“Up in Memphis the music’s like a heatwave. White lightning, bound to drive you wild.” — Alannah Myles

After what seemed like a whirlwind of adventure to get to New Orleans it was time to head north. Nashville is about 530 miles north and a little east of New Orleans, which translates to about 8 hours. I wanted an early start to the day as I had plans to stop in Birmingham, AL to stop at the Civil Rights Institute which was open from 1-5pm. By the time I was on the road (after a detour to drive through the Garden District, and to swing by Starbucks) it was close to 9am.

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I got to within 23 miles of the Institute when I hit some stormy weather. No tornado warnings, just a total downpour. I ended up exiting the freeway to wait it out in a CVS parking lot because I couldn’t see and the amount of water on the roadway was incredible. Very thankful for those new tires because I was certain I was going to skid off the road at one point. I didn’t arrive at the Institute until nearly 3pm, but it was absolutely worth finding my way downtown for. Because it’s free on Sundays the place was packed and we had to go inside in groups so that they could space everyone a little bit. Also because the A/C was having a hard time keeping up with all the people in there and it was a little too hot in some areas. It was very eye opening disappointing in a way. To see how far we HAVEN’T come in the past 60 or so years is, well, sad. AMERICA, PULL YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.

I wanted to grab a late lunch in Birmingham, but my radar showed a massive front headed toward Nashville (3hrs north) that had already caused problems in Memphis and had flood watches popping up all over central Tennessee.

I skipped lunch and headed North, watching as the storm clouds rolled in… and then nothing. I had about ten minutes of a sprinkle of rain and that was it. Nothing every materialized and I watched the dark clouds just roll on by. Damnit. My dinner (some diner near my hotel) was mediocre in comparison to the few places I had sought out in Birmingham. Oh well, I was able to get a pretty long, decent nights sleep.

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Rockin’ on the front porch.

The following morning I started off with a visit to the Belle Meade Plantation. What caught my attention about this place is it’s influence on the American Thoroughbred. I had *THE* best guide who led the tour of the house (no pics allowed inside, boo). He wove together the family history of FIVE generations who all seemed to be named the same, state history of Tennessee, slavery and the civil war as well as all this equestrian history. And it all comes down to this one horse I’d never heard of: Bonnie Scotland. I don’t remember the exact number, but something like 120 of the 143 Kentucky Derby winners can be traced back to this horse. Man O’War, War Admiral, Seattle Slew, California Chrome, Secretariat, etc.

So I spent a little longer touring the house, the carriage barns, the stable, etc, because it IMG_9742was 11am before I even hit the gift shop (and I’m not leaving without touring the gift shop). From there I headed to Downtown Nashville and circled FOREVER before spending a small fortune on parking. My plan was to tour the Ryman auditorium and then hit the Johnny Cash museum. Unfortunately, the Ryman was packed, so I just hit the Johnny Cash museum before my three hour drive West to Memphis.

Aside from the ridiculous amount of road work, it was a pretty easy drive. I detoured

slightly to drive through Loretta Lynn’s Ranch which is everything and nothing. When you first turn in there is an office for the campground/RV park, signs to a pool and arcade. You then drive past concert grounds, a motorcross… place (who knew she was into that?) before arriving at a gift shop and museum and place for horse rides, plus what looks like a private residence. In any case, the museum was closed (A/C broke). I let my GPS guide me back toward the highway and it took me on a long, narrow gravel road in the middle of nowhere for miles. At one point I almost turned around, but when I zoomed out on the GPS I saw it did know what it was doing.

And now, I’m in Memphis.

IMG_9780Because I’ve just got one day here, I stuck to Beale St., the Peabody ducks and a few of my favorite places to eat. But I feel like the next time I’m here, it’s time to discover a new part of town. I was a little let down by the hotel this year (the room is fine, the bed comfy) but the staff has been cold and unwelcoming which is a complete turn around from the last several times I’ve stayed here. For the past several years this has been hands down, one of my most favorite places to visit. And this time, just a standard hotel within walking distance of one of my fav. places to booze it up.

