Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unexpected Surprises

To me unexpected surprises are God’s little gifts to the world. You never know when they are coming and nine times out of ten you don’t realize they have occurred until well after the fact.

Just when I thought we were taking a break for a long Labor Day weekend at home, Tyson came home from work the Wednesday before and announced an ‘unexpected surprise.’ We were headed to West Point, Mississippi for the annual Dove Hunt.

This is a trip that I have missed every year due to one work event or another. So naturally I was excited to see what everyone has been talking about all these years.

I wasn’t all that surprised given that it’s his favorite trip of the year but since we had agreed that we were taking a ‘timeout’ from all normal activities until after the wedding I sort of put it out of my mind.

At first I was pretty hesitant about leaving again for four straight days. But once we crossed the Louisiana-Mississippi state line and I began to see those beautiful rolling green hills and big country barns my excitement only grew with each passing mile.

The Hunt: An ALL men’s hunt that lasts for 3-4 days with 2 hunts per day at dawn and dusk. This particular group of men comes from all over Mississippi and Louisiana to West Point for Labor Day. It’s a select bunch from all different backgrounds. They don’t just let anyone come and hunt. They have ‘spots’ which are highly coveted and hardly ever given up.

In the years passed they only allowed one other woman to participate, Farmer Brad’s wife Molly. She would help coordinate meals and grocery store runs. Molly and I had a great time! We went to the Prairie Arts Festival, also another Labor Day favorite in West Point. We talked for hours on the front porch of the Camp House while listening to the men out in the fields carrying on like little boys (so adorable).

I decided to take control of the final meal after the last hunt. Molly and I went to the store and managed to score the last packages of Boudin and Cajun Sausage. We picked up all the items necessary to ‘properly’ prepare the Dove as well.

The picture above is from our final dinner, after the final hunt. I debated for weeks about which picture to post, this one of the grill or the one of all the guys sitting around on the front porch. Obviously, I choose the grill and yes I am giggling right now…

The Dove came straight off the field and went into a secret marinade (sorry not divulging the recipe this year), stuffed with cream cheese and jalapenos’ and wrapped in bacon- the ONLY way to enjoy these wonder little creatures!

I have tried to think about all of the unexpected surprises of this weekend but I am not sure I can wrap my head around all of them. Even after thinking about it for the last few months, this was truly a special experience.

Some of my fondest unexpected surprises are:
-A newfound friendship with someone who is so much like me that it’s scary (Thanks Molly I had a blast!)
-The Prairie Arts Festival – such a great Southern experience!
-A house party into the early hours of the morning with a charcoal grill being lit every other hour!
-Four straight days and an entire house filled with people.
-Hanging out on the farm and of course the GORGEOUS Camp House!
-dinner at West Point's famous restaurant 'Anthony's Market' with the whole gang
-Listening to the frogs at night
-Snuggling with the little ones when they finally got sleepy- they hunted too!

And of course cooking for an entire day which included Okra Stew, Boudin, Cajun Sausage, Grilled Asparagus, Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic Butter Grilled Chicken, Truffle Burgers, and Dove stuffed and wrapped in bacon…now I can definitely understand why Tyson waits all year for this cherished weekend! These are one helluva unexpected surprise! There is always a fight over who gets that last one...

Molly and I are already planning the menu for next year…stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall is for Fun.

My fiancĂ© brought it to my attention yesterday that he was in a funk because it had been quite a few weeks since he had read a Feed Me Eat Pretty blog…so here I am.

Happy Wednesday and I am sorry!

I feel like I have so much to fill you up on! We have been so incredibly busy traveling, eating, wedding planning, and with Feed Me Eat Pretty approaching our 1st holiday season we have been on the move. Some days I have to pinch myself to make sure this is all real!

The next few weeks will be devoted to sharing all of our adventures and I promise they are yummy!

Fall is always fun and it is a season that I treasure every year! Thankfully, we have finally conquered the summer slow months. We have resumed normal programming with dinner parties and cocktail hours at least every other week! So this little chicken has been back to cooking up a storm!

But what I did do for the very first time this past Saturday was attend the Freret Street Market as a VENDOR! A vendor! Imagine that!

It was just an experiment to see how my products would do at a Market in New Orleans. Boy was I surprised! It was an incredible experience, one that brought tears to my eyes all day long. I would like to thank all of you who came out and supported me! I can’t believe it, I really can’t…

The picture above was taken by a local photographer (shout out to the Uptown Messenger: http://uptownmessenger.com/ This is me in my booth. Looks pretty snazzy huh? Thank you to all of my culinary demo & food media experience for grooming my “Eat Pretty” talents so nicely.

