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A Time for Reflection

>> January 1, 2014

  • New Year’s is always a time a reflection for everyone. As we bring the end of the year to a close and welcome the start of a new one, it’s no wonder that we take the time to reflect on the past year and dream of things to come in the new year.

    As usual, I start to think about what my resolution for the year is going to be and unlike years past it’s not “lose weight”, “blog more” (lol), “be healthier”, etc. This year, I’m craving simplicity in my all areas of my life. Which is somewhat comical considering in less than two full months we’ll be welcoming our first baby into the world. But still...I’m looking for less clutter and more clarity in 2014. I plan on accomplishing this several different ways, most notably by taking more deep breaths and letting things roll off my back. I’m prone to focus and stress on things that are out of my control (just ask my husband), and I’m heading into this year with the intention to let things “be what they be”.

    In the spirit of letting things be...we kicked off 2014 with copious amounts of butter, cinnamon, and sugar wrapped in warm dough-y goodness. How’s that for simplicity!

    Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
    Adapted from Bon Appetit:

    BA says that this serves 18, and I beg to differ. I don’t know how your family feels about cinnamon rolls, but I’d be hard pressed to feed anymore than 6 without doubling this recipe. I also made this over the course of two days to avoid waking up at 5am on New Year’s day, because really...who wants to do that?

    1 Cup Whole Milk
    3 Tbs Unsalted Butter
    3 ½ Cups AP Flour (plus more for rolling)
    ½ Cup Sugar
    1 Large Egg
    2 Envelopes Rapid Rise Yeast (or 2 ¼ tsp)
    1 tsp Salt
    Nonstick Spray

    Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup and microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed (about 30 to 45 seconds). Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl. Add the additional 2 1/2 cups flour and beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is too sticky, add more flour one tablespoon at a time until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 5-8 minutes. Form into a ball. Lightly spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in *warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

    After two hours, punch down the dough, recover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure the plastic wrap is adhered well to the bowl, you don’t want the dough to dry out.

    ½ Cup Brown Sugar
    2 Tbs Ground Cinnamon
    ½ Stick Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

    Pull the dough out of the refrigerator, and allow to return to room temperature. You can speed this up by placing it in a warm (not hot) oven for about 15 min.

    While the dough is warming, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

    Punch the dough back down once more, and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 15x11 inch rectangle. Spread the butter over the dough leaving a ½ inch border, and sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the butter. Starting on one of the long sides, roll the dough into a log being careful not to lose too much filling as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into ½ inch slices.

    Spray two 9x9 inch glass baking dishes with non-stick spray, and place each roll (cut side up) leaving very little to no space between each roll. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise in a warm draft free area for 45 min or until dough has doubled.

    Bake the rolls at 375 for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the rolls to cool slightly.

    4 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
    1 Cup Powdered Sugar
    ½ Stick of Butter, room temperature
    ½ tsp Vanilla Extract

    Combine all ingredients and whip until smooth and creamy. Spread the glaze over the warm rolls and try your best not to eat 10 of them before you serve them to your guests :)


On the Open Road

>> June 30, 2013

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I started a little road trip with my brother. It was a cross-country trip from Arizona to Georgia, and so far I've only told you about our time in Arizona! Whew.

Anywho, picking up where we left off. We finished our long day at the Grand Canyon with dinner and drinks and the historic El Tovar hotel inside the park. The next day, we were up bright and early to head out again...our goal was to make it to Santa Rosa, New Mexico with a quick stop over in Petrified Forest National Park. Unfortunately, the Petrified Forest was at a bit of a disadvantage. The day before we were in the Grand Canyon which was stunning, and absolutely incredible. By the time we made it to the Petrified Forest we were like "is this it"? While it was great to get a few more stamps in my passport and check that off the "to-do list", needless to say we were happy to get back in the car and get to our final destination. 

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If I could sum up our experience in New Mexico in one word it would be "weird". It was definitely an interesting place caught between the glory days of Route 66 and, well...somewhere else. I've heard great things about Albuquerque, but we were only passing through so we didn't see much while we were there. Finally, we made it to our hotel and checked in long enough to relax for a little bit and head back out for dinner.  Restaurant options in Santa Rosa, NM were slim...we asked the guy at the front desk for suggestions. Enthusiastically, he said "I always suggest the Route 66 diner, OH and it's Burger Thursday"! I thought, well...when in Rome, right? We were right in the thick of old Route 66 and we could take a trip back in time, plus burgers...I can dig a good burger. Needless to say, if you ever find yourself in the area I would implore you to try a different option. Our little diner should have gone away with the Route 66 travelers of old. I digress.
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It was up and At em' bright and early again the next day. Well sort of. We were 20 minutes outside of Santa Rosa when we realized that we forgot to fuel up so we decided to turn around because we weren't sure when we would see another gas station. So after a short detour, we were on the road again and headed for Amarillo. We weren't scheduled to stop in Amarillo, but I was interested in seeing the Cadillac Ranch on our way through town. It certainly was interesting and weird...but I did say that I was looking for Americana and well, I found it. We didn't stop, but it wouldn't take more than a quick pit stop on the side of the highway. Then it was onward to Oklahoma City and the Stockyards! After breezing through OK City and stopping for a quick lunch is was on to Van Buren Arkansas. Today was our longest driving day, and we clocked a total of 600 miles in one day...whew! There wasn't much to note about Van Buren aside from the fact that it was in a dry county and apparently that have large baseball tourney's there.

