Friday, June 18, 2010

Five Years Ago...

Five years ago today was a day of celebration.  It was a warm, sunny day in Montgomery, Alabama; a day full of nerves, smiles, friends, and family.  It was the best day of my life, the day that I married my love. 

I have always heard that your wedding day goes by in a blur.  This is so true!  I remember several key moments from that day, but I know there is so much that I will never recall.  I do not really remember the ride to the church on that day, the process of getting dressed, or who came to visit me while I was nervously waiting in the Bride's parlor.  The pre-wedding photos seemed to pass by in a blur.  I do remember, however, one sweet moment when my husband-to-be and I held hands, hiding from each other on opposite sides of a doorway.  That moment stands alone, a moment of sweetness and calm in the midst of the hectic day.  It didn't last long, and he was soon whisked away to the Groom's waiting area. 

The rest of the day was equally as blurred.  For as much time and effort that we put into planning the day, the food, the decorations, and all of the festivities involved, most of my "memories" are based on our pictures. 

To my family, thank you for everything that you did to prepare for that day.  I know that you put much more into that day than I know or remember.  It was an image of the marriage feast of Christ and his Church, and a wonderful way to start this marriage. 

To our friends, bridesmaids and groomsmen, thank you for being there.  I am so glad that you were with us to celebrate, and I look forward to celebrating life and love with you both on earth and in Heaven. 

To my love, thank you for asking me to marry you.  Thank you for showing up at Trinity Presbyterian Church five years ago, and committing to love me as Christ loves his Church.  Thank you for spending the past five years with me, in both the good times and the bad.  Thank you for being a source of joy, love, patience, encouragement and sanctification.  You point me to Christ.  I look forward to spending many, many years with you.  Oh, and thank you for eating anything that I put in front of you.  Je t'aime.

My family put a tremendous amount of time and effort into planning our wedding.  I am so grateful.  Although I couldn't even begin to tell you everything that they did, I will share one little sweet memory.  My grandfather made his signature cheese straws.  They are quintessentially southern, and are often found at gourmet stores and groceries and many, many southern kitchens.  They are all good, although I do not think I have ever had a cheese straw quite as delightful as these. 

Southern Cheese Straws

1 pound New York extra sharp cheese
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use a full teaspoon if you like them especially spicy)
dash of paprika

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grate the cheese. Then, using a food processor, mix the cheese and the butter. Add the flour, pepper and paprika a little at a time to the mixture and pulse until well combined and very soft. Place the dough in a metal cookie press fitted with a flat disk and squeeze onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until they just start to darken. Sprinkle with kosher salt when they come out of the oven. Cut into pieces when they are still warm.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Off the Beaten Path in South Alabama

I cannot believe that our time here at my family’s beach house is coming to a close! It is amazing how quickly time passes, when you spend your days laying out, boating, shopping, reading, cooking and eating.

But that’s not all we’ve done. Our trips to this house are full of traditions.  Not only do we savor the fresh produce available from the surrounding farmland, enjoy boat rides and lazy meals, and love listening to my dad recount days of childhood trips to this same house, but we also have a few places off the beaten path that we must visit each year.  Otherwise, it would not be a complete trip. 

One tradition goes back, well, before I was born: dinner at Wolf Bay Lodge. This once-dive-of-a-restaurant has grown in popularity over the years, and as far as I’m concerned, has some of the best shrimp that you can find at a Gulf restaurant. Unfortunately, the original building (in Wolf Bay, of course) burned a couple of years ago, but that hasn’t kept the restaurant down, nor kept us away. We gladly made the drive to their new location in Orange Beach to keep our tradition going strong.
In addition to Wolf Bay, we made a time-honored tradition of visiting a little cheese farm located on Highway 98. We all have our favorites at Sweet Home Farm, (mine are Perdido Ash and Tuscany), and love the taste-tests of different cheese varieties as much as we like “talking to” the chickens and turkey on our way into the tiny shop. Another reason that I love this little treasure: we served cheese from Sweet Home Farm at our wedding reception!

