Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Cow, Ian is making another post!

How about one of my family's best kept secrets- Tomato Gravy...

I haven't had this side in at least 5 years.  I felt it was time for my taste buds to see what it tastes like after an extended vacation from this southern gravy.

Here's my recipe:
1/4 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper

Start some oil in a pan and get it hot.  Throw in some flour and start browning it.  You want the flour-oil ratio at the point where it makes a wet paste.  If you get it too dry, it will not mix well in the gravy and leave small white balls in the finished product.

After you've got the flour browning, wisk in some water, enough to make it a nice gravy consistency.  Make sure to mix it well.  Add in some salt and pepper and a can of diced tomatoes.  Continue to mix.  Bring to a boil and then remove from hot stove.

Enjoy on a made-from-scratch biscuit or toast!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meals back home

Well, we got some bad news about my Granddad, so we traveled to Tennessee to be with family. My Dad's Dad is in bad health, and knowing how much my Dad appreciates my cooking, I figured just being home and cooking some meals for my parents would be a nice thing to do. We took our EatingWell 500 Calorie Dinners cookbook and made a few meals out of it.

First up was the "Proven├žal style edamame saute." We served it with a side of quinoa. It was so good that we managed to eat it all before we could snap a picture of it. The recipe called for frozen artichokes, which we couldn't find. I bought two fresh ones instead, not thinking to look for canned ones. Let's just say that in cooking the recipe, we ALL learned a lot about how not to cook artichokes! We also learned that Tennessee grocery stores don't sell wine. That seems pretty idiotic to me, since more people cook with wine than beer, but I digress...

Next up was "charred tomato, chicken, and broccoli salad." I added a side of brown rice with a squeeze of lime. This recipe was a bigger hit with Mom and Dad. Thankfully Mom took over the charring of the tomatoes- I'm woefully inept at frying, apparently. And speaking of charring tomatoes, Mom and I were both shocked and the different aromas (and flavors) brought out by charring. At one point the charred tomatoes had the house smelling like baking sweet potatoes. It was incredible.

This recipe would definitely be just fantastic in the dog days of summer. 

Ian make breakfast for dinner one night, but you probably guessed that from his prior post.

After all the visiting and such, we were all pretty tired and stressed, so I decided to make a humongous dessert. I don't feel too bad in saying that I'm known for my desserts, so when I found a yummy looking trifle recipe in a magazine given to me by my Mammaw (my Mom's Mom), I knew I had to make it! I'd never made a trifle before, and didn't even have a trifle bowl there. I substituted a large punch bowl, and it worked just as well!

The recipe comes from the April/May 2010 issue of Taste of Home magazine. Hope I don't get in too much trouble for posting it, but it's too good not to share! I made some edits to the recipe when I made it and it was still so sweet that it almost made us sick. I've included my edits and suggestions below.

Peanut Butter Brownie Trifle
Yields 20 one cup servings
1 fudge brownie mix (13" x 9" pan size) [I used two 8" x 8" brownie mixes that included peanut butter cups.]
1 pkg. (10 oz.) peanut butter chips [I did not include these because of the brownie mix I used.]
2 pkg. (13 oz. each) miniature peanut butter cups [I only used one bag, but it was probably more than 13 oz.]
4 cups cold 2% milk
2 pkg. (5.1 oz. each) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cartons (8 oz. each) frozen whipped topping, thawed

Prepare brownies according to package directions; stir in chips. Bake in a greased 13" x 9" pan at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack; cut into 3/4" pieces [I just ended up crumbling].

Cut peanut butter cups in half [I would do quarters instead]; set aside 1/3 cup for garnish. In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mixes for two minutes. Let stand for two minutes or until soft-set. Add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Fold in 1-1/2 cartons of whipped topping.

Place 1/3 of the brownies in your trifle [punch] bowl; top with 1/3 of the peanut butter cups. Spoon 1/3 of the pudding mixture over the top. Repeat twice [or until you run out of ingredients!]. Cover with remaining whipped topping; garnish with reserved peanut butter cups [but don't garnish with WHOLE peanut butter cups like I did- that seemed to irritate everyone]. Refrigerate until chilled [or in the case of my family, consume as soon as assembled].

If you try this recipe, I'd love to hear your comments on how you modified it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just in case you're curious...

