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“That lasagna is it.” October 11, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Cooking, Health Nuts, The Marine, Yummy Food.
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That’s what my fiance said when I asked whether I should blog about my latest lasagna florentine or tonight’s meal (that one will come at a later date, I suppose). Apparently, I make a damn good lasagna.

I love to make it, actually, and I do so almost completely from scratch. The only thing I don’t make myself is the cheese because, well, I don’t own a dairy. But since my fiance and I are forcing ourselves back onto the health kick that we’ve gotten away from in recent weeks, I knew I had to tone down what was a healthy but indulgent meal even more. Plus, it was Meatless Monday, which meant it had to be filling at the same time.

I’d read several times before that you could replace half of the pasta in lasagna with eggplant slices and no one would even realize it. Turns out, you do notice the difference, but it’s too delicious to matter. The only thing I might do differently next time is bake the eggplant separately for a while. It got a bit watery in the lasagna and made the sauce a little too thin.

Marinara sauce:

  • 1/2 C diced onion
  • 3 cloves (or more) garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 can (14.9 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T sugar
  • splash red wine
  • 1/3 C chicken stock or broth
  • 3 T Italian seasoning (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until transparent. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato sauce and rest of ingredients, and bring to a very low boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Filling:

  • 6 sheets lasaga noodles, cooked
  • 1 small eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1 small container 2% or fat free cottage cheese
  • 1 small container low fat or fat free ricotta cheese
  • 1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 T Italian seasoning
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C to 1 C mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Mix together cottage and ricotta cheeses, spinach, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper. In a square baking dish, spread a thin layer of marinara sauce. Next, lay down three lasagna noodles. Top with 1/3 of the cheese mixture, then more marinara sauce to cover. Spread eggplant slices evenly in one layer over the sauce, then more cheese mixture and more marinara. Top with three more lasagna noodles, more cheese mixture and more marinara, then another layer of eggplant slices. Finally, finish off with the remaining marinara sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil. Bake for an hour to 1.5 hours covered, then remove foil. Bake uncovered until mozzarella is browned. Remove from oven, let sit 15 minutes and serve.

Apparently, I am to make this instead of a frittata on Meatless Monday for the foreseeable future, if my fiance has anything to say about it!

Meatless Monday August 29, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Health Nuts, Workout junkie, Yummy Food.
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So there’s a new initiative going around called Meatless Monday. It’s pretty popular in the health food and fitness industry, and since y’all know I’m a workout nut, you know I’m all over this. I’ve even got the bf involved, sort of. He eats a meatless dinner when I do. He even requested it tonight! So since we worked out pretty hard this afternoon, he wanted protein packed eggs. So I made a frittata! Here’s the recipe, but the good thing is it’s one of those meals where you can throw in whatever you have on hand–even meat! This serves four for dinner or probably eight for breakfast, and we added two red potatoes as a side.

2 tbsp. Olive oil
3 eggs
2-3 egg whites (or a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1 cup bell pepper, diced (I used half green, half red)
1/2 cup white onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can Rotel tomatoes and chilies
2 cups chopped white mushrooms
2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and drained
Seasoned salt
Black pepper
Ground red pepper
Garlic powder
Hot sauce (Cholula or Louisiana brand)
1/4-1/2 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese, separated

Heat olive oil in a nonstick, oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and bell pepper until soft, 2-3 minutes, and add garlic, cooking another minute. Drain Rotel and add tomatoes and chilies to pan, cooking until most of the water evaporates from the pan.
Meanwhile, mix the eggs, egg whites or substitute, hot sauce and spices together in a bowl, whisking to combine into one smooth mixture.
Add mushrooms to sauté pan and cook 3-5 minutes or until soft, and add spinach, heating through. Pour egg mixture into pan, moving around with a wooden spoon so that vegetable mix is inside the eggs instead of separated. Add 1/4 cup of cheese and stir around until egg begins to set around the edges but center is still soft and somewhat liquid. Top with remaining cheese, if desired, and place pan in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, until edges begin to brown and center is set and cooked through. Remove from oven, let cool 3-5 minutes and cut into wedges. Serve with hot sauce and salsa, if desired.

