Monday, April 7, 2014

Super Easy Potluck Finger Sandwiches With Homemade Pimento Cheese

When it comes to potlucks I have two options in my wheelhouse. If it's a snacky type potluck I dump a bottle of cocktail sauce over a block of cream cheese and throw some Club Crackers on the side. For the super fancy potlucks with proper dishes I always bring mini pimento cheese sandwiches.

My friends love these and since several people have asked me for the recipe I thought I'd finally post it here along with a super easy way to make mini finger sandwiches.

I never appreciated pimento cheese growing up in the South but I found a great recipe one day when I was feeling nostalgic for food my grandmother loved. I have adapted this one of the years, varying the sharpness of the cheddars and what not depending on the mood I'm in. I love the smoky, mildly hot flavor of this pimento cheese. The pre packaged ones we always ate were very mayonnaisey, very fake/processed cheesy.

This stuff is great on mini sandwiches, proper sized sandwiches, as grilled cheese and even for topping on a burger.

I wash the pimento jars and reuse them for salad dressing when I pack my lunch.

This idea of super easy mini sandwiches was one a good friend told me about years ago. I believe she used the same concept for ham sandwiches.

I buy Hawaiian rolls but this would work well with any pull apart packaged rolls. King's Hawaiian has a buttery version of these that's really good with the pimento cheese. One of the really great things about the mini sandwich idea is that it's totally scalable.

When I'm potlucking with my group of friends I always buy the largest package so that everyone can take a good amount of these home for the next day. But I've made the smaller pack for road trips and parties where folks aren't hoping for leftovers.

Remove the entire thing of rolls from the package in one piece and place it on a cutting board.

Using a serrated knife, cut the entire package of rolls down the middle. Basically pretend like the entire package is one giant roll you're cutting in half to butter. Take the top off and put it to the side.

Evenly spread the pimento cheese on the bottom half. Make sure to go all the way to each edge so that no sandwich is skimpy on the cheese.

If you prefer a different type of mini sandwich just pretend you're making one giant whatever type of sandwich you want. I think this would be great with thinly sliced turkey and mayo. Or something involving barbecue!

Carefully place the top back on the sandwich, put the entire thing back in the original container then cut along the lines making the gigantic sandwich into amazing individual ones.

I usually place the bottom back into the container before I spread the pimento cheese on it because it's a little heavy and awkward to do afterwards. I got so caught up in taking the pictures that I forgot to do it this time.

Then these guys go right back in the bag they came in.

They are so easy to transport! I used to feel lame leaving them in the package like this but at Southern Brunch yesterday a friend told me that it's part of the charm. I'll take that!

This recipe is adapted from one that was uploaded to Food Buzz but they've changed that site now and I can no longer see the old recipes. I hate that I can't give credit to the original recipe because it's so awesome!

Gina's Pimento Cheese: 

16 oz cheddar cheese (freshly grated cheddar is better but I use already grated to save time)
4 oz jar of pimentos including liquid
6 tbsp mayo (I never use the full 6. I add mayo until it is just smooth enough to spread without stealing the cheddar's thunder. Nobody wants a mayonnaise sandwich!)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp red pepper (do not be scared to use this amount of red pepper. I guess it's magic but in this dish it is somehow not spicy hot)
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp black pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine shredded cheddar cheese, pimentos including liquid, mayo and spices. Stir until everything is smooth and mixed. Let stand for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

I also usually throw in a pinch of cumin seed and sometimes a dash of smoked paprika. I encourage you to experiment with spices. It's hard to go wrong here.

It's really important to let this mixture sit at room temp for 30 minutes so the flavors marry. Also, please do not serve cheese cold! This can be refrigerated and used later but make sure to remove it from the fridge long enough knock the cold off. Cheese tastes so much better this way.

If anybody decides to try this please come back and let us know how you liked it!

Happy Potlucking!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Brass and Smoked Glass Console Table

I've been eyeing this console table at one of my favorite thrift stores for weeks. I can't decide if it just keeps being there because it's waiting for me to buy it or if it's just crazy ugly. Every week this table is like "I'm still here, Gina. You know you want me!"

As you may have noticed from my refreshed logo, Me and gold stuff are in love.

I'm thrilled that gaudy 70's and 80's stuff is back in decorating. I am mesmerized by this particular gold or brass or whatever it is. Shiny! And the shape of the table with its crisp, hard lines and sharp corners that are so much more awesome than rounded ones.

