homemade Hot Pepperoni Pizza

Several years ago I quit buying fast food pizza and frozen pizza. There wasn't a rhyme or reason to my decision, but I discovered I could make a cheaper, healthier and more customizable edition at home. For a while, I used store bought, pre-made crusts. However, in the last year or so, I have ventured into the homemade crust realm.

My first few homemade crusts were a bomb. (Not THE bomb. A bomb. Epic fail.) I mean, they didn't taste bad...they just didn't flatten out correctly or have a good consistency. But...then I discovered the cook book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." This completely changed my homemade pizza making abilities. Since adding this cookbook to my collection, I now keep fresh dough in my refrigerator almost all of the time. That means, whenever I want a homemade pizza, I just have to grab some dough, roll it out, and add toppings. Easy peasy!

Now, out of respect for the authors (who are very kind and always respond to my twitter messages), I am not going to post the recipe I used for my light whole wheat crust last night. Its in the chapter about peasant loafs, for those that check out the book. friend Kim sent me a recipe for pizza dough a while back, and you can definitely use this for your crust.

However...I will say...the bread cookbook is worth it! Seriously! And apparently they just put out a new cookbook on pizzas and flatbreads. I may have to check that one out too! If you want to know the original recipe I used, I will be happy to email it to you. I just don't want to post it online.

Here's the pizza I made last night:

Approximately 1 lb. homemade pizza dough
1 roma tomato, chopped (or tomato of choice)
1 small can tomato sauce
5-6 thinly sliced pieces of deli pepperoni (I bought this last week for muffulettas. They were sandwich size slices, but turned out well on the pizza)
shredded cheese of choice (mozzarella, Colby, Monterey jack, the pizza blend packet you buy at the store, etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 550 degrees. (I actually set mine on 525 last night, but probably needed to go to 550.)
2. Flour pastry board or other flat surface. Roll out pizza dough to approximately 1/8 inch.
3. Transfer crust to greased pizza or cookie sheet. Spread a thin layer of EVOO (olive oil) on the crust and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
4. Spread desired amount of tomato sauce on crust. Add a thin layer of chopped tomatoes, if desired. (I like the extra texture.)
5. Layer remaining ingredients - cheese, pepperoni, jalapenos, or whatever you choose.
6. Bake in over for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until edges of crust are firm.
7. Slice and serve! Makes approximately 8 slices.

Sides - When I make a pizza just for myself, I usually don't have a side. However, if you are making for someone else or your family, salad is always good to serve with pizza.

Wine suggestion - Had a glass of Guenoc Petit Syrah with my pizza last night. It was yum-o!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Big Easy

As my readers know, recently I traveled down to New Orleans with my family for a mini break. We were joined by several people who work in the same field as my dad, and representatives from a supply company they purchase material from. These sponsored trips are always well planned out, and full of lots of fun activities. Here’s a recap:

Friday afternoon we arrived in New Orleans, checked into the hotel, and went with the group the World War II museum. I was told by the tour guide that it was going to change my life forever. Maybe it would have if I hadn’t already visited the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Now THAT place will change your life. This museum was good, don’t get me wrong. But to me it had too much information/pictures/memorabilia crammed into too small of a space. All of the info on display ended up being a little overwhelming for me. And this is coming from someone who LOVES museums and history.

Now, one good part about the museum was the movie, Beyond All Boundaries, produced by Steven Spielberg and narrated by Tom Hanks. The museum has an amazing theater, super comfortable seats, and the movie was fantastic. It also has quite an array of special effects that I won’t tell you about. If you aren’t interested in the museum, go see the movie at least. It rocked! (Literally and figuratively!)

Friday evening was one of the highlights of the trip. We met for early cocktails in one of the hotel lobbies, and were outfitted in special “Mardi Gras gear.” Then after cocktails we were escorted by police and several dressed revelers down the streets of NOLA in a Second Line Parade. It was so much fun! We marched about 10 blocks through the Bourbon Street area led by a brass band, wearing masks and boas, and throwing beads to onlookers. The craziest thing was that people were lined on the streets, hundreds of people, taking our picture, clapping for us, and enjoying our show. It was a unique and unforgettable experience!

