Tuesday, December 22, 2009

martha moments: Marmalade's white bean soup

while on vacation in puerto rico this year, we were fortunate enough to eat at marmalade restaurant in old san juan. let me tell you, if you are heading to puerto rico anytime in your future, you must add this to your list. i think it's the most money we have EVER spent on dinner ( or any meal, for that matter... ) but it was out of this world. it's right on up there with bobby flay's mesa grill, a place that i have often referred to as "last meal-worthy."

one stand out at marmalade was the white bean soup, which is one of their signature items ("signature" meaning if-you-leave-this-place-without-having-this-soup-you-are-a-freaking-Idiocrates.)

the waiter was kind enough to share the recipe with us, and so i'm passing it along to you. it looks complicated, but i promise, it's not. and it's worth every. single. step.

Marmalade's White Bean Soup

Note: This recipe yields about 8 quarts of soup (if you can't visualize 8 quarts, I'll make it simple....it's a LOT.) You need a big stockpot to make this soup (or 2 large ones.) Having said that, it does freeze well, so you can either half the recipe or make it all and freeze some, like I do.

You'll need:

2 lb. bag of dried navy beans, soaked in water for 24 hours
12-14 slices of smoked bacon

2 stalk of celery, chopped

1 large white or yellow onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and whole

2 stems fresh thyme

1 gallon chicken stock
1/4 lb. butter

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup thinly sliced chives
4 tbsp. black truffle oil
1/4 cup bacon "dust"

Cook the bacon in a microwave on ridged bacon plate. Reserve the drippings/fat.

Chop the bacon finely using a knife or food processor (or you can grate it). Set aside.

Gently cook the celery and onion under medium heat in the bacon fat for 6-10 minutes, stirring constantly making sure not to brown.

When onions are translucent, add soaked beans (drained from water), thyme, garlic, butter, cream and chicken stock. Bring this mixture to a boil, and reduce to a very gentle simmer for 1 1/2 hours while covering the pot with a lid, stirring occasionally.

When the beans begin to split open and are tender, remove from heat for 1 hour to slightly cool.

After 1 hour, remove the beans and other solid ingredients (celery, onions, garlic) from the pot, reserving the liquid. Place the solid mixture into a blender or food processor (blender is best) and slowly add the liquid back into the solid mixture while pureeing to velvet texture.

You may not have to use all of the reserved liquid. Just add enough to make the soup the consistency you like.

Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Garnish with chives, truffle oil*, & the reserved bacon "dust."

Yields about 8 quarts of soup, or 32- 8 oz servings.

*Black truffle oil can be found at the Fresh Market or on several online gourmet cooking sites. (and yes, it's worth it!)

Recipe courtesy of Marmalade Restaurant and Wine Bar, Old San Juan, P.R.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the hostess with the mostest

with the holidays fast approaching, i always like to have some of those "under $30" gifts on hand, for last minute get together hostess gifts, co-worker gifts, secret santa swaps, etc. here are some of my fave pics for this year's small gift giving. all of these are less than $30 and most all of them can all be bought online. many companies and website will offer free shipping starting next friday as part of the black friday sales, so take advantage! (and if you're like me, you'll probably won't be able to control yourself and will buy some of these for yourself as well!)

1. this gorge fossil cutting board with cheese slicer from crate and barrel. this can be chilled for serving fruits, cheeses, even sushi. perfect for the entertaining gal. cost: $24.95

2. oh, how i love me some etsy! i can always find things on here--some practical, some not so much (see # 16) but how cute is this little leather debit card holder? especially great for the team jacob'ers out there, with its adorable little wolf stamp on it! you can find this under etsy seller bonspiel creations for just $12.

3. love this little brewing mug from polish pottery. great for tea time! cost: $29.95 and boy do polish mugs ever keep the bev's good and hot.

4. my favorite cd as of late...great background music for parties or for driving down the road. this boy is one of my faves (as most of you already know...i'm borderline obsessed.) cost: $12.99 at target.

