Saturday, July 30, 2011

Adventures in Cooking - Oven Fried Okra - BUST!

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I'd share a recipe which completely did NOT work.  I am not sure if it's my cooking skills, the recipe, or a combination of the two.  I really like fried okra (especially since moving to Alabama - they definitely know how to do fried vegetables here...well, really, fried anything down here...) and thought I'd try a healthier version.  This okra is baked instead of fried, but is supposed to still come out crispy.

Getting ready to coat the okra - soaking in the buttermilk mixture

I was so careful to coat EACH piece evenly... ready for the oven!

Finished product

They actually didn't LOOK half bad - maybe a little blackened in a few spots, but for the most part okay.  They tasted TERRIBLE however - very bland, over cooked, etc.  This will be one I cross OFF the list for next time!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Products I Want to Try

Last night I watched a show on Food Network - "Kid in a Candy Store" and saw this amazing treat:

Chocolate Dipped Jelly Bellies

It comes in 5 flavors - cherry, strawberry, raspberry, coconut, and orange dipped in dark chocolate.  I've been on a bit of a coconut kick lately and I think these sound delicious - I usually have a dark Hershey kiss and handful of Starburst jelly beans when I get home as a little treat - this could kill two birds with one stone.  Too bad shipping is more than the product itself...I'll just have to keep my eye out or hope someone loves me enough to send me a special treat!!  :)

Urban Decay Primer Potion "Sin"

Thanks to my friend, Cassie who told me to try this - I have such a problem with my eyeshadow rubbing off by the end of the day.  I've been using Bobbi Brown cream shadow, but I'm kind of sick of the color.  I also started using regular concealer and then applying a powder on top, but that doesn't seem to be doing the trick.  Cassie told me about this and I think she uses the "original" which doesn't have any color to it, but I thought I would try the "Sin" version - it is a champagne color.  I bought it at Sephora yesterday and used for the first time this morning - so far, its been a success!  She also recommended that I get the squeeze tube vs. the kind that has a wand, so I'll pass along her tip - I think you get way more out of it this way and you end up using your finger to apply anyway.  Thanks also to my father-in-law who gave me a Sephora gift card for Christmas that I have been using!

Crystal Light Mocktails
 I think I first saw these on my favorite site, Pinterest - I happen to be a big fan of Crystal Light, okay, so it has a lot of aspartame, I'm okay with that...Lisa & I were trying to think of some low calorie drinks for our beach trip and I think this might just do the trick!  I'll let you know if they're good..

Asics Gel Nimbus 12 Running Shoe

I literally had the same pair of running shoes for all of college and this past year when I decided to get in better shape, I finally sprung for a new pair - wow!  What a difference it made!!  I wasn't getting shin splints, ankle pains, etc. Recently, I have started getting those sneaky pains again.  My aunt told me her doctor recommended new shoes every 400 miles - I checked a few other sites and all seemed to be relatively consistent between 300-500 miles.  Based on some rough calculations, I figure I had put over 500 miles on these shoes, so it probably was about time.  I tried on a few pairs this weekend and this is the shoe I went with.  I'm definitely not a shoe expert, but I LOVED the way the ties are not on the center of the foot.  You can see a little better in this picture:
The Type A personality part of me wanted them to line up just for aesthetics, but when I tried them on, I just really liked the way they felt - seemed like it relieved some of the pressure of the laces.  I haven't been in a run in these yet (I actually ordered them online for cheaper than I found them in the store, so have to wait a few days to get them), but I'm hoping they hold up well!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Memphis/Fort Payne Trip

This past weekend we had quite the BUSY weekend!  On Friday, Tim and I each worked a 1/2 day and drove to Memphis where my grandparents live (Collierville).  Every year, my mom and her two sisters meet in Memphis to have a girls extended weekend.  Being in Birmingham, I'm only a few hours a way so the last two years I have met them for a night.  This year, my cousin Megan had a blessing shower on Saturday to celebrate her and Blake's wedding which is coming up in less than three weeks!  Because of the shower, the girls caved and let Allen, Tim, and Mike (Megan's Dad/Kay's husband) join us for the weekend!

