Monday, December 31, 2012

Food Adventure: Florida

 The state food of Florida is the orange. So of course last week while we were in Orlando we visited a local orange grove for our Florida food adventure. We picked the freshest, juiciest, most delicious oranges ever. Luckily for us winter is peak orange season in Florida, everything was ripe and ready for picking. The Showcase of Citrus is one of the largest "you pick" orange groves in Florida. This grove was full of many different trees growing over 25 variations of citrus fruits, from oranges to grapefruits to lemons and limes. Picking oranges in Florida was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The grove was beautiful and smelt amazing! As far as the oranges go they were so yummy - the freshest I've ever had. The honey tangerines were probably my favorite (I'm actually eating one right now - yumm) they're so sweet and juicy. The traditional navel oranges were great too, I'm excited to make some juice with the oranges we brought home. These straight-from-Florida oranges are definitely the best I've ever had.

On our "yumm scale" we rated Florida Oranges as a Super Yumm!
 For your reference the "Yumm Scale" :
1. Yuck
2. Yu...
3. Yumm
4. Super Yumm
5. Holymolycanoliyumm!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in a Glimpse

This has been a year full of travel, new jobs, new homes, new friends, and lots of driving (Utah to DC and back are you kidding me??). 2012 was spent learning and growing and planning. We have loved every moment of this year and all that we have experienced as a couple and as individuals. We celebrate our successes and we try to learn from our mistakes and trials. Now we look back with gratitude for all that we were able to do and see this year.

In January we moved to Washington DC for a one semester internship for Adam.

In February we fell in love with Boston. 

In March we visited Mt. Vernon.

In April Adam Graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in Communication Studies.

 In May we relaxed on the sandy beaches of Playa Del Carmen.

In June I got to spend time with my best girl friends.

In July we visited Adam's family in Idaho Falls. 

In August I got excited about starting Culinary Arts School. 
(My family got pretty excited too, they really liked my uniforms.)

In September Adam took me to the Utah state fair. 

In October I dressed up as a zombie girl scout for Halloween. 

 In November we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at our house. 
(I cooked all day long)

 In December we celebrated Christmas in Walt Disney World.

This has been a pretty fantastic year if you ask me and as I'm sad to see it come to a close, I'm looking forward to 2013 with anticipation and excitement for new experiences and life changes.

Happy New Year! 

Remember 2010 and 2011

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Vacation

Hope you're having a wonderful Christmas! My family is celebrating on the road this year, Disney style! Well wishes from Disney World and sunny Florida! I'll catch up on the blogging next week, food photos to come!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Buttermilk Cornbread

Cornbread can be a tricky thing. So many people have very specific preferences and tastes. A lot of people like thin savory cornbread, others like thicker sweet cornbread, and some people even like actual corn kernels in their batter, all types of corn bread have their place, and are delicious in their own ways but I'm partial to the sweeter varieties. This recipe is a good one for the people who prefer their cornbread sweet and buttery. This bread is dense and moist and has a lot of yummy flavor. The tangyness from the buttermilk, the sweetness from the sugar. It's so good. Great with a big bowl of chili or a heaping pile of jambalaya, even yummy by it's self for breakfast with some raspberry jam and honey. Anyway you eat it, it's sure to be delicious!

Buttermilk Cornbread


1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and grease an 8 inch square pan.

Melt butter in large pot and then remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

* Don't have buttermilk? That's ok - make your own! For every one cup of buttermilk you need add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using.
*I don't use buttermilk super often when I cook so I buy dry buttermilk powder and keep it in the fridge that way when a recipe calls for it I have it on hand, and I don't have to send husband to the store.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Classic Chili

For the longest time I have been searching for a great chili recipe, and have been marginally impressed with recipes I've tried, until now, this recipe knocked my socks off. For our party over the weekend I tried this new chili recipe it seemed pretty straight forward to begin with, but after making a few adjustments and substitutions it ended up being perfect. It was a tad bit spicy, but not overly so. It was really hearty and filling, and was full of texture and flavor. It paired perfectly with sweet cornbread and classic chili toppings like, cheese, chopped onions and oyster crackers. It can easily be doubled to feed a crowd or left alone this recipe will feed 6 - 8. This chili is perfect for a cold winter day.  

