an mcu journey: chris evans’ pecks and a side of shawarma

several weeks ago, i was on a zoom chat with some friends who were discussing mcu. shamelessly, i interrupted the conversation to ask, “what is mcu?” some of them held their heads in their hands in disappointment, others had their mouths open, aghast. “kelsey, it’s the marvel cinematic universe.”

“ah, of course it is!” was my response. i’ve heard good things, i’ve heard bad things, and then i decided that 2021 would be the year i would journey through the mcu. this week was week one of our journey, and we went over to our neighbors’ dave and jenn house to start with captain america: the first avenger. we also decided that this ritual would be the prime opportunity to pair the new movie viewing with some new eats. so, each movie will go along with a nearby restaurant we haven’t yet tried, and as the journey progresses, i’ll rank them all. let’s go!

we’ll start with dinner, since we ate before we pressed play. jenn raved about and recommended we try jerusalem bakery, about 15 minutes away from our neighborhood. as far as i am concerned, it’s hard to go wrong with fresh ingredients and shaved meat, so it was easy to like the food. i had the falafel entree and have decided regardless of restaurant i now need to stop ordering falafel to-go. don’t get me wrong, it was good, but by the time it is prepped and you drive home, it loses that richness and moist bite. on the other hand, phillip had to fight me for his chicken shawarma platter. it was good the first time and even still delicious when the leftovers were reheated this weekend. so far, so good! (p.s. i promise to take pictures next time 🙂 )

as for the movie, there was more to be desired. generally, i didn’t totally despise the storyline, and yes, i understand that super powers are not a thing. i also grasp that strength-enhancing serum is unreal. further, i realize that these movies involve supernatural characters and plotlines. nonetheless, the scale of just how unreal some of the things were in captain america: the first avenger had me rolling my eyes almost all night long! i mean, that big plane at the end. did it need to be that big? probably not. does there always have to be a love story between the hero and some gorgeous someone? apparently so. is that zipline scene really that believable? not in our world, so what i understand i must come to terms with if i am going to get through 20+ movies is that i need to simply appreciate them for what they are: entertainment.

now, i do look forward to how all the back stories and characters will intertwine in later movies, and some of the films have some of my favorite actors in the cast. and, let’s be honest, their bodies are positively ripped, and it’s hard to argue with that. perhaps most importantly, though, i’ll actually be able to talk about it when mcu comes up in conversation! and that is nearly priceless. well, for us it’ll cost us a bunch of dinners, but that is a price i am willing to pay.

check back as our mcu journey continues and come at me with your suggestions, whether it’s the proper viewing order or restaurants in our area we just must try. if nothing else, we should all be entertained!

louisville – day 3

after our busy friday, we all slept in a bit and then walked the couple of blocks for a starbucks fuel-up for the day. we sipped on cold brews and frappuccinos and pumpkin spice lattes, and i think it’s pretty clear which of us in the family has their selfie game down to a science. 🙂

on our way out, dad could not resist getting a few pictures with the horse. like many towns, these statues are all over louisville with different designs. could you find them all?

since our breakfast was pretty light, we hopped in the car to eat at another favorite spot you just don’t see in the south, skyline chili! i first heard about skyline from my friend bank when he used to make it for us in college, and it’s one of the places you must eat at if it is nearby. kind of like grater’s. 🙂

we inhaled our chili dogs and pasta dishes in record time, savoring each bite since who knows when we’ll have it again!

after lunch we strolled around and took in the gorgeous weekend day. the sun was shining, folks were out and about. it was a fine day indeed, made even better when we stopped in at the eagle for a round of drinks al fresco.

like i said, saturday truly was our chill day of the trip, so we continued our fast food eating tour that night at raising cane’s for some chicken and over at white castle for some greasy mini burgers. gotta love ’em!

the day wrapped up as we lounged at the hotel, enjoying each other’s company and watching some good ‘ole fashion college football. one more day to go!

quarantine calories

i feel like most folks are doing a handful of things with their time these days:  working (if lucky enough to do so), cleaning, hobby-ing, childcaring, and eating.  among all those things, the last one might be the most fun.

