I Love the South!

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For the past few days, my husband and I were in Wilmington, North Carolina visiting our beloved aunt and uncle.  I have always loved North Carolina and am always reminded of the goodness in people and the beauty of nature when I return from my favorite southern state.

I love the South. There really is Southern hospitality. It is not a myth.  People hold the doors for you.  They greet you if you pass them in a store or on the street.  They say “ma’am” and “sir” and are very respectful of each other.  People are even considerate on the highways and local streets while driving. I remember one time my aunt got in the wrong lane and need to move over to the correct lane to make a turn. My uncle simply rolled down the window and flagged the driver in the lane next to us.  “Excuse me, Sir.  We are in the wrong lane.  Would it be alright if we went ahead of you when the light turns green?”    “Sure,” the man responded. And he let us in.  And my uncle just sat back like that was a normal thing. I could not believe it.  That is something I had never seen before.

I love the South.  I  always look forward to eating and enjoying Southern foods such as hush puppies, sausage biscuits and gravy, cornbread, grits, fried oysters, and okra. I also love fried clams,  shrimp and catfish. MMMMM!! My LORD do I love Southern food. I never eat fried foods at home, but there is something about the fried food down there that warms my heart and my tummy!  I think it might be because the food is made with love and to think that some of the recipes have not changed for hundreds of years is amazing to me.  During this visit, my uncle introduced my husband and I to red-eye gravy. It is salty goodness made with a hint of coffee and served over grits.  It is fantastic! I have to learn how to make that at home.

I love the South.  I enjoy the entire atmosphere of taking things a little more slowly than up North.  I like the way Southerners speak – not just their accents, but their sayings. My uncle was born and bred in North Carolina and the phrases he uses are priceless. My uncle is very rational, frank and honest without being offensive. My husband calls my uncle’s sayings “nuggets of genius” because you cannot argue with them. What he says is true.  And if he has nothing to say, he does not say anything.  As he said during this trip – “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

I love the South.  The weather is wonderful, though it can get hot and humid.  But, when it does, you can enjoy one of the sandy white beaches and actually see the bottom of the ocean if you venture in for a swim.  As a result of the warm temperatures, many flowers, trees and shrubs are in bloom almost all year round and their colors are bright and vibrant. The flowers on top of this post were taken in front of a hospital.  Southerners take pride in making things aesthetically pleasing and I love that.  It shows that they take pride in the appearance of their homes, yards and businesses.

I love the South. It warms my heart and soul and reaffirms the fact that there are really good and decent people in this world.  Not that there are not any in the North, please don’t get me wrong.  It just seems that the laid back, honest, hard-working, down-home lifestyle actually makes people happier.  And when people are happier with themselves, they are kinder to others. And that is a good thing.

Being in one of my favorite places with some of my favorite people makes every trip a great one.  The next one cannot  come soon enough!

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Friday Favorite – Bertolli Vodka Sauce

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I love vodka sauce – if it’s made correctly.  There needs to be a good balance of cream, tomatoes and a little vodka.  I usually only order it in a restaurant and never tried making it at home, but it is on my list of things to do.  You have to understand that neither my husband nor I ever had jarred sauce of any type growing up. He would enjoy marinara sauce made from tomatoes in his parents’ garden and I would enjoy sauce made from canned crushed tomatoes, puree and tomato paste.  I was 18 before I tried jarred sauce and did not care for it very much (it was too sweet).  I think jarred sauces have come a long way, but cannot seem to sway from making my own.

My mom is a great cook, but does not know it.  She loves vodka sauce, but had no desire to learn how to make it at home  so she decided to try a couple of jarred ones.  The few I sampled at her house were not that great. One tasted bitter and another smelled like a cross between vomit and dog food.  I am not exaggerating either.  The smell was so nauseating, I could not even eat it, but my parents, brother and his kids all seemed to enjoy it, so I thought it was just me.