Like I said, you can put whatever you want in this…bacon, sausage, pepperoni, any kind of cheese or veggie. Have fun with it!

Taco Tuesday! August 23, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Cooking, Health Nuts, Yummy Food.
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I have a TON of chicken in the freezer, and still haven’t gotten paid, which means thinking up lots of new and creative ways to cook it. So I decided to try out a new way to make tacos. Charles and I are obsessed with these shredded chicken tacos on soft corn tortillas at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Spanish Flower, so I wanted to recreate them. Let me tell you, it was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, much less cooked. So good, we’re eating the rest again tomorrow. I used a crockpot on low setting and cooked the chicken overnight. Here’s the recipe.

SHREDDED CHICKEN TACOS
For chicken:
4 chicken thighs, skinless, bone in
Seasoned salt
Black pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper
1 tsp chili powder
2 cups Pace picante sauce
1-2 cups chicken stock (I used beef stock because it was what I had)
1 cup water
Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper and spices and let sit a bit. In a crockpot, combine the rest of the liquid ingredients and add the chicken. Cook overnight on low, 7-8 hours. Remove and let cool, then shred, removing bones.
I refrigerated the chicken and the cooking liquid separately while at work, the combined them in a large sauté pan until simmering and hot when we were ready to eat. (You may want to skim the fat off the liquid before reheating.) we served them with both hard corn taco shells and whole wheat flour tortillas, with salsa, onions, tomato, lettuce and cheese.

THEY WERE AMAZING!!!

Starting my life July 20, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Dixie, Friends and Family, I'm such a girl, Puppy Love, The Marine, Work Sucks.
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Y’all have to forgive me for my recent absence. It’s been what some might call a hectic month.

I’M MOVING!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can you tell I’m excited? Just a little! The boyfriend got out of the Marine Corps on July 1 and we thought he’d be moving to north Louisiana to live with me and work at a bank as a personal banker. But as much as I hate my job at the newspaper, we were both worried about me staying here and being miserable. Then all of a sudden my dad called and asked me to send him the boy’s resume because one of his customers was looking to hire an operational accountant for their fleet truck department. I sent the resume about half an hour later, and within the next hour the guy called my dad back and asked when boyfriend could come to Houston to interview. He went the next week, did the interview, went back seven days later for the drug test and started training the next day (last Wednesday).

Meanwhile, one of my mom’s customers told her they had been searching for sales people for their steel grating company and had been looking since January. I sent him my resume even though I’m beyond unqualified for the position, went to Houston for the interview a few short days later and got a call that afternoon that, pending a background check, they would be calling me the next Friday (this week) with an official offer.

Y’all, it’s happening. Finally. I’m getting out of this God-forsaken business, this hole-in-the-wall town and the misery that is a long distance relationship. CP and I will FINALLY live in the same town — the same apartment — and get to see each other every morning and every night. Going for morning runs, cooking dinner every night, watching TV and just generally enjoying each other without the rush of travel and trying to cram in so many things all in one weekend. I seriously CANNOT wait!!

We got a gorgeous apartment inside the loop in Houston, close to work for him (nothing will be close to work for me), 20 minutes from my parents and near m growing-up stomping grounds. All my favorite restaurants, a running trail, near the cool part of town — I’m psyched.

And here’s how amazing my boyfriend is: he packed up his entire New Orleans apartment, drove the moving truck here, loaded it down with my stuff too, drove it to Houston, unloaded everything in our new apartment and then flew back to New Orleans to grab his truck and head to Natchez to see his family and friends. All in under three days! He’s so amazing, he even unloaded the entire truck all by himself. I’m so proud of him for everything he’s done in the last month, my heart is bursting with joy for our future, which can FINALLY start. I’ll be keeping this much more updated with the regular hours, and I’ll let y’all know how things are going! Wish us luck!