over the past two weeks, we’ve been hosting phillip’s sister natalie and her doggie wyatt, and as a household of individuals who love food, we have been fortunate to support some local businesses and adventure into some new recipes together.  today’s post includes mouthwatering photos of all our eats.  get ready to drool!

nat and wyatt.

our first stop after picking up natalie and wyatt from the airport was zaxby’s.  natalie doesn’t have zaxby’s up in nyc, so it was definitely a homecoming meal.  oh, and in case you want a pro tip, check out this recipe to make your own zax sauce.  it’s super easy and worth the minimal effort, i promise.

hhhnnnggg, homemade zax sauce.

the next night, phillip and natalie were together to celebrate their 32nd birthday!  aw, it made my heart so happy.  we started with a specially delivered dinner from alessio’s restaurant & pizzeria in norcross.  from the lasagna and garlic knots to the tortellini cardinal and the chicken francese, it was quite a feast, and i don’t doubt we’ll go dine in once we can.  and, no birthday is complete without a cake!  thank you, publix, for the fudge and strawberry filled chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.  🙂

the mornings were definitely prime opportunities for some tasty treats over the past several days.  from whipped coffee (i promise this trend is worth the work)…

to avocado toast…

to simply done donuts

to dirty horchata

to mimosas…

cheers!

and finally chrissy teigen’s banana bread.  it was some good eatin’.

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we didn’t leave dinner out at all.  we became kroger recipe experts, first with their arugula, goat cheese, and olive pasta salad.  i couldn’t keep natalie away from it, lol!  on Easter sunday we also tried out and really enjoyed their pork & peach tacos with ginger brown rice.

alongside the tacos we chowed down on my favorite corn dip.  i don’t know where on earth i got this recipe, but i’m glad i have it.

our tex-mex dinner that day had been preceded by a monkey bread breakfast and a deviled egg snack.  om nom nom.

in addition to trying out several kroger recipes, we also busted out the blue apron cards and loved the pork burgers with potato wedges and beef and rice bowls.

beef rice bowl and those pickled radishes. yum.

at some point over the past several days, i also whipped up this spicy pasta salad by ree drummond.  anything with gouda in it just makes my heart sing.

the evening was, of course, always an opportunity to nosh and also spend some of our hard-earned dollars at the nearby establishments.  we had mcdonald’s on our anniversary, freddy’s on thursday just because it was thursday, noodles from lon u on friday because we were craving pad thai, and marco’s pizza on saturday because who doesn’t love some ‘za.

and of all the sweet treats we had for dessert, i think phillip’s homemade ice cream sundaes were my favorite.  ❤

so, have you discovered any tasty recipes you’d like to share?  or have a local restaurant you think we just must try?  let us know and, above all else, stay safe.

p.s. i realize that many people out there are not currently in a position to splurge on food and groceries or even acquire the essentials.  if anyone out there needs a helping hand, i hope we can either assist or that you are able to find what you need right when you need it.  let’s keep everyone in mind these days, especially those severely impacted by everything that surrounds us.

the great chicken sandwich debate

okay, folks!  coming to you directly is another social media-driven taste test of the popeye’s chicken sandwich versus the chick-fil-a chicken sandwich.  unless you have been living under a rock the past week, you have seen a reference somewhere in your day-to-day about popeye’s new chicken sandwich and all the talk it’s causing around town.  well, i decided i could not simply sit aside and let the rest of america tell me which they liked better:  i needed to try them for myself!

this past friday after work and a great workout, my big brother kyle so kindly first waited at popeye’s (for 30 minutes) to pick up a couple of their sandwiches and then swung by chick-fil-a to grab their sandwiches and some sides.

to make this taste test as fair as possible, we ordered both sandwiches plain, just chicken and bread, and split them down the middle so that we all (phillip, kyle, kari, and i) would have half of each.

popeye’s on the left, chick-fil-a on the right.

