Entertaining, Sweet Treats

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 I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. On one hand, it’s an easy way to quickly search for meal or design or fashion inspiration. On the other hand, it’s an easy way to throw myself into a total inferiority complex/shame spiral. Everything on Pinterest, especially involving babies, is just so perfect. Like intensely, cutesily, professionally styled and photographed kind of perfect. And I’m just not. I’m that person whose hair always has flyaways, I most likely have a coffee stain on my shirt, and I once went out to Starbucks while wearing two completely different shoes (by accident, of course). I’m not a perfect Pinterest mom (or food blogger, for that matter) and I’ve been okay with it (for the most part). Well, at least until Lemon Baby’s first birthday rolled around.

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Sweet Treats

Nectarine Pie with Lemon Streusel

 

To a lot of people, baking is scary. Baking (usually) requires precise measurements using cups (different ones for liquid and dry ingredients) or worse, scales, and leveling off instead of scooping. Unless you’re me and you make a pie without measuring a single thing.

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Supper Club

Full plate. much?
Full plate. much?

Normally, each supper club has a theme. Last supper club’s theme was just complete fabulousness, but we’ve done everything from “Living Color” to a Hawaiian Luau. I spent a magical summer studying Ancient Greek Art & Archaeology abroad in Greece in 2004, and I fell desperately in love with the food, terrain, and culture. I yearned for a night that would reconjure the flavors and the mood of a warm, summer night on the coast of the Aegean. So, a few weekends ago, my husband and I hosted an informal, buffet-style Greek dinner party for our lovely friends in Jubilee Supper Club.  Continue Reading

Side Dishes

Green Beans and Yellow Squash with Feta and Mint

 

One thing I’ve vowed to do more of is eat healthful, nutritious food. I’d love to be that blogger that only blogs about (and consequently eats) things requiring sugar and butter. Wouldn’t that be the life? As someone who turns to sweets for comfort, I need to be more mindful about fitting those food pyramid guidelines into my diet. It isn’t hard for me to eat vegetables because I love them; I just have to remind myself to incorporate them into every meal. In other words, I have to up my veggie game. Continue Reading

Not Sad Desk Lunch (Bring to Work), Side Dishes

Grilled Chicken Grain Salad in a Jar
Grain medley, grilled chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, arugula, oil and vinegar in a jelly jar

Years ago, Food52 came up with the hashtag #notsaddesklunch to represent the innovative, creative ways we can actually enjoy lunch at work. Bringing lunch is easier on your waistline and your wallet, but so many people fork out the $10 (on average) a day to grab a lunch to go, which equates to approximately $2400 a year! I’d rather spend that money to go on vacation, personally. Continue Reading

Sweet Treats

Varying shades of bears
Varying shades of bears

I have had a long-standing affair with gummy candy for as long as I can remember. After a disastrous attempt at Champagne jello shots (recipe didn’t call for any sugar and tasted like nothing other than gelatinous Champagne, which was surprisingly awful), I put my booze-infused gelatin dreams aside–until I saw that Sugarfina came out with rosé gummy bears, which promptly not only sold out but actually inspired a 12,000 person waiting list. Not exactly a patient sort, I knew I could at least try to make my own. So I ordered these molds and searched for recipes. Mine is adapted from Sprinkle Bakes. I didn’t have sparkling wine flavoring, so I substituted lemon juice plus lemon extract (Lemon Baby used lemon, go figure).  I used pink gel food coloring from my macaron baking days, and I fear that wasn’t best coloring agent. When I make these again, I’ll probably use liquid. Continue Reading

Main Dish

Alabama "Lobster" Rolls
Alabama “Lobster” Rolls

When I was pregnant with Lemon Baby, I (predictably) craved all sorts of random food. Most notably was my craving for a Lobster Roll, which, if you were friends with me on Facebook, you must have scrolled past a thousand times. I couldn’t get enough lobster roll foodporn. Intellectually, I knew it was just making my hankering worse, but I couldn’t stop. The closest lobster roll to Mobile is in Atlanta, not exactly dinner date distance. Then my neighbor Ron suggested I make my own, with one exception: replace lobster with Royal Reds, a particularly succulent shrimp native to the deep waters of the Gulf Coast. I did, and the Alabama “Lobster” Roll was born. Continue Reading

Cocktails, Sweet Treats

Can't even.
Can’t even.