Call me the Salad Queen July 1, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Cooking, Health Nuts, Out to eat, Yummy Food.
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Ok, y’all, I love salads. Like, a whole lot. But I’m typically very habitual in my salad selection. I almost always go for an Italian or Greek style salad, unless I’m feeling like having a fat day, in which case I go for the ranch dressing. And trust me, I can go for some ranch dressing.

But as part of my eating lighter experience, I’m trying to expand my vegetational horizons as well. Luckily for me, my mom bought me a gigantic bag of organic spinach from Costco last weekend. When I say gigantic, I’m talking 2.5 pounds of Popeye’s goodness.

I shared with y’all the chickpea and kale salad I found online, and I totally plan on trying that with spinach. And the other day I had a quick Mexican spinach salad with grilled chicken, fat free cheddar cheese, onions, diced pickled jalapenos and green and red salsa. It was ok, but nothing to really write home about.

But tonight I tried something different in an attempt to use up all that spinach before it went bad. I’m not normally a fruit person in salads. Fruit isn’t typically a main meal experience for me. I like fruit for breakfast and I quite often enjoy a midday apple. And dessert? Don’t get me started! But after trying the cranberries in the kale salad and the apples in the saute with kale and bacon, I thought I’d try something new.

So basically, it’s just 2-3 cups of spinach; 3 oz. of grilled chicken; 1 oz. of reduced fat feta cheese; 15 pistachios, chopped; 2 tbsp. chopped onion; and 3-4 strawberries, diced. I also made a homemade balsamic vinaigarette: 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar; 1/3-1/2 c. EVOO; 2 tbsp. spicy brown mustard (or Dijon, but this was all I had); 1 tsp. minced garlic; salt & pepper. I put it all in a little jar and shake it up.

Y’all, this was a damn good salad. I’m just sayin. It was super light but very filling. Had I not gone without eating all day I probably wouldn’t have been able to eat it all. But…well, I did. :)

Trying to eat healthier June 22, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Cooking, Health Nuts, I'm such a girl, Out to eat, Workout junkie, Yummy Food.
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Ok so I’m a little bit workout and health food obsessed, even if I love my pizza and ranch dressing and margaritas. But seriously, I work out too damn hard to eat like crap, so I’m really making an effort to eat as healthy as possible and see if I can’t get rid of the last 5-10 lbs. I want to lose. Toward that effort, I tried out two new recipes this week that I wanted to share.

The first is from Sweat and the City, a blog I stumbled upon this month (www.sweatandthecity.com). The girl that writes it does a detox plan and more, and I’m seriously thinking about dropping the bucks to join. Anyway, the dish is called Bye-Bye Cravings Chick Pea Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing.

The salad: 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed; 2 c. kale, chopped; 1 crunch apple (I used a Gala), cored & chopped; 2 tbsp. chopped walnuts (I was out so I used 20 pistachios, chopped); 2 tbsp. dried cranberries, preservative free if possible; 2 tbsp. onion, chopped); 1/2 c. celery (which I omitted because I hate celery).

The dressing: 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil; 2-3 tbsp. tahini; 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar; 1 tbsp. raw honey or agave; 1 tsp. garlic, minced; salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl. In a blender (or just throw into a container that you can close and shake really, really hard), combine all dressing ingredients, and then pour over top of the salad. Serve.

I added a little extra honey (and Splenda, although supposedly I should be using Stevia), and I sprinkled some Tony’s for a little kick, but this was really, really good. Also, it filled me up so much I could only eat half. Trust me, it’s filling.

Braised Kale with Bacon and Apples

(I got this one from Cooking Light because I wanted to use the rest of the kale before I went out of town this weekend.)

