Thursday, December 30, 2010

eye candy...

Here's a little bit of something gorgeous to look at. My in-laws gave me several Fiesta Ware place settings for Christmas. In addition to my existing set of red place settings... This Fiesta Fan is in love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I think this is the first Christmas of my adult life, where I feel truly grateful. (Although, I'm sure my smattering of gratitude isn't nearly enough for all that I do have.)

Here are the things that I'm thankful for this Nativity season:

This list goes without saying: I'm thankful foremost that God became a man.

1. My wonderful husband. I am so excited to spend our first Christmas married! We're both excited to be together on Christmas. But, Brandon is most especially thankful for the logistics of our marriage! He's going to save many hours of extra driving to and from on Christmas day.

2. Sweet friends. Although it doesn't seem like I ever have enough time to spend with them, they're still there. I am so grateful for friends who are willing to always pick up where we left off!

3. A beautiful tree full of gifts. I'm so very thankful that we are able to have gifts to give. It's such a wonderful feeling to have a tree jam-packed with handpicked gifts for all your loved ones!

4. A refrigerator covered in Christmas greetings. I get so excited to see photo cards and the sweet sentiments on everyone else's cards. This is my very first year to be able to make a photo card. Hooray for wedding photos! Also, we did a card for our puppy Peppercorn to send to all her buddies.

5. A refrigerator full of food!

6. Feasting. While we haven't been able to feast just yet (the Nativity Fast is still in full swing) I have begun my preparation for the feasting. We feast for 12 days. And, I've started the baking and making. I'm baking homemade croissants for Brandon. He loves a croissant. And, he's quite the connoisseur. I can't believe I agreed to tackle this baking giant. But, I can't wait! I started a test batch of mini croissants this morning to see how they turn out. I'll freeze these and enjoy them next week. I'll make a batch of full-sized croissants on Friday to serve on Christmas day.

7. Spiced Tea Mix. This mix has saved the day multiple times this season! Some of you may be familiar with this, it was really popular back in the 1960's. It's sometimes called Russian Spiced Tea Mix. Because, the mix contains Tang drink mix and, during the space race, Tang was associated with Russian astronauts. I don't think it really has anything to do with being Russian.

I plan to give this away as Christmas gifts. I've also been drinking this like it's been going out of style. I think the high concentration of vitamin C has helped keep me well this fall. I accidentally bought twice as much of the mix as I needed, and was able to share the recipe with my mom for gifts. This recipe has saved the day so many times!

Instant Spiced Tea Mix:
1 1/2 C Instant sweetened iced tea mix. (I use lemon flavored tea.)
1 Container Tang orange flavored drink mix
1 C Instant lemonade mix
2 C Sugar
3 Teaspoons Cinnamon
3 Teaspoons Cloves
3 Teaspoons Allspice

Mix all the ingredients together. Add 3-4 heaping teaspoons of mix per mug of hot water.

Here's hoping you have a wonderful week leading up to Christ's nativity. And a very full Christmas!

Monday, November 29, 2010

your theme is: sugar...

Lately. Things have been sweet. Seriously, ridiculously, insanely SWEET.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. My family wasn't able to come to town. We were all very sad.

Brandon and I had our traditional Thanksgiving morning bagels and lox along with Irish coffee. Bliss.

Then, we went over to my parent's house for feast #1. My grandfather was able to join us. Later that afternoon we went over to my in-law's for yet ANOTHER feast. It was a very full day.

Check out the spread at my parent's house:
Green Bean Casserole
Corn Pudding
Devilled Eggs
Cranberry Relish
Sweet Potatoes
Yeast Rolls

In non-Turkey day news:

I have had a major hankering for sweets these days. I made this recipe for vegan fudge last week.

Then, over the weekend I started missing the pecan pie from Thursday. So, I made this recipe for vegan pecan pie. It turned out really well. Like I usually do when making pecan pie, I substituted bourbon for the vanilla.

Last night, while Brandon was out for a guy's night, I made homemade cinnamon buns. I had a really bad cinnamon bun experience when I was a teenager. I haven't really liked them since. But, I started wanting some more than anything! So, I did some research and found that Lauren Ulm from Vegan Yum Yum had a recipe. She even has a video demonstrating the steps.

This was my first SUCCESSFUL yeast dough attempt. I couldn't be prouder of how they turned out.

AND I was able to use two of the fabulous gifts from my sweet goddaughter Cailyn. For our shared name-day, she gave me a jar of Chinese cinnamon (it's out of this world!) and also some Mexican vanilla. These are extremely worldly cinnamon buns! (C also gave me some glorious Dutch cocoa, and I have already enjoyed several cups of hot cocoa!)

They are sweet. Super sweet. I could only eat a half of one for breakfast. It was a perfect breakfast on this dreary morning at home with my sweet husband.

Yep, Brandon had the morning off, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning together.

After our breakfast we watched "Seraphine" on instant Netflix. It's about Seraphine Louis the French painter. It was a great movie. I highly recommend.

Overall one very sweet day. Part of one very very sweet life.

Monday, November 22, 2010


This post will be brief- I just can't wait to talk about this food! I can't believe it's Thanksgiving again! One year ago (on my Name-Day, which also falls on Thanksgiving) Brandon proposed to me. It has been one insanely wonderful year!

Thanksgiving is in just a few days- and my cooking frenzy has begun!

My cousin Liz is coming to town from Chicago and staying here at our place. I'm so excited. She gets to participate in mine and Brandon's tradition of eating bagels and lox on Thanksgiving morning!

Here's what I'm making: (The items in bold are linked to a recipe)
Sweet cranberry and pecan conserve topping for brie (An appetizer. I made this one up using orange juice, honey, dried cranberries, and pecans.)
Pecan pie (For the celebration with my husband's family. My aunt Susan provides our pecan pies when she's in town.) (See recipe below.)
Sugar-free pumpkin cheesecake (Mostly for my mom, who has diabetes. But, it looks INCREDIBLE!)

