Sunday, October 19, 2014

Apple Sharlotka



I'll get to the Apple Sharlotka in a minute, but first I need to talk about another Sharlotka, err Charlotte.  She got married last weekend in Ohio.  And can I just give a huge high five to my native OH for completely showing off the entire weekend.  All of the forecasts leading into the weekend called for rain, rain and more rain.  Which completely sucks when you've put all of your wedding eggs into the "I have to have an outdoor wedding" basket!  But damn if the Buckeye state didn't pull through in the most beautiful way.....fabulous crisp fall days and not a drop of rain on the big day.  Perfect!

Photo by Sheridan Hendrix Photography

And speaking of perfect.  Wasn't she just stunning?  And happy.  I still chuckle when I remember the look on her face when the pastor pronounced them officially married.  She even jumped up and down in the most adorable way.  I don't know that I've ever seen someone more happy to start this new phase of their life.  Look at that smile.

Photo by Cal Cheney

It's been a joy to watch them fall in love and become such a solid couple.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for them.  Congrats Ben and Charlotte!

Photo by Kelly Gardner

Now for the Sharlotka, which is apparently a Russian Apple Cake.  So I guess calling it an Apple Sharlotka is a tad redundant.  Whatevskies.  It's one of the many recipes from November's Food and Wine magazine that called my name.  It's really tasty!

Sliced apples go on the bottom and the batter that you pout over the top seeps down in between all the slices and pulls everything together.  Then the top forms this awesome, crispy top layer to give you a hint of crunch.  

This is a great alternative to the typical apple pie (and much easier) or apple crisp.


Here's the recipe:

Apple Sharlotka

Ingredients:

4 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Grease the bottom and side of an 8-inch springform pan,

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour and cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the almond extract and the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar at medium high speed until thick and pale yellow and a ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted, 8 to 10 minutes.  Gently fold in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

Spread the apples in the prepared pan in an even layer then pour the batter evenly over them.  Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the batter to sink a little.

Bake the sharlotka for about 1 hour, until it is golden and crisp on the top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes.  Unmold and transfer to a serving platter.  Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm.




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall Catch-up

Visited:

Every summer, Mr. B and I like to get far away from the oppressive heat and humidity of Alabama and escape to somewhere that is, well, NOT hot and humid.  We spent a long Labor Day weekend at our friends beautiful home in Pagosa Springs, Colorado and then just a few weeks ago we headed to  Exclusive Resorts fabulous new Sun Valley, Idaho residence.


Wow is this place stunning.  After being in this cramped rental for the last three months, it was nice to have SPACE.  This place is probably 12,000 square feet so it was a little more that just the two of us needed, but it would be fabulous for a family vacay.  The outdoor living area is really luxe with a fireplace that's perfect for the cool evenings.


You also get to wake up to these stunning sunrises if you're like me and never fully acclimate to the time zone change!  It also might mean that you miss the sunsets......


The house is in a development that's great for morning walks and it also connects to the miles and miles of paved bike and walking trails.  The next time I would definitely rent bicycles for the week to take advantage of that.



We totally lucked out one morning and ran into this nice family.......





Papa was bring up the rear and stopped to give me the stink eye just to prove he's in charge.






We didn't get to as much hiking as we normally do but what we did was really beautiful....the Aspens were at full peak.


We hiked the Adams Gulch trail which was nice easy/intermediate five miles.


We seriously considered making the drive to Yellowstone, but decided the eight hours round trip wouldn't give us near enough time to even begin to see everything so we opted for something a little closer...Crater of the Moon National Monument.


I'm not going to give you a whole geology/history lesson here (click on the link above if you're interested) but it's basically a lava field that covers approx 600 square miles and is much cooler that I expected!  Sometimes hubs likes to do some weird sight seeing that doesn't really float my boat, but I enjoyed this.  They did mention that during the summer months, the ground temp can get to be around 150 deg. F., so there's that to consider.


It was perfect the day we were there.





I'd recommend the caves if you're not claustrophobic or have a big fear of bats......yeah, you read that right.


We only went down into one of them because you need a flashlight and we only had the one on the iPhone, which wasn't quite powerful enough for me.  I'm one of those that has a MAJOR fear of bats.






Anywho, very cool place and I recommend visiting.


We didn't have any plans for the whole day and decided to take a different way back to Sun Valley (when you leave the park, go east on 20,  north on 93, then take Trail Creek Road back to Sun Valley. It didn't initially seem like much until we got about 5 miles out of SV, where the road became VERY narrow with a VERY steep drop off.......and these views.




