8.31.2011

The Sweet Tooth

My kids have it.  I think it is in their genes.

Does this face give it away?



Or this one?



It's a sweet tooth.  We have discovered the perfect union in our house for a post dinner treat.  You probably married these two long ago, but I'm always a little behind the times.


So simple.  So easy.  So effortless.
A small serving of nutella on a graham cracker.
I think this face tells you that some foods are just meant to be together.



Join me this month for September's Meal Planning Made Easy Link-Up.  I'll be sharing one of our family's favorite recipes on Thursday, as we gear up for fall weather.  The link will be open until September 15 so join anytime during the month, and tell your friends.  I cooked a lot of the recipes linked  in last month's post, and I even noticed a drop in my grocery bill.  Meal planning pays off.  I thank you for linking with my blog.  It is great to learn about new recipes that have already been tried, and loved by you.


Hines-Sight Blog






Linked today with:

Samantha's Day

8.29.2011

Lights Out, Life Unplugged

On Saturday, the family hunkered down for the worst of Hurricane Irene.  We really got off lucky this time.  We saw heavy rain, lost power for about two hours, and that was it. We were fortunate.  Being stuck inside with the kids was probably worse than the Hurricane itself, for us anyway.  Even though we were on the edge of the storm’s path, we lost power just as soon as my son took his first step down the stairs, about 8:30 am.
Image from WRAL during Hurricane Irene
Luckily, my husband and I got in our electronic fix as part of our typical morning routine before the outage.  I enjoyed two cups of tea while soaking up all the news and social media that I could, before the kids awakened for the day.  I was following the storm on TV, Twitter, and was about to log into Facebook when we became unplugged.  When we lose power in my home, we truly become unplugged. I don’t have an iPad or a smartphone.  We are really left in the dark, so to speak.

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the parental tree because my son likes his own “little morning” routine, too.  He likes to watch TV when he awakes, just like kids used to do on Saturday mornings when children’s programming was just one day a week, and not around the clock as it is in 2011.  His little routine buys these middle-aged parents, who well remember peaceful and leisurely mornings before kids, some much needed time in the morning.

I don’t think we are bad parents.  We take our kids to parks, museums, shopping centers, and on playdates. We read to them, teach them things, make brownies with them, expose them to different foods through a variety of restaurants, and when we travel, they stay in some of the nicest hotels around.  I wouldn’t mind being my own child, honestly.  They do a lot more than I ever did as a child.  Sure, my son has some downtime in front of the TV, and this summer it’s probably been a lot more than it needed to be.  I will go ahead and admit that, but we’re about to shut the TV off entirely during the week when he gets back in school.
A little morning coloring.  Yes, she does wear her brother's old PJs.

When our children are home, we expect for them to entertain themselves a good bit of the day. It’s good for their imagination.  Am I their constant playmate?  No, I’m their 42-year-old mom, who is not a big fan of playing children’s games, and I’m certainly not pulling out Junior Scrabble at 8:30 am on a Saturday.

That is, until maybe the power is out, and a hurricane is looming outside. 

He asked, “Well, what do we do?”

My husband responded, “We’ll talk.”  And then I interjected, “Yeah, and we may play a game after breakfast.”

He looked at me as if hell froze over and then searched for the game with his flashlight.


After he set up our game, my husband left me to play the game alone while he showered with whatever water was left in the tank.  My son spelled “sun,” and I thought he was brilliant, until I looked and saw that there were numerous words written on the board with their photos beside them.  Okay, so he’s not brilliant for his age.  My mistake.

Baby Diva proceeds to knock his clever word off the board, and throws a “T” across the room as I tried to spell “storm.”  Mr. Cool loses his cool, and I start to wonder what the storm is doing. We already know there is no “sun.”  Man, I hate being unplugged.  At the drop of one letter, everyone lost interest in the game.  My son is mad at his sister.  They are wrestling in loud chaos beside me, as letters of the alphabet are stuck to their feet.  Can you spell, “O-V-E-R?”

She makes games a challenge

Soon, the power flickered.  Could it be?  Yes, it was.

My son yelled with glee, “We can watch TV.”

The storm brewed outside all day.  It was dark, dreary, and dangerously stormy. With no plans, the day was long, but we were thankful to be safe, cool, and plugged in.  




