ENGAGED: Renwick + Terri

This couple was just so sweet! I never had to give them any direction and they were both in tune with each other and so loving. They even brought a rope because they’re “tying the knot”. So adorable. What a joy to work with lovely people like these two!

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JUST MARRIED: N + R {5.26.2018}

Well we really lucked out with the weather for this wedding–the forecast for weeks leading up to their big day was rain, rain, rain! It ended up being a beautiful (if hot!) day and didn’t rain until about 5 minutes after the (indoor) reception started! Once the rain stopped we were able to do some beautiful sunset portraits and then at the end of the night, pizza was served! If only all weddings were this fun.

 

Hall Girls at Turnipseed

Are these ladies just the most gorgeous creatures you’ve ever seen?? We just HAD to get to Turnipseed while the poppies were in bloom and I’m so glad we did! They loved wearing flower crowns and except for the ticks we found on ourselves later, it was like being in a fairy wonderland 🙂

JUST MARRIED: Oliver + Lindsay {3.24.18}

What a beautiful, perfect day to get married! This gorgeous couple picked the most amazing venue in Augusta, GA to tie the knot. I first met Lindsay in 2010 when I did her senior pictures and now she’s all grown up! And I have to say, between her, Oliver, and all the people in the bridal party who were already married, it was one of the easiest weddings I’ve ever been part of and quite possibly the most cooperative bridal party I’ve come across lol. And that’s saying a lot, since there were 22 people in the party besides the bride & groom! Lindsay was lovely, Oliver was a sweetie, the flowers were beautiful, and the whole day just went by like a dream. Congrats, Mr. & Mrs. Mongrue!

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HOPPY EASTER: Julia & Avery

It was such a beautiful day out at Line Creek with these lovely little sprites!! Julia is super helpful and full of sunshine and Avery is very interested in everything and quite a thinker. They loved dressing up and even though Julia fell in the creek at the end, she stopped crying so quickly and was a good sport about it! Love these girls.

PEA IN A POD: Lauren + Cole

Well this was a twist for me: we started out our session at Line Creek Nature Center in Peachtree City, only to return to our cars halfway through (for an outfit change) and find my clients’ car window smashed and most of their valuables gone, and the police already waiting for us–other people had also had their cars broken into and it literally happened within ten minutes of us walking down the trail. So, lots of sad faces from them and angry faces from me and we decided to finish another day. In the meantime I made a couple flower crowns and discovered that it’s AWESOME!!! and Lauren was super excited to wear them at the re-shoot. A week later, we met up at Turnipseed Nursery and spent a lovely–albeit chilly–hour amongst the daffodils and new leaves. I can’t wait to meet their little girl when she comes in April! These two are super patient, kind people–as evidenced by the fact that they’re both teachers and also handled the whole mess with their car with grace and good humor–and will be awesome parents.

Special Spice Mix + Yummy Sandwiches

This is going to be a slightly different sort of post because it’s not so much a recipe so much as an example of a yummy sandwich made with my special spice mix and the list of ingredients for the spice mix. The story behind this particular mix of spices is that when my bestie’s youngest sister got married, they gave out a bottle of spices (as favors) to each guest; it was a spice mix that her dad always has on the table for them to use. They’re South African, so they don’t just dump salt and pepper on everything and consider it done like Americans do lol. I will admit that I am a huge fan of garlic pepper and Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning but it is REALLY salty and I don’t like it on meat–I mostly put it in chicken pot pie and chicken soup.

Anyways, I started with their spice mix as a springboard and then majorly overhauled the quantities and added a couple more spices into the mix. It is AMAZING on meats and sandwiches–I also love using it on burgers. The quantity here is to fill a regular sized spice bottle (like 3-4 oz) and you can mix it together and tweak it to your own palate before filling a big bottle. Yum!!!

HAPPY SPICE MIX

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp garlic flakes
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp curry
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Mix them all together in a bowl and then pour into desired dispenser.

The second thing I’m going to share here is how to make a killer ham + cheese (or in my case, turkey + cheese) sandwich. Seriously. You’re going to wonder why you’ve been doing it wrong all these years.

Supplies:

  • 4 slices honey-smoked turkey or ham
  • 3 slices havarti cheese
  • 1 slice provolone or mozzarella
  • 1 slice pepperjack
  • Italian herb bread (I really need to post the recipe!!)
  • dried onion flakes
  • honey
  • cream cheese
  1. Spread cream cheese onto 2 slices of Italian herb bread.
  2. Drizzle honey over each and then sprinkle with onion flakes.IMG_7245
  3. Shake some Happy Spice Mix over it all.
  4. Place pepperjack & provolone (or mozzarella) cheese onto slices, then follow up with turkey or ham. Put havarti on last, follow up with more Happy Spice Mix if desired.
  5. Toast in a toaster oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is all melty and bread is toasty and crispy. Allow to cool a bit before noshing.
  6. You’re welcome. 🙂

 

LASAGNA!!!!!

