Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mama's Breakfast Casserole

This breakfast casserole is a family tradition at every Christmas Day brunch. It is heaven on a fork. Delicious for dinner too!

You'll need:
  • Baguette of French bread, cubed
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 lb sausage 
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

First, melt the butter on your stove top.

Cube the French bread...

Toss the bread into the melted butter.

Stir it around to coat...

Until it starts to brown.

Layer into a greased 2 quart casserole dish.

Brown and drain the sausage. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat together eggs, milk, salt and mustard.

Layer the cheese on top of the browned bread.

Add the sausage...

And pour the egg mixture over the top.

Refrigerate overnight and then bake for 45-50 minutes in a 350 degree oven.


Love me some casseroles, dinner or breakfast!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Wannabe Cook's Dream Kitchen

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what my dream kitchen would look like. A girl can dream, right? A kitchen is the heart of the home. It's where everyone naturally gathers at a dinner party, including the dogs in search of any scraps. I spend a lot of time in my tiny little kitchen between squeezing in batches of Sassy Sweet Pecans and throwing simple dinners together.

I grew up in a very rustic home. A log cabin, actually. Literally every single wall of my parent's home is wood. The ceilings are made of wood beams. Floors, yep, you guessed it...hardwoods. So, I naturally prefer a more rustic style than most people probably do. But, I have to keep in mind that I live inside the city limits. How to combine the two? They nailed it below.

Loving the contrast here with the white cabinets, dark island, chrome pendant lighting. Love, love, love the backsplash.

Subway tile is so classic and clean.

A farmhouse sink would be amazing. Love the updated subway tile.

Not digging the light fixtures, but everything else is pretty perfect.

These stools would be awesome at an island. I covet them.

A cabinet for your appliances is absolutely genius. 

Obsessed with the chalkboard paint. If only pantries looked this neat in real life!

All images from my Pinterest.

What would your dream kitchen include?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oliver is 6!

Yesterday was my little man Oliver's 6th birthday. I cannot believe he is already 6 years old, but then again, I cannot remember my world before him! Josh and I are both crazy dog lovers, as many of you know, so our dogs are a huge part of our life. We've been through a lot with Oliver, and while it hasn't always been fun, we've worked together to get there. You can read about our Oliver trials and tribulations here :)

Here is Oliver at one week old. Ummm...can you say lab rat? I actually got to hold him at one week old. Tiniest thing I've ever seen.

On the way home. We had just gotten home from a family vacation the day before, and my sister and I high-tailed it down to Cochran, GA (from North Carolina) to pick him up. Much to my disappointment, he slept the entire car ride home. 

First bath. I gave him an ear infection. I felt awful!

Hanging with my favorite cat, Rascal. She passed away several years ago, but her sister, Purrl, still lives. She is about 22 years old! This poor cat. Rachel and I carried these cats around in pillowcases and dressed them up in baby clothes. Rascal was always very cooperative. Purrl, not so much.

And here is my little man today! And, a man he certainly is.

I get choked up when I remember how short dog's lives are. We are doing our best to give both Buster and Oliver a great life and soak them up while they are with us!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Night Supper: Planked Lamb Chops with Feta Topping

Have you ever cooked with a grilling plank? I have been wanting to for a long time. Actually, for over a year and a half. We got some grilling planks as a wedding present, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have just discovered how amazing they are! It is so easy, and gives your food the best smokey flavor.

Tonight, I made Gena Knox's Herb Crusted Lamb Chops with Feta Topping. YUM. Now I am determined to make every recipe in her cookbook Gourmet Made Simple. These were incredible.

You'll need:
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 lamb loins or rib chops, each 1 and 1/4 inches thick
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 15-inch cedar or oak grilling plank, soaked

First, you'll need to soak your grilling plank for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. I soaked mine in plain water in the kitchen sink for 1 hour. Gena suggests experimenting different liquids like beer, wine and juice. Must try that next.

Next, preheat your grill to medium-low heat.

Grab your parsley...

And chop it up...

Do the same with your rosemary.

Grab a garlic clove...

And chop away...I usually use my mincer but decided to chop tonight.

Next you'll need to zest the lemons.

In a small bowl, combine parsley, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. 

Stir and season generously with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the feta.

Then add about half of the herb mixture to the bread crumbs/feta. Set this aside. This is good enough to eat by itself, with a fork. Yep, did it.