***Today's post is meant to provide my readers with a little reading entertainment.  Unfortunately, many people in North Carolina, and all along the Eastern Coast, have a lot to clean-up today.  Our thoughts are with them as this process begins, and damage is surveyed.  For a complete look at storm damage in the Tarheel state, visit http://www.wral.com/


Join me Thursday for another Meal-Planning Made Easy Link-Up.
Link up your favorite recipes so we can have some great meal ideas in September.


Hines-Sight Blog


8.28.2011

1996 versus 2011: A Tale of Storm Coverage (SOC Sunday)

(I had a few minutes this morning so I thought I would write for five minutes, unedited for All things Fadra, Stream of Consciousness Sunday.  I hope everyone who is the path of Hurricane Irene is safe today, and for those who have already been in her path, best wishes as you begin clean up.  I hope damage was minimal. )

Change sure has occurred in 15 years, but I didn’t have to tell you that.  In September of 1996, I was a news reporter for a television station in Wilmington, North Carolina.  I was prepping to cover my second hurricane in less than two months, and this storm was predicted to be stronger than the lady named, Bertha, who came before her.   This time, we were preparing for the arrival of a girl, named Fran.  She was an uninvited guest on our coastline.

We worked tirelessly for days reporting on storm coverage preparations before this category three Hurricane finally made landfall.  It felt like we worked around the clock.  We did.  When Fran hit Wilmington, and went straight through Raleigh, North Carolina, we kept reporting live in the high winds, and heavy rains.  Power was out everywhere.  Our faithful viewers couldn’t see us.  They were in the dark, and had no information.   Some may have been able to listen to us on their battery-powered radio, but that was their only source of information until power was restored, a good week after the storm.  I was the first media person on Topsail Island, and saw scenes like this. Reporters tried to get news to their viewers the best they could. 

1996 FEMA Photo


Hurricane Irene Path

Fast forward 15 years, and North Carolina television news crews were out in the rain, and wind again.  This time, for the less powerful, but huge storm named, Hurricane Irene.  Once a news junkie, always a news junkie, so I was glued to the local news in the comfort of my own home, which gave me the visual reminder of why I left TV news.  I wanted to be in my home during natural disasters, and not standing in the elements.   But, something was different this time.  Reporters had Facebook, and Twitter to help them cover this storm.  Viewers had mobile applications on their phones and iPads, and could stay connected, even when the power was out.   The coverage was remarkable as long, as cell service was intact.   Seeing the storm in action this way almost wanted me to get back in a newsroom.  Notice, I said almost. 




#SOCsunday
This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post below.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

8.26.2011

Empty Backpacks

I think it’s safe to say that summer is winding down. I say this because school supplies have taken over our formal dining room table.  You can’t see the surface for eight glue sticks, crayons, markers, notebooks, and the other items on the official kindergarten supply list.


School starts for my son next week.  Mr. Cool is entering kindergarten, and my toddler will be going to preschool two mornings a week after Labor Day.   Yes, it does make me want to do a little happy dance.  Having six hours a week, with no child at my side, will hopefully recharge my batteries a little.  I am hoping that I will be more productive because I will have more stress-free time to be productive, if that makes sense.  You know what I’m talking about. A trip to a grocery store will take half the time because I won’t have to spend the first ten minutes in the entryway, struggling with Baby Diva to sit in the cart.  Note that I didn’t say my trips to Target would be shorter.  Just being honest. Those trips will take longer because I will actually have a chance to BROWSE.  Thank goodness for school.  Right?

Like many other parents, we purchased new backpacks this year.  I had so much fun picking one out for my daughter. My son even helped me. She’ll be carrying a personalized pink backpack embossed with a dancing ballerina cat.  I figured this would be the only time that I could pick something that I like and incorporate my favorite animal into her life, too.  She loves it.  She points to it and says, "Backpack!"  I actually understand what she is saying
Angel Street Kids

My son picked out his backpack, too. Apparently, he wanted a little déjà vu in his life because he wanted a larger version of the exact same backpack he carried last year to preschool.  That was easy!
http://www.llbean.com/

As his new backpack sits on our table, I happened to glance at Parents magazine’s “Back to School” issue this week. The first paragraph read, “You may be tempted to send your child off with a plain blue backpack (the sturdy one that you like, without a bunch of silly bells and whistles), but folks, your kid’s not in preschool anymore.”

