Friday Fun

Happy Friday Y’all!

I know that these have been making their way around the web but I thought I would share them today because they are cracking me up and really hitting home!

This is totally how I used to feel when everybody in my office could see my computer.  I by everybody I mean every single person that entered my department.  I don’t need people witnessing me facebook stalk and checking out all my celebrity gossip on people.com and popsugar.com.  Privacy people!

Lets be honest -this is how we all feel come Friday at quitting time:

And this is how I feel on Friday night (you know…in the same black jumpsuit as Wednesday & Thursday):

Happy Friday!!  Hope that you all have a great weekend!  We have some exciting plans to clean our house tonight since we have two couples coming to view and possibly rent it when we move in March.  Cross your fingers!  We are also meeting up with friends to try a new restaurant, which is always fun!

What is everyone else up to?

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New Nashville friend

Tonight Jon and I headed over to meet a new friend.  Her name is Claire Jane and she surprised her Mom and Dad by arriving on Christmas Eve two weeks before her birth!

What a good looking family!  Little Claire has the cutest little face and some fuzzy brown hair.  Mom & Dad already look like naturals!

Photo credit: Shannon via facebook 🙂

I knew that I wanted to take them a meal since Bob is back at work and Val is adjusting to maternity leave at home.  I have to say Val doesn’t look at all tired or like she had a baby a week and a half ago.  Val – please give us all your secret!!

I decided to try my hand at cottage pie (shepherd’s pie with ground beef instead of ground lamb) since I remembered Val ordered this one time when we all went out to eat.  I found this recipe on TastyKitchen and made a trial run for Jon & I this week.  Jon approved (although he did say it is not as good as the Family Wash in East Nashville – duh!) so I made another batch last night.  In the spirit of full disclosure: I used a pre-made jar of gravy and bought refrigerated mashed potatoes as mine tend to be lumpy.  I think I also added a 1/2 cup or full cup of extra vegetables and extra mashed potatoes.  I know – I am always going ‘rogue’, Jon.

How crafty am I with my printed post-it note with the baking instructions?!  It only took about 3 post-its to get it right.

It was so nice to catch up with friends and meet the new addition to their family.  And let’s be honest…it is always so nice to hold a sweet little newborn baby!  Jon apparently has a future in baby whispering…how relaxed does little Claire look?

Let’s all pretend like I am not wearing the same outfit I was in my photos from yesterday.  ok?  thanks!

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Being an adult is expensive!

Since we are moving to Atlanta in the next few months I have already started applying for jobs.  For some reason Jon doesn’t think it is feasible for me to be a Real Housewife.  I know, crazy.  I have had good luck in hearing back from the employers I have submitted applications to and hope to be headed to ATL to interview in person in the next week or two.  *Fingers crossed*

I figured a minor wardrobe update was in order especially in the suit department!  I am pretty sure the last time I wore a suit was 2007…  so I head to The Limited at the recommendation of Amanda.  She even told me that they currently have a buy one, get one 50% off on pants & jackets.  Score!!  I give you the before and after.

PS- Velour suits are still in and you wish you had my green uggs and sense of style.

But adult clothes are sooo expensive!  My target budget was in shock when I saw the receipt!  This was for three shirts that were on sale and two business suits that were also on sale.

C’mon Limited how about a little BOGO action.

Jon had to talk me off the ledge since he has more expensive sophisticated style than me.  Keep your fingers crossed that these babies get me gainfully employed in ATL.

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Drinking more water & eating less meat

Unlike like most of you lucky ducks I was working yesterday.  Vanderbilt decided that the Friday before New Years was a better day off then the Monday following.  I know womp womp womp.

In the spirit of new years my co-workers and I started talking about our resolutions and goals for the year.  One of my goals is to drink more water – the daily recommended amount to be exact (eight 8 ounce glasses).  Well, one of my co-workers heard that people generally drink more when drinking through a straw.  I tried to google this so that I could give you all the facts but the google results were mainly about alcohol consumption and that is not what I am going for here.

