Monday, September 20, 2010

Sweet Corn

When it comes to my Grandma's cooking, it's impossible to pick one favorite (or even 5 favorites).  Sweet corn, however, is one thing I always look forward to enjoying.  Last time we went to visit it happened to be perfect timing for when the sweet corn was "in."  This basically means it's ready for picking!  We headed out to the sweet corn fields after church one morning to pick a few of our own. 

I was surprised sweet corn plants are so baby-  I had to head out to the field corn for comparison. 

After we'd picked a couple bags, we headed home to continue the process of shucking and cleaning them up.  My Grandma was much speedier at this process than we were.  Apparently she's a little more experienced than us ;)

Next, we cut the corn off the cob and boiled it for a few minutes to "blanche" it. We made quite a few bags for the freezer and have been enjoying it ever since.  Tonight, Mike cooked it up in a frying pan with some butter.  It was so delicious! 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday night + Thanksgiving plans

So I know you've all been dying to know my pick for restaurant week ;) but we decided to forgo our fancy steakhouse dinner and put our pennies toward our Thanksgiving plane tickets!  I could not be more excited about going to spend the holidays with my biggest big bro and his adorable family.  Turkey and Black Friday will be so much better shared with them, plus I can't wait to get our chomp on with these two cuties to cheer on the Gators vs Florida State! Yay!

We did still head out to dinner last night to one of our favorite pizza places from Florida, Old Chicago.  Their buttery, deep dish crust is addicting!  Mike ordered from the Oktoberfest beer list and got this giant bottle which quickly became my new favorite beer (Ayinger Jahrhundert Bier).  I'll be searching for it in stores asap. 

We split a pizza with cheese for me and pepperoni and mushrooms for the mister.  It was good... but sadly no longer my favorite.  I'm not sure if the one up here isn't as good or if Mellow Mushroom and Pie in the Sky have just taken over as my new loves.  It was still a fun time!

This morning we woke up early and went running, ran some errands, and cleaned the house.  Vandy has been doing pretty great against Ole Miss so hopefully they can pull out a win.  We're now settling in to watch the Gators beat (fingers crossed) Tennessee.  Cheers!

Trying out Magic Hat Seasonal... Fall beer is the best!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall = Pumpkins!

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons: gorgeous weather, football, jeans, Halloween, colorful leaves, Thanksgiving (mmm... 4 days of eating, shopping, and being with family), and pumpkins (for both carving and eating).  I've been wanting to make pumpkin pancakes for awhile now but have been unable to because of the nationwide pumpkin shortage (if you don't believe me, google it- apparently some cans have gone on ebay for $36!).  I've been harassing the nice people at Publix every few weeks for any news on this years supply with no luck.  After dinner Tuesday, we stopped by Whole Foods (side note: is anyone else completely obsessed with this place? I can literally go here just to browse all their amazing products) to jump on the almond butter bandwagon and found some organic canned pumpkin right next to it!  I quickly snatched some up and planned for a pancake dinner the next night.  About the almond butter- we were sadly both disappointed with it.  I'm not sure if it's the kind we got (as there were like 20 to choose from) but neither of us are impressed.  

This was my first time making pumpkin pancakes and we loved how they turned out.  They didn't taste overly pumpkin-y which is a plus for me. They had a strong cinnamon flavor and were a little bit doughier than your average pancake- extra bonus! 

1 cup all purpose flour
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 egg
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 TBS vinegar

First, combine milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, and vinegar. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. 

Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just mixed.  Scoop ~1/3 cup batter onto warm, lightly oiled griddle and cook till brown on both sides.  Use heart shaped pancake molds for extra cute pancakes.  Enjoy! (This made about 12 pancakes)

I couldn't wait to enjoy the leftovers this morning and am kinda wishing there were some left to snack on right now!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nashville Restaurant Week

Since moving to Nashville, Mike and I have been amazed by the endless dining options and are always on a quest to try out new places.  Nashville Originals are a group of independent, locally-owned restaurants in and around the city.  The group is currently hosting Restaurant Week where each restaurant offers limited menus, usually of 2- to 4- courses,  at a fixed price.  Many of the places are a little beyond our typical budget for dining out so we were excited for the chance to experience some new places without the high price tag.  We decided to each choose one option from the list. 

Tuesday night, we headed back to historic downtown Franklin to do a little shopping in the adorable boutiques before trying out Mike's choice of SOL and 55 South.  Chef Jason McConnell has made his mark on Nashville food at a number of popular spots and currently heads the adjoining restaurants.  From what I've read, SOL, which serves upscale, modern Mexican cuisine, used to occupy the entire building.  Recently, however, half of the space was given a "rustic southern makeover" and converted into 55 South- a restaurant named after the highway connecting Memphis and New Orleans and representing its mix of Cajun and southern comfort food. 

