We Moved – Hello Saluda!

We survived the great move of ’15. For those of you who don’t know, we moved from near Brevard, NC to Saluda to be closer to my office. I’ve cut my commute by half, which is awesome. However, the big bonus with the move is that we’re now on 7 acres (and the landlord has no problem with livestock). The previous tenants didn’t care for the house and it’s in need of some repairs and updates, but we’re going to be doing a lot to the place in the next year. The house may have some downfalls, but the land definitely makes up for them. Here are some photos, but please don’t judge us by the boxes and mess. Hopefully everything will be completely unpacked and arranged soon.

The land even has a small apple orchard on it that’s apparently still producing. My (hopefully) epic garden will go in next to it. I know, I know. I’m getting started very late this year, but the WV bar and move kinda messed with my gardening schedule. By the way, if anyone local has a garden tiller, I would LOVE to borrow it to break ground on the garden.

Here’s our main living area.

Here it is from the other side.

The kitchen (I was in the midst of unpacking that most important of rooms when I took this).

Front room, which will house my office and a few instruments.

The bathroom is a little dated (and Carolina Blue), but I think some white paint on the walls will do a lot of good. I just wish I could drop a nice tub in there for baths!

The previous tenants made some, um, interesting design choices. This one will likely be the craft room.

The Dora room will be a pain to paint, but I think it will eventually be a guest/exercise room.

 

Our bedroom has the least interesting paint job, which is probably a good thing. We’ll just need to fix the closet and throw some white paint on the walls.

The view from the bedroom is great!

There’s also an entire floor downstairs, but it’s mostly unfinished at the moment. I’ll probably post some of those later (especially since Beth might be kidding in the basement if we don’t get a small barn up soon).

Easy Savory Turkey Brine Recipe

Easy Turkey Brining Recipe

We made a turkey last night and had a few people over. A lot of people complimented our turkey, so I thought I’d share my brine recipe. I apologize for not taking pictures last night – you’re stuck with the terrible photo of our turkey from last year instead.

Brining a turkey isn’t difficult, but it does add time and a few extra steps to the process. However, the juicy, tender results are more than worth the extra effort. You’ll need a container large enough to hold two gallons of liquid plus the turkey. We use a food-grade 5-gallon bucket like this one. You can buy one online or at most major hardware store. Just make sure that your bucket is labelled food-grade to prevent any contaminates from entering your delicious meal. You can use a large stock pot, but keep in mind that a 15 pound bird will displace a lot of liquid, so make sure you have plenty of room for everything.

You will also need a cool location to store your bucket after you put your turkey in the brine. Ideally, you should store it in a cold fridge, however not everyone has the luxury of that much fridge space. If you cannot fit the bucket in your fridge and live in a relatively cool place, you can store it in a location such as your garage or basement, so long as the temperature stays below 40 degrees. Remember, this is raw poultry, so please keep safe food-handling in mind.

Many brines use sugars, which are supposed to help brown the skin. Keeping the bird savory was our priority, so we left out any sugar and just coated it in olive oil before putting it in the oven to crisp up the skin. Here are the ingredients we used.

  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 cup finely ground salt
  • 2 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp dried savory
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 gallon ice water

Throw the vegetable stock and all of the spices in a stock pot and bring to a rolling boil. Once you have a good boil going, remove it from the heat and let it cool to about room temperature. Once it’s cool, put it in your bucket (or brining apparatus of choice) and add the ice water. Now, submerge the bird with the breast cavity down (drumsticks pointing up) and make sure the cavity gets filled. If the ends of your legs are above the liquid, that’s fine. However, if you have a very large bird, you may need to add more stock or salt water to cover the meat.

Put the bucket in your fridge or a comparably cool location for 18-24 hours. Remove your turkey from the brine. Don’t worry – it will look bloated and not terribly appetizing at this point, but it will cook beautifully. Some people recommend rinsing the turkey before cooking it, however we’ve found that it isn’t necessary and the remaining herbs and brine just add flavor.