Classic Chili

1 pound ground beef
3 cans chili beans
1 can kidney beans
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
2 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 beef bouillon cubes
½ cup water
¼ cup chili powder
½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp. garlic, minced
½ tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar

In a large pot brown ground beef and onion over medium high heat, until onion is fragrant and beef is cooked through. Add garlic and celery and saute another minute or two. Lower heat to medium low and add all canned tomatoes, bouillon cubes, water and beans.  Add all seasoning ingredients, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, cumin, basil, salt, pepper cayenne, paprika and sugar. Turn the heat to low and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 2 hours stirring occasionally. Before serving taste and adjust seasoning levels as needed. The longer you let the chili sit on the stove the better it will taste, as the flavors continue to reduce down and concentrate, if you let the chili cook longer than two hours (which is completely acceptable and fine) you may need to add an additional can of tomato sauce or another ½ cup of water until it’s to a consistency you like, as it cooks longer the moisture will cook out and evaporate, causing your chili to reduce and become really thick, however if that’s how you like it, leave it if not add a little extra something! Serve it hot with plenty of cheese to top it with. Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ugly Sweater Party

Over the weekend Adam and I hosted an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party with our friends. It turned out so great, we had a blast!
There was plenty of good food. We had a chili bar with a really yummy hearty chili and my favorite cheesy potato soup. Served with bread sticks, cornbread and lots of toppings!

To really show off the ugly sweaters we decided to make a photo booth with silly props and Christmas lights. This was so much fun we laughed and laughed at the dumb pictures.
We played several games but the best were many minute to win it games. They were absolutely hilarious! From "Rudolf the white nose reindeer" to the "cookie monster" game, and the intense "deck the string" game. I've never seen some of these friends get so competitive.

Overall a great night! We had so much fun laughing and chatting with good friends till the wee hours in the morning. It was a great way to celebrate Christmas with fun people!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Culinary School: Week 15

It's over! My first semester of culinary school is over! I almost can't believe I actually did it. But then I look at the grease burn scar on my forearm and scar I have on the top of my middle finger from the time I nearly cut it off, and then it becomes real again. It's physical proof that I did it.

This week in classes I had finals and catering events. In baking for my final practical exam I had 4 hours 45 minutes to make a batch of dinner rolls, a dozen ginger molasses cookies, one pound of creme anglaise, a pumpkin pie, a pie shell, a batch of eclairs and creme puffs filled with pastry cream. For some dumb reason I forgot about my baking pie during the practical and it was completely over cooked so I had to remake it. The eclair dough didn't puff up in the oven so I had to remake that as well. In the last 15 minutes of the practical I was literally sprinting around the kitchen. I pulled my remade pumpkin pie out 2 minutes before the time was up.  It was a beautiful thing, I finished! In cooking for the final practical the chef gave us two components of a dish: sole fish and beurre blanc (sauce) - we had to make a meal including a starch and a vegetable to go along with our fish and sauce. We had 15 minutes to plan our entree using what we have in the kitchen. Before we started we had to turn in the name of our dish so that the chef could see how well we stuck to our plan. I decided to make a pan seared sole fish over vegetable couscous topped with lemon beurre blanc and toasted almonds. It was a really good dish with lots of flavor, and it was cohesive - I was completely thrilled with the outcome.

I have learned so much this semester. More than I've learned in any other semester of school. I soaked in all of the lessons and tips and techniques like a sponge. My cooking habits and skills have begun to evolve, I feel more confident experimenting in the kitchen and have learned to trust my own instincts over the instincts of the person who wrote the recipe. Culinary school has taught me a lot about myself. I have experienced frustration, and anger, pure excitement and joy. This program has brought out a lot of good in me. It has helped me to realize that I can be a leader. And that I can do hard things. I was pushed to the edge of my comfort zone, and to the brink of exhaustion and I was able to come out feeling successful and improved. I gained 10 pounds, I learned to poach an egg and how to fillet a flat fish. I learned how to make buttercream frosting and baguettes. I learned that simple is usually better and that almost everything could use a little more salt. With the first semester of culinary school coming to a close I look forward with excitement for what's next.

