I know y’all were probably hoping I wouldn’t be writing ANY of the OXO #WhataGrillWants reviews after the success of The Professor’s Chapter One write-up, but he has confessed a newfound respect for blog writing, and so I gave him a pass this time around.

——————–

Another weekend, another cookout.

But this time, The Professor (and, by default, I) wasn’t (weren’t) hosting.

[Sadly, this meant no excess of leftover food in the fridge post-party, BUT it meant less time spent with The Professor watching me load his dishwasher with a critical eye cleaning up.]IMG_20140628_222733

Seemed as good a time as any to pick another tool from the OXO #WhataGrillWants box to try out.

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Chapter 2: Little Salad Dressing Shaker

Although The Professor literally could not stay away from the grill once we arrived, he did teach me that grill etiquette precludes one grillmaster messing with another grillmaster’s technique…so that meant it was MY turn to take advantage of a cookout accessory that didn’t involve fire.IMG_1644 (1024x683)

And since before I came around The Professor’s idea of a salad was four pieces of arugula covered with four tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette, I was clearly taking over the use of OXO’s Little Salad Dressing Shaker.IMG_1598 (683x1024)

My goal every Saturday (and some Tuesdays and Thursdays and, well, every day in the summer) is to see what my friends and the farmer’s market have to sell me and take it from there.IMG_1545 (1024x683)

The sweet preteen selling cucumbers and my favorite tomato lady instigated the procurement of their wares, and the subsequent salad creation.IMG_1607 (1024x683)

[I was told by my hostess that she would make a salad and I should bring a side.

But this was going to be a salad without lettuce, which I decided did NOT encroach on her salad making desires.]IMG_1667 (1024x683)

I just needed to locally source* a few more ingredients.

*locally source [verb]: steal from The Professor’s kitchen and gardenIMG_1570 (1024x682)

I will say that my tendency to just pour random amounts of vinegar, salt, sugar, and herbs onto my cucumber and onion summer salads has worked for me quite well in the past.

But the little OXO salad dressing shaker makes it a WHOLE lot easier to remember exactly how much of each ingredient you poured, you know, should you ever want to make the same dressing again.IMG_1626 (1024x668)And while the massive pile of basil and mint I put inside had to be removed and added to the final creation by hand, the salad dressing shaker is working as a lovely infuser in my fridge as we speak you read.

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Overall, a great little gadget to have around, for grill time…or any time.

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[Plus, it has a nice pour spout, which I know The Professor appreciates because that ratio of one tablespoon of dressing to every leaf of lettuce is apparently and accident caused by Paul Newmans’ lack of attention to pour spout necessity.]

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(Yo Yo) Yoats.

by Sarah on June 28, 2014 · 4 comments

Is it just me, or is there often some sort of internal blogger battle between overnight oats and the number of blueberries I want to push into this jar and stove top oatmeal?IMG_20140613_113356

(Almost as divisive as instant vs. old fashioned [slash] rolled* oats.)

*Am I wrong for thinking that we could be something for real they are the same thing just wrapped up in respective nostalgic or action-based branding?IMG_20140531_074933

Overnight oats are never voluminous enough.

Stovetop oats are too hot.

(Especially when you refuse to turn on your a/c despite Alabama humidity.)IMG_20140608_111835

Peanut butter tastes gross on hot oats.

Peanut butter tastes gross on overnight oats.

I just really like yogurt.IMG_20140616_090314

Overnight oats require so much advance thought.

(Not true, Grasshopper, but we can talk about that another time.)IMG_20140604_091617

Protein powder doesn’t mix well with stovetop oats.

Stovetop oa–oh wait, no one really cares.IMG_0235 (1024x683)

(A fact that I was reminded of yet again in a strange de ja vu situation whereby I was asked–not by Papa Smart this time, but the chair of my department– if I’d even heard of overnight oats.)overnightoatsDAB

Regardless, I have a solution to the  quandary of overnight vs. stovetopIMG_20140606_092319

YOATS.IMG_20140619_090759

OK, I’m actually not the first person to come up with this, as there is a California company that branded and marketed this concept, although they call them overnight oats and spell it with a Z, which, like Bratz Dolls (but unlike Sheetz), just makes me unhappy and unsettled.IMG_20140609_091328

