Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Aunt "Skeeter"!

I stayed Sunday thru Tuesday morning in Wadley, visiting and catching up with my family and Aunt "Skeeter". We enjoy our time together so much. It was hard going back to work on Tuesday after spending all day Monday talking about food, family, blogging, and um, more food. I also introduced Aunt "Skeeter" to Pioneer Woman. I got tickled listening to her getting tickled while reading PW's cookbook and blog in the next room. Aunt "Skeeter" has a great sense of humor and her laugh is contagious. So is PW's...they would make great friends.

On Tuesday, I headed back to Augusta just in time for work. It was a great day knowing that when I got off I would have spend-the-night company waiting on me at home--mama and Aunt "Skeeter"; I just can't get enough of them! It was Aunt "Skeeter's" twenty-fifth (plus a few but hey, no one is counting!) birthday. We had dinner at this wonderful restaurant called Manuel's Bread Cafe at Hammond's Ferry in North Augusta.

We sat outside; the weather was pleasant and the atmosphere was quiet. I ordered Cod Nachos for an appetizer  (UNBELIEVABLE!) and grilled pineapple and fruit salad with Greek yogurt for dinner. The nachos were huge and there was enough to share and have leftovers. Mom and Aunt "Skeeter" ordered salads. We particularly enjoyed the beets on the salad--they shared a few bites:)We stuffed ourselves stupid but had already made up our minds earlier that we wanted dessert and knew exactly where we wanted to go to get it. Our waiter gave Aunt "Skeeter" a dessert of her choice "on the house". She choose Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake and decided to save it and leave for Brandon to have when he gets home on Friday (she loves him). Now I feel it's an appropriate time to say a quick prayer over the cheesecake-- "Lord, I pray I will have the willpower to let it be in the frig, where it belongs (not in my belly) and save it for it's intended purpose. Amen."

Aunt "Skeeter", Me, and Mama at Manuel's Bread Cafe

Now for the exciting part of the evening--Dessert! We took Aunt "Skeeter" to the Boll Weevil in downtown Augusta. They have the largest layered cakes known to man. They are so large that 3-4 people can share one slice and still have leftovers. We let Aunt "Skeeter" choose and after some pretty intense decision-making she selected the Chocolate Coffee Toffee Cake. Y'all this bad mamajamma had coffee-toffee icing underneath dark chocolate icing and it was rich but oh so delightful. We got a couple cups of coffee and water and began digging in.

We had such a wonderful time and we made sure to remind each other throughout the evening. Aunt "Skeeter" made mention numerous times about how this was the best birthday she could remember having in a long time. I glad mama and I were able to spend it with her and we had fun making it special. Here's to many more visits, celebrations, and fun times together!

Love, xoxo

Playing Catch Up

So much has been going on in my life lately that it would make for a terribly long blog post if I tried to type it all out. I think I will start with the events of this last week until today.

Mom and I began a major adventure last week as we intro'd our new blog devoted just to recipes and our cooking excursions. Check us out here. We are so stinkin excited about this blog and haven't stop talking and thinking about it since.

Last weekend was enjoyable and relaxing. We had our friends, Barrett, Jennifer, and Claire, over for dinner on Friday night. I cooked Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore over white rice, fresh corn fritters, steamed broccoli, and garlic cheese croissants. Oh and Candy Bar Cake for dessert. Delicious!

Here is a pic we took with Claire using my iPad. Claire and Brandon and best buddies. It is so sweet to watch them play dolls and run and jump together. She likes me okay but this precious pumpkin loves her "Unca B":)

On Saturday night, we went over to the Gables for a Sunday School cookout. It was a fun time. I couldn't hang long as I was exhausted after  taking 2 classes at the gym Saturday morning, coming home and cooking until lunch, yardwork with Brandon after lunch, and then more cooking until party time.
I baked a Peanut Butter-Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Butterfinger-Ganache Glaze. Yum!

I also made my mama's famous baked beans for the cookout. Want these recipes and more? Well, follow "Our Friend Oven" and you will have access to them very soon;)

Sadly, on Sunday, I had to say a short goodbye to Brandon. He left before Sunday School for a week of work in Orlando. He's so darn sweet, though. On Saturday, he went out and bought an indoor orchid for me to sit on the counter so when I got sad I could look at it and be reminded of him. It's getting me by...

