Chip and I enjoy having a lunch date every now and then.

I have wanted to try out The Root Cafe for a while. It is on South Main in Little Rock, AR. The Root has several fun neighboring shops and restaurants.

The Root Cafe

The Root is all about “Building Community through local food!” They use as many products as possible from small local farms. Their menu even notes where items originate.

Locavore Sign

I arrived at the cafe before my date. There was quite a crowd, so I jumped in line.

The place is small. It used to be a dairy bar. Being elbow to elbow with other customers, I felt a little rude whipping out my phone to snap photos.

Keeping a sharp eye out for my date, I studied the menu while I waited in line.

I ended up having to let several folks jump me in line before Chip arrived.  Fortunately, we had studied the menu options on-line a bit the night before, so I knew what he wanted.

He showed up just as I was about to order his Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich and fries.

Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich

French Fries

The bread for the sandwich came from one of the fun neighbors I mentioned, Boulevard Bread Company.

I had the Praline Salad. It was full of praline pecans. The dressing was a spicy cumin vinaigrette and it was very yummy. The salad was served with “seasonal” fruit. So, yours might look different when you go.

Praline Salad

Dining indoors was a little cramped. We ended up on the side porch. There is also a front porch dining area as well as a small garden area. All were full!

porch dining

I really enjoyed the atmosphere at The Root. It felt very urban.

The food was really good. I loved the salad dressing on my salad. I stole a couple of Chip’s fries. They were quite tasty, too. I think next time, I will have a burger and sweet potato fries. I saw several being delivered to tables. They looked amazing.

Chip enjoyed the bread and the egg salad. However, being an egg salad connoisseurs, he was disappointed with the way the egg salad squished out of the bun. He recommends toast.

They had a display case full of lovely desserts. Sorry, no picture of the case. I did snap a shot of the HUGE Chocolate Chip Cookie we split.

Huge Chocolate Chip Cookie

After mowing down the cookie, we headed across the street to MOXY Modern Mercantile. It is a fun little shop with lots of unique gift items…

like this giant pencil!

Giant Pencil

 

The Root Cafe is a fun lunch date destination. Check it out!

Sometimes two are better than one!

Balsamic Beef with Kale and Edamame

I saw a Martha Stewart recipe that sounded interesting–Poached Egg with Rice and Edamame. However, I was not real sure how my family would react to green stuff with an egg.

Later, I stumbled upon a recipe for Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak. Having just picked up a flank steak on sale, this was perfect! Plus meat helps make up for the fact that there are vegetables on the plate!

So, I cut out parts of the Edamame recipe and pasted in the Flank Steak!

I left out the egg. Maybe I’ll try that another time.

I didn’t have red pepper flakes or purple cabbage, so I left them out, too. Everyone seemed okay with that. I think the pinch of red pepper flakes added with the garlic would be good. I did add some ground red pepper. I added what I thought was a little. It might have been just a little too much.

Edamame and Kale

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame beans, thawed
  • Coarse salt

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic–cook until you start to smell it, about 30 seconds. Add kale and cook, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add edamame and cook until heated all the way. Season with salt.

Balsamic Flank Steak

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound flank steak
  • salt and pepper

Mix marinade ingredients together and throw it all in a large ziplock bag. Add the steak. Allow the steak to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. You might give it a turn half-way through. Grill until it is cooked like you like. (Some folks prefer a little more pink than others.) Let the meat stand, covered loosely with foil, for about 10 minutes. Cut in thin strips against the grain.

I served it all over brown rice. I’m sure you could serve it without if you wanted. We all like brown rice!

Edamame and Kale with Balsamic Beef

The only issue I had with my frankein-recipe was that it was a little tricky to cut the meat on top of all the other stuff in the bowl. I managed okay though!

Critics’ Corner

Chip: The balsamic marinade on the flat-iron steak gets down into everything for a wonderful blend of flavors and textures.

Megan: I think this is my new favorite way to eat kale. It has just the right amount of kick to offset the green taste.

Katie: I must say, it’s not my favorite thing, but it wasn’t bad, either. It was a new and intriguing idea. I will certainly give it that!

Lasagna Cups

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but….

this was my very first time to use won ton wrappers.

It won’t be my last though!

I don’t know why I’ve never used won ton wrappers before. I guess I thought they were hard to find or use or something.

