Ok, if you’ve been following along on Snapchat, you know that my parents and their four dogs have moved in with me while they work on putting down a new floor at home. Now, this would be completely fine (I mean, I love all dogs more than humans.), but it has been raining for 40 days and 40 nights. So, my yard is a mud pit. Every surface is covered in sheets and furniture covers. We go through at least 4 or 5 towels a day. Thank God I got a new washer and dryer last year. Also, these labs are very lovable but large. They could be in a sound sleep one second and in your face for a hug and make out the next. You have to be on guard at all times.

My main point to bring them up is that you can imagine the wet dog scent permeating throughout my house. I luckily came across a post about simmer pots early last week and how they work better at neutralizing odor than candles. Also, Joanna Gaines swears by them; and we all know if Jo loves it, I love it more. So, I gave them a try. The coffee ground and vanilla pot I first tried didn’t bring me joy. There was little to no scent, and I needed major smell fast. So, I went for a lime and rosemary concoction and added vanilla. It was delicious smelling. You need to try this as soon as possible. Fun fact, if you leave the lid on the pot for a while, the scent will be stronger if you need it quickly before guests show up.

Lime and Rosemary Simmer Pot with Vanilla

4 limes

6 sprigs rosemary

4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Water

Bring a heavy pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop in the rosemary (I pulled the leaves from the stems to get the oils going). Slice 3 of the limes and juice on of the limes into the pot. Stir and bring back to a boil. Add the vanilla. Stir. Turn the heat down and let simmer for several hours. Watch the water level and add more as needed.

Have I mentioned we have an abundance of white perch in the Guido freezer? So new recipes to try are high on our list of things to find in magazines, cookbooks, cooking shows, and (of course) Pinterest. This week, I turned to Pinterest to find a fish and veggie recipe that was light and would be divine over rice. And I found it. Behold — the one sheet white perch feast dressed in a dill, oregano, and coriander olive oil dressing. The recipe called for halibut, but we deal in perch.

One-sheet White Perch with Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

For the sauce:

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic

2 teaspoons dill weed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

For the fish:

1 pound fresh green beans

1 pound cherry tomatoes

1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly

4 – 8 white perch fillets, dried completely

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sauce ingredients together. Add the green beans, tomatoes, and onions; and toss to coat with the sauce. With a large slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the vegetables to a large baking sheet. Keep the vegetables to one side or one half of the baking sheet and make sure they are spread out in one layer. Now, add the fish to the remaining sauce, toss to coat. Transfer the fish to the baking sheet next to the vegetables and pour any remaining sauce on top. Lightly sprinkle the fish and vegetables with a little seasoned salt. Bake in the 450 degrees heated oven for 15 minutes. Then transfer the baking sheet to the top oven rack and broil for another 3 – 5 minutes, watching carefully. The cherry tomatoes should begin to pop under the broiler. When ready, remove the tray from the oven. Serve immediately over wild rice.

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Let me start by saying that I’m no “cookier.” I simply watch a handful of decorating videos on Instagram and Facebook each day, and I finally got the courage to give it a try myself. I was geared with all of the necessary tools, my mixer was prepped and ready, and (thanks to a last minute trip to Wal-Mart) I had these neat little decorating pens to help make the decorating portion of the evening a little simpler.

Years ago when I was working on a story about Christmas cookies, my cookie-making cousin, Zelma, shared her sugar cookie and royal icing recipe with me. I can honestly say that these are some of the best sugar cookies I’ve ever tasted. They are not too sweet, not too almond-y, and the perfect bit of crunchy. When I started on the icing recipe, I did hold back on the amount of almond extract I used. I don’t tend to like too much of that flavor in cakes, cookies, or anything for that matter. So, you can go crazy with it if you’d like. It’s just not my taste.

Oh, and my first cookie to decorate was a disaster.

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They really mean it when they say flooding the cookie. Also, I think I didn’t beat the icing long enough with the mixer. After adding more coloring through the process, it finally stiffened up.

Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup sugar

2 sticks butter, softened

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter in mixer, then add the egg and extracts and mix thoroughly. After combined, add the baking powder and then slowly add the flour until all combined. Half the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour. Remove the dough, roll it out, and cut out the cookies. Repeat until all of the dough is cut. Be sure to keep the dough chilled through the entire process. Placing the baking sheets in the refrigerator will help the cookies to not spread in the oven. Bake the chilled cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely once they are removed before icing.