On a happy note, someone extra special came to Wadley on Sunday--the best aunt in the world, Aunt "Skeeter". Jasper and I headed to Wadley after Sunday School to make it in time for lunch with my family and then patiently wait on Aunt "Skeeter" to arrive. Mama and I have the most fun when she is around. She brought us each a paperback copy of "The Help". It made me VERY excited. I cannot wait to delve in but am waiting to get caught up on paperwork--BORING--before I become addicted (that's the word on the street). I think I will save the details of her visit for the next post. Don't want to wear you out with a lengthy post, my friends:)

Love, xoxo

Monday, August 8, 2011

What to Say...

Well I kind of lied, I suppose, in my last post about blogging some great recipes soon. Lord I do apologize ("and be with the starving Pygmies in New Guinea":) If it weren't for talking to my dad thirty minutes ago and him mentioning how much he missed my posts then another night would have trickled by without even logging onto "Up on Blue Berryhill". To tell you the truth I have lost all motivation for anything. I am tired and I don't feel well and I have a plethora of paperwork to complete and when I sit down at the computer to look at anything but work, floods of guilt consume me and I end up closing my laptop and calling it a night (or day). In fact tonight I came home from work, fed Jasper, laid on the couch, and attempted to complete this great book I've been reading called "Heaven is For Real." Around 8:08 my eyelids could not stay open for another second and I quickly fell asleep. I would still be lying there if it weren't for my sweetness who called and woke me up. I am glad I got off that sofa; I would have felt really crummy tomorrow morning.

Like I said, my days as of late have been really lazy. Failed workout regime, terrible eating habits, lack of sunshine, wg, etc. has gotten me in the slumps. Food has gotten the best of me. I need to figure out a way to do what I love--cooking, reading recipes, creating recipes--in a healthier way. I am tired of loving food but hating food. How does Pioneer Woman think about and cook food all day long but still keeps her figure? And Giada? Oh we won't even talk about how darn cute she is! Let me go and figure myself might just here from me again tomorrow. So long for now friends.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Long Time, No Post

I am back from a 2 week (or longer) blogging hiatus. I have missed the blogging world.

Last week was spent in North Georgia where the lack of Internet prevented me from blogging. But don't worry, I made up for it by cooking and trying new recipes to share. And this busy week was spent catching up at work after a week away on vacation. Also, I hosted a Stella and Dot jewelry party on Wednesday. I have had fun but the only negative to taking a vacation is having to go back to work. It's exhausting!

My goals for next week include getting back on an exercise regime, losing 2 pounds, blogging about and eating yummy food, and cooking for Brandon and Hallie (I'll let you know how Goals 1 and 2 work out with Goals 3 and 4;). Next week may be Hallie's last week with us and I want to end it with spending time together. I will be so sad to see her leave. She has been a fun housemate this summer. I love you Hallie B!

I haven't decided which recipes I want to post for next week; I suppose it depends on my mood. Oh and be on the look out for a new theme day..."Make-shift Mondays". It should be interesting.

Blogs I Love

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weigh Less Wednesday: Blueberry Streusal Muffins

You may have noticed a running theme for this week...yes, it's all about breakfast, which happens to be my FAVORITE meal of the day. When someone ask me what my favorite food is I usually reply "pancakes"--aka "fatcakes". I call them fatcakes because I love them so much that I can't stop eating and then after about fatcake #5 I begin to feel very fat. Regardless, I still love them and their calories along with other breakfast items, such as omelets, biscuits, bacon, and muffins.

With summer season comes fresh fruit and vegetables, which can be incorporated into a variety of breakfast entrees. For this post I almost decided to try a lighter version of blueberry "fatcakes" but I am going on vacation next week and would like to be able to fit into my clothes and bathing suits so I refrained and tried a wonderful lighter version of blueberry muffins. Thanks to our sweet neighbors, Meghan and Joe, who shared fresh blueberries that they picked over the weekend, I already had all of the ingredients on hand. I came straight home from work, skipped weight lifting and kickboxing classes to cook (and eat!) this delicious concoction. Thankfully they turned out beautifully! So here it is readers--Blueberry Streusal Muffins. Enjoy!

Blueberry Streusal Muffins
2 1/4 cups all-purpose/whole-wheat flour, divided*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup fat-free skim milk, divided
2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp brown sugar*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place muffin liners in a 12-hole muffin tin. Lightly grease muffin liners with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg with 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and beat until thoroughly combined; blend in vanilla extract.

Add half of flour mixture and half of milk to sugar mixture; beat until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and milk; beat until smooth.

Fold in blueberries and fill each muffin liner about 3/4 full; set aside.

