Sometimes guacamole should be trashed up.

I'm fully in favor of adding bacon, garlic, tomato, pine nuts, pineapple, and mango among other ingredients to make a festive guacamole.  But then there are the times when you return home from the grocery store with an avocado and a lime, and you think, yesss, Guac.

That's pretty much all this recipe is: lime and avocado and salt.  But somehow it's perfect.  Low stress, full flavor.  And if you have stress coming from other areas of life {read: obsessive house hunt, final weeks of masters program, trying to imagine all the things in your home in boxes, and how exactly will that happen?}, then three ingredients is all you need for anything.

Well, also chips.  Don't forget those.

Purist Guacamole
I'm almost ashamed that this is a recipe, but just in case it hadn't already crossed your mind...

1 ripe avocado
1 whole lime
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mash up the avocado and squeeze in the juice from the whole lime.  Stir well and add a pinch of salt.

Just in case you need some resolution: we found our new home, I'm one exam away from being a Master, and my mother promised to help me pack :) Deep breaths, everyone.  {Personally, I've also been wafting lavender like it's a controlled substance}

Just some things happening in my head lately...

1. We had an amazing weekend trip to Nashville that completely threw off my sleep cycle.  I've been sleepy for daaays.  And pretty much fighting my innate napping-urge in order to get corrected.

2.  Maybe you should know that I require a lot of sleep.  Not just the 8 hours that most people like, more like 9 {ok, 10}.  Seriously, I think if my body got to decide, I would sleep 10 hours a night.  Which only leaves 14 in which to accomplish... anything.  Yikes.

3.  I've made two meals now that I really wanted to share on the blog and totally forgot to photograph.  One of those, "mmm, this was yummy! {scraping plate clean} oh NO!"  So maybe I'll post without pics.  Or pictures of Moose or something.

4. We are moving in six weeks and have no place to live when we get there!  This is a source of low-grade {or high} stress for me pretty much all the time.  I find myself repeatedly looking at all the listings on my myriad of websites, seeing them all, and then just looking at the same ones over again.  As if they'll morph into the perfect place, and I'll just run over to Nashville and rent it.  Whew.

5. On a happier note, I am a mere two and a half weeks away from being completely and totally finished with grad school!  I can't believe it's gone by so quickly, but I'm quite ready to be free of homework, exams, and reading textbooks.  Only one board exam, one presentation, one class exam, and one capstone portfolio between me and freedom!

6.  In my last stretch before freedom, I've been fantasizing about summertime and sun.  Basically this...

{That's the one and only time I got air.  Impressed?}

Over the last few weeks, Nick and I made a big decision...  We're moving back to Nashville!

Since we both went to college there and got married there, it's a little like moving home for us.  {Not to mention the amazing amount of specialty taco restaurants there, whoa}  We spent the weekend looking for places to live {unsuccessful so far}, catching up with a million friends {wildly successful and FUN} and interviewing {ohmygoodness, so exciting and successful}.

As implied, we both now have exciting opportunities that we're pursuing.  Me with a fantastic new job, and Nick in business school!

And yes, the blog will go on.  Just probably with me talking a lot more about tacos.

Our air conditioner is broken.

And while with last week's unseasonably cool temperatures, this would not have been a problem, today was 80 degrees.  The fix-it man isn't coming until later, which means all the doors and windows are thrown open in hopes of getting a breeze and stirring around our lived-in air {pre-breathed.  it's like pre-owned, but more CO2)

And why do you care?  Well, because today is a foreshadowing of summer, with it's gorgeously high temperatures, working AC, and abundance of fresh produce.  All together, in summer I crave light, fresh, zesty salads.  I must admit, the sight of iceburg lettuce {or the "garden mix" in a  bag} covered in ranch dressing makes me shudder.  Salad is so much more than that!  It is homemade dressing, good cheese and nuts, and exciting, dark leaf lettuce.

Mmmm, much better.  And today's salad is one of my all-time favorites.  It's called sensation salad {I was not on the naming committee, but if I was, that name still probably would have passed}, and it's a South Louisiana tradition.  With all the heavy cream, crawfish, butter, shrimp, heavy cream, butter, and spice served in a Louisiana dish, you need a bit of fresh and light.  This salad totally delivers.  Lemon stars in the dressing and it's pleasingly tart.  A perfect compliment to a buttery or spicy dish {put this next to shrimp and grits.  yes please!}

Before I cooked {what up, high school}, I would drive to a restaurant in town and get this salad with chicken as take out.  Knowing how easy it is now, I'm a little mad at high school me, and I want my $12 {times a million salads} back.

Sensation Salad
Serves 4 as an entree

For the salad:
1 large head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn
2 pounds of chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into small strips
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Mix the dressing ingredients together and set aside.  {Note: taste and adjust lemon juice amount to your preferences.  I usually put a bit more, but I love the tartness}.  Season chicken with a few shakes of garlic powder, S&P, and any other spices you like.  Cook chicken strips in a cast iron pan, then remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Toss lettuce with parmesan, almonds, and most of the dressing.  Taste and add more dressing as needed.  Top with chicken and serve with crusty bread!

