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happy weekend!

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Hello all! It’s been such a busy week, with work and volunteering and everything else. I’m packing up to head to Huntsville to visit my sister and my mom, and oh yeah—run my first official 5k since I injured my foot back in January. Wish me luck!

Also, for those of you in the Birmingham area: My friend Jason is partnering with Alison Lewis of Ingredients, Inc. to host the 2nd Annual National Food Blogger Bake Sale for the state of Alabama (there are participants from coast to coast). They’ll be offering up delicious treats baked up by area bloggers and local businesses like Urban Standard and Dreamcakes. (OMG, cupcakes!!!1!) Head down to Homewood near Urban Cookhouse (across from Trak Shak) to pick something up and support Share Our Strength, an organization devoted to ending childhood hunger in the U.S.

I’m contributing mint chocolate chip cookies! There was a moment where I freaked out when the mixture didn’t look quite right—it seems that the trouble with making up recipes is when you don’t really write it all down…you think you’ll remember, but alas, that’s not always the case. But a quick sample proved to be pretty darn good (in my humble opinion, that is).

If you’re not in the Birmingham area, check the main page to see if your state is on the list and find a bake sale near you! Whenever I think of bake sales, I’m transported back in time to when we used to fundraise for band trips and church trips, and also when I was so geeked out over 4-H that I entered (and sometimes won, holla) the cooking competition every year.

Check that sweet outfit!

Have a great weekend!

who wants man meat?

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Then my man meat he shall have.

Name that show! Or…click on that link, and then giggle, and remember the name of that show!

Can I just say thanks for the awesome, well thought-out responses yesterday?? Vegetarianism is a super hot topic these days. I’m glad to have people with whom I can have a good conversation about it all. Something Jaclyn said about “losing the identity” really resonated with me, and I’ll touch more on that soon.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I haven’t really been eating meat since Lent ended. I mean, I’ve dabbled, but I haven’t really jumped back aboard the meat train, so to speak.

Last week, Jonathan and I decided to have a low-key, cook-at-home evening. I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for, but then it just came to me: burgers. I saw a recipe on someone’s blog earlier (I can’t remember whose, I think maybe Rachel?) this year for burgers with feta and spinach. The thought invaded my brain and wouldn’t let go.

Burgers it was!

We decided to go with lean turkey, spinach, feta, mushrooms and onions, and oven fries with olive oil and dill.

It was fairly simple. I chopped up the mushrooms and sauteed them in a skillet for minute or two, then mixed them in with the meat along with ripped up spinach and about half a cup of feta cheese, maybe a little less. We pattied them out and cooked them on the grill while the potatoes roasted in the oven.

DSC09376 Perfection! I had mine on half a whole wheat bun with a generous pile of ketchup.DSC09377

Closer…

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Closer…

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In your face!

These burgers were perfectly juicy and the flavors all mixed together very well. I added a little feta to the top of my hot burger. I think next time I might add some garlic into the mix. Other than that, they were amazing. Pretty delicious for my first main meat meal back on the wagon. Will it last?? Time will tell…

Lent and what it meant.

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So as you may remember, I gave up meat for Lent (except for seafood). I had been abstaining from meat for a while, but I decided to try and make the big change over Lent. Verdict? It wasn’t that hard. The worst was going to events/places where there were absolutely no options. And the only real time that was a problem was when I went to a fraternity event with Jonathan and it was allll BBQ. And mayonnaise. (Ick.)

I was able to get all kinds of creative in the kitchen.

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So much good stuff…and recipes to come.

I ate good food at various restaurants…

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The last one would be veggie Chicago-style deep-dish from Tortuga’s. Oh, how I love Tortuga’s. I was able to find good options pretty much everywhere I went. Of course, it helped that I was still eating seafood.

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Oh, and I went to three weddings while I was a vegetarian. Above is a plate from my favorite. So many fresh, delicious options!

The main question now, at least for me, is will I continue on with the vegetarian diet? And my answer is a little tricky. I was considering becoming vegetarian for a while, and for several reasons. I’d felt a strong urge to stop eating meat, and it intensified after watching the movie Food Inc.

The movie doesn’t use scare tactics like some others do, but it basically makes you feel more informed. And it opens your eyes to a lot of dirty practices in the food industry. It made me want to make better choices.