I was in the big city when I picked up these:

won ton wrappers

I really hope I’m able to find them at my local Supercenter.

I had some ground beef in the freezer that I had cooked up one day.  Boy, was I glad it was there. Now that school is back in session, we tend to meet each other coming and going! The time I spent days ago frying up that meat was definitely recouped when I made the Lasagna Cups!

I also had about a 1/3 of a jar of pasta sauce in the fridge.

Pasta Sauce

The recipe called for the won ton wrappers to be cut into circles. I did not have time for that. I didn’t even have time to get out the good camera. These pictures were shot with my cell phone.

It’s pretty much Lasagna 101–the won tons take the place of the noodles.

Won Ton

Cheese Mixture

Meat Mixture

Layering lasagna

Repeat

Ricotta cheese mixture

Top with Cheese

Bake

Lasagna Cups with melted cheese

I loved these! So did the family. I did miss the noodles a little. However, the fact that the won ton substitute saved a ton of calories made me forget all about the noodles!

Bonus: the leftovers worked well in lunch boxes the next day.

I served these with a Caesar Salad (bagged).

Since these can be fork or finger food, they would work well as appetizers, too.

Lasagna Cups

Ingredients:

24 won ton wrappers

Cheese Mixture

  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese

Meat Mixture

  • 1/3 pound ground beef, browned
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce

Topping

  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 375˚

•Spray 12 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray

•Line muffin cups with won ton wrappers, one per cup

•Fill cups with half of the cheese mixture. Just enough to cover the bottom.

•Spoon half of the meat mixture on top of the cheese mixture.

•Repeat for second layer–won ton, cheese mixture, meat mixture.

•Top with cheese topping.

•Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden!

Let the Lasagna Cups cool a bit before you try to remove them from the pan. You might even need a knife to help get them started.

If you have basil growing in your garden, grab some for the top to make it look all fancy!

Critics’ Corner

Chip: You really got the flavor of the cheese and meat without all those annoying noodles to get in the way–delicious! Maybe better than lasagna!

Megan: It’s not quite as good as with the noodles, but it’s much more fun to eat. (Plus it tastes pretty darn good!)

Katie: These are amazing little inventions of life!

 

I finally made it to the Goodwill Outlet store! I have always been a thrifter. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” really speaks to me. Yes, I have been known to pull things out of another man’s trash.

The outlet store is not on my beaten path. I guess that is why it took me so long to get there. However, it may be soon!

Most things do not have prices on them–furniture is priced. There were more than a dozen rolling bins FULL of clothing, toys, small housewares, etc. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

As I said, most things aren’t priced. You pay by the pound! $1.39 a pound!

I was a little on the cautious side in my shopping. I wasn’t sure what a pound of t-shirts looked like!

Christmas lights in a bowl

Pictured above are the 100+ Christmas bulbs I found rolling around the bottom of one of the bins.

I also picked up the pewter Reed & Barton bowl. It has a little dent in the lip. I figure once I get a flower arrangement in it, you won’t even see it.

Not pictured, but I’m sure I will share eventually:

  • J.Crew leopard belt
  • yellow belt
  • Cabi jacket
  • pleated skirt
  • 22 cloth napkins
  • vintage floral T.V. tray
  • vintage hankie
  • 2 purses
  • 42 cloth gift bags
  • faux gold chain necklace
  • 7 yards of khaki duck cloth
  • plaid cookie tin
  • string of fake apples
  • new package of subject dividers
  • scrap of fabric to use as outdoor pillows
  • 2 beaded valances that I plan to use to decorate my china hutch for Thanksgiving
  • vintage tablecloth

Vintage Christmas bulbs

The duck cloth ended up being the heaviest item in my basket. I almost didn’t get it. It still had the tag from the fabric store on it. Regular price?$31.72! How could I not get that?!

I had so much fun. Dangerous fun!

Several of the ladies I spoke with were regulars–like EVERY DAY regulars! Some of them were standing around waiting to pounce on the fresh bin that was on its way to the floor.

You could tell they knew what they were doing. Many of them wore gloves. I think I will be taking that tip for next time. I left feeling very dirty.

Being an experienced junker/thrifter, I have a couple of tips of my own:

Go early-however,the inventory changes regularly so early may not matter. Go often-The ladies said it was different every day.

Don’t carry your purse. Just put your money in your pocket. Then you are freed up a little more to dig without having your 10 pound purse attack you.

