Friday, June 29, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Fettuccine Alfredo

I love pasta. Like a lot. I could eat it all the time. Five of my go-to dishes that I can make right off the top of the head with no recipe (because I make them so much and have memorized the recipe due to sheer routine) have something to do with pasta. It's just so easy and usually pretty fast. Last night I made one of these staple pasta dinners.

Fettuccine Alfredo

what you need:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
6 egg yolks 
black pepper to taste

what you do:
1. Start your noodles boiling. (You obviously don't have to only use fettuccine. There have been several nights that I've made this and haven't had any fettuccine. Use whatever you have.)
2. Heat milk and cream in a heavy bottom saucepan until it begins to simmer. (Heavy cream is a staple in my house. I use it for everything - not the healthiest but so delicious.)
3. Place egg yolks in a separate bowl and slowly whip in a portion of the hot milk and cream mixture.
I don't have an egg separator. Not for lack of wanting one though. I've been half-heartedly looking for one for a while but haven't found one as of yet. So in the mean time, I separate my egg using the old school method of utilizing the egg shell.
4. Ok, back to the milk/cream mixture...Slowly whip in cheese, then remove from heat.
I use fresh Parmesan cheese. I tried it once with the already grated kind you can just buy in the pasta aisle at the grocery store. I thought it was good until the next time I used fresh Parmesan. So.Much.Better. The Parmesan is on the left. I use Pecorino Romano as the other cheese. I usually already have it in the house, because I use it for the baked ziti that I frequently make. You can get it at a really good price at Costco, but you get a lot (imagine that, getting a lot of something at Costco). So if you can use it before it expires then I'd suggest buying it at Costco. It lasts a lot longer than cheddar or mozzarella or other "sandwich" cheeses. But you can always get it at a normal grocery store in the deli section.
Melting all the cheese and stirring it all into the milk/cream mixture is the hardest part. Just be patient with it and stir frequently.
5. Slowly add egg yolk mixture into milk/cream/cheese mixture.
6. Place back on low heat and continually stir until simmering.
7. Take sauce off heat so it thickens and so that the eggs temper.
8. Season with pepper.

Honestly, this sauce is better the next day after it's had so time to sit in the refrigerator for a while. What I try to do is make it the night before and chill it until dinner the next night. Just throw it in the microwave or back in a saucepan and heat until warm. This doesn't always happen though. It'll still taste delicious right after you make it.

You can also grill up some chicken, slice it, and add it to your sauce. 

Here's what our dinner looked like last night:
The bread is also a staple at dinner here in the Andersen household. Just butter a slice of bread, sprinkle it with garlic powder, and throw it in the oven on broil for about 30 seconds (just until it starts browning). Also if you want to be super fancy you could add some shredded cheese on top.

Happy eating,


Alfredo Sauce

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
6 egg yolks
black pepper to taste

1. Heat milk and cream in a heavy bottom saucepan until it begins to simmer.
2. Place egg yolks in a separate bowl and slowly whip in a portion of the hot milk and cream mixture.
3. Slowly whip in cheese to the milk/cream mixture, then remove from heat.
4. Slowly add egg yolk mixture into milk/cream mixture.
5. Place back on low heat and continually stir until simmering.
6. Take sauce off heat so it thickens. (This will increase the temperature of the egg yolks, known as tempering.)
7. Season with black pepper. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Crockpot Ravioli

I've totally been MIA for the past month on the recipe of the week. So I'll be trying to catch up this week by posting almost everything I cook. Tonight I'm making the easiest thing in my cookbook. It has 3 ingredients. Yes, you read that right - THREE ingredients.

 Crockpot Ravioli 

what you need:
one 20 -25 oz package of refrigerated or frozen ravioli
one jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

what you do:
1. If you bought refrigerated ravioli you'll need to throw it in the freezer overnight. This is what I do because I haven't found frozen ravioli anywhere. You can get any kind you want, but we tend to be pretty boring and stick with just cheese filled ones.
2. Dump your raviolis into your crockpot.
3. Pour on the sauce. I usually make my own spaghetti sauce, but today I was especially lazy and just used store-bought from a jar.
4. Be careful! This is the hardest step. :) Stir the ravioli so they are all evenly coated with the sauce.
5. Set your pot to low and cook for 2 1/2 hours. My crockpot tends to cook pretty hot, so if after 2 1/2 hours you don't fill like they're completely done just throw them in for another half hour and turn up to high. Be sure to stir occasionally so that the ravioli doesn't stick to the side and burn.
6. After the 2 1/2 hours is up either turn down the crockpot to warm or turn it off completely. Sprinkle on your shredded cheese and replace the top.
7. After about 5 or 10 minutes the cheese will be melted, and you'll be ready to eat. Serve with some French bread and toss a salad, and you'll be good to go.