Here's a picture of our garden on our balcony as of the end of March:
Our balcony garden

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gnocchi and chard

We had a meal the other night that allowed me to try another vegetable! We had gnocchi with chard, pinto beans, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.

To me, chard had a slightly sweeter taste than spinach, but that was white chard. I'm not sure if red or Swiss chard would have a different flavor.

The recipe called for canned diced tomatoes, but we used fresh and it tasted fantastic. I honestly think using canned tomatoes would be too juicy. With this we had spinach salad (really just spinach) drizzled with olive oil, and topped with vegan Parmesan cheese topping.

We accompanied this with some of Ian's Double Dog Dare Cabernet sauvignon, which admittedly isn't the best pairing, but we're not sommeliers here.  (And why is it that in this paragraph alone I've had to add three words to the dictionary and let it automatically capitalize two. C'mon spell check! Get your act together!)

 Anyway, the dish and the company were fab and I can't wait to have them both again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Springtime busy bees

Gosh can you believe spring is already here?
Spring crocus

I put up this picture of one of Mom's crocuses. It's funny how her daffodils and buttercups have yet to bloom, but they're fully involved everywhere else I've seen them.

Here's hoping I can get out and do some photography this weekend. Conway Media is doing a video on me (sorry I keep rescheduling!), and I'm looking forward to getting that done.

Hope y'all are well!

Made from scratch biscuits!

Somehow, I figured I could make made from scratch biscuits over the course of last year.  I guess it's from watching all of the Hardees commercials!  Anywho here is my recipe.  I've substituted the plain yogurt with flavored yogurts such as maple and strawberry and they turn out delicious.  Give it a try!

1 1/2 Cup of Southern Biscuit Self Rising Flour
1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
5 Tablespoons of Butter
6 oz. of Plain Yogurt
1 Teaspoon salt
Small splash of milk

Fork 4 tablespoons of butter into flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.  Continue until butter and flour has made small crumbs.  Add in yogurt and mix well.  Add a small splash of milk to help incorporate all of the flour.  Continue to mix until all of the flour is able to form a lump.  Roll out onto floured surface.  Knead and roll out to about 1/2 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or small cup, cut out biscuits and lay onto flat baking pan.  There is no need to spray with cooking spray or anything.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.  Take 1 tablespoon butter and melt in microwave.  Brush onto top of biscuits and ENJOY!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inside and outside

Well, the two new things I alluded to in an earlier post are ready for discussion.

First is Charlie's Soap. Since we've been focusing on reducing the chemicals we put in our body, I wanted to reduce the chemicals that might be absorbed through our skin. Since laundry is my chore, I thought an easy way to do that would be to change our laundry detergent. I have very sensitive skin and can't handle most "normal" detergents like Tide. Earth Fare put out a coupon for Charlie's Soap, so I thought we'd give it a try. From the Charlie's Soap website:

Charlie’s Soap is really a blend of natural-based surfactants (detergents) derived from coconut oil, treated with a product of natural gas (real soaps are treated with caustic soda or pot ash), and salts in water (Laundry Liquid) or pure Green Mountain washing soda (Laundry Powder).

Charlie's Soap also uses no animal products and isn't tested on animals.

After washing several loads, I have to say I'm very impressed. Our clothes feel just as soft (if not softer) than before, and we're using WAY less chemicals!

My other news is fish oil. I've been hearing the benefits for a while. I thought that eating as well as we are, I'd see a noticeable difference in my fingernails, which are very ridgy and sometimes get vertical cracks. Fish oil also has benefits for my mood (which lord knows it needs all the help it can get), but Ian will have to attest to any improvements in that area. Ian can't state for sure, but he thinks to seem I'm less "down" than I used to be, so that's a good thing.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The new report

Lots of new stuff to report. Ian's going to report his part, so here's mine.
I've been wanting to explore vegan baking. I'm fascinated with the alternative ingredients used in vegan baking, and how they produce such amazing flavors. So Ian treated me to The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes. I like it because it's very straightforward, down-to-earth (doesn't use a lot of frou-frou ingredients), and explains the traditional baking ingredients and how vegan ingredients do the same thing.

I'm also very excited because we checked at Earth Fare, and the sweetners and flours used in the recipes are at really low prices. We even picked up some demarara to have in our coffee.

Because I'm fascinated with the raw eating lifestyle, Ian picked us up some Go Raw Spirulina Super Chips. Man are they good! The ones we got include banana, sesame seeds, coconut, dates, and spirulina. They taste of banana and sesame, but are just fantastic. If they tasted any better, I'd want to eat them in a bowl with soy milk for breakfast!

