Monday, November 29, 2010

a fanciful feast

Think about it. The entire Thanksgiving celebration is centered around food. Well, and football here in the Heartland. I could hug whoever decided thankfulness and family togetherness should culminate around delicious culinary masterpieces. (Imagine if instead of the feast in that traditional First Thanksgiving story, they chose to center on the ship landing? What would our tradition be like in that case?)

For the last few years, my grandparents have come to town for Thanksgiving, but they were unable to make it this year. But my parents invited two replacements, The Noshery and the Spousal Figure themselves. My mom was so excited about them coming that she planned a meeting between the three of us just to make sure everything was perfect.

And it was.

Key players:

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beautiful tablescape by my mama

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brie with cranberry pomegranate chutney
(made by Whole Foods (YOM!!)

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Pioneer Woman stuffing

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cranberry goodness

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Pioneer Woman mashed potatoes

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Paula Deen popovers

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the star of the show herself
(mi madre totally rocked it!)

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my plate of yummies

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sad, drooly yellow puppy had to stay outside

I didn’t take any pictures, but in normal family tradition my grandparents bring Italian sausage from a little Italian supermarket in Dallas. It’s delicious. We walk/run a 5K not far away from the house and then eat big juice sausages with tangy cranberry sauce wrapped in a slice of bread.

Though my grandparents (and the delish sausage) couldn’t make it, JT made sure the tradition lived on and picked up some Italian sausage from Siegi’s in Tulsa. It might not be a tiny Italian supermarket, but it was awesome! We have always loved the quality of their meats.

Just in case you couldn’t tell, our tummies are still recovering from this wonderful meal. Meseidy rocked the sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin bread pudding (Bobby Flay’s recipe from Throwdown with Ree’s hard sauce, if you can stomach how awesome that would be!) The turkey was plump and perfectly seasoned, the potatoes creamy and buttery, the popovers perfect with a touch of raspberry jam. And the dessert was perfect once I made more room by switching to stretchy pants.

But would you believe me that the company was even better?

Happy Thanksgiving! And don’t forget to be thankful the other 364 days of the year for friendship, beauty, and of course, food on your table!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

things to be thankful for


my husband  
and all the fun and beauty that's revealed through him


mornings 
and that His mercies are new every one of them


my family
and all the wisdom and tears of laughter that spill in their presence


the oven 
and all of the fascinating things that it can do


learning
and that it doesn't just happen in a classroom


music
for the special language it speaks to me


friendship
and that God gave us an unconscious ability to find each other


hope and a future
and that there are big plans in store


the fourth thursday in november
that it reminds us to have thankful hearts every day

but mostly that I can cook all morning in my pajamas,
eat until I'm stuffed, satisfied, and sleepy,
and spend all day with my family with an agenda of
nothing, football, and more nothing.

what are you thankful for?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the route 66 half mary

 

To say I’ve been waiting over six months to write this post wouldn’t be true. Yes, I’ve been waiting to add this chapter to my running story since I signed up in May, but that’s a post for a different day.

Everyone knows that a good race always begins the night before with the carbo loading. My college roommate was in town for a little, and I was happy she was there not only to spend time with her – which is rare these days since she lives in Denver – but so she could keep my nerves at bay.

We went to one of our favorite restaurant’s Mary’s Italian Trattoria on Cherry Street, and was able to custom-order exactly what I was looking for: a shrimp pasta with a simple lemon spaghetti. I ended up getting shrimp scampi with plain spaghetti and squirted a bunch of lemon juice on it. So delicious!

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In the few days leading up to the race, I had lots of nerves going on. For one, my legs started giving me fits, I think because I wasn’t running very much, and I worried that I’d skipped too many shorter runs in my training. (More on this later.) My friend Melanie, who is a physical therapist, came over and taped me up the night before. So sweet!

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I’d planned to wake up early that morning so I’d go to bed early and sleep well. My plan worked for the most part, so when my alarm went off at 5:55, I was up and raring to go. One thing I’d recommend is laying out everything the night before so it’s all ready to go and you don’t have to worry about forgetting your timer chip or race number.

