Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Today Joe and I went ice skating at Millennium Park. I will admit that I completely romanticized the idea. The truth is that I've never been ice skating before. And it's hard. About half a lap around the rink and my ankles felt like they were going to snap in half. But I did it and would stop and rest when needed (often) and then try some more. It was a brisk and overcast day downtown but fortunately not too terribly cold. Tonight we're going to have a cozy dinner at The Melting Pot and will be home (and maybe asleep) long before midnight. Happy New Year to all!



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas aftermath

Adyson had fun opening presents. Some of the items she received included new dolls, accessories for her dolls and a vaccuum.

My grandma was able to spend a few hours with us on Christmas. She is usually the most excited about opening gifts.

Joe and I arrived home yesterday afternoon after spending a couple days in Missouri with my family. I don't know what it is about travel - however long or short - but I'm exhausted. I'm also hoping that an elf sneaks into the house to put away the Christmas decorations. I hinted around to my husband and he asked if I really wanted him to be responsible for packing away delicate ornaments. He's right. I'll get to it eventually.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Recipe Roulette - Bibimbap

Nichole picked this recipe and I was definitely overwhelmed when I read the ingredients. It was a little more high-maintenance than I prefer in the kitchen. I didn't care for the results but Joe loved it. (If you haven't noticed, he basically loves everything.) Also, I don't do fried eggs so I made a fried egg for Joe and scrambled one for me. I also don't do radishes but decided to comply for this recipe and ate it anyway.

1/4 cup of Korean soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup minced scallions
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp ground toasted sesame seeds
Dark sesame oil, as needed
Black pepper, as needed
1 lb beef skirt steak, cut into strips
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil, as needed
2 cups steamed medium-grain rice
2 cups iceberg lettuce chiffonade
1 cup julienned or grated red radish
1 cup julienned or grated daikon
1 cup julienned or grated carrot
1 cup julienned or grated seedless cucumber
4 shiso leaves cut into fine shreds (you can substitute basil and mint if you can't find shiso leaves)
4 large eggs
2 tbsps Korean red pepper paste (gochujang), or as needed

Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a bowl. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic and sesame seeds. Add the sesame oil and pepper to taste. Add the skirt steak and toss until evenly coated. Cover, refrigerate and let steak marinate for at least 1 and up to 8 hours.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat until it is nearly smoking. Add the beef strips to the hot oil and stir-fry until the beef is cooked, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Divide the rice evenly among 4 bowls. Top the rice with the lettuce. Toss together the red radish, daikon, carrot, cucumber and shiso leaves. Divide the vegetables evenly among the bowls. Top the vegetables with the skirt steak and season each with a few drops of sesame oil.

Wipe out the wok and return it to the burner. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok and heat it over medium heat until the oil ripples. Add the eggs to the hot oil one at a time and fry, basting the tops with a little oil, until the whites are set and the yolk is hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Top each serving with a fried egg and serve at once, accompanied by the Korean red pepper paste.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year

Today my yoga teacher gave me a gingerbread man cookie cutter doing the tree pose. It's so cute that I had to share. I might be inspired to make some yogi gingerbread cookies now.


Speaking of baking, I have been making lots of treats lately. I guess it's because in June you don't really have an excuse to make fattening stuff and hand it out, so I need to get it all out of my system now. Otherwise, it's like baking pumpkin pie in April...not really time appropriate although still tasty.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recipe Roulette - Chicken, Goat Cheese and Rice Casserole with Pecans and Cherries

This week served up another recipe by Paula Deen. I thought it was great. I could have probably done without the cherries but they turned out to be Joe's favorite part of the dish. Also, I only used one cup of goat cheese which seemed like enough. It's a great twist on your everyday chicken and rice casserole.

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
3/4 cup dried cherries
2 cups (1/2 pound) crumbled goat cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped pecans
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup (1/4 pound) grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and saute until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the thyme and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in the broth and season with the salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil.

2. In a 13 x 9 inch flameproof baking dish, combine the chicken, rice and cherries. Pour the boiling broth mixture over it and cover tightly with foil. Bake until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 30 to 40 minutes.

3. Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the foil, and turn the setting to broil. Stir in the goat cheese, cream, pecans and orange zest. Smooth the surface of the casserole and sprinke it with Parmesan cheese. Return the casserole to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, about 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Husband interuptus

This post is by husband of Girl About Town. Her Beef Burgandy is out of this world. This was one of the best winter meals of my life.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My proudest moment

My Christmas present this year was a Dutch oven. (Yes, I now consider myself a full-fledged adult for being genuinely giddy over a kitchen pot.) Anyway, since I already have it, I decided to use it to make beef burgundy. I didn't use the Julia Child recipe because, frankly, it's practically longer than the last book I read. I made the dish along with a side of mashed potatoes and I am so proud of the results. (Recipe from Food Network Magazine.)

6 strips of thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 1/2 pounds flat-iron or tri-tip beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 4-inch piece celery stalk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups burgundy, cotes du rhone or other dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup pearl onions, peeled
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup quartered button mushrooms

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a 6-to-8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the bacon and cook until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large plate, leaving the drippings in the pot.

2. Pat the beef dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot in a single layer (do this in batches); sear for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown all over. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the plate with the bacon.

3. Add the carrots and onions to the pot and cook until softened and slightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, make a "bouquet garni": Tie the thyme, bay leaf, garlic, parsley and celery together with twine (nestle the garlic in the celery stalk).

4. Return the bacon and beef to the pot. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes until the meat is coated. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the brandy and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine; cook until reduce by half again, about 10 more minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni; bring to a low boil. Stir gently, then cover and transfer to the oven; cook until the meat is tender and cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pearl onions and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and 1/4 cup water; cook until the water evaporates and the onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms; cook until slightly softened and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set the skillet aside.

6. Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon. Let the sauce sit for a few minutes, then skim the fat and discard. Return the meat to the pot. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms; heat through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. (For better flavor, make the dish a day ahead.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Recipe Roulette - Pumpkin Baked Ziti

This week's random recipe comes from Kate. She volunteered to supply our random recipe to which Nichole responded that her only rule was that whatever the random recipe was, Kate would have to make it, too. I think this was Nichole's way of making sure the recipe wasn't gross. I will admit, I was super skeptical when I saw the recipe. Mostly because one of the main ingredients is sausage. And, as anyone who reads this blog regularly should know, Amy doesn't go near sausage. But I decided to use ground beef instead of sausage and plunge forward. Besides, Paula Deen has never let me down before.

