Thursday, August 30, 2007

I've been tagged!

Alright, the tagging has made its way to me from Mari, so here are 8 facts about me.

1.) As I mentioned in my cookie post, I opened up a bookstore in college with my now husband and a friend, Jared. Jared started selling used books on Amazon right when it was becoming popular and made a ton of money. He turned it into a business. We worked out of a warehouse with thousands of books and sold quite a few on the internet. After we ended up with hundreds of books that were unlistable, either because of no ISBN or there were just too many listed online, Jared decided to open a storefront. He asked me to spearhead it, so I was able to fulfill a dream. Not only did I work in a bookstore, I started one from the ground up. It was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I learned a lot about business and I had the absolute pleasure of forming relationships with a few regulars. I knew where every book was in that store and was able to recommend a lot of great books to customers. One of the saddest days of my life was the day we closed the store. Jared let me go through the inventory before we had our closing sale and told me I could take whatever I wanted. I left with 4 full boxes and a ton of memories.

2.) I've known I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 14 years old. I did a research project on the Scopes Monkey Trial and fell in love with Clarence Darrow, the "attorney for the damned". It sort of became a calling and I decided after that project that I wanted to be a public defender. Who is more damned than the PD's clients?

3.) I am a desperately shy individual. If I am not 100% comfortable, I hold back and just watch. I come off as a snob, but it really is just being shy. As a result, I'm terrible at making friends and only have 1 or 2 close friends.

4.) I held the hula hoop record in my neighborhood for 3 summers straight. No one was better with that hoop than I. Now, I can't keep it around my waist for the life of me, but I will always have that title.

5.) I recently started running for fun. I was introduced to the Couch to 5K running program and decided to give a shot. In the past, I have always said that I hate running and would only do so if forced. Now I actually like it. I made it to week 8 in the program, but then suffered my first sport related injury. Apparently, the hip flexor is something that needs to be treated when injured, otherwise the hip will roll forward to protect it, causing one leg to be over half an inch longer than the other. This, apparently, then causes the band that connects your hip to your knee to rub on a bursa, causing bursitis and a sharp, persistent pain in the hip. Or so I've heard. I will now not only work at physical therapy clinic; I will be a patient.

6.) I currently don't have any pets. I want a pet, but my husband is allergic to cats and doesn't "believe" in indoor dogs. I have told him that it's either a dog or a baby, but he's not giving in on either.

7.) I am one of the biggest Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans you will ever meet. I own all 7 seasons on DVD and watch them on a very regular basis. When I had FX, I would wake up at 7:00 AM to watch Buffy reruns, even though I have them all on DVD. My best friend and I along with 2 other friends from college would have Girls Night every week where we'd watch Buffy, eat pizza and gossip about our boys, who were all friends/roommates. Good times. I gained a lot of weight that year. Too much free pizza (our friends worked at the dining hall pizza place and would bring the pizza to us).

8.) I am not picky about movies. I will watch just about anything so long as it is not horrifically violent. I have only turned off one movie (The Nutty Professor- too many fat jokes), walked out on one (Saw II- so gross), and almost walked out on one other (Unbreakable; Worst.Movie.Ever.). I also wish I could get the two hours back I wasted watching the Transporter, but those are the only movies I can say I disliked. Some say I have no taste, but I'd like to say I have low expectations. I don't expect all movies to be Oscar contenders. While it doesn't take much to entertain me, I will say that Audrey Hepburn will always be my favorite actress and I love all her movies, even the silly ones. My friend, Jana, made quite a bit of fun of me for liking Funny Face, but how pretty was she in that movie?! Open mind, people. That's all it takes.

Alright, now it's time for me to tag some people. I'm kind of at the tail end of this, so I'm not sure I'm going to be able to tag 8 people. I'm tagging Meredith, Jana, Ang, Laura, and Mary Ellen. I don't think these girls have been tagged recently!

Another Dessert.

Someone needs to stop me. I'm so bored waiting for the results of the bar so I can actually be a lawyer, I have been filling my hours trying to perfect my baking skills. The muffins were super great and the cookies were darn good as well, so my confidence this afternoon was pretty high. I'm not the best baker- I much prefer cooking- but today I decided to revisit my arch nemesis, cheesecake.

I saw Giada make these on her show Everyday Italian the other day and decided to try them. The initial plan was to include these with the muffins, but that's not going to happen. The recipe was ok I guess, but I cannot successfully make a cheesecake. There is something or someone in the universe that has decided I will not make a cheesecake that is not cracked, sunken in the middle, or otherwise ugly looking, underdone, or overdone.

