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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe: Cream of Cucumber soup

Trust me. This is good. It is from Julia Child's The Way to Cook. It is a very basic recipe and a wonderful way to use up all of those summer garden cucumbers or if you find an awesome price on cucumbers.

Cream of Cucumber Soup--Julia Child

4 large cucumbers for the soup base
2 tsp wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1-2 cups sliced onions, depending on how strong an onion flavor you wish. 
2 Tbs butter
4 cups water
1/2 cup raw white rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup or so sour cream, optional
Decoration: 1 small cucumber cut into very thin slices, with green skin on and minced fresh dill or parsley. 

Before starting the soup, peel the 4 large cucumbers, chop roughly, and toss with the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Let stand until the soup base has simmered for 15 minutes. 

Saute the onions slowly in the butter for 7-8 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the rice and liquid; simmer for about 20 minutes. Then turn the cucumbers and their juices into the soup and simmer 5 minutes more. Puree; whisk in the optional sour cream. Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls, and top each serving with 3 or 4 cucumber slices and a big pinch of minced dill or parsley. 

Note from Rachel: I used my immersion blender to puree the soup; it was exceptionally fast. I also didn't add the sour cream because I thought it would mask the delicate flavor of the soup. It was creamy despite the lack of cream. Also, if the seeds in your cucumber are exceptionally big, you may want to discard them before adding them to the soup. I didn't and the soup had an occasional hard bit of seed floating around. I love the flavor of dill and cucumbers and I thought the two flavors mingled perfectly together. Don't be afraid of too big a pinch. I didn't have fresh dill, so I used dried. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I miss Lucy Locket Viola Bragg

For a while, my family's cats avoided me. The feeling was mutal and we were content to go our seperate ways. They didn't need my love and I didn't need theirs.

That, however, lasted up until the past 2 years. This cat came into my life.

Meet Lucy Locket Viola Bragg. By no means is she considered my cat. That was claimed most vehemently by Abby, Travis, Kellie, and my Dad. She was often fought over, as is natural for those who claim ownership. Nevertheless, Lucy warmed my heart and I stand before you today saying "I wish I had a cat." 

Our dear Linus Merryweather is also adorable, but he is a bit more aloof. 

Niner was our first and most beloved. 

We also had a brief and beautiful stint with Lyra.

To read her story as well as Lucy and Linus', see my mom's excellent post on my sister, the rescuer

Good night. 

PS Photo credits to my amazing mom. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Economical vs. Expensive version

The decision of buying an economical vs. expensive version of a product is something we all struggle with. Or is that just me? Especially when every dollar counts. I thought it would be interesting to share what I spend a few more dollars on and purchase the more expensive version. And by that token, this is an indication of what I value and can't live without.

Black peppercorns. If I had a few more dollars I would get different varieties! But for now, freshly ground black pepper is a MUST in my food, at least in my house. If I'm over at yours it doesn't matter. :) This stuff makes all the difference in the world.
I got to have my clinique foundation. It matches my skin tone perfectly. In fact, this is the version I use. Although, I am looking for another brand or type because my skin has changed... 

Pardon this horrible picture, but Pure Almond extract helps sooth my soul. No almond flavoring for me.  Notice, however, that I am content to buy Kroger brand instead of McCormick. As long as it is pure. That being said, I am perfectly content to buy Mapline instead of pure maple extract.

We bought these knives when we first got married. Being an aspiring chef while knowing that whatever knives we bought would probably be the ones we used for the next 20 or so years, I decided to splurge and buy Heckles. Totally worth it. And it's great that we can sharpen them ourselves. Less frustration in the kitchen equals a happy wife. 

Along with knives, I decided that nice, heavy pans with a copper core and thick aluminum bottom were the ones for me. I plan on having these for...ever. They are wonderful. Plus we purchased them at Costco which lowered the cost significantly. It's just a joy knowing your pans won't warp. 

I REFUSE to buy margarine. I will buy butter even though it is literally 3-4 times more expensive. PS, in Atlanta it is least expensive at Aldi--cheaper even than Costco! Oh, and if you are a margarine sort of person and I eat at your home...I don't mind. :)

And last, but not least, is my beloved pure vanilla extract. It makes such a difference in the flavor the food and I really like the Costco brand. This 16 oz container cost $6. Even if I buy the more expensive version, I love a steal! 

