Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Break 2012

I love my job (so much so I started a new blog about it). But I do struggle mightily with work/life balance.  Part of it's the nature of my industry. There's just no down time when you're a journalist.  I used to joke that the only "vacation" time I took during my first few years in radio was a week or two to push out a baby. Seriously... when I was in labor with Olivia my news director called the hospital to ask about a script for a story.  I finally got him off the phone with the lame excuse that the doctor had just walked in and I "need to push now!". 

In recent years we've gotten better about taking time to kick back and relax as a family; but we've never taken a Spring Break trip.  Faced with the reality that this might be our last chance (Miranda heads off to college in 2013), we dug out the swimsuits, packed the cars with a bunch of friends and headed to the beach last week. 

It was a much-needed Necessary Pleasure!  

We stayed in a fabulous house in San Destin. It was equal parts Desperate Housewives (white picket fences, brightly colored houses with expansive porches) and Friends. 

Yes... a house full of tween & teen girls!

Our resident photographer, Miranda
Jerry (of fame) and our honorary munchkin

J & I ... can you tell we're enjoying ourselves? 

We played mini-golf...

and Bumper Boats (note to self: white shirt not a great idea for water sports unless you're 19 and it's Daytona Beach)

and generally goofed around all week.

What the heck?!?
We also ate some really good food, including Hannah's legendary Homemade Mac 'n Cheese and Jerry's feast of soft shelled crab and shrimp alfredo (hope to have a recipe for you soon).

I also managed to read a really good book about polygamy and the LDS church.  A whole book. In one week. Without a call from a needy editor or a stressed staff.


Sweet Home Alabama

Want to get a little exercise and learn a little more about Alabama?   Twenty-five towns, including Birmingham, Gadsden, Montgomery and Selma, will be offering walking tours in April to show off their historic areas and courthouse squares.   A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours, which start at 10 a.m. on April 7, 14, 21, and 28.

Tour coordinator Brian Jones of the Alabama Tourism Department says Alabama is the only state with statewide, simultaneous walking tours. The program started nine years ago and keeps growing each year.

If walking's not your thing, check out all the other possibilities on the Alabama Tourism website.  There's some really cool stuff in there! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tastiest Town in the South

What's the “Tastiest Town in the South”

There are so many options. Beignets in New Orleans.  Barbecue in Birmingham. Bourbon in Kentucky.... 

After our trip to Charleston last year we'd have to give that city a nod for its great Thai food and delicious Shrimp and Grits.    But we're just a sample size of one (channeling my researcher husband here, though he'd say something really geeky like "It's not statistically significant because our N is only 1").  

Southern Living Magazine is backed up by an N of more than 500,000 when it declares "The Tastiest Town in the South" in its latest issue

Hot off the iron skillet presses: Lafayette, Louisiana, is the "Tastiest Town in the South". 

How They Determined That?  Southern Living editors chose the "Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South” based on the following criteria:

Food as a culturalidentity: The unique food or ethnicity that defines a particular Southern region
Growth of a culinary-minded community: The influence that the culinary industry has on the local community and tourism
Diverse cuisine at a variety of price points: Accessibility to hearty, flavorful meals at any budget
Local, sustainable food practices: The focus on sourcing products from local purveyors to geographically define where each meal comes from
Hot chefs on the rise: The influence of the area’s culinary talent in the media and pop culture.
Abundance of buzz-worthy food events: The number of festivals in the area that celebrate all things food and drink

Their choices (published in the December issue) were: 

Lafayette, LA:                      Cayenne-spiked Acadiana
Baltimore, MD:                    Harboring Chesapeake flavor
Birmingham, AL:                Refined Southern comfort
Charleston, SC:                  A homegrown heirloom revival
Charlottesville, VA:            Toasting Jefferson’s Legacy
Decatur, GA:                        A suburb made from scratch
Houston, TX:                       A distinct ethnic twang
Louisville, KY:                     A bourbon-soaked renaissance
New Orleans, LA:               A gumbo of beloved excess
Raleigh, NC:                        Where farm fresh never expires

The magazine then let consumers decide the winner.  Sort of an American Idol of Food. More than a half-million votes were cast. 

