Rules of Summer

There’s no arguing. Summer is here.

And while my summers no longer consist of summer camp and hours by the pool, it’s not like adults can’t enjoy the months of June through August…or so I think…

So here goes. My summer to-do list. To-do lists get a bad rep but I looooove them. If you look around my apartment or my desk at work there are post-it notes and notepads scattered all over with reminders. There’s a fantastic satisfaction of being able to cross something off on a list.

My summer to-do list consists of a few of the things I want to accomplish this summer:

{Image credits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9}

1. host a summer picnic
2. make popsicles
3. take a weekend trip (Asheville sounds fun!)
4. train for a 10k
5. make some of the DIY projects on my Pinterest board (like those shorts)
6. furnish my bedroom
7. make pizza
8. write letters to friends and family
9. keep my apartment filled with fresh flowers

Some other goals – go on a float trip, try to buy all my vegetables at the farmers market, read more books, learn to take a better photo.

What’s on your summer to-do list?

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Mini Apple Pies

Happy Memorial Day!!

I just watched last night’s episode of GIRLS (have you seen it? If not GO WATCH NOW). Parts of it are so absurd but yet they still feel like stories my friends might tell me, while other parts are like the writers reached into my own diary and pulled out random Saturday nights.

What does this have to do with Memorial Day? Absolutely nothing. But it is what it is.

I had to work today (the news knows no holiday) so I celebrated my Memorial Day by the pool yesterday with Stephen King’s book on the assassination of JFK, 11/22/63. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get in to, but now I’m hooked.

In addition to my BBQ chicken sandwich, I made these adorable little apple pies. Because let’s be honest, everything is cuter in the miniature. And nothing says Happy Memorial Day like apple pie.

Mini Apple Pies
(Inspired by AdventuressHeart.com)

Ingredients:
1 sheet puff pastry
2 apples, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 c sugar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Flour

Makes 16 mini pies

How – To:

1. For the filling: melt butter in a sauce pan and mix together apples, sugars and cinnamon. Let them cook down a bit – I like my apples to a have a little bite to them but if you like a gooier filling, cook them longer.

2. Dust flour on the counter and roll out the puff pastry. It should be thawed but chilled.
3. Spray your muffin tin with Pam (or off-brand .
4. Depending on what types of shapes you want – cut out your dough to fit your muffin tin. I cut a couple of squares to make little apple pouches, but for the pies, I cut circles.

5. Fill with apple filling.
6. Then just play around with different designs. For some I made little lattice toppers, others I covered and cut slits. Use your imagination!
7. Brush the tops with an egg wash and pop those guys in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 mins.

8. Then sit and admire your cute little creations!

Beer BBQ Pulled Chicken

There’s this pesky little rule in Tennessee (maybe just Knoxville? Not sure) that you aren’t allowed to have a grill on apartment patios. Obviously when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Lots of apartments, wooden balconies, one lose spark – I get it. But on holiday weekends it’s practically un-American to not have BBQ.

So what’s an apartment-living girl to do? Use her crockpot!

And nothing goes better with BBQ than beer so this is  double whammy.

Beer BBQ Pulled Chicken
(Adapted from How Sweet Eats)

3 skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz beer (I used Sam Adams Summer Ale)
16 oz BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

How – To:

1. Nice thing about a crock pot? No need to defrost the chicken! Just pop those guys right in. Cover them in the spices.

2. Pour in beer and add the BBQ sauce.

3. I turned my crockpot on high and let it work for about two hours and then set it to low the for the next three. But in general it’s about 4 hours on high, 8 hours on low.

4. Shred up the chicken and put it back in the sauce and let it soak up for 15-20 minutes.

5. Put a big ole’ pile on a soft bun and if you’re like me – add even more BBQ sauce.

6. Pair with your BBQ side, corn for me, and ENJOY!

Warm Nights

Memorial Day weekend is always the true kicking off point for summer. Pools open, schools out (I guess forever now…still haven’t evaluated my feelings on this…) the evenings are warm and humid and it’s not too unbearable to sit outside and eat dinner.

It’s supposed to reach mid 90s this weekend here in Knoxville and even tonight it was too hot in my kitchen for much cooking. I was starving and wanted something quick so I grilled up some little shrimpies with lime juice and cilantro from my herb garden and tossed a together some corn, more cilantro, lime and a banana pepper from my “garden.”