But, well, hot oatmeal mixed with (preferably goat’s or superthick Icelandic style a la Siggis) yogurt, or even a little kefir action, is creamy, cooler, almost instant, and, well, just really really good.IMG_20140620_114048

And I eat ‘em practically every day for breakfast, so I just figured I should tell you about it. (And the time I put chocolate chips and honey roasted peanuts on in there, and holy GOODNESS.)IMG_20140611_092330

Plus, you can say Yo Yo YOATS when you eat it, as though you are channeling a rapper from 1992 (or my students calling out to me at the university gym).mtvYOATS

So, thank you, yoats, for achieving a less controversial compromise than that of 1850 (but perhaps not greater that that of 1787).IMG_20140624_090232

Of course, now that chia pudding is all the rage, we’ll have to call the new settlement choats.*

*Although there may be a litigious licensing problem with regards to the female boarding school of similar nameIMG_20140628_094806

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As much as I have loved blogging over the years, the one thing it has done is made me feel like I’m not really cooking if I’m not making up something strangely unique, or complicated, or trying a new ingredient for the first time.IMG_0951 (1024x683)

As though simple and easy is somehow ‘not good enough.’IMG_20140529_200655

But heck y’all, I have to say, simple and easy is not just good enough…it is pretty darn awesome.IMG_0863 (1024x683)

Sadly, I don’t have step-by-step pictures of this particular culinary accident experiment…IMG_1377 (1024x683)

(Unless you count before and after after and before.)IMG_20140619_154737

But I’m not going to let THAT stop me from posting what is absolutely a recipe, even if it does take hardly any work or thought or planning.

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(Vegetarian) Sausage & Spinach Stuffed Eggplant

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/3 cup (or so) chopped sweet onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 vegetarian sausage patties (I used Morningstar Maple)
  • 3-4 cups (handfuls) baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos
  • s + p
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise.
  3. Scoop out the ‘pulp,’ leaving about 1/2″ around the edge (and on the bottom). Set pulp aside.
  4. Spray (or lightly brush) hollowed out eggplant with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until beginning to soften.
  6. Meanwhile, chop eggplant pulp and sausage (can still be frozen).
  7. In a medium pan, soften onion and garlic.
  8. Add eggplant and sausage to the pan.
  9. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper.
  10. Cook until eggplant is soft and sausage is cooked through.
  11. Wilt in spinach and drizzle on soy sauce.
  12. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  13. Scoop filling back into eggplant shells.
  14. Bake 15-20 more minutes.
  15. Enjoy!
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When I received the collection of OXO grill tools as part of the company‘s #WhataGrillWants campaign I thought about two things:IMG_1222 (1024x683)

1. Amanda Bynes

2. Christina Aguilerawhatagirlwants

Oh, and that The Professor was going to be even more excited than I was.

(The man loves his grill.)

On Saturday, we broke into the first of the grill accessories, and because I didn’t actually use them (only reaped the numerous benefits of their use) it didn’t seem fair for me to discuss them. So, I let The Professor review them* instead. [This is Chapter 1 of a multi-part series apparently.]

*And choose some of the accompanying graphics.IMG_20140621_183916_564 (1024x578)

———————————

Chapter 1: BBQ Tongs

It was big pimpin’ night.  Me, the grill, lots of food, cocktails, and four ladies.  Oh yeah!  IMG_20140621_175847OK, one of them is engaged, and her boyfriend eventually made it, but not until after these new giant OXO tongs had worked their magic around the grill.
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I own a barrel smoker with an offset firebox, and like to fuel it with lump charcoal and oak.  Yup, oak logs that I sometimes chop myself.
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But back to the smoker. The firebox on the smoker can also be used as a grill, but given the fuel I’m using, and the need to cook stuff in the smoking chamber too, it tends to get hotter than my guest list on the night in question.  So if I were to use smaller tongs or spatulae to handle food in the firebox, I run the serious risk of partially cooking my hands too, especially when handling foods at the back of the grill rack.  spatulae

