a garden, a hot pan, & a little balsamic vinegar

As you all know, October is now almost over… Halloween costumes are all over the place, the weather is finally cooling down, and the pumpkin spice latte is back behind Starbucks counters everywhere. Fall is here! So, of course, it’s the perfect time to share a perfectly summer recipe. Sweet onions are in season from roughly mid-June to mid-August, and at my parents’ house in South Carolina, we harvested them right after our wedding. This post, therefore, is a late farewell to summer. It’s both sweet and savory and fresh. And there’s a recipe, too.

Will and I had such a wonderful time rummaging through the garden. We tugged and pulled and took all sorts of pictures and laughed quite a bit. It was lovely.

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Once you have the onions, the hardest part is over. Wash them off and toss them in a bowl.
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All you need to do is add a little balsamic vinegar, some salt & pepper, and a bit of brown sugar. Basil never hurt anybody, either. Put them in a pan with butter. Heat it up.
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And then enjoy! This is about as yummy as it can get.

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Balsamic Sweet Onions

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb sweet onions
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsps brown sugar
dash of salt
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp butter
dash of pepper
DIRECTIONS:
1. Wash and peel sweet onions, cutting off tips. Cover in 1/2 cup vinegar and dash with salt & pepper, and let sit for at least half an hour.
2. Heat butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions.
3. Once vinegar begins to sizzle, mix in brown sugar and basil. Allow onions to simmer, stirring often. Add additional 1/2 cup vinegar as necessary.
4. Once vinegar has thickened and onions have browned, remove from heat. Enjoy!

our wedding: the reception & goodbye

Here it is: the last wedding post! Finally, after the getting ready and the formals and the ceremony and all that came with it, we come to the part that everybody knows, since we’re all being honest, is the most important: the reception. Oh, how fun.

Our very first thing that Will and I did as a couple was celebrate with our families. We had about three seconds after walking out of sight of our guests before all of our bridal party and family streamed in, and everything exploded into hugging and kissing and laughing all at once. And so we spent a little bit of time together as a new big family (and took a few pictures) while our guests wandered over to the other part of the castle.

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Our reception was set up in the courtyard opposite the ceremony, which was about three feet away and mirrored the first (palm trees and all). We rented long farmhouse tables and set dinner up family-style, so that everybody could get as little or as much food as their heart desired without having to get up and stand in line. On the other side of the courtyard, we had a little dance floor and a lounge area for those who wanted to get off their feet. The wonderful Charleston-based Event Works did our rentals, and my incredible friends set up all the decor beforehand.

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Now, a note about dinner. We loved our food, which was expertly prepared by Carefree Catering and was, really, one of the most talked-about aspects of our wedding. I’ve heard before that it is impossible to have wedding food that tastes anything other than mediocre, at the best. That, my friends, is a lie. Ours ranged from a selection of cornbread style muffins to pulled pork to the best crabcakes in the whole wide world. And thanks to the folks at Carefree, it was truly great in every way.

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I really could not say enough wonderful things about our speeches and toasts. My dad made me laugh, Will’s best man left me inspired, and my maid of honor made me cry big happy tears, to say the least. I felt, and still do, so grateful to have these people in our lives.

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Will’s and my first dance was to “Lucky” by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz. As I’ve said before, we spent a great deal of our relationship long-distance, and so the song meant quite a bit to us. All I could think about was that we’d never have to say goodbye again. It was sweet and great and just what it should be.

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My dad and I danced to “My Girl” by the Temptations. Ever since I remember, he has been singing that song to me, and so it was chosen without a second thought. The two of us took dance lessons before the wedding (it turns out that my dad is quite the dancer) and so we swirled around the dance floor happily.

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Will and his mom, on the other hand, danced to “How I Love You” by Rob Laufer. Their dance, actually, lasted for only about a minute and a half before Will’s sister ran onto the dance floor to be with the two of them. His brother was waved over and then I, after being reminded that I was now a part of their family, joined them. The whole affair caused a great mixture of laughter and tears.

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And then things went the way that receptions normally go. The dance floor was opened, the cake was served, and we simply celebrated.

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I do want to take a moment, being a sweets-sort-of-girl, to celebrate our desserts. Our cake was wonderfully done by Myra at Incredible Edibles, and was a brown sugar cake with salted caramel + chocolate ganache with toffee bits. We also served a buttermilk cake with fresh peach conserve filling, so that guests could choose between something a little more heavy and something on the lighter side. Both, in my humble opinion, were delicious.