Place your turkey on your roasting pan, season as desired, and cook with your preferred method. In seasoning the turkey, adding salt generally isn’t necessary with a brine. We simply coated ours in olive oil and gave it a few turns of our pepper mill.

A couple of notes – don’t stuff a brined turkey. Well, you can if you want, but expect a salty stuffing. There are other good reasons to cook your stuffing separately (at which point it technically is dressing), but if you’re dying for a stuffed turkey, wet brining might not be the way to go. Also, if you’re making gravy from your pan drippings, take into account the amount of salt already in the dripping from the brine. We failed to mention that to my wonderful aunt who made gravy at our get-together. The gravy was good, but a bit on the salty side.

Savory Turkey Brine

  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 cup finely ground salt
  • 2 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp dried savory
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 gallon ice water

1. Pour your vegetable stock into a stock pot. Add all spices and bring to a boil.

2. After reaching a rolling boil, remove from heat. Let stock mixture cool to room temperature.

3. Once cool, combine stock mixture and ice water in food grade bucket.

4. Submerge turkey, breast cavity down, in bucket, ensuring that the brine fills the body cavity.

5. Place in refrigerator or comparably cool location for 18-24 hours.

6. Remove from brine. Season and cook as desired.

Sugar Rush: A Must for Bakers!

Sugar Rush Baking Cookbook Review

I love baking, and I tend to do a lot of it around the holidays. This year, I picked up a cookbook called Sugar Rush before the baking madness began, courtesy of Blogging for Books. Unfortunately, I got sick during prime baking time, so I didn’t get to make nearly as many goodies as I intended to. However, Sugar Rush is a gem of a book for bakers or anyone who wants to learn more about the art of baking, and I know I’ll put it to good use next year. The book covers the basics of baking (spoon flour into your measuring cup and level it off to measure) to more advanced types of baking (inverted puff pastry, anyone?). The recipes also run from simple cookies to complex pastries. Whether you’re looking for a recipe for Killer Chocolate Chip Cookies or Earl Grey Creme Caramel, you’ll find it in this book. The best thing about Sugar Rush is that, unlike many cook books, it doesn’t just tell you how to do something, it shows you with tons of great photos throughout the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to take their baking to the next level or just learn some great new recipes.

Ariella’s Walnut Biscotti Recipe

Ariella's Walnut Biscotti Recipe

A few years ago, I lost my sweet tooth. Don’t ask me what happened or what I did; I just stopped craving sweets. Granted, I still have plenty of culinary vices left (did someone say cheese?), but sweets are no longer among them. I’ll still have the occasional slice of pie at holidays and such, but I no longer seek out the sugary stuff. However, I do still adore baking. The holidays are one of my favorite times of the year, partially because I can go all out of the baking and there will be plenty of people to partake. I’ve been making this Walnut Biscotti recipe since grade school, and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. Not only is it a crowd pleaser, but it’s also one of the few sweet treats I make that I enjoy eating myself. It’s sweet but not overpoweringly so, and it pairs wonderfully with a cup of hot tea or coffee in the morning.

Ariella's Walnut Biscotti Recipe

I have no idea where this recipe originally came from, since all I have is a handwritten piece of paper that’s now so worn it’s actually soft. I’ve had numerous requests for this one over the years, so I thought that I should go ahead and put it here, since I know I won’t be able to hang on to that piece of paper forever. A concise, printable recipe is at the bottom of the post.

While this recipe is a bit more involved than, say, your average drop cookie recipe, it’s really not difficult at all. It also doesn’t require many ingredients that you likely don’t have in your pantry anyway. Generally, the only thing I have to go out to buy for this is walnuts. Here are the ingredients.

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

First of all, mix all of the dry ingredients except for the walnuts. Next, you just stir in the wet ingredients. Finally, add the walnuts. You can get pre-chopped walnuts, but I prefer my walnuts to be a bit more finely chopped than those generally are. If you use pre-chopped walnuts as is, just keep in mind that you’ll have to be a bit more carefully when you slice the biscotti to prevent breaking and crumbling.