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Again, after a long day it was up bright and early the next morning to hit the road. This time we were headed to Memphis, TN. Memphis was a short four hour drive (lol) and since we were up pretty early, we rolled into town around 11am-ish. Neither of us had ever been to Memphis, so we did what any good Southerner would do...we headed straight to one of their best BBQ spots to check out the 'Que. We ended up at Central BBQ and gah...let me just say it was nice to be back in the South. After several days of really bad food, it made their ribs taste that much better! No trip to Memphis would be complete without a stopover at Graceland, Beale Street, and drinks at the Peabody we did all three! After several days of straight driving, it was really fun to hang out with Elvis and slurp gigantic beers with twangy blues in the background. Good stuff all much so, that we didn't want to leave. We stayed for dinner and got to our hotel room late that night in Corinth MS.

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We were SO tired after spending the whole day in Memphis and getting in late. But alas, we were early risers again because we had another full day ahead of us. Today it was onwards to Shiloh National Military Park, we were both really excited about visiting this park. Will and I both love military history, and he especially has a wealth of knowledge about various Civil War battles and military tactics that were used. We arrived fairly early and opted for the driving tour around the park, it was amazing and I would love to do it again on a bike. It's unreal the amount of soldiers that fought and died there, I tried to imagine what it would have been like and it seems like it would have been just sheer chaos and terror. shudder. A word of advice about visiting the park: first; DO visit and second, give yourself plenty of time. We budgeted two hours in the park, we stayed for three and we still didn't see everything. 

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We actually intended to take an additional detour to drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway but couldn't because we spent too much time in at Shiloh. After leaving Shiloh, it was on to Decatur Alabama for a quick stop for lunch at legendary Big Bob Gibson's. We had several kinds of their 'Que, the best by far being the chicken with white bbq sauce and the pulled pork. So delicious that I didn't even snap a picture, I just grabbed one outside as we were leaving. Back on the road again, and we passed through Town Creek AL which is where our grandfather is from. It was cool seeing his little bitty town with it's one four way stop. #precious. After passing through Birmingham, we were in the home stretch. We rolled into Atlanta around 7 o'clock after a long day and an even longer trip. It was an amazing experience, I had so much fun exploring the country and I'm thankful for the quality time that I spent with my brother. I would do it again, in a heartbeat. 
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Sum-Sum-Summer time

>> June 5, 2013

I just love the beginning of Summer. There is something about the start of a new season, the excitement of things to come. The changing of seasonal produce, amazing foliage, new wardrobes, and dreams of wonderful new locales that lend themselves to the changing temperatures. So I guess I should say that I love the beginning of every's true, I really do. It's been an entire year since I've had good tomatoes, seen pretty sandals and smelled sweet jasmine...and I'm pretty stinkin' excited about it!

These last few weeks (in between the thunder storms) have been so wonderful! I always forget how amazing the sun and warmth feels on my skin, and every year on my first pool outing I think: "OMGAHHH this feels so good".  

Strawberries are also something to get excited about. They're so gorgeous and they're the perfect fruit to usher Summer into season. Two weeks ago Josh and I managed to hand pick and cart off two gallons of fresh strawberries from a local farm. They're my most favorite strawberries, and I had about a zillion recipes that I wanted to make with these little babies. This past weekend I was tasked with bringing dessert to a dinner with some friends and I had the worst time deciding what to make! 

Finally, I decided on these little sammich's! They're so super simple and require no cooking whatsoever...which also lends itself to the recent rising temperatures. We enjoyed these so much with our friends and I hope you guys do too!

Do you have any favorite summer traditions? 

Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 Half Gallon Vanilla Ice Cream, softened**
1 pint Strawberries, chopped
Graham Crackers, broken in half

Spread the chopped strawberries in the bottom of an 8x8 glass baking dish. Cover the strawberries with the softened ice cream (about an inch thick) and use an off-set spatula to even out the ice cream over the strawberries. Freeze the ice cream for at least 3 hours so that the ice cream re-sets and becomes firm again. 

