Archives for June 2009

Bacon Always Comes To The Rescue

Today was just a typical summer day for us – a little swimming, a little errand running, a little resting, a little playing – and I was honestly wondering how in the sam hill I was going to write a blog post tonight considering the deep level of mundane we’ve got going on over here. I mean, would you like to hear about the new sunscreen I bought today at Target? Or the pile of towels I haven’t folded? Or how I can’t seem to get the water out of my ears and keep asking people to repeat things? Or how I pulled out the Windex this morning because our coffee table glass is all smudgy and here it is sixteen hours later and that coffee table has still not seen fit to grab hold of that Windex and CLEAN ITS OWN DADGUM SELF, CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THE NERVE?

But tonight I was flipping between HGTV and Food Network – as I tend to do on all the days that end in “y” – and do you know what show was about to come on Food Network? DO YOU KNOW?

A show called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate – With Bacon.”

(!!!)

It was like I had died and gone to fried pork heaven, y’all.

(And do you know what you do in fried pork heaven? You talk incessantly about bacon. THEN YOU EAT IT.)

I won’t spoil all the delightful bacon-related details in case you haven’t seen the show yet, but I didn’t just watch that show: I talked back to it. I almost shouted “AMEN” one time, but I caught myself and just said “YESSIR” instead. However, I’m pretty sure that if I’d had a handkerchief in my hand I would’ve waved it. And a couple of times the food looked so good that I thought about standing up and stomping my feet in affirmation, but I figured my husband was probably disturbed enough that I was talking back to a TV show about bacon, so I erred on the side of restraint.

Anyway, watching the show made me think about the best thing I’ve ever eaten with bacon, and initially I decided that I’m a purist – someone who likes thick-sliced bacon fried really crispy, the end. But then I remembered the first time I cooked Spicy Barbecued Shrimp – eight or nine years ago, probably – and after I tasted it I thought oh, the bacon TOTALLY transforms the flavor of this dish. To this day it’s one of my favorite recipes, and in light of tonight’s TV show, I thought I’d share it with y’all.

And this is not an original recipe, mind you. It’s from Southern Living, but since I can’t find it on SL’s recipe site anymore, I’ll just type it out here. Because apparently it’s very important to me that we all enjoy the bacon.

Spicy Barbecue Shrimp

1/4 pound bacon, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds unpeeled, medium-size fresh shrimp

Saute’ bacon a large skillet until crisp. Add butter and next 4 ingredients, and cook over medium heat until onion is tender. Stir in lemon juice and shrimp; cook, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Serve with French bread. Makes 3 to 4 main dish servings or 8 appetizer servings.

One amendment to the recipe: after you eat all your shrimp, you really need to sop up the remaining butter and bacon grease and seasoning with your French bread. I just want to encourage you to do that, okay? It’s BACON-INFUSED BUTTER, for crying out loud. There’s just no good reason to be timid. Except for the sake of your cholesterol, of course, but you can worry about that another time.

And by all means, if you have any bacon-related recipes (or lo, even bacon-related memories) that you’d like to share with the class, I think I can speak for all of us and say THE INTERNET WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL.

In fact, if I may paraphrase something that Duff from “Ace of Cakes” said during tonight’s show: it’ll be a “celebacon.”

Why yes. Yes it will be.

And I for one could not be more delighted.

Crystal Light Challenge – Day 20

One thing that I’ve wondered over and over again during this increase-your-water-intake challenge is if I’m on the low end of the norm in terms of water consumption. I feel like I’ve become more aware of how much water the people around me are drinking, and I’ve realized that I have a lot of room for improvement. My sister and my cousin, for example, drink water by default – unless they’re having morning coffee, they don’t really reach for anything other than water throughout the day. As a certifiable diet Coke enthusiast, taking note of their water habits has been a little bit humbling for me.

But I’m getting better. I really am. And I’ve realized that the more water I drink, the more I want. That lets me know that ultimately soda wasn’t quenching my thirst like I thought it was. Water makes my skin and my hair look better, and seeing as how I’m on the back side of my 30s, I need all the help I can get in that regard.

