Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Resurrecting Lois

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a journalist.

I think I decided what I was going to be when I grew up as early as middle school. I remember painstakingly writing a school "newspaper" on a sheet of notebook paper and getting permission to mimeograph it in the teachers' workroom.

I was the editor of my high school newspaper and the news editor (among other things) for my college paper. I interned at the Lynchburg News and Advance during college and got my start at the Petersburg Progress-Index. There's been several stops in between, but tomorrow I land at the Jacksonville Daily Progress to revive my inner Lois Lane.

I love journalism. Besides the fact that I'm nosy, I love that you get to learn something new, and meet someone new, every single day.

I can't wait to get started.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My New Favorite Cookbook

My new favorite cookbook came in the mail last week. 

I'd almost forgotten about it; I'd pre-ordered it on Amazon.com so long ago. So I was super excited when I got an email from Amazon saying the book was on its way, about three weeks earlier then I expected it.

I've admitted before that cookbooks are one of my favorite kinds of reading material. This one is extra special because it was written by my sweet friend, Leigh, who came up with the idea of an entire line of foods based on whole ingredients that don't contain artificial ingredients or preservatives. Brilliant, huh? So when she decided to write a cookbook, I knew it was going to be great.

Leigh's premise is to get the family to sit down at the dinner table together. Brilliant, huh? Her book,
"Food, Family Style,"  reflects her love of her boys and her captures the culinary tradition that has been a part of her life since she was 5 years old. The first chapter, "Kids in the Kitchen," is full of great tips and easy recipes you can make WITH your children.

Each chapter opens with a warm anecdote from Leigh's own life. The book is peppered with mealtime prayers of thanksgiving, great to stop, given appreciation for and bless your food with before you eat. The book contains recipes from MOPS members all over the country because who better than to contribute than other, Godly mamas? (As an alumna of the Cathedral in the Pines MOPS, I especially appreciated these additions to the book. Besides, we all know that Tuesday MOPS meetings were the best eating of the week).

Other chapters include Breakfast (Blueberry Biscuits with Lemon Glaze, anyone?); Sandwiches, Burgers and Pizza (Must try the Cheesesteak Pizza); Table Talk (a list of conversation starters during meal time); Soups and Salads (I'm trying the Honey Berry Salad this week); Main Dishes (Roasted Chicken Lasagne...oh yes!); Side Dishes and, of course, Desserts (hello, Frozen Peanut Butter Pie). There's a helpful menu index and plenty of slow-cooker recipes (can't wait to try jambalaya in the slow cooker).

The book is clearly arranged, with clean lines and a gorgeous cover.

But best of all are Leigh's own words, "I have come to understand that time around the dinner table with people I love is sacred, and the table is our prelude to much better things to come."


Monday, July 23, 2012

Buffalo Shrimp with Blue Cheese Dip

My tummy is happy, my lips are tingling and I know what I'm going to dream about tonight and CRAVE for days to come: Buffalo Shrimp with Blue Cheese Dip.

This is my sweet friend Leigh Oliver Smith Vickery's recipe. You might recognize Leigh as the mastermind behind the Leigh Oliver's food empire. If you haven't had her White Hot Queso, then shame on you.

Although this recipe appeared on the Share: The Brookshire's Blog site, I felt remiss if I didn't try to put it out there for my blog followers and Facebook friends as well. The more the merrier.

It's been well documented that I LOVE buffalo chicken. So when I read Leigh's post about my favorite protein of late, I knew I had to try her recipe. She had me at "buffalo". I was not disappointed. This is lick-the-plate-slap-ya-mama delicious.

The only thing I changed in the recipe was not adding milk to the blue cheese dip. I like it thick. And while I'm sure you could saute the shrimp in a pan, grill them. I PROMISE it's worth it.

Buffalo Grilled Shrimp with Blue Cheese Dip

For the dip:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

For the shrimp:

18 large or jumbo-sized shrimp
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco

For the dip, stir together all the ingredients. Chill until ready to use, up to 8 hours.

For the shrimp, toss shrimp with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high heat, turning once, until cooked through (about 8 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine butter and hot sauce in a large bowl. Add grilled shrimp and toss well. Serve with blue cheese dip. Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as the main course.

Nutritional Information:  Calories per Appetizer Serving: 207, Fat: 19.7g (10.1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 69mg, Sodium: 610 mg, Carbohydrates: 1.5 g,
Protein: 6.6 g.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I saw a snake this morning when I was mowing the grass.

It was a grass snake big, mean, horrible black and red and pink and neon yellow snake with dripping fangs, bloodless gaping eyes and it was 20 feet long and could leap tall building with a single bound.

Except that it was a grass snake, a blue grass snake. (if that's not a grass snake don't tell me I don't want to hear fingersinmyearslalalalalalalalalalalala)

Let's get something clear: I. HATE. SNAKES.


I don't care what size, shape, color or type they are; I am an equal opportunity snake-hater. 

That slimy, vile thing slithered out from the grass as I was making an early pass on the jungle that is was my back yard (Note to self: don't go 10 days without mowing the St. Augustine grass during a Texas July). I hightailed it out of there, spending a lot of time cutting the other side of the yard while giving that #$%%^&  God's creature a chance to beat a hasty retreat under the wooden fence to the yard next door. 
He didn't do it.

He was there, taunting me, as I made my next pass. 

I studiously avoided him. I didn't want to get too close, or as a friend says, "poke the snake." Quite literally in this case. 

But he wouldn't move. He wouldn't just slither away into the tall grass next door. 

So I was forced to take matters into my own hands. Because you see, it's NOT ACCEPTABLE for a snake to be living in my back yard. 

I wonder if snakes make good fertilizer?

I guess we'll find out. 



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Breakfast with Beemster

I had a breakfast date with a cute boy this morning.

