Friday, June 29, 2012

No Crust Raspberry and Apple Pie

I'm having one of those months where there really just isn't enough time in any day to get things done. I've been traveling, working, writing here and there, and in all of this no time has been found to clean the bathroom or do my laundry.

Tomorrow, my gorgeous Stunt Guy gets here and will spend twelve days in the Valley. I'm exceptionally excited that I'll get to see him, though mildly nervous that absolutely nothing will get done either before he gets here, or while he is here.

I'm working on just letting all that go, though, because I'm just so gosh darn mushy about the whole thing! Besides, I feel that it is unlikely that my guy will actually notice the cleanliness level of the bathroom. It's probably not his number one priority.

I'm excited that I'll have someone to cook for, though. It's one of the things that makes me saddest about living away from him. I love making him food.

Since he left, I feel like everything I've made ends up as a single serving in a little ramekin. This little Apple and Raspberry "Pie" is no exception. It came, as many of my recipes do, out of necessity. Too many apples that needed eating and a deal on raspberries that I couldn't pass up. I wanted something light, so instead of crusting it I just topped it with meringue, something else I've been playing around with a lot recently. The meringue topping here is soft and yielding, more like the meringue on a key lime pie than anything else. The sweetness of it balances the tartness of the raspberries. It's a really delicious spoonful.

No Crust Raspberry and Apple Pie

For the Filling

1 Apple
1/2 Cup Raspberries
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Dash of Salt

For the Topping

2 Egg Whites
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon White Vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350F. 

Peel the apple and dice it into small cubes. In a skillet over medium heat, mix the butter, brown sugar and apple together with a dash of salt and cook until the apple is pretty soft. Probably about 10 minutes.

While the apple is cooking, whisk the egg whites with the vinegar until stiff and forming peaks. Whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until it is glossy and the peaks don't fall back when you take the whisk out.

Divide the apple and the raspberries between two medium ramekins. Mix together and top with the meringue mixture. Bake in the oven until the meringue has turned a light brown, about 8 minutes. You want the meringue soft and airy, not crunchy.

Allow to cool a little before serving, as the filling will be a bit too hot. The meringue might collapse a little as it cools, but it should mostly be firm.

Eat with a spoon at two in the afternoon and try and justify it to yourself as "lunch".

Makes two.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

LA Weekend

I'm in Los Angeles for my weekend, catching up with some friends and checking out the Circus out here. I'll tell you more about it very soon when I get back to the Valley. In the meantime, you should seriously consider finding yourself a pitcher of Blackberry Sangria.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wild Rice, Mushroom and Kale Casserole

Food that I make for my friend Marshall has often graced the pages of this blog. Marshall is someone that I work with at the Circus, and he's also someone I'm happy to call a friend. He is a brilliant dancer, in fact, if you watch So You Think You Can Dance, he's actually one of the people in the title sequences. He is also an accomplished acrobat, has a kick ass static trapeze routine, and to him it appears that a back flip is as effortless as breathing.

In a few weeks, Marshall is leaving town. He's going off to new adventures. I'm really going to miss him. Not just because of the massages and the Marshall Meals, but because he's a good friend and someone I've loved working with this last year. I'm happy for him that he gets to go do even more cool stuff, but sad for me.

So it was time for another round of massages and meals, and this may very well be the last round, though I might try and make him dinner one last time before he skedaddles off into the wild blue yonder.

I'm still working on pantry busting, and I decided that it was time to use up the last of the Wild Rice medley that I picked up back when I made my Lentil and Rice salad. I've recently been playing around with Kale. I absolutely adored the Kale and Avocado dip that I made last week. So I packed this casserole full of Kale. I added mushrooms to give it a nice meaty component, and then a low(ish) fat cheese sauce to bind it all together and give it a little bit of creaminess.

This makes a nice big pan that is a great side dish. I served this to Marshall with some sauteed Kale on the side, and a Pesto and Slow Roasted Tomato stuffed chicken breast.

