A New Look

Lots of yumminess on a table.

I get bored easily.

And I crave beauty. As much as chocolate, Cheez-Its, and (insert-chewy-candy-here).

Luckily I am surrounded by incredibly Creative people on a daily basis. In fact, my friend Todd Helzer has a fantastic design eye and started his own photography/design business. So, I begged, pleaded, and convinced him to take photos of my food (Ok, this is not true. Todd is such a great person that he volunteered to do this for me.)  I also promised in return for his help all of the leftovers from the shoot he and his wife Amy could take home in a baggie. We had a deal.

This is where the hard part comes in. I love to cook. I love cooking-inspired bookmarks, cookbooks, and (insert sigh) Pinterest. Here-in was my dilemma.  How was I going to boil down years’ worth of great recipes into one single photo? What was my “look?” I can’t even decide on a definite way to wear my hair. So, I have experienced the most bittersweet editing process of my life over the past seven days. The internal dialogue went something like this.

“Could I make a chocolate cake ahead of time? What about the icing? Will it look weird sitting out? What if it gets lumpy? Yes, I should feature the sweet potato biscuits- but what about powdered sugar on top? Is that too much white? Oh, and I love Mexican food. Salsa? Noo, too much red- cilantro-I like basil- what about Italian food? Ohhh what if Mario Batali finds this photo and loves it? Asks me to design a whole new line of kitchen clogs?  I must eat at Eatily!”

And so on. You see where this is going.

And this is why I need people to reign me in. Shout out to the hubs!

Anyway, I managed to reign myself in and stick to the things/foods that I know and love. The ones that make me feel good, pack a punch of color, and make life a bit brighter. Long story short, LuvCooks is about to get, like we say in the South, “a whole new” look. A change that, despite my overzealous food mania, will be a move in a simpler- and more beautiful- direction.

Insert teaser photos here!

Todd, aka photographer extrodinaire, captures the look.

Todd’s lovely wife Amy was the best photo assistant/reflection-creator ever!

Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits

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Sweet potatoes meet your match.

It was the biscuit disaster of 2012.

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The failed result of a biscuit crisis.

A sticky, lumpy orange mass had attached itself to my cutting board. Flour was smeared on my fingertips and was causing everything I touched to stick to them, including the bag of flour I was desperately trying to pour more of onto my board. The scene from Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold fought with tree sap and lost flashed in my mind, and I began to feel the panic rise in my chest.

“Please Lord,” I prayed. “Please salvage these biscuits.”

Truthfully, the reason why these biscuits meant so much to me was because I was born, raised, and still live in the South. Around here there in an expectation- no, unwritten rule- that if you are Southern, then you can make biscuits. They are on the same table as staples like black-eyed peas and fried okra. They are what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had them with the ham station at my wedding reception. And I felt like NOT being able to make them somehow disqualified me from my heritage, and how I was raised.

Real heavy, real fast. Hope returns!

Anyway, and while we are being brutally honest, this recipe I attempted was not for drop biscuits. It was for fluffy sweet potato biscuits. What resulted was what happens when you can’t make fluffy biscuits. (Side note: I added too much liquid to the dough. My brilliant sister helped me solve this one. If you choose to make regular biscuits instead of drop biscuits, just make sure you are light-handed with the milk. You should have  a sturdy, sugar cookie-like dough, not a wet one.) But for me, this is what the dough became. And you know what? They were delicious.

What I uncovered with this recipe is that actually, I don’t think it mattered that I made a mess. They were light, rich, and slightly sweet with a buttery crumb. And with a bit of powdered sugar on top, I would be proud to serve them at any Southern luncheon-or table.

So join me in what might be the first recipe I have posted that you really can’t mess up. If you are like me, then you might make lots of mistakes in your kitchen. But sometimes mistakes can be our greatest cooking triumphs. That is the beauty of cooking- it turns lemons into lemonade, plain milk and eggs into ice cream, and biscuit dough into, well, drop biscuits.

C

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Success with powdered sugar on top.

Knoxville Eats

The view from the inside of a Tomato Head.

I luvvvvvv travel-planning.

Especially when it involves food and visiting my sister.

I am a bit obsessed with the idea of a perfect trip. My heart palpitates at the thought of missing that special something that all of the locals know about; I get sweaty palms when I think about NOT going to the local farmer’s market or trying every single flavor of organic goat cheese; I get chills thinking about all the fun we could have if we would just stay on schedule!

However, not everyone is like me. This past weekend I got to spend two glorious days with my very own sister (whose nickname(s) will not be announced on this blog due to the fact that I am trying to be a good person, but could be listed if said person was to blackmail the other person with how many cupcakes and kettle corn I ate on Saturday night). Because she is so nice, she allowed me to cart us around to every place my heart desired (ok, planned to visit). As you know, girls do have to eat, so it was our privilege to combine this eating adventure with blog research. Which had to, of course, include mandatory restaurant visits.

Friday night was Cafe 4– a hip, beautiful, wood-hewn establishment with a fantastic menu. For our appetizer, we had parmesan-truffle fries with truffle aoili. Needless to say, this kicked our weekend-of-eating off to a glorious start.

I love the one glorious french fry, proudly standing tall at the top of this photo. We all should be so excited to be that delicious.

The next morning was a buttery, chocolate croissant and cafe au lait at The French Market Creperie and then on to the Knoxville Farmer’s Market, which included medieval swordsmanship, corn dogs, kettle corn, and milk shots. You can probably guess which of the above events got most of our attention.

This made me want to go to France. ASAP.

Next was lunch at Tomato Head, a vegan foodie’s dream. I had the “Roger Roger”- a layering of hummus, fresh spinach, baked tofu, banana, red, and green peppers, green olives, and montery jack cheese. It was delicious and light- perfect for hte 80+ degree heat. And did I mention my sister’s AC broke on Friday night? Whole other story.

I have never had good tofu until this sandwich. Thank you Tomato Head.

Dinner was Sergeant Pepperoni’s. This was the best pizza I have had in a long time, and a perfect ending after a day of hard exercise (walking) and heat (ok, some of you probably don’t sympahthize here). The “Pop-Eye”
(I am sensing a spinach theme…):

Spinach, bacon, pepperoni, cheese, and garlic. Salty perfection.

Finally, after a much deserved rest period, Magpies Bakery cupcakes for dessert. I will not tell you how many total of these I ate, but they were mini’s so it doesn’t really count. I think it just added up to one normal cupcake. Right. Anyway, the flavor of the week was “banana puddin’,” but the chocolate apricot-a rich and creamy chocolate cake with a tart apricot filling-was mouthwateringly wonderful.

A sampling of the cupcakes that were consumed. There may or may not already be one missing from that container.

 

I hope that you too will be able to visit and enjoy all of the food and culture in Knoxville, TN. And I’d love to hear about it in a post or two…or three (well, at least as many posts as cupcakes as I ate).