The results? I liked it. The pumpkin was very subtle (my husband called it "quiet") and was a nice change from red sauce, which I don't really care for. It may not go on my list of favorites but I really don't have any complaints and it was very easy to make.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Runaway dog

I took this picture with my cell phone yesterday in the parking lot of the grocery store. This car was parked directly in front of us and the dog inside looked like he was about ready to pull out of the parking lot and take off. It was so cute!!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

O Christmas Tree

My Wedding Day Barbie ornament. My Barbie ornament collection is quite stunning. :)
Our first Christmas tree!

I feel like a huge grinch but I hate decorating for Christmas. I dread putting up the Christmas tree, getting out the ornaments and everything else that is festive. What I hate even more is having to undecorate the tree and put everything away. This is probably another reason why I haven't done trees or much decorating for the past couple of years.

When I suggested to Joe a few weeks ago that we needed to buy a respectable Christmas tree he looked a little confused. He grew up with real Christmas trees not the artificial ones you'd usually find in my house growing up. Sure, real trees can smell and look nice but I hate the needles. And the watering. And when I think about setting out on an adventure to find a real tree, it just seems like a royal pain. So we went to Target to buy our very first Christmas tree. I was going to be content with just about any small/medium sized tree. Not my husband. Nope. If he was going to have some fake tree in his house it was going to be big and beautiful. So tonight we decorated our new tree. I love it!!

And I remembered why I love having a Christmas tree - my massive ornament collection! Most are from friends and trips I've taken. The only souvenir I bought on our honeymoon was an ornament which is standard procedure whenever I travel. And every time I see my ornaments, I'm reminded by the place/time I purchased it or the friend/relative who gave it to me. Yup, my husband now has a Christmas tree FULL of Barbie ornaments in his living room - thanks, Amber!

Who knows, maybe I won't be such a scrooge next year about getting the tree out. But when the time comes, I will definitely let someone else undecorate it and put everything away.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving

Joe and I got home last night after traveling to Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with Joe's mom. It was our very first extensive car trip! (I'm not counting the five hour drive to see my family.) I am very pleased to report that the two of us are not only still speaking but getting along very well after spending 28 hours alone in a car together over the past week. But, geesh, I'm tired.

Joe and his mom, Jo Ann on Thanksgiving.
Joe and me on Thanksgiving. Smiling because we are no longer in a car, not using gas station bathrooms or being forced to eat fast food while on the road!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Recipe Roulette - Cuban Braised Beef and Peppers

This week I picked a recipe from Real Simple. I love meat in the crockpot but have never had a meal before where I've put the meat on rice and topped it with avocados (which I don't usually eat - I'm branching out) and cilantro. This was a nice twist on something "normal." Joe told me several times that this was one of his favorite meals that I've made.

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 red bell peppers, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut crosswise into thirds
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, oregano, cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Nestle the steak among the vegetables. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Twenty-five minutes before serving, cook the rice according to package directions.

Using two forks, shred the beef and mix it into the cooking liquid. Serve with the rice and top with the avocado and cilantro.

Read about Nichole's results.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Festival Shmestival

Tonight we went downtown for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The main event is a parade featuring Mickey Mouse who lights up Michigan Avenue for the holidays. I wish I could tell you it was fantastic and show you all of my photos. I can't. I didn't take any pictures since I only saw the very tip-top of Mickey's head. Lots and lots of people. So many people that I was wedged in between a street sign and a very smelly, over-flowing trash can while small children sneezed on me. But I'm home now and Joe took me to dinner afterwards so things are looking up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Lamb Beef Kheema with Peas

Since Nichole and I are both watching our waistlines these days, our random recipe this week was one that wouldn't be tempting us to make bad choices. We made this lamb kheema with peas. Only I didn't use lamb; I used beef. I thought about using lamb but at the end of the day, and probably to my husband's dismay, I choose to use what I knew I would like. I served it with basmati rice and it was extremly tasty and very easy to make. I will definitely make this recipe again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Birthday wishes!

Today is Joe's birthday. We celebrated by seeing The Addams Family musical starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. Afterwards we went out for hot dogs, just what the birthday boy wanted. Happy birthday, Joe!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Four-Cheese and Pesto Italian Baked Spaghetti

I chose this week's recipe and bought all the ingredients before I officially decided to go on a diet. Needless to say, this Paula Deen dish is very high-calorie (who wouldn't love something with four different types of cheese in it?) so I walked four miles on the day that I made it and used it as my splurge for the week. I was not disappointed with the results either. Very tasty. I did substitute linguine noodles for the spaghetti noodles since I have somewhat of an aversion to spaghetti noodles (yes, I realize how weird that sounds).

1 lb uncooked spaghetti
1 lb ricotta cheese
Two 6-7 ounce containers prepared pesto
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Grease a flameproof 13x9 inch baking dish. Cook the spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the package directions specify. Drain the spaghetti well and transfer it to a bowl. Stir in the ricotta, pesto, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and the goat cheese. Toss the mixture well and transfer it to the baking dish.

2. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan over the pasta. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Turn the oven setting to broil and broil for one minute or until golden. Serve hot.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ridiculous

The diet starts now. Not only did I eat my body weight in Halloween candy over the weekend but my friend (and fellow foodie) Dorian was here. Let's just say we had a lot of plans involving food...which, of course, is easy to do. I love to entertain (and eat) and Dorian also wanted to hit some great Chicago restaurants. I should have stopped when I went to bed Saturday night with a raging stomachache wondering, "Was it the shrimp and grits? Maybe it was the chips and dip. Could have been the Bloody Mary....or the margarita. Maybe a combination of the hummus and chocolate??" Ahh.

(Dorian, Amy and Monica) Case in point - we invited our friend, Monica over for a "simple" Mexican-themed lunch.


And to top things off, we went for an amazing meal Sunday night. The desert above is actually called "Ridiculous." Why? It's ice cream, wrapped in carrot cake, then tempura fried with caramel sauce and candied walnuts. Yes, ridiculous, indeed.

