buttermilk ROASTED chicken

W and I have a weekly supper club with some close friends here in Birmingham. Each week we select recipes that none of us have tried and then we cook up a supper-licious storm. Last night was the first supper club hosted in Homewood (at the new house, obvi).

Our menu consisted of the following:

Hors d’oeuvre – Rosemary Asiago cheese paired with crackers
Salad – Caprese (we needed to use the last of our tomatoes from Saturday’s Pepper Place purchases)
Dinner – Buttermilk Roasted Chicken from Smitten Kitchen with some grits

buttermilk roasted chicken from smitten kitchen

buttermilk roasted chicken. image from smitten kitchen. because we had no time to take a picture of our own.

Dessert – Giada de Laurentiis Mini Chocolate Meringue Cupcakes

Every.single.dish was amazing, but let me tell you – the buttermilk roasted chicken will rock your world. I found the recipe over the weekend and I will definitely make the dish a habit. The preparation is simple and the outcome will change your life. I left the chicken in the brine for 30-ish hours.

I knew that Giada’s cupcakes were very involved and I’m not a person who does well in the kitchen with multiple time-consuming/involved/difficult recipes. I saw them last week on her Bowling Night episode of Giada at Home.

The moral of this story: the winning dish was the chicken. Make it. Change your life. And make your supper club very, very happy.

Our First Anniversary

Time flies when you’re having fun, right?! I cannot believe it has been one year since our perfect celebration… it seems like yesterday!

our_wedding_toast

W and I wanted to celebrate our first anniversary with an enjoyable dinner out on the town and the traditional first anniversary gift of paper. Many of the nice restaurants in Birmingham are closed on Monday evenings so we actually started our celebration Saturday evening, where we had a reservation at Hot & Hot Fish Club. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of my food or drinks (due to a new self-imposed rule of no phone at meals) but I can assure you everything was spectacular! I don’t know who tends the bar at Hot & Hot but oh.my.goodness my cocktails were good. The cocktail menu had so many appealing choices that I ended up trying three different varieties over the course of our evening. 😉

We also thoroughly enjoyed the food. W ordered one of their classics: Loin of Rabbit Stuffed with Fennel Sausage on Sweet Corn Puree with Field Peas, Heirloom Tomatoes and Baby Okra. I ordered the simple grilled fish, red snapper, because the Gulf red snapper season started on Friday. How’s that for a fresh catch? The Gulf Red Snapper was served with Tomato, Avocado, Grilled Vidalia Onions and Basil-Lime Vinaigrette. Following our entrees, we ordered an after-dinner libation to compliment our dessert, Elton’s Chocolate Soufflé with Crème Anglaise and Whipped Cream.

We had a wonderful evening and I highly recommend Hot & Hot!

Hot and Hot Fish Club on Urbanspoon

Last night was our actual anniversary and we decided to celebrate at home with W’s famous spaghetti, a bottle of wine and gifts. W’s famous spaghetti is an adaptation of this spaghetti all’amatriciana from foodnetwork.com. We like it spicy so he basically follows the directions, but puts in a tbsp of red pepper.

After dinner we swapped our paper gifts. I am a stationery fiend and love to have personalized notepads in practically every room. W noticed that all of them either have my first name only or they include my maiden name and I still use them. No more though! He gave me four notepads with my new name on them.

First Anniversary Gift Ideas: Paper

I tried thinking of something besides stationery for W. I fatefully found a watercolor print on etsy that I knew he would treasure!

Etsy Seller DogArtStudio Watercolor Print of Labrador Retriever

Etsy Seller: DogArtStudio

Getting to Know You

DISCLAIMER: I found this post sitting as a draft when I thought I had posted it live…weeks ago. But we are definitely still getting to know the Magic City so without further ado…

Well we haven’t been in Birmingham long but the storm of moving has passed. Not a single box remains in our apartment, although our storage unit is a different story. The pups made their adjustment and actually l.o.v.e. our new place. W and I enjoy driving around somewhat aimlessly while getting to know the city.

One thing that Birmingham is very proud of is its culinary scene. We are excited to have more options available and we didn’t really know where to start. We want to try as many places as possible but we are also trying to cook at home more often than we eat out. In my mind this translates to cooking on week nights and going out during the weekend.

We have also been exploring because our current apartment is temporary. Sometime in the fall the entire complex will be demolished so that a new luxury development can start building. We have been trying to get to know different neighborhoods so that we can choose a place to make more permanent. Right now our favorite seems to be Homewood. Why?

1. Convenience. No matter where we have lived previously, we have always rented in an ideal location. We really enjoy walking to as many places as possible and having simple commutes. Homewood is convenient to W’s office, downtown, and many other neighborhoods in B’ham.