Enter OXO’s 16 inch grill tongs. Their spring-loaded hinges and gentle scallop-shaped gripping ends allow me to handle all manner of foods from a safe distance. I have other long tongs, but their serrated grips are much more likely to puncture foods, spilling their flavorful juices all over the coals and causing flare ups.  Nobody likes dried-out, carbonized meat at a cookout.  OXO’s tongs are designed for gentle, yet deft handling of foods.  They’re also beefy enough to handle large cuts of meat with ease. IMG_20140621_183928_489 (1024x575)
What about the menu that night?  We had a coil of hot Italian-style sausage from a local pig farmer and sweet potatoes in the smoker, along with sliced spring squash, chicken-apple sausage, and jerk-seasoned mahi mahi in foil packets in the firebox.  IMG_20140621_190938_567 (1024x576)
Everything cooked that night stayed moist, plump, and 100% intact when handled and flipped.  The tongs were able to flip, and recoil the sausage with ease without breaking the skin.  Their performance was nothing short of flawless, and the food turned out to be delicious.  IMG_20140621_213350
Final rating: 11/10.
I can’t wait to put these to use on a rack of ribs and some steaks.
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When I first met Sue at the farmer’s market, she told me that her eggs were the best…that “everyone says so.”IMG_1153 (1024x683)

I smiled and–being a northerner raised to conduct herself like a southerner–told her I was sure they were and couldn’t wait to cook them, while thinking to myself, “Bless that crazy old woman’s heart.”IMG_1150 (750x1024)

But, good lawd, y’all, if she wasn’t right.

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They are the best.IMG_1135 (1024x683)

And I have become a staunch devotee to Sue’s eggs… and only Sue’s eggs.IMG_0965 (1024x683)

I refuse to buy anyone else’s at the market–even if I am completely out and Sue has sold them all by 7:00 AM on Saturday morning.IMG_0918 (1024x683)

I also refuse to use them for baking, because I don’t want to waste such beautiful, bold yolks.IMG_1191 (1024x683)

(The Professor had to sacrifice two of his own–not Sue’s–farm eggs for these cookies.)IMG_0325 (1024x683)

Maybe I brainwashed The Professor, but he now believes in the power of Sue’s chickens as well, swearing all the other eggs’ yolks fall apart in the pan, and they don’t taste the same.IMG_1255 (1024x683)

I don’t know much, but I do know this: if happy milk eggs come from happy cows chickens, Sue’s got the Pharrell of roosters spreading his seed in her coop.

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As many of you know, I am working on a PhD in Health Education and Promotion at the University of Alabama. My readings in nutritional literacy and personal experiences with friends who suffer from gluten intolerance and Celiac’s Disease have cultivated an interest in the motivations for choosing a gluten-free diet and the potential effects that undertaking such a strict diet may have on one’s dietary attitudes and behaviors.

To help further the knowledge of gluten-free diet adherence in the field, my research partner and I have created a survey about gluten-free diet adherence, intolerance diagnoses, and eating behaviors and attitudes, that I hope you will complete.

You must be at least 19 years old, and you can follow a gluten-free diet or not. Part of the research will involve comparing adults who do follow a gluten-free diet and those who do not.

It should only take 15-20 minutes to complete, and would be incredibly helpful groundwork for future studies in this area of health.

Your responses are anonymous and confidential.

Thank you in advance for your help!

https://universityofalabama.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_cDaMY3CL6ceLxZ3

Certified Gluten Free

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Love You? Yes, I (Golden) Honeydew.

by Sarah on June 17, 2014 · 3 comments

Here one day, and gone (literally) the next–my sweet, golden honeydew, you were a impulse buy that went oh, so right.IMG_1156 (1024x682)

And although I immediately returned to the point of purchase, only to learn that the rest of your friends and family had scattered to the four winds, rendering you a lone melon in a world of more common summer fruits, I will never forget you.IMG_1162 (1024x682)

I think I might even have loved you more than watermelon.IMG_1177 (1024x682)(But if you bring that up in front of it I will make like Andrew on The Bachelorette and deny, deny, deny.)

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Perhaps the only time I can’t underthink my food choices lately is when I am cooking for others. I (probably always will) have a tendency to place little pressure on myself when it comes to recipes and culinary creations, but if I am feeding others?

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Well, let’s just say Little Miss People-Pleasing Perfectionist rears her cute little head of faux-complacency while hiding anxiety, insecurity, and four hundred rejected potential plans behind and “Oh, I just threw this together” smile.IMG_1082 (1024x683)

Wednesday night was the third time I have officially cooked dinner for my friend (and new mom) Andrea. Not only was I responsible for her (and her husbands…and perhaps by way of breast milk, her baby’s) dinner, it also happened to be her birthday.IMG_1002 (1024x683)

 Pressure was on.