And if someone wanted to come over and fan me, that'd be ok.

Nothing says Southern cocktail hour quite like homemade cheese crackers.

Ok, I guess a mint julep throws its Southern-ness out there pretty hard.  But for most of my life, cocktail hour consisted of sweet tea and nibblets {yes, nibblets}.  And whenever those nibblets included homemade cheese straws, I was all over that.  As in, adults batting away my greedy little hands so I won't spoil my supper {or, more likely, their cocktail hour}.

According to my mother, a good Southern woman has frozen cheese straw dough in her freezer at all times, just in case.  {Side note: how many food processors full of cheese have I posted?  Probably 65 times more than any normal human cholesterol needs}

But I do love to be a good Southern woman {insert wink}.

I also love recipes that come together in 5 minutes thanks to my food processor.  Skipping steps in recipes is also a hobby of mine.  Yeah, I live life on the edge.  In this recipe, I skipped that whole rolling out the dough and slicing it into perfect long rectangles to make straws.  Rather, I rolled the dough into logs and sliced them.  Done and done.

You should have seen people trying to stop themselves from eating these crackers.  It was very me circa 1995.  So you've been justly warned: cheese crackers are addictive.  Once you pop, you just can't stop?  Sorry.

Throw them on a pretty platter, and feel your Southern Grandma's smile.  {Ok, my grandma is Swedish and loves some good pickled herring on crackers, but I bet these would still make her smile}

Southern Cheese Crackers
Makes about 40 small crackers, recipe from {gasp} The New York Times.  My theory is that all the Southern lady publications are too busy guarding their recipes to post them.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 pound sharp orange Cheddar
1 stick butter, room temperature

Shred the cheese in a food processor or by hand {please don't use the pre-shredded stuff for this}.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Add cheese and butter and process until it forms the consistency of play-doh. {NYT says you can also make this in a stand mixer by first creaming the cheese and butter, then adding in dry ingredients}.

Shape the dough into long worm creatures, about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 and pull out the dough.  Slice the worms into disks about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 13 minutes.

Keep in an airtight container.  These theoretically last 3 weeks, but its more like an hour at a party.

It's a classy lady's cheez-it.

It's official that I've been a very bad blogger.  Awful sickness + a few days with the mama and sister in Charleston meant that I had a mental and computer break!  But I'm back now!  And with lots of lovely Charleston recommendations.  Because let's face it, you go to Charleston to eat.  And eat we did.  {Special thank you shout outs to Caitlin and Missy for their amazing Charleston recommendations}

Lunch Spots

This place fulfilled my Parisian fantasies {momentarily}.  It's communal seating at tall bars with fabulous daily specials and it feels oh so very french.  For instance, I got the soup special {it rained a lot while we were there} with pate and blue cheese on bread with red wine {the best meal deals include wine.  at lunch.}  Also quite inexpensive!

Hominy Grill
Fried Green Tomato and Bacon Sandwich.  Do I even need to say more than that?  Ok, pimento cheese sandwich, best squash casserole ever, and fried cheese grits!  What?!  We went early {maybe 11:30} and after that it was packed!  But it's wonderful Southern food {and drinks out of Mason jars, which is very enchanting, obvi}

Sugar Bakeshop
Hold your buttercream frosting.  This place is decadent.  It's a tiny bakery that makes out of this world {and fairly appropriately sized} cupcakes as well as cookies and mini-tarts.  We might have had to get cupcakes in almost all the flavors.  Caramel with yellow cake was my fav.

Dinner disclaimer: we were very lax about our reservationing and thus couldn't get into the following places that we've heard on good authority are amazing: Husk, Magnolias, Peninsula Grill, and Hanks.  I'll be back for you, fancy dining.

Y'ALL.  This place is INCREDIBLE.  It's on John's Island {so outside of Charleston}, and is in a creaky old house.  It has fabulous cocktails in mason jars {about to start making those in my kitchen because of my immense enchantment} and is fantastic Southern, seafood, and just YUM.  Whatever you do, get the mussels!  I came thisclose to sticking my face in the bowl of sauce and drinking.  We sopped up so much sauce with bread that we {almost} weren't hungry for our entrees!  Mom even asked to take the leftover sauce home and the waiter talked us out of it.  Regretful.  Everything was delicious.

Ok, we all know I'm obsessed with tacos.  Deep and abiding love for them.  Taco Boy is on Folly Beach, which is where we stayed, and we would walk right to it.  The tacos were good, but the chips?  ohgosh, fantastic!  I don't know how they got chips so right: light and airy, perfect size and shape, and warm.  They go very nicely with the guac, queso, salsa trio.  

These are just a few of the multitudes of wonderful places to eat in and around Charleston, but were a couple of my favs on this trip.  What about you?  Have you been to Charleston and eaten something amazing?  Where should I go on my next culinary expedition?

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