Posted: April 23rd, 2013
There were 83,000 people at Auburn’s A-day this year. 83,000 people. I’m willing to bet that there are regular season games that have had less attendance than that. But we were all there because of the trees (because really, scrimmage games are not that exciting–at least to me). It was a bittersweet day saying goodbye to the trees, but really more sweet than bitter because it was a fun celebration. The bitter part will be more apparent later, when I am back in two weeks and the trees are completely gone.
For those of your unfamiliar (hello British blogging friends!) Auburn University (where I went to school) has 100+ year old oak trees on Toomer’s Corner. They have stood there for all of the generations that my family has been at school there. And after sporting victories, fans and students roll the trees with toilet paper in celebration. While it may seem a little odd to outsiders, it is a great Auburn tradition. But in 2010 a rival fan tried to make it disappear by poisoning the trees, and now, despite all the work done by tree specialists, the poison was too much and the trees have to come down. This past weekend we all gathered to say goodbye.
It’s kind of amazing how much reverence a tree covered in toilet paper can provoke. But we just stood there staring at it, amazed at the way the wind caught the paper, remembering the times we have spent on that corner in years past. The corner will be rebuilt and new trees will be planted and the tradition will continue, but today trees that have been planted for generations and held the memories of so many fans are being cut down.
Toomer’s Corner isn’t just famous for its trees though. It is also famous for its lemonade. And so last week I tried to replicate it from a cookbook my parents have. The only problem was that I didn’t need a whole gallon of simple syrup and the measurements were not exactly easy to whittle down into smaller sizes. But after another run of it yesterday, I think I’ve figured it out, and now we can have this sweet sweet drink at home without having to make an entire gallon of sugar water.
Just like Toomer’s Corner is also known for it’s lemonade as well as it’s trees, the trees are not the only tradition we have. Even though victory celebrations may not be the same over the next couple of years as the corner is rebuilt and new trees are planted, we still have our tailgating and cheers. We still have the eagle and Aubie. We still have lemonade. And we will always have the trees, one way or another.
Toomer’s Corner Lemonade
adapted from Auburn Entertains
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Makes 1/2 gallon
10 oz. (about 1 1/3 cup) granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 12-14 medium sized lemons)
1. To make the simple syrup, pour 10 oz. of sugar into a 2 cup measuring cup. Then fill the rest with warm water until it reaches the two cup mark. Stir until the sugar dissolves (if necessary, pour the mixture into a small saucepan and heat over low-heat until the sugar is dissolved).
2. In a medium-sized pitcher, combine 2 cups simple syrup, 1 cup lemon juice, and 5 cups of cold water. Stir together and serve chilled.
Posted: April 17th, 2013
Without even realizing it, I get in dinner ruts. I always feel, after finding a slew of new recipes, or reading books like Dinner A Love Story, that my days of dinner ruts will be behind me (at least for awhile). But it’s amazing how quickly I can sink back down into them. And I have so many recipes y’all. I go through my cookbooks methodically and write recipes down and still, when I’m trying to figure out what we are going to eat, there are days when nothing appeals to me.
This is my latest offering to dinner rotations: some chicken fingers that have marinated in yogurt, been dipped in breadcrumbs, and baked. We’ve had them at my parents’ house several times, a new chicken dish they discovered because of the diet changes they had to make after my mom had her gallbladder taken out. The yogurt tenderizes the chicken (much like buttermilk does in my favorite grilled chicken, which it is almost the time of year to make!), and adds a nice tangy flavor to it. These are great dipped in a little something (my favorite is honey) or just as they are, especially if you have people in your house clamoring for chicken fingers. I was once that child, and now, apparently, I am that adult.
And because I know that you all get in dinner ruts, I want to offer you some of my favorite, relatively easy, weeknight meals. Pretty soon, I’m hoping to have the recipe page navigate a little differently, with categories for things like this. But for now, I’ll give you a little selection, and maybe it will make your dinner tonight or tomorrow a little easier.
