Tuesday, June 28, 2011

down... but not out

Did you even notice my absence?
    This past four days was rough for a food fanatic like me. I was struck down by a vicious stomach bug. I was even forced to pass off the meal preparations for our church's Deacon Retreat to my trusted friend and able-bodied assistant, Bob... Yay, Bob! You were a life-saver!
     Two days of nothing but sips of lime green Gatorade, followed by a day of more Gatorade, a few spoonfuls of rice, a little broth. I won't freak you out by sharing other details...
     Feeling slightly better, I attempted to eat something on Sunday evening. Three bites of a hamburger made with grass-fed beef... that was all I could manage. And more Gatorade.
     Monday morning, I nibbled at some raisin toast and drank a cup of heavenly Savannah Grey tea, from the Tea Room. Today, I had my usual whole wheat English muffin with red plum jam and a cup of espresso... maybe a little too soon:(
     I really think that those who endure this type of torture should be rewarded for their suffering... maybe by losing fifteen pounds. Or something... anything!
      I am still finding my way back to my formerly food-obsessed self. It may take awhile.
 I have begun to rethink my dream of being on Survivor.

critic's corner: savannah restaurant week is here again

     It is time for the summer edition of Savannah Restaurant Week.  From Friday, July 29 – Sunday, August 7, each participating upscale restaurant will offer a spectacular 3-course, prix fixe dinner menu for only $30 per person (not including tax and gratuity).
     Click here to see what it is all about. The website is simple for everyone to navigate. There is a page that even explains how to participate. This is a great opportunity to try out a place you've been wanting to try. 
     It is also a budget-friendly way to visit an establishment above your usual dining-out price range, with a guaranteed price you can plan ahead for.
So far, these are your choices:

Alligator Soul

Aqua Star

Belford’s

Chart House

Corleone’s Trattoria

Kao Thai Noodles & Rice

17 Hundred 90 Inn and Restaurant

Sugar Daddy’s Wine & Food Bar

River House Seafood Restaurant

Rocks on the River

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Vic’s On the River 

I will tell you though that Rocks on the River and Sugar Daddy's are among my least faves...

     Reservations are recommended for this special offer. You can view the 3 course offerings by clicking on the website and visiting the menu page for each establishment. 

Happy dining!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

french toast monte cristo

     When we were planning the Starfish Reunion brunch menu, my daughter Kayla requested French Toast Monte Cristo sandwiches... I think she would eat this for every meal, if possible. They were a big hit with the bridal party and so simple to make.
Ingredients
French Toast:
Egg bread or thick sliced Italian bread
2 eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup lowfat milk
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 t. vanilla extract
Blend eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Dip bread in mixture to coat. Saute until golden brown on both sides. Two slices needed for each sandwich. 
Filling for each sandwich... increase as needed:
2 thin slices of ham
2 thin slices of turkey
1 slice, Swiss cheese
2 pieces of turkey bacon, cooked
Place filling ingredients between 2 slices of bread and toast in a panini press or cook on griddle or even the non-stick pan used to make the French Toast. Remove from pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Melt 1/4 c. of strawberry jelly in microwave. 
Dip sandwich in jelly and devour!

