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Sunday, August 21, 2011

A trip to New England

One of my many birthday presents this week was a culinary trip to one of my favorite places-New England.  When our girls were younger, we would take trips to New Hampshire and Maine every summer.  It was fabulous! Lake Winnepasaukee, the White Mountains and, of course, Tamarack Drive In in Laconia, New Hampshire would make for a cool respite from the hot, humid summers of the South.  Other years, we would take a drive to Bar Harbor, Maine or a ferry to Nova Scotia to experience the crisp coastal feel of the Northeast. It's been a while since we have had a vacation in those lovely places, but my husband transported me there on Friday evening with lobster rolls and whoopie pies. It was a taste of heaven!

It was 98 degrees with a heat index of the flames of hell that evening, so the only clothing choice that made sense was a pair of white walking shorts, a breezy t-strap tribal tank from Urban Outfitters, and a pair of snakeskin wedges. 

Admittedly, not my most inspired outfit, but weather and family appropriate for a night of great food and a fierce game of descending spades!

Thomas and the girls kept the menu under wraps until the very last moment.  They were determined to keep it a surprise.  Amazingly, they were able to-right up until the UPS man delivered a styrofoam cooler.  Needless to say, my curious mind started going into overdrive, and then I saw the buns.  Now, picture an ecstatic me dancing deliriously about the kitchen at the prospect of lobster rolls.

Thomas knew that neither he nor the girls would be okay with actually doing the deed of cooking a live lobster even if they could have found good quality ones here in Alabama.  Plus, Thomas wanted to get both quality and know that he had purchased responsibly. So, he ordered the lobster meat fresh prepared and overnighted from a fisherman's co-op called Lobster  No middleman, just you and the guys who do the catching.

The result? The sweetest lobster I've tasted outside of New England.  

 For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to enjoy a Lobster Roll, let me clue you in on the lusciousness.  It's a basic seafood salad-like crab or shrimp salad-but with lobster.  LOBSTER! Served on a toasted, buttered bun with a bit of romaine.  Simple, yes.  But, oh, so delicious!

Lobster roll recipe

2 cups chopped lobster meat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 finely chopped scallions
1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
3 traditional split hot dog buns
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup shredded Iceberg or Romaine lettuce

1. In a small mixing bowl combine the lobster meat with the mayonnaise, half the scallions, celery, lemon juice, half the paprika and some salt. Let the mixture sit on the counter for 10 minutes while you toast the buns.
2. To toast the hot dog buns, butter the outside of each bun liberally. Heat a dry skillet to medium-high heat and toast the buns on both sides until golden brown.
3. Once toasted, divide the lettuce between the buns. Top the lettuce with the lobster salad. Sprinkle each roll with the remaining paprika and scallions. Serve warm or room temperature with a lemon wedge.

Nope, that's not a homemade Oreo.  It's something far, far better.  Not too sweet, not too creamy, it's a handful of goodness called a Whoopie Pie.  The cookie is soft and the filling is NOT frosting.  Thomas found this recipe from a blog called Omnomicon, and this is her recipe.  Oh, so lovely!

Mom’s Famous Whoopie Pies
makes about 14 after batter & cookie sampling
brought to you by very fortunate family ties.

1/4 c Crisco2 c flour
1 c milk1/4 c + 1 tbsp cocoa
1 c sugar1.5 tsp baking soda
1 egg1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Drop by the small tablespoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet—a tablespoon-sized bakery scoop works best. Bake exactly 8 minutes at 375o, see if a toothpick comes out clean, and if it doesn’t, bake another 2 minutes (10 total). Upon extraction from the oven, remove from pan immediately to wire rack to cool.

And now the creme filling (reminder: it’s not frosting, guys)

1/2 c margarine or butter (room temp is best)
1/2 c Crisco (my mother is insistent that this MUST be Crisco and CANNOT be generic shortening, nor substituted in any way . . . but if you do get it to work with a substitution, please let me know!)
1 c sugar
1 tbsp  flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c warm whole milk (20 seconds in the microwave should do it)

Beat with a mixer (stand or hand, your choice) for-freakin-ever. It will start out just like, well, lumps of Crisco floating in milk, then bits will get smaller and smaller, then it’ll slosh around for a little bit, and, much like the butter making process, you’ll be wondering if this will ever become anything or if you maybe messed it up somehow. Suddenly, about five minutes later, your mix will look weird for a second, and within moments your slushy mess will turn into a glorious white creme, smooth and perfect in a way rarely seen outside the confines of uber-processed food with chemicals you can’t pronounce that are not even available to the consumer in their pure form.