So as I start to phase out of the “official” challenge, there will very much still be a real-life challenge before me: less Diet Coke, more water. Every single day. Crystal Light Campaign or no.

It’s the right thing to do.

Some Thoughts & Some Things

So the reason I asked all the questions about the laundry and the recipes is because I just needed some reassurance about what passes for “normal” in the day-to-day. You know how sometimes you can watch TV or read blogs or whatever and start to feel like you’re the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD who doesn’t have everything together? Well, that’s how I felt yesterday as I watched TV while sitting in a chair that was next to an unpacked suitcase. Which was next to an unmade bed. In a room next to a guest room with a shamefully big pile of unfolded laundry in it. And then I watched “The Next Food Network Star” and was completely intimidated by the way all those people can take five random ingredients and create something spectacular.

As for the silverware question, it was because of something I noticed a couple of weeks ago when I was in my hometown. My mama and my aunt both put silverware in their dishwashers with the handles down. And I don’t. I always put the handles up so that that’s what I touch when I put away the silverware. Somehow that’s always made the most sense to me. But when I noticed that Mama and C. clearly do not adhere to the same handle-up philosophy, I realized that I’vw deviated from family dishwashing tradition. And now I’ve spent the better part of two weeks wondering WHERE, OH WHERE DID I GO WRONG?*

(*Overly dramatic for effect. You’re welcome.)

Anyway. Y’all made me (and a whole bunch of other people) feel much better and much more normal today. For that I am mighty grateful indeed.

And in case you were wondering, I haven’t been caught up on laundry since 2005.

*****

No “Bachelorette” post this week for several reasons (in no particular order: crazy schedule ahead, Ed’s gone, feeling sort of bothered in general about the tone this season has taken, Wes is still there, not wanting to have to dance around the, um, issues that are supposedly in store on the fantasy dates, not really enjoying the recap process when I’m not rooting for anyone and, well, feeling pretty convicted that I need to take a “Bachelor”-related break).

I think that pretty much covers it.

*****

One bit of TV-related news I’ve neglected to mention: did any of y’all watch “Glee” when it premiered after the “American Idol” season finale? I LOVED IT SO MUCH. It wasn’t perfect – there was one plotline I didn’t care for, and I thought some of the characters were a bit stereotypical – but on the whole the show was hilarious and entertaining right out of the gate. The fact that I’ve always been a sucker for a good show choir number probably has something to do with why I immediately loved a TV show about, well, a fledgling show choir.

Anyway, I’ve watched this “Glee” clip about four times today, so I figure that it’s only fair to provide you with an opportunity to play catch-up.

OH, THE HAPPY.

Y’all have a great Tuesday!

How Do You Do The Things That You Do?

I spent a substantial portion of yesterday afternoon watching a combination of HGTV and Food Network, and for reasons completely unknown to me, looking at all those different houses and kitchens made me think about the way I do certain things in my house. You know, things like how I slice an onion or how I stack my dishes or how I fold my fitted sheets or how I don’t wash my windows, well, EVER.

Never underestimate the power of home- and/or cooking-related television programming to inspire a serious bout of housekeeping inferiority, my friends. Beats anything I’ve ever seen.

And honestly, I don’t really feel that inferior. But I do think that I may do a few household-related things in a way that’s more complicated than necessary OR that’s just flat-out different from the norm.

So, as part of a deeply informal and completely unscientific surveying process, I have a few random questions for you, the people of the interweb.

1) How many days a week are you completely caught up on laundry?

2) When you load your dishwasher, do you load the silverware basket with handles down or handles up?

3) FINALLY – can you make up recipes off the top of your head? Or do you have to follow a recipe somebody else has written?

Clearly THE FATE OF THE FREE WORLD hinges on your answers.

So, you know, NO PRESSURE.

My crazy and I will be anxiously awaiting your responses.

