Sunday, February 20, 2011

I didn't know girls could grill...

Last night some friends and I welcomed spring by having our first cookout of the season. We eat together all time, but this time we actually got out the old grill and ate outside! It was amazing! It really is too hot to eat outside in the summer, so we have to capitalize on the few mild months we have each year.

Prior to the arrival of my guests, I was far more concerned about creating a tablescape than preparing dinner. (Though, all I had to do was make burgers.) I was going for something that offered a bit of ambiance and elegance, yet was simple and cheap. Basically, I just took a bunch of candles and glass jars and made this.

It worked out pretty well, if I say so myself! And I was able to work "tablescape" into the conversation about 14 times throughout the evening.

After dinner, we gathered around the firepit. This was interesting. Apparently certain people didn't believe that firelogs could be burned alone, instead of being used as starters. I had to show them the package, but I am not sure they believed me.

THEN...a bunch of hubalub went on about cooking s'mores over firelogs, which apparently puts off some kind of chemical. So...I allowed my neighbor to cut down part of a very small, dead crape myrtle in my back yard. It gave him something to do, and provided a cleaner burning fire to roast our marshmallows.


As a side note, we used the bag of candy I bought for work since it had various kinds of chocolate in it. I used Mr. Goodbars for my s'mores, and it was AMAZING!!!!

Prior to all of the fire, and prior to all of the discussions on chemical fires, we ate. I can't just skip over that! Since it was warm, and since we wanted to do warm weather things, we thought grilling hamburgers would be a great idea. So, the emails went round, we divided up responsibilities, and got things ready for a party. I was charged with the task of making burgers. (Okay, it was my idea.) Not a hard task for me. I have made burgers plenty of times in the past.

HOWEVER...a certain male neighbor of mine showed up and asked who was in charge of grilling the burgers. He was a bit shocked when I said I was. He replied, "I didn't know you could grill?" And something along the lines of most girls don't know how to cook meat outside. I mean...who does he think I am? Ha ha! He has eaten at my house enough times that he should know I can probably make a hamburger.

I decided to make a big deal about it in order to give him a hard time for his sexist pig joke. (I said he was sexist. He said I said he was a sexist pig. Maybe you had to be there.) I also wanted him to "eat his words" after he tasted the deliciousness of my burger.

Want to prove the men in your life wrong? Then ladies...make this burger. It was great!

"I Didn't Know Girls Could Grill" Hamburgers

Ingredients:
3 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3-6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Dale's Steak Seasoning
2 tablespoons Tony Chachere's creole seasoning
1-1/2 tablespoons Season All
Mild Cheddar Cheese cubes (optional)

Directions:
Preheat your grill at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Put beef in large bowl. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, Worcestershire, Dale's, Tony's and season all. Mix ingredients with hands, combining all well.

Take a handful of meat, form it in a ball, and then flatten out.

To stuff with cheese: Take a palm size of meat and flatten out. Layer cheese on top of meat. Take another ball of meat and flatten on top of cheese, covering and enclosing all sides.

Put on grill and cook about 10-15 minutes on each side.

*If your meat is not holding together well, try adding an egg and bread crumbs to help it stick together. Fattier meats tend to hold together better, but the fatter the meat, the more the patty will shrink on the grill.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We interrupt the normal programming to bring a special statement.

And a rather long statement. Sorry.

There are too many thoughts going through my head about this world to narrow it down to a brief, descriptive title. I am disappointed in our world today. Every day I see woeful images of the apparent sin in our society, but today…today…I am truly disheartened.

First off: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Our campus started a wonderful program over a year ago to help reduce the amount of garbage we create. Blue recycling bins were placed in public areas, classrooms, offices, etc. accepting aluminum, cardboard, glass, paper, plastic, etc. With this particular program, you do not have to sort your different recycled products. A local company collects the bins and sorts them at their recycling facility. It’s genius, and it’s easy. All you have to do is take your recyclable goods and drop them 2-3 feet in a different bin. That’s it!

I was so disappointed to see the other day that not everyone in my office takes advantage of this free, easy recycling program. I noticed in one coworker’s office that they had tons of paper products in the trash and an empty blue bin. I did not impose my opinions of reducing our carbon footprint on that coworker, and walked away discouraged about this wonderful opportunity given to us.