At some point in the wedding planning process, I had also had an idea for a custom-done sammy cart, where guests could choose from a variety of ice creams and cookies, and then have somebody make a ice cream cookie sandwich right in front of them. To my dismay, I couldn’t find anybody in the area who offered the service, or would even consider it. That is, until I found Bruster’s Ice Cream. These incredible people listened to my ideas and responded simply with, “We’ll make it work”. And they did. Our cookie options were Triple Chocolate, White Chocolate Macadamia, Peanut Butter, and Almond Butter, plus Brownies. And our ice cream flavors were Butter Pecan, Mango Ginger, Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, and Black Raspberry. It was so delightful to see my thoughts bloom into real life, and of course, we loved our sammies at the wedding.
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And then we danced. And danced. And talked to our family and friends. And danced.

The whole reception felt carefree and alive, with lights twinkling above and the sea breeze sweeping through every few minutes. Our grandparents sat on lounge chairs and sipped sweet tea, while my young cousins swirled around the dance floor. People ate lots and laughed lots and, of course, did the Cha Cha Slide and Gangnam Style and whatever else they thought of. I hope that our guests felt appreciated and honored and joyful, and that it was a night worth remembering for them, each in their own way. I, for one, was deliriously happy.

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When it was time to go, I changed into a little dress from Anthropologie’s BHLDN collection, and our guests all gathered with sparklers. Will and I walked along the pathway as they all smiled and waved and said goodbye, and then he surprised me by spinning me around, to finish it all up. And then we drove off into the dark. It was a gorgeous end to it all, and we felt loved beyond measure as we set off into our new life together.

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Well, friends, this is the end. Thank you, a thousand times, for reading. Our wedding was incredible and I know that for me, it has been great fun reliving it with you… but now I must admit that in the end, it was just one day. And so I’m off to write about every other crazy, thought-provoking, sweet thing that life has to offer. Adieu, for now. I’ll hope I’ll see you next time.

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p.s. Thanks, once again, to Nancy Ray Photography. You’re the best.

a taste of new orleans

As Part II of our honeymoon (Part I was a few nights in the gorgeous city of Charleston), Will & I road tripped from South Carolina to Texas, stopping to spend one lovely day in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been there, and I had been sufficiently enchanted by the likes of the Princess & the Frog to be very much excited about our little adventure. We were ready to learn what all the talk surrounding the city was about. And, of course, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to cross another item off my bucket list24) Go on a food tour in a major city.

New Orleans is well-known for both its incredible cuisine and unique culture… and we were lucky enough to find a tour that blended elements from both. We settled on a walking tour (Tastebud Tours) lead by a former middle school principal, and followed him as he meandered around the city, painting a fascinating picture of the historical, architectural, and cultural landscape of New Orleans. All in all, we stopped at six local food spots. And let me tell you… we had an incredible experience at every single one.

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We began at the local deli Mike Serio’s, where Will & I both had our first muffulettas. Think bread + salami + mortadella + ham + mozzarella + provolone + olive salad= the biggest (and possibly the tastiest) sandwich you have ever seen in your life. The pictures below show quarter portions. This sandwich originated in New Orleans and is one of the city’s signature items… our tour guide reported that it was created in 1906, in response to the needs of the city’s Sicilian farmers who were attempting to get a lunch that would last all day in the hot sun. Obviously, it stuck around.

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Our next stop was Cafe Beignet, an adorable little hidden garden with live jazz and greenery all around. We were served the hottest, softest, most delicious beignets ever, and covered ourselves in powdered sugar as we tried to eat them gracefully. It beat our Cafe du Monde experience by far. And, of course, what would beignets be without cafe ole? (p.s. since we had been at Cafe du Monde earlier in the day, I didn’t take any photos at this stop. The ones below are from that morning instead.)

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After the cafe, we popped into a little spice shop: The Spice & Tea Exchange. This place was packed with every type of dried herb, spice, tea, and sugar and salt and pepper blend. Our time there was full of peeking into jars and inhaling deeply and saying, “One day, we’ll buy stuff like this”.

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We then strolled on over The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, which was established in 1894, and were greeted by the chef himself… a rotund, jolly man who wore the white hat and had an Yat accent fit for the movies. We listened to him passionately outline the difference between Cajun and Creole histories/ cuisines and quietly sampled both gumbo and jumbalaya. Cajuns, apparently, came from Acadia (Nova Scotia), displaced by the British to eventually settle in Louisiana. Creoles, on the other hand, are descendants of the French and Spanish immigrants who settled in Louisiana while those countries enjoyed control over the area (along with a sizable population of Africans and African Americans). Cajun cooking, therefore, is more “country,” as the Acadians learned to live off the land, while Creole cooking was more “urban” and was generally done by chefs hired by the wealthy, who blended their European cooking styles with local ingredients. As for us, we thought both dishes were incredible.