Pack a lunch. My lunch was in the car. I figured I could make two separate purchases if needed.

There was a bathroom there. However, it is outside of the purchase area. Just keep that in mind.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. There is not a dressing room, at least that I saw. If you are brave enough to try on clothes, you want to wear leggings and a thin t-shirt or something else that would work.

Are you a thrift junkie like me? What is your latest score?

Hooray! Time for college football!

I love fall–the back to school and eventual changing of the leaves. Nothing says fall in the South like a good college football game.

Last year I bought these fancy Jell-O molds.

The shaped jello was a huge hit.

Today, while awaiting the start of the Razorback game, I decided to conduct a little experiment: how would candy melts do in my jello mold?

The result: GREAT!

football treats

I had just a few red candy melts in my pantry-12 to be exact.

After heating the melts in a baggie in the microwave, I was able to cover 9 razorback wells.

I put the red candy in the pan then whacked in on the counter several times to get it to settle into all the cracks and eliminate bubbles.

Hog candy

You can see that the red part is not very thick. I used vanilla almond bark to fill in the rest of the mold. Since red and white are the Razorbacks colors, this worked great!

Remember to whack the mold on the counter again for the second color, if you use a second color.

Razorback candy

I was a little scared to try to get the candy OUT of the mold.

When I first tried to pop them out nothing happened. So, I stuck the pan in the freezer for a couple of minutes. They came out without any problems. I did not grease the mold.

These would be ADORABLE on top of cupcakes!

You can get other college molds here.

Have fun with these adorably delicious treats!

Wooo, Pig, Sooiee!

It’s that time of year! Back to School!

school bus

Some folks cheer as they send their little ones back to school–others cry.

I do a little of both. I am glad to have some routine back in our lives. However, I miss my kids when they go back.

When I dropped them off on the first day, I told them it was a very sad day for me–no one to talk to–no one to eat lunch with. My oldest felt really sad for me and sent me a text on her lunch break. THEN the tears came!!!

With regularly scheduled chaos back in play, I decided to do a little preparedness cooking.

This meatball recipe comes from a good old Taste of Home magazine.

Taste of Home

I picked up a large package of hamburger patties from the clearance bin last week. It seems like the patties go on sale more often than the by-the-pound packages. Nobody said I had to keep them as patties though! I didn’t really have a plan for 4 pounds of meat at the time. I just couldn’t resist the $2.97/pound bargain!

bargain meat

As the “best by” date approached, I figured I had better do something with all this meat–either cook it or freeze it. I gathered the rest of the ingredients and went to town! I just so happened that my meatball recipe called for 4 pounds of lean ground beef. You can easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t wan to make as many as I made.

meatball ingredients

Beat 4 eggs in a large bowl. LARGE BOWL. You are dealing with 4 pounds of meat here!

four eggs

I have a large bag of bread crumbs that I keep in my freezer. These are actually left over from this event. When I have leftover bread from dinner or heals that nobody wants to eat, etc. I dry them out in the oven. Then I whirr them around in the food processor. I leave them unseasoned so that they can be used in anything. Seasoning can always be added later.

You will need 2 cups.

breadcrumbs

Add the breadcrumbs, onion, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce to the eggs. Mix it all around really well.

breading mixture

Add your meat.

meatball mixtures

This is where it gets messy, at least it did for me. Pull off your rings and start squishing everything together. I guess you could use a spoon. It just seems that hands do better for me. I can feel where the breadcrumb mixture is still in a clump. Squishing the meatball mixture together was rather therapeutic. It reminded me of making mud pies when I was little.

Once everything was mixed up, it was time to make the meatballs.

recycled styrofoam

I had what I thought was a good idea. Reuse the meat tray as my prep board! One less thing to wash!

I took half of the meat mixture on pressed it evenly into the tray.

tray of meat

Then, using a knife, I scored the meat into 36 equal portions. (I wish I could take credit for that idea. It came from the Taste of Home folks.) Roll each portion into a ball. Of course you could use a kitchen scoop if you would rather.

scored meat

rolled meatballs

After rolling a few meatballs, I decided they were too big. I went back and divided them in two.

Repeat the process with other half of the mixture.

My “equal” radar must have been a little off. I ended up with 153 meatballs.

prepared meatballs

At this point you can either cook them or freeze them.