Recipe Roulette: Chocolate Croissants

This week, Nichole chose these chocolate croissants - YUM. It is a super easy recipe that you could practially throw together at a moment's notice. (Needed: frozen puff pastry dough, dark chocolate and an egg.) I decided to make them thinking we could eat on them for a few days, which we did, but they are definitely better the first day. Definitely.

I did opt to not use salt on my croissants and instead sprinkled each with some sugar after I brushed them with the egg. For my chocolate, I chose Green & Blacks dark chocolate which is 70% cocoa and I highly recommend it.

These croissants will be going back in the recipe box for another time! (Hopefully in the near future.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Halloween!


Monday, October 26, 2009

Miracle machine

I finally went back to the doctor again on Saturday (the second time in under two weeks) and it turns out I have bronchitis. They gave me a nebulizer treatment, a couple prescriptions and instructions to use the inhaler I received during my first visit more frequently. I am still pretty tired but I am feeling so much better!! But I didn't really want to write about that...what I wanted to say is that when I went to this urgent care clinic, they had a prescription vending machine - It was awesome! What a difference that can make when you are sick. I was not looking forward to driving over to the pharmacy and then waiting around for my prescriptions to be filled. (Especially after being there for three hours.) Nope, they just gave me a piece of paper with my drug information on it and a code. I walked over to the vending machine and typed in the code and within 2 minutes, I had both of my prescriptions filled and the machine took cash, credit cards and drug insurance cards. Maybe I am totally out of the loop but I have never seen one of these miracle machines before??

Recipe Roulette: Chicken Biriyani

This week we chose a random recipe from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything. The winner was chicken biriyani, also known as the most expensive recipe I have ever made. Of course I had to buy whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks and - the winner - saffron. Ahh. (Unlike Nichole, I was able to find a thimble's worth for $5.69) But now my spice rack is sufficiently stocked. And don't let the spices scare you, this was an extremely easy dish to make and it gave me the chance to experiment with some new flavors.

My only regret? My dish wasn't quite as flavorful as I'd expected. I mean, what does a pinch of saffron really mean? Next time, I will use more and step it up a bit. And, yes, there will be a next time. Not only do I now have all the ingredients, my husband applauded this tasty meal. My only other complaint was that it was impossible to pick out the cloves and whole cardamom and I did not find either to be a tasty surprise while eating.

Did I mention it was healthy, too? I substituted brown basmati rice in place of regular basmati and we are also trying, whenever possible, to use all organic meats (and dairy) these days so I felt even more special about the chicken in the dish, too.

Now that I have spices on the brain, let me know what your favorite spice is to use in a recipe. Mine is cumin.

Go here to read about Nichole's adventure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Superwoman

My kitchen currently resembles a science experiment gone terribly wrong. That or there was an explosion in the Betty Crocker test kitchen...or Bridget Jones has been here baking for hours.

It all started at about 8:50 this morning when my husband emailed me that tomorrow was his turn to bring treats to the office. He told me that he thought he'd pick up some Dunkin Donuts and maybe something else. I don't know if he was serious or if that was his way of asking for help. I kept thinking about my husband letting everyone down at the office when his unemployed wife sent him to work with Dunkin Donuts. And now, hours later, I think I was a little too ambitious.

So this morning I ran off to the store for supplies. While I was there I excitedly picked up black and orange plaid napkins with matching black plates. I should have known I was not in my right mind when I found the too cute Halloween cupcake liners and practically started squealing in the middle of Target. That adrenaline rush would not last.

One tray of brownies and 46 cupcakes later and I am exhausted. And we aren't talking your average cupcakes either (well aside from the chocolate ones I made). I decided to try my hand at cheesecake-filled pumpkin cupcakes. (Sorry, I'm too tired to type the recipe out.) It didn't seem too hard when I ever so quickly glanced at the recipe. Clearly, I didn't read about the icing which involved three sticks of butter (three entire sticks!!) and the 20 or so minutes of mixing and even placing the mixing bowl in simmering water until it reached 160 degrees. Yes, clearly, I didn't read those instructions first. If I were really a kitchen genius I would have skipped the last several steps and would have just bought the darn icing. Ahh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Creamed Chicken with Gnocchi Dumplings

This week's Recipe Roulette meal comes from Rachael Ray. I picked it because Joe and I have both been sick and eating lots of chicken noodle soup. I thought this might be a good spin on the ultimate get-well-soon meal. While it was good, it was not quite as good as I'd expected; I think my sauce turned out a bit too thick.

One 1-pound package of potato gnocchi
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup chicken broth
2 scallions, chopped

1. Cook the gnocchi according to package directions; drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until toasted, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the half-and-half and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened. Whisk into the chicken mixture, then stir in the gnocchi. Bring to a simmer, then season with salt and pepper and top with the scallions.

Nichole enjoyed the recipe very much. Read her review here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wanted: Tickets

I made my first Craigslist purchase this week to get sold-out concert tickets (Wilco) for face-value. Seemed like a pretty good deal to me. Obviously, meeting in public is a safety no-brainer but I will tell you it's awfully odd to be sitting at Caribou watiting for some guy to show up that you've never met so that you can exchange cash for tickets. Joe went with me on Saturday morning and we only made the mistake of approaching the wrong guy twice. Oops. But finally the right guy, with the tickets in hand, came and we made the exchange. My husband did actually make a purchase from Craigslist about a week ago and was approached by two policemen while walking to his car. They were questioning whether or not he just gave someone cash. After he explained he had just made a CL purchase, and showed them, they finally believed him and went on their way. Only in my house would my thirty-something husband get questioned by the cops for buying a longboard.
P.S. The concert? Awesome!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Apple Dijon Chicken

Nichole picked this week's recipe. I'll admit that I was not necessarily looking forward to this one; it didn't sound that good to me. But the good news? It was awesome! And Joe must have complimented it 20 times. He said it reminded him of a German meal. Since I only made two chicken breasts, I used half the onion and only one apple but still made the regular amount of sauce.

4 boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and sliced into rings
1 small onion, sliced
3/4 cup of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1. Place chicken-breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. With meat mallet or rolling pin, pound breasts to an even 1/2-inch thickness; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add breasts and cook 6 to 7 minutes or until browned on both sides and chicken loses its pink color throughout, turning over once. Transfer breasts to platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

3. While chicken is cooking, in glass pie plate, combine apples and onions. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on High 3 to 4 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

4. To skillet, add apple mixture; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Add chicken broth, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook 2 minutes to reduce broth mixture slightly. In bowl, half-and-half with cornstarch; stir into apple mixture with any juices from chicken on platter. Cook 1 minute to thicken sauce slightly.

See Nichole's results here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Essay

Joe posted this essay on Facebook and I felt compelled to post it here. It's quite touching. Read it and let me know what you think.

Something amazing

Something amazing is starting to happen - I'm meeting people. I've been taking yoga twice a week and am meeting the ladies in my class. This past week I spent four days volunteering for an event at my church which allowed me the opportunity to meet people. I feel like I already will have a full week next week with things going on and have plans to help a new friend bake, have dinner at her house with her family and bunco again. I am meeting people. I could get much more philosophical about the situation but will refrain for now.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Farm Aid 2009



I had the pleasure of going to Farm Aid with Breanne on Sunday. The timing couldn't have been better since I was already in Missouri and was still sulking about having to miss Wilco this month in Chicago. We had a great time! And B was such a trooper! Her ankle is still not healed after recently breaking it and having surgery. In fact, up until this week she wasn't walking at all without the use of crutches or a cane. I was so impressed by the venue which took us in a golf cart from the entrance to our seats and upgraded us to excellent seats since B couldn't sit on the lawn due to the stairs. And even though there was a perk to this broken ankle fiasco, please note: I would take a healed Breanne ANY DAY over upgraded concert seats. But, again, I was so impressed by how nice and accomodating everyone around seemed to be.

The performances included: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, Wilco, Gretchen Wilson, Jamey Johnson, Ernie Isley, Billy Joe Shaver, Will Dailey, Phosporescent, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Titty Bingo and Ron Blackwood and the Blackwood Quartet. Since I don't listen to country music, I will admit that I was fairly clueless about a lot of the music. (Basically everything except Wilco, Jason Mraz, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.)

But beyond it being a great day and a great concert, it was a really great event that raised money to help support family farms. Even the food stands at the event featured organic and local foods. Go here to find food from family farmers.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Best. Cookie. Ever.

It was my turn to pick a recipe for this week's Recipe Roulette when I realized that there would be no opportunity for a real meal. My husband had class two nights during the week, the other two nights he had work events/meetings and I would be out of town the entire weekend. There's no point in cooking if nobody is there to eat. But dessert is a different story. I found a recipe for Monster Cookies and decided they looked too good to not try. Turns out I was right. I also decided to use Halloween M & Ms to make them more monster-like and decided to forgo the raisins. This is one recipe that will be made again!

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate candies
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. In a very large bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in resealable plastic bags.

See how much Nichole likes Monster Cookies.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Two

Friday I made the trek to Missouri to see my family. It was a particularly long ride because the day before I fell down my stairs. You read that correctly - I fell down my stairs. I wish I could tell you that I had an excuse. But, no, I do not have a neurological disorder that causes me to trip, fall and hurt myself. My only excuse? I am clumsy. So I made the five hour drive with every muscle in my body hurting. I'm sure it will go a long ways to helping my neck improve. Anyway, back to the real story, the main reason for the trip was Adyson's second birthday bash.

Adyson is trying out her new tricycle. Last year the weather for her party was down right hot and everyone was inside wanting to be outside. This year? Freezing.

Adyson was particularly taken with the quilted puppy purse from Aunt Amy and Uncle Joe.
Me and my niece. Next time I will wise up and be prepared with a coat!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One more reason I love cats.

I was feeling like a pretty good dog owner up until about an hour ago. Recently, I finally got the gist of using the pinch collar on Crumley which is helping us both out immensely. And earlier today we had a successful drop-off at the groomers. (Anytime I take the dogs out in public and everyone gets home in one piece it's a success.) While the big guy was gone, I took Iris on a walk and to the dog park for some play time. She was so happy to be an only child!

I should have known that Crumley might give me some trouble after I picked him up from the groomers tonight. Joe and I are always saying the once Crumley gets groomed he always turns into a different dog. When he has longer hair he is more like Eeyore and as soon as he gets a haircut he's this super zippy guy full of too much energy.

We made our way home without any problems and as I was unlocking the door (with the leash still around my wrist) Crumley took off lightening fast and bolted into the house. Of course I went with him and, in the process, the key broke off in our front door.

Seriously.

I tried toothpicks. Nada. I tried tweezers. Nada. I tried needle nose pliers. Nada.

Finally Joe came home and got the key out with the needle nose pliers - thank goodness! I think I'm going to take a hot bath and call it a night.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Aunt Peggy's Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

I'm a big Paula Deen fan (who doesn't love recipes that contain lots of butter and cream?) so I was ecstatic to get one of her cookbooks for my birthday. In favor of my new cookbook, Nichole and I decided to use the random number generator this week to select our recipe from the book. The choice, meatloaf, was a pretty basic recipe and was a huge success. It was served with mashed potatoes for the perfect meal!

Aunt Peggy's Old-Fashioned Meatloaf contains:

1 pound ground beef
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, tomato paste, onion, green pepper, oats, egg, salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into a loaf and place it in a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Slather the glaze on top of the meatloaf and bake for 1 hour or until the meatloaf is firm and cooked all the way through. Serve hot.

For Nichole's results, go here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What would Emily Post say?

My mother received a baby shower invitation in the mail this week addressed to her, my sister and me. This has happened approximately 50 times in the past ten years and each time I shake my head and roll my eyes. Just a couple months ago, my mom got one invitation that said, "Linda and girls." I understand and agree with the one-invitation addressed to mother and daughters when you are in high school (or younger). Or college. Or maybe, just maybe, if you're still living at home with your parents. But none of those things hold true for me. I am 32 years old. My sister will be 35 next month. When I am 50 will my mother still be getting mail addressed to "Linda and girls?"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Gingered Pork Burgers

This week's recipe roulette served up gingered pork burgers. (Nichole's pick.) I only bought a pound of pork and this recipe still made 5 burgers. And I omitted the sauce (a mayonnaise and soy mixture) because I try to avoid mayonnaise whenever possible.

My husband LOVED this meal. He easily devoured two burgers immediately and raved about how great it was. I was less enthused. I am a purist and have rather simple tastes when it comes to my burgers. I prefer your traditional, all-American beef cheeseburger. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I am not a huge fan of the flavor combination with the ginger, pork, sesame oil, cilantro, etc. But it wasn't entirely up to me. The meal was a success - Joe loved it. The burgers cooked easily and there were no kitchen disasters. Yay for RR success!

Another reason the burgers may have gone over especially well is because we do not eat burgers at our house. I have a raw meat phobia which means I avoid touching it as much as possible. So making burgers is out of the question. We have had burgers maybe once or twice and I am not above buying the pre-made burgers at the grocery store. No sir. Thanks Nichole for making me stick my hands in a bowl of raw meat and make some burgers. Yuck.

Go here to see how Nichole's gingered pork burgers fared.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A day at the zoo

Cathy, Bryon and Adyson came to visit this weekend and we spent the day yesterday (along with Uncle Joe) at the Brookfield Zoo.

Also, on Friday I got stung (by a bee or a yellowjacket...I didn't see it) and my right hand has been swollen, itchy and painful to the touch ever since. I've been taking Benedryl, ibuprofen and using hydrocortisone cream on my hand but this sting has really done a number on me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering how violently my body reacts to a regular mosquito or bug bite. Yuck!

She squealed and giggled! Adyson had fun petting and feeding goats at the zoo.



The zoo was featuring its Dinosaurs Alive exhibit which showcased an array of dinosaurs to scale which also moved and made noises. Pretty neat!

Cathy and Adyson taking a break on one of the many animal statues.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A vaccuum break

My mom is starting her second round of radioactive iodine treatment tomorrow which will keep her at home again. At this point, we're really not sure how long that will be. (The last time she couldn't go to the store or church for six weeks for fear she could run into someone pregnant or any children. It was also awhile before she could be around the rest of the adult population, too.) She has stocked up on some essentials and is planning on even doing a little painting inside.

I'm trying something new tonight. In an effort to meet people, I'm joining some ladies from church for a bunco night. I do believe I have only met one of them - maybe two - before. I hope it's fun. I used to not consider myself to be shy but I actually feel like the older I get, the more shy I am. It's scary making new friends when you are 32! Wish me luck.

Back to cleaning. Laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting - all in one day! Who am I?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

It seems that a lot of celebrities have passed away this summer but no passing has broken my heart like Patrick Swayze. He reminds me of growing up. No, seriously.

Maybe that's why every girl I know seems to have very strong emotions about Dirty Dancing. Come on, who didn't fantasize about vacationing in the Catskills with their parents only to be pulled out of the corner (by a hot, older guy) at the end-of-the-summer bash to dance on stage, front and center? I remember singing the soundtrack until I knew every word. And that famous lift? I practiced it over and over in my family's swimming pool. I never quite got the hang of it.

When the movie Ghost came out, I remember my sister going to see it on her first date. I was so excited, I waited up.

I can remember going to the dollar movie-theatre (back when there actually was one) to see Point Break with my sister and some of our girlfriends. We loved it. Later, I would watch it over and over on VHS.

And my favorite SNL skit of all-time? It's the one where Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley play wanna-be Chippendale dancers. Hands down, my favorite.

I guess to me, Patrick will always evoke some of those feelings. Some of the laughter, the excitement, times that were so long ago but so much fun.

Recipe Roulette: Caramel Apples

As soon as I saw this week's recipe, I knew it had the potential for disaster...and inducing diabetes. This recipe also had the potential to be great.

I think this is the first time I have ever used a candy thermometer which is one of the reasons why I thought it could be disasterous. Turns out, the caramel was great!! I only wish it were on top of ice cream instead of apples because I just couldn't seem to get the caramel to stay on the apples after I'd dipped them. Most of it just slid right off. I thought maybe I didn't let the caramel set up quite long enough because the last two apples I made ended up being my best two apples...but even they were far from normal.

My recommendation, when you want a caramel apple go buy one. Yes, they can be expensive but so is buying the ingredients to make your own when they don't quite turn out right. Read Nichole's take on this week's recipe roulette here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend Adventures

(Please excuse the fuzzy cell phone picture.) I have had a very nice birthday weekend. I had amazing crab legs with my dear husband. I have a working car stereo for the first time in a couple years! I met up with an old friend that I haven't seen for much too long. Went bike riding at the Arboretum. Oh and my husband took me to see a Beatles tribute band. Don't judge.

Crumley


Friday, September 11, 2009

32 and You Don't Know Squash


Yesterday was my birthday. My husband was working all day and had class until late last night so we are celebrating tonight with crab legs. (Well, I'll be celebrating with crab legs, he'll be celebrating with something else.) Anyway, all was not lost. I had an amazing birthday night with Alison at a cooking class/demonstration - You Don't Know Squash. (Well after I finally made it to the class. Was supposed to take about 45 minutes so I gave myself an hour and a half and it actually took about two hours!! CHICAGO TRAFFIC!!) Squash was probably not my preferred class to be featured on my birthday but it was actually so much fun. The menu: Southeast Asian Coconut Pumpkin Soup; Zucchini Pancakes with Citrus Creme Fraiche; Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage; Pumpkin Ginger Flan. We got to sit around a table and watch someone prepare and discuss a four-course meal and we got to eat!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

1. I recently bought the book, My Life in France. Instead of seeing a picture of Julia Child on the cover - it is HER autobiography - there is a picture of Meryl Streep dressed as Julia Child. Yes, I get this. Marketing for the movie, Julie and Julia. I just don't like it. I don't want the movie cover edition. I want the real edition but it's nowhere to be found. If you want to read the book, and buy it new, you have to get a picture of someone pretending to be Julia Child instead of just a picture of the real deal.

2. The season premier of Glee airs on Wednesday. If it's anything like the first episode, which first aired last spring, then I think it will definitely be my new favorite show! If you haven't seen the first episode, watch it online. You won't be disappointed. I already can't wait to buy the soundtrack which comes out later this month.

3. I was just reading that you can now download a "Facebook Friends Checker" which will inform you if anyone is ignoring your friend requests on Facebook or will let you know if someone has deleted you as a friend. Um, don't we have better things to do? Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook as much as the next person but I will admit I've become increasingly annoyed with it in recent weeks. It is fun to reconnect with people you haven't seen since high school graduation and I love being able to easily keep up with current friends but I find myself realizing lately that sometimes high school doesn't seem so far away...

3. Oprah is taping a show on Michigan Ave today. No tickets needed and anyone can go. When I first heard about it, I thought I would definitely go. Why not? Lots of celebrity guests and musicians and it would be a fun way to get out of the house for the day. Then I realized that they were opening the gates at noon but taping didn't start until 5pm...and would still last a few hours beyond that. That's a lot of standing. That's a lot of time to do nothing. And, of course, everyone I know in Chicago has a job - imagine that! So, no, I didn't head downtown for the festivities today. I think I feel old.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Getaway

Terrie and Kirk graciously let Joe and I stay at their home in Door County, WI over the Labor Day weekend. We had such a great time enjoying the view of Lake Michigan and all that the area had to offer. Mostly it was fun to just be lazy in a beautiful setting!

This is Joe enjoying the view from where we were staying. We had breakfast one morning at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant. See the goat on top of the grass roof?

A closer look at one of the many goats on top of the roof.

Here I am at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

Just on our way out and about for the morning stopping for some local dairy cows. And, yes, we came home with some cheese!

We also went to a traditional Wisconsin fish boil one evening at The White Gull Inn. We loved the hospitality and the atmosphere.

Recipe Roulette: Potato Crusted Fish

mango salsa


It's week two of Recipe Roulette and I'm not sure I'm feeling much better about the outcome. I picked this potato-crusted fish with mango salsa. (1) Like I mentioned last week, I love fish. I also like to sneak it in to our menu on a fairly regular basis. (2) I think I've only "dredged" something once. I never batter and fry stuff so I thought this would be another semi-new thing for me. (3) I was intrigued by the fact that instead of using bread crumbs to coat the fish, you use instant mashed potatoes! (4) I've never bought a mango. So there you have it - potato-crusted fish with mango salsa.

I didn't think the type of fish was all that important where the recipe was concerned so I used Orange Roughy. Also, I may have miscalculated my red pepper flakes - very spicy. I was proud of my "batter-job" but noticed that a lot of the breading started to fall off once it was in the pan so my pride quickly vanished. And as for the potato crust (I used cheesy instant potatoes) you couldn't really tell it was a potato crust...at least I couldn't tell.

The salsa - which was good - made way too much. I also couldn't find a "small" red onion so I used a large one instead. Not sure what I will do with a bowl full of leftover mango salsa but it looks pretty!

After the spicy fish, we decided to cool our tongues with a trip out for ice cream. Ice cream + spicy fish = no good. My husband quickly headed upstairs to look for the Maalox.

Read Nichole's take on this week's recipe roulette here.

One recipe. Two eager cooks. Two different outcomes. Each week follow Amy and Nichole into the unknown as they test a new recipe and wade through the results. This isn't your mother's cooking!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Seriously, I should be a detective

My back was as good as new before we moved. Since then, I feel like I've been hit by a mack truck every couple of days. Specifically, the right hand side of my body aches, usually in between my shoulder blades, and even today I woke up with my right hip hurting. I am a young 30-something trapped in the body of an old lady. Today, it dawned on me why this is happening. The only thing that has changed in the past month is our move. And since we moved, I've never gone more than a day or two without hurting and being in pain. What is different about our move? Before I was letting the dogs go outside by themselves on a stake in our yard. Now, we don't have a yard or a stake so I have to take the dogs outside on leashes several times a day. At 70 lbs, Crumley is extremely hard to handle. He jerks me around and sometimes my entire body seems to fly after him. It's 70 lbs of weight jerking my body. Today I was feeling pretty good. Then I took him outside where he spotted a man walking a pit-bull and begun to bark and race after the dog. It was everything I could do to contain him. And now, I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Ugh. What to do? Either Crumley is going to have to hold it all day or he needs to go to boarding school.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Recipe Challenge

At some point during Nichole's visit, probably while discussing Julie & Julia, we decided that since we both love cooking and blogging, we should start cooking together as a way for us - many miles apart - to share something each week that we can both discuss. We both love trying new recipes so each week we will take turns picking a new recipe that we'll both incorporate into our menu for the week and then post our results on Monday. It should be fun for us to compare notes.

I'm not sure if we've figured all the rules out just yet. For instance, I really haven't figured out what I'd do if Nichole told me our next meal included chorizo. (Most of you know - EVERYONE should know - I'm just not down with sausage.) I'm hoping we will be kind to one another. Joe says the real test during this experiment will be if we have to break the "emergency glass" for frozen pizza.

Let's face it. I only try new recipes that appeal to me and have a tendency to gravitate towards things that are very similar or that I'm comfortable with trying. This will definitely force me to try some new things. In fact, our very first meal had me shopping in a fish market for the first time ever. It was a little pricey but I liked stopping in for fresh lump crab meat. For the first recipe, we used the random number generator to assign us with a recipe from this book.

The first recipe was Crab Tortilla (Egg Pie) and Shredded Plantain Hash Browns. (Basically that's a crab omelet with shredded plantain patties.) If you have the book, it's number 141. If you've tried this before, please let me know.

My husband is not a big fan of seafood. I am a HUGE fan of seafood and specifically crab - I love it - but I never would have opted to make this meal on my own. Then Joe told me, while cooking dinner, that the taste of crab meat makes him want to puke. Why thank you very much. It was a little late for that comment. He did eat every bite of his portion (1/4 of the pie) and told me that if he liked crab this dish might be his "deal." He actually complimented it. I consider it a success.

As for the plantains, I thought they were a no-go. I love plantains but these seemed flavorless. I shredded them in the food processor and think I did everything right. But they were just kind of gross. The leftovers went straight in the garbage. Also, this was the first time I had ever grated a whole onion. The grated onion looked like baby food and went into the plantains. I can't say I'd recommend grating an onion in the future.

The recipe said to put the celery, onions and bell peppers (for the crab tortilla) in the food processor and process into a fine chop. All I processed was a fine mess. The celery just turned into green water and it was inedible. So I had to start completely over and hand chop the celery, onions and pepper. I found that someone else had made this recipe online and said the exact same thing.



This was basically like a thick frittata. Not terribly pretty once I had flipped it but totally edible.


I will say that this "30 minute meal" took wayyyy longer than 30 minutes. It may have been 30 minutes without all the kitchen prep but I thought there was actually quite a bit of prep and quite a bit of multi-tasking while things were cooking. The multi-tasking has a tendency to get me down sometimes. I think the meal was partly a success but I am a little worried that this project will ruin my batting average in the kitchen. In the past year there have only been two inedible meals...more might be on their way. Go here to read about Nichole's results.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grayson

Grayson is having surgery tomorrow in St. Louis to close the hole in his heart and the hope is that he'll be home in 3-5 days. I know this is a stressful time for everyone so please send some prayers and hugs to him and his parents - Breanne and Dan. You can leave them a message and read more here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend Visitors

I had a very nice weekend - arts festival, bowling, shopping at Ikea, movies, great food and all while enjoying the company of friends and family. Alex and Nichole were here visiting from North Carolina and my cousin Sue and her family (from Maryland) came through on Friday evening on their way home from vacation in WI. It was so great to see everyone! Below is a recap in pictures.

I made two of these blueberry tarts and I will be making them again - easy and great!


Joe and I at brunch on Saturday morning.

Nichole and Alex at Lucky Strike. Alex won both games but you probably don't need to ask who lost both games.


Family - Joe, me, Makenna, Taylor, Sue, Chris and Erin

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beautiful Summer


Natalie and I enjoying a picnic and Beethoven at Millennium Park.

Run - don't walk. Joe and I went to see (500) Days of Summer tonight - wonderful! I give it a perfect score. Absolutely loved this movie and it was the last perfect thing I've seen since Up! Go see it.

The rest of the weekend was equally great. Natalie came from St. Louis to visit and it was a very relaxing weekend. No schedule. Pedicure. Naps on the couch. Talking. Eating. Shopping. Lunch at the Arboretum. (Which we'll be doing a lot since Joe and I have a membership now.) And for the finale last night we went to listen to Beethoven's 9th at Millennium Park as part of the Grant Park Music Festival. Beautiful evening to share with 15,000 of our closest friends.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Plum Cake

Yesterday I made this plum upside-down cake. It turned out very well...I love the taste of the cake and then the plums on top are very sweet and some a little tart. Joe said it was the best tasting cake he's ever had...but I think he tells me that a lot about other things! Who knows...



Monday, August 10, 2009

Gospel Brunch

Alison invited me to the House of Blues Gospel Brunch yesterday. I went with her once before a few years ago. I had forgotten how much there was to eat. Um, fried chicken, cheese grits, sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, pastries...the list goes on. By the time I made it home yesterday, I couldn't move up off the couch. Fun times!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

French Market

When Joe and I bought my bike we left it at the bike store until we moved and just picked it up last weekend. Today we went for our first bike ride. We took the Prairie Path to the nearby French Market (like the farmer's market) and had coffee and shopped before heading back home. We got pears, blue cheese, homemade whole wheat linguine, zucchini, yellow bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes and an onion. We had the veggies on the linguine tonight for dinner - very good!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Horses, Fish and a Movie


At the race track - which was an entirely new experience for me. Fun for the first couple of hours and then I was done.
Monroe and Korbyn at the track
My Uncle Monroe (my dad's brother) and his grandson Korbyn (my cousin McKenzie's son) came to visit for a couple days this past week. (We are still amidst some boxes but the house is respectable enough for company at this point. Just don't look in our bedroom or the garage.) On Wednesday I went to the horse track with them. This was a new experience for me. There were 8 races and I gave up betting after the fifth race. Luck would not be had for me so there was really no point in continuing on. I think I spent $14 and won back $2.60! Then on Thursday we headed to the aquarium. This is my third time there and it's always interesting but I'm glad the renovation has been completed since my last visit so that it was somewhat different for me this time around.

This afternoon Joe and I went to see Julie and Julia. I had long been anticipating this movie so I was disappointed this morning to hear the reviews were not as kind as I had hoped. And after seeing the movie I'd have to agree. Meryl Streep is once again a genius performer. She plays Julia Child magnificently and I was really into that storyline. And as much as I love Amy Adams, her character Julie was just not that likable. So she writes a blog and she cooks all of Julia Child's cookbook recipes in a year. But she seemed whiny and blah. And who cares. But it was fun to watch a movie about cooking and now I feel compelled to read more about Julia Child's life. And did I mention that Meryl Streep is truly brilliant?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Shrimp Tacos

Last night we had shrimp tacos. They were so good we will definitely be having them again. I would say that Joe is probably not the hugest fan of shrimp. He will eat it but he would never order it at a restaurant or ask to have it. But he must have complimented this meal a 100 times last night and even called from work today to tell me again how great it was.

The recipe comes from Real Simple.

1/4 cup fresh orange juice (I used store bought)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 small cabbage (8 counces), shredded
1 cup corn kernels (from 1 to 2 ears, or frozen and thawed)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
8 small flour tortillas, warmed

In a large bowl, whisk the orange and lime juices, sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the cabbage, corn, and jalapeno and toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes. (I made my slaw an hour or so in advance and let it sit in the fridge and it was great.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve the shrimp with the tortillas and the slaw.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Ousted at the dog park

Everyone around here has a dog and the local dog park is quite the hang out. In fact, I was sure that it was going to allow me to meet all sorts of new people. Well we may just be ousted from the dog park. Iris is great when it comes to playing with other dogs but Crumley has never really been around other dogs before and turns into Mr. Aggressive as soon as he sees another dog. We think he's partially playing and partially trying to dominate the other dogs. We show up and all the dogs are happily playing. We let Iris off her leash and she starts happily playing. We let Crumley off his leash and he starts barking and trying to scare all the other dogs and children away. In fact, two families left within minutes (seconds) after we let Crumley off his leash. We had to round him up immediately and let Iris have all the fun by herself. So, no, I don't think we're making any new friends any time soon.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

At my wit's end

Joe and I have had some amazingly weird interactions with people lately. He thinks the world is conspiring against him...I think it's just odd. Here are a few highlights:

Our movers were excellent and really did a great job of loading/moving our stuff but they did pull one over on us. Joe stayed back at our old house to clean it up while I went to the new place to direct the movers. I was already at the new place when the movers, at our old place, asked Joe if we wanted all the boxes unloaded into each room or if we wanted to save time/money by having them unload our boxes into the garage and then we could unpack them at our convenience. Joe said absolutely not. He wanted the boxes to go in each room and was very specific about it. (We had some really heavy boxes that needed to go upstairs.) So then the movers get here and basically ask me the same thing and explain that they already talked to my husband about it. They directed the conversation in a way that made it sound like Joe wanted them to leave the boxes in the garage so I said, "Yeah that's fine." Imagine Joe's surprise when he got home and realized that a lot of our boxes were in the garage.

Joe has been overpaying on his car loan each month. So he was surprised a couple weeks ago to find a letter in the mail that he was past due. Turns out they took the amount he overpaid and noted it as the only amount paid, which would make it less than the amount due. He called and had a long conversation with someone only for them to eventually admit they'd messed up. So he called a few days later and the problem still wasn't fixed so he had to explain the whole thing over again. Today, we got another letter in the mail about how we still haven't paid our car payment, etc. Argh! He is currently on the phone with them again!

Speaking of mail, we have had problems with our old post office. For example, a friend of mine sent me two cards 11 months ago that I never did receive. Also lost in one of those cards was a gift card. We asked for all of our mail to be forwarded starting Friday. We had to run by our old house today to leave something for our old landlord in the mail slot on the side of the house and there was a HUGE stack of mail sitting in plain site. That huge stack included lots of bills and personal information. Joe went to the nearest post office (which I've also had problems with) and explained that our mail wasn't being forwarded. They refused to help him. In fact, the person he spoke with was laughing at him with another employee. They told him he needed to go to a different post office. So he asked where it was. They said they didn't know. He asked if they could just give him an address. They told him they didn't know and they couldn't help him. End of story. He said the other people waiting in line were equally flabergasted.

Then the cable guys came yesterday while Joe wasn't here. They only brought one box for digital cable. I told them that I knew we were supposed to have two boxes. One upstairs and one downstairs. They told me I wasn't getting digital cable upstairs. I told him that I knew we were and to please check. After arguing with me he said that he doesn't know what we are getting because he doesn't read the order. So if you don't read the order, why are you arguing with me about what we get and how do you install our cable if you don't read the order? When I asked how much the second box would cost he simply said, "I have no idea." Then when setting up our internet, they asked for the electronic cord that went with our modem. I handed it to one guy and he said, "I know for a fact, that's not the right cord." I asked him multiple times if he was sure and when he assured me, I called Joe. Joe confirmed that the cord I had was the right one. Finally the guy says, "Well, I am positive this isn't the right one but I'll try it." Turns out it WAS the right cord. Argh!! Then Joe came home to find out we weren't getting the right channels and they didn't give us what he'd ordered over the phone. So now he has been on the phone a few different times trying to get it straightened out.

Today we stopped by an Indian restaurant for lunch. They had a lunch buffet but I didn't see my favorite dish on the buffet. I did see something that looked very similar but not the same. So I asked to see a menu. I looked up the ingredients in both dishes to see how similar and if I would like the other dish on the buffet. There were some very obvious changes so I asked to order off the menu and ordered my favorite dish. Joe ate off the buffet. When he got the dish I questioned, I asked to try it. Then my food came. I tasted it and was positive it was the same thing on his plate. I know what my dish is supposed to taste like and this wasn't it. So then Joe asks our waiter what the difference is between our two dishes and the waiter looks panicked and gets the owner. The owner walks over and Joe says, "I'm just curious, what's the difference between our two dishes. I can't seem to notice so I was just curious." The owner explains that the only difference is the cut of chicken but it's the exact same sauce. Interesting...because that is NOT what the menu said and that is not what my dish has ever tasted like before. In fact, the menu didn't note the difference in chicken at all...so basically I feel like I got a dish I didn't want just so they could give me what was on the buffet instead of making something different.

Anyway, these interactions have all occured within the last 24 hours (except for the car payment issue which has been ongoing)...I hope this is a fluke and we stop having such unfortunate interactions with people.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer Love

There are a couple of movies that I really want to see right now that both feature girls who don't want to fall in love. Watch the trailers...they look really cute.

Paper Heart - I am particularly excited about this movie coming out soon. It's a "pseudo documentary". (Some of the interviews and situations are real but mostly it's a scripted comedy.)

(500) Days of Summer

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Help!

I need some reassurance so I'm asking the blogosphere for some help. When I called the movers a month or so ago and started setting up our move, they asked a lot of questions. One was, "How many boxes do you think you will have?" I had no idea. They estimated that a two-bedroom, one-bath house would have around 40 boxes. I immediately knew that wasn't going to happen. I told them that we had a LOT of books...and other stuff. So she said she'd estimate us at 60 boxes. Um, yeah, we have long surpassed the 60 boxes, too. And I haven't even packed my shoes yet. (And to be fair, my husband probably has just as much stuff as me.) I kind of wish I were one of those people who could just put everything I own in a box and go about my way but I tend to keep things. I have at least two boxes containing "special" papers I wrote as a kid, in college and even some correspondance from old friends. I think I kept every single wedding card I received. I finally took a unique vase (of no value) to Goodwill when I realized the crack in it wouldn't make it functional anymore and then the next day I second-guessed myself. Now, I tend to believe this might be an inherited trait and I do think I've done a pretty good job of purging with every move. I do seem to be getting better and a little less sentimental as I age. Tell me I am not alone. Am I the only thirty-one year old with this much stuff?

One year

Today marks our one-year wedding anniversary. It hasn't been what I would expect most typical first years to be like. In fact, it's been pretty challening...two close family members passed away, my mom diagnosed with thyroid cancer, adjusted to a new city away from friends, job stress/uncertainty and more all on top of adjusting to being newly married. Whew! But we made it through and couldn't be happier to celebrate our first year together. We celebrated a few days early at Topolobampo. We both wish we were back in Jamaica but maybe for another anniversary. Now we are getting ready for Friday - moving day! More changes but good things are to come.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Art Friday

Today Joe and I went to the National Museum of Mexican Art. Neither of us had ever been before and it is one of the few free things to do in the city. I loved it. I had read in one of my guide books that this was one of the museums not downtown or part of the "museum campus" that should not be missed. And I would have to agree. I thought it was a small but nice, thoughtful place. And tonight we continued the theme with Mexican food...we both just took a Tagamet if that's any indication of how much we over-indulged.

 
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