Um, I didn’t pick it out.  He did.  I can’t help it that it is plain, L.L. Bean sturdy, and blue.  If he comes home in a few weeks and wants a new one featuring Spongebob Square Pants, I will die.

Image Credit

I want him to fit in at school, but he also has to realize that money doesn’t grow on trees, and we have to stick with our family budget.  He will have to live with his choice, unless Santa decides to bring him a new one. 

Many children in need would love to have a new, empty backpack in their home waiting for the start of school, regardless of style or color.   And those same children, who rely on the school cafeteria to provide them two healthy meals a day, would love to take home every Friday a full backpack filled with nutritious food for them to eat over the weekend.  For some, it may be the only food they have to eat. That wish is a reality thanks to the Backpack programs in North Carolina.  Have you heard of these type of programs?  The Interfaith Food Shuttle and Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina are accepting online donations throughout the year to make this program a success.

The last days of summer are here.  We're making the most of our time, and you may see fewer posts from me as school starts.  We need some time to settle into our new routines, and I'm looking forward to volunteering for our school's PTA.  Next Thursday, the empty backpacks in my house will be full with school supplies and snacks as Mr. Cool begins his journey to kindergarten.  I hope a lot of other children’s backpacks will be, too.

8.24.2011

Sometimes the Best Gem is in our Own Town

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now know that I like to talk about luxury hotels.  Since having two kids, I have not walked through the doors of as many luxury hotels as I would like, but that just gives me more opportunity to make my “wish” list even longer for the time when the Hines get back on the road.  I make lists for hotels all over the world, but sometimes the best gems may actually be in my own backyard, so to speak.

The lake at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, NC

Case in point is The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina. 

The grounds at The Umstead Hotel and Spa
This artistic, and serene, AAA five-diamond property is nestled on twelve acres of lakeside grounds that give guests easy access to any location in the Raleigh-Durham area, yet as soon as you step onto the grounds, you immediately feel an oasis of tranquility and luxury comfort.  Since the property is fifteen minutes from my home, I’ve not experienced the hotel as an overnight guest, but several of my friends have checked in for an “overnight getaway” from their children recently, and their experiences have made me absolutely pea green with envy. They shared some of their glorious experiences over a glass of wine.

“Leigh, we sat by the pool, had drinks and an early dinner on the terrace.  We felt as if we had been transported a million miles away,” my girlfriend told me.

The pool

The Terrace

That’s all I needed to hear.  I admit that my original envy started as soon as she told me she and her husband were checking in to the hotel, but the stories of the comfy beds, delicious food, rest, and relaxation caused me to come home immediately and add The Umstead to my list under a new category of “sitters can keep the kids overnight” list.

It’s no surprise that this local hotel is so grand, and welcoming.  The Umstead is also a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World, a hospitality organization representing 450 of world’s finest hotels, resorts, and spas.  This Cary gem has received The AAA Five Diamond award since its opening in 2007, and its signature restaurant, Herons, recently received the The AAA Five Diamond honor for 2012, which is one of one of North America’s most respected symbols of culinary excellence and the highest honor bestowed by AAA for a restaurant establishment.  For those of us who don’t necessarily talk in culinary speak, I’ll translate into what we do know.  It’s melt-in-your-mouth fancy cuisine, worthy of holidays and special occasions.  If your wallet can swing it, a regular old night of the week would be nice, too.  Nothing I serve at home looks this beautiful. 

Spiced Seared Venison


Chocolate Date Pudding


Even my burgers don’t look this good.


Fresh Ground Kobe Beef Burger
I know.  You’re thinking: Burger?  You’re talking about a five-diamond restaurant, and you’re showing me a burger?  It’s not just a burger.  It’s a ground Kobe beef burger with heirloom tomatoes and house-made pickles.  What I’m trying to say is that some of my best dining experiences on my vacations have been casually, in different parts of the hotel, where you experience the same five-star quality and service that you would receive in the signature restaurant.  This is true for The Umstead, too. 