Country French Omelet
Asian Marinated Salmon
Panko Crusted Salmon
Breaded Vinegary Pork Chops
Apricot Mustard Baked Chicken
Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil
Chicken Poppyseed Casserole
Yogurt Marinated Chicken Fingers
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Wait Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 oz. fat free plain yogurt
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley*
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme*
1. Trim the chicken breasts of any excess fat. Then cut the chicken breasts into uniform size strips. (You can also buy pre-cut chicken strips.) Place the chicken in a medium-sized bowl and add the yogurt, turning the chicken to make sure that each piece is coated in the yogurt. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour (a bit longer is also fine).
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. In a medium sized bowl, combine the panko, lemon zest, parsley, thyme, (you can add other herbs you might like as well), a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Stir together.
4. Dip each chicken strip into the panko, turning to make sure each one gets fully coated. Place the chicken in a baking dish.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is beginning to turn golden brown and is cooked though. Serve warm, with dipping sauces or honey if you’d like.
*Use whatever quantity sounds best to you, or other herbs you like. I’ve also had this with dried herb mixture seasonings, and it works great that way as well.
Posted: April 11th, 2013
I have needed slow baking these days. After the (fun) chaos of an Easter weekend bridal shower and family Easter dinner, I honestly wanted to swear off the kitchen for awhile. My feet were hurting (and I even remembered not to stand barefoot all day, as I am prone to do). My back was hurting. And so last week I didn’t really do a whole lot. Actually, I hardly even went to the grocery store last week, except to get the things we couldn’t wait another week for.
To get back into the kitchen, I needed something slow and gentle. Something that wasn’t too labor intensive at any one step. I needed to bake bread and let it rise for an afternoon and smell that aroma of yeast growing warm. I wanted to knead it and feel it go from sticky mess to elastic dough under my hands. I wanted to smell how freshly baked bread smells, and remember the way it is relaxing, to remember that the only thing I even slightly dislike about making bread is measuring out my ingredients and cleaning up my flour covered countered. The rest is magic though–the stirring and the kneading and the rising and the smell.
I buy honey wheat bread at the store all the time. And while I’m not going to stop doing that any time soon, taking the time to actually make some is a treat.
Honey Wheat Bread
from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Wait Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes
Makes 2 loaves
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon table salt
2 (1/4 oz.) envelopes active dry yeast
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup cold water
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups whole wheat flour, milk powder, salt, and yeast. Stir to combine.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the honey and butter, stirring until the butter melts. Remove from heat and add the 1 cup of cold water to cool it down.
3. Immediately add the water and honey mixture into the dry ingredients, beating with electric mixer at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.
4. Gradually add the 1 cup of whole wheat flour, followed by just enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (1/2 cup at a time), continuing to beat until the dough begins to come together.
5. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured counter top or other flat surface. Knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes).
6. Place the dough in a well-greased bowl, turning the dough over so that the top gets greased. Cover and let rise in a warm place (I like to let it rise in my oven…with the oven turned off) about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
7. Punch the dough down. Divide into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion flat out into a rectangle about 15 x 10 inches. Roll each portion up, jelly-roll style, from short end to short end.
8. Place each roll, seam side down, into a 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled in bulk.
9. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake bread for 40-45 minutes, loosely tenting the loaves with tinfoil after about 25 minutes to prevent excessive browning.
10. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely. Store in a zip top plastic bag or wrapped in plastic wrap.
Posted: April 8th, 2013
Considering how much I love steak, it’s surprising, looking around the archives, that I don’t already have a steak recipe there. In my list of foods I could not live without for the rest of my life, steak is on up there, along with peanut butter, chocolate, and my breakfast bars that are now helping me get through the mornings without a growling stomach and a blood sugar low. I have always requested steaks for special life occasions, and just last month (oh wait, it’s April, so two months ago) I had two quite expensive steaks over the span of a weekend all in the name of my birthday.