To make streusal topping, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup each of sugar and flour and brown sugar. Pour in melted butter and combine with fingertips. Divide crumb mixture over muffins; gently press into top of muffin batter with fingertips.

Bake until slightly golden and a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool in pans for about 10 to 15 minutes and then transfer muffins onto racks to cool completely.

Who stole the muffin from the muffin tin? Jasper?

*I used half white flour and half whole-wheat flour just to add extra fiber to the muffins. The original recipe called for white flour. And it did not mention adding brown sugar to the topping but I thought it gave them a warm, golden sweetness.
Also, you can use frozen berries in this recipe but make sure they are thawed completely.

Recipe Adapted from Weight Watchers

Tasty Tuesday (a day late)--Puffy Cheese Cloud

Meet my Aunt "Skeeter". To you she's Marcelle...

Aunt "Skeeter", Mama, and I in 2010

My Aunt Skeeter is the epitome of Southern Lady. She is one of the best cooks I know, a wonderful example of true southern hospitality, and a warm, kind-hearted woman. She and my Uncle Riley are great people and I love them very much. They live in Niceville, Florida which is a fitting name for the town as its residents really are nice people!

Every spring, mama and I take a "girls trip" to Niceville to visit Aunt Skeeter and Uncle Riley. By the end of the trip we are sad to leave as we always have too much fun together. We like to shop in Destin, go to the beach, take cooking classes, and eat, eat, eat! But probably what we enjoy most is reading and sharing recipes. We always say that we are "fools" for a new cookbook or cooking magazines so we often resort to Barnes and Noble for the latest  Southern Living, Paula Deen, or Taste of the South special issue. In April when mama and I went down for our annual trip, one night we found ourselves sitting in Aunt Skeeter's HUGE pantry (yes, the two of us we able to sit comfortably and move about in her pantry!). We had a blast plundering thru her cookbooks and the various unusual canned food items that we'd never think of buying. That led to having Uncle Riley copy multiple irresistable recipes that we not leave Florida without. After that, Aunt Skeeter gave us a peek into one of china cabinets that housed some of the random entertaining pieces she has collected over the years. I had the opportunity to say "I would love to inherit that piece if your children don't want it." !!!

Like I mentioned earlier, Aunt Skeeter knows hospitality and she is a wonderful hostess. Usually when we arrive at her house, she is busy preparing dinner which likely is a dish she's been wanting to try; we proudly serve as her guinea pigs. Each night we are presented with a delicious meal that far exceeds that of any local restaurant around. 

So as I began thinking about this post, I experienced a problem--well, sort-of.  When I began thinking about which recipe of Aunt Skeeter's I wanted to share, I became overwhelmed with all of the great food we had on our most recent visit and those prior to. Everything was so delicious I didn't know what to choose. Then I had an "ah ha" moment and her Puffy Cheese Cloud popped into mind. Although we did not have this dish in April, we have made it multiple times for brunches, showers, Sunday school breakfasts, etc. It is a never-fail, crowd-pleasing recipe. And it is perfect for this post as each time I make it I always think about my Aunt Skeeter and how special she is to me. I love her very much and am blessed to have her as an aunt. Aunt Skeeter, I love you (and your delicious recipes!).

Puffy Cheese Cloud is a breakfast/brunch recipe that is a spin off of your run of the mill breakfast casserole. It's superb and its level of difficulty equals "easy". Don't let the water bath intimidate you because its what makes this casserole stand apart from the rest. Enjoy!

Puffy Cheese Cloud
16 slices white bread
8 slices American cheese
4 oz shredded sharp cheese
soft margarine
1 pound sausage (or ham), browned
6 eggs
1 quart whole milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Cut crusts off of bread. Spread 8 slices with margarine. Place in lightly greased 9"x13" baking dish butter side down. Lay cheese slices on top of bread. Top with browned meat. Sprinkle this layer with shredded cheese. Top with remaining 8 slices of buttered bread, butter side up.

Beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until combined. Pour egg mixture over bread (pour slowly to give the bread time to soak in mix). Cover and refrigerate over night. Remove from refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking. Bake for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes in water bath* in preheated oven at 350 degrees. Let set 10 minutes before serving.

