Easter Eatin’

Happy Easter, y’all!

I’ve been up to a lot lately that I will post about when I have some free time, which will be on the fifth of never.  Just kidding.  Kinda.

Even though these posts won’t be in chronological order, I thought I’d share my Easter while it’s fresh in my noggin.  My dear little sister, Eugene drove down from Lexington, Kentucky to join me for the holiday.  I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, which seems ridiculous since she lives only three and a half hours away.  She arrived last evening and we went out to dinner at Germantown Café, which we had been to last summer for brunch.  The brunch last year was fabulous and dinner certainly didn’t disappoint.

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My friend and her sister joined us and we ordered two appetizers to share: pork belly tater tots and fried green tomatoes.  I normally don’t like tomatoes but I didn’t mind choking these down one bit.  They weren’t half-bad; in fact, they were more than half-good. The pork belly tater tots were slightly smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, which was good.  I’m not a huge fan of smoky things, including cigarettes.  They were very rich but quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the fish special, which was a panko-crusted tilapia with a Puttanesca –like medley over parmesan polenta and asparagus.  If there is ever a fish and grits/polenta dish offered at a restaurant, I will most likely order it.  It’s one of my favorite combinations ever.   This wasn’t the best I ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.

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We moved on to Holland House for drinks/dessert.  I ordered a drink on our waiter’s recommendation that wasn’t on the menu.  I don’t recall the name, but it was a bourbon-based concoction that tasted like fall in a tumbler.  Fall is my favorite season and bourbon is my poison, so I definitely enjoyed it.  It didn’t hurt that Holland House is such a neat scene with its dim-lighting and parlor-like feel with just the right balance of rustic and refined décor.  Initially I had wanted to sit at the bar to people watch and observe the theatrics of the bartenders making their artisan cocktails, but it worked out that we were seated by the fireplace since it was a cold, rainy night.  We ordered dessert to finish off the evening.  My sister and I split a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade carrot cake ice cream.  The dessert wasn’t as spectacular as the drinks, but all in all, it was a fun evening.

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After church this morning, my sister and I headed over to Pancake Pantry, which I have been wanting to try since I moved here.  I was forewarned that there would be a line down the sidewalk and today was no exception.  Poor Eugene toughed it out in the rain with me, each of us with a malfunctioning umbrella and no outerwear, for about 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the food was worth the wait otherwise I think she would have killed me.  She ordered pecan pancakes and I ordered chocolate chip.  We also rounded out the meal with an order of sausage patties and hash browns.   The pancakes were superb and the sausage was the good stuff.  The hash browns, while good, were clearly crisped up on the griddle with Parkay margarine.  I know this because Parkay has a very distinct flavor which I first experienced as a child when I insisted we purchase the Parkay spray margarine I had seen on TV because it looked like fun to use.  It is not tasty and I’m going to have to dock Pancake Pantry a few points for this faux pas.  They have a good thing going with their pancakes with whipped butter, though.

In my typical fashion, the visit was centered around food.   Eugene didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t have to cook.  Not that I mind cooking, but I still don’t have barstools so there isn’t a proper place to sit and eat a meal in my apartment.   I’m working on it though.  Thank goodness Nashville has a lot of great restaurants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

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Chicken Enchiladas

Anyone who knows me well knows that I could eat Mexican food for every meal.  This preference stems all the way back to a childhood of begging to go to Taco Bell or to make tacos at home as often as possible.  As I’ve gotten older, my Mexican palette has expanded from crunchy tacos with meat and sour cream ONLY to guacamole, enchiladas, Mole and fish tacos.  I can make a mean taco, but I decided it was time for me to tackle homemade enchiladas.

I’ve looked at lots of recipes and watched various celebrity chefs make them on TV. I’ve taken note of the components of enchiladas at my favorite Mexican spots and I concluded the following as I developed my recipe:

1)      The enchiladas must be chicken enchiladas.

2)      The chicken must be shredded so as to absorb the delicious sauce and flavor.

3)      The tortillas must be corn tortillas.  This is critical not just for taste, but also for texture.

4)      No cumin allowed.  I don’t know why, but I just don’t care for this flavor.

5)      Spicy is better, just not so spicy that you can’t feel your mouth.

6)      Cream cheese is an excellent addition to the sauce inside and on top of the enchiladas.  It adds a touch of richness, balances the heat of the hot peppers, and it’s a little bit tangy.  Nobody wants an enchilada lacking in flavor and cream cheese won’t let you down.

