Friday, January 27, 2012

Some more fun for a Friday

To be clear, I am not using Jackson Hewitt for my tax preparation, but I do think their ads are some of the funniest I have ever seen. We all feel joy, plain and simple, when are taxes are behind us (and especially if some cash is coming back).

So enjoy these spots: This is Steve and This is Sarah

Hope these make you smile -- it's Friday, y'all!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seriously hot wings in Blacksburg

I had the greatest time last month visiting Blacksburg, Va., and the campus of Virginia Tech, my alma mater. Blacksburg is such a fun, vibrant town and it was a joy to give my husband and youngest son a quick tour of academic buildings, the Drillfield, my old dorm (shout to Slusher Wing), the Duck Pond, Lane Stadium and more.

It had been about six months since I was last there, but the town keeps changing and growing. The Lyric Theatre looks like new. There’s a Moe's (Welcome to Moe's!) downtown. And new dorms and academic buildings keep springing up everywhere.

Some places you can count on when you visit town – Top of the Stairs, Mike’s Grill, Souvlaki, and The Cellar, which is where we ate lunch on our trip.

The Cellar is located along Main Street in Blacksburg, Va., just a couple blocks off the Virginia Tech campus. Locals know it without explanation, but anyone can find it with ease. From the student center, walk about three blocks toward downtown – you will smell baking cheese and often see a line out the door. This was a favorite late night spot when I was an undergraduate at Tech. It is a tradition in downtown Blacksburg, one that has been updated with a new interior and street level entrance for the main dining area. I missed the cellar entrance, but I was transported in time once I got inside. The Cellar is known for its extensive beer offerings, and for being a casual fun place to eat. I spent many nights there, socializing with friends over Killian’s Red and munching on pizza.

During our December trip, we enjoyed several menu items, but we sre still talking about how hot the wings were (and laughing at me over how many I ate!) The wings are the first thing on the menu, but be forewarned – I LOVE hot foods, but these will burn you up. They were so hot, they hurt, but I can’t stop thinking about them.

If you are familiar with Blacksburg, there is no need for me to explain my fondness for this charming town. If you have never been, consider visiting this friendly, energetic place. It’s full of activity from the university, and anchored by a committed group of locals.

There's a huge number of terrific restaurants and watering holes in Blacksburg -- too many to mention here. Go visit and find your own favorites.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spectacular shrimp

Last week, in celebration of my youngest son’s outstanding report card, I fixed this version of Sautéd Shrimp – courtesy of Tidewater on the Halfshell, Fine Virginia Recipes. This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from the Junior League of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Va., my hometown. It is a simple, delicious preparation for shrimp, one of my favorite seafoods. The recipe makes a lot – we enjoyed leftovers for lunch the following day.

Most "fresh" shrimp are actually thawed from frozen (as the ones I bought were). I purchased them deveined, but I did the peeling myself. Serve this dish with small or medium egg noodles for a special treat.

Sautéd Shrimp
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, diced
¼ cup diced parsley
½ cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until tender. Add parsley and wine, stir. Gradually add shrimp, season with salt, garlic and pepper. Stir and cook for several minutes, just until shrimp are pink. Serve immediately over rice or noodles. Serves 6-8.

I used a large milkglass bowl to serve the shrimp. Outstanding report cards necessitate special serving pieces!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A new twist on an old tradition

For countless years I've eaten black-eyed peas, cornbread and ham on New Year's Day. Sometimes we add collards, sometimes we eat rice, sometimes we add biscuits. But the peas, ham and cornbread are holiday staples.

Until this year.

My youngest son balks at eating black-eyed peas and my teenagers weren't here to eat. It had become pretty clear that I was the one who aimed to eat a pot of peas by myself. What kind of luck will that bring?

So I decided to change gears. I saw this black-eye pea dip recipe posted a few days ago by Ree Drummond, who writes the wildly popular The Pioneer Woman blog. It was spicy and creamy downright delicious and is destined to become a new tradition for my family. Even my youngest loved it!

I used fat-free sour cream and fat-free cheese. I normally detest the fat-free cheese, but when it is cooked, it does a pretty fine job. Try this dip with tortilla chips or wheat crackers. And if you use fat-free ingredients, the dish is guilt free. Happy New Year, friends!