Pull the ice cream out of the freezer and run warm water across the bottom of the baking pan to release the ice cream in one large sheet. Using the graham cracker halves as guides, cut the ice cream into blocks and sandwich between two graham cracker halves. Re-freeze the sandwiches, and keep them in the freezer until ready to serve. 



Seeking Americana

>> May 5, 2013

I got on a plane and flew 1,800 miles.  So that I could get in a car and drive back home. Is that weird? 

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I've always wanted to take that "classic" cross-country road trip, and only recently did the opportunity present itself. My brother spent four months training in southern Arizona and was on his way back home. He was planning on stuffing his little Honda Civic with (almost) everything he owned and driving back home to Georgia. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to spend some quality sibling time and see parts of the country that you only see as you're passing through onto your final destination. I think that's what I appreciate most about road trips...there are amazing places to see all across this country and none of which are destinations. 

With only five days to explore, we didn't meander as much as I would have liked but I still managed to cross a few items off of my bucket list. 

Since my flight landed pretty late, Will picked me up from the airport and we stayed the night in Phoenix. We needed to be well rested for the next day because we had the Grand Canyon on the itinerary!!  To say I was excited to see the Canyon is a smidge of an understatement. I have a mini obsession with the National Park system. It started when I saw Ken Burns' "America's Best Idea", it's a fantastic documentary about the history and creation of the National Parks should watch it if you have 720 minutes to spare. Sure it's kind of long, but it's worth every second. 

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We started our first day bright and early from Phoenix and headed North towards the Canyon via Sedona &  Red Rocks Scenic Biway. I was so taken by the landscape of Arizona, this was my first time here and the beauty of the desert is really incredible. It's so amazing how unique each state is in terms of it's landscape, weather, culture, etc. It's what road trips are really all about. As we drove through the desert we were in awe of the amazing colors, the rock formations, and especially the mesa's.

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Sedona was absolutely gorgeous, I'd love to go back and explore the little town and maybe slip in a spa treatment or two...or nine. Who's counting? Will decided to pull over at state park on our route to the Canyon and it ended up being a nice surprise. Sliding Rock State Park is a hidden gem! If you're brave, you can take a dip in the freezing cold water and take a spin on the natural rock slide formed by the bed of Oak Creek. 

Onward to the Canyon! I truly wasn't prepared for the beauty and immense size of the canyon. I know that sounds's called "Grand" for a reason. But still, it's hard to imagine something that big and you quickly realize how incredibly small we are. 

We chose to hike the South Kaibab trail, honestly for no other reason other than we thought it would be the least crowded and something we could handle given our short time in the park. It was stunningly beautiful, so amazing that we almost forgot that we were hiking downhill the entire way. Towards the bottom of the trail we were reminded by the hikers huffing and puffing that the return trip would be completely uphill. Yikes. Thew views make it worth it.

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After our hike, we ran around Grand Canyon Village collecting stamps for my passport and found a place to have dinner. Before dinner we were lucky enough to catch the sunset on the canyon, it's amazing how the colors become so vivid in the late afternoon light. Such amazing hue's of red, orange, and purple that are just breathtaking. We opted to end the first day of our trip at the historic El Tovar hotel. Which is fitting really, given that it was the very hotel that President Teddy Roosevelt frequented when he visited the park...the park that he created. We had a glass of wine by the roaring lobby fireplace followed by dinner in the main dining room. A pretty fantastic end to a pretty fantastic day. 


What I ate for dinner this week

>> February 24, 2013

I don't post here nearly enough, so I thought I might beef up the blog with a quick run down of our weekly din-din's. 

What do you think?

Simple and easy enough, just grilled bratwurst with a smattering of mustard and crispy cold sauerkraut. I picked up the sauerkraut at my local farmers market where they make it in-house, but the bagged kraut at the grocery store isn't too bad. Just make sure to avoid the canned stuff...ick!

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Charred Corn Salad. The chicken was literally as it sounds...marinated in a little lemon juice with olive oil and grilled. The corn salad was the highlight of this meal, my husband went back for seconds and I later caught him scraping the last bits out of the bowl. Needless to say, I'll be making this again soon. 
Thai Larb. I make variations of this same dish but this was my first time trying this particular recipe. We liked it, but I'll make some adjustments the next time around. I made it with ground turkey because it's what I had on hand, and I'll add chopped nuts for more texture. OH...and shortly after this photo was taken this was slathered in sriracha. Sriracha makes everything better...didn't you know?
Chips do not a meal make, and no...we didn't eat this for dinner. BUT these little chippies were a satisfying pre-dinner snack. Chicken + Waffles and Sriracha are two of the limited time Lays flavors that were submitted during their "Do Us A Flavor" contest. I think the Sriracha flavor has the best chances of winning, but they were both fun to try!

