Monday, December 5, 2011

Soup and a Song

I have a new kitchen toy. Its fantastic, and I have my mom and dad to thank for it! My parents came to visit Kraut and I back in October, and I cooked a comforting fall meal for us. I made a celery, pear bisque (from Bon Appetit magazine) and also some spaghetti squash with bolognese sauce. When I made the soup, I sauteed all the veggies until soft and then put them in the blender to puree them. My parents commented that I needed an immersion blender and I agreed, but its one of those things I've just not gone out and purchased. A few days after they left, I got a surprise package from Amazon containing my new Cuisinart stick blender. Kraut and I tried it right away and made some potato leek soup.

Today in Memphis it is rainy and cold, and I wasn't really feeling up to visiting the gym like I'd planned. It seemed more like a comfort food kind of night. Soup is my favorite comfort food....well aside from pizza, oh and lasagna, or a big bowl of pasta, or a loaf of french bread (did I say loaf?), or...oh never mind! Soup is probably on the top 10 list of comfort foods for me. On nights like tonight when its cold, soup just seems to warm me from the inside out. It also seemed like a perfect opportunity to utilize my stick blender.

Quick Side Note: For those of you who read my post where I explained the soundtrack of life, tonight's feature is a throwback to 1990. Anyone remember Snap!, "The Power"???? If desired you can listen to it here:

Tonight I was thinking of all my favorite pureed soups but eventually decided on curried carrot soup. I often like to read several recipes looking for new twists or ideas, and tonight was no exception. A quick Google search led me to curried carrot and sweet potato soup. Honestly, I didn't read the recipe, only the title and I liked the sound of adding sweet potatoes to curried carrot soup. Plus I could use my blender (cue "I got the power"). I figured I'd just throw some stuff together and see what I got. Here is the finished product and the run down on how I prepared it:

Spicy Curry Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup:

2 large sweet potatoes, cubed (skin on)
6 or 7 carrots, cut in chunks (mine were size of baby carrots)
1 quart unsalted vegetable stock
2 cups water
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1.5 tablespoons sweet curry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

After you've sliced your carrots and sweet potatoes, let them simmer in a pot with water, vegetable stock, and spices until soft, about 20-3o minutes. Then you use your stick blender to puree until smooth. You could add salt, cream, ginger, or whatever else floats your boat, but it was good as is. Also, if your mom hasn't gotten you a stick blender yet, you can settle for a regular blender. Either way you can still jam out to today's song on the soundtrack of life!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Gumbo Season

When football season arrives and the weather starts to turn cool, I immediately begin to crave gumbo. I like to make my first batch in September and by the time its truly cold outside, my roux making skills have been fully restored. The interesting thing about gumbo is that everyone makes it differently, very much like spaghetti or chili. Everyone has their preferences and their family traditions that are very special and personal to them. My favorite is chicken and sausage gumbo and I like it SPICY!!!! I also like it the true Cajun way with a little potato salad in it. I know, I know, sounds crazy but don't mock it 'til you try it! I've made believers out of many and my goal is to make believers out of you today!

Gumbo is the traditional Christmas Eve meal at my parent's house, and my sister and I really look forward to it every year. Our parent's have talked about changing the menu a couple times and realized that it just wasn't an option without starting a household debate. What can I say aside from the fact that I'm just too much of a creature of habit, and food sparks warm happy memories for me. So give this a try soon (it makes a great Sunday football meal), and maybe you will have it perfected in time for Christmas Eve too!!!!

Mom and Dad's Gumbo recipe (enhanced by me cause I never follow directions closely):

1 large onion, chopped
1 onion whole, for stock
2 stalks celery chopped
3 stalks celery, with leaves for stock
1 bell pepper chopped
4+ garlic cloves (you can never have enough garlic!)
1 jalapeno or habanero depending on your spice preference
4 quarts chicken stock (instructions on making your own below)
1 large chicken or turkey
1.5 lbs of sausage
1-2 bay leaves
hot sauce to taste
gumbo file to taste
2 cups flour
1 cup olive oil

Boil chicken or turkey in water with 1 whole onion and celery stalks (onion with skins, and celery with leaves for color). Add salt and pepper, and thyme (I also recommend trying Morton's Nature's Seasoning which has onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, etc). Boil for 1 hour, then strain, reserve stock, de-bone chicken, and set aside.

