Friday, January 27, 2012

Southern Living Pecan Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust (I made my own for this recipe, I hate store bought)
1 tbsp powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter melted, then cooled to room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Work piecrust to fit a 10 inch cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle pie crust with powdered sugar.
Wisk eggs into a large bowl until foamy, then whisk in brown sugar and next 6 ingredients. Pour mixture into pie crust and top with pecan halves. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake another 30 minutes. turn the over off, but leave the pie in there, door closed for an additional 3 hours.  (This was the hardest part for my husband!). The photo above is my pie prepared to go into the oven to bake.

Savannah~ Sister City to my Favorite

My initial desire to travel to Savannah stemmed from my love of reading, which brought me to John Berendt's book, referred to in Savannah simply as "The Book", Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, definately worth reading if you enjoy a great story full of colorful characters.  After reading the book, Berendt had painted such a beautiful picture in my head of this city, that I had to see it for myself.  The fact that Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady and Sons, is here only fanned the fire further!

 Meandering through the streets, it's easy to see why the Yankees couldn't even burn this beautiful city. The ancient live oaks line the streets, their Spanish Moss draping down to create a shaded canopy over the city.  From the second we entered the downtown historic district, I was entranced. My camera couldn't snap fast enough for me to capture the beauty of the old buildings, artistic touches courtesy of SCAD, the squares we passed through....I loved every bit of it.

Pictured above, Forsyth Square is the home to the beautiful Forsyth Park Fountain, shown at the beginning of Paula Deen's older episodes. On our last visit, we were told that this cast-iron fountain has a twin in black located in Europe. I spend most of my days in Savannah wondering through the squares, going into the shops on Broughton Street, my favorite of which are The Red Clover, which has the cutest clothes, accessories and shoes for GREAT prices. You can shop them online at  My other favorite is The Copper Penny, which is a bit more high end, but definately worth a trip. Amazing restaruants aboud as well as great shopping, one of my favorites being The Olde Pink House on Abercorn. The sweet lady pictured below walked around in her antebellum garb during our dinner serenading the guests. The wait can be lengthy, but it's absolutely worth it!

One of the touristy must-do's is the Hearse Tour, after all, you're in one of the most haunted cities in America; the whole city is literally built on the dead! And the appeal of the tour for me is the fact that all the ghost stories we heard, we based on things that actually happened. Some other must-do's for us, we always hit the river-front at least a couple of nights, great food, lots of places with live music and the charming brick-lined streets lend themselves to just walking around and taking it all in for hours.  We made a trip to Thunderbolt to visit the Bonaventure Cemetary mentioned in The Book; you will also find Uncle Bubba's seafood place out this way, which in my humble opinion has better food than The Lady and Sons if you love seafood.
And last but not least, we try to visit a beach when we're close, so we hit Tybee Island for the day, where one of my favorite authors, Mary Kay Andrews has a beach cottage on the island you can rent. What are some of your must do's in this fabulous city?

Strawberry Shortcake Tart first photo-worthy effort in baking.  I admit, I wasn't much of a cook when I first got married almost 5 years ago.  At age 22, I never had a real need to learn much besides how to cook eggs for breakfast and tuna salad (I stayed on a pretty strict diet my last 2 years at college as I was preparing for, and competing in figure competitions. My diet was mostly eggs, plain chicken or tuna and yogurt with some fruit...not much need for cookbooks).
My mother has always made things from scratch, we sat down to dinner as a family every night around the dinner table, had big Sunday brunches together, and even now she's still my favorite cook. Shortly before getting married, my mom started watching Paula Deen on Food Network. I would watch with her because I just loved to listen to Miss Paula talk. Then one day, I saw her make something I wanted to try, I think it was fruit pizza, and since then, my love for cooking and baking has really taken off.  I love the satisfaction I get from putting a great meal on the table at night, the look on guests faces when they try something really great that I've made...I guess you could say food is a good expression of love where I'm from. I do try to "healthify" any recipes of Paula's I make the majority of the time.
Anyway, the Strawberry Shortcake Tart recipe was on the cover of the April 2010 Southern Living and I just had to make it! I can tell you, it is a amazing as it looks!