Royal Icing

8 tablespoons meringue powder

1/2 cup water

1 pound powdered sugar

Cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon karo syrup

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine meringue powder and water in the mixer and beat until frothy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Then, add a few shared of cream of tartar, extract, and kart syrup. Beat on medium to high for 5 minutes until the icing is thick. Add  coloring as needed.

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A while back, I wrote about different audiobooks I was going through on Audible during my Monday drives. I had listed to Crazy Rich Asians before watching the movie and loved that I did it that way. The book has much more detail to it and added to the movie so much for me. Recently, I trekked through the second and third installments of the trilogy and really wish that Kevin Kwan would go in for a fourth. The detail he puts into his characters, their language, and the intricate plot lines is phenomenal. I have loved every minute; and trust me, these are lengthy reads. I hope they are planning to make these into movies, too. Crazy Rich Girlfriend was my favorite of the series and would be hysterical on the big screen.

Give them a listen; and if you have any suggestions for my listening pleasure, SHARE!

I was scrolling through my photos on my iPhone (I have a lot of storage, so there were tons to sift through) looking for a recipe we’ve tried to share with you. I came across this amazing looking spread of miniature cupcakes my mom made for a Garden Club event last spring. Since it’s February finally, that means that prep can begin for another busy spring of events here in Natchez. Keep this simple recipe on hand for your potluck for anything from Valentine’s Day to Easter Sunday.

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Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing

For cupcakes, use a strawberry mix and prepare as directed in miniature cupcake tins.

For icing:

2/3 cup Crisco (butter or regular)

1-pound box powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 cup water (for mixing)

Beat all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth.  More water can be added if needed. Use a piping bag with decorative tip to ice the cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.

 

After spending the weekend in a Benadryl/Mucinex fog, I thought I’d share a round up of what I finished on the AppleTV the past few days.

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You (Netflix)

Now, I originally started this series on Lifetime in the fall when it premiered. However, I lost track 3 episodes in. I kept hearing people mention it over the past couple of weeks and thought what better time to binge through? It did not disappoint. I can’t wait for the follow up season (whenever that may be).

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Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix)

Another series that did not disappoint. I went in knowing the basic amount of Ted Bundy history, but I knew I’d be hooked to this in depth take on his terror in the 70’s. To hear his own take on his crimes was interesting, but can you believe someone actually married that freak? And can you believe Zac Efron is playing him in the upcoming biopic? I mean, I’ll go see it. But it’s going to ruin that beautiful man for me.

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Fyre Fraud (Hulu) vs Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)

Ok. Watch the Netflix documentary first. It gives more detail that the Hulu one misses. Plus, I didn’t know anything about this before watching. So, seeing Billy McFarland try to get through that interview in the Hulu special without throwing up on himself was entertaining by itself. I’m left with a lot of questions though. 1. Who would pay that much money for that? 2. Were these employees of his in a cult? Was he their leader? Do they need Leah Remini to save them? 3. How is Ja Rule still a thing? I’ll be interested to hear more opinions on this.

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I have a love for cheese. However, after my gallbladder incident 4 years ago, I had to break up with it for a while. I’m slowly working my way back into its good graces, but it’s hard to say no to a good cheese tray.

Over the holidays, I tried my hand at perfecting the cheese board for a couple of get togethers. I researched Pinterest to see what all of the professionals think is the key to a good cheese board. Hard cheese. Soft cheeses. Fruits. Vegetable. Nuts. Crackers. Bread. Jellies. and Jams. Everyone had a different take, but all stayed consistent on one thing. Cover the entire platter. Leave no open space.

So, off to Whole Foods I went in search of the perfect cheeses and accoutrements. Here is what works for me:

Cheese for Days Plate

1 block sharp or white cheddar cheese

1 block Edam cheese

1 roll goat cheese

Halved walnuts

Blackberries

Hot-pepper jelly

Wafer crackers (I used a sea salt and cracked pepper cracker and a rosemary cracker.)

Start by arranging the 3 cheeses in separate corners of the platter. Circle the cheese with the crackers of your choice. Place a bowl of pepper jelly near the cheddar and Edam cheeses. Create a mound of the berries near the goat cheese. Fill in your gaps with the walnuts. Make sure to have a cheese knife set to help with self serving of the cheeses.