29 December 2010

Keep it Fit. Keep it Fresh.

I scored big today on my lunch break. I ventured into Ross in search of a low priced can opener. You know, the old kind that leaves you vulnerable to cuts from the sharp edge of the lid. I found one for $5.99 and was on my way out the aisle when I spotted the most awesome buy!

I've been wanting a bento box from laptop lunches for quite some time now. The only problem is that I could not justify spending $24 on a colorful grown-up lunch box. Eco-friendly and portion-controlled they may be, but affordable they are not.

So I was walking down the aisle and spotted this:


The two little containers for fruits and veggies in the front sit just perfectly over the ice pack and the whole things snaps together and stays cool. You can buy these online at fit-fresh.com for $9.99, but found them at Ross for $6.99 a piece.

John and I now have awesome, Asian-inspired  lunch boxes and our bodies will thank us. It's another brick in our wall of health and sustainability!

Cowboy Cookies


1 cup Margarine 
1 cup Brown Sugar 
1 cup White Sugar 
2 Eggs 
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract 
2 cups Flour 
1 tsp Baking Powder 
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt 
2 cups Rolled Oats 
1 pkg. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 


Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Cream margarine and sugars, add eggs and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl mix flour through salt. Blend thoroughly.
4. Add oats and chocolate.
5. Roll dough into 1 and 1/2 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 10 minutes.

22 December 2010

Our First Christmas Tree

Everyone, meet the very first Christmas tree of the Malone household...



Yes, we have matching jackets. No, we aren't that kind of couple. And YES, we DO rock them.

Setting A Holiday Table



Oh, where to begin? It has been lifetimes since I last posted, all for good reason. Finally finishing up my last semester of my Bachelor's degree, I'm settling into normal "adult" life and haven't had a chance to post until right now, the week after classes end!

I understand that these (awesome) photos of my family Thanksgiving are very belated but perhaps they will give some inspiration for this next holiday that is swift approaching....Christmas! So roll with it. Imagine these photos colored in red and green instead of Thanksgiving-y earth tones and make yourself a happy holiday table.

The essentials:
-Mood lighting (dimmer switch, candles, reflective centerpieces)
-Something with life (flowers, plants, succulents, live farm animals... ;) )
-Mix and match patterns and textures (linens, flowers, serving dishes)
-Use the something old instead of the something new (a plate from Grandma or glasses from Aunt Sue)






Lastly, I can't stress enough the importance (I think) of posing with your table. The ladies of the house worked hard, all day- decorating, cooking, slaving, sweating (but still looking gorgeous), so capture the memory of the final product on film to remember forever!

05 December 2010

Semi-Homeade Salsa


This recipe can be made in about 5 minutes and is so simple I almost can't call it a recipe. However, I've had more than a couple comments on it when I tell the ingredients the response is always the same, "I would have never thought of that!" So I want to share it here, so you're sure to... 


Semi-Homemade Salsa


1 tub of La Mexicana Mild Salsa (found in your produce section)
1  cucumber chopped and seeded 
1/2 -3/4 cup sweet corn 
3/4 cup black beans (drained and washed) 


Mix, chill, and serve with a hearty tortilla chip or over salad. 

29 November 2010

Carolina on my Mind: A Nostalgia


6:07 a.m. 

I woke up to a strange pang of nostalgia. I opened my eyes and found it was that perfect moment when the sun is just starting to rise and the first bird starts to sing. I love this time of morning. I love the way the first bit of light makes my room just start to glow so slightly. The whole room is painted a soft blue and as I take in the color I'm taken back to a place I haven't been in over 14 years; one I my heart suddenly, so early in the morning, aches for...enough for me to wake up, turn on my computer and write about it (which says a lot). 

I just didn't want to miss this moment. Why hadn't I thought of this place, remembered the way it felt, in so long? As I thought of how I had neglected these memories my heart sank and, emotional me started to tear up. I want to write every lovely memory down, for my sake, to remember one of the most difficult, yet lovely times of my life. Isn't it true that the most lovely times are often filled with difficulty? One of the many paradoxes in life. 

On May 22, 1996, my most precious grandpa passed away. Suddenly I miss him so much. I wish he was here to see all that is going on in my life. I wish I could know him as an adult and go to him for wisdom. Alas, he's gone to Jesus, and is  much better off for it. To offer help and support to my grandma, my family moved north to Leatherwood, North Carolina. I've seen many beautiful things on this planet, but I tell you that none are as beautiful to me as the Appalachian mountains and no home has ever been so homey as the one we joined in with my grandma in '96. Leatherwood was a community built high in the Carolina mountains. The cabin we lived in, built by my grandpa, had a big porch, a green tin roof, wonderful boulders covered in the most beautiful moss, a cozy fireplace, and the best food prepared by my grandma, THE most talented chef south of the Dixie line. 