7)      The tortillas must be soft in order to roll them.  I prefer not to dunk them in a bunch of hot oil (the best way to keep them from splitting and to hold their shape) so I microwave them between a few damp paper towels.  Not so authentic, but it means I can eat enchiladas more often, which is the ultimate goal here.

Now that we’ve covered those details, I’m hungry.  Let’s make some chicken enchiladas.

These ingredients will soon be combined in nothing short of deliciousness.  Don’t forget the tomato paste like I did in this picture.  It’s a critical player.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rub a boneless, skinless chicken breast with olive oil.

Sprinkle both sides with chili powder, paprika, season salt, and garlic salt.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

After it’s done, allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes.

Then, using your best tools (your clean hands) shred the chicken.

Chop up onion, garlic and jalapeno, seeds and all.  Please try not to touch your face until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands or you will be very sorry.  I speak from experience.

Sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.

Then throw in the garlic and half of the jalapeno, allowing them to soften for about 30 seconds.

Sprinkle in the rest of the chili powder, paprika and season salt.

Drop in half of the cream cheese.

Pour in half of the chicken broth.

Plop in the tomato paste.

Stir all of that deliciousness together until combined.

Throw in the shredded chicken.

Let everything hang out together until the sauce has reduced a bit.  It should be thick and absorbed into the chicken.  It shouldn’t be too loose or assembling the enchiladas will be a disaster.

Once reduced, remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside.

Then be lazy like me and throw the rest of the cream cheese into the same skillet.  This will actually catch some of that good flavor left in the skillet.  Laziness or genius? Most likely both.

Add in the remaining chicken broth and jalapenos.

Mix everything together and reduce until slightly thickened.

Microwave the stack of tortillas in damp paper towels for a minute or so on low power to soften them.

Then start assembling by placing 1/8 of the chicken mixture in each tortilla, rolling them up and placing them in the baking dish as you go.

I didn’t do the best job preventing these from tearing slightly.  Oh well.  Nothing a little bit of sauce and cheese can’t cover up.

Then cover the top of the enchiladas with the cream cheese sauce.

And then top ‘er off with the shredded cheese and bake the enchiladas for 15-20 minutes on 300 until the cheese melts.

Here is the final product.  Enjoy!

Y’all come back and visit,

Sugarlump

Ingredients:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp season salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cup chicken broth
  • Approximately 2/3 package of cream cheese
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

1)      Cover chicken breast in 1 tbsp olive oil and then season with 1 tsp chili powder, ½ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp season salt and ¼ tsp garlic salt.  Bake at 400 degrees on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.  Let cool and then shred chicken.

2)      Sauté onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil until translucent over medium heat.  Add in garlic and ½ of the jalapeno, cooking for approximately 30 seconds before adding remaining chili powder, paprika, and season salt.  Add in 1/2 of chicken broth, the tomato paste, and 1/2 of cream cheese.  Mix together until combined.

3)      Add shredded chicken to mixture and allow to reduce until most liquid is absorbed.   Set aside in a separate bowl

4)      Using the same skillet, add remaining cream cheese, chicken broth and jalapeno pepper, whisking together until incorporated.  Let thicken.

5)      Wrap stacked tortillas in damp paper towels and heat in microwave until soft.

6)      Assemble tortillas, placing them in a baking dish.  Once all tortillas are assembled, cover them with cream cheese sauce and shredded cheese.

7)      Bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Hearty Turkey Chili

I love a hearty chili in the winter.  I do not, however, enjoy the taste/aroma of cumin, which is an ingredient found in most chili so I have come up with my own recipe.  I also tried to make it a little bit healthier than the standard chili by using ground turkey and chicken sausage.

Here’s what you’ll need.  Just about everything.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1lb ground turkey

2 links hot chicken sausage, casings removed

2 cans cannellini beans

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

½ can tomato paste

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 cubes/packets beef bouillon

1 cup beer

1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon white sugar

2 cups chicken broth diluted with 2 cups water

½ cup sour cream

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

This recipe is especially healthy because you also get a workout chopping vegetables.

Chop the celery and put it in a bowl large enough for all of the chopped vegetables.

Then chop the bell pepper.

And then chop the onion.

Fight back the tears.

And then chop the jalapeno, seeds, ribs and all.  This chili is not for sissies.

This photo is slightly blurry because I was still crying from chopping the onion.

Like I said, this chili is not for sissies.

Finally, chop the garlic.

