Friday, October 3, 2014

The BEST Spinach Artichoke Dip!

I get really down in the dumps when I find a great looking recipe, go to the store and buy all of the ingredients, stand on my head to figure out how to actually make the silly thing, and then take my first bite and it is totally underwhelming!  This happens quite a bit actually... maybe because I'm overly critical of the things that come out of my kitchen or maybe because after the hours it takes to make the dish it just seems like it should taste better.  Who knows. :-)  If anyone out there tells you that everything they make is to die for then either I'm going to call their bluff OR I may just throw in the towel, go move in with them, and just let them cook for me everyday. Not a bad idea, huh?

The point is that I have TONS of kitchen flops, dishes that just don't taste as great as they sounded, and straight up kitchen disasters.

I've been searching for a spinach artichoke recipe for years and have made several in the past. Until now I would always make the recipe and then wish I would have bought the TGI Fridays frozen dip because it was cheaper, easier, and WAY BETTER.

When I found this recipe by Ree Drummond (aka. The Pioneer Woman and one of my all time kitchen/life heroes) I knew it would be good!   However, I was wrong.  It isn't good- it is TO DIE FOR! The recipe is easy, so worth it, and will leave your kitchen smelling heavenly.

In fact, I just ate spinach artichoke dip for breakfast. Don't judge me.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
6 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 bag spinach
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 cans artichoke hearts (rinsed and drained)
3 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

extra grated pepper jack cheese
pita bread or roasted garlic triscuits

1. Open cans of artichoke hearts, rinse them, and set them aside in a strainer.

2. Over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Add 4 tablespoons of garlic and allow this to cook for 2-3 minutes.  Turn the heat up to HIGH and dump the bag of spinach into the skillet.  (It is going to look like it won't fit but it will wilt down really quickly). Sauté until the spinach is soft and turns dark green. Remove from skillet but leave as much of the garlic butter in the skillet as you can.

3. Turn heat back down to medium.  Add the artichoke hearts the same skillet with the remaining garlic butter from the spinach.  Let them simmer in the garlic butter until they start to turn golden brown. This will take 7-10 minutes. Stir them often.  At this point your kitchen will smell heavenly.  Once brown and once most of the water has evaporated, remove the artichoke hearts and set them on a plate.

4.  In a medium size sauce pan add the additional 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Allow butter to melt and then add 3 tablespoons of flour. This should form a paste. Stir continuously and allow this to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 whole milk and stir until it thickens.  (This will take a few minutes but make sure you are stirring constantly and watching it.  It goes from very thin to very thick almost instantly).

5. Now add your cheese!  1 block cream cheese + 1/2 C feta + 1/2 C grated parm + 3/4 C pepper jack
Stir until all of the cheese is melted.  Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Remove from heat and set aside.

6. Chop cooked spinach and artichoke into small pieces and add to cheese mixture.

7. Pour into oven safe baking dish. Top with a bit more pepper jack cheese. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.  I turned my oven to broil at the end to get a nice bubbly brown top.

Serve with toasted pita bread or garlic roasted triscuits.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mom's Banana Bread

I am the queen of buying bananas, with great plans of trying to eat healthier, and five days later we have fruit flies and my bananas are brown.  Oh well!  It gives me a great excuse to make my Mom's banana bread.  She's been making this bread for years and it was one of the first recipes I ever called her to get.

Mom's Banana Bread
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (~3 bananas)
(I put them in my KitchenAid mixer so I don't have to do it by hand. Lazy, I know.)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg (beaten)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Optional: 1 cup of blueberries

Bake at 350 degrees on the middle rack for approximately 90 minutes.  I set the timer for 60 minutes and then use the knife test. Just pull them out when the knife comes out clean. Let cook and wrap in foil to keep the bread moist.

There aren't any photos because every time I though of taking one I decided to eat the bread instead.  Shoot.

So I will leave you with this... Any guesses where this photo was taken?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good Morning

I have a problem of feeling like I need to be doing something productive at all times.  I hate to admit this but I've had frustrating mornings of running errands because I get there so early the stores aren't open yet. Life in the past was so busy I felt like I had to utilize every single second to get everything done.

Since moving to Tennessee, I have made a real effort to slow down. I have to say that life is SO much better this way.  I may still be up at 6:00am every morning but instead of popping out of bed and running wild until it is time to go back to bed that night I've been taking the mornings for me.  Taking them slow. Relaxing.  I've found that my days are much better, I'm happier, and I get to have some "me time" before anything else gets accomplished.  As a woman, at least for me, "me time" is the first thing I sacrifice to keep things running smoothly.

Things I've learned:
1.  Coffee tastes better from a real ceramic mug instead of a travel mug
2.  Mens t-shirts are, for some reason, much more comfortable than any women's t-shirt
3.  Reading is so much more productive when you don't have Monday night football blaring in the back ground
4.  And most importantly-  Taking time for ME makes me much better at my relationships I have with others.

