Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Autumnal Cheer: The Recipes

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I know it's "officially" O.K. to start celebrating Christmas, but here I am with a straggler. One more Autumnal Cheer post. To be fair, I had it almost ready to go the day before Thanksgiving, but Blogger was acting all crazy and throwing up an error message over and over again, so I finally had to quit. By the way, that's why this post may have a different font or funky spacing. Copying and pasting from a Word document seems to do that and won't ever let me fix it properly. Anyone know how to keep this from being such an annoying problem?? Also, one more thing - I alllmost had this post ready to publish yesterday and Blogger started giving me an error message again. It didn't save my last few changes and it wouldn't let me even log in anymore until this morning! Are any others of you having the same problem? Help!

Enjoy one last hurrah with the autumn flavors, everyone! You can still cook/bake some of these things even when the twinkly lights are up...

(Here's where the post was supposed to start)

When the weather starts turning cooler and the leaves start to fall, I gather up my autumn candles (the three-wick Pumpkin Spice one from Wal-Mart is my favorite. Thanks to my friend Kevin, who introduced us about five years ago) and pull out my scarves...and dream of pumpkin-flavored things. And food spiced with cinnamon and ginger and nutmeg and cloves. Delicious, right? Ahhh...

We've already talked about Chai tea, which definitely falls into this category, but I just can't believe that I've waited until the day before Thanksgiving to pass along some actual recipes! In the future, I will try to do better. I promise.

Since today is the day before Thanksgiving, spare time is especially spare, so if nothing else, I wanted to give you the links to several recipes that I tried and enjoyed this season. 

One of the very first cooking blogs I began to follow was Joy the Baker. I've tried quite a few of her recipes and I've always been pleased with them. The first fallish recipe I made this year was her Chewy Ginger Chocolate Cookies. I had previously been unsure about ginger and chocolate together, but I'd heard of the combination several times recently and was intrigued. Let me say that I'm unsure no longer. Chocolate is an excellent foil for ginger! 

Jeremy and both loooove sweet potato fries - and truly, I make these year-round, no matter the season. But now is a good time to share them with you. The seasoning on these is fantastic and the baked fries are actually crispy (if you don't crowd the pan) since the instructions say to heat up the baking sheet before you put the fries on to cook. Now, I will warn you - we don't do the curry mayo dipping sauce. I like curry, but Jeremy does not. Even I was not a fan of the sauce, though, so we drizzle honey on the top of the baked fries instead. Or do honey mustard dipping sauce. Completely yummy!

Speaking of yummy, you'll find lots of that on Tasty Kitchen in general. I totally enjoy dropping by to see what's new. The Pioneer Woman strikes again! ;)

There's a little Amish grocery store not far down the road from us and they have wonderful pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting. Dare I say that the recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from Sweet Pea's Kitchen is even better than theirs?? I think the maple cinnamon cream cheese filling puts it over the top. You heard me. It's fantastic! I made this for an event not long ago and got three or four requests for the recipe. 

I first found Sweet Pea's Kitchen when I was searching for a sweet potato pancake recipe. I'd had sweet potato pancakes at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg last year and thought they were the best pancakes EVER. Try them - they are light and fluffy and quite delicious!

And while I'm here, let me put a plug in for Sweet Pea's Kitchen. This girl is a prolific poster of delicious recipes! And pretty, pretty food photography. I don't know how she does it. And she's super nice - she's come to visit my blog after I posted on hers and left sweet comments here, too. The next recipe of hers that I'm planning to try is Pumpkin Cornbread because it sounds completely amazing. =)

Let me finish up with a crazy good recipe that I discovered at my mom's cousin Andrea's house last Thanksgiving. She served it as a side dish, but you could totally use as a dessert also. I'm planning to make it tomorrow. =) (Note: I did - and it was fantastic! Got several requests for this recipe, which - besides the report from my own tastebuds - it totally how I gauge a recipe's success.)