I had thought that when I finished abstaining from meat, I’d go from there. And my thoughts were that if I decided to eat meat, I’d make smart choices.

And I think I still feel that way, but I’d be lying if I said all the meat I’ve eaten since Easter has been organic, grass-fed, and so on. It was really hard to actually get used to eating meat again. I had ham on Easter, and then I think I had it twice that first week. Since then, I’ve not really gone out of my way to order, cook or eat meat.

Well, I did last week, but more on that later.

I think I”m eventually going to transition back into the pescatarian lifestyle. In the end, what you eat is very personal, and it’s nobody’s business how I choose to eat. I don’t want to label myself.

Sooo…as I said, I tried a lot of delicious recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you in the coming weeks! Now tell me—have you ever experimented with meatless eating? Thoughts? I know Jaclyn just ended a long-term relationship with vegetarianism, and she couldn’t be happier. One word: bacon!

this is a man’s world…

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…but it would be nothing without a woman, or a girl.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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My mom truly is the best. Anything I’ve ever wanted, anything I need, she’s right there. I recall crying phone calls at 1am after I moved to Birmingham, desperate pleas on how to make the perfect meringue, more crying phone calls after getting my heart broken…she’s always there, telling me what I want to hear, but also what I need. There’s no better place to be than curled up in my mom’s bed, just talking, laughing…or even just sitting in silence. I may not have been the best child, and I may not have been the ideal daughter—but my mom has never let me down.

6129_266227215156_673970156_8622263_4032529_n Check out my hot mom at her prom 🙂 I happen to think my dad’s hair is pretty sweet.

I think one of the reasons why my mom is so fabulous is because she learned from the best:

222887_10150573187025083_628705082_18367581_1429687_n My mom’s mom is the perfect grandmother: She makes the best biscuits and whips up pie recipes right off the top of her head; she has the softest skin and gives the warmest hugs.

I know everyone thinks that their grandma is the best cook ever….but mine really is. She did win an award for her chocolate pie, you know.

DSC07357 I snapped this photo in an album last Christmas—she served that pie at dinner, and I barely managed to snag a slice! I only hope that one day I make as many delicious treats as she.

Another fun picture from that album:

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My ma and her sisters. That’s her on the far right!

cinco de reago!

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Last Thursday, our friends gathered together to celebrate a very special holiday: Cinco de Reago!

Also known as the anniversary of the birthday of this lovely lady:

181528_588139029079_156801991_32791118_7421141_n Reagan requested angel food cake and strawberries for her birthday (“since it’s healthier than other options”), and I was more than happy to comply. After calling my mom for advice, she told me to just go with a box mix to simplify things; she assured me it would turn out delicious.

She told me I would need a specific type of pan, a tube pan. I couldn’t find one anywhere, so I decided to go with loaf pans. The directions seemed simple. Mix, pour, bake. Easy peasy right?

Sigh. Nothing is ever easy.

DSC09382 Looks can be slightly deceiving. While this may not look that bad, I had some problems. The cakes puffed up beautifully…and continued to puff up until they spilled over and onto the burners in my oven. And consequently caught on fire.

It was all good, though. I managed to get it under control.

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  Not so bad, eh? We’ll just ignore the metal tin of disappointment off to the side.

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Oops.

We headed out to Jim ‘N Nick’s for dinner, then to karaoke for drinks and entertainment. Some shots from the evening:

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Dresses with pockets rock!

in my mouth: oh, Canada!

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A looooong time ago, Samantha made a post about some homemade Oreos. She also mentioned a delectable Canadian treat known as Fudgee-Os. I, being what she has referred to as a “Yankee” (though as a born and raised Southern girl, I bristle at the thought), had never heard of such thing.

I jokingly suggested that we set up a trade. Before I knew, we’d exchanged emails and it was on! I set out to buy certain goods that were native to the South, and more precisely, to Alabama. I gathered several items, but life got in the way (and money—it’s pricey to ship to Canada!) and I didn’t get my package mailed out. But it sat there, smiling at me, waiting to be on its way.

Last week, I got the most lovely surprise.

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Goodies!!!!