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp orange marmalade
1 (16 oz) container fresh strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
Fresh mint, whipped cream for garnish

Preheat over to 425 degrees. place first 6 ingredients, in order, in a food processor. You can cut them in by hand if you don't have a processor. Process 20 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse sand. Transfer into a large bowl.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened and a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 3-4 times (DO NOT over work your dough!!!!). Press dough on bottom and up sides of a lightly greased 9-inch tart pan.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Microwave 1 tbsp marmalade for 10 seconds; bruch over crust. Cool for 45 minutes.
Stir together strawberries and 1/2 cup marmalade.
Beat heavy cream with 2 tbsp sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, (this can take about 5-7 minutes depending on your mixer). Spoon onto cornmeal crust, top with strawberry mixture. Garnish as desired. This is a wonderful spring or summertime dessert. You will want to store it in the fridge so your whipped cream doesn't melt.

Meet my Pups

Lucy was a wedding gift to me from my husband.  She is a pound puppy he got from the Lexington Humane Society. I can't go in that place without coming out with a new family member, which is presumably why he went alone to pick her out! She is just about the sweetest, most low-maintenance animal you will ever come across.  She had been abused before we adopted her, had a tooth knocked out, VERY timid and scared, raw spots rubbed on her from being kept on concrete...but thank the good Lord that her previous owner saw fit to take her to the humane society. She is definately the laid back pup around the house and came out of her shell within a few weeks of being on a regular routine. She was house broken within about a week, never chews on anything besides her toys and lives for walks and dinner. And aside from one incident with some pumpkin cookies being left with her reach on the kitchen counter, she rarely requires correction or dicipline.  Pound puppies are the way to go if you're wanting to bring a dog into your life! She came already fixed, with her shots and vaccinations, and for just  $100. You can check out some of the animals in your area at the Humane Society's website.  Sweet, little Lucy's life was just glorious, until....
Dixie came along. Dixie was a birthday gift from me to myself almost three years ago. I had wanted a shih tzu for quite some time ( it's worth pointing out that my husband was VERY oppossed to this decision because he claimed she wasn't a real dog, but it was my birthday). Dixie is a very rambunctious little chick who LOVES to torment poor Lucy by trying to play with her, but Lucy is not and never has been a playful dog. I like to think she's growing on her, but it's more like she tolerates Dixie. My thought was if I could take care of this little puppy without maiming or hurting her, then we could start thinking about kids down the road.  No matter what you may think, having a puppy is in many ways similar to having a baby at first.  They require constant watching and attention, especially until they're potty trained, I had to get up multiple times throughout the night to let her out or just because she felt like playing at 2 am., she had to be kept on a strict scheudle to get used to the transition.
We once again went with the crate training method which works wonders if you haven't tried it with your dog. I'll admit, Juston was much more dedicated at first, because I just wanted to cuddle her and play with her all the time and I felt bad caging her while I was in the same house, but the results were hard to argue with.

I am definately one to make over my dogs, they're so much sweeter than most people and they truely do love unconditionally. I love to have them looking cute in their little collars, Harry Barker has some cute ones I've been eyeing for spring...

I've added a few other sites that have adorable cuties for your little fur babies!

Dog Bow Tie Collar

My pups have these adorable, handmade in the USA ceramic food and water bowls, available here

Shrimp and Grits, great for brunch or dinner

I have to admit it, I'm not a huge fan of shrimp....until you mix it with grits and cheese, that is, then I'm all about it! Below is the recipe I always use for shrimp and grits. It's a tried and true recipe that can be thrown together pretty quickly and it's always a huge hit in my house. Hope y'all enjoy as much as we do.