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The entire morning leading up to the race, my nerves had turned into pure excitement. I just said a prayer and knew everything would be okay. This was supposed to be about having fun, and having fun is what I was going to do! It was pretty chilly when we got there, especially standing in the enormous port-a-potty lines. I was actually in there when the gun went off, but luckily, I was in Corral C, and didn’t start until after fifteen minutes.

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I made the mistake of starting with the 8:00 pace group since it was impossible to push against the crowd at that point, but I kept my own pace and just let them pass me. The beginning of the race was ridiculously hilly. The entire course had its ups and downs (har har), but I remember the beginning was the absolute worst.

The rest of the race, I just tried to pace myself, pay attention to the course, and distract myself with the gorgeous surroundings. We ran through Woodward Park, Cascia Hall, Swan Lake, and of course, along the Arkansas River. And the neighborhoods were gorgeous, too. The first three miles were hard for me, then I was pretty consistent with bursts of momentum at miles 4, 6, and 8.

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One of the highlights of the course was running past Andrea and Jason’s house, where I got to high five JT and see the sign they’d made. It was at this point where I gave an older lady a pep talk, telling her she was over halfway there. “You are over halfway there,” she corrected me. She was running the full for her 50th birthday. I was so proud of her and told her I’d be there with her someday.

I found that when I hit a wall, I’d always get a boost of energy by encouraging fellow runners and thanking the volunteers and cops protecting the intersections. It was really helpful! Of course, I also paid close attention to my music when I needed to. At one point, I was mouthing the words to a Nelly rap and a man thought I was talking to him. Oops.

Of course, it was painful, but my legs held up for the most part. My left calf got a pretty big cramp in it for a long time, but nothing I wasn’t able to run through. I walk/jogged intermittently from miles 10-12, but once I saw 12, I knew I was in the home stretch. Then my running playlist somehow switched to the entire playlist, so I ended up running to Hillsong in Spanish for awhile. Luckily I ran into my boss’s wife, and we finished really strong together!

IMG_3747 Check out our faces when we saw the finish line!

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And finally we were finished – sweaty, in pain, and completely relieved! I loaded up on water, Gatorade, and some amazing beef stew and rice in the finishers’ tent, and caught my breath. I still can’t believe it’s over. Even though it was tough at times, all the training was so worth it. And I couldn’t have done it without the love and encouragement from my friends, family, and especially my wonderful husband.

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Though I think I would have been faster if I’d done more weekday short runs, the biggest benefit of training I’ve noticed is the ability to recover. Just two days after the run, I was 100%, and today, I laced up my shoes and hammered out a few miles with Sampson. 

I can’t end this recap without telling you that one of my fellow half marathon runners passed away during the race after a sudden cardiac arrest. He’d been taken to the hospital by the time I got there, but my boss ran past as they were working on him. Two years older than me, and an avid runner. I was in shock. Even though I’d never met him, I couldn’t help but think that after pouring himself into training, he should be whining about how much his legs hurt and milking sympathy from his family right now, not taken so suddenly. My thoughts and prayers have definitely been with his family since. I still can’t believe it.

Even though I don’t know him from Adam, from what I’ve read in the articles about him, I can tell he was passionate about running and died doing something he loved.

And I think I know now that this whole experience has awakened that passion for running in me. I think it’s here to stay.

Monday, November 22, 2010

weekend frivolities

jl2

A special thank you to all of Ree’s readers who stopped by to say hello this weekend! She is such a sweet woman. I hope to visit your blogs during the upcoming holiday from work (Counting. the. minutes.)

This weekend, I…

a) Went to see Harry Potter 7.1 three, count ‘em, THREE times, starting with the midnight premiere. Yes, despite being a well-adjusted adult, I will probably go to the Harry 7.2 premiere, too and round out the set. This one was my ninth midnight premiere to attend. I take my nerd movies seriously. And my super sweet family has invested in my interest – even JT, who has never read the books, but insisted we have a movie marathon leading up to the premiere. Love them!