We tasted all of the current flavors with great reviews!

But, I am sad to report that these are the following counts on each flavor:
1 jar of MS Blueberry Lemon
1 jar MS Blueberry Basil
8 jars Mississippi Blueberry
6 jars of Sugar Free MS Blueberry
5 jars Spicy MS Peach
8 jars Mississippi Peach
5 jars of Red Wine Strawberry
3 Qts of Tomato Juice
8 jars of Muscadine Syrup

We sold 28 jars on Saturday!!!!!!! (Can’t put enough exclamation marks behind that)

So if you can’t accept the fact that you may have to wait until next spring to get your hands on some of these flavors, you may want to place your order ASAP at: www.etsy.com/shop/FeedMeEatPretty

We were invited to participate in 2 other local Christmas Bazaars as well. I will be posting a holiday schedule of all events we will be participating in so that you can put it on your calendars.

I am leaving bright and early for a farm trip tomorrow morning to stock up on the fall harvests. We have Apples, Pears, and Pumpkins in our future people. As well as Figs and Blackberries that has been tucked away for me up at the farm. I am very excited and probably won’t sleep a wink tonight.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Living Sugar Free or Sugar Less

Many of you are familiar with all the homemade, vintage, all natural products that are for sale on Etsy.com!

Since the beginning of my online Etsy store, we have been featured in a handful of lists and newsletters of featured items called Treasuries. Each time we are featured feels like such a delight and has me smiling for days! And until now, I have refrained from sharing the links. I guess I was waiting for just the right one to come along…

But, last night I got an email from ‘Blueberry Shoes’ the writer behind the blog ‘The Mermaids Closet.’ She thanked me for offering such great SUGAR FREE jams!

Being insulin dependent is a life changing thing, and one that runs very close to my heart. I can’t count all of my friends and family that are diabetic on both hands!

Even I have to make a conscious effort to leave the sweets alone, but when I do it makes all the difference in the way I feel.

What would happen if every person gave up one thing that they normally eat with sugar and replaced it with a sugar free version or with a sweetener such as Stevia or Agave Nectar?

I mean, just look at that picture of my Sugar Free Mississippi Peach Jam above! That pure, all-natural, yellow-orange peach color! I can not only stare at that wholesome gorgeous jam all day but I can definitely eat it until the cows come home too.

Nothing but goodness can come of this new outlook on life, and I am taking the pledge to choose better, healthier, less sugar options!

I will keep you posted on the outcome.

If you need some amazing Sugar Free jam to replace your normal sugar loaded versions, check out my online store for the Blueberry and Peach flavors that are currently available!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer is for BLUEBERRIES!

Out of all my farm ventures during the growing seasons, I would have to say picking blueberries is my most challenging. They are rather petite little fellows…and you can only pick so many at a time. Even after a few hours in the hot sun, you probably only have a gallon or two in your bucket and a nice sunburn!

The majority of the blueberries I picked in Louisiana this year were pretty small, mostly due to not receiving enough rain down here in the hot, steamy South.

But, the blueberries that I picked in Mississippi near our farm were ENORMOUS! As you can see from the picture above they were something to talk about! It seemed like every branch we touched you could hear one of us shouting out with joy! “Look at these blueberries, this is amazing!” We were literally dancing all around the bushes with excitement!

This particular farm is literally just around the bend from us and they have had these blueberry bushes for over 22 years!

Tyson’s grandmother is such a trooper! She came out picking with us every time! She is a lot like me, and just loves to be out on the farm- no matter what the conditions may be. I will confess that she is the fastest picker out of our group!

While preparing the blues for my jam I tied a couple to see how we were looking on the flavor front. I ate a blueberry and it tasted like a blue Icee pop! I had some disbelief at first, and tried a few more…then a few more. Could it be that these plump, perfectly ripe blueberries captured the flavor of a blue Icee pop?

Sounds trivial, but when have you ever realized that something as small as a blueberry could jam pack so much flavor that it brought back one of your most cherished childhood memories?

My philosophy never fails me: “It really is the small things in life that make the biggest difference- especially with food!”

I couldn't resist the temptation to share! In fact, the day this happened I was running around town telling everyone!! Practically screaming it, "Hey! I just ate a blueberry and it tasted like a blue Icee pop!"

If only that flavor profile hadn’t changed during the cooking process…that would have been some amazing jam for sure.