5. jaw droppingly beautiful crystal winestoppers are just one of those things you just don't buy for yourself, at least i don't! so i'm always happy to get these as gifts. these are a steal at $19 from pottery barn.

6. for the starbucks aficionado, how about a frother for at-home lattes? found this aerolatte on crate and barrel for just $19.95.

7. and while we're on coffee, check out these adorable coffee koozies that velcro around your hot drink! (plus, they are "greener" than the cardboard ones you get everytime at starbucks.) these are on etsy, under seller name notapotato for $8 a pop. AND they're reversible!

7. for the man of the house, this is a good one at just $29.95 at brookstone.

8. this one's just a classic and a must-have for anyone who actually enjoys spending time in the kitchen, like yours truly here.

...and you could even throw in a copy of the new dvd, julie and julia.

i haven't seen it yet, so can't really give my two cents worth, but it sure would be cute tied to the top of this cookbook, found at amazon for $10.17. dvd is $9.99 at amazon as well.

9. bargain hunters, unite! i have one of these ikea farm vases in our bedroom and it is a great piece for any room of the house. only $9.99.

10. i'm a sucker for leather. i'm also a sucker for blank pages. there's just something about an empty journal with lines just waiting to be filled up. these on jennibick.com are just lovely. cost: $25

11. we southerners are cuh-ray-zee about monogramming. it's on our bags, it's on our feather lined coozies at football games, it's even on some people's cars. how beautiful is this personalizable, silver plated julep cup from pottery barn? it could be used as a vase, as a pretty container for tea spoons or drink stirrers, even a toothbrush holder. $24 with free shipping.

12. we love these ice cream balls. great for campers or kids! you literally just shake it to make it. :-) $29.27 at amazon.

13. i found these neat wooden musical fruits on west elm's website and think the apple, especially, would make a great gift for teachers. it plays "what a wonderful world." "awwwww!"-worthy! $29.95

14. these are my favorite handmade soaps, and lucky me, they are made locally. the folks at thistle ridge are most always at our local craftshows and festivals, so i am always able to stock up on my favorites, like the patchouli and twin mint. but if you aren't fortunate to live in the beautiful palmetto state, you can buy them online. $5 each

14. oh, anthropologie! why must i love every little thing you sell? everything freakin' thing!!! i'm lovin' this pretty sweater candle for $20.

15. a must-see movie for your favorite gal pal with many laugh out loud moments. $14.99 at wal-mart.

16. sex and the city the movie. any girl will love it. 'nuff said.

17. fun times ahead with this cool table topics conversation starters from Z gallerie. they come perfectly packaged in a cute, clear box with questions like "what was your most embarrassing moment?" and "what is your favorite line from a movie?" $24.95

18. i dig this rattan chip and dip set from pier 1 so much that i already own one. $25

19. how fun would this be to have this at a party? i love this vintage tattoo set at restoration hardware. a bucket of fun for only $12!

20. and last but not least...perhaps the most meaningful gifts i've ever received are handwritten letters. it's actually my favorite thing to get. in the world of text messaging, twitter, and e-mail, it is nice to get something on paper, handwritten and from the heart. write a letter to your friend, your child, your spouse, your parents, etc. on nice paper (use your bestest handwriting!) Then roll it up and tie it with a piece of yarn or pretty ribbon. cost: free. but mark my words, it'll be priceless to them....

Friday, November 13, 2009

martha moments: oreo truffles

have you had oreo truffles yet? these are oh-my-gosh good! perfect for house parties or tailgating and super easy. everyone will love 'em!

You'll need:

1 pkg. (1 lb. 2 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

MIX 3 cups of the cookie crumbs and the cream cheese until well blended. Shape into 42 (1-inch) balls.

DIP balls in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover melted chocolate can be stored in tightly covered container at room temperature and saved for another use.) Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm. Store any leftover truffles in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

photo courtesy of cinnybear

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

reasons why i love the south

...people like this our local 11:00 news:

i just had to record that and post because is she not just precious?

as we say here, bless her heart!

goodbye, fall!

the rain these past couple of days has taken with it the last of the beautiful fall leaves that were left just barely clinging to the arms of the trees. here's a few pics from my sunday drive...what a perfect autumn day in the south.