Growing up, it was well-known among my friends that I loved to bake. It’s actually in my blood (but I’m saving that story for another post). Two of my best friends in high school, Julie and Vanessa, used to request meringues from me on almost a daily basis. I’ve even shipped them (although I wouldn’t recommend this, given their delicate nature.) Meringue is just egg whites and sugar whipped until desired,  but it has many iterations. It can appear as the fluffy topping on a lemon pie or banana pudding, or baked into a crackly cookie with a chewy, marshmallowy interior, studded with mini chocolate chips (Vanessa and Julie’s favorite). While whipping egg whites can be intimidating, (Firm? Glossy? Stiff? Soft?) it just takes a bit of practice. I’ve got some tips below to help. When I spied some very late-season rhubarb in the store the other day, I knew exactly the dessert I wanted to make. Continue Reading

Supper Club

Jubilee Supper Club
Jubilee Supper Club

One of my favorite things in life (to host and attend) is a dinner party. Like I mentioned in my  Girls on Food bio, I discovered my love of food by devouring every word and gorgeous photo in Martha Stewart’s 1982 cookbook, Entertaining. I daydreamed of the days I might attend such elegant affairs. As an adult, I now get to see those dreams into fruition. Many people love to entertain but do not host dinner parties because of the stress, time, and expense; but what if you only had to make one dish, and not a whole menu? Enter: Supper Club. Continue Reading

Side Dishes

Chickpeas Arugula BaconPlease forgive the bad title pun. I am slightly sleep deprived. In all seriousness, if you’re a fan of easy, quick side dishes that come together in fewer than 15 minutes, this post is for you. It’s just a bonus that my 4-year-old adores chickpeas. In fact, when I told him chickpeas were for dinner, he ran around the house screaming, “Chickpeas! Yes! Chickpeas! Yes!” And he actually ate his whole serving. The addition of bacon helped a bit, I think. (No, I don’t put bacon on/in everything, despite its presence in almost all of my posts so far).  Continue Reading

Cocktails

Kyle's Rum Old Fashioned
Kyle’s Rum Old Fashioned

Mobile, whose motto is “born to celebrate,” is a city of revelry. Visit us during Mardi Gras, and there is no doubt. One of the things I love most about the Gulf Coast in the summer is our seemingly unquenchable thirst. Sweet tea, mint juleps, lemonade, Sazeracs, Planter’s Punch, cocktail or mocktail, we will drink it all, especially when it’s still ninety degrees by the time the sun calls it quits.

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Main Dish

Frogmore Stew
Small-Scale Low Country Boil

For as long as I can remember, my family has vacationed on the white-sand beaches of Fort Morgan, Alabama. The little beach cottage, affectionately dubbed Déjà Vu and destroyed by hurricanes and subsequently rebuilt, has been in my family since the late 70s. In 1988, we celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary in that house, crammed in like happy sardines in the front room. In 2002, my parents bought the house from my uncle and aunt, who built a gorgeous house on the lot next door. In 2006, I hosted my bridal party at the cottage before heading to our nuptials in Natchez, MS (ten years to the day this Friday). It’s safe to say that this house, and its surrounding coastline, has more sentimental significance to me than most of the things in my own home (people excluded, of course). Most people don’t realize that Alabama has a coastline, (and that’s fine–it’s crowded enough) but with the Hangout Festival held annually in Gulf Shores, our little “Redneck Riviera” is getting more and more popular, evidenced by the gobsmacking Saturday summer traffic on Highway 59.  Continue Reading

Main Dish

Shrimp and grits
Shimp and grits, beachside

Shrimp and grits is by far my most requested dish. Friends routinely email or text for the recipe, and my sister demands requests it every year for her birthday. If ever I named a signature dish (which I won’t because I don’t play favorites), this would be it. Shrimp and grits is a dish of lowcountry origins, associated with the Carolinas, but has spread far and wide across the Southeast. It is most commonly seen on brunch menus, but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three). Continue Reading

Side Dishes, Sweet Treats

A little handmade touch never hurt a Father's Day cake.
A little handmade touch never hurt a Father’s Day cake.

