Sunday, March 20, 2011

Richmond Adventures

One of my dear friends recently moved to Richmond- which makes me mucho happy. I've been friends with Maria ever since she and her roommate let me use their room as a sanctuary freshman year. I was pretty intimidated by her for the first months (I think I must have seen her get crazy with someone or something- or maybe she just has an aura of "don't mess with me"), but once we had a joke of an econ class together, we were pals for life.


She has shown me many of the finer things of life- how to avoid a pyramid scheme, where to find Lucy Ball memorabilia, how to prove you are a racist - and this weekend, she showed me hip, revitalized Richmond, specifically a little neighborhood called Careytown.

I was actually really surprised how cute the area was. Almost entirely non-chain eateries (with the lone exception of Starbucks... which I think we can all excuse) and one-of-a-kind boutiques lined the half mile of store fronts. Friendly yuppies and hipsters far cooler than I were the chief patrons besides ourselves, and there was an abundance of street musicians of a varying skill levels. I was affronted by one aspiring musician who was straight peddling- dude, you can't even sing a song for your $.50 donation? Really? And I saw my first street magician! Who knew?

We went to the coolest vintage store ever- beautiful dresses, along with a proliferation of old-timey undergarment illustrations that makes me very thankful for Victoria's Secret. We had a yummy lunch at a bustling French bistro (I can neither confirm nor deny that there were some cocktails involved...) and then we went to a darling local bookstore:


And then we went to a toy store that is seriously one of the most magical places I've ever seen. The toys were amazing and I got my niece some really fun toys for her birthday. And maybe we found some pretty sweet disguises:


Then we went back to Casa de Maria and watched some NCAA magic. You know, that nail biter between Morehead State and Richmond (cough). Maria then took me on a tour of Richmond that should have had a sub-title of "Places Where Someone Has Been Violently Assaulted/Is Likely To Be Violently Assaulted" and I convinced her to go to Cracker Barrel. Yes, it's a chain. Yes, it's too crowded. And yes, it was balm to this Southerner's soul.


There was enough fat and butter to give us a heart ache on the spot, but it was worth it. Help me, I love flour.

Anyways, I am so jazzed to have such a sweet friend nearby and I look forward to many more Maria/Frankie Virginia adventures!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cooookie!

So, if you see the last time I posted, I've been rediscovering the joys of film photography. And I was thinking, what is something beautiful that I could take pictures of? And it hit me:


The most delicious cookies in the entire world. Okay, maybe not the most delicious. But way up there, especially if you like fruit themed desserts. These are raspberry jam thumbprint cookies- the dough is an almond cookie and then you make a little well in the middle (with your thumb, obviously) and put in raspberry preserves. And the are mindblowing. Though they do have an obscene amount of butter in them:




I'm sure Paula Deen would be proud. I've also made a version of these with strawberry jam, which was equally tasty. Really, you can't go wrong.

*~*~*

This is a modified version of Tammy Algood's recipe in The Complete Southern Cookbook. Mostly, I've clarified the cooking times, because these suckers are a little tricky in the doneness department:

2 sticks unsalted butter
a generous 3/4 cup of sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
a generous 2 1/4 cups of flour
1/2 cup of very finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup of raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 300F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (seriously, go ahead and use it- makes all the difference).

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until fluffy (takes me about 4 minutes on high). Add the extracts and blend in. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the flour.

Remove the dough and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll them in the finely chopped almonds. Thumbprint time! Make a well in each cookie with your thumb and fill each one with jam.

Bake for 22 minutes- now here's where it's a little tricky. I've never had them brown by then. It usually takes me at least 30 minutes to get them brown to my satisfaction. I recommend cooking at 2-3 minute intervals until you feel good about them. Even if you feel uncertain, I'd stop after 30- they just don't brown that much.

Cool on racks- and then keep everyone else's paws off of them.

*~*~*

Anyways, I think that you will LOVE these. Here are some more lovely pictures of them in progress...







Monday, March 7, 2011

Remember When Cameras Had Film in Them?