Cranberry Apple Crumble

2 c. whole fresh cranberries, rinsed and patted dry
3 c. chopped golden delicious apples
2 Tbsp. flour
1 c. sugar
3 pkg. cinnamon spice instant oatmeal
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. melted butter

Combine apples and cranberries. Toss fruit in 2 Tbsp. flour; add sugar and stir. Pour fruit mixture into a 9x13 pan. Mix up topping and sprinkle onto fruit mixture. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. If serving as dessert, this is wonderful topped with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Savannah, GA: Vacation Thursday

Last week I was on such a roll with the vacation report (by the way, I wasn't blogging on vacation - to me, that would be impossible!) but I got up to Thursday and then things were too busy to blog for a few days. And Vacation Thursday was fun times with fun pictures...it wasn't all downhill after Paula Deen, y'all! ;)

Back when I was researching things to do and places to see in Savannah, I heard of a place called The Gryphon Tea Room. Anything with "tea room" in the title grabs my attention - my love for tea parties has been well documented on this blog. (Click here to catch up.) I might not usually visit a tea room on vacation, though, because I can't just drag Jeremy to some frou-frou girly place and expect him to be happy about it. ;) BUT. I noticed that this tea room didn't look girly and it seemed more like a cafe' that men would also frequent, so I happily put it on my vacation wish list.

We found out that this tea room is owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design, which increased my curiosity about it. We walked there that day, passing lots of fun shops and historical buildings and houses. The tea room is right across the street from another SCAD building - I think it was their Admissions office - and the ShopSCAD, which is a gift shop filled with items that their students and faculty had created. We decided to check all of that out after lunch...

The tea room was very cool-looking and I loved the name of it. By looking at the stained glass windows and noticing the rows of curious drawers, I surmised (a la Psych) that the place had started out as a pharmacy years ago. The waitress confirmed my suspicions. More points for coolness there.

The seating was not the greatest in that groups of tables and chairs were very close together. Quite frankly, you would not want to bring someone there to tell them your deepest, darkest secrets. This also somewhat hinders regular conversation, too, though we were entertained by four artsy professor-types at the next table over.

The waitress was very pleasant and made my day when she said that the menu was wrong - that afternoon tea was, indeed, served all day. Yes, I will have that then - with chai tea, please. Jeremy got a sandwich and apple slaw and it's a good thing he did. I don't think our table would have had room for two three-tiered plate stands!

I enjoyed the afternoon tea, which was about $15 or so. It's not a plethora of food, but since I've made my share of tiny sandwiches and scones and miniature desserts, I can tell you first hand that it's never done cheaply or quickly. I didn't blame them at all for charging such.

The sandwiches (two of cucumber, two of something-else-that-was good) were nice - there was only once scone but it was apricot (I think) and was served with Devonshire cream and jam. There was fruit and they were a variety of small desserts on the top tier of the stand to finish up with.

This one had metallic sprinkles!

The visit to the Gryphon Tea Room was entirely enjoyable - even if I'm biased about tea foods and always come away thinking that our FHU Associates' tea party foods are superior to them all. It's true. I always have to compare. =)

After lunch, we headed next door to check out the SCAD building. I loved the shot of this tree framing the name. So very Savannah.

We perused the ShopSCAD um, shop. It was a lot of crazy stuff, man. We didn't find anything we needed to buy and put up on our wall at home, but it was fun to look.

The rest of the afternoon, we were just waiting for the rain to start, so we walked around the city, trying to decide where to hide out so we wouldn't get soaked. We ended up scoring a private tour of the Independent Presbyterian church building whose spire was in the opening scene of Forrest Gump - you know, where the feather is floating?

We randomly met a guy outside who worked in the church building and offered to show us around. As we were admiring the beautiful ceiling, he told us that nine American presidents had spoken from the pulpit. And what a pulpit it was! It was probably 10-15 feet high, which was reminiscent of several European cathedrals I had been in. Sure enough, our tour guide told us that the idea of such a tall pulpit came from Scotland.

