March 26, 2012

Wedge Salads All Around

This salad changed my life.  Wait, not even my inner Scarlet O'Hara believes something so dramatic.  (I should totally do infomercials).  Ok, while that is not the case, this tasty treat was the perfect accompanyment for a delish dinner of filets on the Big Green Egg now that the temperature is at perfection here in the south. 

If you have spent more than 2.5 seconds in any fancy steakhouse or nice restaurant, I'm sure you have encountered their version of the gentleman's wedge ... or the traditional wedge salad for us less fancy folks!  Well, in a diva first, I made them at home and they were oh so easy and ever so tasty! 

Ya'll... this salad was to. die. for.  So ultimate yum and according to my principles of cooking - so very easy!  Make one and dazzle guests, heck ... even Zsa Zsa was impressed!

How To:
  • It's just a simple iceburge wedge.  Cut the head into 4 equal quarters.
  • Drizzle with a GOOD 1,000 island dressing
  • Top with bacon and tomato. 
  • The fancy ingredient ... shrimp! 

I'm telling ya'll.  It's that easy.  Look like a gourmet foodie chef in minutes by whipping this prize up!  It won't dissappoint!  Next time the boss is coming for a last minute supper or you need to impress the neighbors, just put one of these at their placesetting and I'm sure it will be devoured lickity split!

~charmed b

March 23, 2012

Band Wagon

Well, just go ahead and put me on the band wagon.  Wait, no ... I'm actually leading the charge.  I am head over heals obsessed with the Hunger Games trilogy!  I heard all about it from friends but just caved this week to read the first book.  Boy oh boy, I sure am glad I did.  It's a real page turner (or ereader flipper!). 

I am pretty sure that is the fastest I've ever read a single book and I just couldn't stop thinking about what our heroine Katniss was going to do next.  Absolutely, LOVE this book.

If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up before you go see the movie!  You won't be able to put it down!  Take it from someone who prides herself on minimum fiction reading - this will not dissappoint.  It is worth every ounce of hype it has received!

March 22, 2012

Home Cooking Working Mom Style

I work full time, ya'll know that.  And when I say "full time", well I mean I'm half married to my work.  That said, I do put family first and make sure that we do have our time together every day when I'm in town.  Since Dear Hubs and I were wed, almost ten years ago, I have found great pride in putting a hot home cooked dinner on the table.  Sure, some days it isn't exactly gourmet, and some days we go out, but on many days I do my very best to cook something to show my love language to my handsome fellas. 

I'll confess something if you promise to keep it our little secret?  I haven't exactly figured out the cloning thing and I am still searching for the mystery formula to have a few more hours in the day ... but, I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that keep me sane and able to attempt a healthy balance.  This is one of those trusty tricks.  Whenever I cook a big meal that can be frozen, I AT LEAST double it and freeze a second (and maybe a third) portion for a later meal.  It's a perfect way to cook once and enjoy the fruits of my labor on a day when chaos ensues and our dinner plan is left to the wind.

On a recent Sunday, Baby B served as my trusty kitchen assistant as I tried something brand spankin new ... cook once and have over TWENTY meals ready to go.  Sure, I did the heavy slicing and dicing, but his company made the time fly by!  And, who knew how much fun a spatula and bell pepper could be for an 8 month old!

There was 10lbs of chicken, about 8lbs of pork, about a dozen bell peppers, rice a plenty and homemade tomato base as far as the eye can see!  Following a simply plan published by Rachel Ray's Everyday magazine, I cooked once and froze my goodies to be repurposed for all sorts of tasty treats.  So far, we have dined on chicken quesadillas, Greek veggie flat breads, creamy polenta with chicken and wild mushrooms, Asian pork noodle soup and brunswick stew.

The freezer with individual portions of the stock ingredients!

The concept is simple, make a huge helping of certain base ingredients and then freeze them in individual batches.  When you are ready to prep your dinner, simply add a few fresh ingredients and in less than 10 minutes a hot and flavorful meal is waiting.  While I can't exactly find the plan I followed on Miss Rachel Ray's website, I did find this great little recipe finder for many make ahead meals.  Once we exhaust our current stash, I'll be finding my next recipes here!  Scoot over to the site and try out this cooking experiment next time you have a little free time!

March 20, 2012

Private Social ... It's a Big D thing!

Last weekend on my quickie trip to the Big D, I ventured from my normal hot spot restaurants for a new place that absolutely did NOT dissappoint!  I love all things Texas.  Not sure why or how, but big hair and glitter are in my DNA and I'm a fan of this southern gem of a city. 