Here’s what I found inside:

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You’re looking at Tim Horton’s coffee, Maple Leaf cookies, Fudgee-O cookies (that started it all!), All Dressed Ruffles, Ketchup-flavored Lays, Smarties and a Coffee Crisp candy bar.

I started my next morning with a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.

DSC09373 Yum! Very bold flavor—I drink it black 🙂 That’s what she…?

I won’t lie, though—the first thing I did was tear into the cookies.

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Oh, my God. I have to say, neither of these let me down. The Fudgee-O was chocolatey and creamy and awesome. But I have to say, it can’t quite compare to the Maple Leaf cookie. Trust me when I say it’s like you just licked an actual maple tree. The minute I opened the package, I could smell the maple trying to escape. And it did—right into my mouth.

Next up, Smarties:

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First, let me just say that these things are not even close to what we call Smarties. They’re more like M&Ms, but with less chocolate. They had a nice crunch. (I often see these on E’s blog, especially when she makes baked party treats.)

More candy:

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Coffee Crisp candy bar! I’ve heard a LOT about these. And it was all good! It looked a Nutty Buddy, but tasted different. There was definitely a coffee flavor present, and it reminded me of a cross between a Kit Kat and Nutty Buddy.

I haven’t tried the chips yet, but expect a full report as soon as I do.

To Samantha—thank you SO much! I loved everything. And I promise you my package is coming! I was all set to send it out last week, but recent storms put a kink in our FedEx operations at my job (where I send everything from). Expect something from me very soon!

What’s something delicious native to YOUR area?

we’re here, we’re hungry, get used to it, brunch.

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Pretty much every year, since I could remember, I’ve spent Easter with my parents. There were several times when I couldn’t make it to church with them due to working, or being away at college, but for the most part, I always saw them.

This year was a little different. April was a month of go-go-go, and I was so pleased at the idea of being home alone and relaxed over Easter weekend that I decided to stay in Birmingham this year. (Luckily, I’d already planned on heading home the next weekend, so I got to spend some QT with mom and dad.)

From the moment I knew I’d be on my own, visions of Easter brunch recipes began to dance in my head. I knew exactly what I wanted. For starters, ham. I gave up meat for Lent, and while I think I decide to give it up again in the end, I was just in the mood for some salty yet minimally processed ham. Mandy and I picked up a tiny “ham nugget” at Whole Foods the day before.

Another thing that popped into my head and wouldn’t let go? Scones. But not sweet ones. I wanted cheesy, buttery, savory scones. Enter Rachel’s Cheese and Herb Scone recipe. I changed the recipe slightly, using cheddar instead of Gruyere and almond milk instead of heavy whipping cream (it’s what I had on hand). Another change: I made two piles of dough and cut them into 8 triangles each to stretch the recipe out a little. I like eating “more” of things, ie several small items instead of one or two large ones. (That’s what she said?)

DSC09259 On the side, I was craving something with eggs. I found this recipe in the latest issue of Fitness, and I improvised just a touch, using 3 eggs and 1/2 c egg beaters, cheddar instead of Swiss, adding green onion and making 9 quiches instead of 6.

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The leftovers for these have been great; if I’m in a hurry, I throw one between an English muffin and bam! Egg mcmuffin.

I hadn’t necessarily planned on a sweet finish, but when I saw La Fuji Mama’s recipe for an Apple Braid on Eat, Live, Run, I knew what I had to do. I made this pretty much to a T, just using 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1.5 cups bread flour.

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And all together now:

DSC09260 Breakfast perfection.

However….in full disclosure, I did have one small issue. When I was making the apple braid, I decided to try and roll it out on the dining table for more room. We wiped it down and I went to town. (TWSS) All seemed well. Until…I was munching on some leftover braid when I felt a crunch.

I rolled the apple-y bite around in my mouth, trying to find the problem. Nothing. I chewed again.

Crunch.

As I moved the bite out of my mouth and into a napkin, I found the culprit: a tiny little nail.

That’s right, a nail. I was going to take a picture of it, but when I went back to snap a photo, someone threw it away 😦

And THAT is why you always check and double-check your cooking surfaces. What’s the strangest cooking mishap you’ve run into? Once I found a crunch in a soft pretzel I made. I thought it was kosher salt—turned out to be glass. Yikes!