Mom’s Visit to Atlanta

mom and me

Blue shirts, blue house. We take matching seriously in this family.

This past weekend was one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating weekends I’ve had in a long time.  We had a busy summer full of weddings and a family vacation, and even now that we’re traveling less, we’ve still been very busy lately getting settled into our home.  My Mom paid us a visit, arriving last Friday and staying through the weekend…our first overnight house guest!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch...thanks Mom & Dad!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch…thanks Mom & Dad!

It was nice not to have a set “agenda” for the weekend.  Back when Drew’s or my parents would come to visit when we were still living in the apartment, we would try to pack our schedule with lots of things to see and do, just so we wouldn’t be all crammed in a small space.  Now, it’s nice to relax on the front porch, go for a walk around the neighborhood, and cook a delicious dinner…or do nothing at all.  One of my favorite memories of visiting my parents during my college years were the late nights we’d spend curled up on the couch, talking for hours.  Years later, nothing has changed.

Mom love her granddog grandchild

Mom loves her grand-dog grandchild

Shortly after Mom arrived on Friday night, we went to Miller Union for dinner.  I’d been once before for a work dinner, but this was Drew’s and Mom’s first time.  The atmosphere is very lively but classic, and I could definitely see Drew and I going back sometime soon for a date night, or to just sit at the bar and watch the bartenders make cocktails from scratch.  We all enjoyed our dinner but the highlight of the evening was definitely dessert (duh).

Homemade s'mores with cherry cordial ice cream, and chocolate truffle cake with black pepper ice cream.

Black pepper ice cream…sounds strange. Verdict? Surprisingly delicious.

The weather was perfect all weekend long and we spent the majority of Saturday walking around Atlantic Station, and exploring shops on the Westside.  We didn’t even go back to Midtown, our old stomping grounds.  That’s one of my favorite things about Atlanta: there are numerous neighborhoods to explore and each pocket has its own charm and hidden gems.  Even though Miller Union was delicious, the two dinners we cooked at the house were just as tasty.  We made cajun shrimp pasta and toasted Drew’s homemade bread.  Mom picked up a bottle of red wine for us at a wine shop earlier in the day which accompanied the meal perfectly.  Sunday night we grilled veggies, chicken and salmon, and Mom made brownies for dessert.  Drew has definitely become a pro at using the grill!

us cooking

pasta dinner

The weekend ended far too soon, as it always does when you have friends or family visiting.  It was just the quality time I needed until I’m able to see everyone again during Thanksgiving…the holidays will be here before we know it!  And every time I sit in one of our porch rocking chairs (my parents’ housewarming gift to us), I’ll think of them.  Drew’s grandparents and parents will also be visiting in the coming weeks, so we’re looking forward to playing hosts again very soon.

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Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Several weeks ago, I took a trip to Cost Plus World Market, which has quickly become one of my favorite stores to frequent when I’m feeling daring enough to make the journey up to Buckhead, and have some extra money burning a hole in my pocket.  For those of you who have never been, I’d describe it as a combination of Trader Joes and Pier 1.  There is so much to look at; I could easily spend the majority of an afternoon shopping up and down the aisles.  Drew and I did a bit of our Christmas shopping there and I don’t think I’ve ever had to pull him out of a store like that.  I’m able to find spices, sauces and baking ingredients that I can’t pick up at our local Kroger.  They also have a great selection of unique pillows, throws and home décor that I can definitely see us buying once we move into a house.  On my most recent trip I bought coconut milk and yellow curry sauce.  I’d never cooked with them before, but I love Thai food and was determined to try making my own at home.  And after all, I’m supposed to be broadening my culinary horizons, remember?

After finding a recipe online for a butternut squash soup, I adapted it a bit to fit what I had in the pantry and my personal taste preferences.  The soup was cooking in the crockpot all yesterday afternoon and by the time dinner rolled around, I was ready to attack that pot with a giant spoon.  I’d intended to make a big batch and eat it for my lunches at work all this week, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a spoonful before packing it away.  It was absolutely delicious.  I’m pretty proud of this one.  Granted, it’s pretty hard to screw up when you just throw a bunch of ingredients together and let it cook all day, but I’m glad I stepped out of the box and made something completely new to me.  Not sure if Drew would be a fan of this one, even if he is a fan of Thai food; I can just hear him asking, “But where’s the meat?”