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We next went to Johnny’s Po Boys, for a famous roast beef po boy. These were served wrapped in paper in the back room of the shop, and we watched as people walked in and out of the kitchen. Po boys are famous for a reason, and Johnny’s is (disputably) the best in the city.

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And the final piece: Laura’s Candies, the oldest candy store in New Orleans. Here, our tour guide gave us a warm goodbye and left us to peruse the shop, where we were privy to free samples of everything from mississippi mud to peanut butter meltaways. And then, of course, we were sent home with a bag of famous NOLA pralines in hand. The perfect end, in my opinion, to a perfect tour.

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And what do you do when you finish an extravagantly delicious food tour? Go and eat more, obviously. Our one day in New Orleans was finished at The Three Muses, a little bar that served exotic foods tapas-style… our meal included (but was not limited to) Tempura Shrimp, Goat-Cheese Stuffed (and Bacon-Wrapped) Dates, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, & Smoked Duck Breast Enchilada Pizza, topped with a Sunny Side Up Duck Egg. We finished with a Banana Empanada and homemade Nutella Ice Cream, listening to the live musicians as they sang about the wonders of New Orleans.

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The wonders of New Orleans, indeed.

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a snapshot and a recipe

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Today is a no-bake cookies sort of day.

Madi’s Almond No-Bake Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups instant oatmeal
2 cups white sugar
dash of salt
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, shortening, almond milk, and salt to a rapid boil. Wait for a little over a minute.
2. Add oats, almond butter, and vanilla; mix well.
3. Working quickly, drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper (or in my case, a no-stick baking sheet), and let cool.
4. Enjoy!

my new favorite crustacean

Ever since I heard of these guys, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of trying an authentic lobster roll… there’s something about the toasted kaiser roll, crunchy and warm, paired with sweet and cool lobster, that just sounds right to me. It’s beautiful, gourmet, and exotic enough that I instantly added it to my bucket list. And now that I’ve relocated to Texas, I finally got a chance to pick one up! Apparently, people ship fresh lobster out here on a regular basis. Lucky me.

Our first week here, Will & I found a food truck that served these little lovelies and jumped at the chance to try them. They were delicious. Actually, we loved them enough that we tried them twice (just being honest).

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Texas adventure # 1: complete. Bucket list item #49: done.

I love checking things off my lists.

p.s. a fun guide on what makes the best lobster roll.

wanting

Remember how I talked about one day buying something extravagant, just because?

Well, if I could spend lots of money on something totally indulgent right this second, I know what it would be… mail-order Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. It’s expensive and impractical and apparently wonderfully yummy. And so, of course, I spent way too much time today perusing their flavors. Here are a few of my favorites:

{Wildberry Lavender}, {Olive Oil, Saffron, Orange, + Caramel}, {Salty Caramel}

{Cherry Lambic Sorbet}, {Dark Chocolate}, & {Juniper + Lemon Curd}

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And the list goes on (and on). Too bad the closest “scoop shop” is 589 miles away.

Road trip, anyone?

chocolate almond chess pie

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Doesn’t it look delicious? This, my friends, is chocolate almond chess pie.

If we’re being honest, I must tell you that my ideal dessert rests somewhere in the chocolately-fudgey-thick-and-gooey region. I love things that are rich and sweet and substantial, and that are preferably full of chocolate. I want a dessert that is full-bodied, not some whipped flaky Splenda- filled nonsense. And this pie fits that description perfectly. There is no messing around with the chocolate almond chess pie. It is thick and rich and perfect with a teeny crust of crystallized sugar right on the top. It’s yummy warm or cold, and in my opinion, is best served with a large glass of milk. Yes, it’s that type of pie.

As far as desserts go, this one is pretty simple. Gather your ingredients…

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…and then mix them all together, little by little.

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Isn’t it luscious? When everything is blended in, just pour it into the pie crust and stick it in the oven. Bake it for 40 minutes, and then, listen now: turn off the oven and leave the pie in there while it cools down. That extra time will continue to cook the middle without burning the edges, which leaves it fudgey all the way through.

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Garnish it as you so desire. Personally, I have a deep love for almonds, and so I took the happy opportunity to toss a few on the top.

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It’s okay, go ahead and have a piece. Or two. I hope that you love it as much as I do.