2-3 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon); 1 lb. kale, chopped; 1 1/4 c. thinly sliced onion; 1 tsp. minced garlic (I added this to the recipe); 1/3 c. apple cider; 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar; 1 1/2 c. (10 oz.) Granny Smith apple, diced (I used Gala because that’s what I had); salt & pepper to taste

Cook off the bacon and then remove it from the pan (either chop beforehand or crumble afterward), reserving the drippings. Add onion (and garlic if using) to the drippings and cook 5 minutes until tender. Add kale and toss to coat. Cook approximately 5 minutes or until wilted, stirring often. Add cider and vinegar to pan and stir, scraping all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Add apples, salt and pepper and stir, then cook another 5 minutes or until apple is soft and tender. Serve topped with bacon.

This is supposed to serve 6, but I ate it as a main dish (I also did have quite as much kale as the recipe called for) so I ate about half the dish. I used turkey bacon, which meant I needed to add a little bit of olive oil and margarine to let the onions and garlic saute correctly. Also, the Gala apple worked just fine, so use what you’ve got. Seriously, though, this was one of the most delicious side dishes I’ve had in a VERY long time, and I will definitely be making it again.

I hope y’all enjoy these. I’ll try and post all the ones I use. I’m becoming obsessed.

Where were you? May 2, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Being emo, Friends and Family, The Marine.
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Everyone over the age of 50 can tell you where they were when JFK was shot or when they heard John Lennon was killed, where they were when Elvis’ death was announced. Everyone over the age of 20 can recall hearing the news of Princess Diana’s death in France due to a paparazzi chase-induced car crash. And anyone that same age and older can recall, probably to the exact second, where they were, what they were doing, when two commercial jets crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, destroying and changing thousands of lives for the next decade.

And now people will be able to recall the exact moment they found out that the man who started it all, who caused such grief and heartache for an entire country, had been captured and killed.

I was at Superior Bar & Grill in uptown New Orleans.

For anyone that knows my boyfriend and me, that’s not a far stretch of the imagination. It was, after all, a Sunday, his day off, and we visit our friends at our favorite restaurant at least once every time I’m in town. However, we knew something big was happening even before we stepped foot in the door, as my Marine Corps boyfriend’s phone kept ringing. Checking Twitter and Facebook, I began to get the rumors, the inklings that maybe, just maybe, this terrible war could be ending soon.

Upon entering the bar, we immediately had a TV changed from sports to one of the news stations, where eventually our hopes and all the hearsay was confirmed. Osama bin Ladin was dead, we heard first, then he was killed by U.S. military personnel, then that no Americans were harmed in the capture. We learned even later that Osama was being harbored by a supposed ally, that U.S. Navy Seals were involved in the mission to capture and kill him and that his body was already in U.S. custody, that the killing hadn’t happened that day but earlier in the week. (During the royal wedding? Awesome.)

It took a minute to understand, for the implications of this to settle into my brain, and I don’t think I realized what it all meant until I saw tears streaming down my boyfriend’s cheeks. He, like so many Americans, has lost several people to this war. He’s lost his own sanity a time or two, and he has buddies that are lucky to have any limbs still attached to their bodies. So many men and women (and their families) have sacrificed their time, their freedom, their jobs, their famiies, their sanity and, at worst, their lives since the 9/11 attacks, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but all over God’s green earth. He was remembering all his lost friends, and I began to think about the loss of innocence in this country.

It’s true that Americans love a diversion. The royal wedding, reality television, game shows, iPads…anything to keep us from thinking about serious issues. But can you blame us? Ten years of nonstop war, relentless fighting and killing, searching for something — someone — it seemed we would never find. It’s the longest, costliest war in U.S. history, and we’ve been bombarded with it for so long that we all can’t help but become a little immune to it, especially as we’re concerned with filling our SUVs with $4 a gallon gas.

