Signs of spring at the Arboretum

Main, North Carolina, Raleigh

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Let the pictures speak for themselves-spring is nearly here. While it was bright, blistery and cold (41 degrees to be exact) at the JC Raulston Arboretum this morning, shades of pink, red, and purple could be found all over the grounds. Of my favorite are the Japanese Magnolia trees. After these bloom, the peonies, dogwoods, tulips and more will begin to follow suit and we are ready. See you so soon spring!

– Addie

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Easter in Gainesville

Main, People, Visit

I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos from our short but sweet Easter weekend in Gainesville, FL. We went to spend time with our best friends, the Corrings (you may remember them from this trip), who are now a family of 3! They welcomed a perfect baby boy in February who I was just itching to meet.  Gainseville is a laid back, funky college town. A major perk of being in Florida for Easter was that it was actually warm! The weekend was filled with lots of baby cuddles, good food, a wonderful Easter mass service and lots of quality time before they made a cross country trip to their new home in Seattle.  Emily and I used to stay up all night talking about our future adult life and what we wanted out of it. It’s crazy to me that now we we are living it! Seeing friends you hold near and dear have children is incredible. Here are a few favorite photos from our weekend. Enjoy!

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We ate at a popular restaurant, The Top for both Sunday brunch and dinner. The Top is a very fun and funky place, much like Gainesville itself. The food didn’t last long, otherwise you know I would have included a photo 😉

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How sweet is this little family? Parenthood suits them.

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 The Baughman Performing Arts Center (pictured above) on UF’s campus made an awesome spot for a little Easter egg hunt for Grace. Afterwards we hung out around Lake Alice, took some photos and spotted both a turtle and an alligator!

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John bought dried fruit to fill the eggs with, which Grace was very happy about. By the end of eating all the dried fruit from the eggs she knew which was papaya, mango and kiwi (her favorite). 

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“Too much, Mom and Dad…too much.” Ha!

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Across from Lake Alice is a huge Bat Conservatory (pictured above) that you can read more about here.  Just before dusk every evening, you can apparently watch the thousands of bats swarm around outside their houses. While we didn’t stick around for that, Grace loved playing in the patch of wild flowers on the property. 

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Emily and I were laughing about the fact that before kids, we used to revolve these weekend meetups around our pets…notice there are no dogs in any of these pictures. Oh how times have changed! Hope you enjoyed the pictures and thanks for reading. Until next time!  -Addie

Two Weeks with Mimi

Main, People

For two weeks our family was blessed with the company of my mother. We cooked, we gardened, we moseyed around town, we played, we read, we slept and then gardened, cooked and played some more. There were many hours spent on the porch cracking pecans, swinging, talking and bird watching. My mom is too cool for Facebook and a smart phone (she has Instagram so she can see pictures of her children and grandchildren) so I thought I’d put together a little online scrapbook of her visit for her fan club back home in Mississippi. You know who you are! We are missing Mimi terribly. Two weeks was a long time to have her here, so long that I got too accustomed to her helpfulness! Luckily we went out of town for Easter, otherwise the house would have felt too quiet. This morning Grace woke up and unprovoked blurted out, “I want Mimi back!”  Enjoy a few highlights from an unforgettable two weeks! Thanks for reading.

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Art in Bloom at the North Carolina Museum of Art. People submit floral interpretations of various works of art on exhibit and it was so cool! We were both in heaven looking at all the creativity around nature and visual art.

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Fish Friday meal for Lent. Seared salmon with a seriously good salad (recipe here.)

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Above and below: Fun at the JC Roulston Arboretum’s Blooms Festival. Spring was the perfect time for my mom (an expert horticulturalist) to visit. There were all sorts of events geared around nature, not to mention all the beautiful things in bloom around this time of year.

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Bubbles! The Blooms Festival was part plant sale part kids outdoor fun. Grace and Charlotte loved playing in the bubbles and seeing all sorts of wildlife from bunnies to chickens to bugs!

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We hosted a champagne brunch/Easter egg hunt for Grace’s best buds and her parents. My mom made these little mini carrot cakes with died coconut and robin eggs on top, a big hit among both kids and adults. Below: Attempts to get a descent picture of Charlotte and Grace after the egg hunt which is becoming such a challenge!

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Above: Breakfast cookies on the porch. Below: Our favorite Caesar Salad

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We did yard work, yard work and more yard work and no one minded one bit.

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Plant and berry shopping at the NC State Farmers Market.

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Carb overload at Yellow Dog Bread which included a rosemary sea salt scone, a chai tea sugar cookie, a spinach and feta baguette and a huge strawberry and jam muffin!

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Neighborhood potluck prep with the littlest helper.