It's not the prettiest soup, but I promise it's delicious!

It’s not the prettiest soup, but I promise it’s delicious!

In addition to the soup, I also made another batch of the banana oatmeal raisin “cookies” that I blogged about in this post. This time, however, I just poured the batter into a baking dish and baked it all together like a casserole.  Even though the smells from the soup and casserole weren’t exactly complimentary, the apartment felt warm and cozy, which was very welcoming after a cold morning run with snow flurries.   Now that it’s March, I’m eager for this winter weather to go away and Spring to arrive.  My flip-flops are reading and waiting.

photo 2

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 1 large batch

Ingredients:1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 can coconut milk
1/3 cup yellow curry sauce/paste
4 cups water
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 Tbs. ground ginger

Directions:
Add all ingredients in a large crockpot and stir to combine. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours. You can use and immersion blender if you want a smoother, creamier soup but I liked it a bit thicker. Garnish with crushed peanuts and cilantro, or serve over basmati rice, naan or pita bread.

Cooking My Way Through Pinterest

If you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I have several pinboards dedicated to food and recipes.  If you don’t, you can click the button over to the right to see what I’m talking about.  Since I joined the site almost a year and a half ago, I’ve pinned close to a thousand recipes for everything from fish tacos to homemade Reese’s cups.  In reality, I’ve only actually made a fraction of those recipes.  Like maybe 10 or 12.  Of course it’s easy to go on an online pinning spree and find countless recipes in one sitting.  Going to the store, buying the ingredients and carving out the time to make them all?  Now that’s a different story.

pinterest meme

Drew and I have a list of 5-10 meals that make up our typical dinner rotation.  They’re all tasty, easy to prepare and relatively inexpensive.  We never seem to get tired of them but I’ve been wanting to expand my culinary horizons for a while now.  I don’t need to prepare 5-course, Zagat-rated dinners; our dinners are way too informal for that: using paper napkins and feeding Theo the occasional frequent table scrap while we watch Big Bang Theory re-runs.  Still, it would be fun to consistently be trying new things and throwing in a new dinner or two to change up the same ol’ same ol’.

So, I plan to start trying at least one new recipe, either from Pinterest or one of the countless cookbooks sadly collecting dust on our kitchen shelf, each week.  It shouldn’t be too hard, and it’ll be nice to finally revisit the recipes I pinned or bookmarked way back when–and most likely forgot about.

With that being said, I have two new recipes to share.  One is from Pinterest, the other is a concoction I just kind of came up with in my head.  I say “concoction” because, well, it doesn’t exactly look all that appealing.  But trust me, it is delicious.  I made these banana oatmeal raisin cookies, and although they’re lot chewier than the typical cookie, I wouldn’t really call them a muffin or a biscuit either.  They instantly reminded me of the oatmeal on-the-go cups that my Mom has been making for her and Dad’s breakfasts.  They were quite tasty.  So good in fact that Drew didn’t even get to try a single one.  He may have no even realized, until reading this post, that I’d even made them.

oatmeal breakfast cookies

Lucky for him, he actually got to try the second recipe.  I made these for our dinner this past Sunday night and they’ll definitely be making a repeat appearance at our dinner table.

BBQ Chicken-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 large sweet potatoes
BBQ sauce (I used a hickory flavored one)
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:
Microwave sweet potatoes for 5-8 minutes or until soft. In a large bowl, mix together the shredded chicken and BBQ sauce until it’s completely coated. Cut a slit in the middle of each sweet potato and fill with the chicken mixture. Top with shredded cheese and bake in the oven at 350F for 10-12 minutes or until cheese has melted.

See?  I said they aren't exactly pretty...

See? I said they aren’t exactly pretty…