Monday, June 20, 2011

let's review: the tea room

     After her particularly stressful doctor's visit, I took my mother-in-law to The Tea Room for the first time. One of my favorite Savannah spots, it is located downtown on Broughton Street.  
     Lita, as my girls call her, has recently moved to the Savannah area from Florida. My daughter Hannah, who had never been to this particular tea room, accompanied us.
     As we entered the lobby area, I spotted a few of my homeschool mom friends. It was such a delight to see them. Since my youngest child is now in college, my time with these ladies has been few and far between. They asked if my visit would appear in the critic's corner... but of course;)
     We were escorted to the library... it is cozy anytime, but never more so than in cold winter months. The centerpiece of the room is a lovely fireplace flanked by a pair of wing chairs. It looks like it could be a friend's parlor, and you never want to leave.
     The lunch tea is served with your own personal pot of tea. My mother-in-law couldn't get over that fact... she thought we three had to agree on one flavor. Heaven forbid... a tea selection is very personal!
     I chose the Savannah Grey: A superior China black tea with long silvery tips. Bergamot (a Mediterranean citrus) and lavender are added to this beautiful tea for optimum taste. Cornflower and safflower petals are added to enhance your visual pleasure. It was heavenly!
     Hannah chose Vanilla Jasmine: This aromatic and complex special evening tea results from marrying green and black tea with fine jasmine petals, vanilla extract, and spices.
     Lita chose the Valentine Tea: Strawberries, red raspberries, red currants, cinnamon, cloves & cornflower petals are added to a blend of two Indian teas.
      A cup of the soup du jour arrived just after the tea was poured. It was creamy, chilled cucumber. I was a little skeptical about the offering, but gave it a try anyway. Yum... I've changed my mind about chilled cucumber. It was cool and flavorful... great for a hot, summer day. I really need to learn how to make it!
      My lunch recommendation to people who have never visited the Tea Room is the Chicken Salad Sandwich. You really can't go wrong with this selection. The chicken has been gently poached in lapsang-souchong tea, which gives it a distinctive smoky flavor. It is served with a mixed green salad. That's what Hannah and Lita ordered. They gobbled up every tasty morsel!
      I nearly ordered it myself, until I spotted the Tuna Tartare at the bottom of the menu. Hmm, this is new to me! It's a little round of chopped ahi tuna on a bed of spinach. A salad of jicama, red onion and grape tomatoes sat on the side and three large crostini.
     David, our knowledgeable and attentive server did not recommend the balsamic reduction that comes on this dish. I asked if it could be served on the side. I was grateful for his expertise and after tasting it, glad I heeded his warning.
     The tuna was light and delicate. It would have been overpowered by the balsamic. I squeezed the lemon slices over it instead... perfect! I drizzled a tiny bit of dressing over the spinach greens... very flavorful! The jicama was crunchy and grape tomatoes, sweet and ripe.
     I may have a new favorite dish. I at least need to go back while they still have the tuna. The menu is ever-changing and very creative. I have never had anything I didn't love.
     We enjoyed sweets after lunch. Almond cake, shortbread, a miniature scone with Devonshire cream and jam. I was full, but not stuffed. The tuna was a perfect sized lunch. With the addition of a pot and a half of Savannah Grey tea, soup, salad and dessert, who could ask for more?
 Well, maybe a little nap in one of those large wing chairs... just wake me in thirty.
Tea Room on Urbanspoon

billy goat scrub: gentle facial from the kitchen

     Here is a great facial scrub from Ginger Garrett's book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible. This is a great little book. My friend, Gail told me about it.
     BSFTB gives some insight into our commercial cosmetics industry and educates you on specific ingredients to look out for when purchasing skin care. Ms. Garrett cites references of skin care from the Biblical accounts of Ruth and Queen Esther. One of the things she recommends is moisturizing with organic olive oil instead of using petroleum based products.
     I use this facial scrub at least once a week. It gently removes dead skin. You won't believe how soft your skin feels after you use this. The reason for using goat's milk is the high fat content, which your skin needs. You could use powdered cow's milk, but most are fat free.
     I found the powdered goat's milk at our local health food store. Be sure to use organic oats so there won't be any pesticides to harm your skin.
Ingredients
1 c. organic oats
1 c. powdered goat's milk
Directions
Place oats in food processor and give it a whirl. Add powdered goats' milk and run for a few seconds until finely ground. Store in an airtight container.
To use:
Place a tablespoon or two in the palm of your hand. Dribble a little warm water on it and mix into a paste. Spread over face and scrub in a circular motion. Let it stay on your face for a couple of minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Follow with moisturizer.
 You look mahvelous!

Friday, June 17, 2011

liberte', egalite', draperie

     Have you ever admired drapery fabric in a decorating magazine, only to find that the cost per yard is in the neighborhood of your monthly mortgage payment? I too am a victim of drapery envy. I found a photo of a living room in the now defunct Cottage Living. It called out to me...
cottage living: toile drapes
     It was similar to the sitting area in my dining room. Even though the walls were a different color, and it was a living room, the designer had brought the picture in my mind's eye to reality! There was a ticking striped sofa in brown and cream (I'm still working on that part.) Bamboo shades flanked by long, brown and cream toile panels covered the windows. I searched the resources page to find the fabric pattern and name. Whew! Designer fabric can be pricey.
     One day, while shopping, I spotted a tablecloth of similar fabric on the clearance aisle. I brought it home and threw it on the table to get a look at it. It looked dull, boring and almost sad.
     I then remembered the magazine article! With the help of some push pens, I tacked it up to see what it looked like as a curtain. It looked marvelous!!! I raced back to the store to grab the other one. 
 I liberated them from a life of horizontal, food stained suffering. Just look how happy they are! 
     Since the window is flanked by two large built-in bookcases I couldn't attach drapery hardware. I went to Walmart and bought a shower tension rod in bronze. I already had matching oversized rings.
     Two dark stained, bamboo shades were found in the clearance bin at Home Depot. They were either getting rid of that size or color. Instead of purchasing one large one, we now have two smaller ones that raise and lower independently of each other and weigh less as well.
Total cost for a fabulous look: $43.00 
     I did something similar in my bathroom. I got the decorating idea from my friend, Chelsea... a deep, olive green bathroom with black and white toile accents. The look would be perfect for my guest bath.
      I looked around for a toile shower curtain. Being skeptical of using a real curtain that need to be dry cleaned, I searched for something washable. I eventually found an appropriately sized tablecloth. It only needed shortening and holes for the rings. My mom did the alterations for me. 
     Both sheets and tablecloths are great for projects needing wide width. I found a pair of king-sized, sateen, designer sheets for three dollars each at a mill store, sewed them up on three sides, like a giant pillowcase and made a duvet cover for the guest bed. I especially like the fact that there are no seams or fabric repeats to match and the entire thing can be thrown into the washer.
     So, when you are out and about, keep your eye on things that can be repurposed... used for something other than their original intended job. You will end up with both extra money and fabulous design!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