Wild Rice, Mushroom and Kale Casserole

For the Casserole

1 1/2 Cups Uncooked Rice Blend (include Wild Rice)
2 Cups Kale
8oz Mushrooms, sliced
1/4 Cup Walnuts
2 Tablespoons Butter for sauteing

For the Topping

1/4 Cup Asiago Cheese
1/4 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs

For the Sauce

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Whole Wheat Flour
2 Cups Non-Fat Milk
1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 

Everyone has a favorite method for cooking rice and here is mine. For this rice, you want it a little al dente, as it will cook more in the oven with the sauce. So, rinse your rice and get yourself a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Cover the rice with water so there is about half an inch of water above the rice. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and lay a clean dish towel over the pan, then put the lid on, then tie the dish towel over the lid so that you aren't trailing dishtowel and risking fire and death. Turn the heat down very low, let cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let sit for another 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid at all during this time. After your time is up, take the lid off and you should have nice al dente rice. If you are using white rice, make the times 10 and 10. 
Slice the mushrooms and saute in a large skillet until browned, set aside. 
Chop the Kale, being sure to remove the center rib, and place in the pan you just took the mushrooms out of. Add a cup of water and cook until the water has evaporated all the way.

Now preheat the oven to 350F and make your sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour to make a paste. Add the milk little by little, stirring all the while until all of the milk is adding. If you have lumps, run the sauce through a sieve to get them out. Then, simmer until it starts to thicken a little. Take off the heat and add the salt and cheddar. Mix well to combine. 

To assemble the casserole, mix the mushrooms, kale, sauce, rice and walnuts in a large bowl. Pour out into an 8x8 Casserole dish (I love this one). Mix the panko breadcrumbs with the asiago cheese and sprinkle over the top. If you don't have asiago on hand, you can use parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is crispy and the casserole is bubbly. 

Serve to your friend in the green room between shows with some chicken and a side vegetable and tell him how much you will miss him. 

Makes 8 servings.

Want more Marshall Meals? Here they are:

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
Asian Simmered Beef
Parsley and Panko Crusted Salmon

Friday, June 22, 2012

Toasted Coconut Meringues

I wouldn't call myself a food hoarder. I'm really good about only buying what I need. However, I'm not terribly keen on throwing food away. If I have leftovers that I'm sick of, I tend to stick them in the freezer to be rediscovered at a later date. This usually ends up being three months later when I'm completely starving and have no time to cook. It works for me.

I've talked before about how badly I want to have a big big freezer. I dream one day of a house with a chest freezer and a garden where I can grow my own food, and then store it! For now, though, I have to make do with my tiny icebox which is shared with my roommate.

Because I don't like to through anything away, though, there is a little tub in my freezer that is full of egg whites. So frequently I have recipes that call for just yolks, and I hate throwing the whites down the sink. So into the freezer they go. I realized the other day that my little freezer tub was getting kind of full. I figured that it was time to go ahead and make something, and honestly, I took the easy way out and made meringue.

When I was just starting out in America and cooking very seldom, I once made a huge and delicious strawberry pavlova. I even took a picture of it with a real film camera. The picture was, of course, terrible, but that pavlova was wonderful. Layers of crispy meringue filled with whipped cream and strawberries. I definitely need to revisit that old summer favorite.

But, since I didn't have strawberries on hand, I decided that the meringue that I would make would be in cookie form. Digging through my pantry, I came up with coconut and dark chocolate. Perfect.

Toasted Coconut Meringues

When you're making meringues, you need a stabilizer. The standard choice is Cream of Tartar, but I couldn't for the life of me find it in my pantry. The easiest and more reliable substitute is white vinegar. You can use either in this recipe.

3 Egg Whites (or 3oz of egg white)
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar or 1/2 Teaspoon White Vinegar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate

Preheat your oven to 250F. In a bowl or a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar/vinegar and salt until they form thick peaks that don't sink down when you stop whisking. Add in the sugar a tablespoon at a time and keep whisking. Your peaks will turn lovely and glossy.

In a shallow pan, lightly toast the coconut until it is just starting to brown. Fold it really gently into the eggs until it is evenly distributed.

Line two cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Drop the mixture onto the pans, about a tablespoon at a time. Try and form them into little mountains. The mixture should be thick enough to stand up on it's own. You should get about 15 per cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven for an hour to an hour and ten minutes. They will keep their shape and turn a light brown all over. Pull them out of the oven and let them cool on the pan completely. If you try and remove them, they will flatten out. They need to cool to maintain their shape.