But, if I do say so myself…the jam that did come from those blues is in fact pretty tasty…order yours today! www.etsy.com/shop/FeedMeEatPretty

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tah-Dah! FMEP's new product line!

Last Friday I finally launched my very own Feed Me Eat Pretty product line through Etsy.com!

What an unbelievable feeling. The proudest moment for me was when I saw the labels for the very first time!

First I want to acknowledge all the friends and family that have given me unbelievable support all these years!!! THANK YOU really doesn't do it justice.

This has been a dream of mine since I was a child. When I was given the opportunity to work at A Southern Season as an Assistant Grocery Buyer, I was beside myself each and every day! It was like being a kid again- working in a candy store! It also enabled me to really get a grasped on the Gourmet Food Industry.

There are currently 4 flavors as 1 sold out in less than 24 hours! Red Wine Louisiana Strawberry available in 8 oz or 16 oz jars, Spicy Georgia Peach, Louisiana Blueberry Lemon, and Louisiana Blueberry Basil Jam available in 8 oz jars. The cost is $6 for the 8oz jar and $12 for the 16 oz jar. It will last in the pantry for up to 1 year or in the fridge for a month after opened.

Keep checking the website for new flavors! Each week I will be posting updates.

But, I would like to be clear about one thing. I source all my ingredients locally. In fact, all the fruit and veggies in my products are either grown in my garden or picked on a farm by my hands. The names come from where the produce was picked. If I have used Georgia peaches, it was because I physically got them myself while travelling through Georgia. So don't let the distance fool you.

I don’t consider my products to be gourmet, they are all-natural, made with unprocessed foods and taken straight from the farm to the table! The way nature intended for us to eat. Just trying to do my part in helping others get to know what real food tastes like.

I also take flavor requests! If it is in season and I can source the ingredients locally, I will definitely whip up a batch just email me! Would be great for gifts at a wedding or a party! I can do a variety of sizes as well.

Tip: If you live in New Orleans, send me an email before ordering. I will deliver it to you instead of you having to pay for shipping! Also, look for me soon at the cities farmer’s markets!

Click on the link to check out my online store:

PS- The July 4th weekend will be full of friends and family in Mississippi. Tyson and I have a culinary farm tour planned to meet and greet some new growers. I am planning on picking up a ton of fruits and veggies so keep a look out for next weeks blog!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Boiled Peanuts

When I relate peanuts to food I almost always think of a garnish. If you are from the North, pretty much the only way you eat peanuts besides in Pad Thai is at a baseball game. One of my all time favorite things that I have discovered since moving to the South is a food that is pretty simple…Boiled Peanuts.

Last weekend, my partner-in-crime and I were driving home from a wedding in North Carolina. We were driving down the mountain roads when all of a sudden Tyson couldn’t stop talking about pulling over to get boiled peanuts. This didn’t alarm me too much since every time we go to the farm in Mississippi we always stop to get some. I guess I just sort of figured this would be like all the other Boiled Peanut experiences we have had together…

He started putting on the brakes every time we saw a sign that said ‘Boiled Peanuts’ but then he would exclaim loudly, ‘but why doesn’t anyone have hot peanuts?’ I am sure you could see the expression on my face- pure confusion. Tyson began to explain to me the difference between ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ boiled peanuts and that it didn’t have anything to do with the temperature when they were served. He didn’t want them unless they were legit- meaning cooked ‘outside’ in the cool mountain air.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how long it had been since I had truly been this excited about a food experience. All I could think about was, ‘what would I be in for?’

Then, we saw it. Tyson began to jump up and down in his seat, honk his horn, scream out load, and of course slam on the breaks. We pulled in so fast the car was still moving while I flung the car door open and hopped out with my camera. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen in a long, long time!

It really takes a ‘reach out and grab me’ experience to hook me. Stopping at this shop on the way down the mountain was just this type of experience!

The owner of this shop made two people pretty darn happy! In fact, she came running out of her store when she saw me outside taking so many pictures of her little peanut operation. She asked Tyson in a curious tone, ‘Does she want Boiled Peanuts?’

I exhaled and jumped so high I caught air underneath my shoes, ‘of course I want peanuts!’

I began to ask her many questions about how she cooks them. Watching and listening to her our smiles went from ear to ear. She cooks the peanuts outside on her wood burning stovetop 7-days a week!

Her recipe is pretty simple, only water, salt and of course green peanuts which are a typical recipe for North Georgia.