You could see for miles.  I lost about 10 years off my life when we encountered an SUV pulling a rather large camper and I thought we were going over the edge, but since we didn't, so worth it.


I think the biggest thing that struck us was the quality of the restaurants for a town with a population of 3,000 people.  We attributed that to the "part-time" residents along the lines of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.....and thousands others just like them.  I totally get why they'd want to spend their summers here.  We highly recommend The Kneadery for breakfast (you won't need lunch!), Cristina's and Perry's for lunch, and Enoteca and Globus for dinner.


Reading:

I read this while we were in Idaho because I'm that girl that always likes to read the book before I see the movie and then end up always being disappointed in the movie because it's never as good as the book.  Case in point.  Read the book, skip the movie.....I don't care if Tina Fey does star.




Oh and I took this quiz which says I should read this book next, so when I'm finished with this one and since it's already in my Kindle library, I will!!


Downloaded:

I've used this app when we were hiking in both Colorado and Idaho and love it.  It's accurate and the GPS came in handy!





Watching:

Or can't wait to anyway.....the new season of Homeland starts this Sunday with a double episode.





Eating:

It's finally starting to feel a little like Fall here so I'm in soup mode.  I'll be making these favorites and freezing them for easy last minute dinners

Tyler Florence's roasted tomato soup

Smitten Kitchen's Black Bean with toasted cumin seed creme,  That crema is da bomb.

The Barefoot Contessa's Mexican chicken soup and also her Cream of Wild mushroom soup.  Ina never disappoints


Surfing:

I'm loving Vogue's 73 question series.....OMG Reese Witherspoon's home


Shopping:

The Piperlime Collection.....it's reasonably priced and I'm coveting this coat.


Listening:

The Queen of Soul covers Adele (shouldn't it be the other way around?) and KILLS it.










Monday, August 4, 2014

Moroccan Meatballs and Whole30

Yup.  I'm one of "those"people.  I'm partaking in one of those internet phenomenons....Whole30.  No dairy, grains, sugar or ALCOHOL for 30 days.  No cheese.  No cereal.  No pasta.  No peach cobbler.  No WINE!  You heard me.  I'm on day 9.

Click here to get all the deets, but yeah.  Paleo, but in a restrictive (in the most annoying, restrictive) sense.  The first five days were relatively cool.....I grilled a bunch of bison steaks, chicken thighs, shrimp, salmon, hamburgers....real caveman shit, but I'm a meat lover.  So fine.  Then I roasted some veggies....I'm not a huge veggie lover so this is where it gets a tad tricky.  I like my cheese with a side of veggies, if you get my drift.  Anything to cover up the taste.  Fruit?  Easy, peasy.  It's summer in Alabama, dude, so fruit is everywhere......peaches, cherries, melon, peaches, figs, strawberries, peaches.  Those peaches would be great in a cake.  Or Ina's crisp.  Shit.

Not having to make a "recipe" for dinner was liberating for the first five days, really.....grill some protein, roast some veg, slice some fruit.  But by about day six, I was getting bored and wanted something a little more complex.  A recipe.  So I downloaded the Whole30 authors' cookbook, Well Fed.  There are several recipes that caught my eye, but the Moroccan Meatballs screamed at me.  I mean, c'mon......Meatballs!!


These are damn good....earthy and spicy in a flavorful, rich tomato sauce.  Make these even if you're not into the paleo thing and serve them over a big bed of rice.


Which is what I did for hubs (well not rice, because I didn't have any, but some orzo....close enough) because while he agreed to do this experiment with me for 30 days, his resolve came tumbling down quickly.


Here's how that went down....

Me, "Hey, I'm going to do this thing called Whole30, where for 30 days I can't have dairy, grains, sugar or alcohol.  You want to do it with me?"

Hubs (while engrossed in Ebay on his iPad), "Sure.  Wait, YOU'RE giving up wine for a month?  hahahaha."

Me, "Suck it.  Yes.  And CHEESE."

Hubs, "Right.  Yeah.  OK.  Whatever, I'll do it with you."  (He's silently laughing his ass off at this point, knowing by Tuesday this will all be a distant memory.  BTW, this was on a Sunday.)



So after fully compliant dinner that same evening, a mere 10 hours later, he proceeds back into the kitchen to fix himself a rather massive bowl of mint-chocolate chip ice cream then immediately following that......a BAILEY'S ON THE ROCKS.