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Impeccable shrimp creole on her last night before heading home. Yes, it was super helpful having her here to do laundry, change diapers, etc. but what was more was just her company. My parenting is largely influenced by how she raised my sisters and I, and I’m realizing we have so much in common it’s frightening. Mimi-we love you, we’re grateful for you, we miss you and we hope July gets here soon so we can head your way! -Addie

Piedmont Farm Tour Snapshots

Main, North Carolina, Visit

About one month before my due date with Charlotte, we took Grace on the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Piedmont Farm Tour. We look forward to this event every year, more so now with little ones! It was a beautiful weekend to drive around in the country, letting Grace roam free, soaking up all the natural beauty around her. I’m excited for the day that she can really appreciate visiting these farms, learning where her food comes from and the value of quality produce and meat. While this was a while ago, I thought you’d all enjoy the photos. If you are in the area (or planning a visit!) mark your calendars for the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour in September!

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(Above: the view from our hay ride through Cane Creek Farm)

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(Above: RambleRill Farm.  This property was immaculate, complete with a medicinal herb garden)

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(Above and below: Woodcrest Farm, likely our favorite stop. Gorgeous walking trails, loads of animals just coexisting with everyone and a beautiful old farm house.)

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IMG_2916 (2)IMG_2902 (2)IMG_2887 (2)P.S. Should be my last post for the week. Just catching up on some things! Also if you’d like to see photos of more farms in the area check out this post from a few years ago. -Addie

 

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Strawberry Picking & Grilled Cheese with a Twist!

Cook, Main, North Carolina, Raleigh

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Happy Spring everyone! I love this time of year in the Raleigh area. It seems like there is something fun going on every week, even though the weather is still somewhat confusing (cold mornings, hot afternoons and recently several hail/rain storms). The past two months I’ve been dragging Grace to farm tours, nurseries, gardens, arts festivals etc. She doesn’t seem to mind if there is any sort of food or animals involved. Plus I’m really trying to relish these last few weeks with just the two of us before another baby comes along. I can’t believe it’s already May!

A few weeks ago we met some friends at Vollmer Farm, in rural Bunn North Carolina, for a strawberry picking extravaganza. The farm has certified organic strawberries fields to pick from, a cute country store, ice cream shop and a fun playground. Grace loved riding in the wagon out to the strawberry fields and playing in the play ground, but her favorite thing was berry picking (well berry eating). How does one explain to an 18 month old who LOVES strawberries that we really don’t need to eat every single berry we see? Very few berries she picked made it into her basket and most of the ones that did had bites taken out of them. I don’t blame her for eating so many. Have you ever tried a juicy, ripe, almost warm strawberry that has just been picked? So sweet! They are totally different than the ones you get in the store. After picking we enjoyed some burgers, strawberry ice cream and took a scenic drive home with a flat of the sweetest strawberries, albeit some half eaten. Since then I’ve been making Grace’s new favorite, strawberry grilled cheese sandwiches. Scroll down for the recipe and have a great weekend everyone! -Addie

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Strawberry & Brie Grilled Cheese:

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 vidalia onion sliced
  • 1 dash granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 6 slices good quality hearty bread
  • Softened brie cheese
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Handful of thinly sliced strawberries

Method:

  • Preheat your panini press of whatever your use to make grilled cheese. Can also use a skillet and spatula or the oven.
  • Caramelize the onion. On medium heat melt the butter and add the onion. Cook until soft and translucent. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir, cooking until onions are incredibly soft, dark brown and almost a mashed consistency. Takes a little bit!
  • Smear a generous amount of brie cheese on the bread slices, then add a thin slice of cheddar.
  • Portion out the caramelized onion and sliced strawberries on three of the slices of bread.
  • Assemble the sandwiches and press until cheese is melted and bread has become a bit crispy.
  • Enjoy outside!

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Plum & Spring Greens Salad

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Spring is on its way! This was evident at the Durham Farmers Market this Saturday where I was delighted to see all sorts of greens, radishes and fresh flowers.  I settled on spinach, mache and pea shoots, which are all pretty mild so Grace could enjoy. I imagine in a few weeks we can all devour a similar version of the salad below with in-season sweet strawberries. For now try it with some tarte plums or cherries and tangy blue or goat cheese. Hope you all had a lovely weekend and enjoy the recipe! -Addie

plum and pea shoot salad

Plum & Spring Greens Salad with Blue Cheese

Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler generously

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful pea shoots
  • 1 handful mache lettuce
  • 1 handful spinach
  •  A few tablespoons blue cheese or other soft cheese such as goat, feta or ricotta salata
  • Candied pecans* (see note)
  • 1 & 1/2 plums washed, pitted and sliced
  • Salad dressing of choice (our go-to is a blend of olive oil, creole mustard, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and minced shallots)

Method:

  • Toss the greens together then divide between two adult size plates and one toddler/baby size plate.
  • Sprinkle each with blue cheese and the adult plates with candied pecans.
  • Top with sliced plum and dressing.
  • Enjoy!

Notes/variations :

  • You can easily “candy” your own pecans. Toss desired amount of pecans in some melted butter, brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon and salt. Then toast in oven on 350 for for about 15 minutes or until fragrant and dark golden brown.
  • We made Grace a mini version of this salad with just the microgreens, plums and blue cheese all chopped up (so leaving out the pecans and larger greens). Great finger foods!