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b) Had a work Thanksgiving potluck with coworkers at my boss’s house. So delicious!

c) Got a visit from my college roommie! We had lots of fun together, as we always do, despite now living several states apart.

And oh, yeah…one last little thing I did.

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d) Ran a freakin’ half marathon! I can’t believe it’s over. Be watching for the full update to come.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

beauty and the flay: throwdown recap

spoiler alert: there are horses. and cows.

Thanks everyone for the tweets and comments about Throwdown. It was such an awesome experience and I can't wait to tell you all about it. So I guess I will start!

It all began when my good friend Meseidy got a direct message from Ree on Twitter. She personally invited a few local bloggers to The Ranch for a Food Network special. That's all we knew at the time. Meseidy came to my house that night to break the news in person, and we were ecstatic. As in, we may or may not have jumped up and down. Okay, maybe that was just me.

So we waited long, agonizing weeks until that beautiful early fall Oklahoma weekday arrived. Meseidy, her husband Obed, and I made the two-hour drive to Drummond Ranch. It was absolutely gorgeous. We drove up right by her house, right by Cowboy Josh, who politely tipped his hat at us (and is even more handsome in person, ladies). We may or may not have almost run over George, her yellow lab, who wanted to investigate us a little too closely. (We stopped and didn't proceed until we were sure George was safely frolicking to his next adventure.) We didn't see Charlie, though, much to my regret!

They had appetizers and wine for us while we waited on the spacious Lodge patio. Even though we weren't supposed to have cameras or cell phones out, I couldn't help but snap this picture; the view was too glorious!


We were greeted by Ree's mother and her mother-in-law, and mingled with people from Ree's town, various Drummonds, and a few awesome bloggers like Elizabeth, Jennifer, and Vivian. And before we knew it, it was time for the taping.

Once we got past the shock of how huge and beautiful the Lodge kitchen was, the Riveras and I navigated past cameras, lighting props, and Food Network people and found a spot near the front. Right now, as a huge Food Network fan, I just want to give major, major props to all of the people behind the scenes of these shows. And the editors, who weeded through hours and hours of multiple camera footage to create this one-hour special. There were people prompting the audience and cooks with questions and cues; cameramen bending to get the perfect shot; arms straining against heavy equipment; women getting punched in the face with the heavy camera and still going on with the show; and experts coordinating every little detail so it flows perfectly.

When Ree appeared, it was really happening. I couldn't believe she was there in 3D, as dumb as that sounds. And she is exactly like she presents herself on her blog. By that, I mean she talks like she writes: genuine, in love with her family, mildly self-deprecating in a good way, and friggin' hilarious. She starts cooking, doing what we believe is an intro to her Food Network special, and interacting with the audience a little.

Then Bobby Flay walks in.

And mouths drop to the floor.

Whoa.

Were we being punk'd? I think the look on my face in my 0.5 seconds of fame, if you saw it, sums up what everyone was experiencing: shock. Eventually we scraped our jaws from Ree's polished floors and strained our eyes for a better look at the goings on. It was intense and amazing. And really hot from the lights, hot cooking, and standing. Pans were stirred while dishes bubbled in the ovens (yes, there was more than one oven), recipes were explained to the cameras, scents tantalized our noses, and our stomachs grumbled with anticipation.

Ree was a rockstar: poised, regal, witty, and firing on all cylinders. Even through collapsed gravy debacles. And at one point, as I mentioned before, Bobby needed something from the pantry and touched my shoulder to squeeze past me. I turned to Meseidy, my eyes as wide as the wheels on a Drummond truck, and confessed that I was never going to wash my arm again. (A little dramatic, maybe?)

Finally it was the time we'd been waiting for since Bobby Flay walked in the room: tasting time. If you haven't watched the show and plan to, don't read any further! We had two platefuls of delicious Thanksgiving food: tender, flavorful turkey; rich, savory stuffing; perfectly cooked and seasoned vegetables; and the best mashed potatoes I'd ever laid fork on. And the desserts? Well, I'll never use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter again. I'm ruined.

