Archive | June, 2011

Sunny Side Up

30 Jun

Sorry, this isn’t an egg recipe.

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post, and some great things have happened but unfortunately they’re soured by one awful thing — my iPhone was stolen when I was at the gym last week.

I know, I know, I should not have set it down, even if it was for only 10 minutes, tops. But I was in such a great mood — riding high from a fun weekend at the beach with friends, coming home and weighing in at less than pre-vaca (how does that happen?!?) — and I simply let my guard down. It was like losing my best friend. My life was on that phone. I had it with me working out because I record my exercises in it.

The last known location of my stolen iPhone.

Since I noticed it pretty quickly, I was able to use Apple’s MobileMe Find iPhone app and lock it remotely, send a message to it and track it using GPS. The gym staff called the police and they did more than I thought. They helped me track it and even did enough investigated that they narrowed it down to a youth group touring the facilities.

Nevertheless, the thief is still out there, and I had to get a new phone. Because of bad timing and bad luck, I lost all my photos and contacts (I had gotten a new computer and hadn’t yet installed iTunes or synced with my phone in a while).

I had wanted to share this cute little photo on a calendar I have at work, even before my bad luck. Today being the last day of June, I thought it appropriate. It encourages readers to take a positive outlook. “You’re at the halfway point of reaching your personal best this year.”


Semi-Fresh Semi-Skinny Mojitos

13 Jun

My mother came into town Friday for a short visit. She and my dad live in Huntsville, which is about 2.5 hours away — the right distance for nice weekend getaways.

While my mom is not much of a hard liquor drinker, I still wanted to try to make mojitos. It’s one of my favorite summer cocktails – cool, refreshing and  not too sweet (so I can stand to drink more than one!).

The amount of, and maybe the type of, simple syrup and club soda can make or break a mojito. This recipe I adapted from We Heart Minnesota skips the simple syrup all together, making it a rather low cal drink.

Last summer a friend gave me a root of her family mint (by family mint, I mean her plant was from a root of her husband’s grandmother’s mint), which I planted in my back yard. I know they say to keep mint in a container because it spreads like crazy, but I do better with plants in the ground. Plus, I want tons of mint so I can add it to my summer beverages. Ever since this mint took root in my yard, I’ve been itching to try to make a mojito. So here goes:

Mojito ingredients

Mint, limes, Splenda (that’s not sugar in that jar), club soda and rum

-Two limes (already squeezed lime juice optional)
-10-12 mint leaves
-Three shots of white rum
-Two teaspoons of splenda
-Club Soda
-Two glasses

Wash and divide the mint leaves, saving two pretty leaves for garnish.  Put in each glass and muddle. Since I don’t have a mint muddler, I tore the leaves in half and used a fork to sort of stir and press the mint. I try to keep my kitchen contraptions to a minimum, but considering how much I love this drink, I may just need to get a muddler.

Wash the limes and cut each in half. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into each  glass. If you desire more lime, squeeze more lime, or like lazy, thirsty me, add some store-bought lime juice. Other than washing the mint (I get worried I’m bringing in some ants or other yucky bugs), this is what takes the most time. If you were to make you’re own simple syrup, I think that’s what’ll eat up your happy hour.

Stir in one teaspoon of Splenda into each mixture. Fill glasses with ice. I used a shot and a half in each drink (I like mine a bit strong). Top off with club soda and stir. Garnish with lemon quarter and mint leaf.

Mom thought it was a bit strong, but it was simply perfect to me! It’s just the right level of sweet and fizzy. I made a batch and carried it to my friend’s river party the next day. And I want one now! Just can’t get enough of these! No need for an intervention. Yet. 🙂

Crawfish and Shrimp and Grits

8 Jun

Back in April I went to a crawfish boil at some friends’ house in Birmingham’s Ross Bridge community (super cute “resort town”). Everything was tasty and the day was sunny and pleasant. It was just a basic crawfish boil with potatoes and corn and old friends, and new ones, too.

Like every good host, there was more food than company could eat, and they sent us all home with a baggy of cooked and peeled crawfish. Some said they would make etouffee, others dips. I decided to try to make crawfish and grits, a play on the Southern favorite shrimp and grits.

Look how bright red the crawfish is. This was simply delicious -- one of the best dishes I have ever made.

I found this yummy recipe for shrimp and grits on Southern Living online.

Recipes, for me, are a guide, not a must-do-it-this-way-instruction-sheet. If I don’t have it, I’ll leave it out or substitute it. Sometimes I forget to pick items up at the store, other things, such as garlic cloves in this recipe, I just don’t want to fool with. Flour is another ingredient I probably won’t buy – I just don’t use it enough. For recipes like this, it wasn’t needed. And some ingredients I just do not like to eat. Some may say I’m a picky eater. But, really, why consume those calories if it’s not worth it?

Each recipe then becomes my own, full of the flavors I love.

Since I didn’t have a pound of crawfish, I added shrimp to make up the difference. I also substituted turkey bacon for regular bacon (it’s what I had in the fridge already) and used chives from my garden instead of green onions.

This turned out to be one of the best dishes I have ever made! It was hearty and satisfying and, most importantly, delicious!

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign. But they’re pretty!

5 Jun

My neighborhood finally has a neighborhood identification marker!

St. Charles Place was established about five years ago (my home will be four next month — my how time flies!) and for some reason, the developers didn’t install a neighborhood sign. There’s a lovely brick and iron fence on both sides of the entrance, just no sign. I had to always tell people “the townhouse development at the bottom of the hill” if they were visiting for the first time.