One you have everything mix up, you’ll need to divide the dough in half. Have a floured surface ready to roll on. I also recommend flouring your hands prior to handling the dough as it’s quite sticky. Take each half of the dough and roll it out into logs about 12″ long and 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. It’s not an exact science by any means, but try to get them to about the same diameter so they cook evenly. This recipe can easily be doubled, however, I recommend dividing the dough into quarters and making 4 logs if you double it, so that you don’t have to adjust the baking time or temperature.

b11

Put them onto your cookie sheets. I always use Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil  on top just because nothing sticks to it and it makes clean-up a breeze (and no, this isn’t a paid advertisement; I just love the stuff). However, if you use foil or dark cookie sheets, keep and eye on the bottoms to make sure they don’t get too brown. Bake in a 350° oven for about 25 minutes, checking occasionally (preferably via the oven windown instead of opening the oven door) to make sure they’re cooking evenly and aren’t getting too brown on the bottom. If your oven cooks unevenly, like ours, I recommend turning the cookie sheets at the 15 minute mark to ensure more even cooking.

b10

Once they’ve reach a light golden brown, take them out and cool them for about 10-15 minutes on wire racks (or dish racks that have been cleaned, dried, and turned upside down). Don’t turn off the oven yet! The loaves will be fairly soft at this point, so be careful transferring them to the rack. Don’t worry – they will get harder as they cool, plus they still have one more phase of baking to go through.

b9

Once your loaves are cool, break out your cutting board and best serrated knife. If your “best serrated knife” is obnoxiously dull, you can try a very sharp non-serrated blade, but expect more crumbling. Cutting the biscotti is, in my opinion, by far the most difficult part of the process. Take your knife and cut the pieces diagonally across the loaf in about 1/2 inch slices. Between the walnuts and the oats, the recipe can get a bit crumbly at this phase. Unless you have a very steady hand and extremely sharp serrated knife, expect to lose a few pieces to breakage. Don’t despair, though! Biscotti crumbles are every bit as delicious as the whole pieces (plus you can always tell yourself those little calories don’t count).

Ariella's Walnut Biscotti Recipe

Take your slices and crumbles and place them back on the cookie sheet with the cut side down. Put them back into the oven for 6-8 minutes per side. Once they start crisping up, you can take them out. Don’t expect them to have the crunchy biscotti texture at this point – they’ll get that once they cool. One of the best things about this recipe is that you can keep the biscotti for a few weeks and it just gets crispier, which, for biscotti, is a good thing. Now all you have to do is sit back, grab a nice cup of hot tea or coffee, and enjoy your delicious Walnut Biscotti. Oh, and try to keep everyone else from eating all of it.

Ariella's Walnut Biscotti Recipe

 

Ariella's Walnut Biscotti

  • Servings: about 3 dozen
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Print

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat over to 350°.

2. Combine flour, sugar, oats, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl.

3. Stir in eggs, butter, and vanilla. Stir in nuts.

4. Divide dough in half. On floured surface, roll each half into approximately 12-inch long logs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

5. Bake on cookie sheet for 25 minutes or until light golden brown.

6. Cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Leave oven on.

7. Cut logs diagonally with serrated knife into 1/2 inch slices.

8. Arrange cut side down on cookie sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes per side until crisp.

Tacolicious Cookbook Review

Tacolicious Mexican Food Cookbook and Recipes Review

Almost two months ago, I received a copy of Tacolicious from Blogging for Books. A cookbook devoted to Mexican food, particularly tacos, seemed right up our alley as both John and I love Mexican food and make it on a regular basis. The book itself has tons of gorgeous, mouth-watering photos, which is always a plus in a cookbook. I felt that I would have preferred more recipes for tacos or other entrees and fewer cocktail and snack recipes, however we quickly found several recipes we thought we’d definitely try for dinner. Unfortunately, over the course of these two months, we have yet to try a single one. We have the cookbook sitting on the kitchen counter with those promising recipes marked, however, for some reason, we just haven’t gone for it. Why? Perhaps it’s partially the changing season. With colder weather, we’re more inclined to make a hearty chili or slow-cooker Mexican-style beef than tacos. Also, the recipes that immediately seem to be quick, easy, weeknight recipes are mostly ones that either don’t really require much of a recipe or ones that we already have a good recipe for. I make my own taco seasoning for quick ground beef tacos, so I don’t really want to make up a batch of the more basic taco seasoning in the book to try their version of the same thing.