The two restaurants shared a combined menu for Restaurant Week so we were able to try a mixture of food from both places.  We were lucky enough to be sat at SOL so we had the added bonus of free chips and salsa prior to our meals.  The chips were the best I've ever had. We were given a menu and told to choose one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert.

My first course was the Boudin Fritters which consisted of Cajun pork and rice sausage balls, breaded and covered in a delicious spicy mustard sauce.  They were awesome (and gorgeous!).

Mike's first choice was the Tuna Nachos.  He (and I!) both loved them.  This was one of my few positive experiences with tuna.

For our entrees, I went for the Cochinita Pibil while Mike opted for the "Three Way" sampler consisting of red beans and rice, seafood gumbo, and jambalaya.


cochinita pibil
Mine was served with a pack of homemade tortillas and a sour orange mojo sauce so good we were literally dipping our fingers in it to eat it.  Mike commented that he wished they sold it by the jarful so we could put it on everything.

After taking a breather, we each chose one of the dessert options.  He obviously went for the Messy Sundae (from which I immediately scooped all the whipped cream off the top) and I had the Banana Frita.  We were taking bets as to how the banana would be prepared after reading the description and were presently surprised by the creativity involved.  The peanut butter and banana combination reminded me a little too much of recent PB and banana sandwich obsession but the fried cinnamon sugar tortillas on the outside were incredible. 
banana frita
messy sundae
I joked that I couldn't believe Mike hadn't licked the melted chocolate off the outside of his glass till he turned it around and I saw evidence of several finger swipes along the side :)

We left completely stuffed and so excited about the experience.  We felt like the limited menu forced us to try things we might not normally order but absolutely loved.  I will definitely be craving both of the appetizers and my entree and will have to make a return trip soon.

I can't wait for my pick this Friday :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

At-home Strength Variety Workout

I reeeally wanted to run today.  I went so far as to get dressed and ready to go before I convinced myself that I'd better not push my luck.  Apparently, Hubs is tired of me complaining about my foot hurting.  Instead I decided to do some strength training at home.  I worked up quite a sweat!  I'd never done most of these exercises before and I enjoyed the variety. 

chair to plie 16 of first, 12 of second; I held 3 lb weights as long as I could
crescent with walking arms 16 each side with 3 lb weights
side angle raise I did 8/side of these and 8/side of pulling my arm straight back (like pulling the string to start a lawnmower)
rowing plie 5/side; I used a 10 lb hand weight as I don't have a medicine ball
mermaid twist 14/side
kick the can 20/side (ouch!)

I added some reverse crunches and bicycles at the end for a little ab work. 

{Moves courtesy of Shape Magazine}

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week Recap

This past week flew by!  I guess this summer made me forget how quickly time goes by when I'm taking a full course load.

Last Sunday night, we went to Franklin, TN for a jazz festival.  The weather was awesome and I loved walking through their historic downtown.  It was an adorable street with lots of little boutiques and restaurants.  Most things were closed seeing as it was a Sunday night but we have plans to go back soon for some browsing!

My week was filled with a ridiculous amount of staring at my quantum mechanics book and digging deep in my brain to try to uncover some of the calculus/differential equation knowledge I used to have so much of.  If I make it through this class alive, I will be amazed!

Friday night, Hubs and I headed downtown to visit a few Honky Tonks we used to frequent when we lived two blocks away.  Nashville was overrun with purple and gold as the LSU tigers came to beat up on Vandy.  We did manage to bond with a few gator fans though :)

Saturday I spent the majority of my day in the clinic for "Calibration Saturday." (That means it's time for the  yearly calibration of our Linear Accelerators).  It was a pretty awesome experience for my class as it was the first time we got to participate in the event after spending months studying the theory behind the process.  Having to rely on text messages to follow the Gator game was the only downfall (though a pretty significant one!). 

Once done, Mike and I set out for Gatlinburg to meet up with his parents who were there house hunting in the mountains (we are crossing out fingers for the new vacation home!).  Unfortunately, the worst storms of my life happened to be going on as we drove.  It started out with these completely eerie black clouds.  A little hard to see, but trust me... those are clouds of solid black descending on us- about to dump ridiculous amounts of rain, lightning, and wind (and a tree dangerously close to our car!).

We had to make many stops in parking lots along the way and unfortunately couldn't get out of the car as the power was out at every place (yes, this power outage included streetlights).  Eventually we made it to the hotel and to dinner to get some food in my very hungry belly.  We also went to a brewery next door to enjoy a delicious beer sampler and catch a few glares at our gator gear from the sea of Tennessee orange.

Sunday morning we went to try out Gatlingburg's Pancake Pantry.  It was incredibly delicious and waaaay less crowded than the Nashville version.  It was neat to compare the two.  Dave was impressed with my ability to put away such a large quantity of pancakes.  He commented that I ate more than everyone else.... I don't mess around there!