*Directions for water bath (basically it's just a larger pan/dish, filled with small amount of water, that holds your casserole-filled dish during baking):

Friday, July 1, 2011

Finally Friday

This has been a fun Friday. After work, I went to Best Buy to pick up our new computer and then came home to connect the iPad we've had in its box for three weeks. I've been in the office all night playing and have left only to grab a snack or drink (chips, salsa, and cookies was my dinner tonight!). Part of the fun has consisted of dowloading apps and iTunes. I have had a mental list of songs to download for a long time and finally the time has come! If you don't know me well my second love is music (falling closely behind cooking and food). Just wanted to share a song from a group Brandon and I recently discovered. They're called Fitz and the Tantrums. The song is "Money Grabber."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thunder Thighs Thursday--Death by Caramel Bars

Sorry guys but you will not find a "live from the kitchen" picture of these succulent bars; they contain too many calories and I refuse to make them unless they are for an event away (far away) from our house. I know myself too well. Confections like these too often sit around on our counter top, stare at me with their evil eyes, and beg to be eaten. It's only a matter of minutes before I fall into their trap. But don't worry, I am following my mama's rule and taste-testing all of the recipes I post. I ate a "Death by Caramel" bar at a Sunday School function several months ago. Brandon was the guinea pig who brought a bar to the table where we were sitting. Before long I, along with several others, found myself grabbing one off of the pretty platter they were occupying. Oh my!, it was rich and caramelly to the last morsel. A keeper recipe for sure.

The recipe was found by my friend, Mary Beth, at  Enjoy!

Death by Caramel Bars Recipe

Death By Caramel Bars
  • 3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup uncooked regular oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 (2.07-oz.) chocolate-coated caramel-peanut nougat bars, chopped (we tested with Snickers)
  • 1 (14-oz.) can dulce de leche*
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in chopped candy bars.
  • Spoon batter into a greased aluminum foil-lined 13" x 9" pan coated with cooking spray, allowing foil to extend over ends of pan. (Pan will be very full.) Spoon dollops of dulce de leche over batter; swirl slightly into batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack, and cool completely. (This may take several hours.) Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of pan. Peel foil away from sides of uncut brownies, and cut into bars.
  • *Find dulce de leche with other Mexican ingredients or on the baking aisle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weigh Less Wednesday--Cherry Angel Food Cake

Well, folks, this is probably the easiest recipe I will ever post. See the two ingredients in the picture? Combine them, bake for 30 minutes, and you magically have a cake that is light and delicious. Angel food is naturally fat free. Add a lighter version of canned pie filling and voila! You have a reduced calorie dessert in a jiffy.

This dish is also versatile. You can make it with your favorite pie filling (mine would be blueberry but stores in Augusta only carry cherry in the "lite" version). I found a similar recipe on Weight Watchers one day and decided to add my own twist. I sifted powered sugar over the baked cake and added a dollop of fat free whipped topping and fresh fruit on each piece. If you are looking for a dessert that is light and airy, fruity and not overwhelmingly sweet then this one is for you.  Play around with it to add your own version. Enjoy!

Cherry Angel Food Cake
1 box angel food cake mix (DO NOT add any other ingredients)
1-20 oz can lite pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cake mix and pie filling in large bowl and stir until moistened. Pour batter into greased 9x13" baking dish. Bake for ~30 minutes.

Sprinkle powdered sugar over cake. Let cool. Serve with whipped topping and fresh fruit, if desired.

*I had some good pictures to post of each step in the process but my computer is not cooperating. I decided to get patriotic and served the cherry version on a red plate, topped with whipped topping, and sprinkled blueberries on top. It made a pretty presentation! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tasty Tuesday--A Tribute to My Mama and a Gunn Family Favorite--Shrimp Scampi

Please allow me to begin this post with an introduction. I would like for you to meet a very special lady in my life; in fact, she's the most special lady I know. Two things make this woman so great--1) She gave birth to me (that's pretty darn special!); and 2) She is a wonderful example of everything! Meet my mama and biggest fan, Nan Cauthen Gunn. Mama was probably wandering when I was going to write about her but how could I ever forget when she was the one who taught me how to cook! I could write for days about my mama. She is such a hard-working woman and spends a majority of her time volunteering. She is an active member of her church where she leads the music, a member of Louisville art guild where she exhibits her paintings and leads an art camp for kids in Wadley, recently performed/sang in a two-week long production at Bartow Community Center, cares for my brother and uncle who both have special needs, and like I said the list goes on and on. (And today she is spending her day off cleaning my house!) All of her volunteering and extracurricular activities are an addition to her professional occupation as a pharmacist. I honestly don't know how she is able to carry on after 6 o'clock when she leaves a full day's work at Gunn Drug Company but she does. And honey, when she gets home she throws down in the kitchen. There is never a missed meal at the Gunn residence. Mama makes certain of it.