So far- I'm done with 4 of these. Just two items more to go!

PS- I'm sure I've given you this recipe many many times before. But, here's the recipe for the pecan pie again:

(This is the one we served at our wedding as the groom's cake.)

Bourbon Pecan Pie (From my Aunt Susan)

1 stick butter, melted

3 eggs

1 teaspoon flour

1 cup pecans

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 cup light Karo syrup

dash of salt

deep dish pie crust

Mix butter and sugar together, then all other ingredients, adding pecans last. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Bring on the turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

what i've been up to...

In the past few weeks I've been a little distracted. The CaitlynCosm has been on the back burner, because of this:
I've been working hard at revamping my business. I have had such a fun time doing personal chef work under The Ruffled Apron. I wanted to add some other services as well.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk to people. A lot. So, after a fun evening of coaching a friend through how to make a roast chicken dinner, I had an idea. I decided that I love to cook, and love to teach others to cook.

Now, in addition to personal chef services, The Ruffled Apron now offers two new services:
1. Private Cooking Instruction
2. Group Cooking Parties

Much like piano lessons or golf instruction, my cooking instruction will spend one on one time teaching you the basics of cooking. (Based on your existing skill level.) If you've read my blog for long, you understand that I have a definite food philosophy. I believe that people should be able to cook without the burden of recipes. This doesn't mean that I cook with an utter disregard for them. It simply means that I know how to read recipes and look for the techniques used, and can skim for ingredients. It means that I don't panic if I don't have all the ingredients for a dish. I learn what can and cannot be improvised. It's really a freeing way to cook.

I will work with students on a regular basis to teach them these basic skills. For each appointment, I will supply the groceries and give them a hands-on lesson. At the end of our time together. They will have a healthy and delicious dinner to share with their family and friends.

Much like the popular "paint parties" going on these days, a cooking party uses the same concept. Gather a group of friends (5-10) and I will bring all of the groceries, tools, recyclable storage containers, and even the aprons. Pour everyone a glass of wine and let's get cookin'! For around 3 hours we will gossip and sauté our way through two complete meals. I'll show you all my tricks and tips to create delicious food.

Then, the best part, at the end of the evening everyone goes home with two complete four serving meals created by them!

Consider hosting a cooking party for your annual holiday party this year. What better way to be productive, and have fun with your friends?

The other BIG thing I've been working on, is my website! The Ruffled Apron FINALLY has a website!!!

It includes a great listing of all The Ruffled Apron's services and prices. And, it also includes a new feature: seasonal menu selections. Now, personal chef clients can choose the meals they want prepared from this list. Then, I will prepare them to your specifications etc. This new feature allows The Ruffled Apron to serve my clients even more efficiently.

I am so excited for everything that's going on! So you'll all have to forgive me for my recent blogging absence. Thanks for all your support of The Ruffled Apron up to this point. I honestly couldn't have done this without you.

PS- You can now become a fan of The Ruffled Apron on Facebook too. Become a fan and keep up with news and special promotions from The Ruffled Apron.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

as cute as these two kids are...

... I'm actually pining away for that chair in the photo.

Last night, someone stole the chairs from our front porch.

Everyone has said since I moved in: "That set is so cute. I can't believe it hasn't been stolen yet."

Well, after a year of enjoying the chairs, they're gone. Just the chairs, the cowards left the table.

Let's talk about this: why did someone feel the need to steal the chairs? They have brought us so much joy over the past year. We had several meals out there. Long conversations with friends while sitting in the chairs. Our first grilled meal was eaten out there. Plenty of cigars smoked (by Brandon and the guys). Our first big party as a married couple (see above photo). And, now that the weather was cooler, we looked forward to many more occasions to use the table and chairs.

I don't understand most crime. But the theft of lawn furniture baffles me the most.

I know I'm not the first person to have lawn furniture stolen. I know it probably won't be the last time something like this happens. It just irritates me to no end. And I really wish it hadn't happened.

That is all.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

feelin' crafty

I feel like I should tell you what I've been up to. I promise, I didn't drop off the face of the earth following my birthday. But, I didn't really feel like posting very much. I have been very busy as of late, and a blogging hiatus was on the agenda.

For my birthday I got an iPhone. So, I've done a much better job of documenting my life these days. So, in the future, you will see many more photo posts. (I sometimes only check blogs for the pictures, I'm not going to lie.)

Lately, my creative juices have been flowing. I started thinking about Christmas. And that made me start thinking about how I want to be done with everything by the time the Nativity fast starts. That gives me exactly one and a half month from today. (The fast starts on November 15.)

As I normally do- I have started a running list of everyone who will receive presents. Followed by an idea of what I'd like to give them. This year, both out of necessity and for a personal challenge, I'm attempting to handmake most of the gifts I give.

I want to share them with you, but I won't be able to post photos of everything until after Christmas.

So, I sat down to my dusty sewing machine, and began to work!

And, I can't stop!

It all started with a pita pocket...

I had seen felt play food before, and always thought it was cute. So, I did some idea gathering and came up with this. I give you a whole-wheat pita pocket stuffed with turkey, cheese, spinach, tomatoes and pickles. With a bag of chips and a juice box.

I made this for our 2 year old goddaughter Lillian. I also plan to give a set to our (almost born) goddaughter, Luci when she arrives. These toys are quiet and give the kids something silent to play with during church services.

And please- check out that pickle. It makes me giggle each time I see it!

My next project was a gift for our goddaughter Cailyn's 11th birthday. She cooks with me on a weekly basis. And, she wears an apron with a matryoshka doll on it. So, for her birthday, I made her one to wear at home.

The apron was a simple style with a hand embroidered matryoshka doll that I attached.