As soon as the whoopie cookies are cool, match each whoopie with its closest brother in size—even if yours didn’t all come out the same size, evenly matched whoopies will look much much nicer. Spread some filling on the flat side of one, then place the second on top. Repeat. This does not need to be done immediately before serving, as the filling tends to maintain its consistency surprisingly well, and some (like my mom) would argue that a day-old whoopie pie is even better than fresh. I like them all.
No need to refrigerate, sealed plastic or plastic wrap will keep them fresh.
. . . and that’s it. Congratulations! You just made the best whoopie pies known to man.

Cheers, my lovelies, cheers!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Big 4-0!

Okay, first off, I must apologize for almost 2 months since my last post.  It was summer.  There were vacations and children involved.  Enough said.

Now on to the present-I am turning 40 this Thursday! Yep, the big 4-0.  I have a week of family and friend celebrations ahead, and I plan on enjoying each and every one! I know a lot of people-men and women-really freak out about this milestone.  I gotta say, I'm pretty stoked! Maybe it's because I am a naturally optimistic person, or maybe I'm in denial, or who knows, but I am genuinely looking forward to a new decade in my life.  I mean the alternative to being older is, well, pushing up flowers, if you get my meaning, and I am not so keen on that particular idea.

So, instead of my usual outfit of the day sort of thing, I've decided to share my thoughts on getting older, turning 40, and basically the realization that I have firmly moved out of young adulthood and entered middle age.  Here goes:

Confidence:  At 40, I am not eligible (nor was it ever really in my personality) to play the ingenue. I am free to be the confident, sexy person I am without coming across as trying too hard.  I know my own body and can dress it appropriately.  I can walk with my shoulders back, my chin held high, and a swing in my hips and not care what people think-good, bad or otherwise. I love the power that confidence and sexuality gives me.

Body Image:  Yes, my body has changed over the years.  I am lucky (or active enough) that my body shape and type has not changed in ways that I find troubling.  While miniskirts may not look so great on my legs as they used to, a tight pencil skirt looks fabulous. Showing a little cleavage, I used to think, was reserved for bustier women, but now I find that my smaller chest is less, shall we say, southward bound than my chesty counterparts and I find myself being a bit more daring than I used to be (see Confidence above). That does not mean that I am looking down my nose at my fellow women who have felt the effects of gravity-heck no! I guess what I am trying to say is, "Roll with it." Things change.  So what? Love your body.  It is beautiful just like it is.  Don't bemoan the fact that you don't look like you did at 20.  Seriously, did you wish you could look 12 again when you were 25? I think not.  So stop hating yourself for getting older.  We all get older.  Embrace it.

Wrinkles: Oh, yeah, I've got 'em.  Do I love each and every one of them? Not always.  I love that I have crinkles around my eyes from smiling so much.  I love that my dimple on one side has become a permanent crinkle on that cheek for the same reason. The lines on my forehead, they just mean I am an animated and expressive person.  Just the kind of woman I like to hang out with, so those are cool too. The furrow of my brow-you know the one-the one you get from being cross or worried or angry.  Well, that one I don't love that one a lot, but I keep it.  Why? First of all, I've earned it.  From caring about those I love.  From standing up and arguing when I know I'm right.  From being human.  Second of all, botox and juvederm and all that crap makes you look like a freak.  There.  I've said it. I can't stand watching Hollywood films with all those women with paralyzed faces.  What's more, I don't want to be one of them.

Relationships: At 40, a woman may be happily married, in a loveless marriage and sticking out for the kids, divorced, happily single or in a long term relationship with a significant partner.  I think that's one of the interesting aspects of women my age, they each bring a different perspective to the table.  I am one of those that falls squarely into the happily married category.  Yes, marriage can be tough, but everything worthwhile is.  I have the love of a wonderful man who thinks I am just as smart and beautiful as the day we met.  Is that my good luck? Maybe.  But, it doesn't hurt that we both still care how we look for the other.  Never underestimate the power of killer lingerie and great outfit! Plus, our chemistry in the kitchen-ooh la la! I look forward to what the next 40 years will bring for us.

Okay, so I'll get off my soap box and talk about food.  And, I promise more frequent posts and the normal outfit ideas next time!

On the menu tonight-Roast Chicken Salad with Peaches, Chevre and Pecans with The World's Best Fudgy Brownies for dessert. Yum!

Image courtesy of Becky Luigart-Stayner

With peaches still in season, I couldn't pass up this easy, peasy salad! The tang of chevre 

pairs so well with the greens and the crunch of the pecans.


  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 2 cups sliced peeled peaches
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • (5-ounce) package gourmet salad greens
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese


  • 1. Combine first 8 ingredients; stir with a whisk.
  • 2. Combine chicken and remaining ingredients except cheese in a large bowl. Add vinegar mixture; toss gently. Sprinkle with cheese.
See? Told you it was a breeze!

This recipe is found on the bag of King Arthur All Purpose Flour.  Hands down the best brownies ever!


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan
  • In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it's hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
    While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
    Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.
    Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
    Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.
    Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.
    Enjoy, my lovelies-cheers!