There are two fathers who feature prominently in my life: my own father, and S. and Lemon Baby’s daddy (also known as my husband). They are vastly different men in trait and temperament, but one (very important) thing they have in common is the ability to drop everything and play. My own father demonstrated it countless times while I was growing up, and still to this day, when his grandchildren want him to chase them on all fours, roaring like a fearsome beast, he complies without hesitation. My husband, when asked to tell his nephew, niece, and son a bedtime story, grabs our stuffed Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat and enacts the storyline, complete with an inflatable tire float. (For those who don’t know who/what Mr. Bear is, it’s a ridiculous children’s story from back in the day about –you guessed it– a bear who squashes little woodland creatures’ homes). The ability to play on demand is reason enough to make whomever you (or your kids) call “Dad” a special meal on the third Sunday in June. Continue Reading

Cocktails, Sweet Treats

 

On the Gulf Coast, we get a beautiful (albeit short) spring before cool mornings and dazzling sunshine yield to the searing, unrelenting heat of summer. If you’ve never experienced July in Mobile (or New Orleans, or Tallahassee, or some other as-south-as-you-can-go-before-you-hit-water city), imagine going into the sauna at the spa and not being able to leave, even when your eyelashes start to sweat. A few things help us survive the onslaught of buggy, muggy 95-degree evenings: our gorgeous beaches, front porches (friends mandatory), air conditioning, and delightfully fresh and crisp wine like rosé and vinho verde.

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Sweet Treats

Rhubarb Anytime Cake

I named this next recipe “Rhubarb Anytime Cake” because in my research of recipes for something using rhubarb and yogurt, I came across rhubarb “snack cakes,” “breakfast cakes,” and of course, just “cakes”, but this beauty is one heck of a multitasker. Inspired by smitten kitchen‘s “snacking cake,” it’s perfect for breakfast, an afternoon pick-me-up, or some post-dinner sweetness. It’s pretty simple to put together, too. You just macerate the rhubarb (only, please don’t be tempted to add strawberries) with a little sugar and lemon for a few minutes while the batter whips up, then top with the fruit and a little crumble topping. Oh, and it has the most beautiful nooks and crannies. You just want to get up in there and crawl around in it. Continue Reading

Main Dish

Littleneck clams steamed in white wine, tomatoes, garlic

The following recipe has a special sentimental significance; it was the first article I wrote for my food column for a Montana newspaper, almost ten years ago. I grew up in Brookline, in metropolitan Boston, and had just moved to a landlocked (albeit gorgeous in its own right) Montana town, and I was feeling desperately homesick. Summer, to me, meant clams and lobster, and I yearned for a taste of home. As luck would have it, the local grocery store stocked gorgeous Pacific shellfish at shockingly reasonable prices (alas, no lobster). Imbued with garlic, tomatoes, and a slightly spicy broth perfect for sopping, this recipe saw us through four blissful summers in Montana. Continue Reading

Main Dish

Butterfly Pasta with Bacon

I have a truly negative habit of overanalyzing almost every social interaction, after the fact. Always after. Perhaps we had a fantastic conversation, but when you walked away, you gave me an odd look (when probably the sun was in your eyes)? Chances are I’ll be dissecting that look for days to come. The funny this is, I’m actually an extrovert. When I teach the MBTI to my college students, I explain that their preconceived notions about introversion and extroversion are awry. What matters is from where you draw your energy, or recharge your batteries. If you need to take a break from people and seek “alone time”, you are an introvert. If you need to get out and socialize after too much time on your own (me), you’re extroverted. But extroversion doesn’t stop me from being paranoid about having said the wrong thing in a social situation. We can never, ever turn back the clock and unsay (most often unintended) things that sting, offend, or cut to the quick.

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Appetizers, Main Dish

Grilled Octopus
Octopus

I don’t know. Ask him. He’s at my local Whole Foods, chillin’ on ice. Yesterday was my birthday. I might be one of the only people you know of who wants, truly wants, to spend his or her birthday cooking an elaborate feast with the ingredients that are usually regarded as too complicated for everyday meals. Lobster, chateaubriand, octopus. Yes, octopus. I have never actually cooked octopus before because, frankly, my sweet, Southern city had never been quite cosmopolitan enough to have a store that stocked whole octopus in the seafood case. Enter Whole Foods.  Continue Reading