Ya'll may recognize the name Tiffany Derry from season 7 of Bravo's Top Chef.  Miss Tiffany was voted Fan Favorite and after eating her cuisine, I tend to agree.  Now, Tiffany spends her Thursday nights (yes, we caught a sneak peak of this culinary diva) at her new restaurant in Dallas, TX, Private Social.  While I tend to steer towards my favorites like a moth to a flame, when friend J suggested we try this new dish, I couldn't resist. 

From the Top Chef Pork Buns that made her famous on the show of the same name, to the full belly I left with after the Fried Green Tomato with Shrimp Ravigote ... everything was simply lovely.  Tiffany's mix of comfort food with an upscale twist really knows how to pull on my heartstrings.  Not to mention the elixir named "Skinny 2.0" from the bar that matched grapefruit vodka with champagne and mixed it up with homemade strawberry lavender bitters.  I don't care what you call it ... it was wonderful!  

After enough appetizers from the "social" menu to call it a day, Friend J and I decided best if we had two entrees to split :).  What a great decision this was!  We dined on the perfect Pan Seared Scallops with (fresh) lobster cream corn and a flavorful homemade Garganelli Pasta with marscapone cream sauce, hedge hog mushrooms, cherries and pine nuts.  Sadly, we were so stuffed that the thought of a dessert made our pants grow even smaller!

Perfect meal and perfect company ... I'll be back!  Thanks, Tiffany!

The pasta dish perfection

Simply divine scallops

March 19, 2012

She Sells Sea Shells ...

It's a fact, Jack ... I'm obsessed with a few fine home interiors.  And, over the years, these obsessions have (cough, cough) grown a bit.  It started with Napoleon style bees, then there was mercury glass, the Chi scent candles that caused a cross-state-lines hunt, of course we can't forget the burlap and now my obsession list has officially added sea shells to the roster.  Specifically, oyster shells.  They are just so classic and oh so southern, I can't help but toss them everywhere. 

Well, let's be honest ... when you luck into a find of this size, you have no real option but to put them high and low!  Fear not, Dear Hubs ... this was a STEAL and I just simply got the deal of a lifetime, hence we have so many :).  (that should do the trick!).

So now that every spare frame, every decorative accent, every ... well, everything has been covered in these fashionable mollusk; I turned my attention to a new little sassy votive that is just perfect for my family room side table.  Zsa Zsa has already set her sights on one of these as well and she was pleased as punch when she found a ready made votive with her name on it last week!

With a few inexpensive craft store supplies and my treasure trove of shells, I created the decorative votive lickity split.  While it looks a little overwhelming and the glue takes some patience, I must confess I'm pretty darn happy with the outcome and the decorative look achieved for a shoe string budget!

Here's what I needed:
  • Shells
  • A candle plate (a glass plate typically in the craft store near the candle section)
  • A small glass votive
  • Super Glue (clear gel works best)

Here's what I did:
1.  Begin by gluing the votive onto the plate in the center.  Let it stand overnight or more until it is completely dry and doesn't move to the touch.
2.  Begin by laying out the shells in a pattern fanning out like flower petals from the votive center.  You will want to try a few different directions, shapes and sizes before you settle on the pattern that works.  Remember, nature isn't perfectly symmetrical and so your shells need to be put together like puzzle pieces.
3.  Glue the base layer and repeat for a second layer.
4.  Let the beginning base layers dry overnight.
5.  Repeat the process as above with more shell layers.  This time, direct them more vertical rather than out.  Think about the natural progression of flower petals as you place the shells.
6.  Once complete let it dry overnight. 
7.  Review your handy work.  Where you see "holes" where the glass is blatently showing through in large form, go back and nudge a smaller shell in the hole to fill the space.  It makes the look of the overall piece more full.

Step 1

Step 3


Voila!  I'm just simply smitten with the outcome! 

March 12, 2012

Gone Green

As much as I'd like to pretend that this post is a public service announcement for the perils of our environment and the fact we must care for her at all costs ... sadly, it's not.  I'm talking about going a different shade of green.  In preparation for St. Pat's this coming weekend, our humble home has been transformed into a green machine just for the holiday.  In addition to the front door decor we typically sport for such an occassion, this cute little vignette has been put together for celebrating appropriately. 