This recipe appealed to me because they were bite sized and I could use my newish mini muffin pan. Yesssss. I also figured they would be less likely to fall in the middle if they were smaller. Turned out I was wrong, but you can't blame me for hoping. The water bath was a little bit of a disaster (some of the cheesecakes went for a pre and post baking swim), but the process seemed to go alright. After I pulled them out, a few of them fell, gosh darn it, but the rest looked alright.

Then I tried to pop the darn things out of the pan. They did not want to come out without a fight. The recipe only has you butter the sides, not the bottom, of the cups and as one might expect, the bottoms didn't want to come out. They were not the prettiest dessert, but the taste was good. I may just try the recipe as a whole cheesecake. That is, if I ever decide to make a cheesecake again.

Individual Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes

1/3 c finely crushed chocolate wafers
2 T butter, melted
1/4 c ricotta cheese
2 oz cream cheese
1/4 c sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 orange, zested
1 egg
Butter, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the crushed chocolate wafers and the melted butter. Place a tightly packed teaspoon of the wafer mixture into each mini-muffin cup and press down firmly.

In a food processor combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1/4 cup of the sugar, half of the orange zest, and the egg. Blend until smooth. Lightly grease the sides of the mini muffin tin with butter. Fill the cups with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheesecake mixture. Place the mini muffin tin in a baking dish and pour enough hot water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the mini muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer the mini muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Use a small knife to gently pop the cheesecakes out of the cups.

Just before serving, combine the remaining orange zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Top each individual cheesecake with about 1/4 teaspoon of the orange zest mixture and serve.

Makes 12 mini cheesecakes.

And the best wife in the world award goes to...

Me! This morning I woke up at 4:30 to make my world famous chocolate chip cookies for one of my husband's Physical Science classes. They actually all behaved during a fire drill so he wanted to try a little positive reinforcement. He was first going to do donuts, but then asked me to make some cookies.

Now, I don't mean to brag here (maybe I do), but it is generally accepted that I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (at least according to me, my husband, and a group of StuCo students from Farmington, MO who stayed with us a few days last semester). I cannot reveal the recipe, but let me say it is from my grandmother, Nestlé Tollhousé (anyone? anyone?).

While some say that it is the recipe that makes the cookie, I would have to completely disagree. The recipes don't usually vary all that much. One recipe is pretty much as good as the rest. And as we all learned from Monica Gellar and Phoebe Bouffet, the one on the back of the chocolate chips is pretty darn good.

What makes a good cookie is the technique, so rather than sharing a recipe, I will share my technique. I really do think these things make all the difference, but feel free to disagree! But remember, my cookies are the best. I now have another class of 15 year olds who agree (and asked for more!).

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
According to Linda

1. Always start with softened butter. Not solid. Not melted. Softened. Leave on the counter for about 30 minutes or so. It usually does the trick. The finger should just depress, just like testing doneness on a steak.

2. Beat the heck out of the butter and sugar before adding the vanilla. And I mean beat them. We're talking beating the crap out of them. There is a point at which the butter and sugar look fluffy- this is when they are creamed. If you're not sure, keep beating them. There's no such thing as over beating it, at least not in my book.

3. Mix in the vanilla after the butter and sugar are fluffy. Mix really well after the vanilla and after each egg.

4. SLOWLY mix in the flour mixture. I mix it in about a spoonful at a time. It really doesn't take that long and it makes less of a mess. I'm not sure if it does anything for the cookies, but this is the only way I don't end up with a cloud of flour flying all over my kitchen.

5. At this point, follow the recipe. I check my cookies really often to make sure they don't cross that fine line between perfect and crispy. I also try to get a few pans that aren't all the way done so we have some super soft ones.

This is what I have learned about chocolate chip cookie making. As long as I am totally tooting my own horn, I would also like to add that a very popular DJ in Columbia, MO raved about my cookies on air when he had them at an event held by the bookstore I helped open with a friend (and closed, unfortunately) in Columbia. People came to the bookstore just to try the cookies! Too bad they didn't buy more books.

Welcome, Neighbor!

We have a new neighbor now so I wanted to bring some baked goods over to welcome her and her children to the neighborhood. I would have loved it had someone done the same for me, so hopefully I won't come off as too June Cleaver. I didn't want to do just cookies (though I make a mean chocolate chip cookie) and I had some buttermilk to use up from those gosh darn biscuits, so these muffins made the cut. I found them on Annie's blog and have wanted to make them ever since.

