Monday

Teds Montana Grill Tallahassee edition

I was recently contacted regarding Ted's Montana Grills new spring menu, and asked if the Mister and I would like to give it a try. I immediately said yes, as C and I love a good burger, and are always up to trying something new.  Additionally, I admire what Ted Turner is doing as an environmentalist and philanthropist, so it was a win win. Please note that the mister and I did receive a complementary meal, but the thoughts below are all our own...

Ted's website states, Inspired by the pioneer spirit of the American West, Ted’s Montana Grill is committed to serving honest food served with genuine hospitality. The menu is known for its modern interpretation of hand-prepared, 100-percent fresh, classic American food. The chef inspired menu features the finest cuts and best selection of bison, including high-quality, flavorful steaks and award-winning burgers amongst a variety of other unique menu items.

I must also share that I work retail, so I have a crazy schedule, the GM of the Tallahassee location, George worked to accommodate us, and truly provided top notch service during our visit. 
Two of my favorite things about Teds Montana Grill
1. The great quotes on the coasters. I know this is silly, but they truly are great one lines
2. the  picked cucumbers .. a unique tasty treat and a refreshing choice from the usual bread to snack on while waiting for your appetizer/meal
The mister and I tried the Smoked Trout Dip appetizer. It boasted a southwestern flavor featuring trout smoked in-house, roasted Anaheim peppers, fresh lime, cilantro and served with ciabatta toast points and tortilla chips. The mister is usually not a fan of fish, but he loved the dip and says he would order again! We like it best with the chips. Our server shared the bread is made fresh daily, but  being ciabatta toast, it was a bit hard for my liking.
The mister was quick to order the New York City-based Boylan soda to try. He opt'd for the Creme and I must say it was sweet, but subtle. I asked our server to tell us more about why Boylan? He denoted that Boylan builds on Ted’s desire to provide authentic American options made with natural ingredients. Boylan’s features  bold-flavored sodas sweetened with pure cane sugar, natural oils and served in recycled glass bottles. Note there were three flavors to choose from: black cherry, creme and orange.

Dinner..
The mister chose Bison Meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, and squash casserole. He considers himself somewhat of a Meatloaf expert, as he orders it nearly ever time it is on the menu. C shares that the meatloaf was moist, and the seasonings bring out the full bison flavor the bison and the sauce compliments the meatloaf.

I chose the Avalon Bison Burger-  Gruyère, Blue Cheese, bacon caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli, baby arugula.. I opt'd for onion rings instead of fries. The burger was huge! After half of the burger I was full, and I knew I needed to save room for dessert.. Thus I asked for a to go package, and enjoyed half for lunch the following day ..
We were excited to learn that Ted’s Strawberry Shortcake dessert returned to the menu, as we had heard about it prior, but were not quick enough to make it to Ted's to try it. The dessert featured fresh-baked sweet drop biscuits topped with vanilla Häagen- Dazs® ice cream and house-made whipped cream, fresh strawberries and strawberry sauce. It was the perfect end to an amazing meal. 

C & I are already thinking about when we can go back! 


Saturday

Dare to Dream....

Today I continue on my journey working to document the Alpha Chi Omega Global Service Initiatives trip. Please note, I am working on these posts from my cell phones (I didn't bring my laptop, or any other valuables to camp), thus there maybe a few typos along the way...

Tonight we ended our day with reflection time. The staff from Alpha Chi leading the trip has worked to carve out this time each evening. The time is spent by many reflecting on a prompt in their journals, or outwardly discussing with others. Being a processor by nature I have utilized the time each evening to inwardly process the events of the day.... the interactions I had, the sights I saw, and the conversations I was engaged in....

Today was a day that I can recap in one word DREAM.

Fellow alumna, Megan from Kansas who I already shared an affinity with (she is a fellow Chapter Advisor) shared in reflection that set set a goal for herself to visit all 50 states. I of course knew that Megan and I had to be friends. She shared that this trip was a step in fulfilling that dream.

Marc (the homeowner) shared his dream of having a completed house for his family. Marc's son Cole shared his room with us- sharing paint colors, where his bed would go etc,

Walt (the foreman) shared his story about giving back and his dream of making a difference.