When they are cool, melt the dark chocolate in a double boil and dip the meringues in there, coating as much of the top side of the meringue as you can. Set onto a plate, and stick in the fridge for 30 minutes or so for the chocolate to harden.

Bring to work and share with your coworkers, because you're just that nice. Eat three between the parking lot and the office.

Makes about 30 meringues.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Creamy Avocado and Kale Dip and Not Breaking the Calorie Bank

I'm a sucker for Spinach and Artichoke Dip. It's one of the few times I'll actually man up and eat something with mayonnaise in it.

I know people will think that I'm crazy, but I really dislike mayonnaise. The taste, the smell, the concept... I just can't do it. I'm not even sure why. I never had a traumatic mayonnaise experience like I did with banana flavored things. I just don't care for it. I think part of it is that I know mayonnaise comes from eggs mixed with oil. I've seen eggs and I've seen oil, and they don't look anything like mayonnaise. I think I'm mostly just freaked out by the transformation that occurs. It makes me a touch uncomfortable.

But oh man, Spinach and Artichoke dip is my jam. I adore it. I love the richness and the creamy and the tangy and the yum of it all.

But, these days, I try really hard to eat healthy. It's not easy, and I still act out once in a while. Case in point, I may have had ice cream for brunch today. Just ice cream. From Baskin Robbins while I walked around the grocery store.

But I'm balancing out here. I wanted something for lunch that was decadent and rich, but wouldn't break the calorie bank. I've recently hopped on the Kale bandwagon. I'm definitely not as gung ho as some people, but I will admit that sauteed Kale is pretty yummy when seasoned well, and it's nutrition values are nice.

This dip has the creaminess of a calorie rich dip, but you don't feel afterwards as though you should go run a 5K while carrying a backpack full of rocks to make up for your transgressions. The color of it is also really sumptuous and lush. I love how the green just pops. Fantastic.

Creamy Avocado and Kale Dip

1 Avocado
3 Stalks of Kale
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Non-fat Yoghurt
Juice of Half a Lemon
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (plus 1/2 Tablespoon for the Kale)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Wash your kale and with a knife or just using your hands, separate the leaves from the center stalk. Chop the leaves up in small chunks.

In a skillet, heat half a tablespoon of olive oil and add in the minced garlic. Cook for a minute or two, just to soften it. Add in the kale and mix around to coat, then add in 1/2 Cup of water. Let cook for a few minutes until almost all of the water has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

In a blender or a food processor, add in the flesh of the avocado, the lemon juice, yoghurt, tablespoon of olive oil, and then about four grinds of salt and six or seven grinds of pepper. Pulse a few times to blend together, but don't puree it. You want it well mixed, but not smooth. Add in the kale and pulse again until everything is blended together and thick and chunky.

Enjoy with crackers, use as a sandwich spread, or eat it with a spoon while standing in front of the refrigerator while your cat is winding around your ankles, angrily insisting it's her turn to be fed.

Makes 1 Cup.

Other recipes you might like:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blueberry Vanilla Honey Butter

Here's a super quick recipe for you today, since I am busy working on a multitude of projects. My schedule has started to get so busy that I actually went and ordered a day planner again, something I quit using when I started a regular schedule by working at the Circus.

It is kind of nice to be busy. I'm hoping that on Wednesday I'll have some kitchen time though. I've been living on salads and toast for the last week and I could do with something new and experimentational!

So, here's a recipe you can make incredibly quickly. Flavored butters are awesome for the aforementioned toast and are also great on pancakes, waffles, english muffins, or anything you'd normally stick something sweet and buttery on.

I made this recipe initially to go on top of cornbread muffins, but the cornbread muffins were a disaster. I'll have to play around with that recipe a lot before I share it here! But, the butter came out splendid, so give it a whirl!

Blueberry Vanilla Honey Butter

1 Stick of Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Blueberries
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Let your butter sit out until it becomes room temperature which takes about 30 minutes, or soften carefully in the microwave. Be cautious as you don't want it to be completely melted.
In a large bowl or a stand mixer, add all the ingredients together and use a sturdy whisk or a whisk attachment to beat the butter into submission and whisk everything together until it's a gorgeous blueberry flecked purple light mass.