These muffins may be the most wonderful baked good I have ever put in my mouth. No joke. They were moist. They were sweet, but not too sweet. The cinnamon sugar top made the muffin absolutely perfect. I could have eaten dozens of them! Luckily, the recipe only made 9 and I was giving most of them away. As of now, however, I still have them all because the neighbor hasn't been home when I have. Hopefully I can catch her this weekend; otherwise these muffins will be gone!

If you make these muffins, don't change a thing. They are perfect and there is no reason to mess with perfection. Trust me!

Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins

7 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c buttermilk
1 1/2 t vanilla extract

2/3 c sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

To make the topping, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon (you won't need this much- I only used about half this much. Ditto for the butter). Put the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving.

Makes 9 muffins.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It can't all be gourmet.

Tonight's dinner was not gourmet, but it was easy and tasty. We've had a box of Chicken Quesadilla Pasta Roni sitting in our pantry for a long time. It made the move with us and was around for awhile before that. Tonight I decided it was time to get rid of it. It's hard to call this a recipe, but I did do some serious doctoring to the box dinner, with a little inspiration from the serving suggestions. I was actually quite surprised at how good it came out. I probably won't be buying the box stuff again any time soon, but it's good to know that something really tasty can come from surprising sources.

Chicken Quesadilla Skillet Dinner
source me and Pasta Roni

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 box Chicken Quesadilla Pasta Roni
1 1/2 c water
1/2 c milk
2 T butter
1 c frozen corn
1 c salsa
1/2 c cheese
chopped tomato
chopped black olives
sour cream
crushed tortilla chips (I baked some corn tortillas in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes)

Brown ground beef in large skillet. When almost brown, add jalapeno, red pepper, and onion. Soften until beef is browned. Stir in water, milk and butter and bring to a boil. Add pasta, seasoning mix and corn to the pan and return to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until pasta is al dente. Stir in salsa and cheese. Serve with chopped tomato, olives, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce, Asparagus and Peas

This dish ended up being a perfect summer afternoon lunch. We spent most of the day working on our dining room, but making and eating this dish was a great break. I got the recipe from Cooking Light, the August issue I think. I didn't change anything and I don't think I would if I made it again. The sauce didn't thicken up very well until well after I made it, but the pasta really held on to what sauce was there. Very lemony. I garnished mine with some lemon zest and snipped chives to make it just a tad lemonier and pretty.
Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce, Asparagus and Peas
8 oz uncooked long fusilli (twisted spaghetti)
1 3/4 c (1 1/2-inch) slices asparagus (about 1/2 pound)
1 c frozen green peas, thawed
1 T butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
1 t cornstarch
1/3 c heavy cream
3 T fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Lemon slices (optional)
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus during last minute of cooking time. Place peas in a colander. Drain pasta mixture over peas; set aside.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Combine broth and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Add broth mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cream, juice, salt, 1/4 t black pepper, and red pepper. Add pasta mixture to broth mixture; toss gently to coat. Garnish with coarsely ground black pepper and lemon slices, if desired. Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Crying?! There's no crying in baking!

Biscuits. I was terrified to make them and I think they knew. I pulled out my Alton Brown cookbook to find the perfect scientifically based biscuit recipe. I found it. He promised me I would have award winning biscuits. He has yet to fail me, so I jumped in. I froze the butter. I grated it into the dry ingredients. I rubbed in the butter instead of cut. I bought an enormous tub of plain yogurt because he said it makes them fluffier. I mixed. I turned it out onto floured waxed paper. And this is what I got:

Which turned into this:

And finally this:

I was incredibly frustrated in the kitchen and my husband had to yell from our dining room in progress that they were only biscuits. He just has no idea. I hate kitchen failures! Once I decided to just throw the mess away, I looked in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for another biscuit recipe. Turns out I didn't have enough flour to try again because I had wasted two cups on this disaster. Sigh. I ended up walking to Aldi's to buy buttermilk biscuits in a tube and a bag of flour. I'm not seeing another biscuit attempt in my near future, but at least now I have the flour.

While the biscuits may have been my greatest cooking disaster to date, my sausage gravy and eggs turned out quite yummy. I used a recipe I got off the Nest a long time ago, I think from nestie TexasSmith (It was Krashed24, from this blog. Sorry Amber!). It turned out much better then the darn biscuits. The eggs were nothing special, but I did snip in some chives and I always whisk in water, not milk, to make the eggs super fluffy. While my "breakfast" wasn't actually finished until 1:15 in the afternoon, I at least got to eat some pretty tasty gravy. It was even made with fresh from the hog sausage. My mother-in-law sent us home with a few pounds of a friend's pig, so I figured gravy was the way to go. Very tasty.