For Cailyn's party, we went to Muddy's for some delicious goodness. I wanted something new to wear. So, I channeled Marissa from New Dress a Day and went to work with an old dress of mine. It didn't fit the same way it used to, and was a bit too clingy. So, I chopped it off at the hips. Then, I added these layered yellow flowers (fabric provided by a shirt I wasn't really loving). I did all of this in the time between getting off work and Brandon coming home from work last night! (Did I mention I made a pot of lentil stew in the process, I didn't? Well, you should know I have a domestic diva streak in me!)

PS- I've got a few other NDaD creations to share- but I need a better photo of each.

Close up of the flowers. They are layered fabric with a pearl in the center. I'm pretty proud of this one! Total cost= $0.

Then, after coming home from the party, I had some energy. (Maybe because Muddy's ran out of decaf coffee and I drank regular!) So, I sat down with some Ikea fabric at my trusty machine again. And started making a bag. I've been wanting to see if I could sew a messenger bag, for the longest time. So, I read a few tutorials, and set to work. I think it turned out cute. I think I might give it as a diaper bag to a friend. I'm thinking it's cute for someone having a girl. Seeing that it isn't all pink!

See friends? I haven't been ignoring you. I've just had some serious crafting going on. Now, If you'll excuse me, I have about a million strings and fabric scraps to vacuum!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


this about sums it up.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

my brand of summer reading...

This is an ultimate.

There are different ultimate cookbooks out there. Those great "sink your teeth into it", super full, amazing cookbooks.

I think some people feel that way about "The Joy of Cooking" or Julia Child's masterpiece, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". I'm personally a big fan of her "The Way to Cook". It taught me how to make my Coq au Vin, Brandon's favorite. But, to be honest. Julia's writing style wasn't my favorite. Many of her recipes involved referring back to other recipes and it can be a nightmare if you want to follow one recipe verbatim.

OK, this sounds like I'm not a Julia fan. I really am. I promise. I've taken to watching reruns of her show on the new "Cooking Channel" every day. I'm impressed daily by the leaps and bounds we've taken in cooking shows! 1970s food photography was pretty disgusting. And, don't even get me started on hygeine. Hello cross-contamination!?!?

But, I love to learn her classical techniques. There's a lack of classic technique being taught today. Everyone is so focused on 10 minute dinners, or super frugal cooking. What they fail to mention is that, a good basis of the tried and true techniques allows a cook to prepare faster. And, knowing what to buy store-bought and what to make yourself can save a cook hundreds of dollars a year! But, I guess that style isn't very vogue these days.

This all brings me to this book. Darina Allen (also known as "The Julia Child of Ireland") has compiled these skills into a book: "The Forgotten Skills of Cooking". Her theory is that the skills taught by her grandmother's generation are being lost generation through generation.

Brandon surprised me with this. Just because. Single girls (heck- non single girls) take note, settle for nothing less.

I have loved her approach. I have learned so much from reading already. The woman makes her own pruscuitto. You have no idea how badly I want to try that!

I highly recommend this book. I think you'd like it. If you are a little more than the average casserole chef, and want to delve deeper.

Recipe review:

I made Allen's basic cupcake recipe. I think it is definitely a more Irish style cupcake.

By this I mean, the cupcake was very dense and sturdy. I made an equally hearty nutella icing to top the cupcakes. Delicious, but not a great match. They were delicious, but made a good coffee dunking cupcake. Kind of like a pound cake. Not one I'll be using a lot. I think it might taste great soaked with irish cream, or some other liquid. Maybe espresso. But, it's just not the type of cupcake an American gal is used to.

I'm still enjoying the book, and hope to share some recipes soon!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

back to the land of the living...

After having spent about a month sick with various ailments, I'm back. Back to the land of the living.

Things had been terribly out of wack. I wasn't at church as much as I usually was. I wasn't cooking. I wasn't cleaning. Laundry was only getting done when Brandon needed work clothes, or we ran out of underwear.

Out of wack!

I'm back now. I feel great, and I was itching to get this house back in order. I got it clean. And I even cooked, baked actually! (More the first baking in a later post.) I haven't kept up with my menu boards lately, and it has shown in our quality of eating and in the budget! I plan to return to it next week.

Yesterday, a friend from church sent me a message asking if we'd like some produce from his garden. I said MOST DEFINITELY!!! So, he brought it to us last night.

HUGE, I mean MONSTER sized zucchini! Eggplant! White eggplant! Tomatoes! Cucumbers! Banana peppers! Yellow squash!

Who needs to join a CSA when you've got sweet friends like that?

We've been inundated with gifts of food since we got married. We were well stocked with cheese for over a month, because my wedding caterer forgot to put it into the grits. (That's a problem Southerners have- forgetting to cheese their grits.)

My parents gave us tons of the leftover food from the reception. Our friend Mary recently gave us vegetables and some fresh eggs from her chickens. And, my sweet friend Robert, gave us some tomatoes. (Robert is the kindest most precious cashier at SuperLo, the one off of Spotswood. He gave me some huge tomatoes from his garden a few weeks back. Love him!)

I can't wait to work our menus around this great food. We love eating vegetables. Love them. But, we aren't gardeners. So, we have to buy them. I can't afford to always shop the farmer's market. So, we end up buying them at the grocery. Still expensive, but I do keep up with the discounted produce carts at Easy Way and Superlo.

Anyway, I now have 5 large cucumbers sitting on my dining room table. I started thinking about ways to cook with them. I love roasted vegetables, so that's one way. A rattatouille is definitely in our future. I'm thinking of shredding some up to add to a meatloaf I'm making tomorrow, to stretch it and add some extra veggies.

And zucchini bread! How could I forget about zucchini bread!

