Monday, February 28, 2011

Weekend at the Beach!

Last year, I was lucky enough to be part of a group of bloggers who were invited to Ocean Isle Inn. This year, a blogger's conference was going to be held there again. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to attend because of work. We are planning events, meetings etc. and it has been really busy since the New Year.

Luckily, when events were moved and work was completed, I was able to confirm I was going. Ocean Isle inn is at Ocean Isle Beach in NC. It is really quite beautiful there and the hotel is right on the beach.

Tom decided to come with me and I was glad because I wanted him to see it since I had a great experience there last year. So on Friday, we packed up and left for the beach. Funny thing about where we live, we actually had to travel to South Carolina to get to a North Carolina Beach. Crazy, huh?

We arrived Friday afternoon and I immediately headed downstairs to see my friend, Liz and try to catch the afternoon activities. It was great. The best thing about blogger conferences, for me, is seeing old friends. I saw a few of them and that never gets old. I also met a few new bloggers who I knew online but never in real life.

Friday night we headed out to dinner and I was back to hang out with the girls at night. Saturday, we had breakfast then Tom kidnapped me and took me on a drive to Wilmington, NC. It is really cool there. Last year I went to see the Battleship North Carolina and that was cool. This year we just took in the downtown area with some beautiful historical houses. The waterfront is quite nice as well.

Then Tom got me back to the hotel to actually be at the conference. Luckily, I only missed a half hour. The afternoon was spent with the other bloggers. It's sort of nice being around people who get my obsession with social media. We are always tweeting, facebooking, emailing etc. during the conferences and no one cares. It's just part of what we do.

Saturday, we went out to dinner with Tom with a couple of friends and then it was back to the hotel to spend the last night with everyone just hanging out, having a few drinks and having a blast.

It was nice having some down time with Tom. It was nice being at the beach. It was a good weekend. Sunday was a long drive home but we got back at a good time to get ready for the rest of the week.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mini Sausage Quiches

I had to do another review on my other blog and I created a recipe so I thought I would share it.

I was reviewing Bob Evan sausage. Love it! If you never tried Bob Evans foods, you should especially the sausage. I went willy-nilly as usual and decided to do a pantry and fridge raid. I found biscuit dough, apples, eggs, shredded Gouda cheese and fresh sage. I figured the sausage would pair fantastically with the green apples and sage. Green apples pair well with Gouda cheese. So I decided to bake little breakfast quiches. Maybe quiche isn't the right term. I guess you can say they are breakfast cups. Anyway I began the cooking.

I bought the patties because I knew I had to break down the sausage to mix with the eggs. I took the sausage patties and crumbled them and started cooking them. When they were browned, I added chopped green apples. To get all the juicy bits off the bottom of the pan, I added a splash of cider vinegar.

Then I grabbed some eggs and mixed them with the fresh sage, Gouda cheese and I decided to add a little cheddar cheese as well. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper for good measure. I added the sausage and apple mixture to the eggs and mixed well.

I took the biscuit dough and cut it into little pieces and rolled it out. I popped the dough into the mini muffin pan and baked it for about 7 minutes. When that was done, I pulled out the mini cups and filled them with the mixture. I baked them for another 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.

You do not want to overcook the eggs yet you want to make sure they get cooked. Because I was using a mini muffin pan, I had to keep checking. Once they are ready take them out to cool.

I have to say that these turned out pretty darn good. The Bob Evans sausage is really delicious. I love it. There is nothing like eggs and cheese along with the sausage either. What made these super good was the apple. When I bit into one, it tasted like really good quiche. Then I would get a piece of the apple and it added a really sweet yet tarty taste to the dish. The Gouda cheese also added another layer of flavor that was fantastic!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back at Ocean Isle Inn!

I am the Ocean Isle Inn Blogger's Conference this weekend. WOO! I will try and update with some pictures but I am such a slacker, I might not. I will hopefully have some nice pictures on Sunday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mostly Wordless Wednesday ~ My Office Artwork

My office just happens to be in the school library. So I have become friends with the librarian and, consequently, her 13 year daughter. I think it's because sometimes I act like a 13 year old so we get along really well. I get along really well with her mom too. LOL

My little friend decided to paint me some pictures to brighten up the bat cave. Everyday I see this and it makes me smile. It does brighten up my day!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Egg Salad

The other day I got a craving for egg salad. Now, I cannot even remember the first time I had Egg Salad because it is one of those dishes I did not grow up eating. Once I tried it, I liked it. So every once in a while I crave it.