Behold that bowl of healthiness.

Then prepare your ingredients for battle.

I recommend pre-measuring all of your herbs and spices to make the dumping into the pot process go a little smoother.  I would also go ahead and open all of your canned goods and beer.

Speaking of beer…

I don’t drink beer so I made a special trip to Whole Foods nearby where they sell beer by the bottle instead of by the 6-24 pack.  I went and picked out Sam Adams’ Octoberfest and headed to the register.  The young guy at the register asked me if that was all.  I said yes.  He then kind of smirked at me and asked if I wanted him to open my beer for me.  I said no.  He didn’t know what to make of me.   I don’t either.

As it was time for me to prepare the beer to be poured into the pot, I realized that I don’t own a bottle opener.  I have an electric wine opener, but nothing to open this pesky bottle of beer.  I looked to see if my can opener had the grooves in it like some of them do to open a bottle.  Nope.  I searched all around my utensil drawer for something that might work.  Nothing.  I dug around in my tool box and tried using a screwdriver.  Not happening.  I was about to give up hope when I remembered I had a paint can opener from the last time I bought paint at Home Depot.  Wouldn’t you know that the other end of the paint can opener is a bottle opener?  I’m a little late to the party on this realization, but at least I was able to open that darn bottle of beer.

Ok, back to business.  Unpack the meat.  This means you must remove the raw chicken sausage from the casing.  I promise, it will be worth it in the end.

Heat up the olive oil and then throw the ground turkey and the chicken sausage into a large stock pot to brown it up real good.

Here’s what it will look like.  Yum!

Not.

I promise it gets better from here.

Throw in the beans…

The diced tomatoes…

The tomato paste…

All of those glorious vegetables that you chopped for hours…

The seasonings…

The tabasco sauce…

The Worcestershire sauce…

The be-ah….

Some of the chicken broth and water…

And by now your pot should be very full.

Put the lid on and let her go for 2-3 hours on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and adding chicken broth and or water.

When it’s done, it should look like this.

Yum!

Serve it up with a nice, healthy dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese.

Y’all eat up,

Sugarlump

Here’s a more compact version without all of my helpful commentary:

Hearty Turkey Chili

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1lb ground turkey

2 links hot chicken sausage, casings removed

2 cans cannellini beans

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

½ can tomato paste

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 cubes/packets beef bouillon

1 cup beer

1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon white sugar

2 cups chicken broth diluted with 2 cups water

½ cup sour cream

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Chop and pre-measure all ingredients.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, break up ground turkey and chicken sausage in pot and cook until browned.

Add rest of ingredients to pot and stir.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 2-3 hours, adding 1 cup of chicken broth mixture and stirring every 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with a dollop of sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Siriously?

I’m new to the iphone 4.  I realize that the iphone 5 just came out, but I likely won’t be ready for that kind of innovation until 2015.  It’s not that I’m opposed to technology; I’m just the opposite of an early adopter.  I like simplicity, and acquiring new technological trinkets without a clear value-add to my daily existence goes against everything I stand for.  Well, that might be an overstatement, but you get my point.

Even though I’ve had my iphone 4 for several months now, until recently, I had yet to really test out all of its allegedly wonderful features, namely Siri.

I challenged her to some simple tasks of finding local restaurants for me to call and order take-out.  She proved to be fairly capable.

A few weeks back, I decided to give her the more complex challenge of providing me an update on my mother’s arriving flight.  In a very surly tone, Siri replied, “I can’t help you with flights. Sorry.” And then she pulled up a “search the web” link for me to look it up myself as if I didn’t already think of that.

I later picked up my mom at the airport after confirming that her flight was on time (no thanks to Siri).  Then I picked up my dad after his flight came in and the 3 of us decided we could go for some Mexican lunch.  We settled on Taco Mamacita, a great little fresh-Mex kind of place in Nashville.  I had only driven there from my apartment, so I consulted Siri on directions from the airport to our lunch destination.   I asked for directions to “Taco Ma-ma-seat-ah” from here.  She responded with directions to “Taco Ma-mass-sit-uh” from my current location.  While she was helpful in directing me to the restaurant, she could use some work on her pronunciation.

A little while later, my dad asked if there was an Apple store near me, so I suggested we ask Siri.  My dad asked her to “find an apple store.”  The bright lass found Apple, Inc. in Cupertino, California, helpfully adding that it was “far from here.”

I’m sure Siri will help me out of a pickle someday, but until then, I think I’ll have her stick to entry-level tasks.