Need to cook for a crowd? Want them to be impressed? Don’t have a lot of time? Than this lasagna recipe is for YOU. It only takes about 20-25 minutes of easy prep (less if you multi-task), has yummy pepperonis in it and only bakes for 20 minutes and is ready to serve! Note: get the lasagna noodles that are not pre-cooked or oven-ready.

LASAGNA (SERVES 8-10)

  • 2 pounds turkey sausage
  • 1 24 or 28 oz jar spaghetti sauce (I like chunky vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 15oz cartons of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 tbsp parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 box of uncooked lasagna
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 7oz jar sliced mushrooms & mushroom pieces
  • 1 3.5oz pack sliced pepperoni
  1. Put a large pot of water on the stove and turn heat to high to start heating up the water. If you want to save time, put the pasta in before you move on to step #2, since the pasta will need 10-12 minutes to cook.
  2. Brown sausage and break up so that it’s crumbly, then drain.

    I couldn’t find actual turkey sausage, so I used plain ground turkey and added extra Italian seasoning, garlic pepper & Tony Chachere’s seasoning. Hopefully you can just find turkey sausage!
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  3. Pour sausage into a bowl, add spaghetti sauce, water and mushrooms and mix together. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat eggs, add ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, and pepper and stir til blended. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Drain noodles, and then either leave in the colander or place back into pot for easy retrieval. Place the first layer of noodles into a 9×13 pan. My pan was rather narrow so only 3 fit in each layer but many pans can accommodate 4 noodles wide. IMG_7216
  6. Put a couple spoonfuls of the cheese mix onto the noodles and spread evenly, followed by a generous scoop of the meat sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over it and then add a few pepperonis (spaced a couple inches apart–you’ll want to pack them in when you get to the top layer).
  7. Repeat layering of noodles, cheese, meat sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperonis until all noodles are gone, then put all the remaining pepperonis on top. IMG_7223
  8. Place lasagna on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil to keep cheese from burning, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. If you have a convection oven like I do, you probably will only need 20 minutes of baking time total.IMG_7229
  9. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve. So yum! I brought it plus my pull-it bread (recipe here) to my lovely friends Kaye & Jon’s house on move-in day for their first meal in their new home! Together with Jon’s parents, there were five of us pigging out (while my husband installed a ceiling fan because he doesn’t like lasagna). Both the bread and lasagna got many thumbs up! Love feeding a crowd 🙂

Nana’s Amazing Pull-It Bread

I have been wanting for years to make my Nana’s amazing pull-apart rolls and the recipe (which I got from my mom) that I had just did NOT work. The last time I tried to make it was around 2005 or 2006, and it pretty much tasted entirely of yeast. Gross. I asked my mom and a couple of my cousins if they had any other versions of the recipe, and theirs was the same as mine. So I just figured I’d never have Nana’s special bread again (although she did make a mean monkey bread, which is pretty easy to do, so there is that). Enter my amazing Aunt Jane. She dug around for a couple days and found the original typewritten copy (dictated by Nana, typed by Pappaw using his trusty typewriter and edited with clarifications when he thought it necessary), took a photo of it with her phone and texted it to me and I made it today!!
Reading through the recipe brought back so many memories–my sister and me playing with Pappaw’s typewriter, Pappaw typing up his sermons and putting on his ‘good hair’ for church (lol), us making Jell-o in the kitchen with Nana (always mixing it in Mason bell jars), picking vegetables in the backyard, and of course Nana serving this yummy bread every Christmas. I can still see all my cousins around the table and remember the fun times we had! I never laugh so hard as I do when I’m with my cousins. And at the end of those meals, there was never ANY bread left. If you were even able to get second helping of it that was a bonus. In the photo of the recipe isn’t it sweet that Nana’s little signature is at the bottom? :o)
Moving on! If you’ve baked with yeast before you know that there are a ton of instructions and temperatures and measurements that need to be exact as possible…and I personally have not liked any of the yeast breads I’ve made by hand (thank God for my breadmaker!), other than Amish Friendship Bread, which grows its own yeast, so I was a bit worried about getting this one right. In the recipe Nana used some of her own vernacular (“don’t put too many pieces in but don’t put too few–you’ll know how many to do so that it’s just right” lol) and some of the measurements (such as saying a cube of butter instead of a stick of butter) can be confusing, so I’m going to try and make everything as simple and clear as possible so that you can make this recipe too! It is actually real easy and so very worth it. :o)

***FYI before you get started–you have to start this bread in the evening, let it sit in the fridge overnight and then bake it the next day, so don’t start in the afternoon and think it’ll be ready for dinner–it’s just not that kinda bread. It IS easy to make, but it is definitely a bread dough that values alone time for personal growth (HA!).

