Blog Hop!

Windy of the House Blend Family tagged us in this-here blog hop, so let’s play.

The Rules:

Answer the following questions, then tag someone else. Easy enough.

What am I currently working on?

Jill: After wrapping up my 219-page masterpiece of a dissertation, I’m taking a little time off from writing to read all the books and watch all the Netflix. When I get tired of those two things, I’m going to try to publish all the articles based off the aforementioned dissertation. Oh yeah, and maybe go back to posting on this blog or my other blog.

Artie: Photographing the AIA Top 100 Buildings in Florida for the new blog I’m trying to create: A Place Blog. Because I can’t keep up with one blog so I thought I would try to keep up with two.

How do I write?

Jill: Hmm…

Artie: How is this different from the question about how my writing process works?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Artie: We make no attempt to post regularly. It’s more of “here is a recipe we tried and we thought you might like it, too.” And because we often forget where we found good recipes, the blog serves as a catalog of things we like. Sorry to people who subscribe to our blog expecting regular content.

Jill: What he said.

Why do I write what I write?

Jill: I love to write. When I was little, I would always write stories (which were never very good). I’ve since accepted that I’m not ever going to write a heartbreaking work of staggering genius in the fiction category, but I’m fairly proficient in both academic writing and smart-aleck blogging.

Artie: That’s a good question…for the blog I’ll write a blog entry on something I will want to make in the future so I know where to find it later. So it’s kind of self-serving in a way.

How does my writing process work?

Jill: I think of something I want to write about. I make a note in my phone/planner/scrap of paper. I run out of time/lose the piece of paper/forget about it. Finally I sit down to blog and just make it up as I go along. But seriously, I believe in sloppy first drafts and lots of editing.

Artie: Specifically for the blog, as I’m cooking something, I jot down ingredients and amounts in a little notebook. I try to document in photos every step of the process, even if I know the photos won’t end up on the blog. Then I can recreate the recipe later. I go in the blog, drop in the photos I want to use in the order of the recipe and fill in the text.

So on to tagging! Who wants to take the Blog Hop baton and run with it?

1. The FFK

2. On the Run…The Life of a Change Agent Abroad

3. Adventures in Slowing Time

Local Favorites

When I don’t feel like cooking (for shame, I know!) and I’m looking for something good to eat, there are lots of good, local Tallahassee restaurants where I can turn for a quick, delicious, usually-healthy bite. Here are some of my favorites:

Gaines Street Pies: Figure Four (half ham/half eggplant) and Southern Style Greek salad. Artie and I often split the small pie and a salad on a Friday night when neither of us feel like cooking.

Wild Greens Cafe: Wild Greens burger with potato salad and collard greens (plus sweet potato biscuits – the best!). I’ve been eating at Wild Greens regularly for the past year and I’ve yet to try anything else. The veggie burger is that good. [So, since I wrote this post, Wild Greens closed their doors. Boo! Hopefully something good will open in that space soon!]

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Sweet Pea Cafe: Buffalo Fried Tofu sandwich with hummus and raw veggies. Spicy and satisfying. Their hummus is the creamiest. When I’m looking for something lighter, I go for the Black Bean Burger.

Siam Sushi: mild tofu green curry with broth rice and wonton soup. Best. Curry. Ever. I also really like the Tom Kha soup with tofu and the broccoli with garlic.

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Paisley Cafe: Roasted Vegetable Sandwich with Tomato Bisque. The chicken salad croissant is also good. Paisley is a good lunch spot with tasty sandwiches.

If you are looking for good, local food in Tallahassee, I would recommend checking out one of these places.

Family Brunch

 

 

 

 

This post is long overdue but last semester was so crazy that I never got around to writing it! It has become a Volpe-White family tradition that at least one weekend each fall when the whole family is in town, we host family brunch on a home football weekend followed by a family photo shoot on the back porch steps.

Last fall, everyone was here for the Clemson game so on Sunday morning we gathered at our house for a yummy, easy brunch spread.