The Homeowners Association board has talked about putting something up since the association was turned over to the actual home owners three years ago. As vice president of the HOA, I took this on as my special project… after only about two years in office. Since our ‘hood has a sort of New Orleans-theme to it, wrought iron signage would fit in aesthetically and would be a somewhat easy process, so I thought.

Before installation. That huge truck took out of the old stop sign and also helped put up the new signs.

Turns out where we live, neighborhood i.d. markers must have masonry (brick). To get around that, we had to apply for an exemption and go to a zoning commission meeting to plead our case! I also had to apply for a right of way permit and all sorts of things. I was lucky to have come in contact early on with one city planner who went out of his way to walk me through this process. (There is a thank you letter on its way to him!)

After. New sign! See the frilly street/stop sign in the background too!

After going back and forth with the designer/installer and the HOA board and multiple city meetings and applications, the St. Charles Place sign was installed Friday! While we were at that, we also got a new street/stop sign (decorative black pole instead of the standard aluminum) and put up a private residences sign (the neighborhood across the street got one of these, so of course we wanted one too. And we do get lots of visitors during the day since we’re in a residential area withing city limits).

Welcome visitors! But keep out if you're trying to sell us something.

The landscaper is scheduled to come within the week and I’ll probably get out there to plant some pretty annual flowers after that. The pansies from last fall are almost fried to a crisp! I’m currently looking into lighting options as it’s in a median, and it gets pretty dark at night down in our little valley. I’m thinking of trying some industrial-strength solar lights.

One challenge we now have as we continue to make home and ‘hood improvements is the lack of available home improvement workers and other resources due to the rebuilding efforts after the storm. This city’s resources are stretched thin, but I’m excited about the possibilities of how great this city can become!

Mediterranean-inspired Cucumber Tomato Salad

3 Jun

Often I’ll throw together some ingredients I like and it usually ends up tasting pretty good. The other afternoon I concocted a nice, light summer dish using some food and herbs from my garden.

The night before I had chopped up a cucumber and mixed it with some tomatoes (I cheated and used petite diced canned — I know it’s not the same as fresh but it’s what I had on hand)  and threw in dashes of olive oil, red wine vinegar and sea salt, pepper and dried dill.

Looking through my cupboards, fridge and garden, I grabbed everything I thought might “go” with the salad.

I plucked two basil leaves, snipped some chives (one with a pretty chive flower) and grabbed kalamata olives and Mediterranean blend feta (plain feta will do) out of the fridge.  When I cut basil, I roll it up and slice it to produce those long slivers – they look pretty. I simply cut up the chives and one olive (they’re so flavorful only one is needed) into small bits.

I added all that to a bowl of my cucumber-tomato mixture and mixed it together. Then I topped it with the feta cheese.

It was simply delicious. And fresh, despite my using canned tomatoes. There’s nothing like a home-grown tomato. I don’t know if there’s something in the soil down here, or if the growers stores buy from add something to theirs, or both, or what.

This dish is very Mediterranean-inspired. Most Mediterranean food tastes like summer to me. And this salad is definitely going to be served often in my home this summer.

Spirit of Tuscaloosa: spreading light and hope

2 Jun

My candle

Last night I volunteered for the Spirit of Tuscaloosa Candlelight Vigil in the new Government Plaza downtown. I handed out candles and houndstooth bracelets, then when the time came, lit my candle and helped spread the flame.

It was a beautiful evening. It felt comfortable even with these record-high temps. The vigil was moving.  The mayor, who has done a wonderful job leading and representing this awesome city, received a standing ovation. Most of the crowd had tears in their eyes. But with all the sadness and mourning, there was also hope and optimism. People cheered when, during the slideshow, pictures with signs that read “We’re Coming Back” appeared.

The Tuscaloosa News did a wonderful package on it, complete with a full story, video and photo gallery.

From the story:
“Soon, the dark plaza was engulfed in light, echoing the way people in Tuscaloosa have passed along supplies, hard work and love to those who have needed it in the month since an EF4 tornado changed Tuscaloosa forever.”

I am so proud of this city. Growing up in a military family, I moved around quite a bit when I was younger. I’ve lived in Tuscaloosa longer than I’ve ever lived in any one city, but it never really felt like home. That changed on April 27. Tuscaloosa is home.

Bummer to bumper

1 Jun

This year, I’m trying to grow tomatoes (which I tried last year but only produced three small fruits), eggplant, cucumbers and squash. What’s a garden in Alabama without squash and tomatoes?!?

My first harvest of 2011: gladiolus flowers, squash and cucumbers

My first harvest of 2011 was last week when I picked a squash and two cucumbers. Yesterday I picked two more cucumbers and I still hadn’t eaten the first two, so I gave those to a colleague. My first bumper crop!

I need to find more easy and yummy recipes for cucumbers. I do like to use them as crackers — eating them with dips and chicken salad. And as soon as my tomatoes are ripe, I’m making tomato-cucumber salad.

For dinner last night I sliced up the squash and sauteed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and topped it off with some Parmesan cheese. So simple and delicious! It’s hard to mess up squash.

The eggplant plants aren’t thriving like the squash and cucumbers, but they are hanging in there.

The greenhouse where I bought these seedlings, Brown’s, blew away in the tornado. They had the best flowers, herbs and other plants. And they were beyond reasonably priced. You could fill up a garden for the same price as one plant from a chain home improvement store. I cannot wait for them to rebuild.