PULL-IT BREAD (YIELD: Three 8-inch pans of bread)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup butter (cold is fine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • sesame seeds

1. In a small pot, scald the milk (ie, heat until it’s almost boiling). Pour into a medium-sized bowl and add 3/4 cup butter, 1 1/2 tsp salt, a 1/2 cup sugar, and stir until blended. Note: the heat of the milk will help dissolve the sugar & salt, melt the butter and hold it all together.

2.  While the milk mix cools, start your yeast in another small bowl or measuring cup. Mix warm water (between 110 and 120 degrees–use a candy thermometer to get the temp right!!) with the 1 tsp of sugar and stir until dissolved, then add the yeast. Stir again and allow to sit and foam up for 5-10 minutes. If you look at the photo below, the very bottom (slightly darker) portion of the yeast is the original part that I mixed together, and everything above it is the risen-up yeast. IMAG0758

3. Pour risen yeast into the bowl with the milk mix and stir til blended. IMG_7124

4. In another separate bowl, beat 3 eggs until foamy. I recommend a hand mixer.IMG_7131

5. Add eggs into the milk mix and stir gently until blended. IMG_7132 6.  Add 4 cups of sifted flour into the bowl and gently stir until evenly mixed. It will be very lumpy. I also dropped accidentally dropped a bunch of flour and before I could wipe it up, Zippy snarfed it right up off the floor….wouldn’t have thought plain dry flour would be tasty…course he also eats leaves and turds so who am I to question such a discerning palate?

7. Cover bowl (with a towel or lightweight baking cloth) and place somewhere warm and let it rise until it doubles in size, around 30 minutes to an hour. I put my bowl on my dining room table and placed a space heater near it and found that it didn’t rise very much over the course of an hour, so I moved the towel back a little bit so some air could get in and out of the bowl and then it doubled up in about 30 minutes. Look at that nice rise!

8. Stir the dough back down, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

9. DAY 2. Take 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) and use some of it to grease 3 8-inch cake pans. You can melt it if you like but I find it easier and way less messy to just peel the wrapper back and rub the flat end all over the pans. Make sure you get every inch greased up. A thick layer is fine.
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10. Take a third of the dough out of the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface–I prefer parchment paper taped to the counter. Gently roll the dough into a ball and then hold it in your hand and pat it lightly into a flat disc til it’s about a half inch thick. Place back onto floured surface and use your hands to flatten and spread it out. It will probably be around 9-12 inches across. Cut into strips that are about a 1/2 inch wide.

11. Melt the remainder of the butter (plus another 1/4 cup), then pour into a shallow pan. At this point the doggies are getting real interested in what I’m up to. Noses a-sniffing!

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12. Dip a strip of dough into the melted butter, then starting from the middle of the cake pan, make a spiral in the middle, and continue to add each of the other strips (dipping them in butter first) around it to make one big spiral. Each time you add a new strip, press the end of it onto the end of the previous strip to make a continuous rope. Do not squeeze them too close together and when you get close to the outer edge of the pan, make sure to leave a bit of a space around the outermost edge–you want room for the dough to rise. Repeat the process to fill the other two pans. Pour any remaining melted butter over each pan so that the top of each spiral is evenly coated. I think the heat of the butter helps the dough to rise but I’m no scientist. Sprinkle sesame seeds onto each spiral.

13. Put the pans somewhere warm, cover with a light cloth, and allow to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours. I put mine in my dining room, stuck a space heater about 2 feet away from them (if it has multiple settings, put it on medium or high and make sure it’s no closer than 2 feet away) and left a little gap in the towel on top of each pan so that air could circulate under it. This is called ‘proofing’. Nana liked to put her dough to proof in her laundry room (which adjoined her kitchen) while the dryer was going lol. In my case, the dining room had some sunshiney warmth coming in, the space heater provided a warm breeze and I put up gates in the doorways so that my dogs couldn’t mess with my little masterpieces. The dough should rise until it is near to the top edges of the pan. I had to shift my pans around so that they all got air from the space heater equally. By the way, isn’t my baking towel cute? It’s about as thin as muslin and perfect for proofing.

See the difference before & after the dough rose? The spirals are fatter and taller.

14. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the pans on the middle rack and bake for 15 minutes or till very light gold and the middle is not spongy (stick a toothpick in the middle and make sure it comes in and out both easily and cleanly). The dough will have come all the way to the top or higher than the edge of the pan. If you have a convection oven, start checking on it at around the 11 minute mark to make sure it doesn’t get burnt.

15. Allow to cool, then either serve straight from the pan or flip it over onto a plate to serve. It doesn’t need any more butter at this point (HA! we went through almost 4 sticks) but it’s tasty with jam and cinnamon, according to Nana. This is SUCH yummy bread–I brought it to dinner with 4 other people and even though I was serving some very filling lasagna, we still ate two of the three pans of bread!

15. LEFTOVERS: Wrap in plastic wrap (I like press n seal), then foil, then place in a ziploc bag and freeze. When you want to serve the bread, remove from the freezer, take off the plastic & foil wraps (duh) and place on folded foil and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. You do not have to thaw it before putting it into the oven.