This community in the mountains, 1 hour secluded from the rest of "society" had it all... a horse farm, streams to play in, rivers to inter-tube, trees to climb, berries to pick, hills to roll down, scenic overlooks, mischief to get in, and this mystical aura. Here, I had no problem believing in fairies. And when I go back, even at age 23, I STILL refuse to believe they are fake. (My favorite is the dogwood fairy...man I'd like to meet one...)

I just have so many wonderful memories there, that I intend to list here, for my own peace of mind, that I might never forget again that wonderful time in my life... 

I remember going to sleep and being terrified at the sound of the house settling...the creeks and cracks. But the way I felt at that magic moment, like this morning, when the sun just started to think about coming up...the way the light lit up the loft I slept in and the coolness in the air...that made everything ok. 

I remember the smell of coffee that my grandma made every morning, religiously. And how I would get up before anyone else to go down and be with her in the early morning hours as she sat sipping coffee and reading a good book on the sofa. 

I remember having "Grandma Nights" when my parents would go out and she would take us up the mountain to pick berries, let us drive back in her lap and stick out heads out the windows to look for deer. We would make home-made black berry cobbler and watch The Sound of Music. 

I remember playing dress up....something I did till an age MUCH older than I would like to admit. But again, what is a kid to do when she has an imaginary fairy land in her back yard and an imagination almost on par with Anne of Green Gables? You let it run wild!! Man I had fun running around in homemade costume. 

I remember my brother and I grabbing our kid-sized fishing poles and spending what felt like hours trying to catch craw-fish. This probably only lasted 10-15 minutes since the average attention span of a 9 year old doesn't really exceed that. 

I remember going down to the barn and helping clean and ready horses. My favorite horse was named "gray" or "smokey" or something like that. We would ride down the trails and next to cliffs and through streams. I remember how wonderful it felt to jog on horseback, the wind whipping through my hair. I would do anything to go back to that moment. 

I remember going fishing at the pond and catching little fishies. 

I remember walking to the very first cabin built in those particular mountains...back in the early 1800s. I was fascinated and would just stand there wondering what their lives must have been like. When I finished there I would walk to the old cemeteries from the same dates. Again wondering how the lives of these families played out...running my hands over the stones I would notice how young some of them were and wonder why they passed so soon. 

I remember sledding down a snow-covered hill. 

I remember going to the only little grocery store about 30 minutes down the windy road that led to Leatherwood. It was called Joe's, after the man who ran it. Joe's sold the most necessary of kitchen items and had a little grill in back where Joe cooked for the regulars. This place was always filled with the same crowd- good 'ole boys from the country chewing tobacco and talking about their latest hunt or catch or something like that. Joe knew what I always ordered, a bacon, lettuce, and tomato cheese burger and fries dipped in a ketchup/hot sauce mixture and topped off with an RC cola. 

I remember the drive up the hill to Leatherwood, and how the scenery NEVER got old. We would drive it a million times and we would still sit silently in the car, my brother and my noses glued to the windows taking in the drive. 

I remember driving up the mountain on a clear day to look out over the mountains and valleys....and knowing God was close and was so good to create what my eyes took in. 

I miss this place. It was the place my soul found the most peace and rest. Maybe that's why I was woken up so nostalgic for it... my soul so desperately needs rest and I'm surrounded by an environment that does so little to soothe it. In the words of Mr. James Taylor, I've got Carolina on my Mind. That will have to do for now...

23 November 2010

Must-Haves for a Happy Kitchen

      Simplicity is my keyword for life. I live by the rule of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and "let's wait 5 years until the *insert new technology* is at an affordable price."  Generally, any one item that costs more than 40 dollars to purchase makes me double take. And often times I sit on those decisions for days until I'm sure it's a wise choice. There are, however, some luxuries that I don't hesitate on...usually they belong in the kitchen. Here are some high-priced essentials that, if you ask me, you should run out any buy right away if you don't have them already.

#1 Williams-Sonoma Vanilla
Purchase @ Williams-Sonoma


#2 Le Creuset
Also available at Williams-Sonoma, TJ Maxx, or a Le Creuset Outlet

#3 Quality Saffron


#4 A Moroccan Tagine
You can find Moroccan-made online. If you visit, BUY ONE. Do not leave the country without a handmade tagine.