Jeremy had the interesting insight that maybe these extremely tall pulpits was where the saying, "Preaching down to you" came from. What about that?? Huh. Interesting.

One of the pastors had a granddaughter who lived with him in the manse, which was connected to the church building. She ended up marrying Woodrow Wilson and we got to see the very room they were married in. It looks exactly like it did when they were married.

We ended up back at the Visitor's Center, where we watched a movie about the history of the city and then meandered around the museum. I tell you what, Savannah has such an interesting beginning - both Jeremy and I wished we could peek into the past and see what the city looked like in its first few years. But we wouldn't have wanted to stay long because almost all of the settlers didn't make it. Yikes!

In one section of the museum, they had some interactive exhibits, mainly to keep the kiddos happy. But they ended up entertaining us, too. We spent at least an hour each sketching a statue just for fun. We thought about enrolling in the Savannah College of Art and Design and not coming home because our drawings showed promise but still definitely needed help. ;)

As we're often the last ones to leave the church building after services, we were the last ones to leave the museum that evening. They locked the door after us, which is quite a familiar feeling. Ha!

That night, we ate at a restaurant called Sweet Potatoes - it had been recommended to us by Christie, the minister's wife who I had gone to school with. The one we randomly ran into at church service the night before. The food was good - and of course, we both had to order a sweet potato dish. It was interesting "Southern fusion" food, which means it was traditional Southern dishes with a twist. The restaurant decor didn't exactly help in guiding one towards that conclusion - it was a ton of bright colors and handpainted cartoonish butterflies and flowers, which confused me. Oh, well, the food was good!

Up next: Vacation Friday - Firefly Cafe', Wormsloe Plantation, and dinner at The Olde Pink House.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Savannah, GA: Vacation Wednesday

On the Wednesday of our vacation, we headed out to accomplish an exciting task...one which, just a few weeks before, I hadn't been sure if I wanted to even do. Make an in-person reservation at Paula Deen's restaurant. Apparently, eating at The Lady & Sons is one of those Savannah vacationy things that you MUST DO. And sometimes I don't really like people telling me I MUST DO something. I know it's crazy, because I even LIKE Paula Deen. I think she's an incredibly smart, savvy business woman - and I love that she's really close to her family. I buy her magazines from time to time and I have a beautiful red enamel stock pot that has her name on the bottom of it. But I buy those things and watch her show because I personally enjoy them. Not because people are telling me I should.

You see, I'm one of those people. It took me a long time to get into the Harry Potter books until my friend Ashley gave me one for my birthday, with a card that said, "You may not think you're going to like this, but I promise that you will." And I did. I've read all of them and I've watched all of the movies. But I've never even read the first word of the Twilight series. And if I hadn't watched LOST from the very beginning, I would have brushed it off as just another case of the bandwagon phenomenon. Sometimes I might miss good things because of this thing in my brain that says, "If everybody likes it, it must not be that good." Crazy, huh?

Anyway, I like Paula Deen - and here I was, considering not even visiting her restaurant when we were in Savannah. There would be long lines! And it was expensive! And it was just country cookin'! And everybody is telling me to go! So I didn't fight for it, but Jeremy seemed O.K. with going, so we put it on the list. Their website tells you that they only take reservations for big holiday meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) so every other day of the year, you must show up at the restaurant at 9:30ish and put your name down. I guess that's how they know you're serious. They don't do phone reservations. They don't do website reservations. But let me tell you, their business is a well-oiled machine. And it works.

We ate breakfast again at Goose Feathers and then walked over to The Lady & Sons. We put our name down for 5:00 so that we would have time to get to church at 7:00 that night. They asked us to be there at 4:45 and to line up on the sidewalk across the street from the restaurant. Okaaaay. But, sure, whatever. Then we went on about our day, with Jeremy saying things like, "We're going to see Paula! I'm STOKED."