Happy eating,


Monday, June 25, 2012

To My Father

At church on Father's Day Sunday, this guy gave a WONDERFUL talk about all the things he's learned from his dad. It was seriously one of the best talks I've heard in a while. He talked about how while his father was by no means perfect, he would not be the man he was today without the influence of his dad. Well, in honor of both Father's Day and my dad's birthday (poor guy, these two important days always get smashed into one celebratory day) I decided to also write a list about all the things I learned from my dad.

*One of my dad's favorite pastimes is fishing. Growing up I always loved hearing stories about all his wonderful fishing adventures. I imagined him to be the modern day Tom Sawyer walking around barefoot, fishing rod resting over his shoulder, tackle box in one hand, and dog in tow right beside him. Well it wasn't long after I started walking that I started fishing. We would go out on the dock, which I'm sure felt like way out into the ocean, and we would fish for whatever we could catch.

When we moved from the beach to the mountains I'd go digging in the dirt in search of the fattest earthworms I could find in preparation for a day of fishing. We'd park the truck somewhere and hike way back into the woods and fish in little streams that no one knew about. We'd drive into town and stop at fishing stores where I'd pick out the coolest bobbers I could find for myself and pretty pink sparkling lures for my dad to use.

I even remember the day I graduated from a cane pole to real rod. We were visiting one of my dad's friend's who lived right on a lake, and I was sitting with my dad and his friend not catching a darn thing with my cane pole. I begged and begged to please try my dad's rod. Finally he gave in and on the first cast I caught the biggest catfish I'd ever seen. I couldn't even reel it in by myself. We brought that fish home, froze it, and ate it a few weeks later. After that I got my own rod.

Once in the first grade my dad was going to go fishing all night at this lake full of fish. I don't how but he convinced my mom to let me go with him. He went a few hours early and got everything set up for us, and my mom brought me by later on. There were bug zappers everywhere, but he still covered me head to toe in bug spray. We fished all night and the next morning I remember watching the sun rise, which I had never really seen before.

When we moved to Tennessee we bought a house right on the lake, and I'm sure my dad had something to do with that. We would fish all day every day during the summer. Sometimes we'd catch fish so big I'd have to back up the bank to get it out of the water. We'd catch turtles and have races.

 As I got older and moved from middle school to high school and my friends started becoming more important, fishing became less and less of a priority. But I will never forget all the memories made sitting on lawn chairs waiting for a fish to bite. To this day I still swear that's how I learned patience. You can't make a fish bite, you just have to wait, and sometimes one never does swim off with your hook in its mouth. But I learned not to get disappointed but to just keep trying. Your patience and persistence will eventually pay off. I can still hook a fish with the best of em.

* Another important lesson I learned from my dad was how to change a tire. One Friday night in high school some friends and I were driving to the football game. We had to drive through an area that was just being built up and there was lots of construction going on. Well it just so happened that I had the unfortunate luck of running over a nail. I heard this awful popping noise and immediately knew what had happened. We pulled over into the Chick-fil-a parking lot, and I called my dad. I told him what happened and asked what I should do. He said, "Just go on to the game. I'm not worried a bit about you. You know how to change a tire if you need to." And that was that. We went onto the game. After he got off the phone my mom asked what he was talking about, so he told her what happened. Well she didn't like that one bit, and they brought me another car during the game. I always love telling this story because it shows my parents' personalities perfectly.

* My dad taught me how to laugh and be silly. Everything doesn't always have to be serious and go according to plan. Sometimes you just need to make a fool out of yourself. And sometimes you just need to laugh at yourself even if no one else is laughing. It's ok to think you're funny, because you probably are.