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In the Kitchen: Spring Strawberry Salsa &Taylor Orchards

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strawberry salsa goat cheese toast

This past weekend, we had a lovely time with our friends Emily & John (soon to be Mr. and Mrs!)  relaxing in rural Taylor County, Georgia where my dad grew up. After spending the majority of Saturday at Fielders Grist Mill with the wonderful Buckner family; we headed to Taylor Orchards for strawberry picking & strawberry ice cream. A perfect spring treat! Taylor Orchards is known more for their peach operation, but off-season you can pick buckets of fresh strawberries & enjoy delicious house made strawberry ice cream.  It was a beautiful afternoon with deep blue skies, warm breezes & the scent of strawberries in the air.

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We are still enjoying our Georgia strawberry harvest almost a week later. Wanting a quick & light dinner tonight, I concocted a strawberry salsa & served it over toast with local goat cheese. I love combining sweet & savory ingredients, especially in the warmer months. It adds a nice refreshing touch to a meal.  This is a great spring dish with in-season spring onions, parsley, & strawberries. You could also substitute a cucumber for the corn but I had some corn in the freezer I thought would go nice. The savory, salty buttery taste of the corn paired great with slightly tart, extra sweet strawberries. Be sure your strawberries are as ripe as can be & room temperature for maximum flavor. Even though I named this dish “salsa,” there are no peppers or tomatoes. However, the vinegar, garlic, & green onion give the strawberries a nice tang.

strawberry salsa

Spring Strawberry Salsa

Food:

1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries

1/2 cup cooked corn

3 sliced green onions

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 small bunch finely chopped parsley

A few generous glugs olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or vinegar of choice.

Sea salt to taste

2 teaspoons black pepper or more to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients & let sit for about 20 minutes to let the flavors come together & enhance. Taste & see if you want more pepper, salt, etc.  Serve over toast with goat cheese or just as a dip with corn chips. Enjoy!

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Spring Shrimp Pie

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shrimp pie

Everything is better in pie form wouldn’t you agree? This pie is no different. It is one of Christopher’s all time favorite meals. I say meal because it is rich & hearty enough that it doesn’t require any sides. Just a of bottle of white wine to accompany it. Spring is a perfect time to make this as peas, carrots and spring onions are all in season. I made this on Saturday when we went to have dinner, wine & garden talk at a friend’s house. I used the 3-2-1 method, something my mom and sister taught me to make the pie crust which is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part water (ratio is by weight) but you can use a store-bought one just as well. We like this pie to still be a bit loose inside, similar to chicken pot pie. If you want yours to hold together more just decrease the amount of cream. pie

Shrimp Pie:

By Addie Brannin Ladner

Ingredients:

2 pie crusts

1.5 lb fresh raw peeled shrimp

2 tablespoons blackening rub or your favorite Cajun seasoning

Several tablespoons unsalted butter & extra virgin olive oil (divided use)

Several gloves minced garlic

1/2 chopped onion

2 large chopped carrots (about 1.5 cups)

1 cup steamed or canned green peas

About 1/4-1/2 cup white wine

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup cream

1/2 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt

Handful of chopped parsley

Generous amount of black pepper

Handful of shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 and lay a baking sheet on the bottom rack

Melt a tablespoon of butter & olive oil on medium high heat. Meanwhile season your shrimp with the blackening rub or your favorite Cajun spice blend.

Add onion & garlic to skillet and cook a few minute until fragrant.

Add shrimp,cooking in batches depending on your skillet size and just a few minutes per side until white\pinkish and firm. Don’t overcrowd the shrimp or over cook them. Shrimp just like all seafood don’t take long to cook at all and need to be done so on a high heat for a short amount of time. Since the pie will have to bake in the oven you can under cook them a bit to be on the safe side. Once cooked, transfer them to a large bowl and set aside. In the same bowl, add your peas.

To the same skillet on medium heat, add the carrots and wine. Give a stir and let the carrots cook in the wine for about 10-15 minutes, to soften and bring out their sweet aromatic flavor. Once carrots are soft and tender add them to the shrimp and peas.

Turn the heat down a bit and melt the remaining butter. Add two tablespoons of flour and stir. Then whisk in cream and yogurt until you have a nice thick filling. If you want it thicker add more yogurt or flour at the beginning. Remember that it is going in with the vegetables and shrimp so it doesn’t have to be too thick. Once the filling consistency is to your liking add lots of black pepper and chopped parsley. Pour into bowl with shrimp and vegetables and toss to combine. If using, fold in Parmesan.

Now assemble the pie. Lay one pie sheet on the bottom of your pie dish, pour in the filling and smooth out with a spatula or back of a spoon. Cover it with the 2nd pie crust poking a few holes or slits in it to release any steam that will come from cooking. Use any extra dough to add a decorative touch. I was crushed for time on Saturday (got carried away outside in the garden) so my pie decorating didn’t turn out as nicely as it could have but it’s what’s on the inside that counts right? Believe me the inside is..YUM.

Bake for about 40 minutes until pie crust is cooked. Your kitchen will smell delicious and it will be a light golden brown color. Enjoy!

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