Sunday, June 24, 2012

A few of my favorite things around Birmingham lately!

I wanted to take this post to highlight some of my favorite new eateries in Birmingham! Lately, I have been trying to get out and find new local favorites! It is only fair that I share those with y'all! I'm currently obsessed with Saturdays at the Pepper Place Farmer's Market, enjoying unique Popsicles at Steel City Pops (which conveniently often have a cart at Pepper Place), and dining at The Pantry.
Pepper Place has a wide variety of local vendors that set up every Saturday from 7 a.m. - 12 p.m. mid April - mid December featuring the season's best produce! It is a wonderful chance to stock up on your produce for the week and enjoy live music! Along with the produce there is a section of the market that features arts and crafts! It is just a fantastic way to spend your Saturday morning!
Second local place I love Steel City Pops I first went here with some friends from work during lunch and I have been hooked on their Popsicles ever since. They offer fruity pops or if you want something that is a little more like ice cream, they have a creamy option. I haven't made a pop that I haven't liked! They change up their selection every day depending what is available. I have had coffee, sweet tea, and banana. I love them all! I look forward to trying the strawberry balsamic and avocado (I have tried a bite of the avocado and it was great! I wasn't quite sure what to expect!) Allyson, laughs at just how much I'm cheesing in this photo because I was that excited about Steel City Pops! I like to think it was a combination of worrying about dropping my phone, getting our pops in the photo, and my excitement about a pop on a hot day!

Third, there is a new organic restaurant in town called The Pantry. It is wonderful! Again, I originally went there with friends from work and have recommended it to everyone I know! The Pantry is a small family owned restaurant and everything comes from their farm, Stone Hollow Farmstead. Their goat cheese is some of the best I've had and the majority of their dishes include some goat cheese! They also have a raw bar that is served everyday and the only thing they serve on Monday along with their juice cleanses. I have currently been three times and I have gotten something different each time and everything has been wonderful I'm so glad I continue trying new dishes. The first time I went I got the marinated tomato sandwich(with avocado and goat cheese) with sweet potato chips, next I got the chicken tacos with avocado and sweet potato chips, and this most recent time I got a veggie plate with grits & greens, naan with goat cheese and a pear preserve, and fruit salad. It has all been delicious! I really want to go one day just for a shake made with goat's milk! I'll leave you with a picture of my veggie plate!

I hope you all try these out sometime this summer (just seems a good season to try something new)!

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Eggplant Ricotta Bake

I have a new favorite summertime hobby, going to the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. Specifically Pepper Place Farmer's Market. I went last Saturday in search for eggplant! It was a successful trip and from that I made eggplant ricotta bake! This is an easy dish to make up for the week or to serve for dinner with friends. Enjoy! This is a recipe from

2 large eggplants (1 to 1 1/4 pound each), sliced lengthwise 3/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese (1 2/3 cups)
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (2 teaspoons for dried)
1 jar (16 ounces) marinara sauce (2 cups)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Brush lightly on both sides with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast until eggplant is tender and golden, 20-25 minutes. Turn slices over halfway through.
Step 2: In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup Parmesan, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Brush an 8 inch square baking dish with oil.
Step 3: Lay one fourth of the eggplant slices in the bottom of the dish; spread with half of the marinara sauce; top with another fourth of eggplant; spread with half of ricotta. Repeat layers ending with the ricotta; sprinkle the remaining Parmesan. Bake until bubbling and golden, 20-25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

A glimpse of the lovely selection of veggies at Pepper Place!

Eggplant ricotta bake!

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Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Cupcakes are calling! I made these cupcakes a few weeks ago for a friend's birthday and they seemed to be a hit. This is a recipe from my mom's cookbook, usually made as a cake. Mom always made it in the shape of a heart from Valentine's Day when we were growing up! They are easy to make and can be made a day or two in advance. Usually when I make cupcakes I love to use my icing gun to make the presentation of the icing really pop but this icing doesn't stand up very well but it still helped to ice them quickly and make them deliciously covered with icing!!!!

Cake Ingredients
1 box white cake mix
1 cup oil
4 eggs
5 ounces frozen strawberries
3 ounces strawberry jello

Frosting Ingredients
1 pound confectionery sugar
1/4 pound soft butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 ounces frozen strawberries
3-4 tablespoons strawberry juice from frozen strawberries

Instructions for the Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350.
Step 1: Stir oil into cake mix.
Step 2: Lightly beat eggs and add to cake mix.
Step 3: Stir in 5 ounces of strawberries.
Step 4: Mix in jello.
Step 5: Pour into lined muffin pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
Step 6: Cool and frost with Strawberry frosting.

Instructions for Frosting
Step 1: Beat confectionery sugar and butter together.
Step 2: Add salt and vanilla and strawberry juice.
Step 3: add drained strawberries and mix well.
Step 4: Frost cooled cupcakes.

Keep Refrigerated

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Fish Tacos

With the first week of summer it calls for an updated blog post of Fish Tacos! These tacos are meant to be done on the grill but I did them in the oven and worked out great! I chose to set up all the toppings and let everyone fix their taco to their liking! This is a light meal that is great to serve during the summer. This recipe is originally from For dessert I served Key Lime cupcakes! Recipe from Bon Appetit! Enjoy and feel free to share your cooking adventures with me!

Grilled Fish Tacos
1 lb tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup white onion
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 teaspoon oregano

Lime Sour Cream Sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lime juice

Corn tortilla tacos

1 cup onion (diced)
1/2 cup cilantro
2 avocados (peeled, pitted, and diced)
1/2 small head of cabbage (thinly sliced)
Salsa verde

Step 1: Combine 1 cup onion, 1/4 cup cilantro, olive oil, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 3 tablespoons orange juice, garlic, and oregano. Mix well. Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and pepper on each side. Pour half the marinade on the bottom of a large casserole dish, lay the fillets over the marinade and pour the remaining marinade over the fish. Cover and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, after 30 minutes flip the fish over and cover and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
Step 2:Whisk together the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Cover and set aside. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and put the fish in for 15 minutes until fully cooked. Alternate Option (technically the oven is the alternate option from the original recipe) heat the grill to medium-high heat and put the fillets on the grill for 3-5 minutes per side. Place corn tortillas onto the grill and grill for about 10 seconds per side.
Step 3: Chop cooked fillets. Let everyone fix their taco with their choice of toppings!

Key Lime Cupcakes
1cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
1/4 tablespoon neon-green food coloring
3/4 cup buttermilk

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin pan with paper liners.
Step 2: Whisk both flours in medium bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat to blend. Beat in eggs one at a time, then the next 3 ingredients. Don't worry if the batter looks a little curdled here it will smooth out. Beat in flour mixtures in 3 additions alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each liner.
Step 3: Bake cupcakes 20-25 minutes (until tester comes out clean). Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool.
Beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Spread over cupcakes. Again, if using an icing tool remember to increase the frosting amount by to 1 1/2 or 2x the recipe!

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