Here's a clip from today's press release announcing Lafayette's top spot: 

In this month’s issue (avail 3/23), the magazine looks at the tastemakers, chefs, artisans and restaurants that give each food destination its distinct local flavor.  The magazine outlines “the perfect eating day” in each city, and includes recipes created by the Southern Living Test Kitchen thatfeature iconic ingredients from each of the 10 winning cities—from andouille-stuffed pork chops to “Jefferson” Virginia ham pasta.  
“Southern Living veered way off the hot sauce and barbecue trail to get at the deeper story of who and what is shaping the South’s incredibly rich, diverse and delicious culinary landscape,” said editor Lindsay Bierman. “We’re pleased to highlight the South’s vibrant food scene in each and every town we profile.”
“Lafayette’s distinct culinary identity as the capital of Cajun country, its spicy, sausage-laden roots, and a new generation of locals devoted to preserving their heritage while putting a fresh spin on tradition have made it an incredibly satisfying place to eat,” writes Senior Editor Paula Disbrowe in Southern Living.
 While our homebase, Birmingham (AL), didn't take top honors, it did get a particular shout out: 
Birmingham is known for its refined Southern comfort, according to Southern Living.
“Little did Frank Stitt know when he was cooking in the south of France in 1978 and falling in love with just harvested vegetables, tapenades and aiolis, that he wouldreturn home from Alabama to change the culinary landscape of the South,” writes Senior Editor Paula Disbrowe. 
“As one of the first chefs to reverently elevate Southern staples with refined French techniques, Frank’s kitchens became incubators for an armada of acolytes who continue to keep Birmingham bellies full of buttery grits and joie de vivre,” reports Southern Living.

Want to visit your own favorite Tastiest Town?  You've got until Monday, April 30th, to enter for a chance to win a $2,500 trip to Tasty Town of your choice.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

NPR. It's a Necessary Pleasure...

Did you know Anthony Hopkins writes music? He talked all about it with 'Weekend Edition Saturday’s' Scott Simon and showed some love for NPR. (Photo by Melissa Kuypers/NPR).

Geek out on some more NPR <3 here.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Celebrate Girl Scouts' 100th Anniversary with Cookie Recipes

photo credit: Tovia Smith/NPR

Look at those faces. Aren't they adorable?!  

It's cookies season for the Girl Scouts and girls are out in force hawking Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs and more.   But Girl Scouts is about a whole lot more than baked goods, as this story from NPR's Tovia Smith explains.

We're a Girl Scout house. Miranda was a scout for several years, Hannah's been one since kindergarten and Olivia has racked up 8 years so far and swears she's Going for the Gold (and the college scholarships that come with it!).  

We've got nearly 500 boxes of cookies in our living room right now (down from the 2,000 we did have!) .... and lots of ways to use them.  Um, let's see: 

  1. Straight out of the box one Thin Mint sleeve at a time!
  2. Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding (with Trefoils) 
  3. Bourbon Samoa Bars (bourbon. need I say more?)
  4. Thin Mint Chocolate Cheesecake
And that's just a sample. Check the links for even more recipes.

Need some cookies to do your recipe sampling?  There's an app for that.  And if you're local, Olivia and Hannah's troops are sponsoring a cookie booth tomorrow (3/10) from 10 a.m. to ?? at the Hoover WalMart on 150. Come out, say "Hi!" and get your sugar on... 

I Want So Badly To Love This Recipe.....

Ale-Braised Cabbage with Leeks 

It looks gorgeous, doesn't it?!? Here's the recipe from Vegetarian Times:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium leeks, white portions sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
2 cups pale or white ale, such as Blue Moon
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

Sounds delicious, doesn't it?!?

Veg Times describes it thusly: "This classic British side dish is given gastropub treatment by using red cabbage and delicate leeks, rather than green cabbage and yellow onions."

But I had green cabbage and a Vidalia onion that needed used up, so I figured, why not?  And despite the 9,000 bottles of high gravity beer in our fridge, we didn't have a suitable pale ale so we stopped by the store to grab some of this (read the reviews ... they're pretty funny!)

Supplies in hand, we started cooking.

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet or dutch oven.
2. Add onions and garlic, sprinkle with salt.
3. Saute 1 minute, then add cabbage and cook 15 minutes until it begins to brown. (stir frequently, btw)
4. Add ale and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes or until most of the ale has evaporated.
6. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and dill.
7. Salt and pepper as desired.


I don't know if it was the beer we used or the recipe itself, but even I couldn't choke this stuff down.   Ended up eating a bowl of Raisin Bran instead.

End of story.

(Okay, one quick P.S. to this story. If you've got a thyroid problem or suspect you might have one you'll want to avoid eating a lot of cabbage.  It inhibits thyroid hormone production. So do several otherwise healthy foods...)