spicy corn dip

July 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

So I had a moment of panic this morning. My hubby Drew had a work event this afternoon, and I’d volunteered to make a couple of his favorite recipes: chocolate chip cookies (just your basic Nestle Toll House kind) and spicy corn dip. I’ve been making this dip since back in my Atlanta days, and it’s probably my husband’s most requested dish (besides the cookies). I got it – like so many of my best recipes – from my friend Stephanie. This dip is quick to make and must be served hot and bubbly. But with chips – and friends – it’s the perfect choice! For a few crazy minutes this morning I couldn’t put my hands on my worn and much-loved recipe card (I know others out there like me have some of these precious hand-written cards they couldn’t live without), and I must admit I did start to worry. Luckily, I found it and thought enough to snap a picture and post it here so the next time we are desperate for our spicy corn dip fix, I’ll know right where to look:

amazing mac and cheese

June 30, 2012 § 6 Comments

At our birthday luau this past weekend, I served one of my girls’ favorite recipes: macaroni and cheese from the wonderful Williams-Sonoma’s “familymeals” cookbook by Maria Helm Sinskey. A little more involved than some recipes, this takes a bit of time but is totally worth the effort. I was thinking I’d made way too much since I’d more than doubled the recipe. But being able to send extras home with friends and still have more for us made me happy. “Is it bad?” my friend Erin asked the next day, “that I had your leftover mac and cheese for breakfast this morning.” We both decided it wasn’t as we heated up more for lunch. Make this unbelievably good mac and cheese for your next gathering and share the love.

Truly Amazing Mac and Cheese

from Williams Sonoma’s “familymeals”

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
3 cups whole milk
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bay leaf
pinch of grated nutmeg
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound macaroni noodles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups mixed grated hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch square or similar baking dish or 4-6 individual baking dishes.

To make the sauce, in a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until smooth. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Add the onion, bay leaf, and nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and cover to keep warm. You should have about 2 1/2 cups.

Bring a large post three-fourths full of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a bowl, and stir in the butter. Add the sauce, 1 cup of the cheese, and the cream, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the pasta into the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

a birthday luau

June 26, 2012 § 3 Comments

This past Sunday, my sweet Sophie turned 8, and we celebrated with a birthday luau. It had been weeks in the making and, like all my girls’ birthday parties, I had so much fun putting everything together. For this party, I covered the house with pink, yellow and orange paper lanterns and flowers and crepe paper. All the little girl guests were adorable in their leis and grass skirts; they had a blast decorating their own flip-flops and learning “The Sophisticated Hula” from a hula instructor. They dined on fruit skewers and carrot stick shots (carrots cut up and served in tiny glasses with ranch dressing), individual lemonades in pink sugar-coated bottles, cupcakes and “fish food” (goldfish and swedish fish). She and her friends had so much fun, and the party continued well into the night with an official after party for family and close friends. It was an amazing day. And the best part: my sometimes shy Sophie was completely out of her shell, laughing and living it up. Seeing her like that made me so happy.

cheese grits

June 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Born and raised in the heart of Florida, I’m a true southern girl and, as such, I love southern cooking. We had some friends over for dinner last night, and I was excited to make one of my favorite sides: cheese grits. In the South, grits are not simply for breakfast and, in fact, a number of our favorite upscale restaurants in Atlanta serve grits as a side item to chicken, fish, steak or pork. I served this delicious cheese grits casserole once to my supper club and laughed when our very Parisian-chic member said to me, “Carrie, what is this grit?” in her strong French accent. For those not familiar with grits, I often compare them to polenta. At our dinner party last night, we threw some flank steak on the grill, and I served it up with a mixed green salad and grits. The results were perfect. Our friends’ kiddos were a little skeptical at the start, but with the first taste I had them – they gobbled it up! This is a great recipe to add a little southern flare to your meal.

getting out there

May 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ll admit that I am not much of a camper. Actually I have some great memories of camping as a child with my dad and uncles and, before having kids of my own, I did get out there every so often for a short trip with my hubby and friends. Ever since I had the girls though, I’ve preferred hotel rooms to tents and fireplaces to camp fires. But with my dad’s visit this weekend and my brother now living out here, a camping experience for my girls was in order. My brother is a regular mountain man – he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail straight from Georgia to Maine about six years ago, and now he lives on the Olympic Peninsula. The girls love their “Uncle D” and having him and Gramps to go camping with got them really excited. We ended up at the beautiful Lake Wenatchee State Park, and seeing our outdoor adventure through my daughters’ eyes changed my perspective on roughing it.

The girls loved all the things I remember loving when I was little: setting up the beds in the tent, hiking around and exploring the campground, tending the fire, laying in the hammock and making the food. We roasted hot dogs for dinner and made s’mores for dessert. In typical fashion, Bella got extremely scientific in creating the perfect s’more, expertly toasting the marshmallows and graham crackers and melting the chocolate. The little sister preferred to quickly toast the marshmallows, throw the combo together and then relax in the hammock, enjoying the tasty results. Sitting around the campfire was fun; the girls brought their own instruments (a recorder and a ukulele) and had a little jam session. And at dusk, we walked down to the lake’s gorgeous beach where I was happy to find some rocks and driftwood for my collection. I get it now, camping isn’t about roughing it – it’s about being together and having an adventure and making memories. I guess I can get out there every once in a while for that!

blueberry muffins

May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

I love to bake, and it’s one of my favorite things to do for my family. I got up a little early this morning, and it was cool and rainy outside – the perfect morning for blueberry muffins. This is a great recipe; I’ve been making it for years. The best part is the sugar sprinkled on top before baking, which creates a crunchy sweet crust that is so yummy! My girls were excited to wake up to this treat. They had a warm muffin for breakfast, and then we wrapped one for each of them – tied up in a cloth napkin Little House on the Prairie style – to take for a school snack. Enjoy these with your family!