Well, I just happened to purchase a thermal coffee cup for Jon that came with a plastic cup and straw this weekend.  Score!  I am happy to report that I drank four 16 ounce glasses of water throughout the day.  This is a vast improvement for me.  I am usually lucky to drink three 16 ounce glasses.   I find that it is easier to drink out of a straw and do other things such as look at work on the computer or internet surf.  I never realized that it is harder to manage drinking out of a cup versus a straw and multi-task.  I am a believer.  Hopefully, my new cup will continue to help me meet my daily goal.

One of my other goals is to eat less meat.  This has been an unsuccessful goal that is now being carried over from years past.  I am still not sure how this will exactly play out – it is not realistic for me to be 100% vegetarian because I do enjoy a good steak every now and then.  Since I have been thinking about this over the past few months I have been proactively trying to find vegetarian recipes that we would like.

I have also started cooking with tofu.  There a tons of health benefits that tofu provides – lowered cholesterol, decrease risk of heart disease and some types of cancer, just to name a few.  Tofu also has a lengthy shelf life at a month or two.  Last night I made a dish that I have cooked before and just changed out the chicken for tofu.  I made yellow rice with onion and peppers, mojo tofu and roasted asparagus.  It was so tasty!  There were leftovers for lunch and one of my co-workers said how good it looked – which was very exciting!  Next time I make it I will write the recipe down so that I can share it.

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Homemade Everything Bagels

Yes, you read that right!  I, Katie Cherry, baked homemade everything bagels.  One of my new year’s goals is to bake something new once a week.  The first baked good I decided to try was a homemade bagel.  I have come across a few different recipes for homemade bagels over the past year and have put off trying them for some reason.  I am not sure if I was worried they wouldn’t taste right or if it seemed too time consuming.  Last week I thought what better way to start the first day of 2012 then with my very own homemade bagel?  I can honestly tell you…there was no better way to start my morning!

I baked these beauties on Saturday morning.  They were delicious!  A little crisp on the outside and oh-so soft on the inside.  And the everything topping…pretty amazing!  I hope that I can keep up with the demand and never purchase bagels from the grocery store again.

The recipe I followed made 12 regular size bagels.  You could easily make about 20ish mini-bagels.  Since Jon and I were headed to a friend’s house for new year’s eve I thought it might be nice to share some of the bagels.  I packaged six bagels up with a tub of plain cream cheese to thank our wonderful hosts for having us.  Thanks Dave & Amanda!

I found this recipe to be easy just time-consuming – it took about three hours from start to finish but there was almost an hour and a half of rest time.  You can find the original recipe on tasty kitchen here.  Below is the recipe with my adaptions noted in green.

FOR THE BAGELS:

  • 1-½ cup Warm Water (105-115 Degrees)
  • 1 package Instant Yeast (0.75 Ounce Packet)
  • 4 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Malt Syrup Agave Nectar
  • 1-½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
  • 3 quarts Water
  • ¼ cups Brown Sugar

FOR THE EGG WASH:

  • 1 whole Egg White whole egg (mainly because I just read this closer)
  • 1 Tablespoon Water

FOR THE EVERYTHING BAGEL TOPPING:

  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic, Minced powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Poppy Seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel Seeds
  • 1 teaspoons 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon onion flakes

Preparation Instructions

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and the yeast. Make sure that the bowl you pour the water and yeast into is not cold, because the water must be between 105-115 degrees (F) when the yeast hits it to get the yeast to bloom. Mix the yeast into the water and set it aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the bread flour, sugar, malt syrup and salt. Mix with a dough hook until just combined.

After the yeast and water has adequate time to proof, (about 10 minutes), add the mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture. Mix with the dough hook on medium for about 2 minutes. The dough will actually look kind of shredded at this point.

Keep mixing on high until the dough is smooth. By the way – this is not easy! The dough is really stiff and it will really rock a standing mixer. You need to stay with it or the mixer could easily jump right off the counter (it has happened to me before and left a huge gouge in the floor!) This should take about 8 minutes total from the time you add the yeast and water.