But this is it. This is the big moment that we all hoped for those many early years. And now come the implications. First, we have to teach the younger ones what this means. Think about it. There is already an entire generation of kids who think Bieber instead of Timberlake when the name Justin is mentioned, who have never seen or used a walkman or discman, for whom the letter ‘i’ is automatically supposed to go in front of Pod or Pad or Phone, and who don’t know the gut-wrenching terror of that day in September. They don’t know why we’re in war, only that we’re in one and have been since they were toddlers. They hear Osama and think the president’s name was mispronounced, and they have no idea what tonight’s announcement means to so many people.

It’s our job to teach them. After all, you didn’t know anything about the Holocaust until you read The Diary of Anne Frank, did you? How can we expect them to know, to understand, to remember years from now, if we don’t explain it all to them?

I’ve seen and heard some tonight saying that we shouldn’t be celebrating, that we’re glorifying death and revenge. You know what I say to that?

Hell yes we are.

Personally, I hope the bastard knew he was about to die. I hope he felt a gun against his temple, that he feared for his life and wondered exactly when his last breath would be taken. I hope to God no one snuck up behind him and took him out. I want him to have suffered, to have trembled and wept to know he was about to die and to wonder about whether there would be 72 virgins waiting for him on the other side. It’s not about glorifying death or celebrating the taking of someone’s life. (Please, what video game doesn’t do that these days anyway?) No, it was about the thousands of families of those who died in 9/11 and in the wars that ensued finally getting closure for their losses. It was about being able to sit in that chair in the execution chamber’s viewing room, watching the needle slowly pump heart-stopping poison into the veins of a murderer who took away part of their families. It was about a man who was inherent evil, bad to the core, who bastardized a religion and turned it into something hated around the world, finally coming to justice. And it was about bringing America back together, even if it was only for an hour or two, only via Facebook and Twitter and on college campuses.

I watched my boyfriend’s buy shots for all his friends (for which they wouldn’t let him pay) as tears streamed down his face, as a smile a mile wide crept across his lips to understand that his trip and the tours of all his friends were not, in fact, in vain, that maybe they actually did mean something in the end.

And as proud as I was of him, his friends, my friends — everyone who has ever served in any military branch in any time — I got scared. Complacency is a terrifying thing.

Remembering to be blessed February 23, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Dixie, Friends and Family, I'm such a girl, The Marine.
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You know how parents always seem to know what you’re up to, even when you think they’re oblivious? It’s annoying as a kid, but then as an adult it’s kind of nice having them check up on you.

And you know how they’re always looking out for your best interests? They’re a lways nagging you to make sure you take those extra safety precautions as you roll your eyes and say you’ll be fine.

Well, I sure am glad my dad was being paranoid this weekend. My parents came to New Orleans to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and my dad walked in the door with this bright red bag. It was an emergency kit for my car since I’m on the road all the time driving from Monroe to either New Orleans, Natchez, Baton Rouge or Houston.

I kind of rolled my eyes and did the whole, “Um, ok…” thing, but I thought it was a nice gesture. He’s worried about me driving by myself all the time, even though I have a nice car and all that, and he wanted me to be safe.

Good call.

Driving back to the north part of the state late Tuesday night after dinner with some friends, I was at least 25 miles from the nearest thing close to civilization when my car dinged at me to check the tire pressure. Turns out I had just 25 psi in my front passenger tire, and the pressure was dropping fast.

Of course, there’s absolutely nowhere to pull over, no street lights, no nothing. And of course, as I start paying extra close attention to how my car feels on the road, I start to imagine it’s riding a little rougher — whether that was in my head or not I still don’t know.

I forced my car to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line, the only gas station before the next town. Luckily it was open 24 hours, and even more luckily, I had an emergency air compressor.

Now, I didn’t remember this at all. I was in a frenzy because (of course) I was in a dead cell phone reception zone and could barely get through to the boyfriend to tell him what was happening. All he could hear was garbled panic as my phone broke up, but the text messages were luckily going through, his only way to tell me what to do.