But wait! It gets better!

It doubles in size!

I've learned to really appreciate pieces like this that can be so normal sized on a daily basis yet spring into action providing tons of space for food or presents or somebodies drink. Our house is only around 1100 square feet, so yeah, more expandable tables!

My problem with this table is the smoked glass. I can't get beyond it! It takes this gaudy in an amazing way table to a retro in a bad way one. I don't even get smoked glass! To me it should be reserved for going to extreme measures to block out light, never on furniture. Ever.

Lately I've been doing a lot of self monitoring about what I bring into my house.  I fall in love with so many pieces of furniture! But in our small space things just have to be well curated. I'm trying to come to terms with that.

I have a very strong preference for used or thrifted furniture. It is typically more affordable, greener, has more character and quite frankly I just don't see new stuff I like that much. But it sure does narrow the pool of options. And for me that lends itself to impulse buying furniture that I don't really love. Or sometimes really hate in the case of these hideous chairs that are now living at my mother-in-law's house, thank God. And the only thing I've noticed so far is that things I really love, I just love them and have to buy them immediately. Period. And things that I don't love end up being posted on twitter and instagram where I beg for people whose taste I appreciate to tell me what to do, then become frustrated because there is never, ever a consensus on stuff like this.

So, that I have blogged about this and bugged all my friends about it must mean this table is a no, right? Hilari Younger, a finalist on Design Star once said that she only has stuff in her house that she walks by and says "I love you, you're amazing". I have a feeling I would walk by this table and be like "I want to love you but I hate that gross smoked glass!"

Thoughts on the table? Am I making the right decision?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Whether Or Not To Change My Blog Name

Does anybody even read this anymore?

You guys, I want really badly to change the name of my blog and I'm having a mini freak out about it. I asked Google what to do and was directed to a bunch of other blogs that said I should basically ask you. At first I was all PA LEEZEEE...NOBODY EVEN READS THAT ABANDONED BLOG ANYMORE! But then I realized there's one way to find out.

As evident by my lack of posting over the last couple of years I'm kind of over gardening. I can't decide if it's my lack of stickwithitness or if I've truly been defeated by the bindweed but it's just not that fun anymore. I still dabble but I no longer look forward to seed catalog season or winter sowing and my indoor seed starting equipment is covered in cob webs, literally.

But! If you follow me on twitter you know that I'm completely obsessed with furniture and decorating and food. I'm buying books like crazy, walls are literally being torn down in my house today! I want to write about THAT! But alas this is a garden blog.

I know I know..."but it's YOUR blog! Write about whatever you want!" But I kind of hate the name of my blog. And sure, I'm at liberty to write whatever I damn well please here but having the word Garden in my face compels me to at least TRY to find a garden connection. And I'm just tired of it.

If I do change the name I would likely try to migrate the content from here to the new digs but I would expand the content to include other hobbies I'm loving these days.

Does anybody have any advice?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

On Buying Ugly Chairs Then Wanting To Run Away From Home

Please have a seat in the lobby and I'll be right with you. Oh wait, that's my living room!

Here's a design tip I learned today. If you are thinking of purchasing any piece of furniture and you find yourself sending urgent emails to decorators, posting pictures on social networks asking all your friends and family to please help you decide if you should buy it, you shouldn't buy it!

In these chairs' defense, they are in impeccable condition. The ad said they were high end chairs with high end fabric and I believe it. They seem brand new. But my God! Please send me back to earlier this morning when I saw them online and thought, hmmm...they remind me of a hotel room but then again I have no sense of style so I'm probably wrong. Or even send me back to the conversation we were having with the very lovely owners who said they used to be in the husband's office but nobody ever sat in them. I want a do-over!

This is the chair I was supposed to buy for my living room makeover. It's amazing, right? Like the designers said, it's got fantastic masculine lines, awesome nubby grey fabric and it swivels (required). But it's $900! And it would take weeks for it to arrive and I am impulsive and my family is coming over next weekend for Mother's Day and where would they sit! And on and on...

The craziest thing about it all is the way it's making me feel. I'm embarrassed that I don't have enough self control to think about a purchase for a little while, first. I feel bad that I had my husband go with me to sit in and subsequently buy these chairs then lug them home where they will sit, looking out of place, until I figure out what to do. I believe in thrifting and was so hoping to be able to decorate my living room without breaking the bank but this feels like shit. I am in an ugly chair vortex of self loathing!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

White Thrift Store Sofa

Since I have nothing to say about gardening these days I thought I'd show you a picture of my new thrift store sofa.