Speaking of, one of my absolute favorite places in Memphis is the Kooky Canuck. A

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Flying Moose: Melon, citrus vodka, raspberry rum, sour and mist. 

Canadian restaurant. But the drinks here are amazing. As are their fried green tomatoes and fried pickles – both of which are pretty much life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Thick cut, juicy with just enough breading to keep things interesting, but not get gross.

Tomorrow I head further west to Oklahoma City. It’s about 7 hours (direct on I-40). It’ll be interesting to approach from the other direction, but I doubt I’ll need my GPS. I have a full day scheduled for the following day visiting my favorite shops, driving through a specific neighborhood in Moore that I’ve toured every year since the tornado. It’s been interesting to see how everything just slowly comes back together. And of course a martini at my favorite bar, Flint.

Ciao!

“Everybody here has a story. New Orleans was always a place where people talked too much even if they had nothing to say.” — Chris Rose

The road to New Orleans was long, but I made it! Traffic leaving Houston was a mess due to an accident that rerouted everyone off the freeway, across a small intersection and then back on. What a nightmare. And then again in Baton Rouge, I spent over 30 minutes on the bridge that crosses the Mississippi. Overall, I arrived at my hotel more than TWO HOURS later than I had planned (and that original time included the time I spent at Vermilionville Living History and Folk Life park – which wasn’t much because is was disgustingly hot and humid).

After dropping off some stuff I drove down for Kels, I made my way through the narrow, one-way streets of New Orleans to my hotel. The Place d’Armes is located in the heart of the French Quarter, just off Jackson Square and two blocks off Bourbon St. It happens to be the same place Cait and I stayed back in 2013. What can I say, once I find a place I like, I like to return.

IMG_9675The hotel is amazing! My room on the 3rd floor is in the oldest building on the property (the hotel is four buildings surrounding a quiet courtyard with a pool, and places to relax). It was originally a school and some people say it’s now haunted. Apparently a young girl as well as the headmaster were killed in a fire long ago and have been spotted around the hotel. I’ve seen nothing.

Yesterday I had a full day to explore. I started with breakfast at Stanley – which is a place that Cait and I discovered last time. Returning after 4 years, I wasn’t disappointed. Banana fosters french toast and hot cocoa with baileys. Breakfast of champions.

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Amazing breakfast is amazing. 

Afterward I explored a few shops around the square and then brought my purchases back to the hotel room before setting off for the National WW2 museum. It was 1.3 miles from my hotel and in order to save a $7 uber ride I walked. Heh. Didn’t make that mistake on the way back, that’s for sure.Â

The museum was HUGE and I didn’t see more than half in the few hours I spend there. It was speedy to get in, but I felt it worth the price. I spent extra to see the movie (which was intense as the seats rumbled and everyone jumped with the booms and bangs and other noises of war – I was actually shocked there wasn’t a warning that came with it) and this submarine thing (that was a waste of money).Â

IMG_9692I ubered back toward my hotel and stopped off at a CVS for some bottled water and then hit Cafe du Monde for a snack to bring back to the hotel. I showered and relaxed for a bit before picking another restaurant for a bite to eat and a drink and then headed back to the hotel.

I managed to sleep in this morning and then packed up what I could, bringing some of my shit back to the car so I have less to load up tomorrow. I walked a few blocks to a new place to try for an early lunch. I walked around a bit more and then returned for a shower and to relax in the AC and watch the Sounders (ugh, we lost) before getting ready for the main event.

MY BEST FRIEND GOT MARRIED! IMG_9717

We’ve been friends for a long time and have walked each other through some tough shit. It makes me so happy to see her so happy. She looked absolutely stunning! I’m so glad I was able to watch her walk down the aisle (albeit in a little bit of rain with some thunder rolling in the distance). Luckily the weather cleared up for the second line parade (google it). My videos didn’t turn out great – turns out it’s hard to wave a handkerchief  and take video and walk at the same time. Who knew?