Now, both of us had liked the food at Goose Feathers, but the coffee had needed lots of extra cream and sugar the day before, so we figured we might as well find a Starbucks. We found one a few streets over, right there on the stereotypical corner. It was the largest Starbucks I've ever seen. And it was crowded. Remember what I said about the Savannah College of Art & Design? Well, artists need their coffee. It didn't take us long to figure that one out. We enjoyed a long bout of people watching while we were there. And I figured out that I needed to stick with my favorite - pumpkin spice latte' - and not go chasing waterfalls of toffee mocha or some such nonsense. It was no good. Don't bother. And we played on the chalkboard while waiting outside the restrooms. I think all restroom areas should have one of these. It was a pretty good idea. Good job, Savannah Starbucks!

We continued to walk around the city and explore some of the squares, which were strategically placed every so often. I'm telling you, what a great city plan! And while Jeremy was reading about one of the statues in the center of one of the squares, I commissioned a woman sitting on a bench to make us a Savannah rose. I can't remember what they're made out of - some kind of grass? She had several made up but she totally sold me when she asked how many years we'd been married. "Two," I said. She offered to make us a different one with two hearts (signifying two years) and two roses (signifying each of us) and well, I couldn't resist. Isn't it pretty?

Next we went to the Visitor's Center and then caught one of the bus-dressed-up-like-a-trolley tours. We did the Oglethorpe one - and I would highly recommend it. It was 90 minutes long and I would have gladly stayed 90 minutes more. The story of the city of Savannah is incredibly interesting and there are so, so many beautiful historical sites and pretty homes to see.

We got let off at the City Market area and shopped for awhile before heading back to the hotel for a quick nap. Then it was time...

Time to go to The Lady & Sons! We lined up on the sidewalk across the street, just as we had been instructed. Despite it being the first week of November and not really tourist season, there were PLENTY of people waiting with us. I can't imagine how many people there are in the summer! Yikes!

See us reflected in the window?

They called each of our party names, one at a time - then we crossed the street and accepted our ticket, which told us and the hostess inside which floor we would be seated on. All of it went seamlessly and quickly, with a minimal amount of waiting. Cheese biscuits and hoe cakes were brought to our table - at one point Jeremy said, "These need something. I can't believe there's no BUTTER on the table!" For real, Paula. =)

Then we visited the buffet across the room. This is not the place where you'll find gourmet food or even Southern fusion - it's just good ole' country cookin', y'all. And it was good! Expensive ($18 something a person) but good. Later I tried to jot down what all was offered - I might have missed a thing or two, but here's the main menu: fried chicken, turkey and dressing, green beans, creamed corn, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, lima beans, black eyed peas, cabbage, shredded chicken (or pork maybe?) with vegetables, and a salad bar.

As for dessert, your waitress would come around and offer you a selection on a tray. I got the gooey butter cake (of course) and Jeremy got the banana pudding. I mean, puddin'. I keep hearing Paula's voice in my head. ;)

Too bad she wasn't there that night. We kept wondering what kind of chaos would ensue if she or her boys happened to walk in the door.

After dinner, we had plenty of time to spend a few minutes next door at the extension of the Paula Deen empire - the gift shop.

There were all these Girl Scouts running around, but I was able to make my selection fairly quickly...

Aren't those Christmas bags just cute, too? Love 'em! And Jeremy's a pretty good hand model.

And then we stopped in another square to admire the fountain and take a few pictures. 

While we were there, I noticed this card on one of the benches and stopped to inspect it. 

The front:

The back:

Interesting way to put it, am I right? And very true. After we took pictures of it, I left it there for someone else to find...

We headed on to the evening services at the Central Church of Christ. As soon as we opened the door and walked in, I recognized a girl I had been in college with! Turns out that her husband is the minister there. I tell you, wherever we visit, there's always some kind of connection we can make. =) This congregation was awesome. In the short amount of time we were there, we could tell that we would love to worship regularly with them if we lived in the area. We talked to many people in our class that night and everyone was super friendly. And as usual, we were among the last ones to leave. It happens at home and it happens elsewhere, too, I guess. =)

Let me encourage you to attend church services while you're on vacation, if you don't already. I know it's not always easy to find one and it's not always easy to walk into a building you're unfamiliar with, but it's worth it. And by "worth it," I mean that you are showing God that you think He is important...that you think He is more important than relaxation, than food, than an event. And that's always worth it - whether you are on vacation or not.