i started with a bite of the all familiar chick-fil-a sandwich, as i hadn’t had one in a while and wanted to re-familiarize myself with that distinct taste.  after doing so, i bit right into the popeye’s sandwich and immediately noted how much crunchier their breading is than cfa’s.  phillip agreed in that regard and also commented that the popeye’s sandwich is, in its own way, somehow lighter yet more buttery than cfa.  i mean, if you look in the photo above, the popeye’s bun is glistening from the ceiling light.  must be all that melted butter goodness!

with all this being said, the cfa sandwich still had plenty going for it, including its signature, somewhat sweet taste – maybe it’s all that peanut oil?  and as i continued to munch through bite by bite, i personally concluded that i could easily see myself craving a popeye’s sandwich in one moment and then a cfa sandwich or nuggets in another.  someone at the dinner table commented that they are “both in the same tier of good” just different, and i don’t think i could agree more.  the popeye’s sandwich is an excellent fried chicken sandwich, while cfa does what it does well with a simple, classic chicken sandwich.

one excellent comment kari made was that the popeye’s sandwich makes her want to go try the popeye’s five bonafide big box to see how the fried chicken itself is.  you know the one, don’t you?  where the popeye’s spokeswoman annie is standing in the street and an oversized popeye’s box drops from the sky?  well, in case you don’t know it, here it is for your viewing pleasure.  🙂

and if you don’t believe us after all this, then read this post that phillip found.  it puts into additional words all you need to know about this 21st century fast food drama.

now, i mentioned that we also grabbed some sides from cfa, which included their classic waffle fries and also their new macaroni and cheese.  yes!  you read that correctly, mac’n’cheese at chick-fil-a!  kyle was the first to try a spoonful and without any hesitation said it was “gangster” and that he wants it “pumped right into his veins.”  that paints quite a picture, doesn’t it?  phillip gave the mac’n’cheese a taste, too, and gave it an “a+” (and a thumbs up).  i agree the mac’n’cheese is creamy and delicious and a fully unhealthy but completely satisfying accompaniment to a meal that, overall, was fun to share with my loved ones.

towards the end of dinner, i asked everyone which of all the dishes would they want for their last bite?  phillip and kari both said the cfa french fries because there’s something irresistible about those thick waffle fries.  kyle said the cfa sandwich.  i myself said the popeye’s sandwich, but what do you know?  my last bites were the mac’n’cheese!  as for my nearly ten-month old nephew bode, he was at the table, too, and enjoyed some vanilla puffs for his last bites.  can’t wait to take him for his first popeye’s before too long!

presidential chicken

as you all know, i’m almost always up for trying a new recipe, and a few weeks ago was one of those nights.  my inspiration was from my dear friend jamie and his fiance caleb.  they have been dabbling in the podcast world and have multiple times mentioned the famous presidential chicken recipe from michigan state university, which is where jamie attended college.  after hearing them describe it as chicken with puff pastry, sour cream, and cream cheese, i demanded a copy of the recipe so that i could try it myself.

so, being the obliging podcast hosts they are, they sent me a link and off i went to kroger to get everything we would need.  as i took over the kitchen with pots and pans and knives and cutting boards, phillip walked in and asked, “what are you making?”

“presidential chicken!” i replied, as if he should have known all along.

he politely said “okay” and left me to my work.

making the stuffing was no big deal, but trying to get the puff pastry looking all nice and on purpose was not as successful.  i may have even ended up with some precious little mini pouches, over there, on the right…oh well!

while these bad boys baked away in the oven, i got to start on the sauce.  now, as i started on the sauce, i found myself confused.  my sauce was not thickening up at all and, with a taste here and there, was quite bland to me.  i double-checked the directions and was doing everything right, but perhaps there’s an msu trick to getting it to thicken properly.  i’ll just have to let one of you show me how it’s done!

eventually the puffs were baked to near-golden perfection.  ah, who doesn’t love a nicely browned, flaky pastry crust?

i plated the chicken up with some broccoli and a little bit of the sauce, but honestly, my sauce wasn’t even necessary (and promptly wound up going down the drain).  those heavenly pouches can stand on their own with piping hot chicken and a creamy, rich sour cream and cream cheese mixture.  this dish is easily one i can see us enjoying time and time again.  🙂

so, if you enjoyed this post, there are two things you need to do:

  1. go get the recipe and enjoy this dish yourself
  2. go listen to jamie and caleb’s podcast

for both, you’ll thank me later.

hattie b’s hot chicken – birmingham, al

this past weekend, phillip and i made a swift drive west to visit my parents in birmingham for a couple of days.  it was a belated birthday celebration for my father as well as an early valentine’s day gathering for all four of us.

my mom was occupied at the school for a show choir event all day saturday, so phillip and i helped my dad run errands around town and then take kramer for a lovely afternoon walk over at heardmont park.  this place brings back countless memories of my brothers during the baseball days, and my father and i reminisced as we strolled from field to field.

the day crept into the evening, and i’d say all four of us had worked up quite an appetite for dinner.  so, we all hopped in phillip’s mazda and my dad navigated us to downtown birmingham where we joined the crowd in line at hattie b’s for some hot chicken.

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future son-in-law with his future father-in-law. 🙂

we waited in line for about ten minutes, but it wasn’t so bad since that gave us time to look over the menu.  now, mom and dad have been here before, and both testified that the medium sauce made their heads sweat.  per their recommendation, i then knew that the mild would be the way to go.  in addition to choosing your heat level, you also have several chicken choices.  from breasts to wings to tenders, surely there’s something on this menu that can satisfy.

at seven o’clock on a saturday night, you can probably imagine how busy this place already was.  so, when a table opened up, i sprinted to claim it for us.  as i settled in and took a look around, it was clear by the simple atmosphere and the line out the door that tasty eating was awaiting us.

mom, dad, and phillip arrived with our number and our drinks and we chatted as we waited on our food.  i’m going to guess that they try to make everything fresh to order, because we had plenty of time to discuss wedding plans.  oh, did i mention phillip and i are engaged?  well, if you didn’t know before, you’re in the know now!  🙂  more on all that fun to come later.

in the end, the food was certainly worth the wait.  between the sides and the chicken, there was hardly anything left on our plates!  the pimento cheese mac’n’cheese was creamy with a little kick, the collard greens were well-cooked (and i’d recommend throwing some hot sauce on them to spice things up), and i heard the potato salad, fries, and coleslaw were also delicious.

my mild tenders were, first of all, humongous.  i actually needed help finishing them!  although delicious when dipped in either the honey mustard or bleu cheese, a bite on its own was quite flavorful.  i’m glad i went with the mild because although the heat may not be in-your-face at first, you definitely start feeling it after two or three tenders.  phillip also had the mild tenders and didn’t leave a single bite uneaten.  mom said her southern chicken tenders were wonderful and dad could not get enough of the mild wings he ordered.

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i’d say if i find myself back at hattie b’s (which i’m sure i will) i think i’ll go for the wings.  the tenders are awesome if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but the wings really looked like they might be this restaurant’s specialty.  i also don’t doubt i’d try the potato salad (it looked awesome on my mom’s plate) and i would certainly get an order of the banana pudding.  my mom says it is heavenly, and i don’t think i’ll forgive myself if i forget to get it next time.

get ‘dis cashew chicken

earlier this week i decided to whip up some dinner for phillip and me.  i wasn’t terribly interested in any of the tried-and-true recipes from my cookbook (although they all have a special place in my heart), so i took to the world wide web in search of something good.  i didn’t have to look too far or too wide to find this delectable cashew chicken recipe from the pioneer woman.  this dish was so tasty that phillip barely said a word to me in between bites; compliments to the chef!  feel free to put the chicken on a bed of rice or noodles, whatever tickles your fancy.  the brown rice we had was a great base for the rich flavors of this sauce.  my only comment?  do be careful to not add too much salt; the ingredients you are using will be sure to take care of that for you.  🙂