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” – Wyland

Two weeks ago we took an extended weekend down to Newport, Oregon. Newport and the surrounding area has long been a happy place for the family. Camping, Mo’s, salt water taffy, Beverly Beach State Park, kites, whales, Depot Bay, barking sea lions, salty sea air, Oregon Coast Aquarium, crabbing, gift shops, the beach.

IMG_6755Oh, and the smell of campfire.

While it’s been a long time since we’ve camped, instead moving to the dog friendly Best Western at Agate Beach.  That said, it doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the campground 100%.

We had a combination of credits and gift cards for 3 free nights, so we headed down IMG_6747 Thursday afternoon to stay through mid-day Sunday. Because the hotel is dog friendly, the Boo got to come along and be a ‘beach dog’ – she was thrilled. We played in the tide pool, chased the waves (well, she did), searched for shells and played with seaweed (and then passed out later on).

IMG_6741Friday we spent most the day in Downtown Newport. We ate at Mo’s, wandered the shops and watched the Sea Lions fight for space on their designated dock.

Saturday had a slow start, but we spent the afternoon on the beach and then headed to our camping site for a fire. We roasted hotdogs for dinner and made s’mores for dessert. The campground was full, and we felt slightly guilty about holding a campsite from someone who would’ve spent the night, but for $28 bucks, it was worth the campfire and cheap (but delicious) dinner.

In all, it was a great, albeit short weekend away.


 

Best Western Agate Beach Inn review: 3.5/5 stars.

I love this hotel. We’ve stayed here numerous times over the years and for the most part, it’s fantastic.

The beach: You walk out the back door, and down a little hill and you are on the beach. If you’re lucky enough to have a beach view, there is nothing in your way.

The rooms: Clean, but dated. For the price, I’d expect it to be a little more updated. On one hand, maybe because we’ve always stayed in a dog-friendly room (certain ones are designated for the pooches), perhaps they just aren’t updated..? Spruce it up, and this would be a top place on the coast to stay.

Restaurant: Decent for breakfast. The Banana fosters french toast was a little soggy and overly sweet when it arrived. Then I realized they made it with banana bread. Stick to regular french toast for this dish, Best Western. You’d win an award.

The cost: CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD ACTIVITY AFTERWARD. Ok, so they made things right immediately when I called, but I was frustrated to see that they double charged me for the pet fee ($40, instead of $20 per stay) despite the fact that they shouldn’t have charged it at all – we paid it in cash when checking out.

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brb, Memphis kitchen calling!

Before this latest trip to Memphis, I had never tried friend green tomatoes.  Funny enough, the first place I tried them was a Canadian bar/restaurant called The Kooky Canuckphoto 3. Not exactly your soul food restaurant. Unless you’re Canadian and poutine is your comfort food. 😉

I was at the Redmond market yesterday and surprise one of the stalls had green tomatoes – not some heirloom variety (you can find those at whole foods) but legit GREEN tomatoes. I picked up a couple and tonight decided to fry them up. I’ve never made them before, never even fried anything before, so it was a but of an unknown going into it.

I found a basic recipe here and picked up the rest of the supplies at Whole Foods. Frying things at 9pm probably isn’t the greatest idea I’ve had, but the results were worth it.

Step 1: Make sure you’ve got an assistant. Mine had four legs, quite a bit of fluff and eagerly accepted the bits of red tomato I offered. But soon gave up to watch me from her bed.

Step 2: Measure everything out, mix the milk and eggs, the breadcrumbs and cornmeal, salt and pepper.

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Step 3: Dip sliced ‘maters in flour, milk mixture, and then into the breadcrumb/cornmeal mix

Step 4: Fry that shit up! I used canola oil. Medium’ish heat – don’t want it too hot because the outside burns before the inside becomes tender (but no mush).

Step 5: Drain, dip in sauce (ranch in this case) & enjoy!

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I think the cornmeal was a little too course. I fried a few firm red tomato slices as well and left out the cornmeal – those turned out great too. But I think it’s a fine line of being firm’ish and turning into mush. I also threw in a few walla walla sweet onion rings as well. Again, for never having fried anything they turned out pretty tasty.