(As was the stove.)

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But, my newfound realization that it is only when I make things more complicated than they need to be that I end up with subpar dishes led me to focus on keeping it simple.

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And keeping it simple?

Well, that practically guarantees success.

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(Also, knowing what foods they hate, and the fact that pasta is all around generally accepted as comforting and delicious.)

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This White Bean, Spinach, and Sun Dried Tomato Pastainspired in equal parts by Cooking Light’s Warm Pasta Salad with Shrimp and my long lost friend Elizabeth’s go-to sun dried tomato, zucchini, kielbasa pasta– received the highest praise I can think of:

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“You can make that for us again any time.”IMG_1095 (1024x683)

And I walked away with a giant slice of birthday spice cake with spiced cream cheese frosting.IMG_20140611_194216_362 (1024x576)

Win-win.IMG_1106 (1024x683)

White Bean, Spinach, & Sun Dried Tomato Pasta
(Serves 2-4)
  • 1 3/4 cups dry farfalle pasta
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 10 oz. spinach
  • 1/4 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 1 14.5-oz. can Great Northern beans
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • Italian herb seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  1.  In a large saute pan, saute (or steam in a bit of water) the onion and garlic until softened.
  2. Stir in white beans and seasoning with salt, pepper, and Italian herb seasoning.
  3. While beans cook 3-5 minutes, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, and 2 Tbsp. oil from jar of sundried tomatoes.
  4. Add spinach to beans and stir just until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes.
  5. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  6. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  7. Add pasta to the pan.
  8. Pour lemon/mustard/oil dressing over pasta. Stir well.
  9. Serve hot or cold.
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Underthinking It

by Sarah on June 11, 2014 · 6 comments

For someone who used to spend hours (literally) a day thinking about food–

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What will I have for breakfast?

What will I have for breakfast tomorrow?

What will I have for lunch?

How many calories can I have?IMG_20140607_150324

I will eat this now, so I can eat half a jar of peanut butter later.

These five recipes will go up this week. These three next week.

I’ll need some blog filler.

I will have this for morning snack, and that for afternoon snack.IMG_0211 (1024x683)

–I have suddenly found myself in a place where I am so wrapped up in life and work and teaching and friends and boyfriends that I forget about food.IMG_0198 (1024x683)

Sure, I still get joy out of creating a beautiful plate of local produce and eggs.

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And satisfaction of using up everything in my fridge in a new way.IMG_0184 (1024x587)

But this usually involves nothing more than throwing it in a pan with some spices–or directly in a bowl with a blob of hummus–and seeing what happens.IMG_0266 (1024x683)

I eat goat’s milk yogurt mixed with oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every day.IMG_0836 (1024x683)

And when The Professor tells me what he’s thinking about for dinner, I realize I like not having to care or worry or plan. (Plus, he makes wicked good pizza.)IMG_20140609_192442

So sure, I’ve been cooking I guess.

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But I have found that the true “joy of cooking,” is sharing food with friends…IMG_20140607_203924

…keeping it simple…IMG_20140604_141210

…and just letting it all go.IMG_0294 (1024x683)

Oh, and watermelon.

There is a lot of joy in watermelon.IMG_0681 (1024x683)

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Eggs Baked In Bell Peppers

by Sarah on June 9, 2014 · 1 comment

By now we know you can bake an egg in a squash…but did you know you can bake an egg in a bell pepper?IMG_0271 (1024x683)

You may or may not have known this, but I thought it was pretty ingenious at the time.

Based on the Instagram response it may actually be a novel idea, at least among my few followers.

(I refuse to Google this concept only to have my hopes of originality dashed before they’ve begun been published.)

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The egg-cellent discovery occurred during a strange week of obsessing over stuffed peppers, when I concocted a “Mediterranean” (because olives and roasted peppers clearly equal Mediterranean) stuffed pepper, and then began to wonder what else I could stuff into my mouth a pepper.IMG_0357 (1024x683)

Why NOT logically go with an egg?

Simply baked the peppers at 375 or so for about 15 minutes until beginning to get soft, then crack an egg into it (watching for escaping egg white) and continue to bake until the egg is cooked.IMG_0269 (1024x610)

And that is all I have to say about that.

 

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