Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's the little things...

In an effort to keep our grass, plants, trees and flowers alive in the brutal North Carolina summer sun, we decided to suck it up and pay to have an irrigation system installed.

There was a crew of about seven people ready to work bright and early Saturday morning.

And my husband was up bright and early with them.

I, on the other hand, let myself sleep in until 8:30... at which time I slipped on a comfy robe, poured myself a cup of coffee, and went looking for Chad.

I had to smile when I looked out from the porch to see Chad - hands in the dirt with the landscapers - watching and learning.

That man is just like his daddy. Can't keep himself away from the action.

I dated some pretty boys in the past that would much prefer using a valet as opposed to parking their own cars... who would rather pay someone to mow their yard than get out there and do it themselves... the type that would rather call a plumber than fidget around under the sink...you get the picture.

Well let me just say that there is nothing- NOTHING -more attractive than a man's man that likes to get his hands dirty. I secretly love that he has a horrible farmer's tan from his time out working in the yard (and, I won't lie, on the golf course.) And I love when he comes inside with that man smell that all guys have after spending at least an hour outdoors in the heat. I love that he leaves a pair of ratty, muddy shoes at EVERY entrance into our house. And... dare I say it... I looooove him pulling up in the afternoons in his big ol' pick-up truck.

What can I say. He still makes me swoon.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bread success

I successfully made it through my first homemade bread baking. It was pretty yummy if I say so myself.

Before baking:
After:
Chad was so cute and very supportive over my breadmaking. I'll probably try again this weekend - maybe doing a classic yeast loaf.

And speaking of expanding my culinary horizons, as we were in bed last night watching "The Next Food Network Star" - as some of the contestants were making fried chicken - Chad announced:

"I bet the judges would like your fried chicken best."
Me: "I've never even made fried chicken."
Chad: "I know, but you should. I bet yours would be awesome."

Do you see how he works me!?! He's a clever one.

So I might attempt fried chicken this weekend. Any tips for a fried chicken novice?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Breaking bread

I believe if someone told me that I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, I would request that it would be homemade bread.

Of any sort.

There is nothing - I repeat nothing - as good as yummy homemade bread... of any variety.

Yeast dinner rolls warm from the oven.
Sunflower bread with a little butter and a drizzle of honey straight from the farmer's market.
Crusty baguette topped with a slice of cheese.
Fresh, chewy rye.

I could go on all day. I just loooooove bread.

I remember being younger (when my mom was a stay-at-home mom), she would make those mini loafs of fresh bread. There was nothing better in the world. To this day, I think if a stranger walked up to me and handed me a fresh mini loaf of bread, I'd kiss them and propose marriage.

But baking bread myself? Well that something I have not tried yet. That seems a little advanced for me. I still feel like a cooking novice. Moms are the only ones who know how to bake bread. I've only ever baked bread with my mom. I can't do it solo! Or can I?

So I decided to push my bread-baking fears aside after reading Hungry Mouse's blog post about Fougasse (Provencal Bread with Olives & Herbs.)
And if I didn't try to make it this weekend... well... I don't think I'd be able to live with myself. So I'm doing it. I'm running with my arms wide open into the world of yeast, rising and kneading.

I'll report back to you with my success... or lack there of.

Kneading love,
MPLT

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just call me Job

So I've had all sorts of crazy health issues lately. I'm not sure why I can't just get a runny nose or a headache like a normal person.

But anyway... I'm definitely being tested lately.

It started last Friday... when I was bit... by a fire ant... in my office. Gah, how much does nature hate me that it actually seeks me out in my air conditioned office to cause me harm.

Anyway, I'm not sure if anyone else have ever been bitten by a fire ant. Holy goodness - it is a pain worse than death. I had to go to urgent care on Saturday morning... and sure enough I had 2 distinct bite marks on my toe (underneath the bright red swelling.)

So when I went into work on Monday to retell my fire ant story, my coworker got clever and sent me this:
At least I got a laugh out of it.