On Friday, we arrived around dinner time and had a delicious home cooked meal followed by some catching up!

Me, Mom, Allen - Friday night 

Pops, me, mom, Allen

Most of you may not know that I come by my dessert obsession honestly - my great grandfather (Pops' dad) started a pie factory which manufactured many different kinds of pies including individually packaged pies (they sold to Little Debbie and others).  Pops and his brother took on the business and my mom worked in the factory as a teen.  The site of the Keathley Pie Factory has actually been turned into apartment lofts which you can read about in this history.  My great grandfather invented many of the machines that manufactured the pies in bulk including a circular oven (to save space).  Funny story...Pops likes to tell us about the time that McDonalds made his father an offer to exclusively manufacture pies for them and my great grandfather declined the offer - he didn't think it was smart to sell exclusively and McDonalds probably wasn't going to be very big!!  Oops!

Pops found some old video of the process in the factory which he showed to us - very neat! 

 Factory before they moved to the Keathley Pies location (Cheryl Lynn was a combination of two of my mom's cousins names - apparently they also made a pie named for my mom and Kay which was a total bust - barbecue pie!!)

Watching the individual pies go through the manufacturing process

Tim hanging with my grandmother, Moms

Saturday morning, the girls of course had to do some shopping - we let the guys go golfing and headed to the mall!  We found some great deals at Loft and Gap and then headed to Humdinger's for lunch.

 Moms, Pops, Megan, me at lunch

Karee, Connie, Kay (sisters)

Saturday night was the blessing shower which was a cool experience - the hosts and hostesses set up a table with many different items to give to the couple.  Each item represented a blessing they wanted to bestow upon the couple.  For example, they gave them a picnic basket to represent time out to themselves as a couple and a few cups and saucers to represent deep friendships/conversation.  We then had a time where other guests could share their blessings (each guest also wrote them a note to put in their basket) and then the guys and girls split up for a time of prayer.

Tim & I getting ready to go to the shower 

 The happy couple - Blake & Megan

Sunday morning, we got up and went to early church with Moms and Pops and then Allen taught their Sunday School class.  We got on the road and drove to Fort Payne, Alabama where Allen's mom (Grandmother) and brother live.  All of Allen's siblings and some of their children gathered in Fort Payne for an extended weekend.  It had been WAY too long since I had seen some of them and Tim and I decided that even though we had to be back at work on Monday it was worth it to drive there for a few hours.  My nephew, Jackson had a birthday party for this third birthday (which is hard for me to believe!)

Jackson opening presents with his dad, Jonathan 

Many onlookers watch the festivities!

Mary Beth, Allie, Mom, Tim 

Mary Beth and Amy enjoyed the musical instruments more than Jackson did - I must say, they were quite impressive!

Jackson clapping while we sang him happy birthday

Digging in to the Lightening McQueen cake from Aunt Kay

Me & Sambo (Pam)

Hubby & me

One last pic before we hit the's our Aruba group!

Overall, awesome weekend and even though we're still catching up on sleep, totally worth it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Adventures in Cooking - Chicken Tamale Casserole

Recently, I tried my hand at a new recipe - Chicken Tamale Casserole.

Being born and raised in Texas, Mexican food is in my blood (especially Tex-Mex!) and I like finding healthier casserole recipes so we can have leftovers.  Leftovers = less nights to cook! 

I tried to take pictures while I cooked this time -

Ingredients for bottom layer 

First layer - prior to going into oven

First layer, after baking for 15 minutes - you are supposed to puncture with a fork and as you can see I probably "gouged" rather than punctured - I am thinking maybe it hadn't cooked long enough because my fork was not coming out clean, but, in the end it came out tasting just fine!

Ingredients for top layer - I had Tim grill two extra chicken breasts the night before so I would have them ready for this recipe - I just chopped it up really thinly instead of "shredding" it.  We also substituted green enchilada sauce for the red.

Top layer assembled - ready to bake for 15 more minutes

Finished product!

I always turn on the broiler for at least 2-3 minutes at the end of the cooking time because I like the cheese to brown/bubble a little bit.  I have to be careful to watch the amount of cheese I put on top - I acutally do measure it out so I know the nutritional info for the casserole is accurate (but sometimes I'll put extra on half of it for Tim!).  We both really liked this casserole - satisfies a Mexican craving and is a little different than a regular ole' taco night.  It tasted a little more like enchiladas than a tamale to me, but I'm not too picky! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dallas Recap - Part IV - Final Installment

Okay, okay - I know you're probably tired of hearing about Dallas - last recap post, enjoy!

Friday, I met my Dad for lunch at Baker's Brothers.

 Dad & I

That afternoon, I met mom & Allen for a little shopping (have to get in a last trip to North Park) where I found these cute white shorts on clearance at Express:

That night, I met the Bouje crew who was in town (Ross, Sal, Lauren, and Patrick) for dinner at S&D Oyster Company for dinner and then they came back to my mom and Allen's apartment to hang.  Poor Lauren had food poisoning or a 24-hr stomach bug the night before, but she was a trooper to come anyway!
Sal, Ross, me, Lauren, Patrick

Saturday morning, Mom, Allen, and I went down to brunch in the lobby of their building.  Once a month, their building has social gatherings and this one was catered - we had baked french toast, eggs, and bacon.  After dropping them off at DFW airport and hugging them goodbye, I headed to my Dad and Renee's that afternoon.  That night, Will, Renee, Dad & I went to dinner at JG's Old Fashioned Hamburgers and rented The Way Back that evening.  The movie was interesting - I was skeptical at first - we let Will pick and there were some subtitles at the beginning, but it ended up being a pretty good story.  The ending was a little abrupt, but overall not a bad movie.

Sunday was Father's Day and I was really glad to actually get to spend it WITH my dad!  We went to church at PCBC where we heard another great sermon.  After church, we went to our across the street neighbor's house (the Sprayberrys) for an awesome fathers day lunch with two other families (along with a little golf watching...only because it was Father's Day). 

A few family shots:

Katie, me, Rhett, Will

Katie, me, Will

Happy Father's Day!

On the plane right home, I unfortunately was NOT able to get a non-stop flight, so I had to fly to Houston first.  When I boarded the plane, I noticed a guy in the front row who looked VERY familiar:

Any guesses?  Wade Phillips!  (Ex head coach of my beloved Cowboys who is now defensive coach for the Houston Texans...hence, the flying to Houston)  I was too much of a chicken to say anything to him, and surprisingly - either no one else on the plane cared or they were too chicken as well - no one bothered him the entire flight.  I'm sure if he were the CURRENT head coach or hadn't gone 1-7 for the first part of last year's season, things might have been a little different!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Adventures in Cooking - Thai Shrimp Bisque

Let's be real here - I'm not a girl who likes to cook...I see cooking as a means to an end, a necessity, a chore.  I'm also NOT a good cook - if there is a way to mess it up, I will find it.  I hate recipes that say "cook until browned" - is this brown enough?  Is it too brown?  How many minutes does it take to get "brown"?!?  Tim is actually a great cook and I'm trying to learn.  Over the past six months or so I've decided to make an effort to be healthier - I started a running program and have been making healthy meal plans each week.  But again, let's be honest - its HARD.  It is so difficult to find recipes that 1.  Taste good  2.  Are healthy  3.  Are relatively inexpensive and 4.  Don't have too many ingredients/steps.  So, I've been experimenting - some recipes have been a total bust and I've had to promise Tim that I will never try them again.  Some, I like more than he does and vice versa.  My favorite website to find recipes is Cooking Light which is where I found this recipe for Thai Shrimp Bisque.  I've made this recipe 2 or 3 times and it is one of my favorites!  I will admit, it does borderline break rule #4 (at least for me) - it takes me a little longer to make this one than I'd prefer, but thought I'd share anyway because its delicious!  For my Birmingham friends, think Surin's soup....

As a word of wisdom - when the recipe calls for ground coriander, it will NOT work to use the coriander SEEDS that comes in your Bed Bath and Beyond spice rack that you have had since your wedding four years ago (thanks Rondy!)..nope, not even if you attempt to "grind" them yourself by smashing them with a meat tenderizer.

I made this mistake on my first attempt - see exhibit A:

First attempt with LOTS of floating crunchy, unappetizing coriander seeds

Exhibit B:  Second attempt - MUCH smoother and delicious!  I also added mushrooms this time which I really liked!

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dallas Recap - Part III - Tues - Thursday

Back to recapping the Dallas trip....

On Tuesday, I got up and went with Lisa to body pump at her gym (really just because she promised we could get smoothies again).  After the gym, Mom and Allen took Rhett, Ryan, and I to Jake's for lunch.

At the McKinney Jake's

Mom and I then did a little shopping at Northpark where I got a few things from Limited, before Lisa came back over that night.  My friend Caroline introduced me to rose' wine at a wine tasting we went to recently which I really liked - I think it's the "red drinker's white" - which is great for summer b/c its similar to a red, but served cold.  I introduced it to Lisa before we went to dinner with two friends from high school - Cameron and Hanna.  It was so great to catch up - it had been so long since I had seen Hanna, and I hadn't seen Cameron since Christmas.  I did realize at one point that Lisa and Hanna each have two children and Cameron has one with one more on the way!  I guess we are at slightly different stages in life  :)

Cameron & Hanna at Sushi on McKinney

Me & Lise - we got a really good special that had crawfish in it

Wednesday, I had a little of a "catch-up on rest" day - gym and pool with my mom, catching up on reading, grocery store with Allen, and I made dinner for Mom & Allen - my green chile chicken (recipe to be shared later - super easy).  On Thursday, Rhett, Clay, and I went to Ross & Sally's for a day at the pool (Ross gets one weekday off a week since he has to work some Saturdays).  That night, Lisa and I met Ayla, another high school friend for dinner at our staple, Mi Cocina.  Poor Crew had shots this day, but he was a trooper and came with us to dinner. 

Me, Lise, and Crew

Missing him already...

Don't get to see you near enough...can't wait for the beach!

My little ornery godson! 

The Hatcher family was leaving for Nebraska on Friday morning, so I hugged them all goodbye and went to my dad's to spend the night!

Phew!  Almost done recapping...only a few days left...stay tuned  :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July!

Hope everyone had a very happy holiday weekend!  I thought I'd take a brief hiatus from recapping my Dallas trip to tell you about our weekend!  My company gave us an extended holiday, so I was off Friday and Monday, which was very nice!  This year, since we have travelled a lot this summer, we decided to stay in Birmingham for the 4th and since Nichole was on call for the actual day, we celebrated on Sunday the 3rd by hitting the pool (ended up being really glad we did since it stormed most of the day yesterday)!

Justin & Tim in the pool 

Nichole & I

After a quick change, we all came to our house to grill out.  I found a few recipes to try for the day.  Our meal consisted of the following (click on the links for the recipes I followed):

Grilled Pepper Poppers (found from my favorite website - Cooking Light)
**The above picture is before the peppers went on the grill - the poppers didn't last long enough after they came off the grill for me to get a picture!  We all agreed this was our favorite - a definite repeat for football season!  Also, have to give props to Tim who grew the jalepenos in our backyard!!

Tomato & Avocado Stackers (also from Cooking Light)
This picture was before I added the dressing, which was really good - I think I might make the dressing again just for salads during the week.

Burgers, watermelon, and corn on the cob with jalepeno butter
Tim laughed at my selection of corn from Publix (I think maybe they were too small?)- apparently, I did not pick good ones, but I don't have it bred in me the same way these cornhuskers do!

Last, but certainly not least....DESSERT!
I made Strawberry Cake (found on Pinterest)
I omitted the coconut because Tim's not a big fan, but would maybe like to try it with coconut next time - I also cut back on the sugar in the icing - it was plenty sweet!  I added blueberries to make the dessert a little more festive  :)

HAPPY 4th!!!!