Monday, March 12, 2012

BFF Reunion 2011

I have really awesome college friends. I was blessed with lots of them and I love them all! It's hard being so far away from them (please move to Texas!!), so a few of us decided to get together in NOLA this January.

I consider these friends to be my "core friends" from college - I lived with Sarah, and saw the others almost weekly. We loved game nights, MMSC & Shawarma Wednesdays and made lots of fun memories together in Starkville. I was so excited to continue the fun by visiting Patrick & Angela in NOLA!

Some pictures from our adventures...

Walking Tour of the Garden District
(some of these places are significant but I can't remember why because I waited almost 2 months to blog about this trip - oops)

I think this sign was on a private school's fence, haha

Beads are always in the trees - it's bad luck to take them down!

Nicholas Cage's house! There were some people walking in through the fence as we walked by, but Nick wasn't one of them. I tried to take this picture covertly so I didn't look like such a stalker.

This is inside Nick's fence, too. Patrick said this is how you can tell it's Nick's house.

French embassy in New Orleans, I think...

The corn fence - it was really cool!! I can't remember the story exactly (maybe Angela will grace us with an insightful comment), but the sign says (of the corn fence):

Colonel Short's Villa

The unusual cast iron morning-glory and cornstalk fence was furnished by the Philadelphia Foundry of Wood and Miltenberger.

Corner of the corn fence

Picture of a well-loved local restaurant near the cemetery we walked through

This cemetery was part of our walking tour, too. NOLA has lots of cemeteries, but I don't remember what this one was called - it was one of the oldest, though! It was really interesting to look at all of the old, above-ground tombs.

I think I took a picture of this house because it was so beautiful. We saw lots of pretty houses!

Angela's dream house :) It's currently being renovated

This house is featured in a lot of movies, apparently. NOLA is a hot spot for filming movies!

We had king cake we had for breakfast (breakfast of champions - really yummy!!) Saturday morning. It was delish, but we had all worked it off from walking around all morning, so we headed to Parasol's for a yummy lunch. It was a real hole-in-the-wall type place, with really delicious food. I had a roast beef po-boy & fries. It was really messy, but really yummy! Bread is one of the most important po-boy factors for me, and they had really great bread! I'd recommend it, for sure.

The French Quarter

These pictures were taken in St. Louis' Cathedral - the iconic one in The French Quarter. It was so beautiful on the inside.

This brought us back to our Little Mermaid days, but we decided it was probably installed for acoustic purposes before the microphone/speaker days.

The ladies! Sarah, Erin, Angela & Me

Girls pic - take 2!

The whole crew! Sarah, Erin, Patrick, Angela & Me. A really nice fellow tourist took this picture for us.

Erin, Sarah & Patrick at Cafe Du Monde. It was my first time here and it was a really interesting experience! I'm glad I came with NOLA insiders/residents, because they knew how to get seated quickly. Everyone instinctively forms a line out front to wait to be seated, but you're really supposed to go find any vacant table you can (cleared or not) and sit and wait for someone to come serve you. So that's what we did!

Highlights of our Cafe Du Monde experience include really yummy beignets and Patrick & Sarah's powdered sugar battle.

Me, Angela, & Erin at Cafe Du Monde - Erin got pictured twice!

Saturday Evening
Angela works for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, so she got us some sweet tickets to see the performance the night we were in town. We went out for a nice dinner before hand - it was a really fun night!

Me with Sarah at dinner

Angela & Patrick at dinner

My dinner - OMG it was good. Blackened redfish with crawfish remoulade, roasted asparagus, served over dirty rice. Angela ordered a butternut squash ravioli that was also REALLY good. And we had yummy fried green tomatoes.

Me with Sarah after the orchestra

All Good Things Must Come to an End
Our last day in NOLA

Patrick & Angela at breakfast - Slim Goodies!

Me with Sarah at breakfast. This place was a really cool diner, known for their hash browns with crazy toppings.

My breakfast/brunch - chocolate chip pancakes, eggs and bacon. It was YUMMY.

Sarah was driving home, so she left after lunch and I got to spend most of the day relaxing with Patrick, Angela and Cromwell. Cromwell loves sitting by the window, even if it means sitting on your head sometimes (he's more on the pillow in this pic, but he was on my head at one point!).

NOLA was great fun, and I can't wait to see these friends again soon (next reunion - ERIN'S WEDDING! Woo hoo!).

Okay. It took me a long time to write this post. Oops. Hopefully it won't be that long again!

Up next for us - Houston rodeo recap, family visits

Have a GREAT day.

Love from Houston,
L & J

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pinterest find - delicious, delicious dip

So we had some friends over for the super bowl yesterday and we had hamburgers with this dip and spicy crackers. And it was OMG delicious (that's pretty delicious, guys). I found the recipe through Pinterest. It comes from Buns in My Oven, a really cool blog that I now follow (she has great recipes and REALLY PRETTY pictures - check her out).

Hot Bacon Cheese Dip
Recipe from Buns in My Oven, slightly adapted

Picture comes from Buns in My Oven

• 2 cups (8 oz) Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded (from the block, not the bag)
• 1 cup (4 oz) Parmesan Cheese, shredded
• 1 cup mayo
• 1/4 cup finely diced onion
• 7 bacon strips, diced and fried
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ingredients in large bowl and spoon dip mixture into a greased baking dish (you can do this the night before, and keep in the fridge until you're ready to bake).

Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5 (I wanted it to be a little brown on top). Serve with crackers.

• Buns in My Oven makes this dip in a bread bowl, which sounds yummy and awesome, but Lan tends to be anti-bread bowl, so we put it in a greased baking dish instead, and it worked out great!
• It was a little difficult to eat because of the big cheese shreds, so if I did this again, I would process the cheese before baking so it was easier to break off pieces of the dip.
• I halved the recipe and it was the perfect size for 4 people (as a dinner side - we don't normally serve dips as dinner sides, but it's the super bowl, you have to have dip).

Quick life update... January was a crazy month for us. Lan was in Louisiana for training for 2 weeks. He got back the same day I left to go to New Orleans (there is a NOLA blog post coming!), then left again the following Tuesday to recruit at MSU (last week). We were finally reunited on Friday, but we were both a little under the weather. But, we are both feeling good now, and look forward to resuming life as usual until Lan goes out of town the next time!

Okay, that's all for now.

Love from Houston,
L & J

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Barbecued Raspberry-Hoisin Chicken

For Christmas this year, I got several really great cookbooks. Among them was The Simple Art of Eating Well, a collection of healthy recipes from Eating Well magazine. I asked for it because it was a 2011 James Beard Foundation Award finalist in Healthy Focus, and we are trying to be even healthier in 2012! We try to have several healthy meals per menu (we plan menus for every 2 weeks), but sometimes it gets hard AND old, so I'm always on the lookout for new healthy recipes.

We tried the recipe below this week and it was SO GOOD. One of the things they say in the book is that we don't get enough fruits and veggies in our diet, so in their recipes, they try to pack in the fruits/veggies in creative ways. For instance, in this recipe, there are raspberries in the marinade and dipping sauce. Not that you're getting a lot of servings of fruits/veggies using this method, but every little bit helps!

The book also talks about meal ratios. Only 1/4 of your meal should be meat, followed by 1/4 starches (rice, potatoes, etc.), and the other half should be all veggies. As you can see in the picture below, we didn't follow that guideline here, but we're working towards it!!

As a side note, I wasn't sure if I liked Hoisin (an Asian dipping sauce-it kind of looks like BBQ sauce), but everything tasted great, and you couldn't make out a lot of individual flavors from the marinade in the meat.

Barbecued Raspberry-Hoisin Chicken
Slightly adapted from original

• 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
• 3/4 cup hoisin sauce (you can find it in the international food section - mine was in a glass jar)
• 3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or, as a substitute, you can use 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar)
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 strip (2 by 1/2") orange zest
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger (I used the dried kind in the bottle, not fresh)
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• Pinch of crushed red pepper
• 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into kebab chunks (make chunks similar in size)
• 4 skewers

1. Combine raspberries, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, orange zest, ginger, pepper, and crushed red pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until smooth (about 1 minute). Set aside 1/4 cup for dipping sauce.
2. Marinade the chicken in the raspberry marinade overnight.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high or broiler to high.
4. Remove chicken from marinade, scrape off excess (discard marinade), and thread onto 4 skewers, distributing equally.
5. Grill the chicken until browned & cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. If using broiler, place the chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray and broil 4 inches from the heat source until cooked, about 5 minutes per side.
6. Serve with dipping sauce. (We liked the chicken without the dipping sauce better, so taste the sauce before you pour it on!)

Slightly adapted from original

• 2 1/2 cups water
• 1 cup long- or medium-grain brown rice
• 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or, as a substitute, you can use 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar)

1. Combine water & rice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Cover, reduce to simmer and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, until ready to serve.
4. Just before serving, sprinkle rice with rice vinegar and green onions. Fluff with a fork.

That's all for now! More recipes and updates soon.

Love from Houston,
L & J

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Years in North Alabama

Happy New Year, everyone! As I'm sure you noticed, I took a brief haitus from the blog around the holidays. What can I say? We just got busy. So sorry.

This holiday, we were able to go back to Mississippi for the whole week of Christmas, and were off from work until after New Years. It was really nice to have a long break and see family and friends back home!

This year, Lan started a new tradition with college friends, an annual New Year's trip. We have a friend whose parents do something similar with their college friends (and have done so since college!). Lan is really great at keeping up with friends from far away, and he's been planning this shindig since early fall. So, on the Friday before New Years, we headed to Mentone, Alabama with some friends.

While in Mentone, we hit the local shops and visited a local restaurant. We also did some hiking and went to play frisbee and football in a park near our cabin. Good times were had by all.

Us in the cabin

Day 2 - This was an overlook near our cabin

Lan joining in on the Blaine family picture.

The girls at the park (Lan creepin' in the background)

Ladies in the park

This happened over and over again at the park. The frisbee and football would get thrown in the creek accidentally and someone would have to venture into the creek to fish it out. Great teamwork, Lan and Jan!

Over the shoulder shot. Classy.

Boys at the park

Lan's senior portrait.

Half of our pictures are of Lan making this face

Sunset shot at the overlook near our cabin

Girls pic!


Group pic before our hike

We took a hike down to the river. It was a really steep incline!

Us on the rock at the river

Group shot on the rock

On the hike back up the mountain, I heard running water, so we took a detour and found this!

Me with my amazing discovery :)

Boys rock climbing

Our cabin, Bear Claus Lodge!

Well, that's all for now! I have some recipes and other fun things to share soon.

Love from Houston!
L & J