urbanspoon rocks!

brunch at soho south
     My friends and fam are getting tired of me photographing food everywhere we go. People who don't know me very well think it strange that I ask to shoot their dish before they dive in. I'm always very polite about it!
the food maven Savannah restaurants
Maybe complete strangers will appreciate my efforts...
      I am trying to link the restaurant reviews on my blog to urbanspoon.com. I am so very tech-challenged though that it has become, well, a challenge! Imagine that! When and if I succeed, anyone who logs onto the website will be able to see it.
miss hannah at back in the day bakery
     I got an email from urbanspoon, asking me to mention them in a post, in order to verify that I am indeed the food maven. Maven, indeed... snort.
decadent blue cheese fries at crystal beer parlor
     Their website is handy for finding wonderful places to eat anywhere in the country... also in the UK and Canada. If you've never looked them up, try it:)
     You'll find reader reviews, blog reviews, address and phone number, prices, menus and maps. I've used this site in many cities and towns throughout the USA.
     I was in Orlando last week and received a tip on a great ceviche place. Armed with only a name, I checked it out on urbanspoon, finding everything I needed to know.
creme brulee at lulu's chocolate bar




If you're a foodie and a bit of a fanatic like me, they might just be your new best friend!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

flora vs. fauna

 ... and fauna is currently winning:(
    I desperately want to plant a garden. If you've read my earlier post about my grandfather, then you will assume that the 'green' genes are in there somewhere. Okay, I know that was really corny;)
     My herb garden is always thriving. You probably noticed the abundance of lemon thyme in recent recipes. Attempts at growing tomatoes have been abysmal. To top it all off, the bugs around here closely resemble the ones mentioned in the Biblical plagues of Ancient Egypt.
     Several types of biting flies and vicious sandgnats are intimidating me, but after living here for ten years, I'm becoming slightly used to them. So, it is with spade in hand that I optimistically set forth to conquer the land! I have decided to brave the bugginess of the great outdoors.
     I bought the square foot gardening book and an organic gardening book, organized by season.
I have spent countless hours studying the best possible place for a garden. Lots of sun, no shade. Then I set about marking off the area.
     Next, I took quite a bit of time convincing my husband to help... like building the raised bed boxes and finding the ingredients for a perfect soil mix. He isn't at all excited... especially when I mentioned fencing the entire thing. But there is reasoning behind my reason... a method to my madness.
      We live on an acre and three quarters of land. There are deer. Lots and lots of deer. They have already eaten all of the little baby peaches on my poor, little Charlie Brown peach tree. I have caught them nibbling at the tart, green pears.
     We have squirrels. And we have cute little, fluffy bunnies... Quite a few have been chased away by Annie and Sophie. I'm sure the bunnies are distantly related to that mischievous Peter Rabbit. They must have heard about my plan for carrots and lettuces.
 Henry and Little Kitty are pretending not to notice the four new litter boxes in the yard...
Stay tuned... I'm not giving up so easily. I watch Survivor. Their motto is: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