If you grab some wax paper, you can dollop a bunch of this out and roll it into a log, then refrigerate. This will let you cut off pretty buttery disks. Or, you can keep it in a ramekin. Be sure to store in the fridge so it doesn't stay too soft. It really is delicious on pancakes and waffles, but is also quite spectacular on whole wheat toast.

Makes about a cup of whipped deliciousness.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Potato Gnocchi

I'm deep in the middle of a bunch of projects right now. Time really doesn't feel like it belongs to me. When I get super busy, I tend to just pile more and more things on my plate. I decided this last weekend that regardless of the looming deadlines, I was going to have some kitchen and friend time, dammit. So, over came Myles to help me out with some deliberate non-working.

Did you know that Gnocchi can be made with just two ingredients? TWO! Seriously, it's potatoes and flour and it's soooo delicious. I started making it a few years ago. My first foray into gnocchi was a bit of a disaster. I made Sweet Potato Gnocchi for Thanksgiving one year. I didn't think to roll the dough into little ropes and cut it, so I was just pulling big chunks off the ball of dough. Everything was uneven and way too big, mostly because as I was getting impatient and making the balls bigger and bigger as I went along. When we ate them, they were horribly dense and chewy.

I loved the idea, though, and have made gnocchi many times since then, with much better technique, though my pieces never come out quite even.

Making gnocchi is easy. You combine cooked potato with flour, then boil it in salty water, put a little butter in a pan and then saute it until the outside is a little crisp. You get a little bite on the outside, and inside is a dreamy, gooey potato dumpling. Served with a flavorful sauce, it's quite the impressive dish. It's especially wonderful eaten with a good friend for a weekend lunch, accompanied by a refreshing cocktail and followed by a trip to the pool.

Potato Gnocchi

I highly recommend using yukon gold potatoes if you can, or another smaller thin skinned potato. It will give you the best results.

1lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled
1 Cup Flour, sifted

Peel your potatoes, then dice them. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil, then cook the potatoes in it for about 20 minutes until they are completely tender. Drain the potatoes really well.

In you have a ricer, use this to rice the potatoes, if not, press the potatoes through the holes in a metal colander into a large mixing bowl. You want a nice fluffy mound. Sift the flour over the potatoes, then mix to form a ball of dough. It might be a tiny bit sticky. If you didn't get enough water out of your potatoes when you drained them, I recommend adding just a smidge more flour, but go easy else the gnocchi will come out heavy.

Bring another pan of really salty water to the boil. On a clean surface, roll out some of the gnocchi dough into a rope. It should be about 3/4 of an inch wide. With a sharp knife, slice of dough at one inch intervals. Roll across the tines of a fork and make a ridgey dent (very technical term, I know) in the dumplings, as shown here:

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling salty water for a minute or two. They are done when the float to the surface. Pull them out and drain them as soon as they start to float, they will have swelled up.

In a shallow saute pan, melt a tablespoon or two of butter and add the gnocchi. Saute until they get some color on them, this will make the outside a little crispy.

Serve with a great sauce, like a beurre blanc or a white cheese sauce. Maybe a side of asparagus and some bruschetta too. Devour shamelessly.

Makes about 4 servings.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tzatziki and Other Adventures

When I was ten or eleven years old, my Mum took my sister and I on holiday to Kefalonia in Greece. It was our first holiday that didn't involve sleeping in a caravan in somewhere terrifying like Wales.

I have flashes of memory from that vacation. I remember it being beautiful and I remember thinking that it smelled amazing at night time. I have a vague memory that I think might be the taste of honey. I remember the colors of the bougainvillea and I remember that I got an absolutely horrible sunburn.

I have a really weird memory. Lots of things are lost to me. My Stunt Guy clearly remembers conversations we had two years ago, but often I draw a blank. I can, however, probably recite entire episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for you, and I know pretty much everything there is to know about Anne Boleyn.

Anyway, after that family holiday to Greece, a couple of years later Mum went back to spend a week sailing with a bunch of other people. Evidently, and to me this sounds like the most amazing holiday, they spent two days learning how to sail a small boat with several other couples, then they sailed around the Greek islands in a small flotilla, anchoring up in bays in the night and swimming from one boat to another for visits. I think this was the first of my mothers amazing adventurous vacations. When she came back, she regularly started making Tzatziki. It became an easy staple in our household, frequently served with fresh sliced baguette. I love it for it's punch of garlic and it's cool refreshing bite. I'm sure my mother still thinks of Greece when she makes it. I still want to have all the adventures that she had. I think I still have time.