My mom always made us the fabulous bread when we were kids. And, I still love it. I feel good about eating my vegetables in a sweet quick bread. Makes me feel much better about eating dessert for breakfast.
Mom gave me the recipe, my Grammy's recipe. I thought you'd like it:

Zucchini Nut Bread: By my Grammy.
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
3 tsp. cinamon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts
2 tsp. vanilla
Beat eggs and add sugar. Beat until fluffy, then add oil. Continue beating. Add zucchini and mix. Add all dry ingredients, vanilla and nuts. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350* for 1 hour or until done. Batter will be thin. Store in refrigerator or freeze.

(I also put mine into some muffin tins (in lightly sprayed papers) and baked them for 30 minutes.)

My Grandaddy and Grammy, this past Thanksgiving. Grammy now lives in a nursing home due to Alzheimer's disease. I love them both so much!

Friday, July 09, 2010

you've got to start somewhere.

Well, it's been a really long time. I hate it when that happens. But, in order to blog again, you've gotta start somewhere!

Due to me being sick for about a whole month, extremely busy, and a newlywed, I haven't blogged or cooked very much. (I don't quite get the newlywed excuse, because life is pretty wonderful, but whenever I can't get something done people say: "It's OK, you're a newlywed." So, I'll embrace it.)

I must, must, MUST tell you about the most exciting thing to happen to us in the past week.

WE GOT A DOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've been begging for a long time. But, before we were married Brandon didn't like the idea of me walking a pup at night by myself. And, since he didn't yet live here, he wasn't always able to assist me. So, he told me to wait until after the wedding.

I waited.

Until we were in the car on our honeymoon. I started begging again, but he said he didn't really want to get a dog.

I stopped begging, and moved to simply asking occasionally.

About two weeks ago I got it out of him. He told me he was working on my birthday gift. And, in a moment of weakness, he told me what it was! A PUPPY!

Some of our friends foster dachshunds for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue. He had been talking with them. We then went and visited to choose our new pup. We fell in love with a "mostly dachshund" named Vera. We were able to have a two day sleepover with her to see if she liked it here. She did, and so this past Monday, we adopted her.

We changed her name, because Brandon doesn't like people names for pets. And, there's a wonderful Saint by the name of Vera. So we started thinking of new names.

Since I work as a chef, and the dog is black, we came up with Peppercorn. Plus, she's tiny, and pretty spicy- like a little peppercorn.

Dear friends meet Miss Peppercorn:

She's a little over a year old. And just plain adorable. She weighs only 12 pounds, and looks like a puppy. She is such a cuddle-bug. I'm quite taken with her. (And I think Brandon is too.)

We had a little bit of an open house to welcome her Monday evening. My friends Abby and Michele along with her fiance, Josh came to visit. And then Chase, Gigi, and their pup, Piper came later. We all had fun with the meet and greet. (You know me, any excuse for a party!) Tonight we're having a play-date with Marjo and Billy's dog, Mabel. (And getting to hang out with new baby Joseph John!)

Please feel free to stop by anytime to meet Peppercorn anytime! You know I'll feed you if you visit. (I've even got homemade puppy treats that I made with Cailyn and Jake this week for the 4 legged friends.)

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

it pays to have a coffee master in the house.

Yesterday I found a fun little surprise for Brandon. When I was in the coffee aisle at the supermarket, I saw a little orange box. It was chicory!

Most people know of chicory coffee, from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Chicory was originally added to coffee to extend it. (Which is exactly what the little box of chicory says it's used for. No mention of taste, it just calls it a "coffee helper".) But, it tastes pretty good.

You can buy blended Cafe du Monde coffee in stores. But Brandon, the coffee master, has been wanting to make his own blend with fresh ground coffee. The thing is, you can't usually buy the coffee and chicory whole bean. And, you all know, it's much better to fresh grind your coffee.

Anyway, Brandon expertly blended the coffee and chicory this morning. It was delicious.

You know you all wish you had a coffee master in your house!

(The coffee master program is one that Brandon completed at Starbucks. It means he did a lot of studying and got to wear a special pin and a black apron.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the menu board: june 7 through june 11

Week 2 of the Apostles' Fast:
Monday: Cuban Black Beans and Rice (see recipe below)
Wednesday: Dinner at Church
Friday: Country Fried Seitan with white gravy and Green Beans

Monday: We love this one! It's one of mine and Brandon's favorite fasting meals. The addition of the brown sugar and vinegar make it Cuban style. It really jazzes up something as basic as black beans and rice. We included this in our wedding favor cookbooks, we love it that much.

Caitlyn's Cuban Black Beans and Rice:

1 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons Oil

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 cans black beans (not drained)

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in oil over medium high heat until transparent. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute. Reduce heat to medium low. Add the black beans, cumin, cayenne, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Stirring often. Mash some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in cilantro. Serve over cooked white or brown rice, garnish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili. This tasted really nice, I think. I had a REALLY bad toothache and the spicyness was NOT what I needed at that moment. I ended up eating buttered (or smart balance-d) noodles for dinner while watching the Glee season finale. Needless to say, I was all about being comfortable that night! (I found out on Friday, I'm going to need a root canal. Blech!)

Wednesday: Dinner at Church= Falafil, Humous, and Jerusalem Salad. Brandon's favorite fasting foods. He never ever gets tired of humous.

Thursday: Kale and White Bean Soup. I really liked this one. I used homemade vegetable stock, along with some carrots from our yard! Even though I wasn't the planter of these carrots, I now really understand the joy of eating something from your own garden! When I decided I wanted to have this soup I was thinking of something more thick and bland. I was really surprised. This was really full of flavor and much more exciting than any other white bean soup I've eaten in the past.

Friday: Country Fried Seitan with Green Beans AND BONUS Vegan Maccaroni and Cheese. I made meat. Or rather, Seitan. It was seriously easy. I was so surprised. Traditional Seitan is made by kneading wheat flour and washing it multiple times over the course of several days. Vital wheat gluten is a type of flour that is ONLY the protein and gluten from wheat flour. It makes the process much easier, basically, you add some liquid and other ingredients and it turns into this tough dough. Then, you poach it in some broth. Then it's easy to turn it into anything using it like meat.