Friday, June 10, 2011

let's review: bella's italian cafe

     This review is a little different than others. We ate at Bella's on Habersham Friday night as a party of around fifty... a wedding rehearsal dinner. With a large group, many things can go wrong... at other places. Not at Bella Italian Cafe. When we arrived, we picked up place cards bearing our name and entree choice... ingenious!
     When we received the invitation, we were given a choice of entrees. I chose Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken and mushrooms. Chris ordered Eggplant Parmesan and Kayla chose Bella's spaghetti and meatballs. The fourth choice was Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage. We were served drinks, bread and salads in a relaxed but timely manner. Our entrees arrived piping hot and delicious.
     Chris' eggplant was a tall layered affair covered in marinara. It resembled a lasagna with eggplant instead of pasta, similar to a Greek moussaka. The chicken in my dish was tender and juicy, the sauce light. Kayla enjoyed her dinner, pronouncing it almost as good as my meatballs.
     For dessert, Cannoli, Tiramisu or Cheesecake... take your pick. They all were good. We were so full that I took one of my cannolis home and ate it for breakfast before anyone remembered it existed. Yes, I AM territorial and a little greedy when it comes to certain things.
     Last time I ate at Bella's I ordered the Florentine Steak. It was served with garlic olive oil and lemon drizzled over the sizzling steak. Oh, my goodness... I have no words to describe it! The steak came with a side of ziti marinara, portobello mushroom, and green beans. 
     That was quite a while ago. I'm going to have to get back there soon to order that steak... I can hear it calling my name.

Bella's Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Whole Wheat Pancakes

     Awhile back, my sis and fam traveled from Florida to Georgia for the weekend. We usually round out our visit with a big ole family breakfast before they depart for points south.
     I made whole wheat pancakes, turkey bacon, maple sausage links, crispy hash browns with onion, eggs three ways: omelet with spinach, Swiss, onion and red bell pepper; plain old scrambled with cheese, and fried over medium.
     We drank lots of coffee, some espresso and of course, Florida orange juice. Mini cheese danish and tiny little cinnamon rolls ended the meal with sweetness.
     The recipe that follows is my favorite for pancakes. Some will recognize its origin. It is from the Bread Beckers, a company in Woodstock, Georgia that sells grain for milling and breadmaking supplies. I have been making these for years and have never found a recipe that comes close.
     These pancakes are healthy as well as delicious. They are not wimpy, white flour pancakes... they kick the white-flour pancake's behind. You will be happy and content until lunchtime since whole wheat flour still retains vitamins stripped from 'refined' white flour.
Ingredients:
3 c. freshly milled whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda*
2 ½  tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. oil
4 eggs
4 c. buttermilk
*To use sweet milk instead of buttermilk, omit soda and increase baking powder to 4 tsp.
Directions:
Mix together dry ingredients. Add liquids. Stir until just mixed.
Fry on hot oiled griddle or in non-stick skillet. Pour onto griddle. When bubbles form on surface of pancake and begin to pop, it is time to turn pancake over.
Serve with butter and syrup or top plain pancakes with fruit. My girls' favorite thing is sprinkling fruit or other things into the pancakes before flipping. Some ideas are blueberries, cooked, diced apples, chocolate chips or pecans.

Monday, June 6, 2011

porcupine meatballs... where's the beef FROM?

     When did buying meat become so scary? When reading books or articles by John Robbins or Michael Pollan, being a vegetarian looks better and better. What's an omnivore to do?
Feeding grain to cattle has got to be one of the dumbest ideas in the history of western civilization. -John Robbins
      When I was growing up, hamburger meat was a staple in our house. My mom's go-to recipe book was 21 New Ways to Serve Hamburger, printed by Hunt's Tomato Sauce. She made nearly everything out of a pound of ground beef, an eight ounce can of tomato sauce... and an onion.
    These days, when I go to the food store to buy meat for The Fam, I am on the lookout for affordable, grass-fed or organic beef. Yes, I know... saying organic with affordable is an oxymoron. 
     Last time I was in Publix, I bought a pound of grass-fed beef from nearby White Oak Pastures and it cost me around six dollars and change. At our local Farmers' Market, the price per pound is a bit cheaper if you buy more than one. 
     Here's a simple recipe for porcupine meatballs, adapted from said book. It was one of my most favorite meals when I was a kid. (They remind me of Mrs. Tiggy-winkle by Beatrice Potter, one of the very best children's books, ever.)
     I've added a bit of fresh spinach to sneak in an extra serving of veggies. You could also substitute 1 cup grated zucchini.
Ingredients
meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup raw rice, washed and drained
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 c. chopped, fresh spinach leaves
2 T. finely minced, fresh Italian parsley
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
sauce:
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 c. stock, chicken or beef
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Directions
In a small, non-stick skillet, saute onion and garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil for a couple of minutes to soften. Add spinach and saute until wilted.
In a large bowl, blend meat, rice, cooked veggies and remaining ingredients. Form into balls. Bake in oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Place in skillet and add tomato sauce, stock and Worcestershire sauce. Season with more pepper if desired. Simmer for 45 minutes in a covered pan. Check for seasonings and texture of rice. Simmer a few minutes longer, if rice isn't tender . Serve with a salad or steamed veggies.
Mrs. Tiggywinkle