It has been a whirlwind week over here.  Hooding, graduation, and we moved to Nashville!  I'm typing from our new living room, looking at our fireplace (!!) and hearing Moose run and slide on the hardwood floors.  There will definitely be more pictures of the house once everything is in place, hung up, and arranged.  But for now, I wanted to share some pictures from my hooding and graduation from Wake Forest University, if you'd like to see...

Getting my hood on...

Thank you, stranger, for this hood and handshake.

Nick found me through the crowd!  {School counseling bestie, Tal, featured just behind me}

With the hubs.  Thank you for carpooling me to school for two years!

Both my and Nick's families came to the hooding- thank you!  It was such a blessing to have so many people supporting and celebrating with me.

Mom just showing me how the hood works.

Picked up a diploma as well.

Most of my classmates, with our mother-overlord-professor standing above.

I can't believe how quickly the two years went by!

A few months ago, I started a list for people looking to overhaul their kitchens or those lovely newly engaged couples.  Here is part one {pots and pans} and part two {tools and essentials}.  Today is part three: knives!

Step one in the process of picking out knives: suppress your desire for one of those huge, expensive knife blocks that come with pre-picked out knives.  I will show you the knives you actually need and will use, and then if you want a huge block, you can get that separately.  But y'all.  Those things are hundreds of dollars.  Buy them individually, and you can just send me that extra money!

Step two: include the fiance {or male figure in kitchen overhauling}.  This is one area that men {who don't normally care about kitchen things} get excited about.  Because knives are like weapons!  {Please don't hurt anyone with your knives.  Don't let him either, mmk?}

Step three: look for two brands in specific, Wusthof {the expensive version} and Victoronix {the cheaper version}.  By the way, I'm not just making this up, Consumer Reports agrees with me about the brand business.  Actually about the big block business, too.

There they are!  Just four types of knives- disappointed?  Don't be!  You can get several of each kind.  But let's walk through them.

Tomato Knife
Not just for tomatoes, kids.  Although this knife, as its name suggests, is perfect for slicing tomatoes, which need a serrated {wavy} edge.  You can also use this knife to slice smaller cuts of meat.  It won't be your most used, but it's very helpful.  I would suggest having one of these.

Bread Knife
Yes, great for slicing bread, but because of its length and serrated edge, also great for carving meat!  Turkey, chicken, steak- you name it, this knife can handle it.  I would just have one of these, too, unless you carve a lot of meat.

Paring Knife
This knife is great for smaller jobs, peeling things, and getting into little spaces to carve out.  I have two of these, which is always nice if you have someone else helping you in the kitchen.

Chef's Knife
This knife is your workhorse.  I reach for this knife 80% of the time because it is a fantastic all-purpose knife.  I would have at least two of these, if not three.  Sometimes I use it to cut raw meat and then need to slice some herbs and don't have time to wash between- that's when the second one comes in.  They come in sizes between 6in and 8in, and I would say to pick one up and see how it feels.  If you're a crazy chopper, look at the japanese brands, but they are far more expensive.  For my everyday use Wusthof and Victorinix work just fine!

There you have it!  Remember always to keep your knives sharp.  I don't have a knife sharpener preference, but it's good to have a sharpener.  As for kitchen scissors, I just have a regular pair of scissors, because most of the time I'm cutting open packaging.  However, if you use scissors to cut through chicken, it's nice to have a designated pair.

What knives are essential in your kitchen?

I don't know about your town, but in my town it just got HOT.  And I love it.

Hot means warm summertime tomatoes from the farmers market, plunges into a crystal lake, sun-pinked cheeks, and daylight until bedtime.  Because on a good summer day, you're worn out by 9:30.  

And hot necessitates eating cool, crisp salads.  Salads that make you feel good about yourself for eating them and give you a satisfying crunch and fullness.

In other words, put this on your list of dinners to make.  Tonight.  

Now, I know the ingredient list is long, and normally I see more than six ingredients and think, no thank you, too high maintenance!  But this is a list where I had almost everything.  Peanut butter {check}, soy sauce {check}, garlic {double check- freak out if I don't have at least a head of garlic at all times}, vinegar, sugar, water, peanuts {check, check, duh, check}.  See? We can do this.