Sausage Gravy
from Amber

1 lb pork sausage
2 T chopped onion
6 T flour (I used more since I used skim milk)
4 c milk
1/2 t sage (I used poultry seasoning because some caterpillar decided to eat my fresh herbs)
1/4 t salt
black pepper
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage and onion until sausage is no longer pink. Drain, reserving 2 T drippings (my sausage didn't get any drippings, so I melted in some butter). Stir flour into sausage and drippings until blended. Cook and stir until light golden brown. Add seasonings, then gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until desired consistency.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Guacamole and Homemade Chips

We needed a late snack one night (see post below!) so we went to the grocery store and got what we needed for guacamole. This I can actually claim as my own recipe, though there doesn't seem to be a lot of variation among guacamole recipes. This one, however, is mine. I also made the chips myself because we had some corn tortillas we needed to get out of the fridge. Matt loved them so much he told me we will never need to buy tortilla chips again. I always like to get raves from him, though I think I will still buy tortilla chips!

from me!

2 ripe avocados
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 lime
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1 tomato, chopped

Smash the avocado in a small bowl. I like it chunky, but mash it to your desired consistency. Stir in jalapeno, juice from the lime, cilantro, and tomato. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chips.

Tortilla Chips
from me

corn tortillas

Cut tortillas into wedges and place on baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake in 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until brown and crisp. Serve warm.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

That's right. All those delicious words come together in one cookie. I've been wanting to bake, despite the heat, so I browsed some starred posts I had in my Google Reader. I ultimately decided on these cookies that I found in Annie's blog (you should check it out- she has so many baked goods!).

They were absolutely delicious! I loved them. Matt tried one that was cooling from the first batch and came into the kitchen and said, "These cookies are the worst ever. You better not eat any. I'll go ahead and them all for you so you don't have to suffer." That's when I knew they were good! We gave some away, but I think Matt put down 2 dozen of these cookies over the course of the weekend. Such a cookie monster!

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
source Annie's Eats

3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 ½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, dried cranberries and vanilla and let stand for 1 hour, covered with plastic wrap.Cream together butter and sugars. Add flour, salt, cinnamon and soda to sugar mixture. Mix well. Blend in egg-cranberry mixture and oatmeal. Dough will be stiff. Fold in the white chocolate chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto un-greased cookie sheet or roll in small balls and flatten slightly on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Spinach

Since it has been so gosh darn hot around here lately, I'm trying to come up with meals that won't heat up the kitchen. This one seemed to fit the bill. The original recipe called for arugula, but I wanted to use up the baby spinach in the refrigerator so I used that instead.

The recipe says it serves 4, but my husband actually laughed when I told him that. Maybe as a side dish, but not as a main dish. We were still hungry after we ate the whole pot so I had to make an evening snack. If I make this again, I would definitely serve it as a side dish to grilled chicken or something. It was not very filling at all! But it was really tasty.

Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Spinach
(I don't remember the source- maybe

2 T chopped walnuts
1/2 t salt
6 oz uncooked farfalle
2 c baby arugula (I used spinach)
2 T fresh chives, minced
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
3 T blue cheese

Place walnuts in a small, heavy-bottomed skillet. Toast nuts over medium high heat until lightly browned, shaking skillet frequently, about 1-2 minutes; remove from skillet and set aside. Bring 3 quarts water and 1/2 t salt to a boil in a large pot. Stir in pasta and cook until tender; remove 1 T of pasta cooking water and reserve for later. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl; immediately add arugula and toss well. Cover bowl with a lid or tight fitting plastic wrap; set aside until arugula is limp, about 5 minutes. Stir in chives and tomatoes. Stir together vinegar, oil, reserved pasta water, remaining 1/4 t salt and pepper in a cup. Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss well; sprinkle with blue cheese and walnuts.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Taco Salad

To be honest, the recipe inspiration came from a kraft recipe, but I made so many modifications I'm going to go ahead and call it my own. However, in an effort to credit sources (however slight the similarities), the original recipe was Taco Salad Made Over. Matt gave it two thumbs up and the best part was that it took less than 20 minutes to get the dinner to the table.
I should also add the tomatoes were grown fresh by my hubby. They were so good and way better than the last few I bought at the grocery store. Yay for fresh produce!

Taco Salad

4 flour tortillas
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 T cumin
1/2 T chili powder
1/2 c salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
shredded romaine
shredded cheddar
sour cream (I used reduced fat)
chopped tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Crumple 4 sheets of foil into a ball and place on baking sheet. Place tortillas over the balls, spray with cooking spray and bake for 6 min or until light browned. Meanwhile, brown ground beef with spices. When browned, stir in salsa and black beans.