Now, in Louisiana and Mississippi- especially the route to our farm and then on to Oxford, we enjoy the Cajun non-spicy and Cajun spicy recipes. Normally, both are offered. Also in Louisiana and Mississippi, the peanuts are cold boiled and probably started and kept hot in a crock pot.

Some of our favorite places to get the extra flavorful varieties are at Gas Stations of all places. Gas Stations are not that romantic but, when it comes to devouring a big cup of boiled peanuts I will have to let this one slide.

Depending on how great the recipe is, I have seen people even drink the juice at the bottom of the container! You have to get every last drop.

Typically boiled peanuts are sold $3-$5 for a 32-ounce cup, which takes about 30 minutes for 2 people to eat.

It is like a burst of flavor in your mouth. The juice of the peanut is so flavorful. It’s really like two snacks in one. You have the peanut itself and then you have the shell. To enjoy the shell, you crush it between your teeth on the sides of your mouth to extract all the juice that gets boiled into it during the cooking process.

Peanuts take on so many flavors and also add lots of flavor to other foods. But, my favorite way to enjoy them by far is in the car with my sweetheart out of a Styrofoam cup. It’s almost a date without going anywhere!

If you find yourself in North Georgia, stop in at Michelle's Sweet Creations.
7688 Hwy 441 S.
Lakemont, GA 30552
(706) 982-9449

PS- Make sure you pick-up a few jars of her pickled okra! They make the best Bloody Mary's!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rotating Plates

Last night I needed a well deserved timeout. I went for a drive with no destination in mind. Thinking I would hit the interstate and just d-r-i-v-e, I started the car and drove down Magazine Street towards Downtown. I made it 6 blocks, stopped at a red light, turned my head to the right to see Sake Café and pulled right in.

As I pulled in, I thought, never mind to the long drive. All I need is a couple of cocktails, some sushi and an outdoor patio. While I was enjoying my cocktail out on the patio, which overlooks Magazine Street, I overheard a group of ladies at a nearby table.

The ladies were in their mid twenties, and had just arrived to the city for graduate school. They began to talk about how they were making their budgets work while still enjoying all the distractions New Orleans has to offer.

Since I have recently begun my wedding diet and have committed myself to more clean eating lifestyle, I began to tune into their conversation. I was partly curious to their dinner out because I have really been missing my best friends in Washington DC lately. Oh how I miss them, I would have done anything to have had a ladies night out with them last night!

Ok, back to dinner.

One young woman stated that she had some friends visiting last weekend, and were dining out every night. Since she was really pinching pennies, she talked it over with her guests and decided that they would in fact dine at the cities best restaurants. But they had a plan…to order 1 appetizer, 2 entrees and 1 dessert for 4 people.

Not only would they be ordering a fraction of the amount of food most people would normally order for 4, but they would be rotating their plates throughout their entire meal.

Now, obviously the restaurant waiter was not too thrilled about this table. The waiter seemed upset because this would mean he would make half of his normal tip on a table of 4, but still doing the same amount of work. The young woman stated that their particular waiter clearly seemed irritated by them.

Coming from a background in restaurants, serving, cooking, and managing I can relate to this disgruntled waiter. But, there is always a ‘but’…the dining guests have a right to choose what and how much they wish to order, and there should never be a discrimination against that.

The young woman went on to explain how much fun they had! She said they would have normally over indulged and left stuffed to the brim. And that is not to mention the fact that they would have also spent a fortune on the bill.

I congratulate this group of diners! I think what they are doing is a fantastic idea. They are collectively using their financial situation not only as a way to limit their portions and spend less, but are still getting out there and enjoying the cities great restaurants!

I am also beginning to feel like a lot of area restaurants are forgetting to market to this particular clientele. The possibilities are endless here, and I will save those for another blog….

Monday, May 17, 2010

Simple Indulgences: My 3-day vacation at HOME.

My FABULOUS other half and I have been literally exhausted with life lately. Planning our wedding, renovating our house and shopping for a new one, adjusting to both of us living in the same city again, and I just started my new company, ‘officially.’

This post is for him. Through all of life’s curve balls, he is always in the background saying to me things like ‘Emily, I want you to write today, I miss reading your words’ or ‘Don’t forget, to do at least one thing for your business today’.

You know…he prints out my writings and blogs and passes them out to his clients and friends all the time. I run into friends in the grocery store and they tell me that they loved the article that Tyson had given them. One time, a lady pulled it out of her purse! I was shocked. It actually brought tears to my eyes. I can almost see him running around with little papers folded up in his pocket and when he sees a fellow foodie he whips it out like a piece of candy. Probably the most encouraging thing, anyone has ever done for me.