I'm not kidding- it tastes like chicken. No, seriously.

We fried up the little "cutlets" and they were like country fried steak. (Brandon's favorite!) I forgot to make the gravy, but we didn't miss it. Then, I tossed steamed green beans with a cajun seasoning blend and some smart balance.

I got inspired to try this maccaroni and cheese recipe. PLUS, I had bought some nutritional yeast (a good substitute for cheese) and I thought I'd go for it. It was really easy. Actually, without having to grate all the cheese I normally use for my regular mac and cheese recipe, it was a LOT easier. Definitely not as tasty as my favorite Martha's Mac and Cheese. But, really nice.

Disclaimer- I usually don't make so many meat and dairy substitutions during fasts. But, to be completely honest with you, I'm not a very good faster right now. I've been a big baby about this fast. Whine. Whine. So, my own little rebellion has been to use these substitution foods. I have a feeling many of the saints wouldn't approve of my current philosophy.

Weekend Meals: I don't "plan" the weekend meals. I really like the ability to be spontaneous over the weekends. But, since I'm sharing my recipes and ideas, I thought I'd include what we ate over the weekend.

I made this Crispy Sweet and Sour Seitan. Yum!

I saved an extra fried seitan cutlet and turned it into my own little Chick-Fil-A style sandwich. Complete with veganaise.

Sunday lunch= Soul Fish. Hooray for the fish-wine-oil katalysis during this fast.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

there might have been an angel choir...

... When I first bit into that pork-y deliciousness.

I got done at work early Friday before last. (A fasting free Friday, I might add.) Leaving just enough time for Brandon and I to go to Payne's Bar B Q for lunch.

It's on Lamar Ave. near McLean. I might sound a little sheltered... But, I don't frequent Lamar too often. But, my dear husband assured me it's totally safe.

The building is unassuming to say the least. Much like most of the culinary gems of the world. It's not much to look at. Upon walking inside the former gas station, I noticed green vinyl tablecloths with ponsettia patterns, and only about 6 tables. The lighting leaves a bit to be desired, but I promise, you won't mind.

The aromas were heavenly. I knew I was in for a treat.

I let Brandon do the ordering, he's the pro. The menu's pretty simple. But, DON'T ask for "pulled pork." It's sliced or chopped. We both got chopped plates, Brandon's spicy, mine mild. Then, chose a canned drink. There's no beer list, no soda fountain. Canned cokes. Like I said, it's not much.

I was positively giddy to try my sandwich when they called out our order.

The Bun: traditional white bun
The Cole Slaw: almost neon, it's sweet and appears to be made of yellow mustard, and sweet relish. It is completely different from any other slaw I've ever eaten. IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY!
The Meat: slow cooked (of course) but, over charcoal. (NOT TRADITIONAL) then taken out and fried up on a griddle. So, there were subtle variations in the textures. It had crispy bits, and super tender, fatty pieces. Perfection.
The Sauce: simple.simple.simple. I read somewhere that it might be 3 ingredients. It was sweet and transparent. Not too thick, but not a vinegar based thing either, almost a glaze of sorts.

Overall. The very best barbeque I've ever eaten.

I actually considered thanking Mrs. Payne herself. (She still works in the kitchen.) It was that good.

Sorry to tempt with all this talk of pork during the fast. But, I started this post weeks ago... and I wanted to give you something to look forward to, after the fast.

Monday, June 07, 2010

the menu board: may 31 through june 4

"All made with love, and without dairy!" (Week one of the Apostles' Fast.)
Monday: Homemade Black Bean Burgers (see recipe below) with Baked Home Fries
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Quinoa and Corn Chowder
Wednesday: Dinner at Church
Friday: Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto (I omitted the beans, so yes, this was a protein free meal. Sorry guys.)

Monday: The first day of the fast, and Memorial Day. Luckily for us, we had our fill of burgers and potato salad at the cookout the night before. But, it's tradition to grill, so we enjoyed the leftover bean burgers (for the vegetarian party attendees) and home fries baked using Huey's seasoning.

I started making my own veggie burgers a few months ago. I looked around the internet for recipes. And I watched a few videos. Here's what I came up with: (No specific proportions, just use your knowledge of a regular beef burger's consistency to guide you...)

Black Bean Burgers-
Ingredients for 4 generous burgers:

2 Cans Black Beans (Drained and Rinsed)
1 Medium-Large Onion Diced
Rolled Oats
Salt-Pepper-Cumin-Chipotle Chili Powder to taste. (This all depends on how you like your burger!)

Place all the ingredients in a bowl. I like to use my immersion blender to puree' most, NOT ALL of the ingredients. (You don't want baby-food, leave about half of the beans whole.) You can also do this in a food processor, but mine was on the fritz when I created the recipe, and I really like the control I have with the stick blender. (I've also done this by hand, finely mincing the onion and mashing the beans with a potato masher.)

Mix in some more oats if the mixture seems too thin. You're looking for the same consistency as a traditional meat burger, so that they'll keep their shape. Shape into large, generous patties. I like to let them rest in the fridge for a few hours, this makes them come together and hold up even better.

To Cook: Option 1: Place on a greased baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, flip and cook for 10 more minutes.

Option 2: Grill. We grilled them, and they worked out perfectly!

They're really really filling... yet Brandon usually finds a way to eat 2-3 in one sitting!!!

BONUS!: I woke up Monday morning with a serious waffle craving. I looked through all of my vegan cookbooks and found that I only had the ingredients for one recipe, pumpkin waffles. (Not the most traditional Memorial Day brunch choice.) I called my dear friend Ashley and told her to get out of bed and come eat waffles with me! (Brandon had to work at his Starbuck's job on Monday morning, but had the day off at the library.)

