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...)

Friday, May 14, 2010

the bridal chronicles: chapter 7: the day before...

After a harrowing night, involving rain, hail, thunder, tornadoes and intruders.... So began the wedding weekend.

Friday night, before the wedding, there was talk of LOTS of bad weather. I was too tired to care and went to bed.

At 3AM my brother called and said "OK, be calm, you need to go downstairs and take cover. There's a tornado coming toward you." I stayed calm and went to the downstairs half of my duplex to camp out in my neighbor's hallway. She was supposed to be out of town, hence the breaking (or using our common door) and entering. I safely hunkered down in the hallway to wait.

After a few minutes I looked to my left to notice that her back door was OPEN. Not just unlocked, but OPEN. And, there was a black SUV in the garage. I didn't know what to do!

Upstairs was unsafe because of an impending tornado. And downstairs was unsafe because of the intruder! I called Anne-Katherine (my neighbor) to ask if someone should in fact be in her home. She assured me that it was her brother Carson and that he was supposed to be there. I walked around her apartment calling out his name to no avail. He was nowhere to be found.

I called my parents back, and told them what was going on. They were still worried about me, seeing that the back door WAS open and no one was in the house. My dad told me to calmly go upstairs and get my purse and leave. Quickly.

So, as soon as I went outside, I found AK's brother watching the storm with a neighbor. (He's a search and rescuer, and gets excited about storms.) I was still so shaken up, and exhausted, that I didn't think "all is safe" so I drove the 30 minutes to my parents house to spend the rest of the night.

My dad assured me I was ahead of the bad storm at this point. But, in hindsight, WERE WE CRAZY!?!?

By the next morning, much of the midsouth was flooded. I drove home and saw one of my neighbors open his car door to see water gush out. I think I was somewhat lucky to not be parked in my street. I could have experienced some nice dampness!

The next day the weather wasn't much better. It was still very wet. And, the tornado sirens were blaring all day. (County wide, Memphis wasn't in direct danger.) Marjo called me and said "don't you love the wedding sirens going off in your honor!?"

Several people almost didn't make it to my bridesmaids luncheon. And, most everyone was somewhat delayed. But, once everyone got there, we had a wonderful time!

My mom's sisters hosted the luncheon at the wonderful cafe at Palladio. My sweet friend Michele's parents own Palladio, so when my aunt mentioned it, I got so excited!

The menu was incredible:
The Cafe's signature peach tea (to.die.for.)
Fried green tomato BLTs (WOW)
Potato Salad
Desserts: by my aunt's friend:
Mousse cups with rasberries
Homemade toffee with chocolate (kicks any Heath bar's butt!)
Wedding cake shaped sugar cookies perfectly iced!

Here's how the table looked. Perfectly pink and green. My aunt brought in her julep cups (appropriate since the derby was that day) and silver chargers. The takeout boxes had everyone's names written in calligraphy on them with the desserts inside.

This is such a priceless cousin picture. All the girl cousins on my mom's side. I'm so happy we were able to capture this!

My sweet Mb. Love you!

My mom made these bags for the bridesmaids gifts, along with pearl necklaces tied with pink grosgrain ribbon.

Half of my bridesmaids, left to right: Michele, Abby, me, and Liz.

Aunt Susan with Liz. Aren't they a pretty pair?

Michele came with coffee in hand! "Sweet beans of life!" Michele taught me how to love black coffee, for which I am eternally grateful.

Cute girl. I just love this photo of my sister.

I didn't get a picture with my dear aunt Janet. She helped to cohost the luncheon. I'm so happy she was able to come to the wedding. I can't tell you how humbling it is to find out that people want to travel great distances for YOUR wedding!

Sadly, I have NO pictures from the rehearsal or the dinner. I think Ethan took some, but I just never got my camera out. It was at the incredible Central Barbeque. It's our favorite Memphis barbeque. And believe me, we're Memphians, with means we're experts!

Although the two nights before the wedding were insane weather wise, we didn't let it dampen our spirits.... my frizzy HAIR on the other hand could tell a different story!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

so, we made it!

We're married!

(I cannot tell you how much I love typing those words!)

I can't wait to tell you all about the wedding. (It was BEYOND beautiful if I do say so myself.) Here are a few photos from the our wedding day. These first three are by our dear friend Ethan. He's amazing. His wife (my sweet friend Claire) posted these really soon after the wedding. I snuck a peek while we were in Savannah. The last one made me cry like a baby. I'm so happy he was able to capture it!

I cannot express how much I love my dress. My mom, aunt, and mom's friend Linda worked countless hours on it. It was made with some of my grandmother's lace and I just think it was perfect!

Our sweet icon bearers, Fiona and Pavel. They did such a great job!

I think Ashley took this with my camera during the crowning. I love those crowns so so so much!

Before the wedding with my magnolias. How much do I love these two?!?!

Ashley- What would I have done without you?

Gigi was such a wonderful cupcake/ pecan pie server! And she helped with all the setup and takedown. I couldn't ask for sweeter friends! (All this while she's 8 weeks pregnant! We're so happy for you two!!!)

I don't have any pictures with my sweet friend Marjo. She and Claire were amazing and worked so hard to make my wedding perfect. Marjo's also pregnant and due in a matter of a few weeks! We cannot wait!

I have to say, it was the best wedding ever.