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On the menu:

  • Biscuits (we cheated and used frozen biscuits – shhh!)
  • Sausage gravy (and turkey sausage gravy) – made from scratch
  • Scrambled eggs – simple, tasty crowd-pleaser
  • Fruit – grapes, raspberries, nectaries, and peaches
  • Yogurt almonds – a sweet treat
  • Blueberry muffins – Lindsay made these yummy muffins from a Pinterest recipe

IMG_0546IMG_0547Minimal prep, minimal cleanup, maximum yumminess, maximum time with family. #winwin

After breakfast, the family photo shoot. In our Florida State finest, of course!
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We started having the family over for brunch because it was too hard to go out with nine people and it has become a fun way to spend time together. By combining homemade dishes with freezer staples and a simple fruit plate, we end up with a filling, tasty brunch for some of my favorite people.

New Years Day Tagine

To bring in 2012, I made a prosperous plate of Hoppin’ John, greens, and cornbread. To bring in 2013, I wanted to keep the tradition of serving black eyed peas, greens, and cornbread while trying something new. This year, I opted to explore Southern Cuisine’s African influences. I made Pain Tunisien (Tunisian Semolina and Olive Oil Bread), kale and spinach sauteed in garlic Peri-Peri sauce, and a tagine of black-eyed peas and eggplant. With our bellies full of these delectable symbols of prosperity, Jill and I wish you a Happy New Year!

New Years Day Tagine
New Years Day Tagine

The recipes are available from the following cookbooks:

Hosting the Perfect Party, Part II

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get this post up! I think I said in mid-August that it was going to be up in a week but then school started and time got away from me. But, behold, the long awaited sequel to Hosting a Perfect Party, part I (just in time for the holidays!). Be forewarned that this is a looooong post – sorry, I had a lot to say!

When we left off, I had just finished sharing how Artie and I prepare for a successful gathering including how we prep our food and house. This post is dedicated to the centerpiece of most gatherings, that around which friends and family congregate and celebrate – the food! Here are some practical considerations for formulating a menu.

There is a lot to consider when planning a menu:

  • What food is affordable/accessible/in season? While steak might be your specialty, it is not very affordable for a crowd. You also have to consider if specialty ingredients are available (there are some things I don’t make when I’m in Winter Haven because I can’t find the ingredients). And remember – seasonal is cheaper.
  • What are you good at cooking? Don’t try a new recipe when you are serving a crowd or hosting a party – it adds an unnecessary layer of stress.
  • Do your guests have any food allergies/dietary restrictions/preferences? It may be necessary to modify recipes or leave things out, depending upon your guests.
  • How many people are you feeding? The more people, the easier your menu should be to prep ahead and serve.
  • What time of day is the gathering? Do you need to serve a full meal? Mid-afternoon or late evening gatherings may be fine with just snacks or dessert.
  • How much time can you dedicate to food preparation? If the answer is “not a lot,” don’t plan fussy dishes with lots of steps. Take help from the store with pre-prepped ingredients or order the main course and focus your time on sides and dessert.
  • How much space do you have in your oven/on the stovetop for various dishes? If your oven only holds two casserole dishes, don’t plan for more than two oven dishes at your party. Or plan to stagger the cooking but make sure you allow enough time to cook everything and get it to the table hot.

These can all be considerations that factor into what you choose to prepare. Below are some examples of party menus we’ve had and the rationale for how we chose that menu.

When we are having a gathering in someone’s honor (baby shower, engagement party, wedding shower), we try to let the preferences of the guest of honor dictate the menu. For Casey and Anna’s baby shower, the mom-to-be requested homemade mac and cheese.  Since homemade mac and cheese was the centerpiece of the meal, we rounded out the table with a low-maintenance main dish (crockpot bar-b-que chicken) and healthy, easy to prep sides (veggies with dip). And, of course, cupcakes for dessert. This is the same menu we prepared for Josh and Kari’s baby shower and one that I think works really well for couples showers – there is no place for fussy finger sandwiches and macaroons when menfolk come to a baby shower.