 

Thank You Ina!

In exploring many of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, it’s rare to find a recipe that I’m disappointed in. Tonights try was no exception.

The mustard-marinated flank steak was off the chain… Seriously. Make this.

bfcThe marinade was simple and took two minutes to throw together:

* 1/3 cup of dry white wine
* 1/3 cup of good olive oil (she always says good olive oil… like, nah… think I’ll use the shitty stuff for this one?)
* 1/3 cup of dijon mustard
* Salt/pepper
* Minced garlic
* Chopped shallots
* Tarrigon

Score it with a sharp knife, work the marinade in, let it sit overnight and bam. Throw that puppy on the grill, five minutes on each side and then cover and let sit for ten minutes while you wipe the drool from your chin and serve!

Disclaimer, this pic is borrowed from the book. But it’s exactly how it looked.

Sunday Feast

This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about this recipe, but since it’s the first time I’ve cooked in weeks, I thought I’d share it again.

With having been sick for so long, making anything with more work than poppingbread in the toaster or heating up kelp noodles with pesto in the microwave, the effort just wasn’t worth it. I’ve finally finished my prednisone (can my voice come back now? thx), I’ve been starting to feel better. Still tired, slow and my back/ribs are on fire, but it’s been forever since I’ve created anything in the kitchenand I was feeling inspired.

Roast chicken with lemon, onions and croutons is my go-to recipe for an easy, filling and relatively healthy photo 11meal. The ingredients are simple: a whole chicken, 2 lemons, 2 onions (sweet in this case, though I’ve used yellow and red), 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, salt/pepper, a nice loaf of bread (I used a rosemary sourdough) and plenty of olive oil.

I washed the chicken first and empty the guts (ew, who uses the neck and whatever other goodies they stuff inside?) and then pat the chicken dry. Sprinkle the inside with a bit of salt and pepper and then stuff it with lemon wedges. Brush the butter over the dry chicken and then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. I don’t eat more than a bite of the skin (*trying* to be healthy), but the salt and pepper creates a nice crust that I then brush off onto the meat and onions – gives it a nice bit of spice. Then spread the onions all around the chicken and put in the oven at 425F for 1hr 15 min.

photo 3Then, just before the chicken is done, I start with the bread. Chop it into large chunks and put in a frying pan with plenty of olive oil. Cook on med-high to toast the bread, adding more oil as needed. This recipe is absolutely, without a doubt, one of my favorites. It smells great long before it’s done, and it doesn’t disappoint. Squeezing the lemon juice from the cooked wedges over the croutons adds a nice little zing.

Does anyone have any chicken recipes to share? I don’t do a lot of red meat (pork, beef), and it seems like there are a billion different ways to cook chicken. What’s your favorite?

Tuesday Turmoil

I’ve been trying to think of a few themes to cover in my blog. Not necessarily one major theme – this isn’t an NCIS-only blog (though I’d never be short of topics), but smaller themes to keep me posting on the regular. In scrolling through the interwebs  for ideas, I stumbled upon something that is utterly disgusting.

9The apples on the shelves of your local grocery store are likely between 9-14 months old.

Now I know the local apple harvest is in the fall, sometimes starting in late Aug and going through October, so I know we’re not harvesting apples in Feb. But I always assumed (in my own naivety) that the apples we had during the off season were just grown elsewhere. Somewhere warmer. I don’t know, can you grow an apple tree in a greenhouse somewhere?

Most apples that aren’t meant for the fresh market (i.e. a fruit stand or local market for sale that day, week, maybe month) aren’t really apples anymore. They pick the apples when they’re slightly unripe, treat them with a chemical called 1-methylcyclopropene, wax them, box them, stack them on pallets, and keep them in cold storage warehouses for an average of 9-12 months.”  I am absolutely grossed out right now. At least most other fruit, while not local in the off-season, doesn’t sit on a shelf for over a year (unless it’s frozen, and I feel better about frozen than sprayed/waxed/kept cold).