The level-headed Marine reminded me of my new gift and told me how to plug the compressor into the cigarette lighter and air up my tire (which took forever), and before I could even ask he had called his mother in Natchez and told her to unlock the door so I could crash there for the night. (Have I mentioned how much I love his family?) I eased the rest of the way north for my early pit stop with one eye constantly on my dashboard gauges, where his mom graciously opened the door for me, gave me a hug and told me to get some sleep.

And this morning when I took the car to have the tire looked at, sure enough, a little pice of metal about the same thckness as a nail had found it’s way into the rubber, giving me a slow leak that could have caused a blowout.

The damage done? Just $8, as the small-town tire store told me I didn’t need a new tire and patched the flat.

And the lesson learned? I’m one lucky girl. I have a dad who cares enough about my safety to make sure I’m well prepared on the road. I have a boyfriend who can calm me down and help me out in a tough or scary situation. I have a soon-to-be mother-in-law who will wake up in the middle of the night to let me into her home, and I have a God who was lookiing out for me that night, warning me of the impending danger.

I just have to remember sometimes to be blessed.

Death notices February 11, 2011

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Being emo, Dixie, I'm such a girl.
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I’m back! I’ve realized how much I miss writing for myself instead of for readers and editors who not only could care less but make it known. So I’m going to give this a good ol’ college try once more. Because back in college, I really liked writing!

A friend and colleague of mine wrote a blog about a death notice she saw in the newspaper for which she works. Pretty much everyone in the newspaper industry has typed in, composed or laid out obituaries at one point or another in their career. Even me, with only three years professional experience. But what struck her was the way it was written — not in the typical formula of “John Smith, 85, died Sunday in his home…” Instead, here’s what she saw:

A hush fell over the marsh on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011, as Donald put away his pirogue and fishing poles and went home to be with his parents, Donald Sr. and Cecilia. 

 That’s amazing to me. It shows how much Donald’s family really cared about him, that they took the time to compose a thoughtful obituary that actually spoke to the type of man their lost loved one was. And these things aren’t cheap, so they shelled out the big bucks to tell his story. I can only hope my as-yet nonexistant family cares enough to do the same for me one day.

It also made me, like my friend, wonder exactly what I would want to see in my own obituary. I would like it to be something like this:

Krysten Rene Oliphant Powers, 99, left this world as lazily as she entered, taking time to say goodbye to her large family and group of friends. She has left this earthly life in New Orleans to join that number in the sky, where she can shop all day, play with her basset hounds at night and listen to jazz and big band music as the Saints go marching in.

She was a wife, mother, daughter, cousin and friend who liked dining out but loved feeding others, enjoyed a few too many margaritas for the healthy lifestyle she led, shopped a bit too much for the money in her wallet and yelled a little too much at the television during football games.

She loved music, animals, brunch, barbecue, Mexican food, crawfish, strawberries, New Orleans, Texas, shoes, jeans, walks, sleeping in, staying up late, writing, cooking, entertaining and making others happy. She loved visiting new places, returning to old favorites, LSU anything and Louisiana everything and she will be missed by her husband and family.

You get the point. I don’t think it’s morbid. After all, we’re all going to get there eventually. The question isn’t when you will die or how. It should be how you want people to remember you when you go. And as a die-hard people pleaser to the end, I can only hope that everyone remembers me fondly — and spends that extra five bucks on writing just a few more words.

Louisiana is Awesome August 5, 2010

Posted by homerunsandhighheels in Baseball, College, Dixie, Football, Geaux Team, Yummy Food.
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Louisiana is awesome. Plain and simple.

I’m a Texas girl by birth, and while I have an immense amount of pride for my home state (what Texan doesn’t?) I’ve adopted Louisiana after living here for six years. Call me a traitor, call me fickle, call me a fair-weather resident — I don’t care. I love this state.