So here I am craving Egg Salad. Luckily, the week before a friend at work had given me some fresh eggs. Yes, really fresh eggs. She has chickens at her house and every once in a while, she surprises me with a dozen fresh eggs. Plus, I get to hear her chicken stories. her chickens are always up to wacky antics and, of course, nonsense and shenanigans.

She loves telling me about how each of the chickens has her own personality. She tells me about how she pets them and when she comes into the hen house, they all come to her for a little love. Her stories are hilarious.

The best part though is that those girls lay some delicious eggs. If you never had fresh eggs, you need to find some. They do taste better. They are just more flavorful.

Since I did not grow up eating Egg salad, I really don't know how to make Egg Salad. I don't even use a recipe. This is one dish that I have guessed as to what is in it and go from there. Egg Salad is easy and versatile. It is one of those dishes that you can do anything with. I have had all different types. I like mine simple.

Armed with my fresh eggs, I just improvised and came up with a delicious Willy-Nilly version. My Egg Salad is always different. I decided that I could use my Deviled Egg recipe and go from there. I would subtract and/or add ingredients as needed.

Start by boiling the eggs. Oh boy, there is a whole school of thought on how to boil eggs. Every time I watch a Food Network show or read a recipe everyone has an opinion. I usually just start with a pot filled with cold water. Add the eggs and boil for about 6-7 minutes. Then I turn off the heat and let them sit in the hot water. They will continue cooking.

Why this way? Well, I can't remember what Food Network chef I learned it from but, apparently, this will allow the eggs to cook and they won't get that greenish coating around the yolk. I have no idea why this is bad but, apparently, it is. I leave them there about 15-20 minutes and then start peeling them.

Once peeled, I mash up the eggs (7 eggs). I used 7 eggs so I could have some leftovers. I add some mayo. Real mayo, thank you very much. I can't tell you how much but about a tablespoon. If you need more then you just add more. Then I added some powdered mustard. Some people use real mustard but I find it is too strong. I love me some French's yellow mustard but not for Egg Salad or Deviled Eggs. The powdered mustard gives you the same flavor profile but it is a smoother taste. I also add salt, pepper and paprika.

If I were making Deviled Eggs, I would add some red wine vinegar but I don't do that for Egg Salad. What I do add to Egg Salad is a little relish. I use prepared relish that I use for my hot dogs. I add in just a teaspoon to get the crunchiness. I use this because I want texture but I do not want the crunch of fresh celery or onions.
For me, Egg Salad is all about the eggs. I want to make sure the flavor of the eggs comes out. I mix all these ingredients together and then it is ready to eat. This recipe cannot be any simpler.

You can eat it alone. You can serve it on a bed of lettuce. I love my Egg Salad on bread. I also love eating an Egg Salad sandwich with a nice cup of coffee. My craving was satisfied and I have to say that it was absolutely delicious.

Buen Provecho!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day. We feel it's just one of those days created by the big corporations to make money. I don't see anything wrong in celebrating it though. I mean who can't use gifts and chocolates. I am always all about gifts!! So to all of you who do, have a great day with your loved one!

I got these from! BEST. ECARDS. EVER.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paella Recipe

Paella is one of those dishes I have seen and thought I could never make. I always felt that it was totally complicated and that to make it would require so much culinary expertise that I couldn't handle it. So, I never made it. It is also one of those dishes that has so much seafood in it that I knew I wouldn't like it. But the other day I received an Ingrid Hoffman T-fal Paella Pan to review on my other blog, so I decided to take the plunge.

Like I said, I don't really like seafood. I don't eat fish. I will eat tuna in a can with oil and sometimes salmon if masked with a nice dill sauce but fish is something I do not like. I also do not like mussels, clams, oysters or scallops. I will eat shrimp, crab or lobster though. To me, paella was all about the seafood.

So I got this pan and I needed to review it. I could have made something else but as I perused recipes online, I realized that paella is what you make it. I am sure there is a true paella recipe but I looked at over 15 recipes and all were different. I read them and printed out four that I felt I could work with. The first was a recipe from Ingrid Hoffman. The rest were from Paula Deen, Guy Fieri and one from Jaime Oliver.