Guests at The Umstead can enjoy spectacular, locally sourced seasonal delights by the pool, at a cozy table in The Umstead Bar, while lounging in the spa, or in the comfort of their guest room.  If you are out shopping locally and want to have a more casual meal, then the lounge is ready to serve.  Weekend brunch at Herons really delights and can add some sparkle to your Saturday or Sunday, if you are living in the area.  All menus at this luxury hotel are planned and prepared by Executive Chef Scott Crawford and Chef de Cuisine Steven D. Greene.






Want to Go:  Visit The Umstead website for a complete list of holiday times and special dinners.

Want to Stay: The Umstead Hotel and Spa has several packages that will delight the most discriminating traveler.  The Umstead Hotel and Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary, NC


Do you have one of your own gems in your own town? 

8.22.2011

When in my City, Make Sure to Go to Sitti

Being a parent has caused something to happen that I thought would never happen, not in a million years. Yet we let it happen.  What did we let happen? As a person who likes to talk about travel, I’m almost to embarrassed to tell you.  But we have no secrets here. 

Get ready to gasp. 

We let our passports expire.  Yes, it’s true.  No flying off to another country on a whim for us.  Not any time soon, anyway.  The demands of parenthood caused our passports’ expiration dates to go unnoticed in our top bedroom drawer.

Just as well. My husband isn’t too fond of traveling with small kids anyway.  As soon as we got one child big enough to be easier on trips, we had another one.  And I’m an unemployed stay-at-home mom who no longer contributes to our travel fund. No matter what, the results are still the same. We have expired passports, and instead of globetrotting, we spend more time enjoying beautiful Raleigh, North Carolina.

We have a really good time in our own city, and, honestly, I sometimes approach life as if I’m on vacation. I love nights when I schedule a sitter and we transport ourselves to another part of the world by eating a certain cuisine.  It’s like being on vacation without the hassle of actually getting there.
Image from Sitti Restaurant

Lately, I’ve become quite fond of Lebanese food or, more importantly, downtown Raleigh’s Sitti Restaurant, located on Wilmington Street.

I love the fact that it is in an old Raleigh furniture store.  I love its vibe, and it has caused me to fall in love with Mediterranean cuisine.

We recently went to Sitti with longtime friends.  We go way back with this couple.  He grew up with my husband, and we introduced my best friend to him.  They are now my daughter’s godparents.   

We don’t see them as often as we would like.  You know, life gets in the way, but when we’re together it’s like old times.

This was their first trip to Sitti, and I’m not sure who raved about our meal more, them or me.  My husband loved it, too, but he’s the quiet one of the bunch.


I told Sylvia that no matter what she did, she had to order a salad. I feel that Sitti salads totally tantalize the taste buds with freshness.  I tried the Village salad this time, with diced feta, cucumber, tomato, Kalmata olives, red onion, and green peppers in sumac vinaigrette.  It was a cool burst of flavor in every bite.

The Goat Cheese and Orange Salad wowed her.  My husband doesn’t like change as much.  He fell in love with the Tomato Mozzarella Salad on our last visit, so he wanted it again. 




The chef wanted us to try the Sitti tasting, which was a wide assortment of Mediterranean specialties.  It was great because when you go to a restaurant like this, there are so many items on the menu.  If you aren’t used to eating Lebanese cuisine, then it may be difficult to know what you like in the beginning.  I was a little overwhelmed on my first visit.  The winner on this plate, for me, was the cheese sticks.  I’m going to rename them “heaven in a pancake.”  The cheese rolls are a mix of Grueyre, feta, mint, and spices, rolled into paper-thin pancakes then deep-friend.  Take my word for it.  Don’t worry about the calories.  Just eat them! And eat lots.  They are that good. The entire plate is spectacular, and it’s a good assortment of some of Sitti’s most popular dishes.


My husband and I also shared delicious goat cheese stuffed peppers.  


Are you keeping track of my calorie intake?  I certainly wasn’t that evening. I was on an ethnic-food vacation where my passport was not needed, yet I felt that I had been transported out of Raleigh.  In an hour’s time, I tasted the most finely ground hummus, homemade pita bread, the Sitti tasting, a salad, the goat-cheese stuffed peppers, all before my entrée arrived.  I thought I was going to pop before even setting my eyes on my gorgeous Filet Kabob.