Fresh, easy and yum!

I sat out on my patio with my new Southern Living that arrived today (it’s so exciting when I open my mail box to find something other than junk mail or bills).

I feel like a total weirdo for admitting this but it makes my day to see how much my herbs and vegetables are growing. I get so excited everyday to check out how the little guys are doing (well maybe every other…sometimes I neglect my little babies). Today there is a worm/caterpillar thing living in one my banana peppers! I was so sad – what’s he doing in there?

I’ve got my citronella candle burning bright to keep the bugs away but I guess that doesn’t work on caterpillars…

With summer almost here I’m prepping my summer to-do list! Do you have any big goals or plans this summer?

 

Billions of Biscuits

Well no, not billions. But I liked the alliteration.

Saturday was the International Biscuit Festival in Downtown Knoxville. Let me tell you it was pretty much heaven. Dozens of stalls hawking their best biscuits. For just 5 bucks you got to sample 5 biscuits. At first I was thinking, hmmm I’m going to need to get another ticket – 5 biscuits, pshh, that’s nothing. Boy was I wrong.

Biscuit Fest was a popular place to be and some of the lines were crazy long. I decided it’d be best to stroll along and check out what everyone as offering before I committed. There were so many to choose from! From your traditional biscuit with preserves to chocolate biscuits.

I started off with a traditional biscuit with homemade preserves from Nashville’s Loveless Cafe. To me preserves are just a fancy way of saying jelly and when it comes to jelly I can take it or leave it. So I dotted half of my biscuit with strawberry preserves and began walking away. Well. The second that strawberry hit my tongue I did a big 180 and piled a large spoonful (or two) on both sides. It was simple and sweet and fresh and mouthwatering. Mmmm.

Next up was Tupelo Honey. The line was loooong but the Asheville based restaurant is supposed to be fantastic and it’s opening up in Market Square this year so I wanted to try. The biscuit itself was probably the best of the day – it was the perfect combination of soft but crunchy on the outside. The inside was filled with pimento cheese and ham. Now I do not understand what the connection between the South and pimento cheese is, but it kind of weirds me out. But it worked and the whole thing was pretty darn good.

As we moved down the street I came across these garlic-y beauties.

Asiago biscuit with garlic butter, basil and tomato from Dazzo’s. Wooooow. Light, buttery, garlic-y perfection.

Now as I was on my last two biscuits I hit a small problem: keep going with the savory or use the last two on the sweet options. There was a cinnamon crunch, a chocolate espresso, a chocolate filled biscuit – but there was also a biscuit florentine with spinach, gravy, egg and ham that was calling my name. So I listened to it.

The biscuit florentine from Applewood Farmhouse was good but by that point I was getting seriously full.

And finally I knew the sweet biscuit I would round out my morning with: Bella Luna’s chocolate espresso biscuit with orange marmalade.

So. Freaking. Good. More doughnut than biscuit but who cares!

By this point I could barely breathe I was so full, so I walked around, listened to some music and took in the crowds (including a very festive woman!).  As for the best of the bunch? It may have been the least traditional but I can’t stop thinking about that asiago biscuit, it got my vote. But I did buy some of those strawberry preserves and plan cooking up some traditional biscuits to top them with…can’t wait.

Back, back, back again

Whoooo…what a month. And it’s not even over. I keep meaning to get back to this blog, but when I come home it’s enough of a struggle to pop a Lean Cuisine in the microwave, let alone write. But alas, I miss it.

Here’s a glimpse at some things that have made me a happy this month:

 

Image{Bruschetta with fresh basil from my little herb garden}

Image

{Titanic was re-released – I saw it twice!}

Image

{Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville}

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{Hiking to a waterfall in the Smokies}

 

 

Stunning Views

Of course it’s just my luck that the day after I decide to start blogging again my computer has another major freak out and has to be sent away for a month. But all is well and I am now the proud owner of a pretty silver MacBook Pro. I mean it’s sooo pretty. I love it.

I can’t believe I’ve been here in Knoxville just over a month. Part of me feels like I’ve been here forever and then the other part still can’t believe I have a job and an apartment and a new life It really is crazy!