Because this is random willy-nilly cooking, I didn't follow just one recipe but took a little of one and a little of the other and put it all together. Jaime's recipe was way over my head. He used like a zillion ingredients but I got the idea to use white wine as well as chicken broth from him. From Guy's recipe, I took his advice to use arborio rice vs. regular long grain rice. I think I could have used long grain but the arborio rice just sucks up so much flavor. Paula gave me the idea to use chicken and other things if I wanted. But mainly, I followed Ingrid's recipe because it was true enough but, yet, easy enough for me to actually do it.

Her recipe was for shrimp and scallop paella but it worked out for me. So this is how I made my paella. I started out with one whole chopped onion, 6 chopped garlic cloves and one red and yellow pepper julienned. I was supposed to use a green pepper but my grocery store didn't have any. Geez. I began with 3 tablesppons of olive oil and then added the onions, garlic and peppers and sauteed them. I then added some chorizo.

I was supposed to use Spanish chorizo. Well, good luck trying to find freaking Spanish chorizo here in old Sylva, NC. I couldn't even get a green pepper for pete's sake. I probably should have checked at WalMart but didn't so I tried the next best thing: Mexican Chorizo. I took it out of the casing and added it to the pan. Then I took some chicken thighs I cut into cubes and added them to the an as well. I also added salt, pepper, Spanish paprika and saffron.

Let's talk about saffron. Super duper expensive but you need it. Luckily, I have a truckload in my spice cabinet since I bought some in Costa Rica. Next, I added some andouille sausage. I figured that the Mexican chorizo with the andouille sausage would sort of make up for the fact I had no Spanish chorizo.

After mixing all the ingredients, I added the rice along with a can of drained whole tomatoes. I made sure to drain the tomatoes but kept the liquid and added as needed when I added the other liquid. I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes. On another burner, I had some broth and white wine boiling. I started adding the broth and wine mixture slowly to the paella pan.

True Story: I have never made paella but I have eaten it before. A few years ago, okay more than 15 years ago, I was in Costa Rica. One of my aunts invited me and my mom over for lunch. Now like I said, I don't eat fish or other seafood and, unfortunately, my aunt decided to make us paella.

My mami forgot to tell her I don't eat seafood. Anyway, we arrive at my aunt's house and a bunch of the family is there and it is big deal. To make a dish like this in Costa Rica is pricey! Seafood is pretty expensive and I knew she went through a lot of trouble making it so I had to keep my mouth shut. I also remember my mom taking me aside and warning me I needed to eat her food and not say one thing.

Although I am sure my mom sometimes thinks I am a heathen, potty mouth girl (and I am), I can behave like a decent human being sometimes. The one thing I always appreciated about my mami is that she taught us manners. There are certain things you do and don't when someone invites you to his/her house for dinner. I never ever arrive at without a gift. It doesn't matter if it's bread, wine or flowers, you bring something as a thank you. And unless you are deathly allergic to something. You eat what you are served and declare it is freaking delicious, period. So even though I wanted to run out of the house before eating that meal, I knew that I had to put my big girl panties on and suck it up.

So I smiled and when the dish came out, I said how wonderful it looked. I also put a ton of salad on my plate. I figured I would fill up on other stuff since I didn't want to eat much of the paella. When it came to serving up my portion, I dug through the dish and tried to avoid all seafood and pile on the rice. Of course, I was foiled when my uncle made sure I got some seafood. I was picking at my food all the while getting the hairy eyeball from my mom. I knew I had no choice but to eat.

I did what you do when you have manners and are in a situation like this: you swallow. I chopped the seafood up into tiny pieces and then swallowed it. In between bites, I said oh how delicious, wonderful etc. I am such a good girl! I ate everything on my plate then declared I was full. The dish wasn't horrible but it was not a good experience. It also turned me off to ever trying to make paella myself.

Okay back to the recipe. Making the paella was sort of like making a risotto but easier. I didn't have to stand there and stir. I would add the liquid and then let it soak in and add more liquid and stir. Once all the liquid was added, the recipe called to put some aluminum foil over the pan and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Again, I just played it by ear. I would test the rice to make sure it was getting cooked. After 20 minutes, I added the shrimp and peas and let it cook about 10 minutes more.

Let me tell you that my paella was one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever created. It was a sight to behold. But best of all, it was delicious. I was so surprised as how damn good it was. I rock!

Paella is one of those dishes that intimidated me but not anymore. I just thought that it was going to be really hard to make myself. I can't tell you that having the paella pan really, really helped. It was the perfect thing to make a great paella. I know I will be making this again and again.

Also, it is a recipe that you can make any which way as long as you have the basic technique down. If I ever find Spanish chorizo here in Western North Carolina, I will try that. You can make a veggie paella as well. It is that versatile.