After that,  I was determined to find a jarred vodka sauce that smelled and tasted good and finally, I found it!  It’s Bertolli Vodka Sauce and let me tell you, it is absolutely divine.  It’s creamy and tomato-y and great for a quick meal.  My husband and I like to sprinkle (or actually, POUR) on Parmesan cheese and…crushed red pepper.  MMMM HMMMM!!  It really kicks up the taste and gives it a little heat to contrast the creaminess of the sauce.  For some protein, you could always add grilled chicken or even shrimp.  Put a little parsley on top and you have a tasty and fast meal on the table in about 15 minutes from start to finish!

If you can’t find Bertolli, I would also recommend Mario Batali’s vodka sauce. That came in as a very close second.  (Sorry, Mario!)

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Top Ten Reasons I am Glad that Football is Over

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These are in no particular order…

1.  I will likely wake up a few pounds lighter on Monday mornings from not indulging in junk food and adult beverages on Sundays while watching the games.

2.  I will have more money in my pocket since I won’t have to make sure there are enough football food and drinks in the fridge for the games.   I like to drink a beer while rooting for the Cowboys, my favorite team.

3.  My blood pressure will be normal on Sundays now (briefly glance up to #2 and you’ll know why I just wrote this).

4.  I will stop obsessing on Pinterest for new football snack recipes to eat while watching the games. I am officially sick of chili – regular, turkey, vegetarian.  I’m DONE til next season.

5.  Tuesday mornings will not be as painful when I get up since I will go to bed at my normal time and not force myself to stay up and watch the Monday Night Games.

6.   I won’t have to watch egotistical maniacs with poor grammar on every news station for an entire week prior to the Super Bowl saying “It’s Our Time!”  It’s getting old…think of something else to say.

7.  I can now make plans on Sundays without thinking about getting home for the Cowboys and/or Giants games. The Giants are my husband’s team and are bitter rivals of the Cowboys. Good thing we love each other. A lot.

8.  Baseball will be starting soon. Go YANKEES!

9.  Baseball means warm weather is coming!

And the final reason I am glad that the Super Bowl is over,

The frustration of being a Cowboys fan will subside a little and I will be ready to cheer them on next year and watch every game, every Sunday. I miss football already!

My Addiction to Pinterest

My cousin introduced me to Pinterest about three months ago.  I kept hearing people talking about how great it was for sharing all kinds of ideas.  If you are not familiar with it, it is “an online pin board” where you basically browse a category and when you find something you like, you “pin” it to a board and then you’ll have it for later to do or make or see. For example, if you see a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, you can pin it to a board called, “Desserts” and when you want to make it, you pull it up and voila!  There’s the recipe for you to follow.  I absolutely LOVE IT.

Introducing me to Pinterest, however, proved to be a bit of a mistake for me.  Ever since, I have been addicted to all the “Pinteresting” things that people do, make, say and want to achieve.  Once I started with Pinterest, I was obsessed.  The food, drinks, crafts, pictures of places I’d like to visit, fashion ideas, make up tips, shoes…I was in heaven!! What  great ideas!! I can do that! I can make that! I can look like that!

I even had a routine with Pinterest.  After logging in, I would search the categories in this order:

1.  Popular

2.  Food and Drink

3. DIY and Crafts

4. Hair and Beauty

5. Women’s Fashion

I was creating boards and pinning ideas like a crazy woman. I made a few wreaths for myself and others after seeing some ideas and made some new desserts and main meals.  It was wonderful!  But then, I began to think I had a slight problem.  An hour or two would pass and I would realize that I was on Pinterest the entire time.  Anytime I made a new dish or did a craft people started saying, “Pinterest, right?”  If my husband could not find me, he would call out, “Pinterest?” and come towards our office where the computer was to find me staring at the screen. I would talk about things I saw on Pinterest.  To everyone.  Non-stop.   I am sure I was annoying to some. (sorry!)