So stay in your robe, drink coffee, look around on Pinterest, read your book, check your email, do a little online shopping, flip through your favorite magazine, plan your day, and THEN go be productive!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Must Reads

This summer was the perfect time to start reading again.  We took a few trips and I spent pretty much every morning on the front porch with a hot cup of coffee and a book.  Here are some great books if you're looking for a good read that you can't put down!

Sad, sad, sad! Great story of young love and experiencing life with illness but, man, it was sad!

Yes, I watch reality TV. Yes, I'm addicted to watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Yes, I bought this book. It was highly entertaining, raw, and I LOVED it.  I'm all about keeping drama out of real life but I am totally up for pouring a big glass of wine and watching the drama unfold on TV.  If you're a fan of the show, you need to read this book. Hilarious!

Maybe farmer Chris will write a book :-)

Quick, easy read. Apparently it is or is going to be a movie. I finished this book in two days and am getting ready to start the sequel, Where She Went.   

I've heard mixed reviews about the show and I've never actually seen it.  This book is actually really good! I've never been to prison, and really plan on never going,  but it seems to be a pretty unfiltered testimony.

Hilarious!  This book will cause you to humiliate yourself on a plane or in a waiting room because you will be laughing out loud.  Couldn't put it down.

If you love Charleston, South Carolina (which I do!) you will love this book.  The setting is on Isle of Palms and it has a perfect mixture of real life... work, family, and a love story. Given to me by my mother-in-law, this book was a home run!

I haven't read this book since elementary school, but since it is also going to be a movie I wanted to revisit the book before going to see the movie.  My Mom read this book to my classroom so it has, and will always have, a special place in my heart.  It really makes you think on a deeper level when you read it as an adult.  It has sparked some great conversations. If you read it as a kid, you should revisit it.
Next in line....



Life in Tennessee

Brian and I have officially relocated to middle Tennessee and have found what we consider to be "home".  We had several years of unknown, with Brian going through the match process, selling houses, buying houses, packing, moving, and then waiting to hear where we would be going next.

This time was very different. There wasn't a match process and for the first time in a very long time we were able to choose where we wanted to settle down.  We knew we wanted a city within close proximity but that we wanted to live out in the country and have some land.  This proved to be more challenging than we expected since Brian has to be fairly close to the hospital to take call.  Brian knew exactly what he was looking for professionally. Finding a perfect combination of these things things in one place was not an easy venture.

I'll spare you all of the details but after multiple interviews, trips, and house hunting adventures we finally found a town that seemed to meet all of our needs and more importantly fulfill all of our wishes for our new home and community!

Brian joined Mid South Surgeons in August and is currently practicing as a vascular surgeon.  It's a pretty crazy experience when you wake up one day and all of the training is over.  Finished.  It seems, for years, like it will never actually be over and then one day you wake up and it is.  He is loving his job and feels blessed to work with such an amazing group of colleagues.

I took a job working full time in the Maury Regional Emergency Department. It is so great to walk into the doctors lounge for lunch and be able to see my sweet husbands face, if only for long enough to say hello!  Though I'm working full time, I really feel like I work half as much as I did in Pennsylvania which is truly a blessing!  Thank goodness for working longer hours and fewer days. The people that I work with are amazing and I have, once again, been blessed with a group of amazing people.

We ended up finding a home that was just exactly what we were looking for. Brian really wanted to be somewhere without neighbors and I, after renovating our home in Pennsylvania, was really looking forward to finding a home that didn't require us to sleep on an air mattress for months.  God was really with us and blessed us with the perfect piece of property with a home that needed no work.  Such an answered prayer!  I'm a firm believer in having that mindset of "do what you have to do" but lets just say that we are REALLY glad we didn't have to renovate!

Over the past few months we have been settling in to what we consider to be "real life" in our new home.  We spend the weekends working outside, going on hikes around the property, fishing in the pond, making great dinners, reading, hanging out with friends, entertaining house guests, and occasionally venturing up to Franklin and Nashville.  We've become Titans fans (when in Rome!) and are learning the concept of being fans even when the team isn't doing so hot. :-)  Brian has become the master of tractor work. I've been able to get back to doing things I love... reading, cooking, running, and, finally, blogging again!  We're slowly starting to meet new friends and also cherishing time with old friends. Brian is finally able to embrace all of his manly hobbies and it makes me so happy to see him finally able to enjoy his free time again!  Now that he finally has some. :-)

We feel truly blessed for this life and are more than ready for house guests!  I can promise that the sheets will be clean, the wine glasses will be full, the Great Danes will be here to welcome you, and the table with be loaded with great food. Come visit us at the farm!