Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring 2018

It's been a busy time since the start of 2018. We continue to settle into our suburban oasis in central Arkansas, but I think we're finally getting into a good routine. I've even found more time to cook lately, and that has produced a parade of relatively notable meals and even a major culinary breakthrough for me personally. Recent menus have included herb roasted chicken with my favorite green bean casserole, honey oat waffles topped with sausage and apples, stuffed quail cooked in gumbo (a recipe known as "death by gumbo"), and Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and dill Hollandaise sauce. This last item is the breakthrough I was referring to. For years, I have tried to make my own Hollandaise, but it always cracks!! Recently, an article in the Arkansas Living Magazine provided a set of instructions for this tricky sauce that helped me better visualize the process I needed and rekindled my courage. I won't say I got it right on the first attempt, but, eventually, I checked a box on my culinary bucket list and made the most beautiful, fluffy Hollandaise you can imagine. I can't promise it will ever turn out that well again, but at least I can say I've done it (proof below). I know traditional Eggs Benedict comes with Canadian bacon, but I ordered it once with smoked salmon ("lox" to some) at a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. It's been my go-to version ever since! The saltiness and velvety texture of the salmon with the egg and sauce is really something you must try.

Tonight my family is planning to enjoy another dish new to us, a lemony rice and chicken soup called Avgolemono. We've also been working on my new herb box and will begin preparing our backyard vegetable garden soon. More pictures and recipes to come as we forge ahead on our daily food adventure!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winter White

Rather than a single, large meal at Christmas, this was a year of small groups and extended festivities. In our new (centrally located) home, we ended up hosting multiple groups of family and friends as they passed through town to their holiday destinations. Of course, such things can get a bit hectic, but it felt the way Christmas is supposed to feel to me - an overflow of hospitality and love. As long as you can keep the Christmas tree lit and the sheets clean, you're doing okay. Several of the meals included visits to favorite local restaurants, but with at least two menus at my disposal, I had the chance to double dip into my box of holiday recipes. Turkey and I have a love-hate relationship that relegates the over-sized poultry to a Thanksgiving-only station in my culinary world. This always leaves me with a beef vs. pork conundrum for Christmas, but this year's answer was easy: both.

The Christmas Eve menu focused on beef:
2" Thick Cut Ribeye Steak - grilled rare, sliced
Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Potatoes Au Gratin
Southern Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

The Christmas Day menu focused on pork:
Petit Jean Brand Smoked Ham with a Mustard and Brown Sugar Glaze
Hashbrown Casserole
Double Cranberry Apple Sauce
Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Radishes

I am told by my family that the white-cheese Potatoes Au Gratin was the MVP of the holiday season. Unfortunately, I make this dish largely "by feel" so it's difficult to put into a shareable recipe. I'm sure it's pretty far from an authentic version of Potatoes Au Gratin; but it's tasty and easier than you might think. I'll do my best to summarize.

Ingredients for Potatoes Au Gratin:
Olive Oil
1/4 Small, Sweet Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, Diced
2-3 Tbsp AP Flour
4-6 Yukon Gold Potatoes (or Other Semi-waxy Potato)
Parmesan Cheese (finely shredded)
Gruyere Cheese (shredded)
1 Pint of Half and Half
Salt, White Pepper, Herbs de Provence (HDP; finely ground)
White Wine (I used Pinot Grigio because it's what I had)

1. Clean your potatoes and "bake" them in the microwave until softened but not completely cooked. Allow the potatoes to cool. Pull skin off the potatoes by hand and slice to approximately 3/8".
2. Using an oven-safe skillet (important later) - heat a small amount of olive oil on the stove top. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and soften but do not brown.
3. Add enough flour to turn the remaining oil into a paste. Add half-and-half and whisk until the paste is dissolved.
4. Add Gruyere and a little Parmesan, salt, pepper, and HDP to taste. Simmer to reduce until the cheese sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon but still liquid. You can always add milk or more half-and half if it over-thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in a splash of white wine for acid.