This is also not something we ate for dinner. I'm still getting used to remembering to take photos of what we eat before we dive in. However, this doughnut is notable because it haunts my dreams. No really. I have a difficult time articulating how wonderful it is. It's from a local doughnut shop in Atlanta called Dutch Monkey Doughnuts. If you're even remotely local, let me first say that it's way out in the burbs but I would still suggest paying them a visit. I'll never look at doughnuts the same way again. Their lemon meringue is my favorite with it's not-to-sweet lemon filling and wonderfully silky meringue topping. Ugh...I'm dying just typing about this. 

So that was a snapshot of what we had this week! Did you have a notable meal?


Nectar of the Gods

>> November 14, 2012

I just want to be clear. I cannot be held responsible for any behavior that ensues after consuming this devilish liquid. 

I also have a confession to make. I've recently come to the realization that caramel...specifically salted caramel is without a doubt one of the single best foods on this planet. Chocolate doesn't even have a chance against this stuff. Burnt sugar, is like... totally my jam. 

I made this highly addictive delicious concoction only to go one step further. I'm responsible for bringing a dessert to a friends-giving dinner tomorrow night so...of course, I've done the unthinkable.

I made it into a cheesecake. That's right. A salted caramel cheesecake. #IDie. I don't even know what to do with myself. Except to tell you to make this as soon as possible and remember the most important piece of advice...don't share with ANYONE! Ok fine, make this for your real Thanksgiving and share with all of your friends and family. They'll forever invite you to all of the coolest parties and swankiest of gatherings from now until eternity. Just remember, you heard it here first.

Salted Caramel Sauce
Adapted from a thousand different I'm claiming this one

1 1/2 Cup Sugar
5 Tablespoons of Water
5 Tablespoons of Light Corn Syrup
1 Cup of Heavy Cream
5 tablespoons of Butter (cut into chunks)
1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Bean Paste (or Pure Vanilla Extract)

Combine Sugar, Water, and Corn Syrup in a small saucepan and stir until combined. Bring to a boil over medium heat, only swirling the pan as the mixture heats. 

Once the sugar has browned to a medium/amber color, remove the pan from the heat. Add in the cream and butter (mixture will sputter and foam) and whisk until combined. You may have to put the pan back on the burner to get the caramel completely smooth. 

Add in the salt and vanilla, and stir to combine. Let this sit for at least 24 hours in the fridge so that the caramel flavor develops.


Tomato Soup for the Soul

>> October 10, 2012

Seriously? Why does chicken soup get all the glory? There are few things that a piping hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese can't fix. 

Now that Fall has officially arrived in Georgia, it's finally appropriate to start pulling out the cozy sweaters, warmer recipes, and (dare I say) boots?!?! I'm super pumped that it's Fall, not only because it's my favorite season but because I love the sense of renewal that comes along with each season. Inevitably, by the time each season comes to a close we are so ready to move on that any change in temperature is cause for a mini celebration. 

These days, I've been eager for a little change in my life. With Josh graduating school, we've closed a chapter in our lives and the next chapter is waiting in the wings. Of course there's excitement that comes with new opportunities, as well as uncertainty about what's around the corner. Not to worry...before my excitement gets out of control my anxiety swoops in to make sure I don't get carried away. You know that saying "the only thing that's certain is death and taxes", well it should be "the only thing that's certain is death, taxes, and Carolyn's anxiety".

At any rate, here's to a new season and new beginnings!

Tomato Soup
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
1 28oz Can Whole Tomatoes
1 Tbs Brown Sugar
2 Tbs Butter
1 Large Shallot, Minced
1 Tbs Tomato Paste
1 Tbs Flour
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Milk (or Cream if you'd like to add richness)

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set a strainer over a bowl, and cut the tomato's in half and remove the seeds. Make sure you retain as much of the juice as possible! We're just trying to get rid of those pesky seeds! Spread the tomato half's on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Pull them out of the oven and set them aside to cool.

Melt the butter of medium heat until foamy and add the tomato paste and minced shallots. Reduce the heat to low and cook the shallots for 7 - 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook until completely incorporated. Gradually start to add the chicken broth and whisk constantly until all of the broth is combined. Add the tomato juice and the roasted tomatoes and bring to a boil. Once the soup reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. 

Pour the soup into a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend to make the soup creamy! Add the soup back to the pot and add in the milk (or cream) and cook for another 5 minutes. 


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