And because we're also (still? always?) counting calories, Ian also picked up EatingWell 500 Calorie Dinners. Hands down, it is one of the best recipe books I've seen in a very long time. It has caloric information for each dish, and suggests sides and dessert options (with caloric info, too) for them as well! We've already picked out two recipes from this book that will incorporate vegetables that we've been wanting to try. The first will be skillet gnocchi with chard and white beans (page 83). We've had about every shape of pasta except gnocchi, so we were happy to find whole wheat gnocchi at Earth Fare. We also picked up white chard, which is a vegetable we've never tried. The other recipe is provençal-style edamame sauté (page 96). It also incorporates a vegetable we've never tried- fennel. I'll report back once we make the recipes.

We picked up two more things, but I'm waiting to see how they work before reporting on them to you.
In the meantime, I hope you're well. Get out and get your hands dirty. Life's too short not to play in the dirt.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I just wanted to pop over and let you know where I've been. Ian and I have started a blog together on non-photography and non-videography adventures in our lives, so I wanted to share it with y'all. It's at Conway Scrapblog. While it's not about photography, it does feature both of our photography.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Last night's dinner brought to you by epicurious

Thanks to my best foodie friend Jeremy, whom I miss desperately, we had potato and leek soup. [That's sort of Irish, right?] After discussing leeks over instant messenger, he sent me the URL for this recipe.
Potato and Leek Soup
It was a good, lower calorie alternative because it didn't include any heavy cream. It tasted like a cross between French onion and potato soup. I felt it needed just a little something more, but I could never place just exactly what.
Ian really liked it, and was slightly disappointed that it didn't make enough for leftovers! I'd say we'll probably have this again next winter.

Wines and Evil Zen

This year I have officially acquired my taste for wine. It just hit me. It's weird because some wines used to taste awful, but now it seems that I am able to stomach them all. One wine I really enjoy is a cabernet sauvignon called Double Dog Dare.
It's quickly becoming my first favorite. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you can taste hints of this and hints of that. But what I can tell you is that it's not bitter and not too sweet. For $4.00 a bottle at Total Wine in Harbison, I can't go wrong!

In other news, we worked at Conway Acres, our small balcony garden.  We started some organic tomatoes and bell peppers from seeds which you can read more about on Ashlie's post before this one.  After a long back-breaking day, we turned in for the afternoon and then it hit me.  I need a man garden!

Now one would think a man's garden would need to include something of great strength to be considered a man garden.  What could I add to give this garden great strength?  We have had a small, rectanglular fountain for a while.  I wanted to incorporate this in my design.  The plants would need to be of a species that require moist conditions.  That being said, I knew exactly what I would build around the fountain.  After a quick trip  to Lowe's in Harbison, I quickly had the recipe for my garden otherwise known as the "Evil Zen Garden".

The fountain, centered in a flower box, creates the perfect setting for two carnivorous plants.  Your traditional Venus Fly Trap along with a Python Pitcher Plant were my choices.  The box said they needed to be kept moist and could withstand direct sunlight.  Great!  We also grabbed some Irish Moss to help keep the moisture packed in the dirt for the plants.  Outlining the plants and fountain is some small gravel that I picked up from outside the apartment.  I've gotta grab some more gravel today to finish building it up to the rim of the fountain.  Simple and easy to put together, which is another requirement for a man garden.  Who said all gardens had to be for women?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our 2010 garden

Spring is finally (well, almost) here, and it was time to get our garden started. We live in an apartment, so our garden is our balcony. We have a small fountain, a small two person chair, two window flower boxes on the balcony rail, and several various sized pots.
Last year we did our flower rail boxes with that coconut hair, and filled them with creeping phlox. By the height of summer we discovered our plants were frying in the brutal "famously hot" Columbia heat because the coconut hair baskets didn't hold moisture. This year we have actual rectangular flower pots, so hopefully we won't have the same trouble as last year.
This year we also opted for different plants. In the center of each box, we've got African daisies that are white with a purple center.
African daisy
We also went with three purple/white/yellow pansies on either side of the daisies.
Purple pansy