* My dad is incredibly proud of where he's from. There's this song called "I'm From the Country" by Tracy Byrd, and every time I hear it I think of my dad.
Way back up in the country, back in the hills
Down in the hollers where the folks are real
Livin’ with the crazzies and the old wildcats
Sawed off shotguns and coonskin caps
That’s where I’m from and I’m proud to say
I’m from the country and I like it that way

Everybody knows everybody, everybody calls you friend

You don’t need an invitation, kick off your shoes come on in
Yeah, we know how to work and we know how to play
We’re from the country and we like it that way
I am proud of growing up in Tennessee sometimes to a fault. It's been a huge hassle for me to get in-state tuition for graduate school. I've had to jump through hoops and fill out petitions - all because I didn't have a Georgia driver's license. Sure, it would have made life a lot easier and less stressful getting ready for school if I had just gone down to the DMV and gotten one. But there was NO WAY I was ever going to do that. I am way too proud of my Tennessee license to give it up. I've got in-state tuition now, so there's really no reason for getting a new license at this point. :)

* The way my dad learned to swim was by some cousins throwing him off a cliff into a river. Sink or swim. Every time I heard this story I was always appalled, because of the gentle and patient nature that my father taught me to swim. From the time I could sit up by myself I was in the water - splashing around at the beach. Then when we moved to Tennessee is when I really learned to swim. Our neighborhood had a pool right up the street from our house. Every day the first summer we lived there my dad took me to the pool, and he was determined I'd know how to swim by the end of the summer. He achieved his goal, and I grew up into a girl who seriously can't get enough of the water.

 * I learned to be a competitor from a young age. If you want anything in life you have to work for it and sometimes you have to beat other people out for it. You do your best and you work hard and you never quit. I learned to run farther during soccer games, swim faster during swim meets, flip more in dive meets, hit a softball harder, and have better Halloween costumes than anyone else. I still have a pretty strong competitive edge. My sister Brittney did a nursing internship earlier this summer in Arizona. She and 12 other students/teachers were staying in a hotel for 3 weeks. They had no oven to bake in and no stove to cook on. All they had was a crock pot, an electric skillet, a George Foreman, and a dull knife. She was in charge of making dinner every Saturday. I spent hours racking my brain and researching super delicious and easy recipes for her to make with her limited tools because I wanted all the other people she was with to think she was the best cook. I wanted them to look forward to Saturdays because she was making dinner.

* I learned the importance of self-respect, I learned to be an artist, I learned the importance of an education, and I learned to savor the little moments in life - all from my dad.

There are so many other wonderful lessons I learned from my father. I'm sure there are many things I learned from him that I don't even realize. Growing up my mom would always tell me I was my father's daughter because of all the similar traits I shared with him. While I have developed into my own person now I would still say that without a shadow of a doubt I am my father's daughter. Words can't describe how thankful I am for the father I have, for all the lessons he taught me, for the person I am today because of him.

I love you dad.

Happy 50th birthday!


Monday, June 18, 2012

our anniversary - 43 days later

About a month before our wedding, after invitations had been sent out, and plane tickets had been bought, a wonderful brother in my parents' ward noticed that the temple was going to be closed on the day we had scheduled our sealing. (For those not familiar with LDS lingo, a guy that goes to church with my parents realized that the temple we were getting married in was scheduled to be closed on the day we had planned on getting married.) My mom FREAKED out. She immediately called me asking if I called to schedule the sealing on that day or if I had just picked that day and put it on the invitation. Yes, I called and scheduled that day. I even got a confirmation letter in the mail. How could they have scheduled us when they knew the temple was going to be closed? The man that told my mom about the closing was actually a sealer at the temple, and he seeing her panic quickly gave her the temple president's phone number. (Ok, so the guy that goes to church with my parents volunteers at the temple as someone who marries couples. He gave my mom the phone number of the guy who pretty much runs the temple.) My mom called, and he sweetly reassured her that this was too important of an event to reschedule or simply cancel. He told her they would open the temple up that morning JUST FOR US. We later found out that the miscommunication occurred because a new secretary had just been hired and didn't realize the temple was going to be closed for 2 weeks at the beginning of May. This same scenario happened to another couple getting married 4 days after us. They were able to get special treatment and get married on their original date as well. While it seemed like a huge hassle at the time, this was actually a huge blessing come wedding day. We were able to have the whole place to ourselves without any interruptions from anyone else there that day. The man who originally noticed the scheduling problem is actually a good family friend of our's, and he drove all the way out to Nashville (a 3 hour trip one way) in the middle of the week (we got married on a Wednesday) to marry us. We couldn't have been more thankful.