My go to apothocary jar is filled with festive Lucky Charms ... yes, the cereal.  I know Dear Hubs has been eyeing it for a good few days wondering if he's actually permitted to eat the decor!  A small mint julip cup (they come in soooooo handy) is filled with small Irish flags just perfectly fit for the occassion.  And last, a few tiny Irish hats.  Perfectly sized for my little leprechaun!  Erin Go Bragh!

March 07, 2012

Bulb Rewards

I'm convinced that gardening is natures way of making us patient.  Back breaking effort, close encounters with the wormy kind and dirt for miles is rewarded months later with beautiful flowers, lush greenery and the bounty that (if your lucky) is the pride of a pretty garden that lasts all spring and summer long. 

Last year, I dug and dug in our front little flower bed and this month my hard work paid off.  I'm just pleased as punch with the first daffodil bulbs that sprouted their pretty little heads.  Next up, tulips will fill in the gaps followed by agapanthus in the early summer.  I have always been a fan of the springly look of daffodils and tulips and became a lover of the beautiful purple agapanthus when I started travelling frequently to So Cali years ago.  How they keep those purple blossoms year round is enough to make any garden green! 

While the fall bulb season is well behind us, I'm just giddy to plant a series of gladiolus here this weekend!  I lucked into a super deal on these bulbs and bought no less than 50!  Sure, I'm not excited about the future back ache, but it will be worth it when these beauties grow this summer.  My best tip on glad bulbs, be sure to plant them close together and they definitely do best in a clump.  I learned the hard way in seasons prior ... nothing looks worse than a stringy single bulb sparcely placed in a flower bed.  This time, there's a giant mass of these slated for right next to my back porch!

In other gardening news, I am going to try my hand at a few planters of seeds as well once the weather warms a bit.  While I'm cautiously optimistic, rest assured if it works I'll be sure to share the good news!

March 06, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sweetness!

Ya'll, I'd be remise if I didn't give a big, ole, sweet Happy Birthday wish to one of our favorite cookies around this part ... the Oreo turns 100 today!

From Oreo truffles, to cheesecakes, to toppings galore ... this sweetheart is tops in my book!

Now, I feel obligated to run out and buy a big box to celebrate!

Dining on the Town

Last week was Buckhead restaurant week.  For all of ya'll Atlantans, you know this is a great treat!  One week a year, over 30 of Buckhead's finest restaurants set a lovely 3 course meal at a special price for diners near and far.  Even with TWO crazy trips last week; one for me to Puerto Rico and one for Dear Hubs to Chicago, we still managed to partake in two stops on the restaurant week tour!

First stop was Nava.  This place is just timeless.  As part of the Buckhead Life Group restaurants you know you are in for a treat and this meal did not dissappoint.  Starting with the blood orange and jalepeno margaritas right through to the empenada appetizer, field greens with goat cheese and jalepeno vinegrette salad and delish hanger steak entree ... we were just so absolutely stuffed that we couldn't even fathom dessert (can you imagine???)!

Next stop was Capital Grille.  Located on the 8th floor right in the heart of Buckhead, this restaurant is a poised meal with gracious views of the city!  As always, good wine and good steak cannot be beat!  While we might have been the only people there not celebrating a birthday or anniversary ... I love going to places like this on a random day just because :).  Delicious meals and divine company ... what a week of good food!

March 02, 2012

Adventures in Crawling

Baby B is mobile.  It's a fact.  At six and a half months, the boy started with a slow crawl.  Now, a month later ... he's a full on sprinter on his knees!  Of course, equipped with NO fear and a house that is (in my opinion) well decorated, he goes straight for the danger zones.  First stop ... the stacked stone fire place.  He seems to camp out right by it.  His precious little face just inches away from stone.  I shudder thinking he might whack, flop or konk his head on the hearth. 

Have no fear, Dear Hubs came up with a solution to the rescue.  With as little as agreeing it was a good idea, Dear Hubs swooped into action and surprised me by creating a cover for the hearth that is stylish and perfectly safe. 

Since it wasn't my project, I don't (a) have pictures of the steps and (b) only have a rough idea of how he did his magic.

Cut 1x1's (or have the store do it) to meet your measurements for the sides and front.  Flat plywood board is used for the top.  Screw the 1x1 onto the plywood.  Cover the entire "box" with carpet padding foam and staple into place.  I chose a neutral linen muslin to cover the entire thing so it blends nicely with the stone and the decor. 

Now, less to worry about when Baby B tries his daredevil stunts!  Thanks Dear Hubs!