When I was growing up, mama ALWAYS cooked--on weeknights and weekends. We never went out to eat. The main reason for that was the selection of restaurants in little Wadley were few to none. I can remember as a child begging my parents to take us out. "All of my friends go to Po Joe's and McKenzie's. Why can't we?", I would implore. Ha! Now when we visit I plead them to stay home and cook! It is so funny how things change as you get older. My mama always sacrificed her personal time for my family and making sure we were given a wholesome and well-balanced meal. Not only were her meals nutritious but savory and delicious to the last bite. My mama is the best cook (in addition to many other things) I have ever met. The phrase I often say about my daddy applies to her as well..."My mama can do anything." Mama, if you are reading this, please know that you are my hero. I will love you forever.  

For this Tasty Tuesday recipe, I will be using a version of Southern Living's Shrimp Scampi (taken from "The Southern Living Cookbook" published in 1987 by Oxmoor House, Inc.--this is a classic cookbook). Now obviously mama did not create this recipe herself. But I like to give her the credit because she can re-create it better than anyone. She is the master-mind of this scampi as the shrimp are cooked to profection--just done and never over-cooked. If John, my brother, gets a chance to add in his two cents about what's for dinner he immediately responds with "scampi".  And if Brandon is anywhere around, he seconds it in motion! (Shrimp scampi is Brandon's second favorite meal following closely behind BBQ meatloaf.) Daddy and I third the motion! We all love it as it truly is a Gunn family favorite. When I think of scampi my mama's face quickly pops into mind; therefore, my tribute recipe to my mama is this wonderful Southern Living Shrimp Scampi. Enjoy!

Shrimp Scampi
2 pounds unpeeled medium-size fresh shrimp
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup dry white wine (mom uses chardonnay)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Peel and devein shrimp. (You can buy shrimp that has already been peeled and deveined in your store's frozen section.)

Sautee green onions, parsley, and garlic in butter until onions are tender. Reduce heat to low; add shrimp. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon to a serving dish; keep warm. Add remaining ingredients to butter mixture; simmer 2 minutes. Pour butter mixture over shrimp. Yields 4 servings.

*The Gunn family loves the butter mixutre over a baked potato--or the shrimp and butter mixure served over angel hair pasta. Just don't forget bread to soak up all of the juicy goodness!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thunder Thighs Thursday--Cheesecake Cupcakes

Thunder Thighs Thursday will include a dessert that is quite contrary from yesterday's Weigh Less Wednesday. These desserts are not low fat, nor will they ever be. They are rich and delicious, and if you are trying to lose weight, they should be saved only for times of splurge. Life consists of splurges in all different fashions so don't beat yourself up about indulging in a high-powered confection like these every now and again. It's okay; life goes on. And as always, enjoy!

Momaw and her youngest grandchild, Leigh Anna
 Meet Momaw, Brandon's grandmother. Now let me begin by saying that Momaw does not have thunder thighs! I repeat, Momaw does not have thunder thighs! My inspiration for including Momaw in this first dessert post was not the size of her legs, rather the delicious desserts she prepares when the family gets together. Momaw has to be one of the most beautiful grandmothers I have ever met. In fact, what is so great about Momaw is that she is just as beautiful on the inside. She has a heart for the Lord and is a faithful servant of his. She is a loving wife, mother, and grandmother; Momaw loves her family. When I first met Brandon, he immediately began telling me about his family and how both if his grandmothers are great cooks. Then when I went to visit Momaw and Popaw I got to see for myself how right Brandon was. Momaw prepared a spread for Sunday lunch--chicken, squash casserole, brown rice, corn, beans, bread, and (drumroll, please) Cheesecake Cupcakes for dessert. She had also made pound cake to eat throughout the weekend, which everyone raves over, but my heart instantly fell for the cheesecake cupcakes. What a delicious little treat they were! To this day, there aren't too many family get-togethers where cheesecake cupcakes are missing from the menu. They are small and not as overwhelmningly fattening as a slice of cheesecake would be; therefore, they may not be the most appropriate post for Thunder Thighs Thursday. But when I think of a never-failing, crowd-pleasing dessert, cheesecake cupcakes instantly come to mind. So here they are folks...Momaw's Cheesecake Cupcakes. Enjoy!