It made about a dozen waffles. So, I froze the remainder. They can easily be reheated in the toaster for a quick and crispy waffle.

Tuesday: I was so ready to experiment with vegan slow cooker recipes. This is my first meatless slow cooker experiment. I loosely used the recipe above. I just used what we had: quinoa, potatoes, onion, garlic, and corn. It looked disgusting. Like really really bad. It was a really yucky grey color. Then the corn just looked even worse. It was a horrible color combination. We all eat with our eyes first... And I was turned off! But, it tasted really nice. It just needed more vegetables (like the above recipe recommends) and it might have been better. I was just too lazy, and tried to save money by using the things I already had.

Wednesday: Church dinner=Red Beans and Rice.

It was also our one month anniversary! Brandon just happened to have the day off. So, I woke up early and made the waffles again! Yummm! (Correction, Brandon manned the waffle iron while I got ready for work.)

Thursday: A sweet friend from church gave me a vegan cookbook as a wedding gift. It was such a great and thougthful gift for an Orthodox person! This recipe for golden chickpea and artichoke salad is perfect for us. Especially since Brandon had to work late. It doesn't need to be served hot. It can be served at any temperature. Covered in a lemony parsley dressing. I also made this again for a picnic at the Levitt Shell concert on Saturday night, and it was a hit again.

Friday: I made this risotto a while back. And it was definitely time to bring it back! It's not a simple dish, no risotto is. But, who doesn't love the super creamy comforting deliciousness of starchy rice with delicious ingredients like meaty mushrooms and tangy sweet sun dried tomatoes. I used some white wine in place of one cup of stock this time to change it up a bit (plus I had an open bottle in the fridge). Brandon said this was my best risotto ever.

PS- Call me a hypocrite... But, Brandon had book club on Sunday night and we BOUGHT the black bean burgers. I really did plan to make them, but a super busy Saturday dictated otherwise. Morningstar Farms makes a very nice black bean burger, for the record.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

thanks y'all!

We wanted to thank all of our church family who helped with the wedding. So many of them worked countless hours to help us prepare for the wedding and clean up afterward.

We planned this little cookout. And it was such fun!

I made invites using stamps and layered papers. Sadly though, I didn't get them all sent. So, some of the sweet people only received an e-mail or personal invitation. (I didn't plan on my schedule getting so crazy! Sorry guys!)

YES! I am aware that the "Thanks" backwards... I had to take the photo with my photobooth, and I don't know how to mirror it. But, you get the idea... Right?

I used all of my new and beautiful Fiesta Ware items to decorate. (Sweet little Maggie told her dad that she "liked my theme", so I think that means it was a success!)

Brandon lovingly hung the lights on the porch for such incredible ambience. I had candles in mason jars, and was able to use my sweet sunflower bouquet. We have an amazing front porch. It's absolutely perfect for entertaining. We set up another folding table for extra seating. I got these great plastic plates for a steal. I bought a ton, so in the future I don't have to buy paper plates for parties.

The party menu:

Burgers (made a little more delicious with Huey's seasoning)
Black Bean Burgers (Watch for the recipe in this week's menu board post!)
Creamy Potato Salad (with sour cream, mayo, dijon, diced vidalia onions, parsley, salt and pepper... Super simple, and such a hit!)
Chips with Dill Dip (made with sour cream, dill, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper... I feel guilty about how much people raved over this ridiculously simple dip!!!)
Lemon scented fruit salad
Debbie's Cookies

It was a pretty simple menu. I actually wish that I had more food. We ran a little low on potato salad and chips. But, oh well. I think most everyone enjoyed themselves otherwise!

I got a great apothecary jar with a spout as a wedding gift. It made the perfect pink lemonade dispenser with a few lemon slices floating in it. I also got 2 great aluminum buckets with stands for ice and the beer/wine. I think those buckets are the best $12 I've spent in a while! I hate using a cooler for a cookout.

I think overall, it was a perfect first cookout! (Minus running out of food and charcoal, but, OH WELL!) Such a fun party!

Now, the reason anyone reads a blog: to see if they show up in the photos.

Thanks y'all!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the menu board: may 24 through 28

Monday: Barbeque Nachos
Tuesday: Pasticcio
Wednesday: Dinner at Church
Thursday: Wine and Cheese Dinner
Friday: Steak au Poirve, Martha's Mac-N-Cheese, and Baby Greens Salad

This past week was a non fasting week. To celebrate the feast of Pentecost. But, in addition to this, it's also the week preceding a LONG Apostles Fast. Since Pascha fell so early this year, the fast is almost a whole month long! (It's usually only a week or two. And sometimes it's only a couple of days. All depending on the date of Pascha.)

So, in preparation for the fast and to feast for Pentecost, we're eating some old favorites this week. Decadent, cheesy, meaty, etc.

Monday's barbeque nachos using leftover pulled pork. I still have TONS! (See previous post for recipe.) They were a hit, and we both ate way too much. We made them by layering tortilla chips (On the Border brand, if you please, my favorite store bought chips!) with cheddar cheese, and the pork. Then I topped mine with leftover cole-slaw. Yum!

Tuesday, the Pasticcio was a huge hit! It's Greek style lasagna with maccaroni, and ground beef, with cheesy beauchamel sauce and hints of cinnamon! I'm a sucker for a sweet spice used in savory cooking (and the same with savory spices and herbs used in sweets). It was amazing!

You have to understand, it's hard for me to say complimentary things about my own food. Since I don't ever really follow a recipe strictly. I don't like to be self-complimentary. But, when I come up with a recipe, I'm also my own worst critic. It's too salty, not seasoned enough, overcooked, etc. But, this pasticcio was awesome. Here's a recipe very similar to the one I used. It would have taken me twice as long to make this following a recipe. That's just how I cook. But, if you need a recipe this one looks great.