Following the parade we enjoyed drinks, hors d oeuvres (including sushi rolls, in which I ate A LOT of), and music from a jazz band. I enjoyed spending time with my brother, sister-in-law, some of their colleagues and neighbors, and some friends I have made on these trips. It was a great way to end the evening!

The next day we woke up early and took a bus tour of the areas of New Orleans still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We saw some of the historic homes and unique architecture, as well as many neighborhoods that are still in the process of rebuilding. It’s hard to believe how much they have left to do. However, the tour guide says it typically takes about 20-25 years to rebuild from the amount of destruction they experienced. The city is looking good, but they still have a long way to go.

The above picture is of the 17th street canal wall. The beige part to the left is the original wall. The gray part is where the barge crashed and destroyed the wall. The neighborhood surrounding this canal expereienced a lot of damage during Katrina, but didn't get as much news coverage as the poorer areas (like the 9th Ward) of New Orleans. You can still see empty homes, some with marks still on there notifying authorites a victim was found in the home. It was moving to see this firsthand.

Following the bus tour we had another very unique experience…an airboat tour through the Louisiana swamps. I have to say the tour guide completely freaked me out on the way to the bayou. She kept describing these really aggressive alligators and snakes, and I was sure I would either lose a limb or die from a poisonous bite. However, once we got on the water, it was so awesome! And not scary at all!

Lucky for me, I didn’t see any snakes. And believe it or not, my father, who I suggested sit as far from me as possible, did not make any snake jokes. (For those that know us, you know he is always teasing me about my fear of snakes. But I think he’s just as scared as me.) We did see lots and lots of alligators though, including a 50-60 year old 9 footer that weighted anywhere from 400-500 lbs. He didn’t even blink at us though, so he was not intimidating.

The swamp tour allowed us to see part of the country that I had never seen before. I don’t know about you, but I had always imaged the swamp lands to be dirty, smelly, and overrun with dangerous creatures. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was quite beautiful and serene. Not what I expected!

Following the swamp tour I met up with my brother and sister-in-law for a stroll around the city. We walked to the French Quarter, snacked on a Central Grocery muffuletta, checked out the street art, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. The entire weekend was sunny, warm (but not hot), and perfect!

(Muffuletta from Central Grocery = Yum-O! Find the recipe at SMSA's!)

Sunday morning my parents had a special treat for us planned apart from the rest of the group. Apparently there’s a restaurant in Nola famous for its breakfast/brunch. My parents love this place, and always eat there when they visit. So Sunday morning we got up and had “Breakfast at Brennan’s.” Why had I not heard of this place before? I mean, you get to eat things like soup and cake for breakfast! Seriously!

Brennan’s is probably best known for the creation of bananas foster. Again, why have I not been here before? Typically guests order the three course breakfast meal, and you choose your courses from a list provided to you. My choices were turtle soup for an appetizer (tasted like gumbo), creamed spinach topped with fried trout and poached eggs for my main course, and bananas foster (they they cooked in front of us) for dessert. It was amazing! Truly, truly amazing!

I do have to admit there was one little bump in the road for my Brennan’s experience. About halfway through the bananas foster I dug my spoon in the ice cream and came back with a long brown hair. Don’t let it gross you out….It could have been my hair, except mine was curled that day and the hair was under the ice cream. I immediately lost my appetite and couldn’t finish the yummy dessert. So…the waiter (to please the guest) brought me the biggest piece of chocolate cake that was completely divine! It was AMAZING!

I don’t want the hair in my food to give you the wrong impression about this place. The food was really good, and my family had eaten there before…so this was just a fluke. Too bad it happened to me on my first experience at the restaurant. It didn’t totally ruin my perspective, but it definitely didn’t help.

The total Nola experience was a lot of fun. I haven’t always liked the city, but this trip brought a new appreciation for the culture and way of life. I think I just had to be a little older and a little more well traveled to appreciate it for what it is. It was fun, and I look forward to going back again soon!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Top 5 Movies

I just love a good movie. Don't you? Whether its in the theater or at home curled up on the couch, movies are a great way to relax and escape from real life. I had an old church buddy tell me one time that my taste in movies was ignorant. Actually, his exact words were that I liked "stupid movies for stupid people." I didn't think that was very nice. He knows a lot about movies though. He runs a movie blog. I can forgive him for calling me stupid because I'm pretty sure I turned around and called him a snob.