Monday, October 26, 2009

rug placement?

we just revamped the master bedroom (nothing major, just new ceiling fan, hardwood floors, cool new eurosham pillows, etc.). and one of the new additions to the room is this new awesome sisal rug:

so, any of you with a decorating sense out there---i need your help and opinions. what is the best way to place an area rug in the bedroom? do you put the whole bed on it?

do you center it in the room?
photo courtesy of karen sesler design

or do you put half of the bed on it?

is there a "right" way?
...or should you even put a rug at all?

anyone out there in blogville care to share with me your opinion? (pretty please?)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

sweet coincidence

two weeks ago, i wrote this post on the blog and used the verse from psalms, "I will lift up mine eyes unto these hills..."

today, i sat with my sweet grandmama looking through old photos and found this one. these are my great grandparents, george and nelle. they were vacationing at one of their friend's homes in highlands, nc just weeks before he passed away.

read the sign above them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

i heart pumpkins

one of my favorite things about fall...pumpkins. last year I was all about my polka dotted pumpkins...this year, i think it's going to be all about painted silhouettes. i started with this cool crow. i found the idea for the picture online and just free-handed it.

then i added an old CZ stud for his eye and some small ones as accents around the words. NOTE: i PROMISE they're CZ's people...please don't come find my house and steal my punkin' cause you think you're getting real diamonds! you'll be sadly disappointed!

here's a closer up:

i'm going to try to do about 3 more, but have to go get more pumpkins first.

while we're on pumpkins, i made a batch of my favorite fall pumpkin muffins this morning. SO easy.

Easiest Pumpkin Muffins Ever... EVER.

1 15 oz can of pumpkin
1 box spice cake mix

Mix all ingredients (all TWO!) well . Pour into greased muffin tin and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Dust with granulated or powdered sugar if you like.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

psalm 121

"I will lift up mine eyes unto these hills..." ~Psalms 121

a snapshot of saturday's sunset over the mountains--the colors were like cotton candy and the mountains were indigo blue.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

storm's a brewin'

you know the saying "it's the calm before the storm?" well, that's what i've felt like this whole past week. as many of you know, the busy season for my job kicks into high gear oct-dec and i'm pretty much balls to the wall--surviving on hot pockets and living out of my car. this year it seems like it's been the so-called "busy season" all year long, which don't get me wrong---it's great to have a job (especially one that i love) and it's really great to have lots of business. but it comes with sacrifices, the biggest being very little time with family and friends.

so i'm formally issuing a pre-apology now to all of my friends and relatives who follow the blog.

it's highly unlikely that i'll be able to talk on the phone for long periods of time until after New Year's. sorry.

the whooshing you'll hear in the background is me burning up the highway, trying to multi-task on speaker phone. sorry.

no, i probably won't be able to meet up for dinner or go out and see a movie* sorry.

yes, i'll likely be staring off into the mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, but just bear with me. i'm worn slap out. sorry.

yes, all of your Christmas presents will be in gift bags because i admit whole-heartedly that i don't have time for fancy wrappin'. sorry.

yes, i understand that when you say, "are you okay? you look tired!" it translates to "girl, get your act together and brush your hair! you look like crap!" sorry.

i suppose i should stop writing the blog and go make about 70 casseroles to freeze so that jeff won't go hungry. on second thought, nah...he can eat hot pockets, too. sorry, sweetie!

so here's to this year's calm before the storm--may it pass quickly!