It’s funny because you knew who was married to whom just by looking at the orders.  We ordered Filet Kabobs, and our friends both wanted to try the Seabass, which was pan-seared with shitake mushrooms, tomato broth, garlic confit and white truffle polenta.  They loved it and ate every bite.

One thing you need to do at Sitti is leave room for dessert.  We didn’t do a very good job of that, as you can tell, but our waiter told us that the dessert, Ashta, which is a mixture of layers of phyllo dough, milk pudding, bananas, honey, and pistachio would be the lightest choice. 



Four forks and one dessert later, our dining trip to Lebanon was complete.  I can’t wait to travel there again.  The best part of all is that it takes me less than 15 minutes to get there.

Want to Go: Sitti is located at 137 S. Wilmington Street, Raleigh, N.C.  It’s open seven days a week.

Disclosure: We went to this restaurant unsolicited.  We paid for our own meals, however, we did receive some dishes complimentary..  As always, my opinions are my own, and are not influenced by the company or brand. 

Sitti on Urbanspoon

8.19.2011

A Funny Thing Happened in Durham

If you are friends with me on Facebook, then you have partially heard this story.  It’s kind of comical, really.   Actually, some would call it, disappointing.  You tell me what you think.   In June, I won tickets to see an outdoor, family concert, featuring the Boston Pops, and Kenny Loggins.  The theme was “Hollywood Hits.”   The tickets arrived.  I marked the date on my calendar, and we stuck them in a drawer.  We didn’t think about them again until the date neared.


On Tuesday, we got a sitter for Baby Diva, and took about a 35-minute ride to the American Tobacco Historic area in Durham for our concert.  


We thought it was odd that we pulled right into the parking deck, and no one was collecting fees.  But, we said to ourselves, “It’s still early.” We wanted to beat the concert crowds, and get a table at Mellow Mushroom, which is adjacent to the Durham Bulls Stadium.



We had a great time with our son at dinner.  We rarely get this family time with him without his sister in tow.  He’s at a fun age, too.  We could chat with him, relax, and enjoy our pizza.  It was kind of like, old times.  You know, the time before another child was thrown into the mix.  We love Baby Diva, too, but she’s a lot more work to take to a restaurant these days, and truthfully, was not missed for this dining experience.

Mellow Mushroom still wasn’t as crowded as one would expect on a night of a concert.  At 7 p.m, my friend, and son’s godfather, came from his office, and met us at our table, so we could hand him his ticket.   He, too, came from Raleigh, and commented on how easy it was to park.


We were ready to hear some Hollywood Hits. 

We got hit all right, with a big whammy.  So did about 25 to 30 other people who we saw standing at the box-office. The stadium was locked up, and everyone looked a little clueless.  A disappointed woman turned to us, and said, “we think it is canceled.”  By the looks of things, I think that was a safe guess. No one there knew it ahead of time.  We asked, “Did you notice a refund on your credit card?”  They had not. 


The small, disappointed crowd finally wandered off.  We stayed outside the gate to chat with our friend. We had a sitter.  We had time on our hands to enjoy life.  It was a beautiful, North Carolina evening, and it would have been perfect for an outdoor concert.  Shortly, two stadium officials came out, and started chatting with us.  It turns out that the Boston Pops canceled the entire tour due to low-ticket sales about two months ago.

We joked that they canceled the tour just as soon as they mailed us our free tickets.  I think the Durham Bulls officials felt sorry for us, who were once winners of concert tickets, and were now losers, left empty-handed.  They made my son a winner again with an exchange of a phone number.  The Bulls only have nine home games left this baseball season, and he will be going to one of them.  He’s wanted to do that all summer, so his night turned out just fine.  It was a home run for him, without the “Hollywood Hits.”


As for us, we enjoyed some special one-on-one time with our son.  So what that we drove to Durham to eat at a Mellow Mushroom when there is one 15 minutes from us in downtown Raleigh.  Our time together was priceless.


When we left the parking deck, and rode by the stadium, we couldn’t help, but glance at another group of clueless people who were there to see the Boston Pops.  Apparently, they didn’t see the refund on their credit card statement either. 



