Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, I'm finally able to sit down and write my second post! We have been traveling all over the place for Christmas. We had such a great time back in our home town visiting family. I love this time of year. And I especially loved that this was our first Christmas together as a married couple! We had such a fun time decorating our home. We set up our Christmas tree, put garland and stockings on our mantel, and created a little snow village in our entry way. LOVE Hobby Lobby's 50% off Christmas sale, by the way. Great way to start our Christmas decoration collection.

Now it's back to reality as the Holidays have come to an end, but I love my reality, so it's really not so bad at all. We hit the ground running when we got back to our home. We had a progressive dinner in our neighborhood the night we got back! We hosted desserts and I made bite size apple pies, rich chocolate cake, and strawberries with fresh whipped cream. That, however, will be in another post. This post is about the meal we had on New Year's Day.

Black Eyed Peas
I have never been a fan of the traditional New Year's Day meal of black eyed peas and cabbage. Every year growing up, we had that. It's not a reflection of my mother's cooking. She was actually quite good. I just could never stomach the boiled cabbage and bland black eyed peas. And I didn't care that they were supposed to bring you good health and good wealth for the coming year. In fact, I still don't care. So, I was going to forego that tradition and come up with something else, but my husband fought it. He insisted that we at least have the black eyed peas. And since I love him, I obliged....But I refused to just boil them. I searched and searched for what I thought would be a good recipe that would change my mind about those little legumes, and I found one of Paula Deen's recipes on the Food Network website that I used. While it slightly improved the taste of them, it still didn't make me like them, and even my husband agreed that the recipe would probably have tasted better with a different kind of bean (maybe pinto....). Anyway, perhaps you like black eyed peas and would love this recipe!

Moving on to the rest of the menu, I prepared raspberry chipotle pork loin, mashed potatoes, crescent rolls and cranberry-feta salad. The mashed potatoes and crescent rolls are pretty self explanatory :) But I will share my recipe for the pork loin and salad!

Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Pork Loin
We do not eat pork all that often. And when we do, it's usually in the form of bacon, maybe once a month, if that. But several years ago, my husband and I found the Fischer & Wieser raspberry chipotle sauce while grocery shopping. We bought a bottle and proceeded to look for a recipe to use for it. There are two pork loin recipes using the raspberry sauce on their website, and this one is very similar, but we have added a few things over the years to make it our own!

The ingredient amounts really depend on the size loin you buy. The following is based on about a 3 lb. loin. (I have a 6 lb. loin pictured, so I doubled the below recipe, but we cut it in half for roasting purposes--each portion is approx. 3 lb.).

Pork Loin, or Pork Roast, depending on the consistency you prefer (approx. 3 lb.)
1/4 c. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary
2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 bottles Fischer & Wieser Roasted Raspberry Chipotle
1 jar Tabasco Red Pepper Jelly

  • Preheat oven to 350. 
  • Cut most of the fat off of the top of the loin, leaving just a small amount. 
  • Chop up the fresh herbs and garlic; Mix with olive oil and salt & pepper; Rub all over loin
  • Place loin fat-side-up on a rack in roasting pan, with about 1/3 c. of water at the bottom of pan.
  • Combine one bottle of raspberry sauce with most of the Tabasco pepper jelly.
  • Pour most, but not all, of mixture over loin.
  • Cover pan with aluminum foil and place in oven. 
  • Typically you want to cook pork for about an hour per pound. However, we have a gas oven and find that it cooks much more quickly. So depending on your oven, I would say to try 30-45 minutes per pound and adjust accordingly. 
  • About 20 minutes before it's finished cooking, remove the loin. Remove the foil and pour the remaining raspberry-pepper jelly mixture over it. Place back in oven--without the foil.
  • In a small saucepan, heat about half of the second bottle of raspberry sauce with the rest of the pepper jelly. (This will be a dipping sauce for the pork--it's also very good on mashed potatoes!)
  • When the pork loin is finished, remove from oven. Slice and place in serving dish. Pour drippings from the bottom of the pan over the sliced pork. 
  • Add some to the  drippings to the dipping sauce in the saucepan and pour in serving bowl.


Cranberry-Feta Salad
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1.5 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 bag Baby Spinach
1/4 c. Craisins
1/3 c. Feta Cheese
Handful of your favorite croutons
Slice of a lemon

  • Mix olive oil and minced garlic in a small bowl. A really small bowl, like for dipping sauces.
  • Combine the rest of your salad fixings (except the lemon) in a large bowl. 
  • Toss the salad in the olive oil-garlic salad dressing.
  • Spritz the salad with the juice from your lemon slice and toss salad again.