In Which I Change My Mind

Last September I completely went against my beloved Southern heritage and took an uncharacteristically strong-ish stand against the state of Southern Living magazine, and truth be told I felt a little guilty about taking SL to task. I have loved that magazine since I was about twelve years old, and in retrospect I think that I may have let my emotions get the better of me. SHOCKING, I know. Honestly, though, I was sort of surprised by how strongly I felt about the SL issues at hand (punny lameness, AGAIN – I do apologize). I mean, I’m not usually terribly forceful with my opinions unless I’m saying something along the lines of HEY, BLOG PEOPLE, YOU REALLY NEED TO BE EATING MORE BACON.

Anyway, after I posted about SL last year, one of the SL staff members and I had a really interesting (and very congenial) behind-the-scenes discussion, and she assured me that there were great things ahead for the magazine. So I held on to hope, and earlier this year I did what I’d told her I would do and picked up a copy of Southern Living in a bookstore. I was so encouraged by what I saw that I actually renewed my subscription. And I have to tell you: after getting the last four or five issues in the mail, I really do believe that SL is as good as – if not better than – it’s ever been. I am beyond tickled.

So, just in case some of you who were around for last year’s SL brouhaha haven’t given the magazine a second chance, I thought I’d go on the official bloggy record and tell you why I’m oh-so-glad that I gave it another try. I’m so happy that, in the end, I turned out to be FLAT DEAD WRONG and SL turned out to be, well, Southern again. And I’m not doing this because anybody asked me to write a follow-up post, OH HEAVENS NO. I’m doing this because I want to. Because I mean it. Because I may have jumped the gun a little bit with my criticism back in September. And because when somebody gets Southern right, WE NEED TO AFFIRM THEM.

Here’s what I’m loving about Southern Living (in a handy list format, at that):

– The writing these days is so stinkin’ good. In the July issue there’s a first-person article about Mississippi’s Neshoba County Fair that made me clap my hands. There’s another article about 15 ways guys can charm Southern girls that made me HOWL. There seems to be a renewed emphasis on infusing the written content with lots of personality, and it totally works because it’s so relational. We Southerners like relational, you know. We love to hear other people’s stories. And we love to hear them in a distinct, original voice. Preferably with a “y’all” or nine thrown in for good measure.

– It seems to me that there’s more home-related content than ever. Even better is that there’s a real focus on what makes the interiors and exteriors distinctly Southern. I LOVE THAT. It’s a change that makes the magazine feel like an old friend again. Another thing I’ve noticed is that the featured interiors aren’t just super-traditional – lots of them err on the side of funky and eclectic. It’s a nice, contemporary change-o-pace.

– A few years ago SL started dedicating the first few pages after the table of contents to something called “Inspirations” – and it was fine. But now those pages are called “So Southern,” and they feature three or four super-easy, super-affordable ideas that you can use when you entertain or just want to spruce up your house a little bit. A couple of months ago they showed how to use old coffee cans as flower vases. It was an adorable idea, and it reminded me of something my grandmother would have done when I was a little girl. Line three or five of those down the center of a table, and you’ve got yourself a centerpiece. I bet my friend Lea Margaret has created some coffee can masterpieces already.

– The July issue features recipes for bacon pimento cheese and bacon pimento cheeseburgers. And I think that’s probably all I have to say about that.

– I told somebody the other day that in the last few issues, the word “Southern” appears on the pages of the magazine over and over again. That tells me that the powers-that-be are making an effort to remember their core audience. In July’s Letter from the Editor, I counted the words “South” or “Southern” SEVEN times. She gets it, I thought. And it made me want to go ring my cowbell and watch SEC football and fry up some chicken. With cheese grits on the side.

– My only “however” is that there is still one thing about the “old” SL that I still miss: the stapled binding. I LOVED IT SO.

So. In an effort to BE CONSTRUCTIVE and not divisive and survey the general lay of the Southern Living land, I’m just wondering: have any of y’all noticed SL‘s renewed commitment to All Things Southern these last few months? Have you, like me, had an SL change-o-heart? Or am I the only OBSESSIVE CRAZY Southern Living reader among us?