That said, it’s hard to only enjoy apples during apple season. I found this link that suggests a few ways to freeze apples for various uses (except eating raw – though I can find something else to dip in almond butter). I plan to give this a try this upcoming fall so that I can enjoy apples year round without wondering if the apples have sat for a year. Anyone have ideas for what to use frozen apples for (other than apple pie)?

Seriously though, am I the only one that didn’t know how long apples sit around before being put for sale?

*Note to self, an apple a day only keeps the doctor away during apple season when purchased from local, organic orchards.

When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste. – Laiko Bahrs

I spent the past week debating over what to make for our annual Christmas party as well as what to bring for Christmas. My biggest success (yet I’m not making it for either) were these Bacon Wrapped Scallions (click for the recipe). While absolutely delicious, they need to be made right before servingpicstitchand you need a knife/fork to eat them – not exactly ideal party/finger food.

They were super easy to make. Wrap a couple scallions with a slice of bacon. Fry. Eat. Despite the fact that it’s bacon I’d consider them pretty healthy. One slice of bacon isn’t that bad, and each wrap is kind of a lot of food. You have a lot to chew, yet only one slice of bacon. Win/win, right?
In the end I decided on three different recipes for the party (aside from the regular stuff my dad makes, basic cheeses, crackers, dips, etc). First I made these Soppressata Bundles with Radicchio and Goat Cheese. I made them for Thanksgiving and the family seemed to really enjoy them, so I thought I’d do them for the Christmas party. Then I made Prosciutto Crostini With Lemony Fennel Slaw. This are absolutely delicious. As I’ve discovered more and more uses for fennel – seriously, look it up, so many health benefits) we’ve been having it fairly regularly. The lemon adds a nice tartness to the sweet licorice taste. Another win.
Then, for dessert, I made Chocolate-Peppermint Striped Delight. I was worried that it might be *too* sweet, but I think it turned out pretty good.
The holiday party was a success (albeit a stressful one in the hours leading up to it), and now all that’s left is deciding what to make for Christmas day with the extended family and wrapping a few gifts.
On a completely unrelated note, my birthday is coming up (I’m turning 29) and I’m compiling a list of 30 things I want to do before turning 30. I have a good idea of a few things I’d like on the list for sure (some are totally possible, and others… less likely). But is there anything that you wish you had done earlier in life? I’m looking for any/all suggestions and in a few weeks will post my final list. I’m hoping that by posting, it’ll help create a bit of accountability so that I don’t brush it aside until a few weeks before my birthday and try to squeeze in as much as possible without actually enjoying whatever the experience might be.
If I don’t post before, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Sunday Feast

Tonight was probably one of my most favorite recipes from The Barefoot Contessa.

Lemon Chicken with Croutons.

Oh my Lord.

CameraAwesomePhoto2Like the rest of her recipes, this is super easy and oh-so-delicious. I’ve made it twice by the book, so this time I added a few variations – one, I quartered some red onions, and two, I added some lemon zest to the red onions. I love lemon on just about anything, so I shove as many slices in the chicken that I can. I think the best part is squeezing the cooked lemon over the croutons.

The skin on the chicken becomes super crispy and almost spicy with the amount of salt and pepper that I cake on with the melted butter. You shouldn’t eat the skin (but let’s be honest, a little nibble won’t hurt), so I peel it off and sprinkle the baked salt/pepper over the meat for a little added taste.

A feast isn’t complete without roasted vegetables. Todays mixture included: carrots, yellow beets and CameraAwesomePhoto3celery root. I’ve been trying to check out different veggies beside the standard carrots. I did a little research and found that celery root has some wonderful health benefits, so decided to give that a try. It’s pretty starchy (and a little sweet), so it’s a good alternative to potatoes.

I love the purple carrots – not only do they add color to an otherwise boring bunch of veggies, they contain the same antioxidant that gives blueberries their colors and are good anti-inflamitories. The golden beets were also a new one for me. Much nicer to work with as they don’t stain your fingers the way the reddish/purple ones do.