Blueberry Muffins

3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/3 cups milk
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, creaming. In another bowl, combine 2 and 2/3 cups of flour and remaining dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, and then slowly add the milk. Combine until moist – do not over-mix. Place remaining 1/3 cup of flour in a ziplock bag, add the rinsed berries and shake to coat with the flour. Stir the blueberries into batter. Fill muffin tins (either greased or lined with papers) almost full. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

chicken enchiladas

May 11, 2012 § 6 Comments

At last weekend’s Cinco de Mayo party, I brought my chicken and cheese enchiladas, always a hit. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, True Grits: Tall Tales and Recipes from the New South, published by the Junior League of Atlanta. I loved living and eating out in Atlanta for almost 10 years, and this cookbook includes recipes from many of the city’s best offerings, along with some great stories by southern authors. (I find Junior League cookbooks in general to be fantastic and have ones from Houston and Seattle as well.) These enchiladas are perfect for kids and adults, either plain or spiced up with salsa and fixings. They go fast, so I usually double or triple the recipe – so perfect for a taco night get-together with friends.

Creamy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 flour tortillas
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained

Rinse the chicken and pat dry; cut into thin slices. Saute the chicken in the olive oil in a skillet until brown; drain. Combine the chicken, cheese and onion in a bowl; mix well. Spoon the chicken mixture onto the center of each tortilla; roll the tortilla to enclose the filling. Place the enchiladas seam side down in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Heat the butter in a saucepan until melted. Stir in the flour until blended. Add the chicken broth; mix well. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in the sour cream and chiles. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

online inspiration

May 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

It’s the 5th of May, a favorite holiday in our crew, and we’re getting ready for the annual fiesta at our friends’ house. I found the cutest flower arrangement idea – cacti or succulents displayed in Mexican food cans – for the hostess, my friend Jenn. Over the last few months, I’ve been excited to discover Pinterest, an amazing social networking website and perfect for crafty girls like me. Even more than crafting, I love to sharing my ideas and be inspired by the work of others. I think the same can be true for those who love cooking, fashion, decorating and more (which also includes me). So happy Cinco de Mayo! I’m off to make my favorite creamy chicken and cheese enchiladas, and Bella’s recreating the taco cupcakes recipe they made at school yesterday – an idea her teacher said she found on Pinterest, of course.

If you’d like to follow me, check out my Pinterest page and share in the inspiration.

chicken noodle soup

May 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

Last week a yucky stomach bug made its way though our house, and my little one and I have both been dealing with allergies and head colds. When anyone around here gets the slightest hint of an illness, I break out the chicken noodle soup recipe I’ve been perfecting the last couple of years. I don’t think I’ve stumbled into any new territory here, and I’m sure part of it is in my head. But they say chicken soup can cure a cold and as for this family: as soon as the mirepoix hits the sizzling olive oil and those delicious smells begin to fill the house, we’re already feeling a little bit better. It’s the best homemade medicine I’ve found!

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 pounds chicken breasts
mirepoix: 2 cups celery, 2 cups carrots, 1 cup onion – finely chopped
3 and 1/2 containers (32 ounce) chicken broth
10 ounce bag wide egg noodles
olive oil
dried oregano
dried thyme
coarse salt

Saute the chicken breasts in a large stock pot with a little olive oil. As it’s cooking, break the chicken into smaller pieces and season with salt, pepper, dried oregano and thyme. Remove chicken from pot and cool. In the same stock pot, season mirepoix with salt and pepper and cook in olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. (I like to season as I go rather than wait until the end.) Shred the cooled chicken and return it to the pan with the veggies. Add 3 1/2, 32-ounce containers of chicken broth (112 ounces) and bring to a rolling boil. Add the egg noodles and cook until tender. Soup will continue to thicken and cook down over time, and additional liquid may need to be added when reheating leftovers.

chopped salad

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Nichole and her family moved away last summer, and it has been sad for our family living without the daily interaction from our sweet friends. While we miss them terribly for so many more important reasons – if I can be selfish for a minute, I must say the lack of interesting salads in my life has definitely left a noticeable hole. I don’t know how she does it, but Nichole can make a salad out of almost anything. At every party, she was the go-to person for salads. Fruits, veggies, nuts, cheeses – she has a million combos, and each has its own perfect dressing that she just whipped up. I didn’t even realize how much I loved salads until she came into my life. Since I am nowhere near that creative on my own in the salad department, I’ve been forced to fend for myself (although I did have to send an emergency text to Nichole a while back when I was out of ideas, craving one of her perfect concoctions and desperate for salad inspiration). While I’ll never make a salad quite like my friend, I’m trying and have added a few yummy choices to the mix.

One of my favorite restaurants in the Seattle area is Purple Cafe & Wine Bar. With several locations, it is always a great place for tasty food, wine flights and atmosphere. I’m sure all the food is delicious, but I have a very hard time moving past their amazing chopped salad. Finely chopped lettuces, onion, peppers, avocado, garbanzo beans and pancetta make this the perfect salad you can eat as a meal. I found myself thinking about the salad so often that I’ve adapted my own version – so simple and easy to make with just a few ingredients that I usually already have in my fridge. I’m sure Nichole would have the perfect balsamic dressing recipe to make this even more delightful, but I’ve found that this girl can be happy with a little Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette to get it close enough. A great salad for warmer days!

Chopped Salad

butter and romaine lettuces
red onion
red pepper
bacon – crisp
feta cheese – crumbled
garbanzo beans

Finely chop lettuces, onion, pepper, avocado and bacon. Mix together with feta cheese and garbanzo beans. Toss with a balsamic vinaigrette and enjoy.

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