But perhaps it is because I am so particular about my steaks that I don’t have a previous steak recipe on my site. I have had many many steaks in many many restaurants, and while I have had some spectacular ones, often I have thought that I (or my dad) could do better at home.
At home I like my steaks simple. In the winter, when it is dark at 5:00, I just season our steaks with salt and pepper and cook them in a pan (flipping only once!) with butter and olive oil until they are just a perfect medium-rare. In the summer, we break out the charcoal, and I marinate our steaks with Dale’s steak seasoning cut with a bit of red wine and we grill them.
I don’t do much beyond that, because I have never felt the need for it. When I eat steak I want the flavor and juiciness of the meat to shine through and I don’t want to be distracted by sauces or garnishes or cooking techniques that take away from the whole point of eating a steak.
But I was intrigued by this recipe for some reason, and with a package of leftover blackberries from a pitcher of sangria last weekend, and a pair of steaks in the freezer leftover from Gerrit’s birthday weekend in which we decided we had had too much food and didn’t need the steaks also, it seemed the perfect time to try it.
The best thing about this blackberry sauce is that doesn’t take away from the rich flavor of the steak. In fact, I would argue that somehow the sauce makes the steak taste more like a steak. Now, some of you might disagree with me, just like I disagree with Ina Garten’s claim that coffee makes chocolate taste more like chocolate (really, I can only ever taste the coffee), but it is a sauce worth making, simple enough and with an unexpected initial sweetness that then turns into a rich savory addition to a perfectly cooked steak.
Steak with Blackberry Red Wine Sauce
adapted from from Jamie Deen
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
2 (6 oz.) steaks*
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 shallot, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup fruity red wine (pinot noir)
2/3 cup low-sodium beef stock
1/4 cup fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons blackberry preserves
1. To prepare the steaks for cooking, pat them dry with a paper towel. Season them on both sides with the chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper.
2. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil along with a tablespoon or two of butter. When the butter is melted and sizzling just a bit, add the steaks. Cook until brown on each side and cooked to your desired done-ness inside (this will depend on your type of steak and how your prefer it–I used New York strip steaks and cooked them for about 3-4 minutes on each side for a nice medium-rare). Remove the steaks from the pan and set them aside on a plate, covering them loosely with tinfoil.
3. Lower the heat to medium and add the shallots and the thyme, seasoning them with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots are tender and slightly brown, 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the wine, turning the heat back up to medium-high, and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Cook the wine until it is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Then stir in the beef stock, the blackberries, and the blackberry preserves. Use the back of a spoon to mash some of the fresh blackberries into the sauce (but it is nice to also leave a couple of them whole).
5. Simmer the sauce until it is slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter.
6. Serve the steaks warm with the warm sauce spooned over the top.
*Use whatever kind you most like and know how to cook. My go to is always New York strip steaks.
Posted: April 4th, 2013
It has apparently become tradition to hold Easter dinner at my house, with both mine and Gerrit’s families. And I think this is really lovely, since Christmas and Thanksgiving already have their own traditions at our parents’ homes. It’s nice to have a holiday that we get to host. The only problem is that by the time we all get done with church and get our food cooked, we didn’t eat lunch until almost 2:00. I think this is also perfectly fine though, because when I think about Sunday dinners in the South I think about a late heavy lunch followed by a nap and an “oh my goodness how did it get to be 4:00 and we’re still sitting at the table” kind of feeling–which is exactly how our Easter went.
After lunch, at around 6:00, I was sitting on the couch reading, and I finished Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World. I absolutely adored this book (it will go on my list of books that change my life). It is all about the sacredness that exists in our everyday world, about paying attention to it. And perhaps one of my favorite chapters was “The Practice of Saying No” which is about Sabbath time and how important it is to allow ourselves (and other people and animals and plants) the opportunity to rest. In it she talks about how Sundays used to be Sabbath time, with families gathering for dinner after church and then taking a nap or sitting on the porch because there was nothing else to do. But then stores started staying open, and our culture started telling us that we needed to do more. And Sunday stopped being about rest and started being about getting ahead.