1 pound peeled, tailed and de-veined medium sized shrimp
3 bacon slices ( I typically use turkey bacon)
1 small onion (Vidalia if available), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper or red pepper flakes
1 cup quick cooking grits, uncooked
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3-4 tbsp butter
Fresh chives for garnish

Drain shrimp and set aside. Cook bacon in a large, deep skillet or pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Saute onion in hot bacon drippings over medium heat, approximately 5 minutes until onions are translucent, then add garlic and saute another minute (the garlic can burn quickly, so don't go far from your pan after you add it). Add chicken broth and next 4 ingredients and bring to a boil, before reducing heat to a simmer, at which point you will whisk in your grits.  Stir constantly for 7-8 minutes so your grits don't lump together. Stir in the shrimp, cheese and butter and cook a few more minutes, until the shrimp turn pink. Serve in a bowl and top with fresh chopped chives and the crumbled bacon. Will yield about 6 servings, so if you're cooking for 2 you may want to cut your ingredients in half. This recipe is from the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook, which has TONS of other great recipes in it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Strawberry Salad~ A Healthy Treat

I'm not even exaggerating in the slightest when I say this is the BEST salad I've ever made, so obviously, I make it all the time! And it's healthy to boot, shut the front door!

Red leaf lettuce
Strawberries (I buy organic)
Gorgonzola cheese
I do these per serving, so I'm not giving specific amounts on the above. You can make a huge bowl for everyone to be served from, or just a small bowl for yourself. Tear the lettuce into pieces and drop into a bowl. The strawberries need quartered, the pecans, I just rough chop or break apart iwth my hands. Drop those into the bowl before shaking some gorgonzola on top. Dressing recipe follows. 
1/3 cup Extra virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinagrette
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pour all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Drizzle over salad just before serving.

Woodford Reserve~ A birthday to remember

For my husband's birthday, I planned a trip he may or may not remember... We went to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY. I'm not much of a drinker myself, but my husband has developed a great love of bourbon over the last few years, so it seemed like a great fit.

The distillery is nestled amongst acres of gorgeous, picturesque Kentucky horse farms, but not too far off the beaten path. We happened to visit on the perfect weekend since the distillery was having a Holiday Open House.  The tour was free, samples of bourbon were free, the complimentary tasting from the resident chef were free, bottle etching was free and the list goes on. It was perfect!
Pictured above, the first part of our day was with the chef on site.  She gave plates with parmesean cheese, sorghum, nuts, and dried cranberries, then gave shots of bourbon, glasses free to take home. The purpose was to see the way the bourbon would take on the flavors of the different foods and experience how the taste changed on your palate, even the the drink was always the same.  It was really informative and interesting.  Next, we walked through the buildings where the distilling takes place. The smell was slightly offensive, but not if you enjoy the smell of fermenting.
The last stop for the day for me was the gift shop (for my husband, it was the bar where more free shots of Woodford were being given away). The gift shop had a great variety of Southern style gifts, many obviously Kentucky specific, horse racing and bourbon particularly, and this is where I bought a bottle of Woodford for a Christmas gift, and had it etched free of charge!
Whether you like bourbon or not, it's a great day trip to experience, especially if you pick a weekend like we did where so much is FREE! Who doesn't love a great deal!?

Comfort Food~Creamy Tomato Soup and Grilled cheese

When it's cold outside, I absolutely can't get enough soups, and right now, it is COLD in Kentucky for the first time this winter! So this was an obvious choice for dinner tonight. Enjoy!