#5 A Pretty Apron
Available for purchase on Etsy

19 November 2010

Little Things: Tea Sub



      This cute little tea diffuser can be found online at Animi Causa Boutique, a cute online store that functions out of Israel. They have very unique gift ideas and things for around the house. I ordered this tea sub a few months ago for a friend's birthday and was very pleased with their customer service, free shipping on every order, and relatively quick ship time (it is coming over an ocean...).

18 November 2010

Caramelized Apples and Pears


    Caramelized Apples and Pears
    2 Bosc Pears (peeled & diced)
    2 Gala Apples (peeled & diced)
    4 Tbsp Butter
    2-3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
    1 tsp Cinnamon
    1/2 -1 tsp Nutmeg
    1/4 tsp quality vanilla


1) Melt butter over med-high heat, add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
2) Add diced apples and pears. Add spices and vanilla. Stir.
3) Simmer on medium for 15-20 minutes, or until fruit is thoroughly cooked and butter and sugar has caramelized with the juices from the fruit.
4) Serve while hot over pancakes, biscuits, or ice cold vanilla ice cream.


Dutch Baby Pancake



       Ah, the Dutch Baby. Or as John and I call it, "the Dutch Babe." While searching for a quality recipe I unknowingly typed "Dutch Babe" and to my surprise Google provided me with many a near-nude blonde and not a single pancake. This is a great breakfast for a lazy Saturday morning. It is easy to make, impressive to look at, and delicious!  I found this recipe from William-Sonoma. The topping was created by yours truly and can be found here.


Bob's Dutch Baby

  • 2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • A little powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 450 and adjust a rack to the upper 3rd of the oven. 

Melt the butter
Put the butter in a very large (12-inch) skillet with an ovenproof handle. Set in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter completely (okay if it begins to brown).

Make the batter 
While the butter melts, measure the flour into a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk and salt. Beat until smooth, using a whisk, large spoon or handheld electric mixer.

Bake and serve
Pour the batter into the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sides are puffed up and dark golden brown. Remove from the oven. Loosen the Dutch baby from the sides and bottom of the skillet, then slide it onto a serving plate. Serves 4 to 5.




11 November 2010

Crustless Cranberry Pie

      This month marked the beginning of cranberry season. This is, perhaps, one of my favorite food seasons, with fresh peanuts, avocados, and nectarines following close behind. Cranberry season always starts this way...

      Me (answers phone): Hello?
      Mom: Hey sweetie! Guess what time it is!!!
      Me: (waits in suspense)
      Mom: Cranberry time!
      Me: YES PLEASE!

      From that moment on we start plotting weekend bake-isodes, calling each other frequently to talk about the latest muffins, breads, or cobblers to leave our ovens. Truly the best time of year. One great things about this season is that, unlike some other fruits, these fresh little beauties can be bagged up, placed in the freezer and used year-round. Enjoy my favorite cranberry recipe here:

Crustless Cranberry Pie
Crustless Cranberry Pie


3/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup sifted whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup finely chopped pecans

1) Preheat oven to 375. Grease 8" pie plate or 9" square cake pan.

2) Beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in flour with spatula. Fold in cranberries, pecans and spread evenly into pan.

3) Bake 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Serve hot or cold. Bon appetit!

10 November 2010

Cross-Cultural Etiquette: Introduction

     One of my favorite ways to spend my free time is in the company of international students attending our local university. These students have broadened my horizons, expanded my world-view, and helped me to understand the depth of beauty in all cultures of the world.
     In addition to changing the way I view my life and my culture they have also taught me, by trial and error, proper etiquette for interacting with people of all cultures. I plan on sharing little bits of this gained wisdom throughout the coming weeks in hopes that it might broaden our perspective, make us more open to building cross-cultural relationships and tearing down the barriers that separate, and make us more prepared to offer hospitality and generosity to all those around us. To me, there is nothing more wonderful than being an indiscriminate host. Magic happens, and community forms when people of all backgrounds are welcomed into one place to dine and share with one another in an evening.
      Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for a mostly fool-proof guide to understanding cultural barriers, mutual misunderstandings, proper dining etiquette, dietary restrictions, and the like.
 

09 November 2010

Little Things: Owl Ornaments

     Here are one of those little things that make me smile- owls. This past week I did a lot of looking around on the web to find cute ideas for homemade Christmas gifts. These little ornaments stole my heart, and I have plans in the future to create some homemade owls of my own. They can be found for purchase on Inhabitots, a very cool site offering boatloads of "green this" and "organic that" for your children. It is definitely worth checking out.

Stewart the Owl

08 November 2010

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

      I baked the days away this weekend. One of my projects was cooking up a yummy recipe I found last week while blog-stalking. The recipe can be found here, but I'll also re-post it for your convenience. These cake-like cookies are delightful and have been a perfect match for the cooler weather we've had here in Central Florida this weekend. I have reason to believe that my stove dictates the weather, so I'll keep cooking up goodies to maintain the season!


Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.
  4. To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.


04 November 2010

Pan-fried Garlic Bread

     This simple technique is always sure to please and always leaves me empty handed and my guests wanting more. It takes just about as long as the "texas toast in a box" method, but has twice the flavor and crunch.

      
      1. Slice two deli-fresh or homemade hoagie rolls 
   
      2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a skillet over med-high heat

      3. Sprinkle butter, once melted, with bread dipping seasoning of your choice 

      4. Place rolls face down in butter and let simmer until light brown and crispy 

      5. Turn over in pan for 2-3 more minutes until heated and crispy on bottom. 

Serve!

Autumn in My Oven

     Unfortunately, living in Central Florida means that 85% of the year we experience summer weather and the other 15% skips right ahead to "winter." My state cuts autumn out completely! This scientific phenomena requires that I adapt autumn to the confines of my home, a project I take very seriously and work diligently toward as soon as the Halloween decor goes on sale.

     This "fall" I decided to kick things off with one of my favorite holiday recipes- Pumpkin Bread. This recipe has been in my family for generations, and as a result has become top secret. No recipe to share, but the pictures are sure to put you in the spirit for colored leaves, cool breezy evenings and, if you are like me, an Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong mixtape. Nothing says fall like Ella's "Autumn in New York."




Morocco: The Design Captial of the World

We recently honeymooned, visiting Rabat and Fes while in Morocco. Morocco is a country to fall in love with. If the people don't absolutely steal your heart, the food and design is sure to. Here are some of the best pics we took featuring the unique culture and style of the cities...

















Spain & Morocco- Travel Tips

      Just last month I and my boyfriend of 3 years tied the knot. Soon after, we hopped on a plane for a whirlwind 2 week honeymoon backpacking through Spain and Morocco. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed all the sights, sounds, and smells of new places (and in some cases new people...). We visited six cites during our time overseas- Malaga, Granada, Ronda, Rabat, Fes, and Madrid; and though many websites warned against visiting during Spain's rainy season we couldn't find a dark cloud in the sky! We learned a lot about each other and a lot about  saavy travel...

       1. If Rick Steves writes a book for it, buy it and don't let it leave your day pack. We literally could not have done some of our day trips (Granada and Ronda) without Rick Steves' Spain. Without him, I'm pretty sure we would still be lost in the streets of Granada's Albayzin getting tricked by Spanish Roma.  Rick shows you the best each town has to offer from the local's perspective- keeping you far from the tourist traps in most cases. We also appreciated the care he took with explaining the history and culture of each locale which helped us connect with our surroundings and be more open-minded to changes that would have otherwise been uncomfortable. Also, take his advice on hotel recommendations. If you do you are guaranteed a clean, friendly hotel or hostel that won't break the bank and provides basic creature comforts.

      2. Rick Steves strikes again with his packing cube set. If you don't have some, buy them now. They will make your life 100 times easier, especially when backpacking. I've backpacked without them, and there's nothing more frustrating than needing a fresh pair of socks and having to dump out the whole pack just to find them. Packing cubes compartmentalize the mess that is the hiking pack and helps you feel put together even when you're roughing it.

     3. Ryan Air. The most awesome airline ever.We bought tickets from this airline months in advance to fly direct from Fes, Morocco to Madrid, Spain. The alternative would have been about a day and a half of travel by taxi, train, ferry, bus, train, etc. The tickets were only $60 for the both of us, and we worried that we bought into something too good to be true. "Maybe we'll be flying in a small Cessna with cows and chickens" I'd say, "or maybe it's so cheap because they steal your luggage to make up for their lack of compensation." False. Ryan Air is cheap, efficient, and friendly. I recommend them to anyone so long as they aren't the snotty traveler type who feels every service should bend over backwards to accommodate them. Word of advise: don't purchase priority boarding if you're flying out of a small airport or a second or third-world country. Be sure the weight you select for your bag is in fact its weight, and don't worry too much about the strict carry-on regulations, for the most part they won't check.

     4. If you can't speak the language well wherever you travel, learn to say "What do you recommend?" in that language and commit to asking and trying whatever they point to if you find that the menu is unreadable. This will fill your trip with adventure, help you connect with the restaurant staff, and ensure that you don't spend your time in another country being drawn only to that which is familiar.

     That's all for now. There are many more recommendations and tips in the posts to come, but its a start in revamping your travel techniques to make for a more enjoyable and stress-free cross-cultural experience.



Rick and I...

John at the La Torre Del Oro- a mini museum for bullfighting (Rick Steves recommended).