You can use store bought Greek yoghurt here, or you can make your own strained yoghurt which is incredibly easy. Set a paper towel in a mesh sieve over a bowl. Spoon the yoghurt into the paper towel and set in the fridge for an hour or two. Lots of liquid will drip out of the yoghurt and into the bowl, leaving you with amazing rich thick strained yoghurt.

8oz Cucumber
6 Mint Leaves
2 Cloves Garlic
6 Tablespoons Greek or Strained Yoghurt

Peel your cucumber, then grate it with a box grater. Squeeze out as much of the liquid in the cucumber as you can. I've found that the easiest way to do this really is to just use your hands.
Mince the garlic cloves and mint up finely. Stir all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Serve with pita chips or a freshly sliced baguette.

Makes about 1 Cup.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cucumber Mint Sparkler

I'm sorry, were you busy? Well, never mind what you were doing. Right now, you need to go to your kitchen or your bar. You need to mix yourself one of these, then you need to kick back and relax on your porch, or by your pool, or in front of some trashy TV (usually something by Gordon Ramsey). It's summer, and a delicious and refreshing cocktail on a weeknight is really what you need right now.

I could drink these all day.

Cucumber Mint Sparkler

1oz Cucumber
2 Shots Vodka
2 Tablespoons Roses Sweetened Lime Juice
10 Mint Leaves
Sparkling Water

Peel the cucumber. In a blender, add the vodka and the lime juice. Blend until mostly smooth. You'll have a little texture there. Put the mint and three cubes of ice each in some small highball glasses. Divide the mixture between the glasses then top with sparkling water. Stir, then top with a slice of cucumber and a fresh mint sprig.

Enjoy, barefoot at sunset.

Makes 2.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Banana Brownie Custard Cups

When I was wee, one of the simple desserts that my Nana (and perhaps my Mum) used to make was Bananas and Custard. Nana had a lot of really simple dishes that were in her regular rotation, and most of my food memories come from her. Usually, the custard came out of a box or a tin. Ambrosia Devonshire Custard and Birds Eye Custard are both fairly strong staples in the English home. I'm generally not a supporter of things Banana-related. When I was a child, I was sick and had banana flavor medicine which I frequently threw back up again. Medicine trauma aside, I always liked this dessert. There wasn't much to it, sliced bananas over custard, lots of pale yellows. It was easy.

A couple of days ago, I was seeking comfort food, so I whipped up a batch of custard. Since it's not as common here, I made it from scratch which is incredibly simple and takes about 7 minutes. I made some extra and stored it in the fridge. Later that day, I was doing a clean out of my freezer, which I frequently do as it gets a bit ridiculous in there sometimes. I stumbled across a container of brownie crumbles. I had made Dark Chocolate Brownies a couple of weeks ago and crumbled them up to use as topping at a little ice cream birthday party we had had at work. I had leftovers so I popped them in the freezer. Lightning struck my brain and my simple Bananas and Custard evolved into Banana Brownie Custard Cups. I layered the brownie crumbles with the bananas and custard like a trifle.

I dug my spoon in. Heaven. The combination of the brownie crumbles, rich and chocolate with a little texture and some heartiness against the creamy sweet custard, with fresh banana as both a taste and texture contrast. I should have been doing this for years. It's delicious and decadent and rich. Yesterday it was the perfect pick me up in the middle of a yucky day, part homey comfort food, part new indulgence.

Banana Brownie Custard Cups

I use a mix of milk and heavy cream in my custard because I only ever have non-fat milk in the house. You could probably substitute a cup of whole milk for the cream and milk mixture that I have here.