What was happening? I decided to look up some questions that possible addicts should ask themselves.  And I got some disturbing answers.  It went as follows:

1.  Do you wake up in the morning and think about Pinterest?

Answer – YES

2. Do you feel the need to go on Pinterest every day?

Answer – YES

3. Do your thoughts and actions revolve around Pinterest?

Answer – YES

4. Have people started to associate you with Pinterest?

Answer – YES

5. Do you spend more than 30 minutes a day on Pinterest?

Answer – YES

6. Can you go one day without checking Pinterest?

Answer – NO!

Well, that’s it. I decided that I am officially addicted to Pinterest.  Since there is no treatment center that I know of, I figured I had better come up with my own recovery plan. It is a three-step program and is as follows:

1.  I will go on Pinterest every other day for no more than 30 minutes.

2.  I will only pin things I will  actually make, do, see, etc.

3. Since my food boards contain the most pins, I will use them.  I will make a minimum of one new dish a week  and not just let the pictures  sit on the boards looking pretty. And yummy.

And there it is. My new recovery plan.  I will start this tomorrow.   Or maybe Monday. I like to start things on Mondays.  Let’s see…that means I have three days to binge on Pinterest…have to go.  I am feeling crafty and need some more ideas…

For Your Tummies!

No, I am not posting about exercises for your tummy, though I should probably look into doing them.  I am talking about really good FOOD for your tummy!  I created another blog that will exclusively feature all kinds of great recipes that will make your taste buds dance!  It’s called thecookinggoose.wordpress.com

I will, however, continue to post on this site about pretty much everything else, just not food!! Thank you for following me and/or checking out my blog!

One more dill recipe…

This is another recipe that I made the other night.  It’s quick and easy.  I  LOVE Ina Garten’s  Cheddar-Dill Scone recipe, but did not have time to make them. So, I improvised and came up with cheddar-dill crescent rolls.  Easy and delicious!

Cheddar-Dill Crescents

Ingredients:

1 tube of Crescent Rolls (I prefer Pillsbury)

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 TBSP chopped fresh dill

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven according to crescent package directions.

2.  Roll out crescents in their triangles.

3.  Put some cheese and dill on each (about a teaspoon of each) and push it down into the dough.

4. Roll crescents as you normally would.

5. Bake according to directions.

 

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My husband and I ate the first four. More like devoured them with our steak and baked potatoes.  These are a great accompaniment to read meat.  Or chicken.  Or fish.  Can you tell I LOVE these??

What the DILL do I do now?

So, if you’re like me, you buy a bunch of dill for a recipe, use the little amount needed (a little goes a long way) and then stare at and smell it’s enticing aroma wondering what you are going to do with the rest of it. Well, here are two suggestions:

Lemon-Dill-Citrus Salmon

Ingredients:

3-4 salmon fillets

3/4 cup orange juice (wash and zest  before squeezing)

1/4 cup of lemon juice (wash and zest before squeezing)

1/4 cup lime juice  (same as the other fruits!)

3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 TBSP chopped dill

 

Directions:

1. Wash salmon and pat dry.  Set aside.

2.  Combine about a teaspoon of the zest from the orange, lemon and lime.

3. Add the juice from each of the fruits.

4.  Mix together in a small bowl or Pyrex liquid measuring cup.

5. Add garlic, dill, salt and pepper.

6. Whisk well.

7. Place fillets in a glass dish, skin side down.

8.  Pour citrus marinade over the fish and cover with saran wrap.

9.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Then,

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Remove dish from the fridge to let it warm up a bit.

3.  Pour out about half of the marinade.

4. Bake for 15-17 minutes.

 

I served it with rice (made with chicken stock, not water for extra flavor) and steamed broccoli. YUMMY! and HEALTHY!

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Here is another one:

 

Lemon-Dill Rice

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups chicken broth (or stock)

1 cup uncooked white rice (I prefer Carolina)

1/4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp lemon zest

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

 

Directions:

1.  In small sauce pan, heat chicken broth with olive oil until it comes to a boil.

2. Add rice and cook for about 25 minutes.

3.  When warm, add lemon zest, juice and dill.

4. Mix well and serve.  Enjoy!

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This is a picture of the salmon with the rice on the bottom and steamed broccoli on top.  A new favorite dinner for us!