Momaw's Cheesecake Cupcakes
3 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To make filling, combine the following ingredients in a seperate bowl:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Fill muffin tins with 24 paper liners.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add remaining ingredients (eggs, sugar, vanilla) and mix until well combined. Fill paper-lined tins with mix. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes until light brown. Remove from oven. After a few seconds, when center falls, add filling. Return to oven for an additional 5 minutes. Keep refrigerated (can freeze).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weigh Less Wednesday--Summer Pasta Salad

Summer Pasta Salad

I am writing this post feeling a bit frustrated. I woke up early this morning to post my first entry for "Weigh Less Wednesday" before I went to work. It took about an hour to write and enter the recipe. When I clicked on "post comment" the web page was all of a sudden unavailable and it deleted most of the entry. Ugh, the frustration! So I left it alone, went to work, and now I am back for a second attempt. Here we go...

In the original entry I began by writing about how I have turned into a health food addict. Well, not completely but I try. I still love to eat desserts and potato chips and peanut butter, and oh my the list goes on and on! My health food kick began in October 2010 when I decided that I wanted to lose some weight and cook lighter. I have always enjoyed cooking but you might as well have called me Paula Deen before then with all of the butter and sugar I used! I was skeptical at first thinking to myself that everything I try will taste disgusting. Boy was I wrong. Using Weight Watchers' recipes as a guide, I realized that just by substituting lighter options of key ingredients the caloric, fat, and carb values in my favorite southern dishes significantly decreased. I was amazed! And the best part about it was my assumptions were wrong; they tasted delicious! I remember the first Weight Watchers' dessert I tried was an apple pie. It was so good that Brandon and I ended up eating over half of the pie in one sitting! The purpose of cooking lighter was defeated that night as we kicked portion control to the street but dang it was that good! (I will post the recipe sometime soon:) Looking back over time since October, not only am I meeting my weight loss goals but I feel lighter and have more energy then ever before. Oh and what else is great about all this is that Brandon has been receiving compliments about looking "skinny" and he denies it. But guess what?...since October my cooking on the lighter side has helped him lose at least 15 pounds! And it had nothing to do with exercise, um um (that's me clearing my throat)!!!
So here it is...Summer Pasta Salad. Looking at the picture above you can already see how this is going to be a healthier version of a classic pasta salad. Look at all the vegetables! Not only do they make it a colorful dish but very nutritious. Summer Pasta Salad was adapted from Weight Watchers' "Pot-Luck Pasta Salad." I must admit that the only reason it was adapted was due to me missing a third of the ingredients when I got up to make it Monday morning. I had to improvise but it quickly got the stamp of approval from my taste-testers, Brandon and Hallie. I served it with grilled lean beef hot dogs on whitewheat buns (purchase breads that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup) and fresh corn on the cob. Dee-licious!

Please note that in parentheses I have written the ingredients that were substituted from the original recipe. This will give you two options. Enjoy eating healthier!

Summer Pasta Salad
8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat pasta, rotini (4 oz. uncooked whole-wheat pasta, corkscrew shape and 4 oz. whole-wheat macaroni shape)
1/3 cup olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil)*
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice (fresh lemon juice)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (Dijon mustard)
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp bottled minced garlic (2 cloves of garlic, minced)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (added by me)
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce (added by me)
~1 Tbsp honey (added by me)
1 medium green pepper, chopped--approximately 1 cup
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped--approximately 1 cup
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium yellow summer squash, quartered
1 medium zucchini, quartered
1 cup frozen sweet green peas, thawed
(2 1/2 ounces of canned black olives were used in original recipe but I despise olives; therefore, they were omitted from my version.)

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and honey. This is the dressing.

In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta with vegetables; pour in dressing and toss thoroughly to coat. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours. It is even better the next day as the dressing soaks into the pasta. Serves 12.

*I attended a cooking class last year and the instructor recommended always using extra-virgin olive oil for dressings, marinades, etc. I would have used EVOO in this recipe had I been better prepared.

Helpful hint:  Weight Watchers suggests using pre-sliced vegetables from a salad bar and light Italian dressing to save time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tasty Tuesday--BBQ Meatloaf

Here is the first recipe for my weekly section, "Tasty Tuesday". I could not think of a better recipe to post than our family's favorite--BBQ Meatloaf. This recipe began with my granny, Sallie Pearl Bradham Gunn. It was then passed down to my mama and then to me. I can remember my mama making this often when Brandon and I were dating and would could home from college for the weekend. Once Brandon got in good with my family (it didn't take long!), my mama would ask "what would Brandon like to eat while y'all are home?" I would say, "Whoa now, what about what MARIE wants to eat?!" Nope, that just wouldn't do; I think they wanted Brandon to stay around as much as I did! Brandon's reply to mama's question would always immediately be, BBQ Meatloaf. And that's what we ate; it never got old. Recently when Brandon's sister, Hallie, and her boyfriend, John, came to visit I cooked BBQ Meatloaf with macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, green beans, and biscuits (and Paula Deen's banana pudding for dessert...yum) for Sunday lunch. The meatloaf won their hearts as well and now it is even more frequent of a request. So here it is readers...Sallie Pearl's BBQ Meatloaf. Enjoy!