Mike and I tagged along to look at a few more cabins and had fun dreaming about going there for vacation sometime soon.  I love how different mountain houses are from what we are used to in Florida.  They leave you wishing for fall and winter!  Afterwards, we all headed to the Great Smoky Mountain Flea Market before Mike and I returned to Nashville.  It was a short trip but it was so great to get to spend some time with the fam!

I didn't get to see any real black bears but I settled for this big fuzzy guy!
You never can tell what you'll find at a flea market!  He was even drinking a can of diet mountain dew- a monkey after my own heart!
Sunday night we got home just before dark and I decided to take advantage of our incredible weather and go running.  I've been trying to take it easy because I've been struggling with my silly foot issue again for a few weeks.  I was pretty excited to run four miles with almost no pain! 

I'm heading to bed early tonight to try to catch up on some lost sleep!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our Saturday in Pictures

Yesterday welcomed back our most favorite time of the year.  I actually dreamed about football and woke up way too early with excitement!  Pretty sad, huh?  While being in the swamp yesterday would have been about a bazillion times better, we managed to enjoy our day up in Nashville.  Let's just hope the gators figure out how to step it up a little in the upcoming weeks.  Not sure my heart can take anymore fumbles or dropped snaps (come on Pouncey!).  Here's how our day went (post-Panera bagels of course):

Putting up the gator flag!

I actually beat Mike a few times and was pretty stoked about it!

Let's go gators!

Making mini pizza pockets at the half out of Publix bakery multigrain pizza dough.
They were so good!
Changing colors to support our second favorite SEC team!
Commodore stadium
Sitting in the Vanderbilt student section was definitely an experience.  I've never seen so many brightly colored ties, bow ties and sundresses in my life.  Apparently wearing school colors to a sporting event is overrated here?  I surely hope Florida fans don't fall victim to this strange tradition and continue to rock their orange and blue!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gator Cupcakes

In honor of the greatest thing about fall kicking off tomorrow (Gator football!!), I thought I'd share a little gator friend that I created last year for the SEC championship.  Yes, I'm aware that this was an awful day for Gators everywhere but at least I had cute cupcakes to eat my sorrows away!  The inspiration comes from the book Hello Cupcake via my sister-in-law.  I added a Florida shirt to him for a little extra spirit. 

This little guy was surprisingly easy to create!  I had never done any decorating like this before and I was so excited about the way it turned out.  To make the scales, I used a ziploc full of icing with the corner cut off.  I started at one side of the cupcake and created a row of scales.  Then I worked my way across adding one row at a time, overlapping a little each time.  For the shirt, I bought a pack of cheap icing tips at the grocery store and stuck the star tip in the end of a bag.  I just iced one glob at a time till I was done!  The tip made it incredibly easy.  My gator's finger nails are banana runts and his "F", nostrils and pupils are m&ms.  His eyeballs are big marshmallows covered in icing and his teeth were made by cutting up large marshmallows.  Refrigerating them prior to doing this made the task a little less sticky.

At the time, I used a box cake mix and can of icing.  This is totally unlike me but I recently tried the most incredible recipe for almond cupcakes which is seriously yum!  It's also from Hello Cupcake:

Almond Cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3.5 ounces (1/2 tube) almond paste (I found this at Whole Foods)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
2.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
3.  In another medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, almond paste, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in batches, begining and ending with the flour mixture and beating just until blended.  Stir in the vanilla. 
5.  Fill the liners two-thirds full.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes.  Remove the cupcakes from the baking pan and allow to cool completely. 

I regularly flip through this amazing book although I haven't yet attempted any of the other creations.  Many of them are a little intimidating!  Has anyone else ever made anything from this book?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Crispy Parmesan Ranch Chicken Fingers

We often make attempts at various seasoning/bread crumb combinations that result in dinners of mediocre chicken fingers.  However, tonight's were delicious!  When I saw this recipe, I was excited as it claimed it held the secret to crispy nuggets.  I also encountered two new things in making this meal: buttermilk and panko (yes, I know, these are probably not new to anyone else who's ever stepped foot in a kitchen).  When I first opened the buttermilk I was very disturbed by the consistency and the sour smell.  After doing some research on the web I discovered these were normal characteristics and I could continue with the recipe.  I was horrified to learn, however, that some people actually drink this stuff as the smell of it alone had me gagging! 

2 cups low fat buttermilk
1 packet dry Ranch seasoning
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts- cut into "fingers"
2 cups panko
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Combine buttermilk and one half of the Ranch seasoning packet in a large bowl.  Place chicken pieces in mix and marinate a few hours or overnight.
Combine panko, flour, cheese, and remainder of ranch seasoning in a bowl.  Dip the marinated chicken breasts into the mix and place on a wire rack sitting on a baking sheet.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes, flip, spray other side, bake another 7-9 minutes until cooked through.  (I had very thin pieces so you might need a longer cooking time.)

I sadly forgot to take pictures as it smelled so good we dug right in.  The one below is of the leftovers in the refrigerator but you get the idea.  (plus taking the picture was a good excuse for me to snag the little bite for a snack!) Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of