$250 from Brown Elephant thrift store in Andersonville. I am so in love with it that it's actually embarrassing. It's old and white and long, 96 inches. 96! It was built in the 30's by a Chicago Furniture maker called Homer Brothers which was started in 1912 by 5 Russian immigrant brothers and closed sometime in the 90's. One day I'll tell you the story about how this sofa entered my life but today I am just thankful to have it. But I'm also kind of terrified of it.

I've never bought used furniture. And my God, the things that can happen on a sofa! Food and pets and body fluids and according to most people on the internets...BEDBUGS!  My husband sat on it for about an hour last night while reading then sent me the following email this morning...

"I think that couch has bugs, or I'm allergic to it. I'm itching all over!"

Thankfully I found a great upholstery cleaner that was able to squeeze us in tomorrow morning so this baby will be getting a nice, hot bath.

Over the last couple of years I've become keenly aware of how much junk I've accumulated and how the furnishings in my house affect me on a day to day basis. It's not good. And just like I did with gardening when I first started, I'm consumed with it, reading everything I can get my hands on, shopping, losing sleep.

Decorating, well, designing just about anything, terrifies me. It is easy for me to look at pictures of completed rooms (or blogs or gardens) and decide if I like them or not but to deconstruct the process of putting it all together in a way that best utilizes available space, that looks pretty or cool or whatever, seems like a magic trick or one of those innate talents you're just born with. I have no idea if this is accurate or not. If you have any thoughts about this, please leave them in the comments below. I am curious to know how everyone out there feels about their interior surroundings, decorating and whether or not you think you're any good at it and if that even matters. How would you describe your style? Where do you buy your stuff? Is it typically new or used or hand-me-downs? Are you happy with it all or do you wish it looked different?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Learn To Take Better Pictures: I'm Taking a Photography e-Course!

Finally! Somebody has come up with the perfect way to teach me how to take great pictures!

I'm super excited that my friend Katie is conducting an online photography course she calls "Photo Mojo". The six week course will include easy to understand explanations of the settings on your camera, simple picture taking projects and a flickr group where we'll all upload our pictures so that Katie can make comments and recommendations on what were doing right as well as how we can improve our shots. I am so in love with this idea! I want to take great pictures but I don't want to go sit in some classroom where an instructor will try to cram way too much information into a few hours only to have me go home and forget it all. I love the idea of taking it slow, having a group of people just like me who want to learn to take better pictures. The bonding, the photography taking bliss, I can't wait!

When I was in my 20's I wanted to be a professional photographer. I remember buying my first real camera, a Minolta SLR. It was heavy, black, awesome. I loved the way it felt in my hands. I was fascinated by all the settings, the shutter speed, the F stops. I bought books to try to teach myself how to use it. Most of the pictures I took, sucked.  But I shot a roll of infrared film once and although I have no idea where those pictures are today, there is an image of one of those photos, a willow tree, its droopy branches bleached white against a black sky that is burned in my memory.

In the end the Minolta frustrated the hell out of me and I gave up my photography career dreams. After that, I used whatever camera was easiest. Disposable cameras were my shit for a good long while! But then I started gardening and blogging and discovered all these amazing garden blogging photographers, their photos rich with color, impeccably composed. My photography passion came flooding back.

When I started this blog I shot nearly all my pictures with a 3 mega pixel point and shoot digital camera my husband gave me when digital cameras first came out. It worked just fine and I am still surprised by how decent some of those pictures turned out. But at some point I decided to get serious and bought a really nice Nikon DSLR. I read books, blogs, watched videos and I took a some pretty good photos with that camera. But each time I thought of going out to photograph something cool in my garden, I dreaded having to deal with the damned thing. It was a big production and most of my pictures were bad. Bad lighting, blurry, random other photo nightmares. Bad! I missed so many great shots because it took me entirely too long to figure out the right settings. My process was to make the settings something completely arbitrary, then adjust them until the pictures are not awful. In the end I shoved the fancy Nikon in its case and bought an updated point and shoot camera which I use most of the time, now. Hell, if I'm being honest, most of the time I use my iPhone camera!

To celebrate this inaugural photography e-course, Katie is giving away three free registrations for the class. I encourage you to head over to her website to enter the contest and/or to register for the course. See you in class!