My choice in movies may be limited to those "escape from reality" films. I don't watch all chick flicks though! I mean, I love a good romantic comedy, but I'm also way into sports movies and movies about spies/FBI/conspiracy theories/etc. And I like Star Wars. However, I will admit that the majority of the films in my collection do fall under the chick flick genre. What can I say? I'm a girl! We love the romance!

So last week the question was posed to me about my top 5 all-time favorite movies. That's a tough one. I avoided answering the question because 1. the boys dominated the conversation with their Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans, manly man choices; and 2. I was a bit embarrassed to admit that my choices were far less compelling and serious. But after one of the said gentlemen emailed me about going to see "The Last Song" this weekend, and telling me "it was awesome," then I can feel safe to admit my top 5 all-time favorite movies. So here they are...

*Disclaimer - My list fluctuates from year to year...and this could change at any given moment in time...*

Sheri's Top 5 All-Time Favorite Movies (in no particular order)

1. Pearl Harbor - Saw this in the theater with a boy. He cried more than I did, but I love the movie. Now I cry every single time I watch it because, to me, it is romantic and moving. And I don't care if you judge me. I LOVE this movie!

2. Sweet Home Alabama - Which is dangerously close to falling off the list? Maybe? I'm not sure. But I do love this movie. It came out shortly after I had moved to Texas, and a was so much like home that I saw it in the theater twice. My Texas friends couldn't understand it. Plus, apart from it reminding me of home, it has Hotty McHothot Josh Lucas and Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsy. And I've always had a girl crush on Reese Witherspoon. Okay, so maybe it won't drop off my list.

3. Spy Game - Four words for you. Brad. Pitt. Robert. Redford. Need I say more? Oh, and its action packed and suspenseful too.

4. Julie & Julia - Its a newer one, but it falls on my top 5 list because 1. I love to blog. (Duh) 2. I have a cooking blog (Double Duh) and 3. its about cooking and food. Seriously, this movie was made for me. I'm sure the book is good too. Maybe I'll borrow it from my mom one day. Meryl Strep in quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. Have you seen "Its Complicated?" HILARIOUS! She is GREAT as Julia Child too!

5. Becoming Jane - Have you seen this one? If not, you should watch it. It is terribly tragic and heartbreaking. Jane falls in love. The love is returned, but then forbidden. They run away together, but she backs out. Then she never marries, becomes a fantastically famous writer, and her one true love names his first daughter after her. Talk about making a girl cry!

Also, other favorites include: Moulin Rouge, Armageddon, Fools Rush In, The Wedding Planner, Pride and Prejudice (both the BBC and Keira Knightly versions), The Last King of Scotland, Love Actually, The Holiday, Miss Potter....and the list goes on and on and on and on and on.

What are some of your faves?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A must read...

On very rare occasions I run across a blog that I fall in love with. One that has come into my life as of late is "Joy the Baker." Her blog looks cool. She's cute. She's on twitter. And I like her posts/recipes.

Today, though, she wrote about something I have known to be true for a very long, long time. Her post, title "How To Impress A Boy with Baking" could be the story to much of my life. I won't tell you who I've made brownies for. I won't tell you who's mom I tried to win over with my hummingbird cake. I won't tell who I made the "marry me chicken" for in the past. (It didn't work, obviously. But he did like the chicken.) And I may or may not have ever made my special apple pie for a boy in the past and cut out dough shapes of his favorite athletic team to decorate the top.

One thing I will tell you, as Joy goes on to describe, is that the old saying that "the way to a man's heart is through is stomach," is totally, totally true. I mean, it doesn't even matter if you have romantic intentions or not. I can't tell you how many times I have cooked for my guy friends. Or my father. Or my brother. Or a boss. (Can you say Randal and the banana bread? Or the brownies I brougth to work this morning?) Preparing something homemade for a man just helps you win them over! Fact!

I applaud Joy the Baker for her post. It had me rolling! I really was great!

Do any of you have a no-fail-win-over-your-man-dish? If so, you probably need to share it with me since I'm still single. I mean, I'm a good cook. But apparently I am not baking for the right men. : )

Happy cooking!