*exception: new moon, of course!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

it's raining, it's pouring

what a great, lazy day! yes, it poured rain all night long and all day today, but it was just a great, do-nothin'-and-not-feel-guilty-'bout-it day around our house. we slept in late and did near nothing. i'm not exaggerating, people. here's the breakdown:

here's where i spent the majority (ok, ALL) of my day, watching superbad, fast times at ridgemont high, football, and then did a crossword or two...(doesn't it look cozy?!)

the only time i even went outside was to take out the dogs, and poor maggie hated it!

i kept the coffee pot on all day! i had some great new beans i bought and my favorite elvis mug, so i was quite content.

i did get around to taking a shower (no photo documentary of that, sorry folks!) and jeff eventually migrated from the bed to the couch to watch (surprise!) more tv.

i did manage to make a good Sunday dinner, although the crockpot did the majority of the work.

and so now it's still steadily raining outside and my plans are to now crawl right back under the covers and snuggle up with edward cullen. i (*gasp*) still haven't finished the twilight series. i have eclipse and breaking dawn to go. so i figure i may as well get going on that now since i feel like i'm living in Forks anyway...

Friday, July 24, 2009

martha moments: happy berry crisp

we are fortunate enough to live right down the road from the happy berry, a berry farm that is just the coolest little place. it's fun to decide that you want to bake a blackberry cobbler or a blueberry pie and just be able to walk down there and pick whatever you need. i am trying to buy more local food, not only to support the local farmers here, but because of the sheer fulfillment of knowing how fresh and good it really is.

jeff and i went down to the farm wednesday and picked almost 5 lbs of plump, juicy, sweet blueberries. we would pick a handful and gobble them up just as soon as we picked em! needless to say, we had to contribute to the "sin bucket." it says if you eat so many off the bush that you feel guilty about it, you might feel led to contribute to the sin bucket. so we did. :-)

i made a blueberry crisp that was out of this world....so i thought i'd post the recipe for everyone. this recipe epitomizes summer! and if you live anywhere near the SC upstate, make sure to swing by the happy berry. i promise you'll be glad you did!

Happy Berry Crisp


  • 6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and lightly dried
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt

Topping Mixture:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 stick room temperature unsalted butter, cubed
  • Whipped cream or ice cream, for topping


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss blueberries, cornstarch, sugar and a pinch of salt together in a bowl.

Combine flour, oats, brown and white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and pecans in a bowl. Add butter and pinch into chunks. Mix until it looks crumbly.

Add the blueberries into a 2-quart baking dish. Top evenly with the crumb mixture. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream and/or whipped cream.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

i heart FREE.

okay, so it's short notice, but i must share with you that you can get a FREE 8x8 20 page photo book from Shutterfly through midnight tomorrow, 6/24.

these are the best. i have tried to do a book for all of our vacations and they just look so good and professional.

The promo code is : GETMYBOOK

you can thank me later! :-)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

as if i needed incentive to camp more...

i love to go camping. i mean LOVE. so much that i'm in talks with the hubs to get some kind of camper...maybe. but on the flipside we are a couple of the handful of people out there who still like to camp in a tent. one of the best vacations we've ever taken was when we camped our way up the entire blue ridge parkway and then the shenandoah valley. it was a-ma-zing. i would just like to have some sort of kitchen area, hence the talks about campers.


just in case you like camping, too, you might be interested in this link. seems that the national park service is offering fee free camping during certain times of the summer. what's not to love?

(besides the mosquitoes and unfathomable southern humidity right now...)


Thursday, June 18, 2009

please pray for this family

to my loyal blog friends and to those of you who just drop into my blog every now and again, please pray for my friend leah and her husband, shawn. they lost their precious one year old, asher, tuesday to a sudden brain aneurysm. leah is one of my dear friends from winthrop that i have kept in touch with, and my heart is just broken.

she has created a beautiful website in memory of their sweet asher. i am sad that i never got to meet him, but felt like i "knew" him through the pics leah would send and the things she would write about him. i ask that you pray for peace for this precious family in the days ahead.


mountain therapy

this is how i spent the majority of my day tuesday. perfection.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

garden update

check it out--the hanging garden is doing well! lots of herbs and now the little veggies are starting to come in nicely.

the first jalapeno! ole!

the cutest little tomato ever.

sweet banana pepper

plenty of herbs!

the cayennes have done well with all of the recent rain