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 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 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.

designed by