Here's to hoping the next week goes better!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy heart

Sorry I haven't been the best with blogging lately.

To be honest, as much as I am normally a HUGE extrovert, even MPLT has hours... days.... or weeks of being introspective.

But it's good thoughts.

My heart is happy.

This one helps.


Photobucket

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dress love

I love dresses in the summer. I wear them about 80% of the time.

Here are a few from Anthro that I'm swooning after right now:


I just want to dress these dresses up in my love.

To bad when I open our credit card statement, I burst into tears. I thought the new house spending would slow down after two months. Guess not. Still so much to do/buy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World's best tomatoes

I love Ina Garten (also known as Barefoot Contessa.)

I've made several of her recipes- but there is one that stands out above the rest. A recipe so good, it will make you want to cry tears of joy. I've made it several times - for various events, cookouts, parties and more. It always gets rave reviews.

So without further adieu...

Ina Garten's Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:
- 12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds, not cores, removed

- 4 tablespoons good olive oil

- 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

- 2 large garlic cloves, minced

- 2 teaspoons sugar

- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- fresh basil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Arrange tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the garlic, sugar, salt and pepper over the tomatoes. Roast for 25-30 minutes until the tomatoes are concentrated and beginning to caramelize. Top with julienned fresh basil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
3. Cry because they are the most delicious tomatoes you've ever had.

I watched Ina make these tomatoes on her show, and she mentioned that she loves them so much because you can make them year around. Even in the off-months where tomatoes don't taste as bright and fresh, this method of baking them really concentrates the flavors.

When I make these, I layer them between nice slices of fresh mozzarella with lots of fresh basil on top. It makes the most gorgeous caprese salad - and people will go on and on about what an amazing cook you are. So if you're invited to a July 4th cookout - bring these tomatoes along. I promise they'll be a hit.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cravings

Usually, I only have cravings for "good for me" food. Like I'll crave spinach (or any other leafy green), bananas, fresh grapes, etc. I've never been a person that really craves junk food.

However, in the past two months, there have been two things I've been craving constantly.

1) Strawberry Twizzlers.


Where did this craving come from? I haven't had Twizzlers in 10+ years. But one day I decided I NEEDED them, and since then haven't been able to stop.

2) Chick-fil-A Ice Dream.

Thank goodness this yummy treat has only 4 grams of fat and 170 calories. So I don't feel guilt-ridden indulging every now and again.

What about you guys? Any crazy cravings lately?

Jon&Kate + 8

...have nothing on us.


{the family at sk's graduation party}

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recipe Review: Braised Chicken with Leeks and Cream

So Monday night I tried out Serious Eats Braised Chicken with Leeks and Cream.

Why? I'm a leek freak. Love 'em. I already told you.

So here was my step-by-step photo tutorial (apologize for the quality - I'm still waiting for Chad to get me a Canon Digital SLR):

Browning the chicken:

Sauteing leeks and garlic:
Adding the wine:
Neslting the chicken back in:
Reducing the sauce after taking it out of the oven and removing the chicken:
Final product (served with sauteed squash, yeast rolls and a side of the braising liquid I had reduced -- perfect for dipping the rolls into):
My thoughts? It was pretty delicious. The chicken was nice and juicy - and the sauce was yummy.

Next time I'll make it, I'll incorporate a few changes:

1) I'll use more than one large leek. It wasn't leek-y enough for me. The leeks had more of a subtle flavor and I wanted them to be more of a focal point of the dish.

2) I'd reduce the amount of chicken stock it calls for and replace it with more wine. The sauce was very heavy on the chicken flavor... and I think I would like it toned down. So maybe instead of 1.5 cups chicken stock and 1/4 cup of white wine, I'd do 1 cup chicken stock and 3/4 cup white wine. Chad disagrees, and thinks the ratio was fine as is... so it's up to you. I just think chicken with chicken sauce is a little too much... well... chicken. I'd prefer chicken with a sauce that has more wine and leeks.