You're done! But warning! You will smell like garlic for about a day after eating :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How It All Started....

New Year's Day 2011. The day was, in a word, perfect. 

My boyfriend of two and a half years, (who I also grew up with by the way), had given me the cutest little "picnic backpack" for Christmas the week before. It was a green and white checkered zip-up backpack that had a blanket, wine glasses, cloth napkins, plates, silverware, cheese board and cork screw-everything you could possibly want for a romantic meal in the grass. Eager to try out my new gift, he suggests going on a picnic somewhere in Austin, where I was living at the time. I did my due diligence and asked several ladies from Austin where they thought the perfect picnic location would be. I received a resounding "Mt. Bonnell." So, on the morning of New Year's Day, we head to Whole Foods to stock our picnic backpack. We load our cart with cheese, fresh bread, wine, grapes, feta stuffed olives and, of course, organic chocolate truffles!

With our feast and gear in tow, we drive up to Mt. Bonnell. We find the perfect little spot on a large, flat stone slab overlooking Lake Austin. The weather is beautiful. Sunny with a slight breeze. We enjoy our food and each other's company. Although our location is a bit secluded and off the beaten path, we can still hear the passersby stop every once in a while and say "Aw, look! They're having a picnic. How cute!" After a while, we decide to move on to another spot that has a little bit more privacy to finish our picnic. I'm a bit taken back with his determination to find us the ideal spot, as he leads me further and further down the side of the Mt. I even saw a snake, we were so far from civilization!

We, or rather he, finally found the place we could be alone and out of the range of curious eyes. We sit, talking and enjoying the weather. I notice that he is starting to get a little fidgety, glancing around, not sitting still. He finally says, "I have another gift for you." Surprised, I think "Oh this is it! He's going to propose!" He reaches in one of the blankets we brought with us and pulls out a wrapped box-"but it's too big to be a ring box," I think to myself. I carefully tear off the wrapping paper, and there it was.

No, not a ring, but a little red mixer. A little red mixer Christmas tree ornament to be exact.  Now, if you're like me, you have wanted a Kitchenaid mixer from the time you were, oh I don't know, old enough to have your arm get tired while beating eggs with a hand mixer. And if you like to cook and bake like me, you need one. They come in all kinds of colors, but I had always had my heart set on red. He had always told me that something like that wasn't really a birthday or Christmas gift, but something you registered for when you got married. As I am inspecting the tiny version of my dream kitchen gadget, it accidentally slips from my fingers and starts to roll down, down, down.

Quickly, my thoughtful, romantic man jumps up and runs after it. Thankfully it was stopped by a clump of brush before it fell off the side entirely. As he is making his way back up to me, little red mixer in hand, he kneels. There is no mistaking this gesture. On one knee, he says, "I know you've always wanted a red Kitchenaid, and I've always said it's more of a wedding gift, so maybe now you can register for one of your own....Will you marry me?" as he pulls the ring out. Cue the tears. Yes of course I was crying, and yes of course I was saying "Yes! Yes!" over and over again as I put my arms around his neck, choking him I'm sure. (Afterwards he said I looked like I was doing the chicken dance the way I was flailing my arms). I cannot express how happy I was and am. The ring (absolutely beautiful by the way) and the little red mixer were wonderful mementos of that day, but HE was and is my dream come true!

Fast forward to June of 2011. A lovely bridal shower that all of my amazing aunts threw for me at Nottoway, my favorite plantation in Louisiana. The flowers and place settings were so pretty. The food delicious. I was getting to visit with many of the ladies in my family that I hadn't seen in years. I had such a wonderful time--if any of you are reading this right now, thank you again for the perfect shower! And, my (hopefully) captive audience, can you guess what the hostess gift was?? That's right. None other than a brand new, (big) little red mixer! And some really fun attachments for it. Eeeeee!!

Fast forward to July of 2011. The best day of my life. I marry the love of my life. Yes, mushy, I know, but so true.

I can't tell you how many goodies I've already made with my pretty, little red mixer. I anticipate making many more, so, with some encouragement from my sister Caneel,, I decided to start sharing the recipes and adventures that I have with my mixer and my man through this blog. I hope you enjoy!