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (the leaner the better to prevent excess fat)
1 cup bread crumbs (fresh or bought)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce

Combine meat, bread crumbs, onion, egg, and 1/2 can tomato sauce in large bowl (you can mix together using your hands). Shape into a loaf and place in lightly greased loaf pan. Set aside and make sauce (directions below).

3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp prepared mustard
1 1/2 cans tomato sauce

Combine above ingredients in a small bowl, using a whisk, and pour evenly over meat loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.


                                                                         Ta da! This is an after picture...we couldn't wait any longer!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Special Day with Dad

Today, I got to spend the afternoon with one of my daddy. It worked out perfectly as today is Father's Day. I have truly been blessed with a loving father who demonstrates an earthly example of our heavenly Father's love for his children. My daddy has done so much for me that it would take all night to write and I am sleepy after a long day in Wadley. As I sat thinking about my inspiration for this post and how to honor my dad, several songs entered my mind. Songs that are special to my dad and me. Also came memories of times in my life where I was rebellious and a disobedient child but even then my daddy showed love through patience and discipline. Now I look back and giggle thinking about how I have grown up to be so much like him. Obviously I don't have children to love and discipline but I think when the time comes my inner "David" will shine through--always show love even when the waters are rocky. So as a tribute to my dad, I have listed several memories that pop into my mind when I thought I had the meanest daddy on Earth but actually had the best. Following are links to our two favorite songs. Here it goes...

1.  Fifth and seventh grades were the most difficult years in school that I can remember. Daddy would help me with my math homework and we would fuss and argue late into the night because he thought I didn't care enough to figure out the word problems. Those crazy things were the devil and I just didn't get them. I think he finally realized that math wasn't my strong suit and did the best he could to help. My daddy loved me even though I couldn't do math--still can't but life goes on.
2.  When I was sixteen, daddy bought me a new car. Sounds awesome right? Well it was except that it came with a contract that daddy created himself. My daddy, mama, and I sat at the kitchen table and read and reviewed the contract and then was signed by me if I agreed. Although I was rolling my eyes and sighing a million times on the inside I was definitely ready to sign and go cruising in my new ride! Items in the contract included:  grades had to be maintained (received deficencies in English two weeks after), no speeding tickets (GA state patrol stopped me going 74 in a 55 on my way to school three months following the signing of contract. Fortunately I was able to cry my way out of that one!), no one else was allowed to drive the car except for me (Ben Johnson broke that rule only a few days after as he wanted to see how fast my Mazda could go), no smoking in the car by me or passengers (we won't go there), and another item that comes to mind is everyone must wear seatbelts (yeah, that never happened). My daddy still loved me despite my taking advantage of having a new car at age 16 and breaking all of the rules in the contract.
3.  During Thanksgiving break my senior year of high school, all 12 of my fellow classmates (yeah, very small I know) packed their sleeping bags, snack food, and comfortable clothes to go to a "party" at one of my friends' family's hunting club. I was the only one absent as daddy made me stay home to study for the SAT. I didn't need to be there anyways but at the time I was livid and am pretty sure I didn't study at all. I didn't understand then but now I do. My daddy loved me enough to be the uncool parent to help me realize that education came before socializing and prevented me from doing some things that I may have regretted later. Thanks dad.

Here are the songs that we love listening to together. The first is "I've Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher. This was our daddy-daughter dance on my wedding day. Its a classic for sure. The second song is "Green Onions" by Booker T and the MG's. When I was little I couldn't say onions. I called them "onguns" and daddy thought it was cute that I loved to dance to "Green Onguns". Even when I went off to college, if either one of us were in the car and "Green Onions" came on the radio we would call each other and leave the song on the other's voicemail. It's a classic as well. You may recognize it from the movie "The Sandlot". Both songs are oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

Dancing to "I've Got You Babe" at my wedding.
"Green Onguns"

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. Here's to many more together!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Recipe for a Long and Happy Life

Inspired by my grandaddy, John Dudley Gunn, on his 83rd birthday...