Homewood AL Edgewood neighborhood

An example of a home for sale in Homewood. Photo credit: Realty South

2. Comfort. Homewood feels very comfortable, safe, and is just really darn cute. We love the tree lined streets with plenty of sidewalks, the parks, and the older houses. Finding a house with a yard is definitely on our list of things to do – the pups would greatly benefit.

3. Commerce. Homewood has a great amount of shops and restaurants. The boutiques are fab and most of the restaurants we have tried were keepers. You really wouldn’t need to leave unless going to the Apple Store at The Summit (but this isn’t far away either).

I plan on trying to blog about our favorite restaurants and other unique finds in the city. Hopefully I can find a better blogging routine before we need to move again. You just never know…

Buon Giorno!

It seems with each and every post I always have an excuse for my lack of blogging. I think this time will be the first acceptable one.

I have been on an extended vacation in Italy with my mother in law (M) and sister in law (Claire @ HighGlossBlue). This was a birthday gift for M and a trip that all of us absolutely appreciated.

May 1 we departed ATL and arrived in Rome’s Fiumicino airport, from which we bought train tickets straight to Florence, where we stayed for three days. We saw the major sites and museums, bought some amazing leather pieces, and we really enjoyed our bed and breakfast which was located above the Piazza del Porcellino.

Florence, Italy St. John's Baptistry

Florence, Italy: Mosaic Domed Ceiling of St. John’s Baptistry

Sounds awesome right?! Well it only gets better because our next stop was cooking school in Positano. A true paradise. From Florence we took the train to Naples and cooking school provided us transportation to Positano. In Positano we stayed at the Hotel Savoia and had cooking classes scheduled almost every other day for a whole week. When we didn’t have cooking classes on the agenda, we were taking excursions to destinations such as Capri, Amalfi, Ravello, and Sorrento.

The Vertical City: Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy: The vertical city

Our cooking classes took place in commercial kitchens of two restaurants: il Ritrovo and Le Tre Sorelle. Il Ritrovo is located in the hills above Positano and our instructors, Salvatore and Marilu, taught us how to make homemade pasta, chicken cacciatore, tiramisu, and many other recipes. Over Memorial Day weekend we all recreated the chicken cacciatore and tiramisu. We impressed ourselves and those who didn’t make the trip 😉

Il Ritrovo Via Montepertuso

Making homemade pasta, il Ritrovo Master Chef Salvatore

After our week in Positano, we had a morning tour of Pompeii and then we drove to Rome. We spent three days trying to see all of the sights and the Vatican. Our first day we used a 1-day walking guide from a travel book so that we could see many sights in a short amount of time. This walking tour included Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Pantheon, and of course some churches in between. Another day was spent touring the Vatican with our guide Paola. Our last day we walked through the Borghese gardens and ate the best gelato in all of Rome at Ciampini.

Blue Grotto Capri Italy

Capri, Italy Blue Grotto

Finally we returned to ATL, craving burgers and fries, and already planning our return trip to Positano.

A New Post… About our New Year Celebration

Naturally this is a catch up post on our married life, as maintaining my personal blog is difficult after a long day of blogging elsewhere…

Anywho, W and I have thoroughly enjoyed the first 10 days of the new year. We began with a new years eve celebration at home. This may sound boring but we had a fun filled evening preparing a feast and consuming a bottle of wine and champagne. 🙂 Our menu consisted of the following recipes:

Both Barefoot Contessa recipes were perfection. I actually compared Paula’s red velvet recipe with that of my Nana’s and made a few adjustments accordingly. I was so confident that I didn’t need a whoopie pie pan according to Paula’s instructions. Well that was false – her instructions did not work out, as the batter would spread so thin and combine to make a large pancake-like creation. I did cut that large pancake into circles in order to make whoopie pies, but I also saved enough cake batter to make a small round cake. Maybe next time I might pour a small amount of batter into a cupcake pan so that the teaspoons cannot spread….

While we prepared this feast, we had the Auburn bowl game on. We were happy with the outcome, although we didn’t feel very confident until the second half. I should also mention that this day I was a crazy person. I told Andy I wanted to start the new year with a clean house, but I did not mean a little vaccuming and tidying would do. No. I meant that every surface needed to be cleared, pledged, and put back together. I also meant that every fan needed dusting, baseboards needed a wipe down, and so did the chair rail that runs through our entire apartment…

Needless to say by January 1, I had nearly killed both of us and we could barely move. We decided to watch Mad Men on the Roku all. day. long. We have never caught the Mad Men fever but that changed after watching 2.5 seasons back-to-back. Now that is our nightly show so that we can finish season four before season five begins this spring.

Since I didn’t take any photos of our feast, I leave you with a picture of baby Sophie in her holiday pajamas.

Holiday Pajamas

So sleepy!