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Chocolate Almond Chess Pie

(adapted from this lady)

INGREDIENTS:

1 graham cracker pie crust
1 stick unsalted butter
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
almonds, to taste
DIRECTIONS:
1. Melt the butter and chocolate together.
2. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract, then add the sugar and salt.
3. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 325*F for 40 minutes.
4. Turn off the oven and let the pie sit while it cools. The top of the pie will flatten and crack… that’s okay!
5. Top with almonds and whip cream.

inlet wanderings

Wake up slowly. Take a long drive. Eat a tasty brunch at a tiny cafe. Walk the beach. Explore the inlet.

Breathe, smile, and watch the sun cross the sky.

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goodbye, salt

To those of you who know me well, this may come as a bit of a shock…I went a week without putting salt on my food. That’s right. Should I say it again? Seven full days. No salt.

I don’t know when it was that I became the girl who put salt on everything. Sometime in middle school, I think? I have distinct memories my seventh-grade self sitting in the food court at the mall sucking on a pack of soy sauce. Ew. It was not my proudest moment.

But regardless, it happened. And the fifty-six thousand times that I put salt on my breakfast, lunch, and dinner since then also happened. And we’re not talking about just french fries here: we’re talking everything from salad to pizza to brownies (which is kinda becoming cool now, go figure). Even if the food was perfectly seasoned when it was placed in front of me, I grabbed a salt shaker before even trying it. I’ve even been know to pour it into the palm of my hand and eat it straight up. But that’s enough oversharing. You get the point. And now you understand why it is that I’m excited that I went a whole week without doing it. It was time to combat the habit.

And here’s my conclusion: if you make food well in the first place, there is no need to add anything. So, there: another bucket list item completed. Let’s hope this one sticks.

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p.s. That’s a pizza Will and I made this week. Yummy.

p.s.s. Many thanks to Genie from Bunny. Eats. Design. for inviting me to participate in March’s “Our Growing Edge” event. Check out her site and the site of this month’s host, Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys, for some great reading about people who are crossing off their own food-related Bucket Lists. Thanks, Genie!

 

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artisan bread, the easy way

Is there anything better than the smell of bread baking? I don’t think so.

Well, maybe eating the said bread. That’s pretty incredible as well.

I’m a huge fan of artisan bread… it is delicious and heart-warming and filling in the best way. And the fact that I can make it, on my own, for just a couple of cents a loaf, without kneading or investing in a bread machine, is enough to make my day. And so I’d like to share it with you, so that your day can be a little better than you thought it would be when you woke up this morning. You’re welcome!

My biggest instruction in this technique comes from The Italian Dish. You can head over to their website for much more detailed information of what exactly is happening throughout this lovely bread-making process. I owe them a ton of thanks for their tutorial.

Bread-making is mostly composed of mixing and waiting. Start with some warm water and mix in yeast, salt, and flour. Cover it up and let it sit for a while (at least two hours, to be precise). Part one: complete.

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Over the course of the two hours, it will rise quite a bit. If you’re feeling daring, now is the time to get creative with the flavors. For this batch, I tried three new combinations: rosemary & garlic, orange & cranberry, and parmesan cheese (the rosemary, of course, came from our little garden). It’s as simple as dividing the dough and stirring in the various yummy bits.

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Shape the dough into loafs, making sure that the top portion is tight and smooth, and place them on parchment paper. Let it rise for another half hour. In the meantime, stick a baking sheet in the oven.  Dust the tops of the loafs with flour, slit them with a sharp knife, slide the parchment paper on top of the heated baking sheet, place a pan of water underneath, and…. that’s all! Watch a show on Netflix while the bread releases all sort of lovely smells into your home.

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And then, enjoy! We found that the orange and cranberry loaf tasted divine with blackberry jam (that one was definitely my favorite), while the other two worked best with a little olive oil. Whatever makes your heart smile.

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No-Knead Artisan Bread

INGREDIENTS:

3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
6 1/2 c. ap flour
mix-ins as desired
DIRECTIONS:
1. Warm the water to around 100* F.
2. Mix in yeast, salt, and flour with a wooden spoon.
3. Cover with a lid or dishtowel, set in a warm place, and allow to rise for at least two hours.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper on your counter and dust your hands with flour. Pull the dough and tear off a piece the size of a grapefruit. If you are mixing in any herbs, fruits, nuts, or cheese, place that piece into a separate bowl and add the toppings. Use the wooden spoon to mix them thoroughly.
5. Shape the loaf by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, ensuring that the top is smooth and tight. Place the loaf onto your parchment paper and let it sit for 30-40 minutes.
6. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450*. Place your baking sheet in the heated oven and let it warm for 20 minutes. Fill a pan with water and set it beside the oven.
5. Dust the loaf with a little flour and slash the top with a knife.
6. Slide the parchment paper into the oven and place the water right underneath before quickly closing the oven door. Allow the bread to bake 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Remove and enjoy!