5. Preheat your broiler to high.
6. Evenly space your potato slices around the skillet and "wiggle" them down into the cheese sauce. When you're finished, you should have two stacked layers of potato. Spoon sauce over the top until everything is coated.
7. Add a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese (and a little Gruyere if you want) over the top.
8. Broil until browned on top.

Even though it looks a little fancy, this dish is surprisingly easy and relatively fast. I've even managed to pull it off on a week night. The trick is just to add the cheese and seasonings incrementally and taste as you go. Gruyere can become over-powering if you're not careful and not everyone wants the same amount of cheesiness. BUT remember that you're spreading it over an ultra-bland ingredient at the end. You need the sauce to have enough flavor to carry the dish, not just to stand alone (that would be fondue...different blog).

I hope this gives you some ideas for future meals. Hoping everyone had a Merry Christmas and wishing y'all a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A New Beginning

Dear Readers,

After an extended hiatus, I am thrilled to announce that I am bringing back the My Scenic Life blog, a blog about food, sustainable living, and travel. To get started, I thought I would share a short update about all the changes in my life since we visited last.
  • After four years of sharing recipes, photographs, and life, I took a break from the blog in the Spring of 2014 to finish graduate school. I am proud to announce that in May of 2015 the University of Georgia conferred upon me a PhD in Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.
  • In September of 2014, I had the opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime. I traveled to Iceland to present my graduate work at the International Sea Duck Conference. There will be more coming about this trip later.
  • As I was finishing graduate school, my husband and I learned that we would be welcoming a new addition to our family. Our beautiful baby boy was born in the Fall of 2015.
  • After graduating, I received a job offer in my field which took our family across the country from our little farm in Georgia to Greeley, Colorado. This meant an entirely new climate, culture, and adventure for us.
  • After 18 short months in Colorado, another job offer unexpectedly brought our family back to our home state of Arkansas. So here we are...back where we started. Literally. We are living in the house I grew up in, raising our little boy, cultivating our roots in urban farming, and enjoying the long-lost pleasure of having family close by.
The holidays are coming. There will be many recipes and pictures to share. I am thrilled to welcome you back to share more of my journey on a road less traveled.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Southern Voice

Written by: Bob DiPero and Tommy Douglas
Performed by: Tim McGraw
Hank Williams sang it, Number 3 drove it
Chuck Berry twanged it, Will Faulkner wrote it
Aretha Franklin sold it, Dolly Parton graced it
Rosa Parks rode it, Scarlett O. chased it
Smooth as the hickory wind
That blows from Memphis down to Apalachicola
It's "Hi y'all, did ya eat?
Well, come on in. I'm sure glad to know ya"
Don't let this old gold cross
And this Allman Brothers t-shirt throw ya
It's cicadas making noise
With the Southern voice
Hank Aaron smacked it, Michael Jordan dunked it
Pocahontas tracked it, Jack Daniels drunk it
Tom Petty rocked it, Dr. King paved it
Bear Bryant won it, Billy Graham saved it
Smooth as the hickory wind
That blows from Memphis down to Apalachicola
It's "Hi y'all, did ya eat?
Well, come on in. I'm sure glad to know ya"
Don't let this old gold cross
And this Crimson Tide t-shirt throw ya
It's cicadas making noise
With the Southern voice
Jesus is my friend, America is my home
Sweet iced tea and Jerry Lee
Daytona Beach, that's what gets to me
I can feel it in my bones
Smooth as the hickory wind
That blows from Memphis down to Apalachicola
It's "Hi y'all, did ya eat?
 Well, come on in. I'm sure glad to know ya"
Don't let this old gold cross
And this Charlie Daniels t-shirt throw ya
We're just boys making noise
With the Southern voice, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Southern voice
I got a Southern voice
Southern voice

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ain't Love Grand

I've been doing some writing for one of my favorite websites, Bourbon and Boots! For my February blog about homemade candies, check out their website.

Happy Valentine's Day!