I chatted with by husband via text during our reflection time, and shared my dream., in relation to my post yesterday that every difference makes a difference. My dream is that not only am I making a difference but that I am inspiring others to make a difference.  Yes, this trip is emotional for me. It is hard to city a city I love is such disrepair nearly a decade after Katrina, but it is important for me, becuase I dream of a day that the city will fully recover, and a day that others will see that to the world you maybe one person but to that one person you maybe the world..

and to close it is important to set dreams and goals for ourselves, but it is even more important to challenge ourselves and each other to achieve those dreams, and you never know who else you will inspire along the way..

What's your dream???


update: Megan shared more about her dream over on the Alpha Chi Blog, check it out..

She also shared a book, that I may or may not (OK I DID) have already ordered on Amazon! 
Megan shared:
“The Dream Manager,” by Mathew Kelly. He writes about the high percentage of turnover companies experience with their employees. His solution is to ask employees what their dreams are, and help them achieve those dreams via a company Dream Manager who is appointed to help everyone achieve their dreams. He found when employees are happy with their personal lives, they end up being better workers and more loyal to the company.


Friday

It is not about you....

AGSI_Day2b 
 I posted yesterday about my arrival in New Orleans, and my excitement to attend and be apart of the Global Service Initiates trip for Alpha Chi Omega.  This trip allows myself and 11 other alumnae to make a difference in the Cresent City. 

Today we met the family whose home we would be helping to rebuild. We are working with a former New Orleans Police officer who found himself homeless after Katrina. Due to a law on the books in New Orleans, he also found himself jobless (New Orleans police officers had to live in New Orleans, this law is no longer) Upon finding another job (still a police officer) he bought this 1951 1 bedroom, 1 bath house with the vision to expand it to fit his family. 

We also met Walt, the foreman who oversees the various projects Camp Restore is working on. Prior to this Walt,  renovated churches throughout the Midwest. He suffered a heart attack and upon recovery was called to move on to rehabilitating homes in New Orleans. 

So today surround by my sisters, homeowner (Marc in orange) and Foreman (Walk in blue) we embarqed on a journey to rebuild. We learned how to install insulation & drywall, how to mix up mud, and how to float walls. We learned the importance of being humble enough to ask for help (big and small). We learned that dedication and heart can make a difference, and that as a team we can get stuff done!

But mostly today, when reflecting I learned that yes this trip may be physically and emotionally hard for many of us, but in the end it isn't about us, it is about those we will touch during our time here.

I am excited to leave Day 1 with drywall up in the living room, mudding started in bedrooms, insulation in the master bedroom, and the job site super organized! Can't wait to get back to it tomorrow!

Thursday

Every Difference Makes a Difference..

 Inaugural Alumnae Global Service Initiative participants
Traveling from all corners of America – Alpha Chi Omega alumnae and Alpha Chi headquarter professional staff converged at Camp Restore in New Orleans, Louisiana for the inaugural Alumnae Global Service Initiative Trip. For me, this trip was special. Not only would I be volunteering with my sisters, but I would also be volunteering in my hometown – a city close to my heart. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I am humbled to be a part of.

After the regulatory “camp” tour and assignment of “camp chores,” the team took time to relax, unpack and settle in. For many of us, sleeping in bunk beds is a trip down memory lane to our collegiate days in residence halls and chapter facilities; this time, however, the conditions are different. Camp Restore opened in 2006 following Katrina. The camp was a place of hope, a place where those willing to volunteer congregated. Following Katrina, hundreds of volunteers occupied the camp, often sleeping in PODS and FEMA trailers. Nearly a decade after the camp opened its doors it still remains prevalent in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Volunteers continue to fill the gap left behind in the rebuilding of the city.
We were each drawn to apply for this trip for different reasons, but a common theme was a desire to give back surrounded by our sisters. We wanted to strike on the cords of love, unselfishness and sincerity. We wanted to make a difference, giving of ourselves as we are able.

Over introductions and subsequent dinner, we mingled with the leaders of the camp and gained a glimpse into their daily lives and the life of a New Orleanian, post Katrina. Following dinner participants gathered for reflection and were challenged to define our view of the culture of New Orleans. We all found the city to be one rich in heritage and culture. A city of passion and hope. A city rich in the spirit of family. After reflection we watched a documentary that illustrated the city’s trials and tribulations post Katrina and the obstacles that are presented to current residents and those wishing to return to the city. The documentary clearly, and undeniably, showcased the city’s rich and resilient heritage, and left us driven to make an impact in the coming days. As we ended the night we returned to our bunks, each reflecting on the impact that this trip, this city and our fellow Alpha Chi Omega sisters will leave on each other and on the great city of New Orleans.