Shannon and I co-hosted a party for the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie. The menu was a bit more elaborate than usual but fit with the theme. We tried to incorporate food from the book into our menu, which made it both eclectic and fun, but we also had some party staples which we gave creative names based on the book. From the book, we had Bangers and Mash (mashed potato and chicken sausage hand pies), treacle tart (bite-sized banana cream and toffee tarts), pumpkin pasties (mini pumpkin whoopie pies), and butter beer (cream soda with whipped cream). We also had deviled eggs (Dragon Eggs), veggies with dip (Forbidden Forest Veggies), couscous salad (Mandrake Salad), and chocolate dipped pretzel rods (Magic Wands).

For Artie’s 30th birthday, we hosted a cheese tasting. The main feature of the party was the cheese board which had a yummy spread of Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses. We served these with lots of little bites that go well with cheese: (clockwise from top) smoked almonds, dried apricots, assorted crackers, veggies, fresh bread with garlic olive oil, smoked sausage, and apples. While we did not intend for this to be a dinner party, there was more than enough food for everyone to get their fill.

One holiday, I invited my Scholar mentees over to decorate cookies and enjoy some girl time. To save myself some time and trouble, I bough undecorated sugar cookies from Tasty Pastry in town and just whipped up my own icing (the recipe couldn’t be more simple – powdered sugar, water, and food coloring – that’s it!). I also make sure I had plenty of sprinkles on hand. I wanted a few snacks on the table so we weren’t tempted to chow down on our cookies before they were finished, so in the middle of the table I had peanut butter pretzels and white chocolate covered holiday pretzels. It was a fun night with minimal prep and maximum laughs.

When we had our Community Group from church over for fondue, we made it a potluck of sorts – we made the Swiss cheese based fondue and the guests brought the dippers: hunks of crusty bread, baby pickles, an assortment of vegetables, and smoked sausage. We did two types of dessert fondue: chocolate and caramel. Into these, we dunked hunks of pound cake, marshmallows, and assorted fruit (pineapple, apple, banana, and strawberries). It was a very different meal because every one was gathered around one table rather than making a plate and going to the living room, but it was fun and make for lively conversations and trying not to stab each other with fondue forks as we reached across the table for dippers and fondue. When my family came over for brunch a few weekends ago, we went with something simple for a crowd (my family is 9 people, counting Artie and Lindsay) and wasn’t too high maintenance the morning after a late night football game. We ended up with biscuits (from the freezer section at the grocery story – don’t tell my family!), sausage gravy (one with turkey, one with pork), eggs, fruit, and yogurt-covered almonds. Lindsay brought blueberry muffins to round out the meal. Another good option would have been breakfast casseroles, prepared the day in advance. Not too high maintenance, but a filling brunch.

So there you have it – a few menus and our rationale for planning them that way. I wish I had more pictures/could remember more menus because I know we’ve had more parties than this. It goes back to what I said in the last post about remembering to take pictures at your party! So even if planning a good party menu sounds intimidating, if you consider the questions at the beginning of this post, you’ll be well on your way to planning a delicious and achievable party menu.

CYMply Fabulous Coffee

When I was growing up, Gainesville was just a place we drove through to get to Tallahassee. We never really stopped there. I didn’t even set foot on UF’s campus until freshman year of college when I went to visit my friend Amy. Since then, however, I’ve had occasion to visit Gainesville to see Amy, Artie’s sister, and my friend Beth many times.

A few weeks ago I went to meet Beth for coffee (and to say good-bye since she is moving to Illinois!) and she mentioned a new coffee shop in town called CYM Coffee Co.

CYM Coffee Co. was opened by one of the Sister Hazel band members. I love this framed picture in their shop of their core values. I can agree with all of those.

The staff at CYM is friendly and the coffee is really good. I don’t usually like lattes (too sweet) but the caramel latte at CYM was perfect – delicious and not too sweet. I’m especially a fan of the fun designs. This is a picture of my caramel latte and Beth’s mint mocha.

On a recent trip home, Artie and I stopped at CYM on the way to AND from Winter Haven for a little mid-trip pick-me-up. I tried the caramel latte and the vanilla latte. Both were really good and I might even like the vanilla one better.

So now, whether I’m just passing through or stopping over in Gainesville, I have one more great place to get coffee. If you get a chance to stop by, I would highly recommend it.