You'll need to get your grilling planks in hand now. Place the soaked plank on the grill. Close the lid and heat for 3 minutes. Mine caught on fire, so I had to lower the temp! 

Spread the herb mixture on the lamb chops like so...

Once your 3 minutes are up, flip the planks with some grill tongs and put the chops directly on the heated side of the plank. Close the lid and cook for 6 minutes. 

Once the 6 minutes are up, put the feta mixture equally on all of the chops. Don't turn the chops...I was royally confused about this. Had to emergency call my mom and read the directions to make sure I wasn't crazy.

Close the lid and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Remove the chops and the plank from the grill...the great thing about this is you just remove the whole plank onto something that can take heat, like a cookie sheet. Tent the chops with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.

And...voila! Gorgeous and absolutely to die for.

Our meal rounded out with some Trader Joe's mashed potatoes and greens - both in the frozen section.

Anyone have any other recipes for grilling planks? I'm hooked.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's the Little Things

It really is all about the little things. Here are a few that are making me smile.

...Picking daffodils with a neighbor before it got down below freezing. Although I'm so happy to see some brightness in this stint of frigid weather, I have to say that it will be sad not to see a true spring since we've basically already had it!

...Nibbling on a small and therefore "less guilt" cookie cake with my Valentine.

...Throwing together a last minute Proper Pecan order for Valentine's at Lucy's Market!

Seeing my little man in all his Valentine splendor...

Coming home to a princess crown and Valentine card. And yes, I wore the crown around for the night.

Pot roast!!!!!

What little things keep you smiling?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Night Supper: Garlic Shrimp & Seared Scallops

It was so nice to get back in the kitchen tonight. I haven't been cooking much lately, as I've gotten myself into other projects that are taking precedence. You know how that goes. Sundays are, after all, my favorite night to cook in so I decided to dive into a cookbook that I've had for years and never made a thing out of. It is Atlanta Cooks At Home. By now, it is very outdated (2006) as far as what chef's are at which restaurants, but the two recipes I tried tonight were anything but!

I had originally picked out a recipe by La Tavola for Seared Scallops with Sweet Pea Puree and Brown Butter. I found the scallops at my grocery to be very small, so I also grabbed a pound of Georgia shrimp and pulled Ecco's recipe for Garlic Shrimp with Olive Oil and Fresh Bay into the cue. They went together perfectly!

OK, pet peeve...when my meal is all the same color, like so...ARGH!

I am keeping a lot of Trader Joe's frozen sides on hand these days. This is the quinoa with veggies. It was unbelievable! Good protein, too.

For the scallops, you'll need:
  • Kosher salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (every time I type "olive oil", I type "Oliver"! HAHA)
  • 4 sea scallops (I had to use 8!)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
The recipe also calls for 1 cup of shelled English peas that you boil, shock and blend with a tablespoon of olive oil and cooking water...the scallops are supposed to sit on a bed of pureed peas. I skipped this, mostly because it just seemed more cumbersome than what it was worth!

For the scallops, heat a saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season scallops with salt and pepper. When olive oil begins to smoke, add the scallops. Cook for 2 minutes and turn. 

Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Now, use your judgment depending on the size of your scallops. Mine were teeny tiny and didn't take as long! 

When done, they should be crispy on the outside but springy to the touch. Remove scallops from the pan and drain on a plate with a paper towel.

Add butter, capers and thyme to the saute pan and cook over medium-high heat. The butter should become nutty brown in color and the capers will start to split. I think next time I will cook more over just medium heat. My capers got a little crispy...

When you are ready to serve, you'll spoon this butter sauce right over the scallops.

If you are crazy like me and think you need more than one entree, you'll need to do the shrimp at the same time. I was a little stressy tonight. Usually, I only like to handle one item that is time sensitive. For the shrimp, you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (Oliver, I did it again.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed (I used the pre-minced garlic for ease, although I much prefer fresh garlic.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound fresh Georgia shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt
Pretty shrimp.

After peeling...

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add garlic, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Saute a few minutes. Season both sides of the shrimp with salt and add to the pan. Saute 2 minutes and turn shrimp.

Cook for another 2 minutes. Again, use your judgment. There is nothing worse that tough, over cooked shrimp! They'll start to curl up and turn pink when they are done.

They are ready to be served!

Now, if you are a better meal planner than me, you will choose something green to go with these to brighten up your plate. Although, the flavor of the quinoa was a great compliment to the surf & surf!