I head to bed anxious to share this great city and this experience with my fellow sisters who are here and, thru this blog, with sisters across the nation. May each and every sister remember the importance of every service rendered and be inspired to volunteer.  After all, every difference makes a difference.

Tuesday

Shamrock rice crispy treats



Last St. Patricks day, I treated my team to Lucky Charms Rice Crispy Treats for St. Patrick's Day! 
This year I decided to do a little something different!

1/2 stick of butter 
melt in sauce pan then add... 
1 bag of small marshmallows (4 cups)
heat until all melted, mixing while melting... 
add green food dye (color to your preference)
remove from heat, 
add 5 cups of Rice Crispy Cereal
and then lay out on tin foil, cover with tin foil, and use rolling bin to roll to desired thickness
let cool
cut with cookie cutter!
 

Thursday

Wedding Wednesday -DIY Cotton Boutonnieres

C decided he wanted to wear Cotton Boutonnieres. Seems like a reasonable request right? Well, that is what I thought until I started searching for them. They are much harder to find then one would think. I was about to throw in the towel, and my mom happened upon a Handmade Weddings book at the used book store! Flipping thru the pages I found COTTON BOUTONNIERS!!!!
 I showed C, and he was 100% on board. He ordered cotton (left) from Floral Cotton, the Texas tallow (right), lavender (below), clear floral tape and boutonniere pins from Save-On-Crafts. I purchased the navy ribbon from Hobby Lobby.
 All of the supplies arrived quickly and were of excellent quality. I rallied one of my bridesmaids JSBH to help me with the "crafting"... her hubby also came over to "supervise" .. He is British, and actually read thru parts of our honeymoon itinerary ,and provided comic relief. So here is what we did!!!
Here’s what you will need for 12 boutonnieres:
  • Cotton (I bought 24 bolls, I worried, I would break a few stems, I didn't so now I have extra)
  • Texas Tallow (two bunches)
  • Lavender (optional, 1 bunch)
  • Floral Tape ( I opted for clear)
  • Ribbon (I chose navy to match the bridesmaids’ dresses)
  • Boutonniere Pins (I chose pearl ones to match bridesmaids necklaces)
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Scissors

 Group together 2 sprigs of lavender, 1 boll of cotton, and cluter or two (depending on size) of Texas Tallow. Wrap the prior with the floral tape  so it stays together. Then place a small dab of glue on the end of the ribbon and secure to the top of the stems, wrapping the ribbon from top to bottom and back up. Add one more dab of glue to secure the end of the ribbon.

 We created the smaller boutonniere with just lavender and Texas Tallow for the ring bearer.
I am quite happy with how they turned out, and the Mister is over the moon! I would recommend this to any DIY Brides, as they are fun to make and turn out great!

and below are a few additional photos of the boutonnieres...


Tuesday

Caramel cream cupcakes with coconut


Ingredients
  •  Carmel
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoon butter (unsalted)
    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Cupcake
    • 1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
    • 1/2 cup shortening
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 5 eggs (room temperature & separated)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 cups flour (all purpose)
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 cup flaked coconut
    • 1/2 cup finely copped pecans (toasted is best)
  • cream cheese frosting
    • 4 oz softened cream cheese
    • 1/2 pound softened butter (unsalted)
    • 2 teaspoon vanilla 
    • 10 cups powdered sugar
preheat oven to 350
Cupcakes
grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tin, and set aside
I use my kitchenaid/you can also use an electric mixer and bowl. Cream the butter and shortening on medium for 30-45 seconds. Add the sugar, beat until well combined. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until combined. In a small bowl combine flour and baking soda; alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture beating on low. Fold in coconut and pecans.

in a separate mixing bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. fold about one third of the egg whites into cake batter to lighten. fold in remaining egg whites until combined. Spoon equal amounts of batter into each tin

bake 202-25 minutes or until done. Cool. 