The chicken takes an hour and 15 minutesand the veggies got an hour. I would’ve given them a few more minutes. The beets weren’t hard, but they weren’t as soft as they could have been. I just tossed them with a bit of olive oil and then squeezed some lemon on once they were on my place. Yum!

The croutons – the best part – are the easiest. Some cubed bread (I prefer a good sourdough) and some olive oil in a pan on med/med-high heat. Takes about 10 minutes and I toss frequently.

Does anyone else have a favorite recipe they continue to revisit?

“Your body hears everything your mind says.” – Naomi Judd

This was originally a facebook post that started to get long so I decided to post here instead – hooray for using my blog for more than one vacation a year!

Someone on facebook posted this article: The Undeniable Facts about the safety of Diet Coke.

I skimmed the article at first, picked up the basics of ‘yeah yeah, don’t judge people by what they eat, personal choice, etc etc.’ Sure, I’m not perfect with what I IMG_1496eat/drink (hello, I spent the 4th of July trying to recreate one of my favorite cocktails from a bar in Oklahoma*), but I do try to make good choices, and I’m slowly getting better at it. And I’ll agree that we spend far too much time judging others for every little thing they do, rather than working to make ourselves better.

But then I read the article again and I started to get a headache as I pieced together the general thought/idea of the post.

The author writes: “I don’t know if you’ve ever bothered to talk to someone who’s really old and had to do some of that live-off-the-land stuff, but you ask them if they want to go back to doing things by hand and they, like my grandma told me once when I asked if she missed the “good old days”, are probably going to come out in favor of automatic dishwashers, cake mixes, and Crisco. It’s called progress, because it is.”

…and pretty much uses it to justify why she enjoys a can of Diet Coke – carbonated water, colour (caramel E150d), sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), flavourings (including caffeine), phosphoric acid, citric acid.

How you even jump from automatic dishwashers to diet coke? And how is that progress?

Everyone is entitled to enjoy whatever (and we’ll all deal with the consequences when/if they happen), but how is it ‘progress’ to enjoy a can of chemicals and essentially make a mockery of people trying to eat healthily?  “It ends up being an us-against-them battle waged against supermarkets, farmers, and anyone not making that gross runny organic yogurt that makes me throw up in my mouth…”

It then goes to fear. “Out of the fear industry, many things have developed. Like foodbeing afraid of our food.” Well, maybe we should be. Look at these common foods/brands. Living in Denmark, I found most of these things on the shelves at the grocery store, but did you know that they have to be reformulated to be able to sell them overseas? Because stuff in the American versions is banned due to health concerns. And it all tastes the same too. So it’s not good enough for Europeans, but it’s fine for us? Remind me who has a higher rate of pretty much everything deadly? Oh, right. #murica

She continues into making it a poverty thing… is she ‘too good’ for the ‘regular stuff’ because she can afford the good stuff while poor people digging through dumpsters in Nicaragua don’t have enough to eat? She feels so bad, she has to pick the pile of non-organic strawberries that she finds at the grocery store instead? How about saying,’wow… that sucks to be poor in Nicaragua, but I’m gonna support those local, organic places because I can, and hope the whole trend picks up so that more and more will be organic and not come with built in pesticide. Maybe costs will come down and yeah… HEALTH FOR EVERYONE!’

“How does it work, that having a bountiful supply of food before me is seen as the enemy instead of a blessing?” Um… because last I checked, a can of chemicals isn’t food. That’s how that works.

Dear Julie (the author),IMG_1378
I get that you’re all about ‘things in moderation’and ‘don’t judge’ (because we shouldn’t), and that you support healthy eating too, but the article just comes across as so snarky and defensive over your poor habit. Those friends you mentioned? The ones to point out the negatives of your coke? Did you maybe think that they bring those things up because they care about you? Your article is embarrassing and so misinformed. But sure… enjoy your diet coke.

Oh, and those people that grew up living off the land..? The people that pay extra for organic produce? They know what a real tomato tastes like.

 

 

*The Flint Martini – Sailor Jerry Rum, Passion Fruit Juice, Cranberry juice and Serrano pepper. You’re welcome.