In a clean dry pot make your roux. Put flour in pot and turn heat on medium-high. Brown flour, stirring continuously until flour is dark brown. Turn down heat if necessary, do NOT burn! Add oil to flour and stir, should be a chocolaty color. Add in chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute until soft.

Add 4 quarts of reserved stock and bay leaves, then stir. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add sausage and chicken and simmer for 15-20 minutes longer. Add seasoning, hot sauce, and gumbo file to taste. Serve over rice and with a dollop of potato salad if you are adventurous!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Song of the Day

Kraut and I are pretty into music, and we listen to just about everything. I love to sing all the time and I can carry a tune, but I was not blessed with impressive skills by any means. However, that has never stopped me. In fact, if you are ever next to a red head in a 2011 blue Ford Fiesta that looks like she is jamming out, its quite possibly me! I also sing a lot to our dog JJ because he never judges fact he actually likes my singing (of course I usually change the words and make the songs about him). In regular conversation with Kraut or close friends (people that know me and won't think I'm totally nutty), I often burst out into song when it somehow applies to the conversation. Kraut and I have termed it my "soundtrack of life".

We do a lot of road biking and usually there is a song that pops to mind while I'm out riding. It usually comes to me when I'm really trying to push myself to speed up or make it up a tough hill and need some inspiration. The other day it was a gorgeous day for a ride, so Kraut and I went out with a group of about 6 or 7 people. It was pretty windy and it had been a while since I'd been out on my bike, so it slowed me down a bit. I was trying not to lag behind the group and Kraut was being sweet about sticking with me. At one point he asked me how I was doing, and I said I'm's song on the soundtrack of life is "Hot Blooded" and I started singing the chorus. It was a great song of the day, so I thought I'd share with you and I would just like to thank the band Foreigner for me getting me through my 30 mile ride!!


P.S. I've been doing lots of cooking and taking lots of pictures lately. I've made some great Cajun dishes, so I promise to share my gumbo recipe asap!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why I'm Sad Summer is Over

There is this fantastic beer that I found in the grocery store during July and I've been dying to share it with you. It was a Shiner beer called Ruby Redbird with ginger and grapefruit flavoring but it wasn't overly sweet. When I went back a couple days later to get more, it was gone!!! There was none left, and now all the Oktoberfest beers are out. I like Oktoberfest beers, but Kraut and I really really liked this beer and we haven't had our fill yet. If you happen upon it anywhere you'd better snatch it up before its gone! Shiner makes some of the best seasonal beers I've ever tried; when Christmas time gets close I'm hoping they have Shiner Cheer again. That will at least make up for the fact that I have to wait a year to get more Shiner Ruby Redbird! Be on the lookout:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I've decided to give you a pictorial of my day. Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

L.A. Caviar

I haven't written very much lately because I've been busy traveling, packing, unpacking, doing laundry, trying to play catch up, and working to keep our plants alive in this heat! Meanwhile, Kraut has been busy traveling, packing, unpacking, doing laundry, trying to play catch up, mowing the lawn, and taking care of me when I was sick with another stupid sinus infection!!!

After Germany, we took a trip up to Michigan for the 4th to visit my best friend and to escape some of this crazy summer heat we are enduring down here in Memphis. It was a really nice trip. We went to the beach in Grand Haven, watched the musical fountain and fireworks, and attended a couple of cook outs. When the question came up of what to bring, I told her to leave it to me!

When I got married my mom made me a handwritten cookbook with a lot of her recipes and one of them that is perfect for bringing as a side or dip is "L.A. Caviar". In this case, L.A. stands for "Lower Alabama", and it is actually my Aunt's recipe that my mom really likes. I've also heard people call it Cowboy Caviar, but regardless of the name, the fact is every time I make this dish its a hit. I've made it for a get together at our house, brought it to a work potluck, and we took it 2 to cookouts over the 4th. On each occasion I've had to give out the recipe. So, it only makes sense that I post it here for anyone who wants it in the future! It is super easy to make and only requires you to be able to chop. Plus, you don't have to worry about heating it up or about it spoiling if it sits out for a bit. Football season is right around the corner....did someone say tailgate?