***
As we end this week, I also wanted to say that I have noticed that I have new followers in Google Friends, Facebook, and Twitter.   Thank you for taking the time to follow my blog, and I look forward to talking with you,  if you decide to comment.  Thank you! I know time is precious, and with our busy lives, we don't get a lot of time to read blogs.  I thank you for the time you give me. 

8.17.2011

What Did You Say?

It’s a moment, as a parent, that we wait for with breathless anticipation for many, many months.  Then, it finally comes!  Here’s the downer. Instead of being magical, it does nothing but cause developmental milestone panic.

Here is what I hear when I ask my 21-month-old daughter a question. Her voice is so low and quiet that it would be a nice perk to have closed captioning for interpretation over her head like in a little cartoon bubble.  But I’m afraid it would read like mumbo jumbo.



“Ah (inaudible, inaudible, inaudible) dis shews.”  I think the last two words are “this shoes.”  My only clue is that she is pointing to her shoes.  Never mind about the grammar.  The important question is, “What did you say?”  Many times, I just look at her bewildered when she speaks.

She talks, but it comes out as mumbo jumbo.  I have to admit though that each day is getting better.  She repeats words.  Some words are clear.  Many are not.  “Da Da” is the clearest and loudest word in her vocabulary.  Imagine that.  She gleefully announces his name as soon as the “rock star” comes home daily.  I only get “Mama” when she is mad, and with that girly, dramatic flair, she slams her hands down on the table when she utters the word.  She comes by her nickname, “Baby Diva,” naturally.

I have three long months to go until my daughter’s two-year checkup to make sure her language skills are normal for her age.  I don’t know if it is just me, but I think the six months between the 18-month appointment and two-year checkup is the longest time EVER.  I’m okay for about four months, but then I start to have these development milestone palpitations. 


I call my friends.  “I think she may need speech language therapy.”  They try to assure me that she is fine and ask me to remember that with our first children, the doctor told us that we would see a big difference in verbal skills at the age of 2.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I had a boy the first time, so I wasn’t as alarmed as I am now.  Boys, as we women know, will be men, and men don’t really know how to communicate, do they now?  It doesn’t help my palpitations that I have read that girls have stronger verbal skills at an earlier age.  My niece was talking in complete sentences at 18 months. Baby Diva sounds like she is a cave woman in comparison.  Her conversation skills would be great if we all conversed in animal noises.  She speaks the farm animal’s language with expertise.  “Baaah.”  “Oink.”  “Neigh.” 

Or maybe she will excel in a career as a TV weather person.  The only thing I do understand that she’s been saying a lot is, “It’s hot!”  She’s been right about that, lately. We have had some of the hottest weeks on record here in North Carolina.  When she starts preschool next month, at least, I know her teachers will understand her for the morning weather activity, if for nothing else.  She needs to work on saying “cold,” though. 


Maybe she’ll add “cold,” “windy,” "rainy,"” and “sunny," to her vocabulary before her two -year-old checkup to complete the entire weather forecast.  She did say "rain" last night.   Oh my, I’ll have a whole year between well-visits after she turns two.  You can bet I’ll probably develop some new developmental milestone palpitations within those long 365 days.  I wouldn’t be the worried mom that I am, if I didn’t.

Update:
This post was originally written for my column on Triangle Mom2Mom with the Raleigh News and Observer.  As soon as I uploaded this blog for Wednesday's feature, my daughter must have known I was talking about her language skills, and decided to show me a thing or two.  That evening, she took her favorite book about colors, opened it, and read every page.  We understood every color, and she was 100 percent correct.  I slept well that night. 



***
Reminder, I have two giveaways underway right now.
On Monday, I revealed that I was part of a blogging team here in Raleigh.  We created several, mouth-watering, original recipes using Lawry's Marinades and Seasonings.  I want you to be able to create our culinary delights in your kitchen so I'm giving away a Lawry's Gift Pack with the same spices and marinades we used for the recipes.  Deadline to enter is August 24. 

Of course, I also want you to look stylish in the kitchen when you cook nightly.  I team up with Tricia Edmundson with 31 Gifts to giveaway a great, personalized hostess apron.  The deadline to enter is August 22. 