As you can see, I obviously value good cooking utensils. What do you value and spend money on? I'm really interested to know! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beautiful Homes in Sandy Springs

These homes are simply lovely. However, you probably won't find me living in most of them. They're fun to look at none the less. :)

The well-manicured lawn is simply stunning. 

Reminds me of a castle...

Pardon the quality, the angle, and the unfocused picture. This stunning home is on a busy road so I couldn't stop and take a picture. The most striking aspect of the home? Check out the sweeping steps. 

This is my dream home. Or one of them. I simply ADORE red brick with black shutters. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

What I made with a whole bag of glue sticks

HEADBANDS!!!! (and hair pieces) I made 5 each for my sister and sister-in-law as well as several hair pieces for baby Reece Dillon and one for each of the girls in my primary class (4). It took a lot of time, but it was great to be doing something with my hands. And as I bonus I got several seasons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch in.

The first 5 were for Abby. I promise they look better in person. Some like #3 look horrendous in my opinion, but I blame it on the camera angle.

These next 5 were for Melanie Reece.

Sorry for the blur!

These were for Reece Dillon. My mom made the crocheted flower in the middle.

And these next 4 were for my primary class. Sorry for the blurry picture! It is so hard to tell if it is blury with our camera.

Although this was a fun experiment, I am tired of wrapping fabric upon itself. I need another cheap crafty hobby. Ideas?  I know I'll keep making cards (see previous post), but any other ideas out there? I don't have a sewing machine, fyi.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas food

Like I said in my last post, it just isn't Christmas without delicious and special food. My sister Kellie said something a few days before Christmas that struck a chord. It was essentially this: How wonderful it is to be "poor" college students. When you have money you can afford to buy things like Gruyere and feta cheese, bacon, english muffins, and pecans, let alone red bell peppers on a regular basis. But because those are things we regularly do without they become special and meaningful.

She has a point. I remember growing up quite happy despite a smaller income due to my Dad's schooling and I was oblivious to such details. Christmas breakfast for a while consisted of bacon and/or sausage, hash browns, english muffins or popovers, special eggs (recipe follows), and OJ from a carton! Oh the joy! But gradually those items became more common for everyday breakfast. For the past couple years our family has had pecan rolls with hot chocolate because THAT is certainly not something we will have everyday.

Trust me, they're divine. And although David and I didn't make them for ourselves this year we had bacon, special eggs, english muffins, and carton OJ. Like Kellie said, it felt so special.

Pardon the picture. Currently that looks kinda nasty, but it tasted delicious. 

I also made various neighbor gifts. (I apologize if you didn't get something and you're our neighbor...I sort of ran out of steam and quit making unnecessary food... :) )

I made mini Challah's. One recipe which normally makes two large braids made five small ones. 

Mini braids

One recipe makes 2 large braids. 

I also made Pumpkin butter from this recipe. 

It was delicious. I used apple cider instead of apple juice and added the full amount of sugar, if not a tad more. :) 

I also splurged big time and made toffee (MUST use Ghirardelli chocolate and pecans AND almonds.) 

I needed at least one thing to truly remind me of home. It was the first time I made it without the supervision of my dad, the traditional candy maker in our home. Just thinking about toffee conjures up very powerful and happy memories. As well as mournful memories of only being allowed a few pieces... 

I also redeemed myself with a gorgeous, if I do say so myself, pecan pie. Remember this post? Yeah. 

And last but not least David and I needed something green to go along with our Christmas eve dinner so I bought brussels sprouts! They are one of my favorite vegetables, especially roasted.

Essentially you drizzle them with butter, add plenty of salt, and roast at 400 degrees until they are slightly crispy. Yum!

And here is the recipe for our special eggs. I think it originally came from a good family friend. It's not's a scrambled egg recipe for crying out loud!

Woodfield’s special eggs

There is no exact recipe, so just go with your gut/ preferences. For 6 people. Listed below is approx. amount.

10-12 eggs beaten with a splash of milk/cream
4 T butter
¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup green onions, sliced thin
3 oz or so of feta cheese

Sauté bell pepper and green onions in butter until soft. Add eggs and DON’T STIR for several minutes until the first layer of eggs are completely cooked. Cook on medium-low. While they cooking, crumble the feta cheese over the top. Gradually start stirring and scrambling the eggs. Salt and pepper liberally.