My only complaint - despite browning the chicken before putting it in the oven - the chicken skin did not stay crispy. Which I think might be impossible to keep the skin crispy while braising it (too much liquid.) But I may try next time to brown the skin even more to see if that helps.

Prep and cook time: 1 hour and 15 minutes. Not too bad for a week night, but not the quickest recipe either.

But give it a try. I think the recipe is definitely a keeper - and will be fabulous in the winter and fall.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bedding!

I've honestly been looking for new bedding for our master bedroom for nearly a year.

But Chad and I have finally settled on a set that we both l.o.v.e.



Isn't it glorious?
The material is absolutely gorgeous and super soft. The only (sort of) problem: it is linen. Am I absolutely crazy for buying linen sheets and a linen duvet cover?? I know linen wrinkles... big time. But that's just what linen does. Wrinkles is what it makes it distinctly linen. And I think I'm okay with that.

So we're defying the odds and planning on ordering it anyway.

I cannot wait! So tell me... are we crazy? Does anyone else out there have linen bedding?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunday Supper

Sunday is usually my most productive day in the kitchen. I can usually fix a pretty yummy meal (since I have all afternoon to do it), as well as do some of my prep work for the week.

Yesterday for dinner, we had the best crock pot bbq ribs. I have made them once before - and they are by far the best ribs I've ever had. In years past, Chad and I always fixed ribs on the grill... and while I enjoy the charred flavor, the ribs never get tender and always seem dried out.

Crock pot ribs? Those babies fall off the bone.
Look at all that yummy sauce.
Here's the recipe I use...

Crock Pot BBQ Ribs:

Ingredients:
3 pounds short ribs
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup water
2 teaspoons beef flavored bouillon granules
1 cup hickory barbecue sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in small amount of water

Directions:
1. In large skillet over medium high heat, brown short ribs on all sides.

2. Place ribs in a slow cooker. Top with onions. In bowl, combine water, beef granules, barbecue sauce, brown sugar and mustard. Pour sauce over ribs.

3. Cover and cook on LOW 6-7 hours or until tender. Add cornstarch mixture and continue to cook 20 minutes or until sauce thickens.

4. Enjoy!

And yesterday I did something I rarely do - baked a dessert! I like doing desserts... I just don't make them often. I guess I'm more of a cook than a baker.

But these - Hungry Mouse's Black and White Cookies - are so easy and delicious. The secret ingredient in them (which you'll see when you read the recipe) somehow make the cookies very crisp and airy (almost meringue-like.)

Oh man.
Tell me why I decided against bringing a cookie to lunch today?

The problem with making cookies (especially when you only have 2 of you living at home), is that they are best right out of the oven. But you end up making a whole batch (and really, who can to eat 24 cookies within a few days) - and then end up throwing half away a few days later. I combatted this problem by only making a few cookies, and freezing the rest of the dough.

Here's how I did it: I took a cookie sheet, lined it with wax paper, and dropped spoonfuls of the cookie dough on the sheet like I would if I were baking them (except I squeezed a lot more on each cookie sheet... since I didn't need to leave room for them to expand.) Then I loosely cover the cookie sheet with cling wrap, and pop the unbaked dough in the freezer. I left it in there for about 3 hours until the dough froze. Then I took the cookie sheet out of the oven, and took all my frozen cookie dough balls and put them in a freezer bag (to save space.) Now, I can just make a few fresh cookies at a time by taking out a few of the frozen dough balls and letting them defrost in the fridge for a couple hours before baking.

Frozen cookie dough will stay good for 4 to 6 weeks.

Consider this a MPLT Public Service Announcement.

Annnndddddddddddddd you're welcome.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Last chance to enter : Southern Tide giveaway

Don't forget -today is your last chance to enter the Southern Tide polo giveaway. More info here.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

To have, to hold, to stick needles into

So - trying to be vague (personal reasons) while still telling a story that I know I'll laugh at one day - last night I was supposed to give myself a shot.