Caramel 
place brown sugar and putter in sauce pan on medium heat and cook until butter and sugar begin to melt *around 8-10 minutes* stir occasionally. When the sugar begins to caramelize, remove from heat and carefully stir in a few ounces of cream at a time. When cream is absorbed by the sauce stir in more doing the  same each time until all of the cream is used. When the sauce has reached a thick consistency. transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. If needed, add 1 teaspoon of heavy cream to then out caramel as it cools

frosting
beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until ligtht and fluffy. mixing on low gradually add in powdered sugar until well combined and smooth. Slowly drizzle in caramel sauce while mixer is on to create ribbons of caramel in the frosting.

decorate the top of each cupcake with frosting and then caramel drizzle or pecans or flaked coconut. 


Monday

Homemade pizza Dough


I apologize for not taking more photos. This was my first go around with making homemade crust, and I was focused on the baking and not on the picture taking. C loved it, so we will be trying again soon, and I promise to update with photos along the way.

Ingredients and directions
2 cups warm water
1 Tbls. yeast
pinch of sugar
5 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt

Put the yeast, lukewarm water, and pinch of sugar in the bowl of your mixer. The water should be warm, but not hot (or else it will kill your yeast)(I used hot water from the tap) I read that the sugar is there to give your yeast a little something to nibble on right away to help give your dough a little extra poof.

Add the flour and the salt.

I used my kitchenaid mixer with its dough hook. Mixing on medium-high until the dough comes together in a sticky ball.

Remove the dough hook and bowl from the mixer. (you will have to, to get the dough off) With your hands, knead the dough a few times right in the bowl until it forms a springy ball.

Cover the bowl with a few paper damp towels. (I used a damp dish towel) & set the bowl in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it’s about doubled in size. (I just set on the oven as it was pre-heating for another project)

When the dough has doubled in size, "smoosh" (yes that is a technical term) it down with your hands to squeeze some of the air out of it.

Mix the dough on medium speed with the dough hook, While it is mixing, prep your counter top by putting some flour down.Scrape the dough off the dough hook and out of the bowl.

Use your hands to round it up into a ball, & then cut the ball in half. (this recipe makes 2 pizzas) Round each half up into a ball, place on your baking sheet, roll the dough out so that it fills your baking sheet.

Set the pans aside, uncovered, for about another hour, or until the dough has about doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, prep your toppings, so they’re ready to go when your crusts are pre-baked.
About 20 minutes or so before your hour is up, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

When the dough has doubled in size, pop your pans into your preheated oven and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, or until they’re just starting to turn brown at the edges.
Leave your oven on.
 
Bake at 400 until cheese has melted a d toppings are done how you like them.
We baked for 8 minutes. Then enjoy! 
Disclosure, we used a bit too much sauce...  but overall they were very good.

Tuesday

Caramel Tarts



Ingredients
Crust
8 oz cream sofened cream cheese
1 cup butter (I used unsalted)
2 3/4 cups of flour (I used all purpose)

filling
9 oz of caramel chews
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 F

  • I used my kitchen aid with bowl/stand. But you can use bowl with electric mixer. 
  • Beat together cream cheese and butter for 1-3 minutes/until well combined. 
  • Turn mixer to low and slowly add in flow (1/4 cup at a time) until all is added. 
  • Continue to beat for 1-2 minutes scraping down side as you go
  • In saucepan on medium add caramels and heavy whipping cream, cook just until all caramels are melted, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes
  • use mini muffin tin, press 1 oz sized ball of dough into each tin, making sure to press the dough evening along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes and cool
  • carefully add 1 o of caramel mixture into each muffin tin until all are 2/3 full. and allow to cool sligtly
  • Mine are shown topped with sliced apricots but they would also be great with shaved chocolate!

Sea Salted Carmel Chews


My friends and I recently took a dessert class and I have to say it was informative and fun!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter cubed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, additional used for topping
  • 1 and half cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
Directions
  • Line an 8x8  baking pan with parchment paper and brush or spray lightly with oil and set aside
  • in a small saucepan, bring heavy cream, butter and salt to a boil. Then remove from heat and set aside
  • In a large saucepan on high heat, stir together sugar, corn syrup and water until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring until the mixture turns to a light golden caramel color. (you can gently swirl the entire saucepan occasionally to ensure even heating)
  • Lower heat to a simmer and very carefully pour cream mixture into the saucepan. 
  • Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to 250 F or for candy making aficionados the firm ball stage
  • pour mixture into baking pan and allow to cool completely, about two hours. 
  • 1/2 hours after pouring, sprinkle caramel with more sea salt as desired
  • Remove caramel from baking pan and using a sharp, warm knife, cut the caramel into 2 inch squares
This makes 16-24 chews