On a different occasion a different coworker blatantly mocked my desire to recycle. After dinner one night at my home, I asked him to not toss his empty beer bottle in the trash, but to please place it on the shelf above the trash so I could recycle. He just laughed and purposely threw his bottle away. *gasp* I realize he was joking with me, and I went and dug the bottle out, but still! Don’t you think in my house you should play by my rules? (Not N.A.M.eing any N.A.M.es…but you know who you are!)

I realize that not everyone embraces my “hippy” values of trying to save the planet. But if everyone tried to do a little, it could make a huge impact on the amount of waste we have on our planet. I also don’t appreciate people mocking me or rolling their eyes at my effort to do my part. If one more person at Wal-Mart complains about my canvas grocery bags…I mean, really? I’m trying to save your corporation money by reducing the amount of plastic grocery bags you have to produce each year. (Even though my canvas bags barely make a hint of a dent in that production.) AND...more importantly…I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic covering our streets, forests, oceans and earth.

If you can recycle, then do. If it’s unavailable in your area, then it’s unavailable. But probably not for long. More and more cities are adopting recycling initiatives to make it readily available for their citizens. Odds are your city will adopt a program very soon.

And Second: Save the Trees

Typically “save the trees” is a reference to recycling paper. That is why I paired these two topics together in one post. However, this “save the trees” plee involves a tragic, heartless act to a sister state/university.

Yesterday it was announced that 130+-year-old live oaks at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Ala., have been poisoned. When I read this on Twitter, my heart fell. Not because Toomer’s means anything to me, and not because I have any type of obsession with live oaks, but because someone deliberately injected lethal amounts of poison in the soil at this university and town landmark.

I have never been to Auburn, but if someone asked me what Toomer’s corner looks like after an Auburn win, I can describe it. Large, beautiful oak trees covered in hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. It’s an Auburn tradition. It’s part of their heritage. And as someone who loves their alma mater and an employee of a higher learning institution, my heart breaks at the impending loss of such a valued tradition.

Why would anyone want to kill something that means so much to so many Auburn students, alumni and fans? Why would you deliberately want to hurt thousands of people? Why? Because the world is full of sin. Because we are fallen, selfish, heartless and cruel. I have no other explanation.

This is truly why I am upset today. My heart breaks for the Auburn faithful as they wait for a miracle to save these gorgeous, old landmarks. These trees have lived longer than any person on this earth. They have seen more than any Auburn fan alive. And now they face a slow and imminent demise. And some ignorant, evil person, who, if they live in the South, probably describes themselves as a Christian, is gloating about ruining a time-honored tradition.

Thirdly: In summary

Friends, “Americans,” countryman, lend me your ears. 1. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. 2. Helps save the trees. (By limiting your paper waste.) 3. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t be mean. Don’t let sin rule your hearts. That’s all.

THIS JUST IN – A 62-year-old man has been arrested in connection to the poisoning. 62? Are you kidding me? You know better than that! You idiot. If you are the one who did it, I hope your sentence is to plant 10,000 trees across the South. On your own. In the summer. With just a shovel. Jerk.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Sugar Cookies and Lessons Learned

I have loved to cook ever since I was a small child. I guess it's just part of that Southern heritage ingrained in my DNA. From a fairly young age I was allowed to cook certain things on my own. I was allowed to bake a cake (from a box), make cookies (from a tube), or things easy like that.

One day I had the idea to make some homemade, from scratch sugar cookies. I have no idea where my mom was at the time, but I don't remember her being home. So, I asked my dad's permission, and he was cool with it. I mean...I think he just wanted a cookie. The man doesn't turn down sweets very often!

So, I found a recipe and got to work. I was so proud of myself. I can't quite remember exactly how old I was at the time, but it was between the ages of 10-12. And I
was making cookies all by myself from scratch! So proud! I even found these heart cookies and L-O-V-E cookies cutters. I knew my dad was going to love it!

As soon as the cookies were done and cooled I called my dad over to have one. I stood and waited for his praise for my delicious creation. I remember him taking a cookie, taking a bite, and then choking and coughing and running for a glass of water. I was shoc
ked. What happened to my cookies! I tasted one and quickly realized I messed up the proportions.

I think instead of adding 1 teaspoon of salt I must have added a tablespoon...or p
ossibly more. Instead of baking delicious sugar cookies I made disgusting salt coo
kies. Yeah...they tasted like salt. And baking soda. My dad wasn't super happy with me, and I'm pretty sure I was banned from making anything from scratch by myself for a long time.