Y’all come back (just don’t ask Siri how to get here),

Sugarlump

Ramblings

Lord, I was born a rambling (wo)man. 

I tend to ramble.  Not so much in my speech or in my travels, but in my mind.  Here’s what’s gone through my head in the last few minutes:

1)      My pinky finger hurts. (Also known as a “finky” in Eugene language.)

 I gave myself a doozy of a paper cut today as I was trying to steadfastly recycle all of my paper, cardboard, bottles and cans.  A thin piece of cardboard had it out for me.   It drew blood.  A lot of blood for a paper cut.  I didn’t have anything to clean my cut with so I poured some hand sanitizer over it.  BOY that did the trick.  I had to squeeze my steering wheel with all my might to keep from yelling.  Thankfully, car inspection lady who also works at the waste management center was not there this time to witness it. 

2)      I’m hungry.

I was perusing some food blogs today and came across a game-changing recipe that had to do with French fries, parmesan cheese and some sort of chipotle lime dip.  It sounded outrageously delicious.  I was planning on going for a brisk walk at the time and was seriously tempted to ditch those plans in favor of making the fries, but I held it together and stuck to my exercise plan.

That, and I didn’t have any potatoes.

I’m so disciplined.

3)      I love accents.

Having lived in Boston for 13 years, I had a lot of exposure to extreme Boston accents, though I never had one myself.  I don’t know what comes over me, but every now and then I think of words in a Boston accent.  Kind of like when you learn a second language and think of words in that language, except not exactly.  Anyway, I grabbed my loofah in the shower this evening and cracked myself up thinking of how this would be called a “loofer” in a Boston accent.

I’m weird.

4)      I need to replace my watch battery.

My watch battery is nearly dead.  Not completely dead, because the time does change, just at a fraction of real time.  My watch currently reads 2:37PM and indicates that it’s the 5th of the month.   I know I’m on slow time here in Nashville, but not that slow. 

Despite my watch being temporarily useless, I continue to wear it as a reminder to go get the battery replaced.  I have continued to forget to get the battery replaced for the past week now.  And I also continue to forget that my watch is not functioning properly and consequently find myself staring at my wrist confused most of the day.

I think I need my memory replaced as well.

5)      The sunsets here are so pretty.

 

I never tire of watching (and photographing) the sunset.  

 

It makes me realize that I should stop thinking so much.

Don’t pay me no mind,

Sugarlump

Heirlooms

Having recently moved to my first big-girl apartment, I needed a lot of stuff.   I needed dishes and glasses and living room furniture and a cake stand and a compote dish. Who doesn’t need a compote dish, right? Many of my … Continue reading

Driving to Burkesville

Welcome to Cumberland County.

This is my (very dirty) car, Chino, sitting in my grandparents’ driveway in Kentucky.

Why is this noteworthy?

Well, let me tell you.

I’ve never been able to just drive to my grandparents’ houses in Burkesville, Kentucky.  Having lived in the Northeast and about 1000 miles from my grandparents my whole life, any visit involved at least one plane ride (usually 2) and then a 2 ½ hour drive from the airport in either Louisville or Nashville to rural Kentucky.

Now that I live in Nashville, I can drive up to visit and be there in 2 ½ hours.  It’s glorious.

The blue Jeep, Azul, is my cousin Lauren’s.  Since this is Chino’s first time in Kentucky, he and Azul had never met and they are just tickled to death (a favorite Southern saying) to finally be together as family.

Naturally, as soon as I arrived in Burkesville, we had to eat.  We went to one of my favorite little spots on the square in town: Annie Ruby’s.

Now, Annie Ruby’s is in the location that was formerly Smith Pharmacy.  My papa thinks it had been open since the town was founded in 1810.  He said that when he was little a single ice cream cone was a nickel and a double was 10 cents.  My parents used to go there as kids for ice cream and orangeades, which they could purchase for something like a quarter. This was pretty amazing (even back then) since it took 2 fresh, sweet oranges to produce enough juice for this specialty.

My cousins, sister and I had a summer ritual at Smith Pharmacy when we were growing up where we would go sit at the old-timey fountain and order coke floats after a long day in the office (more on this later).  They had the BEST old school vanilla ice cream that was sort of a creamy yellow and then they would pour over the fountain coke to create the perfect ice cream to coke ratio.  This sounds pretty basic, but there’s quite an art to making a coke float.  Trust me, I’m a coke float connoisseur.