Truth: I don't do shots. I finally have gotten to the place where I'll let a medical professional give me a shot... but I think your body has some sort of fundamental survival mode that doesn't allow you to stick needles into your own flesh. For good reason, I think.
So anyway, I had spent a few days giving myself pep-talks about how "it won't be a big deal, it's not going to hurt, etc." But every time I even thought about the needle I'd freak myself out.

I finally decided that Chad was going to have to give me the shot. He gives himself allergy shots every other week, so it's NBD to him. I actually think he was looking forward to an idea of sticking me in the abdomen (yes, had to get the shot in my stomach. AH! aren't you freaking out just thinking about it?)

So I told Chad that 7 p.m. was shot time. It took all my willpower to just move forward with it. So I'm lying on our bed waiting... and waiting... and waiting...as he decides (as I swear he does on purpose) to take his sweet time and go start a load of laundry, wander from room to room aimlessly, etc. The longer I wait, the more I start freaking out... so I beg him to hurry up and get it over with.

I'm lying there taking deep breaths... thinking I'm doing pretty good... and I open my eyes and see Chad standing over me with a big ol' needle. I FLIPPED out. Burst out crying. Hysterically panting.

I must have said "No, no, no, no" repeatedly for a few seconds.

Chad promises me it won't hurt, I won't even feel it, it'll be over with before I even know I have a big piece of metal sticking me in the skin to pump me with medicine.

I calm down a bit and let him proceed. He gets within inches of my stomach and I start crying, shrieking, freaking out again.

Me: "OMG I canNOT do this."
Chad (tapping the needle to get the air bubbles out): "Stop Carrie, it's going to be fine."
Me: "No no no. What if I get an embolism from an air bubble. I could die." (this girl has watched "Grey's Anatomy" and "House"... I know my medical info.)
Chad: "First, it's not even going directly into the bloodstream. Second, it's a tiny little amount. It's not going to do anything."
(more tears and shrieking ensues)
Me: "Okay just hurry. Don't tell me when you're doing it."

Then I inspect to make sure he's aiming at the proper area of my abdomen, and then squeeze my eyes shut.

So he did it. It didn't hurt. But still - it was terrifying. I've been giving myself the heeby-jeebies all day just thinking about him standing over me with a syringe. It was like a not-cool, super creepy episode of "Dexter."

What, three TV show references in one post too much?

Whatevs.

But it's over and done with. Sheesh. The things you end up having to do for the ones you love.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Continuing my love affair with homemade pizza

So I'm still all over doing homemade pizzas.

1) They are usually pretty quick to prepare - especially when I do my prep work ahead of time (i.e.: slicing veggies, shredding cheese, preparing the sauce, etc.) - so I can throw it together quickly on a week night... a necessity for me.

2) The variety is endless... and it gives me a platform to make delicious meat-less pizzas. I still think Chad hasn't picked up on it yet... I haven't once put meat on a pizza. Score! Except now he'll read the blog and realize it. And I get to use a variety of crusts, veggies and cheese (do you remember my holy trinity of food post?).


3) And perhaps best of all, I get to absolutely destroy my kitchen. Flour from floor to ceiling it feels like. And since Chad is OCD kitchen-cleanliness guy, the rebel in me gets a sort of satisfaction whenever my kitchen is an absolute disaster. The kind of disaster that Chad walks in, takes one look, and walks right on out.

Well some of my fave food blogs have obviously heard that MPLT is on a pizza kick... and have been so kind as to post some new pizza recipes for me to try.

Like Smitten Kitchen's shaved asparagus pizza.



Y'all know I'm in a horribly obsessed with asparagus, right? And now asparagus on pizza?! Amen? Amen.

And here we have Serious Eat's Grilled Pizza Napoletana Pizza.


A pizza that I can get Chad to make for me (grill = boy job)?!?! Life IS good t-shirt company. You are correct!

And reminder: Don't forget to enter yourself, or hubby, or best bud, or daddy into my Southern Tide polo giveaway. You have until Friday at midnight to win this beauty!