And if on this first day of hotness, you already cannot imagine turning on your oven or cranking up the stove- this is for you.  Ok, you do have to poach the chicken, but boiling water and dropping chicken in is about as low maintenance as cooking gets.  You can go sip iced tea under a fan somewhere for the twenty minutes it takes to cook.  {Even that last sentence makes me excited: cool tea!  on a hot day!  sunshine everywhere!  the pool!  yes, everything comes back to my obsession with sun+water in summertime.  I've already even achieved my inaugural, accidental sunburn.}

Summertime Thai Chopped Chicken Salad
Serves 4, from Pinch of Yum

2 chicken breasts {about 1 pound}
2 cups chopped cabbage {stuff in the bag is fine}
2 large carrots
1 cucumber
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup green onions
1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, head cut off and semi de-seeded
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup water

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add chicken breasts.  Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.  When chicken is cooked through, pull out and let cool.  Shred with two forks.

Shred carrots and cucumber {I did this with my food processor since its super fast, and then made the sauce in the food processor since it was already out.  But you can hand do both steps as well}.  Dump cabbage, shredded carrots and cucumber, chopped cilantro, chopped onions, and chicken into a large bowl.

Either combine all the sauce ingredients in the food processor or mince garlic and jalapeno and mix with the other ingredients.

Pour sauce over veggie/chicken mixture, top with chopped peanuts and serve!

Pool tomorrow, anyone?

Where has my brain been lately?  On Nashville.  Not the TV show {well, mostly not the TV show}, but moving there!  And on our fabulous new rental house and everything I'm going to be doing in it!!  Because I'm so distracted by it, I thought you might want to see a few pictures of it?  Here they are, if you'd like to see...

Our very own porch swing to welcome you!

The living room {above and below pics} with lots of windows and a fireplace!

Dining room {below}, which is an upgrade since we have a living dining combo currently...

Below are some kitchen pictures.  The windows and light just lift up my soul!  And the vintage stove is pretty cute {I'm assured that it actually works}

Washer and dryer peeking out!

Bedroom one...

Bathroom one {and only!}

And bedroom two!  We can't wait to have guests come stay with us.

A certain furry member of the family is super excited about having his own backyard!  And I am loving this patio...

So there's where my mind has been!  And anyone in Nashville have an extra door laying around that I could take?  Or know where to get one?

Watch out, vegetarians.  Today is not for you.

But meat-lovers out there, belly up to the bar.  The recipe/photos of red meat bar, that is.  Because every once in a while {though not as often as Nick would probably like}, I dive into the world of red meat.  And because I try to be budget-conscious, I usually go for the odd cuts of red meat that require interesting cooking procedures, but end up delectable.

Oh hey, naked meat.  Sirloin tip roast, to be specific.  A cut that I had never heard of or cooked before, but found out is the same as a round tip roast or tip roast.  Basically a tender cut that is fairly near the sirloin cut.  TMI?  The interwebs are a wonderful place to find out way more than you need to about meat. {Insert me studying drawings of a cow separated into meat cuts}

But if you top this beef with 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, 3 cloves of minced garlic, and 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce, it's just wonderful.  And looks quite impressive.  It bakes at 350 for a hour, filling your whole house with fabulous homey meaty smells.  I think this would be a great recipe to make for guests coming over, since it's low-maintenance and high smell reward.

With this type of meat, it's best sliced very thin.  Also save what's left to slice paper-thin for sandwiches.  Nick has become a sandwich master, and he recommends this meat with slices of red onion, dijon mustard, and cheese.

Also fantastic with roasted red meat: roasted sweet potatoes.

Roasted Sirloin Tip
Serves 6-8

A 3 pound cut of sirloin tip roast
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper for sprinkling

Allow meat to come to room temperature before cooking {this might require an hour or more of sitting out}.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Rub thyme, rosemary, and garlic over the meat, then pour worcestershire over top and allow to pool on the pan.  Cook for 1 hour for medium rare doneness.  Allow to sit 10 minutes before slicing very thinly.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2 

2 large sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon rosemary, optional

Slice potatoes into chunks, about 1 inch in diameter.  Toss in canola oil, salt, and optional rosemary.  Roast in a 400 degree oven, tossing once or twice while cooking, for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and browned.

*Helpful note: if you're making these two together, put the potatoes in with the meat in the 350 degree oven when the meat has been cooking for 30 minutes.  When you take the meat out, crank the oven up to 425 for the last 10-15 minutes for the potatoes.

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