I graduated from LSU in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from one of the best journalism schools in the nation. The Manship School has graduates in New York, Washington D.C., Delaware, Florida, Tennessee, Texas…you name it, we’re there. That’s not even to talk about the Tigers. Come on, y’all know you love ’em. LSU football really is the greatest sport (three national championships, hello!) , and Death Valley the best place to play — that is, unless you’re the visiting team. It’s been ranked one of the toughest arenas to play in as a visitor year after year, and the noise and energy are legendary. There was even a game in the 1990s between LSU and Auburn in which the noise level recorded on a nearby seismograph. There was an EARTHQUAKE in Tiger Stadium! Plus there’s the baseball…six national championships in all — five in the 1990s under Skip Bertman, and another College World Series win in 2009.

Plus there’s the tailgating. It’s serious in Baton Rouge. People pull their RVs onto campus on Thursday afternoon before a Saturday night game, and the cost for an RV spot is outrageous — and totally worth it. Pickup trucks start coming onto campus on Friday afternoon, parking across two spaces and leaving the vehicle there overnight. (The second space is reserved for the other vehicle that brings the revelers back to their tailgating spot the next morning). There are full-sized gas and charcoal grills firing up as soon as the sun rises, and the boiled shrimp, crawfish etouffee, sausage and jambalaya are the best you’ve ever had. And don’t worry, we’re glad to share our food and our beer (unless you’re an Alabama fan). Ignore the “Tiger bait” chants — we’re just having fun. And when you lose (because you will), we’ll hand you another beer on your way out the door.

But enough about the greatest university in the nation. Louisiana has drive-through daiquiri shops. I repeat, you can drive up to a building, roll down your window, order a frozen alcoholic beverage (with an extra shot, if you’d like) pay and drive away, without ever getting out of your vehicle. I’ll pause for you to wrap your heads around that. Now, technically you cannot drink them in the car — once you poke the straw through the lid it’s an “open container violation,” but come on. You know that doesn’t matter.

The food is, well, legendary. There are Louisiana-style restaurants and menu items everywhere in the country, and Cajun-inspired food is on just about every chain restaurant you can find. Chili’s, Applebee’s…they all have Cajun-ish dishes. But don’t be fooled, there’s a difference between Cajun and Creole food. Ask anyone in Louisiana and they’ll tell you, the two are NOT the same. But don’t worry, we understand that outsiders get confused, and we’ll generally bring you a sampling of both so that you can recognize the difference.

On the subject of food, Louisiana crawfish is about the best thing in the world. And nothing quite compares to a spring crawfish boil. We live for them here. We count down the days, we invest hundreds of dollars in large pots and propane burners and giant stirrers, and we labor over our own crawfish seasonings for years until we get them right. It’s a party, like everything in Louisiana; so much so that LSU students are now trying to figure out how to raise crawfish that will be ready to eat in the fall as well. Can you imagine tailgating season with crawfish?!

There’s the Saints, and their fans. Honestly, if the Saints never saw the inside of another Super Bowl again, everyone in Louisiana (and Mississippi and the surrounding areas) would still die happy. You don’t understand the heartache, the misery, the passion — the paper bags over their heads — that Saints fans have endured for the past 40-plus years. I saw grown men cry in each others’ arms when the Saints defeated the Colts, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

I won’t even get into Mardi Gras, because everyone knows about that. It’s a blast, it’s something you have to see at least once in your life. But the festivals every other weekend of the year are what you need to talk about. Jazz Fest, Voodoo Fest, the Satchmo Summer Fest, the Strawberry Festival, the French Food Fair…the list is too extensive.

Look, everyone knows we’ve had our share of problems down here. Thanks to the infamous hurricanes Katrina and Rita and now the Gulf Coast oil spill, there have been quite a few hard times in Louisian recently. But if you know people here, if you really understand how they work, you’ll see that we never let anything bother us for too long. We’ll rebuild (the idea that New Orleans would shut down for good was ludicrous), we’ll replant, we’ll still shrimp and fish and catch gators. And we’ll still party.

After all, there’s a pretty good festival going on next weekend.

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