I am sure you have noticed, it has been six months since my last post to Feed Me Eat Pretty.

This past weekend, we decided to have some quiet time, just us.

Tyson is usually the one that plans all of our date nights, so I decided to surprise him- for 3 straight days, filled with all sorts of simple things that mean the world to us.

Friday I called a restaurant that is walking distance from our house, Coquette. I spoke to the hostess who was very happy to appease me in my requests. They don’t normally take reservations for the outside tables but made an exception for me.

When we arrived, the sun hadn’t quite set yet. Tyson’s initial reaction to sitting outside was well…an interesting one. He has the body temperature of a furnace (really why I am marrying him- that and the fact that we share a shellfish allergy). We were seated at our table; the waiter delivered our fresh handmade cocktails and appetizers. As we were sipping and nibbling under the stars, for hours if I may add, he declared that he was having the perfect evening. This is one of the best restaurants for a well developed palate by far!

When the waiter delivered the dessert menu, I gave him the option to stay for dessert or go somewhere else. But, the ‘somewhere else’ had already been decided on and it wasn’t up for discussion. Oh, and I wasn’t telling him where that ‘somewhere else’ may be. He chose of course, ‘somewhere else.’

I decided to drive so that he wouldn’t know where we were going until we arrived. Although the bright big red sign for The Creole Creamery gave us away since you can see it for a good ¼ of a mile while driving on Prytania.

Now, The Creole Creamery is a serious thing, not just for Tyson, but for all New Orleanians. I let him pick his flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge and Oatmeal Raisin Molasses. I opted for a milk shake, which he later finished for me as I was letting him flavor indulge tonight.

Saturday, after Tyson returned from his office we had the afternoon to waste away. We decided to do a little furniture shopping in the French Quarter. We stopped for candles and popped into our favorite furniture spot, then decided to grab a cocktail.

Despite my first hesitation to patronize Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on a Saturday evening, we went with it. It is my favorite bar in this city, a tourist trap by far, but one of the coolest experiences you will have here. The building itself in the evening is worth it- the ambiance is incomparable. We scored a prime table, right next to an open window that was candlelit. With the gorgeous weather and the breeze it was perfection at its best. We had a few cocktails and moved on.

One of our friends had opened a new restaurant this past weekend, so we decided to pop in to try a few items on and off the menu. Since she was doing a soft open, we were her fifth table. We will definitely be back! She brought chefs straight from Chinatown and they are really great! She is offering a regular American Chinese Menu and a special Chinese Menu. Can you guess which one I’m excited about?

Sunday morning we committed ourselves to the couch and a handful of movies to waste away our day with. I made my special breakfast burritos and we enjoyed the morning.

After a few hours we began to get hungry so we decided to hit up Whole Foods.

In the produce section, I looked over at Tyson and his eyes were sparkling. I asked him what he was thinking about, and he said ‘Oh man, this is going to be great! I am excited about this!’ That man really makes me giggle.

In our basket: blackberries, mangoes, watermelon, pate (2 flavors), 3 cheeses, crackers and fresh still hot from the oven Italian bread, prosciutto, salami, and 2 bottles of champagne.

When we arrived at home we lit all the candles around the house. I pureed the watermelon, and picked a bunch of flowers and mint from the garden for garnishes. I poured the champagne and mixed our watermelon-mint cocktails. I put together our fruit, cheese, and charcuterie plates.

We turned on another movie and relaxed for hours enjoying the simple elegances of our food choices.

I was surprised when Tyson asked me if we (together) could make cookies for dessert. I happily obliged him and we ventured into the kitchen to see what we could make. Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip was the finished product. I think these are the best cookies I have ever made, and we made them together.

Last night, sometime during our second movie Tyson leaned over and said, ‘I really wish you would write a blog about this. We have had an amazing weekend!’

Today, I drove thirty minutes to my secret writing spot in the Bywater, New Orleans most eclectic and cultural neighborhoods. If I ever have a restaurant, I would want it to be like the place I call my secret writing spot. It is truly inspirational. I just feel really great when I am here.

So, Thank you Tyson…for pushing me, and pushing me constantly. You really are my best friend who loves the simple pleasures in life, especially the simple pleasures of food! What I am most looking forward to in our life together is that we get to experience these types of weekends any time we want.