I'm also joining a link-up today for a blog that I have recently discovered, and enjoy reading.  Stop by Filling our Bucket's "Whatever Wednesday!" I love it because you can just write "whatever".  As writers, we sometimes like to write whatever our moods or creative juices decide at the time.  We're impulsive!  We like "whatever." 

8.15.2011

Six Bloggers, Three Lawry's Ingredients, and One Outstanding Menu (Giveaway)

A Cooking with Lawry's Story! 


It was a hot, humid August night.  The South was experiencing record-breaking temperatures.  I was sweating in my own car as I drove through rush-hour traffic to get to the quaint Five Points neighborhood, in Raleigh, North Carolina.


As I walked up to the charming bungalow, hostess Ilina and other members of Team Raleigh greeted me. 

Each of us, with our own unique talents, were ready to cook up some Southern goodness on the grill.  Did I say grill in 100-degree heat?  You betcha.

Our culinary assignment was to create and prepare a gastronomic grilling menu worthy of special occasions and summer holidays.  The catch was that we were to create these new recipes using two new Lawry's marinades and the classic Lawry's Seasoned Salt, as part of a contest by TheMotherhood and Lawry's. 



We are one of ten teams across America cooking with Lawry's in the kitchen. Our challenge was not an easy one.  We were to craft our own original recipes using the Lawry's products we were assigned.   It was not an option just to open the top on the marinade and pour it over the meat, like I’ve been known to do at home.  Lawry's already knows their marinades and seasonings taste great alone.  

Our menu items, not only needed to complement each other, but they were required to make up an entire meal.  I’m going to go ahead and put the rumors to rest, and say that even though my father owned restaurants all through my childhood, I’ve never created my own recipe in my life.  My husband jokes that if it is not in a cookbook, then I can’t cook it.  Thank goodness I was on a team with individuals who are not only great bloggers, but they also know their way around a kitchen.

The Team

Ilina, our team leader and gourmet foodie, did a lot of prep during the day.  She’s an awesome chef, cooks with whole natural ingredients, rarely uses a recipe, and, like many moms, any foods with high-fructose corn syrup are banned from her kitchen.  Fadra was Ilina’s well-appointed sous-chef and did what she was told.  Fadra’s hobby is reading recipes, so she can really speak the language of the kitchen.  She's also a great food photographer.

Molly, our videographer and social media coordinator, kept us on task, and made sure the kitchen was spotless.  My job, as a former reporter, was to take notes so that we could share our creations with you.  It kept me away from the food prep since I’ve been known to mix up my measurements when I get distracted.  Lisa and LZ couldn’t make it to our dinner in person, but they were just one tweet away from the kitchen.   Lisa tackled a dessert in her home kitchen. Here's a peek on what went on inside the kitchen with our own Molly Gold



The Lawry's Ingredients


Our Menu Goal
It’s fun to host a dinner party, but it’s not fun for the hostess if she spends all her time in the kitchen, and out of the conversations.  As bloggers, we are never really at a loss for words, so we wanted to plan a menu that would not only wow our guests with taste, but also allow a hostess to spend time with her guests while entertaining.  We felt that was a huge factor in creating our recipes for Lawry's.  Holidays and special occasions need to be celebrated with a spectacular meal, with a lot less time in the kitchen.

We also wanted to showcase great, local North Carolina ingredients that are at their peak during the summer months.  It was the basis for our menu.



A Grilling Menu for Summer Holidays and Special Occasions, Created by Team Raleigh
Carolina Corn Salad (Salad Option)
Five Points Flank Steak (Main Entrée)
Five Points Portobello Mushrooms can be substituted as a vegetarian option for main entrée
Grilled Fennel, Radicchio, and Vidalia Onion, the Raleigh Way (Side Option)
Capital City Herb Butter with Whole Wheat Flat Bread (Second Side Option)

A la Carte Menu Items

Look for these recipes on the Hines-Sight Blog's Facebook page later this week.
Lawry's Summer Fruit Salad (Lisa whipped this up in her kitchen this week.)

If you want to have a Signature Cocktail/Virgin Cocktail for your event, we recommend
Bloody Marytini (Ilina developed this fiery drink to add some sizzle to your outdoor entertaining.)