Thank's for your support, honey.

Meanwhile, here I am on day NINE!!

Before I get the the Moroccan Meatball recipe, here are my observations/experiences thus far on Whole30.

*  It's not hard.  As the website says, "Kicking heroin is hard.  Beating cancer is hard.  This?  Not hard."  As I said, it's restrictive and takes a little preparation and planning.  Bit it's not hard.

*  The planning thing is important and I don't work or have kids.  I'm sure it's even more important if you do.  Especially for breakfast.  While you can eat whatever you want within the guidelines for any of your three meals, I'm not one to eat a steak for breakfast.  I love eggs, so that's how I roll, but variety is challenging.  I've found that pre-chopping some vegetables (mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.) to mix in with your scrambled eggs, saves some time in the morning when you're STARVING!  The website (and cookbook) suggests spending a few hours on Sunday to brown your meats, roast your veg, etc., to make your weeknight dinner prep easier, but that's not an issue for me.

*  I'm not hungry EVER between meals and usually have to force myself to eat lunch.  My breakfast consists of melting about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil into a non-stick skillet, throwing in a handful of spinach and about 1/4 -1/2 cup of whatever other vegetables I have handy (peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, previous nights leftovers) and sautéing until soft, adding two whisked eggs, seasoning and cooking until done.  I top that with with 1/2 an avocado and a side of diced fruit.  This keeps me satisfied through my workout and up to, if not through, lunch.  I assume because it has a good amount of protein and fat combo.  So far I don't hate eggs, but I'm afraid that may happen.  Then what?

*  I'm probably eating too much fruit but as my trainer says, "I've never seen someone become obese from eating too much fruit."  That being said, I need to watch it.

*  I don't think I've lost any weight yet (you're not supposed to weigh yourself until completing the 30 days) but I'm no longer bloated so I feel lighter!  Score.

*  I've been a horrible sleeper for about the past five years (Menopause?) so I've resorted to taking an OTC sleeping med pretty much every night.  Not good.  I usually don't have much trouble falling asleep (Wine.) but staying asleep....not so much (Wine.)  During this 30 days, I also vowed to give up the Unisom.  I'm staying awake longer in the evening (no wine.), falling asleep around 9:30pm fine, but still waking up several times during the night and finally getting out of bed around 5am.  Not optimal, but I'm hoping that will improve.  This girl likes her sleep.  That being said, I'm not tired during the day, so......

*  I didn't feel much like doing cardio the first week (?) but that's gotten better the last couple of days.   

*  The more water I drink, the more I want.  Maybe that's some of my sleep problems, because I am getting up a couple times during the night for THAT.  OK, lightbulb just turned on.  Slow down on the water after dinner.  

That's all I can think of at the moment.  Feel free to fire any questions my way.  I'm happy to relate my experience.  Oh and please wish me luck on finishing the 30 days.  I'm easily bored.

Here's the meatball recipe:

Moroccan Meatballs
Well Fed, Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat
by Melissa Joulwan

Ingredients:

Meatballs:
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon paprika (I used a hot smoked paprika because I love the flavor and heat)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground lamb

Sauce:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced (about 2 tsps)
2 teaspoons paprika (again, I used hot smoked paprika)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons

Garnish:
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the parsley, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper with a fork.  With your hands, crumble the lamb into the bowl and knead just until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Moisten your hands with water and shake to remove excess.  Measure a level tablespoon of lamb and roll into a ball between your palms.  Line up the meatballs on a baking sheet until it's time to put them in the sauce. (I simply used a small ice cream scoop and rounded them in my palms)

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or pot.  Add the onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and stir about 1 minute.  Add the water, tomato paste, and parsley, mixing to dissolve the tomato paste.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then gently place the meatballs in the skillet, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook 40 minutes covered, then remove th slid and cook an additional 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.  Sprinkle each serving with a few teaspoons of shopped pistachios.




Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fig and Blue Cheese Tart with Honey, Balsamic and Rosemary

I love figs.  Newtons were one of my favorite cookies as a child.....still are.  That cakey exterior with the sweet crunchy filling.  Yum.  But I never associated that cookie with fresh fruit until my first trip to Italy.  We had hired a driver for the time we were in Florence and on about the third day he invited us to his home to taste his wine.  As I got out of the car there was a tree with huge pieces of fruit weighing down the branches.  I had never seen a fig tree before.  I plopped one in my mouth and was smitten.  