february 15th – nyc

monday in new york arrived a little quicker than we probably would have liked because monday meant we were halfway through our trip – oh no!  well, even though we’d spent the last couple of days lounging in bed until the early afternoon, we couldn’t allow ourselves to just sit around on our hands three days in a row.  no, sir!  not while in new york!  so phillip and i bid au revoir to natalie for the morning and, you guessed it, hit up hot & crusty for more bagels!  i think at this point our bagel count was nearing ten.  um, should we be embarrassed?  wait, on second thought, let’s all keep our comments to ourselves regarding our bagel consumption on this trip.  yes, i think it’s safer that way and at the end of the day we’ll all still be friends.  🙂

we ordered more fresh baked bagels and hot coffee and, because we couldn’t resist, a boulder-sized chocolate, chocolate chip muffin.  well, if we’re gonna be bad, we may as well do it right!  phillip and i leisurely munched on our treats at a table inside as we people watched all the locals in their monday morning routine.  a gentleman to my left with lox and the newspaper, a couple beside him sharing a croissant, the local delivery man stopping by to get to-go bags (i’d bet good money one of them was for natalie!).  through the window we saw gentle snow flurries beginning to fall, so we figured if we were going to do some walking we’d better get to it.

it turned out that phillip and i pretty much had the whole day free to ourselves.  as much as i would love to have gone to the public library to curl up with a book, we decided to stay in the area.  since we’d already gone to the met on saturday, we decided to venture to the west side of town to see what we could see.  now, despite the fact that the snow was beginning to pick up, phillip convinced me to take a stroll with him along the sidewalks of iconic central park.  i must admit it was quite a lovely idea.  we saw several bundled pups dragging along their owners, couples arm in arm, and joggers aplenty.  the grounds were mostly quiet and although it was getting colder with each step, the scene was nothing short of picturesque.

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creamy chicken & mushroom potpie

years ago my mom introduced me to a magazine called real simple, and my love for all things domestic turned into an obsession as i read about cleaning tips, gardening advice (not that i’ve put it to use just yet), crafting ideas, and, of course, cooking.  i was trying to decide what to do for sunday dinner tonight, and as i flipped through the many pages of my cookbook, this crock-pot recipe popped right out at me:  creamy chicken and mushroom potpie.  um, yes, please!  we might not be in the dead of winter, and in the hottest heat of summer this classic dish may not sound the most appealing, but i never turn down comfort food.  i don’t remember the last time i had chicken potpie, and when i opened the kitchen door after church, the smells of childhood and home flooded my nose.  it turns out that the dish was just as delicious as it smelled, and i hope you think the same!

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p.s.  the only thing i changed in the recipe was that i used biscuits instead of puff pastry because, you know, i’m in the south, and that’s just what we do.

p.p.s.  i also whipped up a mountain of malted milk chocolate chip cookies.  this is what i do with my sundays.  🙂

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the pinewood tippling room – decatur, ga

after finishing the publix half marathon and full marathon a couple sundays ago, you can bet we runners were ravenous.  we met up with everyone in the neighborhood of decatur at the pinewood tippling room, unexpectedly coming across the perfect restaurant review opportunity.

known by the locals as the pinewood, this spot is a cozy neighborhood bar serving up “extraordinary cocktails and reinterpreted regional fare.”  their space is clean without much fuss, and although they equally support what they call the high-class and “home-spun,” i felt a touch out of place in my running tights and sneakers.  the other customers were dressed to the nines, it seemed, after maybe just having left church service with their family and friends.  perhaps if i were coming on a different day i would have felt a little more comfortable.  maybe that’s why they seated us way in the back…?  nah, i don’t think so.  i think it had more to do with the fact that we were a party of 12 and that was where they had room.  i should have positioned myself on the other side of the table so that i could really take in the ambiance, for i was stuck facing a white-washed brick wall.  oh well!  good thing atmosphere is only one element of a restaurant, right?  sure!

although i probably needed a couple gallons of water to rehydrate my body, i didn’t wait a moment to order a mimosa.  something refreshing and crisp sounded like the perfect ticket, and these glasses were a great balance of orange juice and champagne.  cheers!

mimosas for everyone!

mimosas for everyone!

the pinewood closes at 2:30 p.m. on sundays, so we all had to somewhat hastily make our selections.  with a decently sized brunch menu, though, i don’t think it was hard for many of us.

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