Remove the dough and place it in an oiled bowl, also lightly coating the top of the dough with the oil. Cover the bowl with a dish rag and place the bowl somewhere warm to rise. I let the dough rise an hour.

When the dough is ready, it will be very smooth and fluffy, but it will not have doubled in size, (more like 50%).  Cut the dough into 12 pieces and using your hands, roll them into 8-9 inch ropes.  Pull the ropes into a bagel shape, and using a little water press the ends together to make a circle.Place all of these bagels on a sheet pan covered with a piece of parchment. Let them sit and rest, about another 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (F).

Meanwhile, prepare a huge pot, and fill with about 3 quarts water, plus ¼ cup brown sugar. Bring the water to a light boil. Also, place a cooling rack inside another sheet pan.

Prepare the egg wash by beating together 1 egg white and 1 Tbs water.

Prepare the Everything Bagel Toppings by combining all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the bagels have finished resting and the water has come to a light boil, (not rolling boil) you are ready to begin!

Place 3-4 bagels at a time, (depending how big your pot is) gently into the boiling water. The bagels should be nice and light and float right to the top. Boil the bagels about 30-60 seconds on each side, and then gently flip the bagels.

When they are done, remove from the boiling water and brush each bagel with egg wash, (top and bottom) and sprinkle 6 of them with the everything bagel mixture. You can double the seed mixture if you want all everything, or sprinkle with plain sesame seeds or poppy seeds.  I brushed the top with egg wash and added the toppings while the next batch was boiling.  Once all 12 bagels were egg washed and topped on one side I transferred all the bagels back to the parchment lined pan with the side that already had toppings faced down.  I then egg washed and topped the new top.

Transfer the bagels to the parchment lined sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake until deep golden brown, 15-20 minutes (rotate the sheet pan at the 10 minute mark). In my convection oven, they took 17 minutes. Every oven is different, so pay close attention to the color that you want.

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New Orleans Day 2

Since our first night in New Orleans ended early (and thanks to the time change), we were up bright and early Sunday, ready to take the city by storm.  Our first stop was Cafe Du Monde since it was the one restaurant that everyone recommended as a must visit; it was just down the street from our hotel and located across the street from Jackson Square.  Cafe Du Monde is so famous for their beignets and cafe au lait that those two items are just about the only menu options.  Although they are open 24 hours a day, they start table service (versus ordering at the window) at 8am.  We were in luck as we arrived just before 8…although we had no idea what we were doing/what was going on.  Some people were standing in an ever-expanding line, some people were sitting at tables…I am pretty sure everyone was as confused as we were.  We had no idea what to do.  We eventually decided to sit at one of the last remaining tables and learned about the table service.  Right around 8 all the servers came out and started taking orders for the entire section and then bringing all of the orders out on one tray.  Of course we ordered the beignets and cafe au lait.  I am sorry I have to say…we were both disappointed.  Beignets should be light and fluffy and covered with tons of powdered sugar.  While Cafe Du Monde’s beignets were covered with the right amount of powdered sugar they were not airy and seemed almost overcooked.  The coffee was lukewarm and the service took longer then it should.  Cafe Du Monde really reminded me of Pancake Pantry here in Nashville (or maybe like a Kardashian)…it is famous for being famous.  I thought it was overrated for breakfast – but may be a good late night snack since they are open 24 hours (as the smell of alcohol induced excrement suggested).  I have a much better beignet and cafe au lait recommendation coming up on day 3!

Our next activity was taking a street car to the garden district.  Taking the street car was an adventure in itself!  We had to take all three lines – St. Charles Line, Canal Street Line and the Riverfront Line – to get to the garden district.  The street cars are a fun and cheap way to travel the city!  A one day pass costs only $3 with unlimited stops and line transfers.  It was fun to watch the operators and see how they drive the street cars.  The St. Charles line is the original line and I believe they are still using the original cars based on the cranks that the operator used to move the car.  Jon and I both thought it was so cool to watch!  We took the line up to Tulane and walked around a park and past the Tulane and Loyola campuses.