I chose to cook them all. (400˚ for 10-15 minutes) You are supposed to cook them in batches so they aren’t so crowded on the pan. My crowded pan took a little longer than the pan with more space.

cooked meatballs

Use about 30 meatballs to make something yummy like Sweet and Sour Meatballs. Enjoy your dish while the rest of the meatballs cool completely.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

After dinner, package up the rest of the meatballs and put them in the freezer. Now when that school schedule gets a little on the crazy side, you have something easy to fix for dinner. (Meatball Subs, Spaghetti and Meatballs, party appetizers, the list goes on and on!)

freezer meatballs

I ended up with 9 dozen meatballs for the freezer!

Keep your eyes on the clearance bin and have a great school year!

Back to School Meatballs

4 eggs

2 cups dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

4 pounds lean ground beef

-Beat eggs

-Add everything but the meat

-Add the meat

-Shape into meatballs

-Bake on an ungreased baking sheet with sides at 400˚ for 10-15 minutes, turning often,  until no longer pink.

-Drain

-Cool before freezing.

We take things for granted every day.

We are often so busy in our daily routines that we miss the beauty around us. It seems there is just no time to be still and observe.

Sometimes, however,  we are forced to be still and observe–like in the school pick-up line.

As I would sit and wait for the bell to ring, I started noticing things around me. One day there would be interesting cloud formations. On another day there might be a tractor plowing the nearby field. Sometimes a crop duster, en route to spray a field, would soar over the rows of cars.   I always wished for a camera on those days. Then I got an idea for a project.

Early project

The project was to take a picture of the field across from the school-from the same spot-every day of the school year.

I would remember my project idea around October every year. By then it was too late to start. Well, last summer I made my idea into a plan!

Just before school started I went over to the school and scoped out where to place my camera and such. I was so excited to finally be going through with my project.  I even had my husband take my picture!

before profile

 

Originally, the project was going to be called Project 360. I was going to take a picture in the morning and in the afternoon. I quickly decided Project 180 would do just fine. Besides, there was homework to do after school!

Here are a couple of things I learned from my long-term project:

•Plan. I had the idea for a long time. It wasn’t until I actually made a plan that there was follow-through.

•Be flexible. The field I photographed was not the field I had originally planned on shooting. I had done the planning for my shot in the afternoon. When I took my first picture I realized I didn’t like the way the shadows fell in the morning. I moved down to the end of the parking lot to find a different view.

•Use a tripod. I had a mono-pod (Photo says tripod but it was really a mono-pod.) It worked okay. There was a nice crack in the curb for me to plant the base every day.

chipped concrete

I had to line up my view finders on a tree in the distance to try to get the same view every day. Some days I just had to guess! A tripod would have provided more stability on windy days as well.

•Always carry business cards with your blog address on them. I can’t tell you how many times I would get stopped at the football games, the grocery store, the parking lot, etc. with people asking me what in the world I was doing. Friends would send me emails. Acquaintances and perfect strangers would drive by just to inquire. If I had a nickel for every time…I wish I had at least given them a card.

photographer

•Upload your pictures daily. This I did do, thank goodness! Being an amateur photographer, I took several pictures each day. I would come home and immediately upload my 12-30 photos. I had nice little file for each day. Then I would go through and pick the best one. The best one was considered “best” compared to the previous day. I was mainly looking to see if the photos were aligned. These photos were labeled according to their day and went into a “Chosen Ones” folder. BE SURE PHOTOS ARE UPLOADED BEFORE DELETING THEM FROM YOUR CAMERA!

•Involve others. My husband, a photographer,  was very excited about my first photography project. The kids…well, the jury is still out on their excitement. Poor Katie had to ride to school every day with the camera. She “affectionately” called it Cami. Then there was the day I almost shoved her out of the car so I could get to my place in time to capture the crop duster in the perfect spot. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the shot, but my child did make it to school safely.

•Love the subject. I was afraid I would get bored taking the same picture for 180 days! It really was fun. It was like I was seeing a different field every day.

Ecclesiasties3This project gave the change of seasons a whole new perspective. I suppose standing in 14˚F weather will make you look at ANYTHING differently. Yes, I stood in the same spot in the pouring rain, the 35 mph wind, the frigid cold and the beautiful sunshine–180 days!

I hope you enjoy this project as much as I did.

A big THANK YOU to my husband, Chip, for putting the video together for me and encouraging me all along the way!

Now, I present to you my photography project–Project 180…

 

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