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Savannah, GA: Vacation Tuesday

First of all, two weeks ago on Tuesday was Voting Day. Pretty late in the game the week before, we realized that we had missed the early voting, which is what I usually do, but I tried my best to set us up to vote by mail. The lady at the election office was very helpful, but some laws in this country are crazy, so after I spent some valuable time on the phone and at the office with her, we figured out it was too late for us to vote, even by mail. It was against the law. And that made me upset. In the midst of other pre-vacation errands, I called Jeremy to tell him not to bother faxing in his info. so that they would mail him the form (which we would then have had to mail back in time for Election Day). By the way, it was also against the law for her to just hand me the forms that were sitting on her desk. Big, heavy sigh! So...I was upset when I called Jeremy. Thankfully, he reminded me that there was something we could do, even if we didn't get to vote. We would praying our votes. Praying for the leaders of our country. Praying that the right people got (or stayed) in office. Immediately, I felt 100% better. Somehow, some way, our votes would count after all!

Voting on vacation...what a concept! I wouldn't recommend it for every election, but if you're ever in this predicament, well, you know what to do. =)

So - Tuesday - we'll start with breakfast because it was a cool experience. You may remember that our hotel wanted to charge us $10.00/person for a continental breakfast...we said, "Ohyeahright" and made other arrangements. I had seen this cute ad for a breakfast/lunch place called Goose Feathers, so we put on our walking shoes (actually, mine weren't - and I paid for it by the end of the day!) and headed a few blocks over to the cafe'. Just from the looks of the place and a quick peek at the menu, I was already wishing we had a similar cafe' back home! We ordered breakfast (tomato basil avocado quiche for me - a Belgian waffle for Jeremy) and enjoyed the atmosphere while we planned the rest of our day. In the back of my head, I was already plotting to return to the cafe' at least one more day before we left.

After breakfast, we drove back toward Tybee Island to get to Fort Pulaski. I didn't really know much about the fort before we went, but I knew that Jeremy would enjoy the experience. Guns, cannons, war stories and he's a happy one. I actually enjoyed it a lot, too - my parents and I have always gone on historical tours while on vacation. Jeremy enjoyed it even more than I thought he would. And he's still been enjoying it...here's the link (I think!) to our vacation pictures that he uploaded to Facebook. He didn't get very far - just until Tuesday, when we visited Fort Pulaski. =) He got out the brochure for reference and designed his own little history lesson. I've decided he might need to look into becoming a park ranger...

We ate a late lunch on Tybee Island at a little place called The Sugar Shack. It was alright...but a totally different experience than Goose Feathers! We headed back into Savannah to explore River Street for the afternoon. Wherever I visit, I always try to find a great Christmas ornament, so I was on the hunt. No dice, though, on Tuesday because I'm pretty picky. It would be Wednesday before I would find the right one...

We had dinner at Leopold's ice cream shop, which really does have real food and not just ice cream. It's a cute little old-fashioned soda shop and that night, I had the BEST club sandwich I might have ever tasted. And, because Savannah is the home of Juliet Gordon Lowe - the founder of the Girl Scouts - I had Thin Mint ice cream for dessert! It was super delicious!

We walked around for a bit afterwards and noticed the goings-on next door at a theatre. Apparently, the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) was having a film festival that week. There will be more pictures of SCAD things later, but we found out that they have purchased/renovated 60 historic buildings in Savannah for classrooms, galleries, studios, and dorm space for their students. It's pretty impressive!

We also ran across The Olde Pink House, which is a very famous restaurant in Savannah. (When my parents and I were in Savannah yeeears ago, we ate there. And had a delicious peanut butter pie for dessert...so delicious that my mother bought their cookbook just for that one recipe.) Jeremy and I made reservations to eat there later in the week...

More later!