Olive Oil, 5-6 tablespoons
5 ripe tomatoes, peeled
1 medium onion
2 carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small can tomato paste
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dried basil or 1/4- 1/2 cup fresh basil
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper

I blanche my tomatoes to start this recipe...I drop the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water where they stay until the skin starts to crack. At this point, I drop them into a water bath, then peel the skin off and tear the tomatoes apart with my hands, but you can dice them instead.  I find that leaving the skin on creates these little hard bits in your finished soup.
In the same big pot you boiled the tomatoes in (just to save on dishes later) heat oil over meadium heat, then add diced carrots and onion and cook about 10 minutes, then add garlic for another 3-4 minutes.  At this point, I put this mix into the blender to puree the carrot pieces.  I've waited until the end to blend, but always find chunks of carrots that sneak through.
Return the carrot mix back to pot, then you add the rest of the ingredients, and then bring them to a boil. Once you get a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Let simmer for about an hour.  Let soup cool a bit, maybe 15 minutes, and puree in a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree if you have one. 
For the grilled cheese, I just use Country White bread, butter both slices and put a thin slice or two of Velveeta cheese in between before browning in the skillet until the cheese is melted.  Hope y'all enjoy this on a cold winter's night!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Shrimp Pasta...Paula Deen Style

This is by far one of my favorite variations of shrimp, aside from shrimp and grits. This recipe is from the "Paula Deen Southern Cooking Bible" and was an instant hit with my seafood-loving hubby. It's super quick to make, and with the exception of the shrimp, most ingredients, everyone will have on hand. I would think you could substitute scallops in this recipe, or even add it to the recipe with the shrimp. Hope y'all enjoy this great dish!

2tbsp olive oil
1/2 stick of butter
1 pound medium shrimp
2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (the one I used came from Hyman's gift shop)
12 ozs linguine or thin spaghetti noodles
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken broth
3-4 dashes hot sauce
1/2 cup chopped scallions, or a few tbsp dried chives
parmesean cheese (fresh grated is best!)

In a large skillet, melt half the butter and olive oil.Toss shrimp in Cajun Seasoning, then into skillet, cook shrimp through, then remove from pan and set aside. Have noodles boiling in a large pot of salted water. As pasta cooks, back in your skillet, melt the rest of your butter, add garlic and simmer a few minutes. Add chicken broth and hot sauce to the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping bottom of the pan. Add shrimp back to the pan and turn off the heat, then add in the noodles and toss all of it together! I add some parmesean before I toss the noodles in, then sprinkle a bit more when serving it and add the chives on top for some color. Enjoy! And you can find the cook book for this recipe here. It's definately worth the purchase price!

A Few of my Favortie Things...

I'm starting this blog as an outlet mostly, to share my love of the southern lifestyle I've grown up, faith, family, fitness and fashion will be the main topics of my posts and I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say as much as I enjoy sharing it! Feel free to comment, ask questions, make suggestions,etc.

My Favorites:

Place: Charleston, SC...hands down! Everything I love is here; water, friendly people, amazing food, great shopping and the list goes on. My love affair with the Holy City is one of deep and abiding affection.
Food: This is a very hard decision. I love to cook and bake and experience new foods native to the places we travel, but I guess my favorite food would have to be lowcountry food, especially crabcakes and Palmetto Cheese!

Restaurant: I am not a fan of fast food franchises (except Chik-Fil-A!), and when my husband and I travel, we love to eat at the places where the locals eat, but sometimes, we fall in love with the "touristy" places, too. My favorite lunch place in Charleston is a toss up betweem Jestine's Kitchen and Poogan's Porch. Both are absolutely incredible!

Sport: This one's easy! I've coached competitive cheerleading for the last 5 + years and cheered from 4th grade on through my collegiate career and I absolutely love everything about this sport. It helped make me the person I am today. I currently coach an All Girl, small Senior allstar 3 team at the Centre Academy in Maysville. SEC football is also a HUGE part of my life on Saturday's in the fall. GO DAWGS!

Music: Gotta be country, no big suprise there. There's just something so salt of the earth about country music and the majority of the artist's who sing it.  Nowadays, it seems a more pop sounds is spreading throughout country, but that's another great thing about the genre, they accept all kinds!