Basically, we can say that Ree Drummond and Bobby Flay had us over for dinner.

My review: I loved both turkeys and gravies; would pick Ree's mashed potatoes over Bobby's brussel sprouts -- and pretty much any food in the world (though those were the very first brussel sprouts I've ever actually liked, in his defense); LOVED both stuffings, especially their use of mushrooms; liked Bobby's cranberry dish better than Ree's; and of course, could never choose between those mouth-watering desserts. Ree was genuinely surprised when she won, and she totally deserved it.


Just FYI, in this photo Ree posted yesterday, she was really saying and doing just that. Look, there I am, standing next to Missy! And accidentally touching Hyacinth's booty!

Afterward, we had the chance to talk with the ladies of Throwdown. I even compared burn scars with Stephanie, who got a pretty nasty one during the filming. They were really nice and encouraging women, and I'm glad I got to hear some of their stories. 

The Riveras and I stuck around long enough to meet and talk with Ree in person. I refrained from using the word "girlcrush" around her, but summoned the bravery to pull out my cookbook, and she was nice enough to sign it. 


Ree is just as genuine and beautiful in person as she seems in her writing. And her family is awesome. For one, her daughters -- and all the Drummond women, it seems -- are giants. The older daughter is approaching Ree's height, around six feet, and the younger daughter seemed to be around my height, 5'6". I am not nearly creepy enough to stand close enough for an exact measurement, don't worry. (The question crossed your mind, though, didn't it?) Her baby boy came up to us at one point and said matter-of-factly, "I already know who's going to win. My mama." SO adorable!

And then there's Marlboro Man. He is just as cool and rugged as he appears on her blog, but has so much dimension to him. Very kind eyes, too. What stuck out the most to me about him was how evident it is that he's mad for her. He walked around in his cowboy hat and spurs (and shirt, boots, and jeans) taking pictures of the action for her, supporting her in whatever way she needed. He looked at her with such admiration in his eyes. When his children wanted to speak with him, he stopped what he was doing and gave them his full attention. And I thought it was so cute that out of all of the cooking experts in the kitchen, Ree made sure that Marlboro Man carved the turkey for her. That gesture may not have been significant to them, just second nature, but it gave me the evidence that there is lots of love and respect in that household. I mean ranchhold.

I loved everything about this day. If I could describe it in two words, they'd be delicious and inspiring.


Then our happy hearts and full tummies drove off into the beautiful ranch sunset. And everyone lived happily ever after.

The end!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

taper week

 my favorite training hill

I am getting the pre-race jitters a little. This morning, I woke up in a cold sweat after having a nightmare with a menacing villain: an infected toe.

Yesterday, I almost deviated from my plan with a six mile run. Whoops. Luckily I worked late and the temptation passed. But it was a close one.

I alternate between dreaming of my post-race running routine and picking my stomach up from the dramatic plunge that sometimes occurs when I think about the race. Did I skip too many short runs? Did I taper too much? The imagination is a little dangerous when it runs wild, but realistically I know I'll be fine. JT may have to give me a pep talk, but I'll be fine. I just can't wait to cross the finish line and live to write about it!

Luckily I have lots of fun things to keep me occupied this week. Don't forget to watch the epic Throwdown tonight! Check your local Food Network listings (8/7c, I believe), set your Tivo, and prepare to have severe butter withdrawals. I am making this recipe to prevent that from happening. My recap post will be up shortly after!

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

Monday, November 15, 2010

yellow puppy chronicles


It's Sampson again. I've hijacked my human's blog while she is busy watching Harry Potter and cooking a lot. When I last wrote, I was still a puppy, but now I'm a big boy. Probably over 70 pounds now and almost eight months old.



I have quite the appetite for playing. All day long, all I want to do is play. And I didn't get to play outside for a very long time. I guess my humans didn't like it when I busted down their fence so I could play in the front yard until they got home. I don't know what I did? I just know I like playing.