As far as our vegetable and herb garden, we're also making big changes from last year. Last year we tried green beans and onions (too dry and too wet, respectively); we succeeded at growing herbs and tomatoes, though. This year, we're only growing things we use the most that are typically or likely to be at high cost this year (we will supplement everything else from the farmer's markets). So for herbs, by far we use thyme and rosemary the most. For vegetables, the tomato crop in Florida has been damaged by frost, and bell peppers sometimes can be $5/per at stores in the summer. We're growing "brandywine" tomatoes. It's an heirloom variety that I've never had. We're also growing "California wonder" bell peppers.
In all, we started 72 seed pods, most with 2 or more seeds. All our seeds are organic, but the seed pods weren't. We'll be using organic dirt and organic fertilizer. Depending on how our seed pods turn out, we'll definitely have excess. If you're in the Columbia area and would like a few pods, just let us know! We'll post pics as the garden progresses.

That's all for now!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A cheap wine and first chianti

After work, we ventured over to Total Wine our weekend wine pickup. We always want to try something new, and we did that tonight. Ian picked up a $3.99 Double Dog Dare Californian cab. It was very surprisingly good for as cheap as it was. I wanted to try something totally new, so I got an Italian chianti- Fratelli Bellini 2008. I really really liked it. I had it with pizza, and liked that it brought out the spiciness in the wine and the pizza. On first tasting the chianti, I jokingly called it the Jack Daniels of wines, because the spiciness of the wine resembles Jack to me.

That's all we tried today.

What we're doing

So this year Ian and I decided that we were going to make a point to try new things. Since we're a little late in starting the blog, I'll try to catch you up. Here are a few things we've tried:

Pinot Grigio
Apple Sparkling Wine
Cabernet Sauvignon
Asti Spumante
Blackberry Merlot

Vegan cupcakes from Earth Fare
Leeks (recipe here)
Sushi with salmon roe (fish eggs)
Coffee ground by us from the actual coffee beans
Unprocessed yellow corn grits from certified SC growers/producers
Macrobiotic dishes from Rosewood Market & Deli
Fontina cheese

Liquid aminos
Rosewood Market & Deli
Visiting Workman, SC
Visiting Mouzon, SC

That's all I can think of for now. Maybe Ian can chime in and add to this list!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Sunlight through the woods

It was in the 70s here in Columbia today. Hope it's nice wherever you are.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday morning

Sorry for the gap in posts...I've been a bit sick lately. Norovirus is slowly touching everyone in South Carolina it seems. If you don't know about norovirus, you stomach ends up feeling a bit like this:

Sycamore seed pods

Anyway, I wanted to share something really cool I found poking around the interwebs. It's a 1903 homemade version of Alice in Wonderland.

You can read all about it on the youtube page. Really interesting history to it.

In other news, we're going out for a videoshoot and maybe a trip to the beach today. The videoshoot is the one of me that we keep having to put off, and the beach is just because I dreamt I was finding HUGE shark's teeth, and well, it's going to be 65 here today, so why not?

So safe travels to you if you're headed anywhere today.
Road through the woods
More later.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

First large format

So technically, this was the last image I took with my cambo large format camera. I haven't had a chance to scan the others.
I posted the next to largest size (yes, I know it doesn't really fit in the template...) because I just don't think the smaller sizes do it justice. Ok, so now it's a smaller size. Whatever.

I'm totally in love with this picture. I think it's one of my best works, and not to my surprise, I've gotten very little feedback about it. LOL! I guess you have to be raised in a house with a wood stove to appreciate it.

Hope you all are well. I hope to announce my exciting news later this week.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Buildings and a photo hunt

Highway, road, or street

We hit the road this weekend, and I finally got to play with my large format camera. I can't wait to show you guys two of the pictures I took. I scanned one at a really high DPI, and ran out of time or else I'd be posting it for you tonight. Instead, you're stuck with more clearing out of my backlog, still featuring buildings.

Worn out window

In some really good news, I've been approached by a national-level organization to include my photography in one of their publications. The catch is, they want my photographs sans watermarks. They were taken in October 2009, and I can't find the originals yet! They're not on my PC, they're not on my passport hard drive, they're not on my mac, so they could be two (possibly three) more places. Blah. For a librarian, my pictures are a disorganized mess!

Anyway, I'll give more details once they come available.

I got new glasses!

In other news, my boss today mentioned doing an exhibit of my photography in the library. That would be super awesome. I need to talk to her more about it.

Well that's all for now, kiddies. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some better stuff to post.