1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup Non-Fat Milk
2 Egg Yolks
3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
2 Brownies, crumbled (here is my recipe for brownies)
1 Banana, just ripened, sliced

In a small saucepan, mix the egg yolks and sugar together. Add the vanilla, then the cornstarch. Mix together well with a whisk. In a measuring jug or other vessel, mix together the milk and cream. Pour a little into the egg mixture and turn the heat on very low. Slowly add the milk mixture, stirring all the while until it is all added. Turn the heat up to medium and stir frequently, if not the bottom may burn. The mixture will be very thin at first, and then all of a sudden it will start to thicken up quickly, somewhere around the 5 minute mark.  When it's thickened, remove from heat and set it aside to cool.

Crumble up your brownies and slice your bananas. In a glass of your choice, layer some brownies crumbles, then spoon over a tablespoon or two of custard, then a single layer of bananas. Repeat twice, giving you three full layers. For the top layer, do a final layer of custard, then decorate with a few brownie sprinkles and a single slice of banana.

You can make these ahead of time and refrigerate them if you like. The brownies will soak up some moisture from the custard and then when you dig in, it'll be almost mousse-like.

Makes two really big desserts, which honestly might need to be shared!

If you want to eat this my Nana's way, slice half a banana and place in the bottom of a bowl. Cover with about 1/3rd cup of hot custard, throw a couple more banana slices on top, eat with a spoon and savor the simplicity.

Other recipes you might like:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Whilst I'm Not Cooking #9

It's been a week of lots of ups and downs and highs and lows. I managed to spend some time with my Stunt Guy, but it, of course, wasn't enough. I've got some other projects that I'm working on that are taking more time than I thought, so I'm in one of those places where I have so much to do that I find myself not wanting to do anything. I'm going to kick myself in the butt right now and get going.

I've got a nice list of recipes to play with this coming weekend, and a lot of great inspiration from around the blogosphere. Here are some great recent recipes from my fellow food bloggers:

Macaron Cake from Sprinkle Bakes

Oatmeal Sourdough Rolls from The Sweets Life

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart from Have Cake Will Travel

Creamy Lemon Potato Salad from The Pioneer Woman

Ginger Walnut Chocolate Blondies from Joy the Baker

Wow. I guess I'm secretly in a baking mood today.

Whilst I'm Not Cooking #8 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #7 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #6 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #5 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #4 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #3 Made 1/2
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #2 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #1 Made 2/5

What are you baking these days?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Home Sweet Green Juicy Atlanta Home

After I got done with work at 11:30pm on Sunday I hitched a ride to the airport, curled up in a corner, and napped and watched TV until it was time to get on a plane at 6am. After five and a half hours, I made it to Atlanta, Georgia and was greeted by my amazing Stunt Guy. We had 67 hours before I had to head back to the Circus. 

Georgia in early June is one of the most beautiful places you can be. The air is heavy with the smell of flowers and grass and trees. Everything is lush and beautiful. The occasional cloud bursts of rain keep it glistening but not too wet. The humidity is about perfect, and everything feels so wonderfully alive. But on to the food!

When I go to Atlanta, there are several places that I end up eating each time and I managed to hit a couple of the regulars on this trip. The Brickstore Pub is in Decatur. It's a favorite local spot because they have an enormous beer selection, with lots of great craft beers. It's frequently busy but the pub itself is really lovely inside. It's got local art on the walls, and a good buzz of happy people. If you're torn between beers there, they will happily let you taste a few to pick which you are after.

I devoured their Country Chicken Pate with Smoked Peach Preserves. The crackers were thick and homemade and the perfect complement to the pate, which was pale and light and almost mousselike. It packed a great wallop of flavor, and the pairing of the peach preserves was perfect and so.... Southern. I had to order more crackers of course, but it was awesome.

Beer-wise, it was Founders Cerise for me. It was a light cherry beer with a good amount of tartness, it wasn't overly sweet like a lambic. I loved it, and sadly you can't get it on this coast, but if you are East of the Mississippi you should be good.

I know the picture is awful, but my Stunt Guy had the Shepherd's Daughter Pie which was described as "ground lamb, beef & pork, barley wine ketchup, fennel & fresh herbs, scalloped potatoes, gruyere sauce, mesclun greens with lemon vinaigrette". I'm sorry to say that it completely missed the mark. The flavor of the lamb was there, but everything else was just kind of... meh. The sauce was quite bland and the potatoes were almost non-existent. It wasn't really a heart dish. Our dining companions adored their pretzels though, and I have to say the house made mustard dipping sauce for them is really great. I've found that the food in the Brickstore can be a touch hit or miss. I remember loving their pierogies too. But if you are there, definitely try the pate.