A new tradition that we have added to the list is blueberry picking. Just before we moved to Pennsylvania last year, my husband and I joined my mom in picking just over 8 pounds of blueberries. This year, we went with my brother and sister, and the four of us harvested almost 20 pounds! As we’re preparing to pack leave, I’ve bagged and frozen about six quarts of the fruits of our labor to enjoy throughout the rest of the summer.

If you find yourself in south Alabama, looking for something to become your family vacation tradition off the beaten path, I highly recommend these little hidden jewels to you!
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Savor Sweet Days of Summer with a Low Country Boil

One of my favorite family pastimes is a family trip to the beach each year.  These trips are full of tradition, laziness, sun, and of course, good food. 

This experience has me spoiled for life.  Yes, there were times in my teenage years when I wished that we could spend our family vacations with the masses on the crowded condo Gulf beaches, but I have long since come to appreciate those childhood years when we could roam up and down the bayside "beaches," our sunburned bathing-suited bodies running in and out of our house and the houses of our friends down the beach. 

I spent hours (and days!) on the swinging bed on the porch.  It is here that we told ghost stories, played hours of cards, had fashion shows of our recently purchased outlet mall attire, had family reunions, and screamed or ran when large bugs came out of the woodwork.   

It is here that I fell in love with fresh shrimp (and like Bubba Gump, I literally could eat gulf shrimp every day in every way for my entire vacation and beyond). It is here that, as far as I am concerned, the sweetest corn is grown and can be bought at roadside stands and family farms.  With such good, local fare, it only makes sense to enjoy it in tried and true fashion.

Low Country Boil

3 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 vidalia onion, cut into four wedges
1 lemon, halved
6-8 small new potatoes, halved
1/2 pound spicy link sausage, cut into 2 inch pieces (Conecuh brand is my favorite)
3 ears of sweet white corn, shucked and halved
2 pounds of small, fresh, unpeeled shrimp

Fill a large pot 2/3 full of water.  Add old bay seasoning, salt, and onion.  Squeeze the lemon over the water, and add the halves to the pot.  Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.  When the water boils, add the potatoes.  Cook for 25 minutes, then add the corn and sausage.  Cook for 6-7 minutes, then add the shrimp.  Cook for no longer than 1-2 minutes (until the shrimp turn opaque all the way through), turn the heat off, and drain the water from the pot.  Serve with cocktail sauce, and along side lots of fresh, seasonal fruit. 

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Creativity with a Bulk Bag of Limes: Cherry Lime Bread

Being both at home (in the south, at my parents' house) and away from home, means that some things are incredibly comfortable, but there are some things that I will have to get used to (again).  Well, I have been back home for about two weeks now.  In that span of time, I have gone with (or on behalf of) my parents to Costco twice, and Sams Club once.  Add another trip to Costco that my parents took without me, and you have a bunch of bulk buying.  And considering that at any given time within this short stint of time home there has been a maximum of five people at my parents' house, much of that bulk buying is a little in excess.  But sometimes my dad cannot help himself; he just has to have that giant bag of limes. 

So that leaves me trying to come up with good uses for all of these limes (or peppers, or mushrooms), before they all go bad!  We've had lime bars, mojitos, gingerale with mint and lime, coconut banana bread with lime glaze, sweet tea with lime, greek yogurt with fruit and a squeeze of lime, and more.  My latest endeavor is a bit experimental (as many of these have been), but I think that it turned out pretty well.  Should you find yourself with an excess of limes, I think you should try it too!

Cherry Lime Bread

1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of one lime
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons wheat germ

In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice and dried cherries.  Let the cherries soak for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, soda, salt, and lime zest.  In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, butter, eggs, and the cherry/lime mixture until well combined.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and wheat germ.  Sprinkle over the top of the batter.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. 

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