The night before our wedding, Brad, Sara, and I drove out to Nashville to get settled into our hotel before the big exciting day. We were shocked to see all of Brad's family at our same hotel. We unknowingly booked the same place as they did (thank you priceline!). It was so exciting to see Brad's parents, siblings, grandparents, niece, and nephews that I actually locked my keys in my car. Keys still in the ignition. Right about that time my friend Lindsey pulled up, and we all racked our brains trying to figure out what to do. I called my dad, and he gave me the number of the insurance agency he had coverage with, and he said they could send someone out to unlock the door. I called, but they couldn't be out for at least half an hour. Then Brad's ingenious brother Neil straightened out a wire clothes hanger into a hook and threaded it through the slightly open driver's side window and popped the lock open. Thank goodness.

We had planned to take all our pictures outside, because it was May and the weather was always nice in May. (If you know anything about Tennessee weather, you'll know this was a naive assumption.) We woke the morning of May 6th to a huge thunderstorm. It was pouring rain. I called Brad, who was staying in his grandparents' room. I was completely flustered. What in the world are we going to do? Where will we take pictures? He knew there was a Target just down the street since we had driven out to it the night before because I had forgotten hair spray. He came and got my keys and went to Target and bought an umbrella. We'd just have to make the best of it. I was immediately convinced that whoever invented the idea that rain on your wedding day is lucky obviously had a rainy wedding day, and she was just trying to be optimistic about her dreary situation.

Brad came back from his escapade with an umbrella and bagels. My hair and makeup had been done, so while I waited for Lindsey and Sara to finish getting ready Brad and I enjoyed our last few moments together as an engaged couple.

When Brad left, and it was finally time for me to pack up my stuff and get ready to leave I realized I hadn't brought a normal dress to wear into the temple. All I had was my wedding dress. Luckily I had people around me who had planned ahead. Valeri had packed an extra dress and Lindsey had an extra tank top.

When we left the hotel it was still rainy outside, but by the time we drove the 10 miles to the temple the sun was beginning to peek through the clouds. The clouds stuck around all day, which was really quite perfect. It was light outside, but the sun wasn't blinding us. Which meant no one was squinting in any of the pictures. It also made for some really neat shots of the sky.
photo courtesy of Valeri Andersen Photography

At the time, I felt like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The temple was scheduled to be closed on our wedding day, I locked my keys in my car, I forgot hairspray, it rained, I neglected to pack a dress to wear other than my wedding dress.
But honestly, looking back on it now, none of those things were actually "wrong". I expected everything to go perfect and just the way I had been planning it for the past 5 months. That didn't happen. It probably never will. But all those "wrongs" are what made our day special. We have a great, albeit, stressful story about how we almost didn't get married in Nashville because the temple was supposed to be closed. I have fond memories of my almost-brother-in-law saving the day by getting my keys out of my locked car. I still have that umbrella that Brad went and bought at Target, and every time I look at I remember the whole wonderfully crazy day.
I learned a lot about event planning that I will hopefully be able to use when my sisters get married or when I have to plan a big party. I learned a lot about life in general. But most importantly I learned to love the man I was soon to marry even more.
With the days leading up to the reception as we were hurrying around decorating, many things came up that weren't related to the wedding that I had to deal with. I won't go into detail about everything that happened, but it was some seriously bad timing. I remember being in the gym at our church balling my eyes out in front of Sara, her wonderful mother, and my dear dear friend Gay Baker - all 3 whom made the reception possible. Gay turned me around and had me look at Brad who was up on a ladder stringing Christmas lights. She said to me, "Look at the man. Look at what he's doing for you. You love him, and you're going to marry him. Right now and forevermore nothing else matters." Each day of the past 3 years of our wedded life together this simple yet profound statement has held true. The man I married would do anything for me, because he loves me. Let's be honest, he probably doesn't necessarily enjoy sweeping and mopping the floors, but he does it because he knows I really hate it. Each day I grow to love him more and more and for reasons I never thought I could love someone - like sweeping the floors or taking out the trash or playing with our pup.

I have wonderful memories of the day we were married. And I wouldn't trade the keys locked in the car, the forgotten hairspray, or the rain for anything. Those simple things made our day what it was. It most definitely wouldn't have been the same without them. How we reacted to those at the time what seemed like hurdles set the precedent for the rest of our life together. We'll love each other through thick and thin, through rain and shine, and we'll be grateful and happy for every moment we have together.

Love, Brad & Courtney