Do you guys remember those little yellow Kodak cameras? I used to take them on every trip I went on. I still love the sound of winding the film with that little sprocketed wheel.
When I was in high school, I took a photography class. Not with a fancy digital camera, but with old fashioned film cameras. We only used black and white film and spent our class times taking turns developing our film in the darkroom, making 8x10 prints and letting them dry on the little clothes line on the back wall. It was one of my favorite classes I ever took- I loved watching the image creeping across the paper like an ink splotch as I sloshed the mysterious chemicals in the pan.
As much as I love my simple digital point and click, I feel like we've really lost something by immediately being able to tell how the picture turned out. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's also a huge advantage to be able to see that Suzy has her eyes closed and Johnny has crossed eyes before you let them run off. But I also love the excitement of getting the little book back from Walgreens and ripping it open to see how they all turned out.
Anyways, I found that film camera a few months back and I realized that it's a waste for it to just sit there, waiting for me to remember how awesome it is to have to wait to see how the pictures turn out. So here are a few recent attempts:

I used some black and white film during our last big snow






And then I took these at small group, when we were celebrating my friend Mary's birthday:



 Mary with baby :)




And finally, this is one from my friend Sarah's Wycliffe lunch. I just love that this so naturally her.



Anyways, I encourage everyone to rediscover some of the mystery! Go get yourself a little Kodak camera and click away!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pre-Lent Wish List

Ah, I am so happy. My favorite time of year will soon be upon us. Lent! Well, really, Easter, but Lent is the liturgical countdown clock to the big day. Like Dick Clark and the New Year's ball. I love, love, love it. I can't explain why- I think because it's the only holiday where there is a slow and steady build up that involves no stressful gift shopping or turkey procurement. You spend 40 days getting ready for the culminating celebration. And that preparation isn't like Christmas when you are feeling giddy and festive.
Lent is during the most depressing season of the year- everything is gray and gloomy. The last part of Lent is Holy Week, where you spend the whole time meditating on the sacrifices and sufferings of Christ. But it's the darkness of that time that makes the jubilation of Easter morning celebrations so sweet. I guess that's why I love Easter- it's a very emotionally well-planned holiday.
On top of my preexisting love of the season, this year, I will be counting down to more than just the big E. I will also be counting down to being in "Asia Minor" with my church! That's right, we leave on Good Friday, which means that I will be celebrating Easter in one of the seven churches of Revelation. Baller! I am giddily excited.
In any case, Lent will soon be here and the daily reminder of the season will be with me: no meat. No sweets. Oi vey- this is going to be interesting.
So in honor of my coming deficit in culinary delights, here are the 5 things that I have got to make sure I sample before Ash Wednesday:
1.     STEAK: I didn't fully understand the beauty of a perfectly cooked steak until I lived with my aunt and uncle the summer I interned in DC. Pretty sure this is because between my parents, my dad likes his rare boarder line raw and my mom takes hers medium well boarder line hamburger. Neither of which is appealing to me. However, that summer I discovered a medium done steak and I was in love. The rich, savory goodness of a perfectly cooked steak next to some English peas and caramelized onions on top of mashed potatoes might be my favorite meal of all time. If I was going to be hanged, this would probably be my last meal. I've been cajoling all of my coworkers to have a team dinner at Morton's this week- I hope I can convince them!
2.     Ice Cream: If steak would be the main course at my execution, ice cream would be the dessert. Perhaps on top of a fresh berry crisp, perhaps in an ice cream cake- whatever the form, it would have to be there. There is seriously nothing wrong with this food. It's perfect. Texturally, flavor wise- help me, I love it. 
3.     Cadbury Chocolate Mini-Eggs: I discovered these last Easter and they are amazing. Again, this is a textural thing. I've noticed that's a big part of my gastronomic enjoyments- I digress. Made by the same company that makes those disgusting cream-filled eggs, these little ditties are delicious milk chocolate coated into a sugary, crunchy shell. I should probably go ahead and buy a bag of these before they disappear- I'll hide them somewhere in the house and crack 'em open when I get back from "Asia Minor." 
4.     Indian Chicken dishes from Trader Joe's: If you don't have a Trader Joe's in your area, just know that you are to be pitied. This grocery store is amazing. All the stuff is organic, it's pretty cheap, and they have the best ethnic food section I've ever encountered. Enter: Indian Chicken dishes. Specifically Chicken Tiki Masala. Yuuummmm. So good. Luckily, there is also a Paneer version, so I'll just have to satisfy myself with that for 40 days
5.     Surprise Bacon in Salads and Soups: Last, but certainly not least, I will miss not having to be rigorous in my soup and salad procurement at local area restaurants. See, a lot of the times, they don't list bacon as an ingredient, but just let it pop up as a delicious and welcomed surprise. You'll be spearing limp lettuce greens and hit a bacon jackpot- it's like the lotto. Anyways, I will now have to grill every person who waits on me at a restaurant, narrowly determining whether or not any kind of dead animal could be lurking underneath the spinach leaves.