I also realized that this would be a perfect dish for entertaining! It is impressive enough for a dinner party and easy enough to make for a party party. It feeds a lot of people and depending on the ingredients, you can make it at a reasonable price. It also feeds tons of people.

Buen Provecho!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ What we are Watching

The first time I saw "Rich Man, Poor Man" I was 11 or 12 years old. All I remembered was that it was one of the best mini-series I had ever seen. It was probably the first mini-series I had ever seen.

I also remembered I liked it a lot. So the other day, I am going through my Netflix queue and realized that this was out on DVD. Tom said let's watch it again. So we are. It has held up even after 35 years. The best thing is we don;t remember a thing about it so it's like watching a whole new mini-series.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

I woke up today and thought: who is that old chick in the mirror. Then I realized it was me. I am closer to 50 than ever before. Holy smokes.

But look at my precious baby picture! OMG so adorable!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Birthday Weekend

We don't usually make a big deal for our birthdays. Usually we go out to a nice dinner and call it a night. Unfortunately, there are really no nice restaurants here in Sylva. Now that is not to say that there aren't good restaurants but none are kick ass.

Tom lucked out on his last birthday because we were in NYC the week before so I took him out to eat at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain. If you read my blog, you know I am a Food Network Chef Whore. If there is a Food Network Chef restaurant around, I will go and eat there.

This year, Paul Deen opened a new restaurant at the Harrah's Cherokee Resort & Casino. Harrah's is about 30 minutes from where we live so I thought it would be good to have my birthday dinner there. As a Harrah's Total Rewards member, yes I love to gamble, I got a free room. So we decided to make a night of it and spend time at the hotel and have dinner out.

Now, I wish I could say that we went to the casino and I won a huge jackpot and I could quit my job, travel to Paris, buy a new car and live the high life from here out but I didn't. That sucks big hairy balls too because I wanted to win a big giant jackpot. But instead, I lost money on this trip.

Please note: I am having photo editing issues and I cannot get this straight regardless of what photo editing program I use. GRRRR These are photos from my phone so they are wonky. I am too frustrated to continue so you get crooked pictures. Too bad, so sad!

Anyway, we headed out Saturday afternoon. Luckily, they had our room ready. The Harrah's Cherokee is not Vegas but it'll do in a pinch. The hotel itself was very nice. The staff was friendly and we have an enjoyable stay. We had a great view of the mountains. We also had a view of lots of construction. I remember the first time we went to this casino and it was small and rundown. Now it is huge and fancy. When we went to see Paul Deen, I was impressed by the event center. It is very nice and there is really no bad seat in the joint.

We didn't stay long in the room because we headed down to the casino to gamble a little before dinner. We actually had a nice set of clothes to change into but after walking by the restaurant we knew we could wear our jeans and be super casual.

Let's talk about the restaurant. Oh boy, if I were Paula Deen, I would be a little reluctant to put my name on this place. It was nice and clean but very sterile and cold. Luckily, we had made reservations because there were people trying to get in and they were told the next available seating was in 3.5 hours. When we went into the restaurant it was virtually empty. They were turning down people left and right though. It didn't make sense. At one point, the lights went out. And the staff was just unorganized and not very good.

Our server was very good though. She was friendly and on the ball. But I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the food. For a starter we had Fried Green Tomatoes. It is sad day when my fried green tomatoes are better than Paula Deen's. They were good but the breading too thick and greasy. The tomatoes were mushy. My next dish was a wedge salad. I love wedge salad. The best wedge salad I have ever had was at Delmonico's in Vegas. This one was good though. Tom had a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing and he gave it the thumbs up.

I had fried chicken with mashed potatoes and collard greens and Tom had the chicken pot pie. He gave the pot pie a passing grade. My chicken was good but I have had better. I suspect, and I can't be 100% sure, that my mashed potatoes were not fresh potatoes but the flaked kind. They were good but they didn't taste like fresh potatoes. The collards greens were delicious though. OMG, they were a little spicy and just delish. I am a sucker for any greens!

The best part of the meal was the bread basket. The cheese biscuits were great and so was the cornbread muffin! I could have eaten the whole basket of bread! The portions were huge and I didn't even have room for dessert! WTH? I figured I would have cake Monday!

So overall, though the restaurant wasn't great, it was pretty good. Plus, I am sure I am going out to eat again Monday since why should I have to cook on my birthday, right? So I can't complain!