My sisters came for a visit the other weekend and we took advantage of the incredible weather and went for a hike in the Smoky Mountains.

 
The views were amazing. We went to the highest point in the park. Clingman’s Dome. It was this strange concrete structure smack dab in the mountains, but the views were breathtaking.
We hiked down part of the Appalachian Trail and got a little crafty with our photo taking.
You may be thinking, wait, there’s three of you and you’re alone in the woods, how’d you do that? Well…
Ta-da! Thank you hair tie! I’m not going to lie to you, it took us several attempts to get the picture where there wasn’t a huge branch taking up the photo. But we succeeded! It was so amazing having my sisters around, they’re my best friends and sadly it’s rare that we’re all together in one place these days!

Hello Again!

Well hi there.

Miss me?

I missed you.

The past couple months have been a whirlwind.  I graduated from USC. I drove cross-country. I got a dream job. I moved to Knoxville.

And in between all those crazy milestones I had a lot of fun.

 

Now here I am in my new apartment, in a new city, with a new job. I’d say it’s a pretty good time to start blogging again. Every day I learn something new – how to use a drill, how to choose a color scheme for the bathroom (waaaay harder than one would think), how to chop celery with a butter knife, and of course how to navigate a new newsroom.

December, January and February were a blur of cover letters, follow-up emails and lots and lots of phone calls. But all that hard work (and that great Annenberg education) paid off. I landed a reporting job at WATE 6 News. I couldn’t have been more excited when I got the offer. I actually think I really freaked out the contractor that was doing work in the basement as I ran screaming through the house. But oh well.

That phone call was just a little over three weeks ago. It’s incredible to think that I tweeted this on February 1.

The move was hectic. Mom and I packed it all up and drove the 7 1/2 hours to my new apartment. It’s huge. I still can’t get over the difference of what my money will buy here verses LA. A big kitchen (lots of recipes to try), a room for my scrapbooking and crafts (I’ve already got some fun things to share) and closet space that can house my crazy amount of shoes.

So here I am. On a brand new adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you. Get excited, because I’m back!

Apple Crisp

The perfect apple crisp is simple. Sugar, flour, cinnamon, apples and butter.

5 ingredients, 1 delicious dessert.

So with a simple recipe, I’ll go with a simple post – pictures and directions – no need to jumble it with my ramblings. Just bake and enjoy.

Apple Crisp
Ingredients:

  •  3 cups sliced apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup water
How-To:
You’ll need 3-4 apples depending on their size. Cut them into thin slices. I leave the skin on because I think it adds texture as well as some color but if you aren’t a skin fan go ahead and peel them.
Lay them in a 8×8 pan. You can make it pretty but it’s going to get covered with crumbly goodness in a little so there’s no need. As long as there are even layers then you’re all good. How  many layers? Well enough so you would have big bite of apples and enough so that you can’t see the bottom of the pan.
In a bowl cream the butter and the sugar. You want it to still be crumbly so if you’re using an electric mixer don’t over mix.
Add the flour. Keep mixing. Feel free to sneak some bites of the pieces that fly out of the bowl…they’re very yummy.
Drizzle the water over the apples in the pan (this will create some steaming action in the oven) and then sprinkle with cinnamon.
Top it all off with your crumble mixture. Cover all the apples…because who wants to eat just a baked apple? Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Take it out when it’s golden and perfect.
Ta-da! The perfect apple crisp.
Friendly tip: If you have leftovers  (if you do then you have excellent self-control) don’t cover them with foil. It will become a soggy mess. Keep it on the counter and if you need to, just  lay a paper towel over the top. It won’t go bad. You can then eat it for breakfast the next day. That would be a great way to start the day.

Just Breathe

The stress of school (and the beginning of job hunting) are starting to take their toll. But I made sure that I enjoy a few treats this weekend – including some incredible croissant french toast, a little live music and some quality time with my friends. Yet despite my attempts to enjoy myself, the constant feeling of unfinished work loomed over my head. It’s times like these that I need to remind myself that everything will work out in the end and there’s no use stressing as long as I am trying my best. So here’s to reminding myself – and you if you’re having similar feelings…just breathe.