Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reid 50th Anniversary Party

My in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this month. When Pootie and Diane (his sister) and Craig (sister's husband) and I asked his mom several months ago what they wanted for such a momentous occasion, she said she wanted us to have a party for them. So planning went into motion.

my mother-in-law, Geneva, in her element

There are some things that had to be taken into account, of course. My mother-in-law is gregarious and extroverted, and loves big galas and lots of people. My father-in-law, not so much. He prefers things a little lower-key and more intimate. Since we wanted to please both of them, we set some guidelines. Nothing too stuffy or formal, set the guest list around 50, and keep it simple. (We also had a budget - that's reality.)

my father-in-law, in HIS element.

We decided we'd do a 2:00 - 5:00 drop-in. Cheeses, nuts (besides those of us in the family already attending), crackers, olives, and fruit would be enough for something between-meal timed. And I'd make a sangria, have beer and have something non-alcoholic for the few little people that were dragged along by their parents. (Including our nephew.)

Craig with our nephew, Benjamin.

Pootie and I live about four blocks from his folks, Diane and Craig live much farther out. So we decided it made the most sense for us to host it at our house. Diane, Craig and our nephew Benjamin came over to help get the yard ready (in the sweltering heat) and then Diane came over to help me clean the house. They also helped set up yesterday morning before the party. I think I'm going to keep them as my Help. I bet they won't work for free on a regular basis, though.

We wound up with a gorgeous day, not too hot, so we were able to utilize the backyard. Kind of unusual for this time of year. We haven't been out there much in the past two months - it's been a brutal summer. Man, did we luck out.

The outdoor seating area all ready for company.

I decided to do a white peach sangria and watermelon lemonade. For the watermelon lemonade, I juiced two 5 lb. bags of lemons:

this wound up making my fingers raw, for some reason

I learned in the process that a five pound bag of lemons gets you about three cups of lemon juice. I juiced two five pound bags - so six cups of lemon juice.

juicing lemons smells SO good

I cut up one small watermelon - about six cups.

I simmered the watermelon with four cups of sugar and eight cups of water. (Split between two pots). Then I let that cool and mixed it together with the lemon juice. This is pretty concentrated, but I filled the dispenser up with ice and a couple of hours later and some stirring, it was pretty much perfect.

For the sangria, I peeled and cut up three large peaches and four apricots, mixed that with a quart of peach nectar, a cup of simple syrup (1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup water), 2 cups of apricot brandy, and five bottles of Proseco.

it was GOOD, too!

That's all the "cooking" I did for this. Kind of disgraceful for a food blogger, I know. But there it is. I got some lovely flowers from Christin at Federal Point Farms.

We had a good turnout - about 40 - 45 people, I think.

Lots of family made it into town as well.

Phillip's Dad's brother, Roland and his wife, Ann - they've been married 60 years!

Phillip's sister Diane, our nephew Benjamin and Craig, of course were there.

Geneva's sister Barbara and her cousin Caroline.

Cousin David and Uncle John

As well as some mutual friends of ours.

Shannon and Phillip (Pootie) - he's trying to wrangle us a dinner date soon.

We drank sangria

And ate

And laughed

And congratulated two people for achieving 50 years together.

I hope Pootie and I will be so lucky.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On Vacation

We are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this week.

I was twelve.

We are taking our first weeklong vacation that didn't involve family since our honeymoon. It goes without saying that we're long overdue. But I'm cheap. And travel is expensive. And I like my house and my dog. But I don't much care for the heat we've been having, so we headed to the NC mountains for the week.

So far, we've gone tubing down Deep Creek.

Hiked the Appalachian Trail: (Why do they call it "hiking" and not just "walking"?)

And whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River:

We've had time to relax, too.

We have a balcony.

The view is lovely.

We've really enjoyed ourselves. And I'm slowly recharging. It's really been so long since I've taken any real time away from home and work that I didn't realize how badly I needed this. Now I'm taking some time to reflect, plan, and I'm even starting to get re-inspired to cook. I suspect some of that has to do with being out of the heat.

I'm contemplating major blog changes, as well. We'll see.

Now it's time to get back outside and put our kayaks on Lake Fontana and explore there. More later!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peach Caprese Salad


Not Capris.

But while we're on the subject, why are these things getting such a bad rap? Believe me, my wearing these instead of shorts definitely makes the world a happier place. Nobody but Pootie wants to see my 43-year-old thighs and knees.

Anyway, today Twitter and Facebook blew up with peaches. Good timing, since I had done this one last night. Apparently, the Northerners are now getting their Peach on. Whereas down here in the Carolinas, we're in the last gasp of the season. They're starting to get a little tired. But I had a few from the Farmer's Market, and they're still good, so last night I made a peach caprese salad as a starter.

It's made just like a traditional caprese salad, except peaches are used in place of tomatoes.

Peach Caprese Salad
Serves 2

2 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced about 1/4" thick
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced about 1/4" thick
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Good-quality extra virgin olive oil, no I am NOT abbreviating it EVOO, that's just annoying.

Alternate slices of peach and mozzarella cheese on two salad plates. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and chopped basil. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, then a little olive oil. The vinegar and olive oil really bring out the best in this dish, so use good stuff if you can get it.

Delicious, refreshing, blah blah blah - you know the words, sing along! It's summer. It's light. It's tasty. It's just one more thing to do with your peach load-up from the market.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Watermelon Syrup for Watermelon Coolers

People everywhere are complaining about the heat. And if they have nice weather, they're not telling anyone, for fear of getting taken out.

So for those of you who are sick of this, and need a little pick-me-up, here's a use for that leftover watermelon. (I had half of one sitting in the fridge getting mealy.)

Watermelon Syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
6 cups watermelon, chopped, seeds and all

Pour the sugar and water in a large pot and heat over medium until the sugar is dissolved. Dump in the chopped watermelon and let sit 2 or 3 hours. Pour the mixture into a large pitcher through a strainer, pressing down on the watermelon to get all the liquid out. Refrigerate in a sealed container. It will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Watermelon Cooler
Juice of one lime (about 2 Tbs.)
1/2 seltzer
1/2 watermelon syrup 

Fill a glass with crushed ice, then add the juice of one big lime. If you've got one of those dinky, dry, little stingy limes with no juice, you may want to use a couple. Fill half the glass with seltzer and then fill the other half with watermelon syrup. Stir.

This would lend itself well to vodka or gin. Or, you know... white rum might also be good. Ooo! With some crushed lime! Like a Watermelon Mojito! Yes! And actually, now that we're on the topic of alcoholic beverages, tequila wouldn't be half-bad with this either.

But it's also pretty refreshing without the alcohol. And kids would probably dig it.