Today I went outside and felt something really weird. The air was less like a hug and more like a bite. It made my whole body shake. But I felt better because, even though I was alone while my humans were at work, the trees played with me by throwing leaves all day. Sometimes they fell so fast that I couldn't move fast enough to catch them.

Then, sharp wet things started falling from the sky. I wanted my warm kennel and blankies so bad. Even though I don't normally bark or make a lot of noise, I howled when I heard my girl human come home. I ran to all the doors to see where she was. And let me tell you, her work pants have never felt so soft, warm, and good.


My favorite new pet is my raccoon. He's a lot bigger than my foxy and used to have five squeaky things inside of him, but I conquered all of them. Raccoon may not squeak anymore, but I still like to snuggle with him and play tug of war with him. Just thinking about it is making me sleepy.



::edit:: As payback to Sampson for hijacking my blog, I'm going to reveal something rather embarrassing for him. On Halloween, we didn't dress him up, per se, but we tied my Pioneer Woman bonnet on him, and...well, you just watch this clip if you want to find out what he thought about it.

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quick red velvet whoopie pies

 

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The other night, JT brought me the box of red velvet cake mix he’d thrown in our grocery cart a few weeks ago. For some reason, I’ve never had the inclination to choose red velvet over my go-to chocolate cakey goodness. My former roomie makes some mean red velvet cake balls, but that might be the only time I’ve tasted it.

Still, the moment that cake box touched my hands, I had devilish plans. Read on if you dare to find out what to do.

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First, bake some cake batter cookies by mixing a box of cake mix, 2 eggs, and 1/4 cup of oil, spooning equal amounts onto cookie sheets (or the brand new jelly roll pans your husband bought you as an early Christmas present!), and baking in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for eight minutes, and then, you mustn’t forget this very important step: let. them. cool.

In terms of technique – not that I claim to have any – I took equal-size amounts of dough, rolled them into little balls between my palms, and flattened them gently with my fingers so they’d be as even and round as possible. Since they turn out super rich, I’d highly recommend making these much smaller than pictured, using maybe 1 tablespoon of mix at a time so you get cute bite-sized deliciousness.

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Since in my kitchen, we don’t discriminate, if one or more turn out with a case of the uglies, and say, look like the earthshake-cracked ground on Land Before Time, just stick them on the bottom of your lovely little pies.

But don’t let me get ahead of myself. Before that can happen, you are going to make a substance that will cause you to reread this post multiple times, searching for one missing word. I can assure you, this is a drug-free zone, and there is no crack involved in this recipe.

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Even a red velvet novice like me knows that red velvet cake without cream cheese frosting is like peanut butter without jelly. Okay, bad analogy; I eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches every morning for breakfast and somehow survive. Anyway, I decided to go big or go home and went to the expert herself. Ladies and gentleman (since I know at least JT will read this), they’re not kidding when they call it The BEST Cream Cheese frosting. Because it sure is.

Except for one thing. In my experience, I know that I like to be able to taste the cream cheese a little more than most recipes call for, so I only added about 2.5 cups of powdered sugar. But be sure to taste it after you blend in each cup. Everyone’s preferences are different!

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Please save a little for the cookies. I know it’s hard, but you’re brave. You can do it.

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Spoon a little bit of frosting onto a cookie. Once again, everyone’s tastes are different. I’m more of a “Want a little cookie with your frosting?” kind of girl. (Just in case, you know, you couldn’t tell.)

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Slap another cookie on and give it a little squeeze. Watch the frosting goodness ooze. Mmmmm.

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If you’re like me and couldn’t wait until the cookies were cooled to room temperature, your cookie might crumble. Sad day. But that’s okay because frosting makes the tastiest glue imaginable!

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Enjoy!

(with milk, coffee, or by itself, sneaked from the refrigerator and eaten over the sink)

(PS: store in the fridge so the cream cheese will keep;
bring to room temp when you’re ready to eat – if you can wait that long)

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