L.A. Caviar (courtesy of my Aunt Nadine)

3 (15 oz) cans plain black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped yellow pepper
1/4 cup chopped orange pepper
1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes or quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine peas, onion, peppers, tomatoes, parsley, vinegar, oil, and sugar
2. Season with salt and pepper
3. Marinate for 12-24 hours before serving
4. Serve with tortilla chips (or you can just serve as a side, I can definitely eat this with a spoon!)

This is easy, healthy, yummy, and pretty too! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What its Like to Travel with Me

I'm a kind of a goofball. Ok, thats an understatement, I'm a HUGE goofball. However, traveling with me is never dull. I can comfortably say that I often provide some comic relief and I'm pretty good at laughing at myself. Thank goodness, because if I didn't I'd be getting my feelings hurt on a regular basis when my friends laugh at some of my dumb moments. Case and point....we were at my best friend's house the other weekend and I ended up sleep walking from the couch, upstairs, to her room where I put her dress on over my clothes and woke up in her bed. Don't ask, because I have no answer. Anyway...when I travel, I think its important to have a good time, and that includes taking lots of funny pictures. Actually, my thing is getting everyone to do a statue imitation when possible, or just taking funny pictures. On our recent trip to Germany, I got everyone including my mother and father-in-law to do at least one imitation. We got some good ones for you to see:

This is Kraut's youngest brother and he was willing to be the first as we toured Berlin. What a good sport!

Then it was Kraut's turn.

Then we got Kraut's middle brother to do one the next day at the palaces in Potsdam (which is just outside of Berlin).

This looked like a good one for Kraut and I to try while waiting outside one of the palaces. Kraut was having some trouble balancing though.

Here is Kraut's dad's version. Not sure he has the hang of this yet, if only I could find a statue to superimpose behind him!

I'm pretty sure this picture reiterates what I said earlier about being a goofball.

Here is Kraut's mom. This picture was funny to try and take. The boys were all giving her directions at the same time on how to hold her fingers, and the result is that she looks like she is hitchhiking.

Here is me washing my hair at the Zwinger in Dresden.

Hamburg....Kraut's dad did pretty good on this one!

I didn't want Brussels to be left out. I actually did a much better imitation than this photo shows, but Kraut was taking forever to take this picture and I was starting to get a little ancy and embarrassed lying there while people walked by staring.

The picture above and the following pictures are just random things I wanted to share. This one was in one of the palaces in Dresden. They made us try to fit these slippers on over our shoes to walk through. It didn't work very well with sneakers, so I just shuffled around instead of walking. Kraut slid around like a speed skater. Wish I had video for you!

The above picture was taken in the plaza area near the Brandenburg Gate. These ladies appeared to be American. They were wearing these colored wigs while riding around in this float waving at people and saying hello. They have to be much goofier than me....and somehow that makes me feel better about myself.

When Kraut spotted this car he immediately said we had to take a photo for one of our Memphis friends. She is from Malaysia and dislikes things that fill the Asian stereotypes; specifically she hates Hello Kitty and making the peace sign for photographs.

Check out the embroidered Hello Kitty seats!


When Kraut's brother spotted this lovely pink car in Hamburg, he liked it so much he wanted to "hold" it. As a side note...Kraut works in the car industry, and there was soooo much car talk on this trip between him, his brother pictured above, and their dad. I know they are all very passionate about cars, but I didn't go to Europe to check out the cars!

I was much more interested in the bikes than the cars. Everyone bikes in Germany, and I would love to be able to do that. Not just because I enjoy biking but also because I would want a Kettler cruiser. That has such a nice ring to it, and who wouldn't want a bike named for them?

Here is a picture of the SAP office we passed in Hamburg. We passed one in Dresden too, but I didn't snap a photo of that one. We use the SAP system at my work. So while Kraut was checking out cars all over the place, I was seeing this....I guess you can never truly get away from the office!

I will leave you with this one from Brussels. Belgium is known for their cartoons, most recognizably the Smurfs. They have comic murals all over the city, and there is a specific comic strip walk you can take. We only saw 3 or 4 murals, but given my infatuation with statue imitations, I'm guessing no further explanation of this picture is needed!