In each tortilla bowl, pile up salad greens and top with the beef mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and tomatoes and top with a dollop of sour cream.

I served with rice. This time I used beef broth instead of chicken broth and I liked the interesting flavor. It worked well with the mexican vibe of the dinner.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Spicy Garlic Lime Pasta

So it's been raved about and questioned on the What's Cooking? board, so I figured I would go ahead and try it this week. I didn't want to buy any chicken, which is what the original recipe called for, so I added a can of tuna instead. I also made a few other minor modifications to suit my tastes and pantry, but the recipe is definitely courtesy of Amber.

My husband and I both liked it, but I think I'd add more lime the next time I make it. I love lime, though, so not everyone might like it the same way. The tuna substitution worked fine, but to be honest, the one can didn't add a whole lot of tuna and I couldn't really taste it. It just added some protein.

Spicy Garlic Lime Pasta (with Tuna)
Recipe from Amber, my changes in italics

8 oz rotini
2 c broccoli florets
1 c chicken broth
Juice of 2 limes (original recipe called for 1 1/2 T)
Zest of 1 lime
1 T corn starch
3 cloves garlic, minced (I used 5 since they were kind of small)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t dried thyme
2 t red pepper flakes
1 T butter
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1 can tuna, drained
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to pkg directions. Add broccoli the last 2 min. Combine first 13 ingredients (through butter) in small saucepan and cook until thick. Stir in tuna. When pasta is done, add to sauce and toss. Add parsley and combine. Serve with cheese.

I'm back!

I am finally done with one of the craziest month of my life (second only to the month I got married) and can come back to the blogging world! Because I've been gone so long, I'm throwing in a few non-cooking tidbits, but don't worry, all my vacations involve food in some way, shape or form!

Right after the bar, we went to Clearwater, Florida for a week where it rained all but the first day and the day Matt and I left. My parents and my aunt and uncle rented a house, so we tagged along. As a thank you, I made them all dinner one night. No pictures because I didn't want them to think I was too weird, but I will recommend the dishes. The two main dishes came from Giada's new cookbook. They were so good! I made Rotini with Salmon and Roasted Garlic (which is not available on the foodnetwork website, so I won't post it here) and Prosciutto Ravioli. Both received rave reviews.

One day my uncle rented a pontoon boat and we spent the day on the water. Despite being nearly killed by a lightening storm, we had a pretty good time. We saw so many dolphins and one came right up to our boat and even waved at us! He totally mimicked what we were doing to him. It was awesome. Here are a few pictures, but it's hard to tell. The white spot in the pictures are most likely his nose or fin.

The water splash is air coming from our buddy's blow hole.

This is when he waved at us. It was so cute!

After Florida, my husband and I headed to the Smoky Mountains for a 5 day backpacking trip. It was so hard but so fun! It was my longest camping trip and longest period of time without a shower. I gotta tell you, we were ripe. Here are some pictures from the trip, some of them even cooking related!

First day on the trail.

This was our second campsite. It was so pretty! It was right on the creek and was by far our favorite site.

Dinner our second night was spaghetti with canned sauce. Not a huge fan of the canned sauce, and it was a little bit of a disaster since our cheapo Wal-Mart can opener crapped out on us.

This was the biggest hole I could get in the can. It took some coaxing to get the sauce out.

Matt trying to boil our drinking water. Everything was so wet ("smoky" means "humid", apparently), we were only able to get a small flame with lots of smoke. We had a camp stove Matt made from pop cans, but weren't sure we had enough fuel, so we tried a small fire. The water tasted smoky, so that batch was dubbed "the smoky water".

Day 3 hike was 3.3 miles STRAIGHT UP. It was a super challenging hike and I was not sure I was going to make it. But we did! Here's the proof, standing at the divide.

Beginning of our Day 4 hike. This time, we got to go downhill (after 1 mile climbing back up the divide). Much better, though I did fall in the stream 3 times that day.

Our last breakfast on the trail. This is Matt's attempt at pancakes in a pot on top of a pop can stove. Not easy.

After the first disaster of a pancake, Matt decided to make what he called a pancake biscuit. We just ate it out of the pot with a spoon.

Our last hike was about 6 miles and ended at the Indian River Falls. Super pretty, but I was ready to sit in a dry car with air conditioning!

We made it! Smelly, but in one piece. Woohoo! Now we're ready for our next backpacking adventure.