As mentioned above the main reason we took the street car was to get to the garden district.  I imagined that the garden district would be similar to Savannah with houses surrounding squares.  Note to self – not the same thing.  The garden district is the location of amazing, beautiful, old and modern, huge mansions!  It was so enjoyable to walk up and down the tree-lined streets to see all of the homes!  I was even able to google Sandra Bullock’s home address (privacy laws what??!!) so that we could see what it looked like – gorgeous and ginormous!  We also passed Napoleon House Restaurant (named since it was offered to Napoleon as a home while in exile, though he never made it) and a few old cemeteries with the above ground graves that NOLA is famous for.

Since we didn’t have enough sugar at breakfast we headed to Sucre – a sweet boutique –  after about an hour of walking around the garden district.  Sucre was an amazing find by Jon!  We tried macaroons for the first time – not a fan.  But the red velvet cake and salty caramel gelato were amazing!  We even had a little taste of their Tiffany cake since they were handing out samples – delectable!  The service was also superb.  Make time to visit Sucre!

After Sucre we decided to round out all that sugar so for lunch we tried Gott Gourmet also in the garden district.  When we arrived there were a few tables open but the hostess took our name down since they were on a ‘wait’.  We later found out that the kitchen was backed up so they were trying to get all the brunch customers out before the lunch crowd came in- thanks for the heads up lady!  Though the first impression wasn’t stellar we both enjoyed everything we tried – and our pleasant server made up for the hostess.  We split a small order of the mac & cheese (don’t judge – vacation is not about calorie counting!!).  It was so creamy and the panko bread crumbs it was topped with gave it just a hint of opposing texture.  I ordered the curry chicken salad sandwich served on a croissant and it was so good!  I loved the sweetness the grapes in the sandwich offered and was happy to not taste any cashews (why do people put nuts in things??!!).  I definitely need to try my hand at homemade chicken salad.  Jon tried and loved the St. Patty’s Day Massacre which was a corned beef sandwich with french fries in the sandwich.  We both loved our sandwiches but could only eat half since we had already eaten our way around the city.

After another street car ride home and some people watching on our room’s ‘balcony’ we changed for dinner and headed out to Mr. B’s Bistro.  We heard that you couldn’t really go wrong with a Brennan’s family restaurant but that they can be over-priced.  My first observation was that for the prices I saw on the menu the tables were pretty close together and the atmosphere was more lively (read loud – but this may have been due to the Saints home game) then I would have expected; I also found that it was over-priced as the food was good not great.  The thing that was most disappointing though was the service.  There are apparently two servers for each floor area (though no one ever tells you this).  Side note: one of our servers reminded me of the Jonathan Devoroux character from the movie Double Jeopardy.  Since you are not told there are two servers it is almost like they are competing with each other to take your order, and it was very uncomfortable.  At one point Jon was eating bread and one of the servers came and took his bread plate while the bread was still in his hand!  Then when Jon was signing the bill one server was hovering over him and took it as soon as he signed it – which is a major no in my book.  You should wait until the customers leave the restaurant.  I probably wouldn’t go back there or try another Brennan’s restaurant.  The one highlight was that Ronald Reagan ate there and I sat in his seat.

We ended the evening at Pat O’Briens dueling piano bar.  It was definitely not the best piano bar I had ever been too – they had to reference sheet music an awful lot.  It was first time that I have even been to a dueling piano bar while a female pianist – she wasn’t that great though.  They did play the fun sing-a-longs so it was a fun way to spend the evening!

Day 3, our final day in NOLA is coming up tomorrow!

You can read all about day 1 in New Orleans here.

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New Orleans Day 1

Yesterday Jon and I returned from a quick visit to New Orleans, a first visit for both of us.  There was a great southwest deal that we couldn’t pass up.  We were there for less than 72 hours but fit a lot into our visit without feeling overly busy.  We had tons of input from people about what restaurants we should try and places we should visit.  I am breaking the trip down into days to cover all the hits and misses.  While it makes sense to write about what we liked, I hope to help others decide what to do in New Orleans and have a place to reference if we go there again in mentioning what we didn’t like.