Final Practical Exam Plate for Cooking
Final Practical Exam Tray for Baking

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Chocolate mousse treats at school, a giant poinsettia sitting at my desk, the sweetest chicken pot pie for dinner, silly faces with my guy, at the shooting range, home made three cheese and pesto tortellini, my practical tray ready to be judged, and me in a Christmas tree ornament.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finals Week

Oh hi. Hello. I'm still alive. Barely. My feet ache. And my back aches. And I feel as if I smell only of deep fryer grease and dirty dishes. But I'm surviving I think. This week has been a whirlwind (and let me point out that it's only Tuesday...). Below is what happened last night at 11:00pm. So yeah that's basically where I'm at right now. Three ibuprofen and a butt load of crappy Chinese food. All I have left is one practical, a book report, a paper and I'm home free.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Culinary School: Week 14

This week class time was spent working catering events and preparing for practical exams. The photo below is a great expression of what my life looks like right now.  Papers and messes and sticky notes and to go boxes. On top of all of that poor Adam has been sicker than a dog all week with a nasty cold, lots of congestion going on - which means there's some major snoring happening at night, which means I have been sleeping (I'll use that term loosely) on the couch. Not the most comfortable place to rest my tired body after a long day at work and school. We catered a handful of events this week but my favorite was on Wednesday when we had all the tables set the water glasses full, 50 portions of salmon hot and ready, 3 beef tenderloins at the carving stations, all the sides prepared all we needed was hungry people to show up. Unfortunately that never happened. There was a scheduling error and they thought the party was the next day so we cleared all of the food out had to start over on Thursday. It was...frustrating. Next week I have two practical exams, one written final, and 3 catering events (including my own company Christmas party) it will be a busy week. I'm working on mustering up the little bit of motivation and positivity I have left to get me though. At last the semester is winding down, I am definitely ready for Christmas break.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Mom

Today is my moms birthday. The mom who refers to me as min, short for mindells. The mom who can french braid so tight it makes your eyes go squinty. That same mom who always knows the right thing to say and still likes to hold my hand when we go to the movies. The one that raised me and dealt with me through high school and other tumultuous times and miraculously still loves me. My favorite shopping companion. My favorite cooking companion. She's my mom. I am thankful for the woman that she is. I am thankful for her goodness and her example. I am thankful for her sugar cookies. Thanks for being mine, mom.
Happy birthday.
I love you.
Photo from earlier this year in DC with momma

Monday, December 3, 2012

That guy I'm married to

My husband is a goof ball. It's not a secret And most times sometimes it drives me crazy. The constant tickling. The voices. The inability to take serious things serious. And the laugh, oh that laugh. The one that is often mistaken for sobs. He is through and through boy, poop jokes and all.  And unfortunately it is far too rare that I actually stop to appreciate that guy, silly laugh, funny phrases, even the poop jokes. In those moments when something strikes him as funny you can usually find me sitting by his side burying my shaking head in my hands, or giving him an elbow to the ribs, my way of telling him to knock it off, or if it's bad enough a motherly "Aaaadam!", escapes my lips, followed by a "come on!" or "pull yourself together". 
I can happily say that after almost 3 years of marriage I am starting to change. I laugh more - and I don't take things so seriously. Living with someone who makes me laugh was not something I considered to be important before I got married. My "list" of qualities to find in a husband oddly enough didn't include one of the things I love most about the man I ended up with. Laughing everyday with the person I love is fun. It is a significant part of our relationship. Making jokes out of bills and car repairs and piles of laundry makes those tedious, miserable things somewhat more enjoyable. The funny bone that Adam posses is one that I was born without, but slowly I'm learning. When something terrible happens, or life just feels hard my initial reaction is to become frustrated and sad. Adam's is to laugh. Or to make a joke. Or even find one on you tube.
 He is a good example of what I'd like to be like. I'm getting there. But for now I'm learning to appreciate that part of my husband that I typically don't.

Photo's brought to you by the night "No Shave November" ended. The curly Frenchman was my favorite. But of course the night was ended with the classic Hitler stach.