The Happs

A lot has happened around here lately leading to a lack of blog posts. There is no way I will bore you with all of the details so here are the main highlights in bulleted form:

  • A while ago I promised some college football news and then never delivered. W and I met at Auburn University so we are HUGE Tiger fans. Two games have come and gone – one with a WIN and the other… a loss. Nevertheless both games were too much fun. The first was here in Cola and we had our best friends visiting for the weekend. We rearranged our couch pillows and throw to celebrate the occasion. The following weekend we visited these same besties in Atlanta for a viewing party at their house. Like I said, too much fun!
    Auburn University decorOur festive couch with orange and blue pillows and a tiger stripe throw!
  • I also promised recipes and have since posted only one. That’s pathetic. I literally have them stacked to share. Rather than dumping them all in this post, I will just let you know that we made this super easy chicken stir fry with some wheat noodles instead of rice. W and I were absolutely amazed at how easy it was to make, how simple it was to clean up, and its deliciousness was equally good served cold the next day for lunch. W says I can make this on a weekly basis and he will never hate it. That is my kind of recipe 🙂
  • The last promise I made and have yet to deliver is news about my latest business venture. You may or may not know that I am a partner of Virtual Marketing Studio and we are the best consultants anyone could ever wish for. I have something else developing that I really am going to devote an entire post to. I’m sure I can force myself to do that next week.

Until then have a freakin’ fabulous Friday and the happiest weekend! I’m going to a happy place in Cashiers, NC with this amazing view!

Cashiers, NC mountains

A Recipe Update

whole wheat pizza doughI have an update on our homemade italian pizzas that you may remember from this post. About a month ago, I received my copy of Whole Living by Martha Stewart for September 2011. There was an article chock full of pizza recipes and a recipe for whole-wheat pizza dough that W and I had to try. I have to say that this whole-wheat dough is really good and has so far replaced the dough we were using before. We can get the crust pretty thin, which we both like, plus the outside crisps really well. Tomorrow night we plan on making this pizza that includes turkey sausage and peppers (also featured in the September issue). MMM!

Wandering through Gardening

Since W and I are aiming to cook most of our meals at home, our monthly budget has changed drastically.  While we are saving money by eating at home, our total spending at the grocery store has definitely increased.  Thankfully we have something helping keep the cost of groceries down and that would be our homegrown herbs.

I do not have a green thumb and I never thought I could keep herbs alive, let alone grow them. My MIL helped start our herbs when we moved into our apartment. We have a covered porch that had two planters filled with dry soil when she came to visit. She and I found a great nursery where we purchased basil, italian parsley, rosemary, oregano, and cilantro. We also bought impatiens to add a little color to each pot and an arrowhead plant to provide shade to the cilantro.

These are pictures of our homegrown herbs at the beginning (forgive the quality of the iPhone!):

And these two pictures are the planters today!

Here are the tips passed on to me that some of you may want to know:
1. Spend a day checking the area periodically to know the sun and shade patterns and  note what time of day they occur.
2. Plant your herbs together based on those that have similar needs for sun and shade.
3. Place your pots in locations appropriate to the sun and shade requirements for your herbs.
4. Water! Water your plants as often as needed. My MIL suggested sticking your thumb in the soil to see if it is dry or not. When my thumb feels dry soil, I water the plants. Here in the South with this crazy hot summer, I water them every day.
5. Be careful not to over water – plants can drown too! My watering can is the perfect size needed for my pots. My MIL advised this purchase!

I’m absolutely thrilled to say that with the encouragement and knowledge passed on to me, I have not only kept these herbs alive but they have grown immensely. We now look for recipes that include basil, oregano and rosemary as they have really thrived. I don’t know specifically how much we have saved by having the herbs on hand, but I can tell you we have saved! More importantly I have gained confidence that one day I will have a green thumb. I’m already planning on gardening and landscaping our imaginary yards!

A Winning Recipe

Oh my we have found a winner! W and I looooove Italian pizza. We ate it twice a day everyday when we traveled through Italy in 2006. Pre-wedding we both lived in Atlanta which had some almost-as-good options. But now as newlyweds we have been at a loss for truly amazing pizza.  Until I found a recipe for pizza dough here.

We went to Williams Sonoma where we bought this Emile Henry pizza stone, this pizza peel, and a jar of pizza sauce (if you have any merchandise credit like we did, this is a great way to spend it!). Once we had the tools, we made the dough as directed, brushed the dough with olive oil, topped with the pizza sauce, sliced roma tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, and fresh basil from our patio.  W wanted some pancetta which he laid underneath the mozzarella. Make sure your oven and pizza stone are preheating for quite some time at 475, then cook your pizza for 12-15 minutes.

Our end result was amazing! I have a feeling we will be eating our pizzas often.

homemade italian pizza

P.S. I promise that for future recipes I will post pictures of the process as well as the end product!