My grandaddy is spending his day flying home from Winnapeg, Canada after a 10-day fishing trip with a few of his best buds. I remember this time last year when he, my dad, and Brandon went on a 5-day fishing trip to Canada and he swore that would be his last "big trip" before he died. Man was he wrong. He is still going strong and I am thankful that he gets to spend these precious years enjoying the things he loves most.

My grandaddy is one of the hardest working men I know. He was unable to enlist in the military due to severe asthma which left him with finding a career during the 1940's. He chose pharmacy and left his hometown of Millen, Georgia to attend Southern School of Pharmacy in Atlanta. After obtaining his degree, he went back to Millen, worked for a local pharmacy, and married my granny, Sallie Pearl Bradham Gunn (who is hands down the sweetest, most precious lady I know). Granny worked at the telephone company as an operator. In 1956, my dad was born and when he was two years old, grandaddy moved the family to Wadley, Georgia and bought out Tarver Drug. And then was born Gunn Drug Company, which is still operating today. My grandaddy worked hard at building his business. Obviously I wasn't around at that time to see for myself but I know he worked diligently based on what I have been told. He opened the store seven days a week. Now Sunday is reserved for church and is the day of rest but back in grandaddy's day, doctors would open on Sundays. If people were sick and went to the doctor they needed medicine but there was no where else to go. That's why in his early days, the business was open seven days. Gunn Drug Company is now open Monday thru Saturday. However, my parents still take Saturday afternoon and Sunday calls, sometimes making up to three trips to open the store for those who cannot wait until Monday for medicine. My grandaddy set a good example of being available for others that my parents now follow. I am unclear about the timeline of other businesses my grandaddy owned and operated--Louisville Drug, Gunn Pharmacy in Millen and Glendale Nursing Home. Although he is now retired from pharmacy, you won't find him sitting still. He could be in the woods operating heavy machinery, tending to business in his office at the drug store, or working on his hunting club in Bartow. See what I mean about a hard-working man?!

My grandaddy was and continues to be a generous man as well. He is a patron of many organizations, former mayor of Wadley, faithful attendee Central Baptist Church. He shares his land in Bartow, Georgia for people to hunt deer, turkey, dove, and hog. He drives to the coast several times a year to buy fresh shrimp to bring home and cook for others. On Monday nights, he hosts the "Grumpy Old Men's Club" at his clubhouse where he and his croanies cook, eat, and I don't want to know what else they do or talk about! My grandaddy contributed to my education, transportation, and encouraged me when I made the decision to follow Christ. He and my granny have been loving and generous to my brother and me, his only grandchildren. We are forever grateful.

To conclude, I believe that the recipe for a happy life is demonstrated through my grandaddy's life. Work hard, enjoy the simple things, give to others, cherish time with family and friends, and most importantly hold firm to your beliefs and faith in God and you, too, will be blessed with joy during our short time in this world.

Happy birthday, Grandaddy. As I celebrate you today, I pray that we will be blessed with many more years together.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recess at Work Day

Did you know that today is "Recess at Work Day"? That's right, it's the day to take a ten minute break and step outside for a quick game of kickball or just enjoy the sunshine. But if you're working in the South today, please remember to drink lots of water and take along a sweat rag because it is HOT! I think my recess will be to walk across the parking lot and drop off the mail. What do you have in mind for your recess?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friends Reunited

I couldn't think of a better way to begin my first blog post than with a recent trip I took with some of my best girlfriends. Last Friday, I met up with Lindsey Long, Lindsey Wright and Bridgett Meadows in Saute Nacoochee, Georgia for a weekend of fun. A conversation began about blogging the next Saturday morning. It was then that I became inspired to blog about my life and some of the things I love most. If you know me well, you know that I LOVE to cook. I also love sweets so many of my favorite recipes are desserts.  Lindsey Long suggested that I post a recipe every Tuesday and call it "Tasty Tuesdays". We'll see what happens with that...

Back to the girls trip. Reminiscing from college days, dancing to old rap classics, cheerleading stunts (oh my!), sunbathing, snacking on junk food at 1:00 am, and so many other crazy, silly things basically sums up our weekend together. The most amazing part of it all was how we had not been together since December 2008 but we seemed to just pick back up where we left off. I think that's how you know you have genuine friends. I am thankful that God led me to Valdosta, Georgia in 2004 and gave me the opportunity to meet these amazing girls (and thanks to Lindsey Long, I met the most amazing man I know...Brandon:).

So here's to many more happy times together as friends and the start of a new hobby..."Up on Blue Berryhill".