While we were devastated when Smith’s pharmacy went out a little while back, we were so excited to learn that Annie Ruby’s would be opening with good food and with the fountain.  It’s the same fountain that was in Smith’s and they do a darn good job with the coke float.  Their curry chicken salad is also pretty delicious if you want something to go with that coke float.  Actually, maybe eat the sandwich first and then savor the coke float.

Annie Ruby’s is known for “tomato pie,” which I’m sure is delightful, but unfortunately I’m some sort of genetic mutant and do not like tomatoes.  As my granny says, “what a shame” because my papa grows a whole mess of tomatoes that the rest of my family lives for.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve worked up a craving for a coke float.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump

New York City on Business

My mother and I were just in New York City for a quick business trip before I leave the nest at the end of next week.

Clarification: My mother was in NYC on business and I was there to eat, not for business…….unless you consider eating serious business……which I do.  So, never mind, I am sticking to my story that my mom and I were both there on business.

Side note: My mother would like the record to show that, while on the train from Boston to New York, a fellow passenger asked if we were able to connect to the internet on our laptops.  She informed him that we were indeed connected and asked if he had completed a few steps required to connect.  He had.

Then she suggested he open a browser window and see if that prompted the final step of agreeing to the terms of use policy.  After a few seconds, he confirmed that that “did the trick” and he was connected to the internet. 

My mother then beamed with delight and made some celebratory hand gestures because she had just (successfully) provided technical support.  If you knew my mother (and also knew that my father is in the field of Information technology), you would realize how monumental this moment was in her life.  And with that, we were off to a great start.

Upon de-training in Penn Station, I passed Detective Lionel Fusco from one of my favorite shows “Person of Interest.”   We both played it cool, but it was a pretty big deal.  I would have taken a photo but a) I’m not that quick on my feet and b) I was playing it cool.

After checking into our hotel, my mom and I made our way to Bloomingdale’s.  Here are some pretty flowers they had in the entry:

We didn’t hit it big at Bloomie’s, but we each got a dress.  Actually, it was the same dress, one for me and one for her.  I must have still been on a celebrity-sighting high to have bought matching dresses with my mother (especially after all of the years I was forced against my will to wear matching outfits with my sister), but we will soon be living 1,000 miles apart so I guess I’ll let this one slide.

After leaving Bloomingdales, it wasn’t quite time to eat yet, so we strolled around the city for a little while. There were lots of purty trees in bloom even though the weather had decided to turn back to winter less than a week after the first day of spring (confirming my decision to move to the South):

OK, enough of that.

Now, let’s get down to business:  Eating

Dinner: Dos Caminos

I have been waiting years for this dining experience and boy did I have some high expectations after all of the talk from my parents, friends, and Jessica Simpson about how great this place is.  I am pleased to report that it did not disappoint.  Very tasty guacamole (although I think Rosa Mexicana has a slight edge), delicious tacos pescados and dos enchiladas. Yum.  I just ate a huge lunch, but typing that made me hungry again.  Mexican food does that to me.

Apparently I liked it so much that I forgot to take a picture. But before my voracious appetite took over, I did manage to snap a shot of the best sangria ever.  My mom and I debated over whether to order individual glasses or a pitcher given it was just the two of us.  After a long debate and some number crunching, we decided to go for the pitcher and agreed to just leave the extra if it seemed like too much.

We had no problem polishing it off…

Hey now, don’t judge.  It was a special occasion: my first dinner since the night before.

Lunch: A Voce

Oh my word was this divine.  This wasn’t just really good, fancy-shmancy Italian.  This was exceptionally innovative, light, and yet rich in flavor and texture, and just the right portion size (to keep me from overindulging and feeling ill, although I could have plowed through a few more servings without hesitation).

Thank goodness this was not an all-you-can-eat buffet or I might not have lived to tell about it.

I think I have found my new favorite non-Mexican dish and it is comprised of gorgonzola-filled gnocchi, topped with finely chopped smoked walnuts and tiny cubes of apple, served in a butter sauce.  Soft, creamy, and savory with a hint of sweetness.  Perfection.  My taste buds are still rejoicing and my stomach is growling for more.

(What happened to my gnocchi? Oh, that’s right. I ate it. Darn.)

As we finished our glorious meal, my mother and I promptly made a pact to meet up in NYC every year.  I think this agreement had a lot to do with our determination to dine at this establishment again.  And again. And again and again.

DEE-lish.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump