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One of the biggest reasons we launched Southern Newlywed is because we know so many of our readers come to us before they’re even engaged, follow along as they plan their weddings, and then stick around long after their big days…and we LOVE that! Laura is one of those gals, and she is as sweet and Southern as they come–something you can see clearly in her and Geoff’s beautiful North Carolina wedding that we featured over a year ago! We were delighted when Laura shared some of her newlywed kitchen tips with us, as well as her ten favorite recipes, including a special one from her momma that we can’t wait to try!

By day: I am an administrative assistant for state-wide educational grant and Geoff is a high school history and civics teacher.

How they met: We met in the Single Adult Sunday School class at our church. I was new to the area and was hoping to make some new friends. Happily, Geoff became one of those friends, and over time, my best friend!

Their wedding: We got married on a gorgeous fall day in North Carolina. We had a church ceremony and a tented outdoor reception, and we were surrounded by family and friends who came to celebrate with us. Our day included kettle corn, Cheerwine, and cornhole, it doesn’t get much better than that! Almost two years later, we still remember it as the happiest day of our lives, and I often say to Geoff that I wish we could get married again since we had such a good time on our wedding day. (P.S. See their darling wedding here!)

Meal planning: I do all of the meal planning. I only began consistently meal planning at the beginning of this year, and since doing so, it has made such an impact on our daily lives. We have saved money by not going out to eat as often and I no longer get stressed at 5:00 wondering what I should make. On Sunday afternoons, I sit down and plan out the upcoming week’s meals (I love using my Emily Ley Simplified Planner to do this). I usually choose simple recipes or crockpot meals for weeknights and time-intensive or new recipes for weekends. Do not underestimate the power of meal planning!

The cooking: I do most of the cooking. I have both Italian and Southern roots, so feeding people is one of my love languages :) I really do enjoy cooking and baking, so I don’t mind taking on this responsibility. However, if I am having a busy week at work, Geoff is definitely willing to step in and make dinner for us. I must admit, he makes an excellent spaghetti sauce–it’s even better than my Momma’s (but don’t tell her I said that!).

Favorite meal-related memory: I think some of our favorite meal-related memories have come from introducing each other to our respective family’s food traditions. Geoff’s family always celebrates birthdays with a lunch of “steak and cake,” so after we were married, they had a steak and cake lunch for my birthday, which really made me feel like I had become a part of their family. My family always has Chinese food on Christmas Eve (it’s a long story), and I love having Geoff be a part of that tradition now. We’ve also ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​started creating some of our own food traditions and we’re looking forward to the memories we will make surrounding those traditions in the years to come.

Top ten favorite recipes:
1. Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies: This recipe lives up to its name–it is definitely the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have found. The secret is to cream the butter and sugar together for at least five minutes. This recipe makes a large batch, so I usually only bake half of the dough at a time, and I freeze the other half for later use.

2. Farfalle with Chicken, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese: This is an excellent meal to make when you are having friends over and you want to make something a little fancy. It’s a relatively simple recipe, but it looks and tastes like you spent hours on it. Serve it with some crusty bread and a good wine and you are all set.

3. Summer Orzo Pasta Salad: I love this pasta salad–it is light and refreshing, and makes the perfect side to take to summer cookouts or picnics. I’ve already made it three times in the past two months!

4. and 5. Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia and Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs: I am always on the hunt for quick and easy weeknight meals. Both of these recipes taste great and are ready in under 30 minutes. They are also my husband’s favorite weeknight meals.

6. Pioneer Woman Black-Eyed Pea Dip: Is there anything better than “game day” food? I don’t think so. This black-eyed pea dip is easy to make and so yummy, it’s always a crowd pleaser during football season. I also make this dip on New Year’s Day so we can make sure we get our fill of black-eyed peas for the new year.

7. Pomegranate Jeweled White Cheddar, Toasted Almond, and Crispy Sage Cheeseball: You can’t get much more Southern than a cheeseball, and this one is delicious. It can be rather time-intensive, but it is a beautiful addition to any holiday buffet.

8. Crunchy Crab Cakes: This is my go-to recipe for date nights at home. It’s a little more special than our usual weeknight dinners, but it’s easy enough to make so that I’m not stuck in the kitchen all evening.

9. Cinnamon Rolls: I’ve tried multiple cinnamon roll recipes and this one is definitely my favorite. It might seem a little intimidating since it is a yeast dough, but believe me when I say that it’s hard to mess up. Even if your dough doesn’t rise like you expect it to, it will still taste great!

10. Blueberry Cream Pie: This is a recipe that was passed down to me by my Momma. It is definitely one of my favorite summer desserts and it is so easy to make. The recipe makes two pies, so keep one and share the other with friends or neighbors.

2 9″ graham cracker pie crusts
8 oz. block of cream cheese (softened)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 large container of Cool Whip (thawed)
2 pints of blueberries

Use an electric mixer to whip together softened cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon juice. Whip until smooth (this may take several minutes). Add thawed Cool Whip and mix in well. Add blueberries (stir in by hand gently so berries stay whole). Pour into pie crusts and chill.

Photography: McDorman Photography

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Julia reply

    What a beautiful post and beautiful pictures. I am so glad you found the Summer Orzo Pasta Salad and like it! :)

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Just in time for the first official day of summer, we’re so delighted to share today’s Southern Newlywed post! Few people inspire me to cook up fresh, colorful, seasonal meals quite like Jeanine from Love & Lemons, who, with the help of her husband, Jack, is truly gifted at creating (and photographing!) meals that are both beautiful and delicious. I’m already excited to see what summer dishes she comes up with that I can add to my repertoire! Jeanine is as sweet as can be, and was so kind of give us a peek into her completely amazing kitchen and share her favorite recipes with us.

By day: Jeanine blogs at Love & Lemons full time and does freelance recipe development. Jack is a video game engineer (with a side job of helping Jeanine with food photography).

How they met: While living in Chicago, I went to Austin to visit a friend. Jack happened to be a friend of that friend, and we hit it off right away. We dated long distance for a year before I moved to Austin…to be with Jack, but also to escape the cold winters (kidding! Well, sort of).

Their wedding: We walked down the aisle, and just as our officiant began with “We’re here today to celebrate Jack and Jeanine,” a car in the distance let out the loudest brake-screeching sound you’ve ever heard. (As it turns out, it was a couple of our guests who were running late–we’re grateful that no accident ever took place!) Our wedding was beautiful, but that moment really sums up what our relationship is about–beautiful, but far from perfect. We’re able to laugh when tensions rise, which I think is the key to a good marriage.

Meal planning: Technically, I do, as the food blogger, but I’m still terrible at meal “planning,” per se. I’m more of a “hey, I got this pretty vegetable at the market and I think I’ll make something with it” kind of cook.

The cooking: I cook and Jack is the taste tester–he has it good.

Favorite meal-related memory: Since I do most of the cooking, the most memorable meals are probably the ones that Jack cooks. The fire department often shows up after he’s set off all the smoke alarms.

Top ten favorite recipes:
1. Migas breakfast tacos: We both love breakfast tacos (after all, we live in Austin, home of the breakfast taco). I make this healthier version at home.
2. Quinoa, Apricot, and Arugula Salad: Chickpea salads are one of my easiest go-to meals (for lunch or dinner) because it’s easy to keep a few cans of chickpeas on hand.
3. Shiitake and Napa Cabbage Gyoza: We often make gyoza (Japanese dumplings) together. They take a little time to assemble and it goes faster with four hands.
4. Spicy Watermelon and Avocado Salad: Now that it’s summer, I can’t get stop putting watermelon in salads with feta cheese. It’s so juicy and refreshing, yet wonderfully sweet and salty.
5. Mexican Street Corn Salad: This Mexican corn salad is also perfect for summer and ridiculously easy to make.
6. Brussels Sprout and Avocado Salad: We love anything with green vegetables, avocado, lime, and sriracha, so this brussels sprout and avocado salad is a favorite.
7. Any recipe from an Ottolenghi cookbook is always a win!
8. Walnut Miso Noodles: I’ve made this Walnut Miso sauce recipe from 101 Cookbooks more times than I can count.
9. Vegan Soft Baked Pretzels: Right now Jack is obsessed with soft baked pretzels. He enjoys making this recipe for parties because it’s easy, but impressive.
10. Avocado Almondaise Tartines: And of course, avocado on toast–I can’t get enough.

Follow along with Jeanine:
Blog: Love & Lemons
Facebook: Love & Lemons
Twitter: @LoveLemonsFood
Instagram: @LoveandLemons

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Emily reply

    Love this, Jeannine! Saving several of these, and especially excited to try the pretzels!

  2. avatar Carlene: Healthfully Ever After reply

    I have to comment! Love and Lemons is one of the best examples of food blogs that we have today! The images are so well branded and cohesive. She pays attention to showcasing produce- As a dietitian and food blogger I just love it!!!

  3. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    The colors in the food are lovely and I am definitely going to try a few of these, yum!

  4. avatar Roshani reply

    Oh my! Hubby would love this! Pinning now! Thanks for sharing!!

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There is a long list of people I would love to have dinner with, and Carlene Thomas of Healthfully Ever After is certainly one of them! Not only do she and her husband, Chris, seem super sweet and down-to-earth, she is also passionate about helping brides achieve healthy lifestyles that last long after their wedding days. We love the idea of brides having such a supportive, inspiring, and uplifting presence in their lives during their engagements, and since that’s exactly what we aim to be as well, it’s safe to say that Carlene is an SW kindred spirit. Sit a spell with her at this beautiful dinner party she and Chris threw to introduce us to some of their favorite dishes!

By day: Carlene is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who also runs her own private practice and consulting company, Healthfully Ever After, which focuses on helping brides become healthier and happier. Chris is a project manager for a design build company that makes custom solar homes in the DC area and creates sustainable infrastructure in developing countries.

How they met: Let’s set the scene. You’re awkward and in fourth grade in a school of 100 kids. Chris was the new kid, and as he tells the story, his vocal performance as Pappa Mozart in the school play, Mice and Mozart, must have really sealed the deal. As fate would have it, Chris moved to a different part of Virginia in middle school and my family ended up moving to that same place. Fast forward to middle school and we became best friends. And after lots of persistence on Chris’ part, he eventually wore me down (kidding!) and we started dating in high school.

Their wedding: We had an October wedding at the Thomas Birkby House in Leesburg, Virginia. It was brisk, but warm, with no humidity (a big factor for all Southern girls and their hair!). Probably one of my favorite wedding details was my bouquet, which has become sort of everything my business stands for in one image. Holly Chapple graciously met my insane request for a total foodie bouquet. She called me the night before like “Are you all in?” and I just said “ I trust you!” She put in okra, green beans, herbs, carrots, brussels sprouts and more. Chris’ boutonniere had a baby carrot. She’s the best.

Meal planning: I almost always do the meal planning. I like to use overlapping ingredients throughout the week, and with our CSA, which runs from May to October, we don’t really have a say in what ends up in our kitchen. For us, it’s all about being flexible. Additionally, whatever I make often ends up on my blog, so I need time to plan during the day, photograph the food, and then eat it later! However, you should see Chris whip up a meal–he goes all out.
The cooking: I do most of the cooking, but Chris is the total sauce and dressing master. He’s also amazing at flavor pairings. Cooking is actually kind of my zen time and I enjoy it. It’s not a chore at all!

Favorite meal-related memory: We love to walk to the farmer’s market down the street, come back with some goodies, and have an outdoor lunch. When you have good ingredients, that’s all you need. We grab artisanal bread, cheese, produce, and bacon (says the dietitian). We put it all on a big platter with a salad and sit outside and nibble. It works on any scale, from two people to ten. Just add wine or cocktails!

Top ten favorite recipes:
1. Lentil burgers: These lentil burgers are “meaty” enough for the carnivore and a good meat alternative for the veggie lover!
2. Vegan chili made with fig jam: This easy, one-container meal (minus the salad) is our go-to for winter.
3. Schaum tortes: Our go-to celebratory dessert. I’ll take these over cake any day. They’re always great in summer with fresh berries, although they can sometimes be hard to make if it’s humid outside.
4. Fish sticks: This recipe has significantly less sodium and fat than your typical fish stick. And significantly more yum.
5. Whole wheat biscuits: Chris makes insanely good biscuits that we eat with soft, runny eggs and local bacon. We’ll have to do a blog post about them soon!
6. Salmon hash: For a luxurious brunch, we’d rather make salmon hash at home rather than battle the crowds out and about.
7. Lemon meringue pie: Some Grandmas make cookies, but Grandma Helble makes lemon meringue pie when we visit! It’s a heavenly, tart cloud.
8. Salmon with anything: On any given day, if you poke your head into my fridge or freezer, there are likely perfectly portioned filets ready for a quick cook. I usually swing by Costco and grab a half fish to portion/freeze and use for a few weeks.
9. Grandma’s tuna patties: Chris and I are obsessed with these tuna patties that my Grandma makes–they really taste more like a rich crab cake than a typical tuna burger.
10. Rainbow veggie slaw: We love this as a vinegar kick for everything from chicken to lentil burgers.

Thank you so much for sharing, Carlene and Chris! For more of their healthy recipes and tips, follow along on Carlene’s blog and Instagram.

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Carlene: Healthfully Ever After reply

    Thank you all SO much for this feature! We are in love with what you all represent and are so happy to share our little part of the world with you. AND I found that picture of us from 4th grade!!!! Here it is on instagram:

  2. avatar Kristin Winchester reply

    I am dying over those grilled peaches and have added the lentil burgers to next-to-try recipes. Thanks for sharing a few of your secrets, Carlene! Newlywed cooking = my favorite

  3. avatar Molly reply

    OH WOW! Best bouquet ever! Such a hoot! And so pretty!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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