I almost NEVER get time alone with one boy at a time, so this was a very. special. treat. Curt had to be at his camp early today, and Luke didn't have to be at his camp until later, so we took advantage of the time alone. (Please. Don't. Tell. Curt).

We went to FRESH and had breakfast tacos (and a Pepsi. SORRY Mrs. Ashley!) I did mention it was a very. special. treat. Right?

 Then we walked around the store for a few minutes. Luke sampled some cranberry orange bread, but then decided he didn't like it so he tried to give it to me. ABC bread? No thanks!

The best part was visiting Beemster. Luke carried on quite a conversation with him. (It was the Pepsi talking...)

 Big fun to start the day.

I hope I get to have some date time with Curt, soon, too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

There's a Gun in Luke's Hand

A lot of children take things literally.

But children on the autism spectrum take things VERY literally.

When someone tells Curt he's growing like a weed, he's quick to point out that he now wears a size 4 shoe, up from a 2 1/2 last year, and that "growing like a weed" is a simile and is not literally what the person making the observation meant. If you tell Curt to 'hit the road,' he'll tell you that's an idiom and not really what you meant to say. He likes things black and white, with no 50 shades of grey in between.

When he was younger, I bought him the series of Amelia Bedelia books. I LOVED the Amelia Bedelia books, all about the misadventures of a housekeeper who just doesn't understand similes, metaphors, idioms, figures of speech and all the trouble those misunderstandings bring. Curt not only related to Amelia Bedelia 100 percent, he didn't understand why other people gleaned so much enjoyment from the silly stories.

So when Curt came into the house the  other evening, after he and Luke had been playing outside with the boys next door and said, very matter-of-factly, "There's a gun in Luke's hand," I took him at his word. I flew out of my chair and made a beeline for the garage. When I flung open the garage door, it didn't help my already panicked state that I could hear Luke screaming hysterically, I tore around the cars blocking my view and found Luke in the yard next door, with a gun in his hand.

An orange and yellow plastic gun.

The trigger had pinched the skin of his palm and was, quite literally, caught in his hand. 

After a quick extraction (and a super duper loud screech), the gun was no longer IN LUKE'S HAND.

And then we had to hit the road for some gauze and a bandage.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Radiatore with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Bacon and Feta

"Mom, what's for dinner?"


"Oh good, macaroni and cheese?"

"Uh, no...radiatore with zucchini, tomatoes, bacon and feta."


{more silence}

But I'm pleased to report they cleaned their plates and Curt even went back for seconds!

Radiatore with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Bacon and Feta

3/4 pound short pasta such as radiatore or cavatappi
4 slices bacon
2 medium zucchini,  quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced (soak red onion in ICE water for about 20 minutes before using, it takes the bite out of the onion)
Sea salt and pepper
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces Feta, crumbled
1/2 cup spicy oregano, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove, let cool and break into pieces. Drain most of the bacon fat from the skillet, leaving about a tablespoon. Add zucchini, onion and tomatoes to the skillet and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the vegetables are tender and tomatoes are softened, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the pasta and the cooking water to the skillet and toss to mix. Remove from the heat and add bacon and feta. Sprinkle with spicy oregano and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Easy As {Blueberry} Pie

I tried my hand at making my own blueberry pie filling last night and it was SO quick and easy. I might add a tad more sugar next time, but other than that, it was just about perfect.

Blueberry Pie Filling

3/4 cup sugar
3 TBS cornstarch
1 cup water
4 cups fresh blueberries (you can use frozen, too, but WHY when fresh ones are in season?)
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

In a large saucepan, mix the sugar and the cornstarch. Gradually stir in water. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Add 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook about 10 minutes more or until mixture returns to a boil. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and ginger. Add the rest of the blueberries and stir gently. Cover and set aside for about 20 minutes or until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eggplant, Roma Tomato and Red Onion Ragu

I LOVE eggplant.

But no one else in my family does and I've never resorted to deep frying it and calling it a "French fry" like my mom did to trick us into eating them. But hey, in her defense, it must have worked because I've loved eggplant ever since I was a child, even though I have never deep fried it.

So when the boys aren't home, I take advantage of the time to cook things I love but they don't like to eat, like this eggplant ragu. Yes, I know that a 'ragu' is traditionally a meat-based sauce, but this isn't a sauce, per se. It's not a topping, a relish, a caponata or anything else I could come up with, so 'ragu' will have to do.

You can use this as a topping for pasta, as I did last night, or it could stand alone, with some goat cheese sprinkled on top for extra creamy goodness. I've also used it as a topping on grilled chicken.

Eggplant, Roma Tomato and Red Onion Ragu

1 large eggplant
5 Roma tomatoes
1 large red onion
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS fresh spicy oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash eggplant thoroughly. Slice into 3/4-inch rounds. Spread the rounds on paper towels and salt liberally (don't worry about using too much salt, you'll be rinsing it off).

Eggplant holds a lot of water that can result in an end-product that is spongy from too much moisture. The salt sucks the excess water out of the eggplant before you cook it.

Let the salted eggplant sit for between 10 and 20 minutes.

It will start to sweat.

After 20 minutes, rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry. Dice.

In the meantime, dice your Roma tomatoes (my favorite, but use any variety you like, including ones from nearby Jacksonville)

Cut your red onions into chunks. They don't have to be pretty.

Chop fresh spicy oregano. This is my most favorite herb of late and I grow it in my herb garden. It smells good and tastes delicious. Just enough heat for any dish.

Toss oregano with eggplant, tomatoes and red onions.

 Drizzle your veggies with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bake at 325 F for about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.

The vegetables will get nice and carmelized.

Serve over pasta, as a side dish or as a topping for chicken or other meats.