Wednesday, call me lazy. But, we love eating at church with everyone. Sometimes I cook the meal for the church meal. So, on those nights we definitely eat there. (Never trust a chef who won't eat her own food.)

Thursday, we love to have our own 2 person wine and cheese tasting with fruit and baguette. It's sort of fun. And, since our one month anniversary falls during the fast, we paired the cheese with some of the wine we bought on our honeymoon from Shannon Vineyards.

Friday, and old favorite Martha's ultimate macaroni and cheese. Cheddar and Gruyere, could anything be better? We had Brandon's Steak au Poivre recipe on the board, but made a change last minute to grilled steaks. (We were having a cookout on Sunday, and B wanted to perfect his technique.) I made a romaine salad with a creamy dressing made with leftover White Stilton with Apricots (my personal favorite cheese from the wine and cheese dinner). We didn't have baby greens, and I wanted to use up the romaine.

This meal was enjoyed on the front porch. Could life be any more wonderful?

Overall verdict: one delicious, cheesy, meaty, wonderful fast-free week! (I think my waistline is ready for the fast to begin!)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

homemaker heaven + the menu board

I promise to write about our honeymoon. I promise. Really.

But I'm itching to write about newlywed life. Itching I tell you! I'm in homemaker heaven.

For someone like me, who has been pretty domestic for most of her life. Having the opportunity to care for someone else full-time is pretty exciting. I get to plan meals and cook for the most complimentary man I know. I get to set the table and have a grand time doing it! It's beyond exciting.

I even get pretty excited about laundry and household chores. (When I've got the time to do them. Otherwise, it's pretty daunting.)

I love making sure our house is a home. That's REALLY fun. And, now that wedding planning is over, I can focus on the never-ending project of decorating my house. (One of my very favorite projects.)

I'm loving being a Mrs. I've entertained for some girlfriends a time or two. Nothing too big. I can't wait to have our first dinner party as married people and really can't wait to host our "Thanks for Helping with Our Wedding" cookout this next weekend. (We wanted to thank the members of our parish who helped so much with setup and cleanup for our wedding, so we're thanking them the best way we know how... with food!)

So much to look forward to.

When we came home from our honeymoon, we had mounds of presents to open. It was such fun! I'm loving all of the new appliances and gadgets. I'm in homemaker heaven.

I documented our first meal because, for me, it was quite the defining moment. I let Brandon choose his meal from among my repertoire. He took almost two days to decide. (While we were on the road home from Savannah, we didn't postpone eating for two days, I promise.)

He finally decided on my rosemary garlic roasted chicken. Such a classic choice. It reminded me of why I married the boy!

After opening all the presents and making a HUGE recycling pile of boxes, I made dinner. We ate on our new Scarlet Fiesta Ware plates on my super colorful Fiesta Ware tablecloth with matching red napkins. (I'm not usually one of those not-creative people who just buys all of one brand in order to match, but I just love the Fiesta. And all the colors coordinated so well with my existing collection of vintage Fiesta Ware plates.)

Like I said: homemaker heaven!

All of this brings me to a new series I hope to include here on the blog. In an effort to save money-time-sanity I have started planning our weekly menu. Monday through Friday, I plan out the meals. This way, I'm able to shop once and save multiple trips. Save money by only buying exactly what I need. And not have to think at the end of the day. Just cook!

This all seemed very NOT glamorous to me. So, I decided to jazz it up a bit. I had a small chalkboard lying around and some of those fabulous chalk pens. So, I wrote out our first week of meals and posted it on the wall. It was a success. I forgot to photo it, but we had:

Monday: Savannah Red Rice with Jalepeno Cheese Deer Sausage (courtesy of my uncle Jim.)
Tuesday: Roasted Vegetable Soup (made with leftover vegetables from the chicken) and Grilled cheese sandwiches.
Wednesday: We had a potluck at church for Ascension, but ended up staying home and eating the salmon salad I made.
Thursday: Coq Au Vin with Baguette
Friday: Shrimp and Grits (My favorite fasting friendly version, without cheese. I promise, it's possible.)

So, I want to start a series called: The Menu Board. I want to photograph and post our weekly menu board and write a little about it each week. I may sometimes include explanations and may also include some of my recipes.

I hope this gives my dear readers and friends a springboard to plan some of their own weekly menus. And also gives me a way to remember what we ate and like, loved, or hated.

The Menu Board (Week of May 17, 2010)
Monday: Slow Cooked Cajun Chicken with Green Beans
Tuesday: Slow Cooked Steak Tacos with Spicy Corn
Wednesday: Dinner at Church
Thursday: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Cole Slaw and Baked Black Beans
Friday: Sweet and Spicy Broiled Salmon with Avocado Sauce and Roasted Asparagus.

As you might see, the theme of this week is the slow cooker. I'm having such fun experimenting with it. My job got a little busy this week! Since the girls I care for are out of school, I won't have as much time at home. So, I've been looking for ways to easily make dinner. I plan on employing my slow cooker over the summer, especially since it won't make my already warm upstairs 80 year old apartment any warmer! Plus, my slow cooker is the Cadillac of slow cookers. A gift from my beloved O'Brien family. It is just perfect. It's HUGE and it has this great little thermometer that shuts off the heat when the food is at the perfect temperature! It's like heaven for me; someone who despises overcooked meat.

I never thought I'd get this into slow cooking. But, after some research, I've found some great recipes that don't look like mush! I had my misconceptions about the slow cooker.... But now I'm sold!

By far the biggest hit of the week was the slow cooker Barbeque. Er, pulled pork. B won't let me call it BBQ since it wasn't actually smoked. Is he a true Memphian or what!?!?! I made it for Abby and Michele this Thursday night, and we ate it up!