So when they start presenting themselves at the summer markets I buy them until they're no longer available.  We mostly eat them raw....sliced on our cheese tray which is frequently our summer dinner outside on the porch with a bottle of Rose'.  We'll wrap them in prosciutto with a hint of stilton stuffed inside or maybe just plain with a bit of honey drizzled on top. 


So when I stumbled across this recipe on Food52 I knew we'd like it.  I added pine nuts for some texture and if I'd had any prosciutto in the house I would have added it to the mix also.


This would be a great for a girls night in (or for your next mahjong party, mama).  I served this with a simple salad of mixed greens with my favorite vinaigrette.  Delicious.

My next house (wherever that may be) will definitely have a fig tree!

Here's the recipe:

Fig and Blue Cheese Tart with Honey, Balsamic and Rosemary



1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cool
1 pound figs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon thick balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoon honey, depending on the sweetness of the figs (the darker and more flavorful the better)
1/3 cup firm blue cheese (I used Wisconsin, but go more intense if you like)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

With a mortar and pestle, bash a few sprigs of rosemary with olive oil. Set aside.

Using a bit of flour, roll out your dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Since it’s a free form tart, any shape is fine. Make a pretty little border by folding over a 1/2-inch on each side (the tart gets a little drippy so it’s nice to have a dam).

Stem, halve, and arrange the figs cut-side up on the dough in any pattern (just make sure they’re tightly nestled). Using a pastry brush, generously paint the cut-side of each fig half with the rosemary oil. Sprinkle each fig with salt.

Drizzle balsamic and the honey all over, making sure each fig gets a little splash. Crumble cheese all over. Drape the bashed and oily rosemary stems anywhere you like on the tart.

Bake until crispy, brown, and bubbling (about 25 minutes). If the figs don’t get enough color, cover the edges of dough with tin foil and place tart under the broiler until desired color is reached. Cool for a few minutes. Eat.

Friday, July 25, 2014

So, here's what's been happening around here......

It's been quite the summer!  I thought it was about time I caught up with y'all.

What I've gotten rid of......

After several last minute hiccups which, according to my real estate agent, I don't know the half of.....WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!  This shit was two years of some extremely interesting/crazy/bizzare and in the end nice people traipsing through my house so you'll have to excuse my excitement.


I can only hope the new owners and their children enjoy the place as much as we did for the past 12 years.  However, we're really happy to not have to take care of it anymore.  We're currently living in an extremely small rental that I'm loving for the most part.....my closet and bathroom could definitely stand to be a little larger....but until we figure out what we want to do next, it's fine.  We're looking at a few options so I'll keep you posted.

Where I've been..........

Right as we were in the middle of house negotiations, we took off for Anguilla for a week.  Not the best possible timing, but we'd had the trip planned for a year so off we went.  We stayed at the Viceroy and man does it not suck.

We stayed in one of Exclusive Resorts four bedroom villas that was a perfect place to forget all that was going on back home.  The tequila may have played a part in that too.


The resort is pretty spread out so it seems as if we had the place to ourselves for the week.  The staff is amazing, the resort is immaculate, and the food mouth watering good.  


Put the Viceroy on your bucket list!




What parties I've thrown..........

And because my planning is impeccable, two weeks after arriving home I was throwing my niece and her fiancé an engagement party for about 50 people!  


Since Charlotte is from Ohio and Ben grew up in Alabama, the was the first time meeting for many of the family members. I think everybody had a good time.....I know I did!!




I kept things pretty simple.....beer, wine, iced tea and lemonade.....and then made arguably the best catering decision of any party I've every thrown and hired one of Birmingham's best food trucks.  Who doesn't love gourmet grilled cheese?  Boom!!

And the best part of the food truck idea was that I didn't have to do any food prep or any clean up and I could thoroughly enjoy myself along with every one else.


I may have even hired professional photo bombers...........


How cute is this little one!  She became a big sister to twin brothers just a few short weeks after the party.


And thank you Mother Nature for providing a beautiful evening to celebrate the bride and groom. 


We even got in some family pics.  The first photo is of Ben's family......


And this hot mess is Charlotte's (and mine so I'm allowed to say that!).....it's clear which side is the more photogenic!!!



The party was on a Saturday night and Monday morning the movers were at my front door to start packing and ten days later we were out!  We closed a day after that.  Crazy.

The next couple of months don't look to be any less interesting as we're heading to Colorado over Labor Day to see some great friends, checking out Sun Valley in mid-September, and then the big wedding in Ohio in October.

I promise to post more regularly now that things have settled down.





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