The Recipes

Carolina Corn Salad, Salad Option

4 to 5 ears of fresh sweet corn
2 roma tomatoes, diced
¼ cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of Lawry's Balsamic Herb Marinade
juice of 1 lime
¼ teaspoon of Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1 serrano pepper, seeded and dice (optional)
2 ounces crumbled queso fresco (optional)
Cut raw corn off the cob into bowl.  Add diced tomatoes and cilantro and gently mix. In a glass measuring cup, combine ¼ tsp of Lawry's Seasoned Salt, 2 TBS of Lawry's Balsamic Herb Marinade, ¼ cup of olive oil, and juice of one lime. Pour over corn salad and toss well.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Optional, add serrano pepper and/orcrumbled queso fresco cheese to mixture.


Five Points Flank Steak (Main Entree) 

1 cup Lawry's Original Seasoned Salt Marinade
½ fresh pineapple, cut into chucks
2 chipolte peppers in adobe sauce
½ cup ginger beer
¼ cup of olive oil
2 cloves garlic
flank steak (about 2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
Add first six ingredients to food processor (We used the Ninja Kitchen.).  Pour liquid into a large glass casserole dish, and add meat whole.  Turn to coat the flank steak.  Marinate at least three hours (turning occasionally) or overnight.  Grill about three to four minutes each side, let rest for about five minutes, and slice against the grain to serve.
Garnish:  Cut up remaining pineapple into slices, marinate with flank steak, grill, and use as an edible garnish.  
Vegetarian Option: Marinate portobello mushrooms instead of flank steak using the same recipe above, and grill each side until done, about two minutes per side.


Grilled Fennel, Radicchio, and Vidalia Onion, the Raleigh Way (Side Option)

1 whole head of radicchio, quartered
2 bulbs of fennel, thickly sliced
1 large vidalia onion, thickly sliced
½ cup of Lawry's Balsamic Herb Marinade
1 TBS brown sugar
cracked black pepper, to taste
Lawry's Seasoned Salt, to taste
Combine radicchio, fennel, and vidalia Onion in large bowl. Pour ½ cup of Lawry's Balsamic Herb Marinade over vegetables. Add brown sugar and freshly cracked black pepper, (approximately five good twists of the pepper mill) and sprinkle mixture with Lawry's Seasoned Salt. Toss vegetables well.  Arrange seasoned vegetables on grill pan or foil, grill for approximately 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. Brush with marinade during grilling  to keep vegetables from drying out. Toss gently on a platter and serve warm or at room temperature.


Capital City Herb Butter with Whole Wheat Flat Bread (Another side option)

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp of Lawry's Seasoned Salt
Clove of fresh garlic, crushed
fresh thyme, ¼ quarter cup
whole wheat flat bread
Combine butter, Lawry's Seasoned Salt, garlic, and thyme. Mix well.  Spread herb butter mixture onto flatbread.  Stack bread on top of each other, wrap it in foil, and heat on grill. Cut into quarters to serve.

Follow Team Raleigh on Twitter
@MyGOMOM, @IlinaP@allthingsfadra, @hinessightblog @Daily_Pinch and @mymessyparadise

I’ll be the first to tell you that I thought the meal was delicious.  I’m so proud of our team, and it’s an easy meal that you can create easily at home.  I’ve already remade the Carolina Corn Salad.  My husband loved the Five Points Flank Steak.  Lawry's marinades are perfect just like they are for busy weeknights, but our Lawry's Summer Grill menu is great for special occasions and holidays when you have a little more time on your hands.

If you want to recreate our menu, Lawry's is offering one of my lucky readers the marinades and seasonings to help get you started. 

TO ENTER
 Leave a comment below, and tell me what recipe you are most eager to try in your kitchen.  Deadline to enter is Wednesday, August 24.  Winners will be selected in a random draw.   Please include your e-mail in your contest entry.
Extra Entry
Tweet the following (1 entry) 

Want to cook #TeamRaleigh's great #Lawrys Dinner. Enter giveaway to spice
up your own grill party. http://t.co/13A3MpZ
via @hinessightblog

Disclosure: I was compensated by The Motherhood and Lawry's to participate in this Team Raleigh event.  I also  received the marinades and seasoning used in our recipes for me to use in my own kitchen.  As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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