Here's the technique originally from a dear friend, Kh. Pamela, but made more Memphis style by me:

Take a pork butt and rub it down with dry rub. (I used Rendezvous, but plan on coming up with my own blend someday.)
Then place the pork into the slow cooker on low for about 12 hours. (No need to add any water. It's a very fatty cut of meat, so it'll create it's own cooking juice.)
After 12 hours drain the fat and pull apart the meat. Believe me, it's pretty easy to do!
Then, I serve the sauce separately with some cole slaw and buns. Delicious!

{But, for parties, Kh. Pamela will pull the meat and then add a couple of bottles of sauce and cook on low for another 2-3 hours until the meat absorbs the sauce. And believe me, there are no complaints about the way she cooks it!}

It was a huge hit. It doesn't have the smokiness of regular pulled pork, but it's still delicious. We've got tons leftover. Who wants barbeque nachos?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the bridal chronicles: chapter 8: a day in the life of THE bride... on wedding day!

I can't believe we made it. Finally, it was wedding day, May second!

9:00am: Marjo came by to bring some munchies for the bridal party to munch on throughout the afternoon. They turned out to be such a lifesaver!

9:30am: Ashley came by to blow my hair dry. Then we sat on the couch together for a few minutes to destress before church. I was getting edgy, so I remember asking her to move over because I was feeling claustrophobic. Sorry about that Ash!

(Please note the 40 pecan pies defrosting on my dining room table. Pretty funny.)

(Also, note my "Sunday dress/going away outfit". I plan on bringing back this old bit of bride-dom. And those shoes, they were my Lilly Pulitzer wedding shoes. Abby gave them to me as a wedding gift. I loved getting to wear fun shoes with my dress!!!)

10:00am: Liturgy (church) I am so glad we have our weddings on Sundays. I can't think of anything better to do before your wedding! I sang in the choir and it was so wonderful and I think it really helped my nerves.

11:30 am: Start getting ready at my apartment. I highly recommend this if you can! I'm lucky to live super close to my church. It really helped with my nerves, not having to worry about losing anything. My Harvey gals were the first to arrive. I had fun hanging out with sweet Fiona. And, we started the all day grazing... and mimosas!

12:00 pm: everyone started arriving, Ashley, Mom, Claire, Cailyn, Trish, Abby, Michele, Liz, Aunt Susan... It was a full apartment!

1:00 pm: Claire came over to do my makeup. She made sure I was away from any craziness, and had a mimosa in hand. She also made an emergency call to Ethan to bring me coffee. I was in desparate need at that point! (Who's the best photographer/makeup artist husband/wife combo EVER?)

1:30 pm: Ethan arrived to start taking some "getting ready pictures". And, Ashley began fixing my hair.

2:30 pm: I put on my dress! I cannot tell you how much I love wearing that thing. I'm thinking I might just start wearing it every few weeks to make myself feel better. It was made using a vintage Vogue pattern that was almost identical to Grace Kelley's wedding gown. But, my aunt totally reworked it, making it perfect for me. The bodice (upper part) is made using my Grammy's lace. It was so sweet and sentimental to have her there in that way. She's still living but was unable to come to the wedding since she has Alzheimer's disease. I also wore a pair of her gorgeous earrings, a beautiful cluster of pearls.

Then, the VEIL! Ashley ceremoniously bestowed me with the veil. She told me that she let my dad know it was a big deal and that he should watch this part.

3:00pm: Time to start taking the official photos. Brandon and I got a minute alone before. It was fun to get to see him. (See you guys, I got into our "moment" it was a hard-sell!)

4:20pm: We wait. We hung out in the library and got to hear the choir get warmed up. They sounded amazing! I can't thank them enough!

5:00pm!!!!! Wedding time! I was able to enter into the church while the choir sang "The Angel Cried". It's my very favorite hymn to the Theotokos. We start singing it on Pascha and sing it throughout the Paschal season. I thought it would be appropriate. Also, since the wedding fell during Paschaltide, the clergy wore white vestments and the Paschal troparion was sung several times. (Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!)

Look at my handsome man waiting for me to enter. He looks so great in that khaki suit with a pink tie. Yes siree!

Here's another one Ashley got. Look at our awesome crowns in action!

Love love love our sweet icon bearers, Fiona and Pavel. Precious!

6:00pm: RECEPTION in our church's parish hall.

Here's the menu:
Creamy Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Green Beans
Glazed Carrots
Baby Greens Salad
Sister Schubert's Rolls (mmmmmmm)

To drink: Nancy's FAMOUS sweet tea (and unsweet), Ghost River Pale Ale, and Twisted Vineyards wine.

Could any wedding have better food? I think not!

Then for dessert:
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Bourbon Pecan Pies (made lovingly by THE BRIDE and dear sweet wonderful friends!)

(All placed on a pedastal made by my dad and topped with the worlds sweetest cake toppers. I might add, the only cake toppers I know of that are wearing Orthodox wedding crowns!)

The parish hall looked amazing. I give all, ALL the credit to my crew. The girls made it look incredible. The best part was that the rain cleared up and we were able to have tables set up outside. It was a perfectly picturesque southern delight. I think it was the best wedding I've ever been to!

Everyone told me that I wouldn't remember anything from my reception, that I wouldn't get any food, or cake, and that I wouldn't remember anyone I talked to.

I had a great, I repeat GREAT time. I asked for a friend to cut line and she got me and Brandon plates of food. We got to talk to most all of our friends. And generally enjoyed ourselves. Thank you very much!

We gave our guests these wonderful little cookbooks full of our family recipes. They were such a labor of love, and by far my favorite little detail. I want to share some of the recipes with you guys soon.

Apparently there was some drama involved in finding the keys to the car... They got a little lost. But, after some prayers to St. Phanorious, they were found.

The girls TASTEFULLY decorated the car. Thanks y'all!

Then, we were off for the honeymoon!

(More to come...)