We arrived in NOLA around lunch time on Saturday.  Our first stop was our hotel, Place D’Armes Hotel, to check in and drop off our bags.  We only booked our hotel about a month in advance not realizing there was a Saints home game this weekend.  Most of the places we wanted to stay were booked so we kind of settled on Place D’Armes.  The one thing I liked about it was the location – it was right on the corner of Jackson Square in the French Quarter so it was within walking distance to almost everything we did.  I also found each bell services worker to be friendly and helpful.  Everything else was sub-par.  The front desk attendants were never friendly and you walked past them each time you left or returned to the hotel.  The room was a ‘balcony’ room – this was a bit of false advertising.  The room had windows that over-looked the shared, narrow, balcony that all rooms had hallway access to on the third floor.  The balconies on the second floor were larger and private which is what a ‘balcony’ room would be to me.  I would definitely make sure you knew what floor and what room you had prior to booking – they apparently have some ‘windowless’ rooms.   Another weird thing about the room was the bathroom.  The doors were more like window shutters then doors – meaning you could clearly hear everything taking place in the bathroom, in the bedroom.  Enough said.  The room was a good size with an exposed brick wall, which I liked.  If we went back I would most likely not be staying there again though as I did not find the price equal to service or expectations.

Our next stop was ACME Oyster House.  Jon picked this for lunch since he wanted to get some raw oysters.  There was a bit of a line out the door when we arrived which made me nervous.  The line went way faster than expected since there were just two of us and we said we would sit at the bar.  So glad bar seating was an option!  The oyster shuckers actually serve you at the bar – in addition to shucking all the oysters in front of you.  It was fun to watch and talk to the shuckers!  Supposedly they make upwards of $100,000 a year…I will let you fact check that though 🙂  We split an order of ‘boo fries’ which is the same thing as poutine if you are from Canada (although I preferred Acme’s to the ones I tried in Canada, sorry Jon!).  Boo fries are french fries covered in roast beef gravy and cheese – and they were my favorite part of Acme.  I am not a gravy lover, but if you end up at Acme do yourself a favor and try the boo fries!  Jon had a half-dozen raw oysters and the peace maker po’ boy – both of which he devoured.  I had the New Orleans medley which was chicken gumbo, jambalaya, red beans & rice and grilled smoked sausage – I thought this was okay.

Next we ventured to the infamous Bourbon Street.  I am going to just go ahead and get this out – yes, Bourbon Street does in fact smell.  Does it smell good?  No, not at all.  It smells like…well you know, the two things associated with drinking way to much.  The atmosphere is great though!  The street was so lively no matter what time of the day we were on it.  In addition to tons of bars and little shops, there were all kinds of street performers, tarot card readers and psychics.  Jon found out the hard way that the street performers did not like photos being taken if donations were not made – reference below tap dancers that are not smiling at Jon.  Probably the craziest thing we saw were a few ladies naked with body paint from the shoulders to their waist – sorry no pics of that for you guys.

We ended up at Tropical Isle as it was recommended to us as the place for the famous hand grenade and also since the recommender – one of Jon’s co-workers – saw me drinking a fruity drink and said I would love the tropical itch.  It was also playing the Florida football game which was a plus in Jon’s book.  As recommended I enjoyed the tropical itch while Jon tried the hand grenade…which ultimately let to the demise of his evening 🙂  All the drinks came in fun plastic glasses and had something fun in them (besides the alcohol).  Since mine was the tropical itch it had a mini back scratcher.

We enjoyed talking to some Florida fans we met at the Tropical Isle.  Jon even tried to teach them a ‘parlor’ trick involving placing your head on the bar and lifting bar stools we learned from a bartender in Savannah.  There were a few people who came in and tried to use a fake id – so fun to watch when you are over 21!

Word to the wise – hand grenades are way stronger and tastier then they appear.  Your night may end early and in this fashion:

More to come on New Orleans Day 2 tomorrow…

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