As should well be, our liquor bill outweighed our food bill. I adore that.

 Partly because our waitress missed the pretzels on the check. We paid for them anyway and left her a moral dilemma note. I wonder what she chose to do?

After I crashed horribly hard, having been awake for 48 hours with less than four hours of sleep, it was time to hit up my absolute favorite place to eat breakfast. We go here every time I come home or I get very cranky. It's The Flying Biscuit Cafe. They have the best and most delicious biscuits anywhere, and the rest of their food is also pretty top notch. We started out with a Blue Moonmosa, basically a mimosa made of beer.

I had the Egg-Stravaganza which combines everything I love, their perfect scrambled eggs, their Creamy Dreamy Grits, and a giant and delicious Flying Biscuit and the French Toast.

The French Toast at the Flying Biscuit is worth the trip alone. It's made on giant fluffy wheat bread, but the kicker are the sauces. They top it with a stunning raspberry coulis and a honey creme anglaise. It is absolutely delicious and I love it more than I can express.

Stunt Guy went for the Hollywood Omelette, which was also pretty yummy and, of course, a biscuit.

The biscuits really are spectacular. They come with cranberry apple butter. I've tried to replicate them before at home, but they never come out. I don't know what they do, but you really need to go there to try out the real thing.

After our wonderful late breakfast,  it was off to the North Georgia Mountains, which is completely stunning all the time, but particularly this time of year when everything is green and gorgeous. We stayed in a little perfect cabin, and this was our view. We relaxed, we read, we went for a walk and watched the sun set over that lake. We ate dinner, which we had brought with us.

Ru Sans Sushi, home of the most perfect Miso Soup and some fairly decent yummy sushi. It's not horribly overpriced at all, and we decided that it would be perfect to take with us, since we wouldn't have to do any cooking in the cabin and we weren't sure of our supplies. We had a Spider Roll, Rainbow Roll and a Punk Rock and Roll. All were really good, but the miso soup was, of course, excellent.

The next day we hiked up Amicalola Falls, which is a really beautiful waterfall and state park up in the mountains. It's a mile hike, including a whole lot of stairs. The waterfall was really stunning.

Here's a little action video with a cameo from Stunt Guy. 

Once we hit the top it was time for a beer with a view. Then back to the city for a quick dinner and a movie.

Dinner at Taco Mac. John loves this place. He's been coming to one of it's several Atlanta locations for years. I have too, but for drinks, never the food. I have to say, I find the food here incredibly sub-par. No matter what I order, and I've tried tons of different things, I think the food is really bad. These were Fish Tacos with South western rice. The rice was dry and had been sitting out a while. The tacos had no flavor. Just unimpressive. I had a yummy Left Hand Milk Stout though. If you're going there, I'd stick to the beer list.

The next morning it was off to the airport, with a quick breakfast at Highland Bakery. I love Highland Bakery too. They make all their own bread in house and it really is spectacular. Their Sweet Potato Pancakes are to die for. If you're already them, you'll need to share because they are so rich and delicious. They have great Shrimp and Grits, and I love their cheese bagels. I often order the breakfast sandwich and then forget that I'm not keen on it. They don't tend to season the eggs and that doesn't work for me. I need to try better to remember to just order a bagel with some scrambled eggs on the side. 

Oh but their cinnamon rolls.... heaven. Light and fluffy with the most delicious cream cheese frosting you can imagine. We split a small one because, well, we would have eaten a large and then they would have had to roll me on to the plane. If you go here, regardless of what else you order, you really must order a cinnamon roll.

And then it was back to reality. Back to the desert and the circus. It was a completely whirlwind trip and I didn't have an opportunity to see most of my friends because the time there was so short, but I'm so glad I went. I needed a taste of home. I'm saying goodbye to my Stunt Guy for another 23 days, then I get him for two weeks. So it's back to the kitchen with me. New recipes are coming soon, and I've got so many ideas!

Brick Store Pub on Urbanspoon
The Flying Biscuit Cafe on Urbanspoon
Ru San's on Urbanspoon
Taco Mac on Urbanspoon
Highland Bakery on Urbanspoon