Will we eventually try a recipe or two? I’m sure of it. The Tangy Achiote-Rubbed Grilled Chicken Taco looks delicious, but it will probably get made once we’re back in grilling mode again. However, I don’t think it’s ever going to be a go-to cookbook for us. If you’re the type of person who likes having parties, though, this book could be great. They do cover all of the bases for a great Mexican-themed get-together from hors d’oeuvres to cocktails. We keep thinking about having a small party over here, but then we look at the house and think, “Man, that’s a lot of cat hair to clean up.” Perhaps by Cinco de Mayo we’ll be motivated to both clean the house well enough for company and make some of the great-looking recipes in this book.

New Job

If you weren’t aware, I was recently offered a job at a real estate law firm. I’ll be starting on Monday, and I’m extremely excited!  Of course, the means that Carver Law is being shut down, but I’m not complaining about that. It also means that my time at Lutheridge is coming to an end. I’ll miss the wonderful people I work with and my lovely walks around the camp, but I’m looking forward to practicing in my profession (with an actual salary, too!). Bring on the new adventures!

Adieu 20s, Hello 30s

It’s funny how things change. I’ll be 30 tomorrow, and I can’t help thinking about myself at 20 and how different my priorities were.

When I was 20, I was doing my undergrad in New York City. I went to NYC specifically because it was a huge, metropolitan city far away from Western North Carolina and little old Hendersonville. I thought that if I ever left NYC it would be for another large, metropolitan city that didn’t require a car (I hated driving). I knew that I would never, under any circumstances, move back to North Carolina.

My career would be something incredibly cool and interesting. Practicing law crossed my mind at a few points, but was quickly replaced by becoming an editor at a major publishing house, working in some unknown position in the fashion industry, etc.

My preferred magazines were Glamour, Cosmo, and People. My highest priorities were being thin, being popular, and getting drunk (not necessarily in that order). Looking back, I can tell you that I failed on one of those and I don’t know if what happened with the other two could be classified as success. College was in there somewhere too, but it wasn’t exactly at the top of my list.

My vision of my ideal guy was a cool, intelligent, urbane, bad boy who eschewed anything mainstream. He certainly would have some cool yet intellectual job that paid well. And he definitely wasn’t blond.

Fast-forward to today. I live in Brevard, NC, with aspirations to move to such hip and urban locations as… anywhere where we can get some land. Yes, acreage where we can have a nice little goat farm is now my priority over location. In fact, staying close to family is something of a priority too, though, for the right job, we would certainly consider relocating…to somewhere we could still get acreage and have a little goat farm.

I’m a licensed attorney in North Carolina. Is practicing law cool and interesting? Depends on who you ask. Is my career my identity? No. I enjoy law, but I have a lot of interests outside of it as well.

I currently subscribe to Dairy Goat Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living (thanks, Mom!). My highest priorities are buying a house with some land, succeeding in my chosen career, and managing my little herd of dairy goats. Starting a family in the next few years is in there too, but making the commitment to make and care for a new person is huge and requires some amount of financial stability.

I’m married to an intelligent guy…who’s dorky (just like me); blond; doesn’t care whether or not something is mainstream, just whether he likes it; and is the nicest, most caring man I have ever met. He’s going to school for auto body repair, because that’s what he likes doing. At 20, I probably wouldn’t have responded to his message on that online dating site, but at 26, I did. And it was the best message I ever sent.

Was I wrong at 20? Am I right now? No to both. Life is a journey. We change and mature along the way. Our priorities may change, our goals may change, and our circumstances may change. Change is good. The test is how we react to it. I love where I am now in so many ways. Would I like to change some things? Of course. I would love to hand myself a great job with benefits, some land with a nice house, and financial security. Since I can’t do that, I’ll just have to continue loving the other parts of my life. I have an amazing husband, some very cool animals, and a future full of possibilities.