I have since recovered from my salty....treats. And I have learned how to bake a cookie from scratch! And sometimes there just isn't anything better than a warm, homemade sugar cookie. If my dad were with me today, I'm sure he would be singing my praises instead of spitting out and gagging on my poor little cookies. Oh, the lessons I have learned through the years. But hey...Julia Child wasn't born a super awesome cook! You have to go through trials and
tribulations in the kitchen, and along the way you lear
n from your (sometimes numerous) mistakes.

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup fine, white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 cups All-Purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large cooking sheets with parchment paper. (Not really necessary, but that's typically how I do my cookie pans.) Cream together sugar and butter. Add egg salt, baking soda and vanilla. Mix well. Gradually add in flour while mixing.

Roll dough into 1-inch size balls. Pour a little bit of sugar in a small bowl, and roll cookie dough balls in sugar to coat all sides.


Press ball onto cookie sheet to flatten out a bit. For snickerdoodles, add about 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon to 4 tablespoons of sugar to roll dough balls.


Bake cookies for approximately 11-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine were perfecto after 13 minutes! Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Or just eat them as soon as they are cool enough to touch! If desired, top with vanilla or buttercream icing and sprinkles. Yields approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It snowed in the South

It snowed in the South this week. It has snowed TWICE since Christmas. And technically it snowed on Christmas day at my house...but I wasn't here, so I'm not counting that.

Snow in the South is like having a tornado in the Pacific Northwest. It really doesn't happen that often. In fact, it has only snowed once in the two years I have back in Mississippi. Well, up until this year. We've had a bit of a weird winter. I mean...It has snowed twice in the last month! And this last time we got nearly 5 inches! That's weird to me!

But never fear. After Wednesday's night's winter event, we have warmed back up. I mean...I still have snow in the shadows of my yard, but we've been in the 50's today. And will be in the 60's tomorrow and for the remainder of the week. Heat. That's what I'm used to in the South. Still, it was quite nice to enjoy something out of the ordinary. And...it was quite nice to miss work on two separate, random days! I always like a free day off!

Below is my "Ode to Snow" movie containing pics of the two wintry events. Its set to the music of The Civil Wars. Enjoy!


video

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Golden Egg

We can't get enough of the Egg Bowl trophy apparently. New video just rubbing in the engraving day! LOL! This is hilarious!

GO DAWGS!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dilemmas, Dilemmas...and time for a poll

I'm trying to decide what to take as an appetizer to our Super Bowl party on Sunday. Here's my two options:

1. Mississippi Sin - Which I haven't had in FOREVER!

2. Guacamole - Which I made last year for the Super Bowl.

Both are quite delicious. We are having chili as our main course and random snacks and desserts from everyone. What would you want? (And if you are going to be at Lee's Sunday night what DO you want?)

Vote now or forever hold your peace! (You can cast your vote in the comment section. Since I don't really have many readers...I guess I may not get any votes...ha!)

Also, I'm making Texas shaped cookies. Because I can. And because I'm paying homage to it being played in my former home. And...I'm making some kind of chocolate cake. Possibly with peanut butter filling. Wish you were invited to our party, huh??? : )

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OMG...I think I luuuuuv commercials

Super Bowl Sunday is rolling around this week. And though it is in my stadium of choice, my team of choice is not going to be there. In fact, I could care less about either team playing. Similar to two years ago. But whatevs....I'll pull for the Packers.

What I am looking forward to, though, is:

1. Hanging out with friends
2. Eating lots of yummy football food
3. Watching hilarious and thought provoking commercials during the game. Its all about the commercials anyway!

Right now Radio Shack has a very stupid commercial that makes me laugh. I don't know why. Probably the cat's Southern accent and the fact she's so silly. I think its hilarious though!



What I hope to see during the Super Bowl are more mayhem commercials by Allstate. They are very cleaver, and just...great! My two favorite are the GPS (recalculating) and the one where he is a teenage girl. I mean....that dude is just great!



I haven't had much time to read up about the Super Bowl ad hype this year. Sometimes I catch snippets from Ad Age, but I am admittedly behind on the gossip. However, I did see this bit on "Cooking with Snoop Dog and Pepsi" this morning. Ummmm...yes please! I hope to see this hilarity during the game. Do you think I could get Snoop to do a guest post on my blog? I mean...his 8-layer dip with chicken wings just looks....fantastic! Ha!

Happy Super Bowl week!