It’s okay if it’s that last thing. I can handle it. I’ve also been an obsessive crazy person about cream cheese, grilled flank steak, Mississippi State basketball and, well, MY HAIR in days gone by, so I’m perfectly comfortable with the OCP label.

(And if you’ve never read Southern Living in your life, a thousand apologies for this post.)

(I’ll be back to my regular talk of fatty foods and TV tomorrow.)

(Promise.)

I Could Sing Of That Corn Forever

I knew deep down in my butter-clogged heart of hearts that we would have some mighty fine food while we were at the ranch. So when Ree arrived at The Lodge on Tuesday night with this tray – and about five others – I knew we were in for a treat.

Oh my mercy. Were we ever. Because that’s a big bag of avocados, my friends.

Avocados are one of my love languages. Along with tomatoes and black beans and sweet potatoes and steak and do you really want me to finish this list? Because it could take awhile.

So. Here’s the skinny about the food (OH, I am loaded with punny lameness today).

Monday night we ate a bunch of appetizers because we had a LOT of TV to watch and a big meal would have taken away from our TV time. And let me just tell you: we did some TALKIN’ BACK to the TV. I was especially vocal, mainly because I can’t seem to shake the feeling that if I just talk loudly enough, I can convince the people on the screen to listen to me. Please remember that I have never claimed to be rational and/or even remotely normal.

Ree brought us some cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños that were wrapped in bacon, and we WIPED THEM OUT. I think there were two left the next morning. And I think there were zero left after we’d been awake about four minutes. So we had the jalapeños and some really great salsa and tortilla chips and mashed avocado with chopped tomatoes on top and a whole bunch of cheese. It was perfect.

Tuesday at lunch we warmed up a pasta dish that Ree brought us Monday. I don’t know if the recipe is on her blog or not, but it was pasta shells, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini and yellow squash COVERED UP with the most delicious white sauce I have ever eaten. Somehow it managed to be hearty and light all at the same time. Shannon and I talked about it the whole time we were eating. And I know that it was totally healthy because hello? Did you see all those vegetables I just mentioned?

Since Melanie and Shannon have already written about Tuesday night’s supper, I’ll just add this: it was one of the most fun meals of my life – one of those times when the people and the conversation and the food were a happy, happy blend. The only thing that would have made it better is if all of our husbands could have been there. However, Marlboro Man was a mighty good sport to hang in there with us – even though he was outnumbered four to one – and he didn’t seem the least bit fazed by the way Mel and I TALK VERY LOUDLY AT THE SAME TIME when we’re together.

(By the way, Mel and I met Shannon’s hubby for the first time Sunday night, and we were crazy about him, too. The three of us talked about SEC and Big 12 football for about two hours, and I just think that’s the most fun – when you meet a friend’s husband and think oh, y’all TOTALLY belong together. Makes me love my friends even more when I get to know their sweet husbands.)

(Anyway. Where was I? Something about supper?)

Okay. Pictures. I only have a few because I was very busy with all the eating and all the talking.

This is officially the first time I’ve posted a picture of a raw slab of beef on my blog, but I just think that when you see butter slathered on top of meat, you need to document it. Treasure the moment. Preserve it forever and always so that future generations can testify to the goodness of butter and beef together. Amen.

Bready bread bread. Filled with all manner of buttery breadish deliciousness.

And here is The Best Corn I Have Ever Eaten In My Whole Life, And That Is Saying Something Because I Have Put Away Some Corn In My Time. I know the picture is blurry. I think it’s because my hands were a little shaky in the midst of so much corn-related excitement.

The whole meal was so stinkin’ good. And the company was even better. We all had some OPINIONS. OH-PIN-YUNS. So much fun.

And do you know what I really, really miss about The Lodge today now that I’m safe and sound and sitting in my pajamas back home in Alabama? Besides all the fun, funny friends, of course?

This refrigerated drawer.

I really been trying to cut back on my Diet Coke consumption, but every single time we opened this drawer, I could have sworn that I heard angels sing.

Peppy, caffeinated angels.

With cartons of Land O’ Lakes butter in their hands.