But rest was what Sunday after lunch was. We cleaned up from lunch and then puttered around the house. Really, I needed to go to the grocery store, but they were kind enough to close so that I couldn’t. I did a bit of laundry, but I also read and sat on the couch with a blanket around me.
I made a roast leg of lamb for Easter, mostly because when else would I have an excuse for such a thing? And although I had my cookbooks open to several recipes, I felt completely lost for a bit. Boneless or semi-boneless? How much fat do I actually trim off? I was trying to figure out how to answer these questions with so many different sources telling me so many different things. And I think I (and my dad, since he actually put it in the oven and kept an eye on it) did a pretty good job, because this lamb was delicious. It had the gamey flavor that lamb should have, but without it being too overpowering. And the rosemary crust gave it a sophisticated flavor. We all enjoyed it together (with a tzatziki sauce that Gerrit promises me was the best he’d ever had), and it was exactly the Easter meal I was hoping for.
Now to start plotting what we might have next year.
So, to help you out if you’re feeling a little lost with your leg of lamb:
Boneless? Semi-boneless? Originally I was going to go the boneless route, but when I got to the store and saw how much cheaper the semi-boneless leg of lamb was, I couldn’t resist. You can use either one, but you’ll have to adjust your cooking times. A boneless leg of lamb will not take as long to cook (usually about half the time a semi-boneless will take).
Is it supposed to smell like that? When I opened my lamb on Easter morning, I was distraught at the smell, thinking it had gone bad. Then I realized it was probably just all that stuff (I don’t even want to know) that it had been packaged with, so I gave it a good rinse and we were good to go. Lamb does smell a little different than your other red meats though, so just be aware.
How much fat do I trim off? Some recipes I saw said to trim as much fat as you can off. Other recipes seemed to leave all the fat on. I went with a happy medium, trimming the fat in places where it seemed particularly thick so that I was left with just a nice thin layer to help keep the meat underneath juicy. It seemed to work perfectly.
What else do I need to know? It’s a good idea to tie it up with kitchen twine so it cooks more evenly. Pull the looser parts of the leg up snug with the thicker parts of the mean so it looks a little more uniform, and tie it up. Also, as far as carving it goes: I cut parallel to the bone in order to cut the large part of the meat above the bone off and then sliced it.
Rosemary Roasted Leg of Lamb
adapted from The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
and How to Cook Everything
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Wait Time: 10 minutes
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 (6 to 7 lb.) semi-boneless leg of lamb
1. In a small food processor, combine the rosemary, garlic cloves, lemon juice (zest it first if you also want to make the tzatziki sauce), olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until fairly smooth. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. To prepare the lamb for cooking, rinse off and pat dry with paper towels. Then trim some of the fat off of lamb, but leave a thin layer. Tie the lamb up with kitchen twine, mostly to pull the thinner parts of the meat up close to the thicker parts to allow for a even cooking. Place the lamb on a rimmed baking pan or roasting dish and spread the rosemary mixture evenly on both the top and bottom of the lamb.
4. Roast the lamb for 30 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast for 1 hour and then check the meat with an instant read thermometer. The temperature should be 130 degrees. If it needs to cook longer, continue to cook but check the temperature every 10 minutes until it reaches 130 degrees.
5. Remove from oven and cover with foil. Let rest for about 10 minutes before carving. To carve, cut parallel to the bone to remove the meat above the bone and then slice that piece of meat (you can pick off more from around the bone once you have that big part off). Serve warm, with tzatziki sauce if you’d like.
from the All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
Prep Time: 10 minutes
1 (16 oz.) container plain yogurt
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1. Combine the yogurt, diced cucumber, dill, mint, salt, lemon zest, and garlic. Stir together. Chill until ready to use.