Sunday, September 30, 2007

Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger! Can I take your order?

I'm not a huge burger fan. Which is not to say I don't eat burgers, I just don't go out of my way to find or make them. My favorite fast food are the sandwich shops like Quiznos, Togos, and Subway. For me, there's just nothing all that special about a slab of meat between bread (perhaps the same reason I've never been enamored with "meat loaf"). When I do make burgers, I'm not content with shaping mounds of beef and grilling them, I like to spice them up a bit. And this is a spicy hamburger.



Spicy Southwestern Burger

1/2 lb ground meat (beef/turkey - whatever you have on hand)

1/4 cup Trader Joes corn & Chili salsa

1) Combine meat and salsa.

2) Shape into 2 round patties

3) Grill until desired doneness

What a LONG weekend!

It's actually been a really long week - which explains the absence of posts. Between visiting with out of town friends, moot court judging, an evening with my brother, parties, GTGs, and shopping I almost forgot what my home (and kitchen) looked like. Here's a brief update.

Tuesday: Dinner with my friends Jenna and Des. Des is constantly traveling for work and Jenna lives in LA, so its very rare when the three of us are all in the same place at the same time. Jenna was in town for work, and Des wasn't out of town for work, so we marked the occasion with dinner. It was good to catch up with them, even though Des wasn't much of a talker since she was getting over a sore throat.

Wednesday: Moot Court competition. During law school I was part of the moot court national team. One of the hardest parts of Moot Court was finding judges for the tournaments we hosted. Now that I'm alum, the current board turns to us to act as judges. And we comply. Not because of any loyalty, and not to make their lives easier. Mostly we comply so that we can catch up with the other alumni and "cause as much disruption as possible." I got to catch up with my friends Mark, Ryan, and Haley. Haley and I had requested to judge together (and yellow M&Ms, and a limo, and artisan spring water......) It was fun judging with Haley - we were partners in the national tournaments so we both have most of the same critiques and complements. After I caught up with my brother who was in town for work and spent the night catching up with him. He works the WORST hours and I feel so bad for him. No wonder he's so tired! I just wish he would take off a day on the weekend to relax!



Friday: Jessica's birthday party! And any party with Jessica involves karaoke. This was no exception. Jon stole the show, as he always does. And he repeated his performance with Jessica that had the critics raving last time.

Saturday: Shopping with my mom. Let's see, my mom and my brother all in one week? I really am a family kinda girl. We hit up the outlets and were very successful. Go girls!

Sunday: We had an OC Nesties GTG at dog park. Ringo was in heaven. So many dogs, so little time. And he liked everyone he met. Surprise Surprise. Its fun to get the dogs involved and there were a lot of new faces which is always nice. After I had coffee with my friend Lucy who I haven't seen since May. This has been a real busy week, but on the plus side I have gotten to catch up with so many of my friends. It makes the business worth it. And even though it was so busy, I still got to relax tonight with the hubs, have a nice dinner and watch Blades of Steel. The movie was funny, and the dinner was excellent. Steak dinners are always nice, and this was topped with a spicy blue cheese which makes it even nicer. The only problem? We were out of lettuce, so I improvised and made a lettuce free salad. It was just as good - if not better. And oh so healthy.


Steak with spicy blue cheese
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing
1 Tsp horseradish
2 tenderloin filets

1) Mix blue cheese and horseradish
2) Grill steaks to desired level of doneness
3) Top with blue cheese


Lettuce-less Salad
broccoli florets
1/2 cucumber peeled, and sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
baby bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 can sliced black olive
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp basil
1/2 cup italian dressing
cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

1) Combine all ingredients but tomatoes and salt and pepper in large bowl.
2) Refrigerate for an hour
3) Add tomatoes and toss, season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beauty is only skin deep

Jon is always telling me I need to work on my presentation. In truth, I have been working on it, but its not always easy. Sometimes, no matter what you do, a dish just looks, well, unattractive. I'm lucky to be married to a man who will eat my creations no matter how grey and slimy they look. Mushroom chicken is a delicious chicken dish - rich and creamy and flavorful, but it is not the most appetizing to the eye. It came about in one of my "hmmm what do I do with all these mushrooms" spurts of creativity. Luckily it tastes a lot better than it looks!

Mushroom Chicken
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 oz sliced white mushrooms

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Combine cream, flour, salt, and pepper in blender until "sauce" forms.
3) Place chicken in greased baking dish and pour cream over chicken.
4) Top with mushrooms.
5) Bake 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Do you remember your first love?

When I first began cooking, I instantly fell in love with Cooking Light Magazine. It was like magic. Every recipe in it was fantastic. However, it was not until I made their Ma Po Tofu that I had the Eureka moment. It was the first dish I fell in love with. It has since become my favorite meal to make. I love the blend of flavors, I love the simplicity of the dish, I love the ease of creation. I have used the basic recipe as my go to with left overs - substituting chicken, beef, turkey for pork. You may be assured that every ingredient is in constant supply in my house. Ma Po Tofu is my comfort food, although as far from typical comfort food as one may find.


Ma Po Tofu (from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

1 (1-pound) package reduced-fat firm tofu, cut into 6 slices
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (such as Lee Kum Kee)
4 ounces lean ground pork
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups hot cooked long-grain brown rice
1/3 cup chopped green onions

Preparation

Place tofu slices on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Place a dinner plate on top of covered tofu; let stand 30 minutes. Remove plate; discard paper towels. Cut tofu slices into 1/2-inch cubes.

Combine broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chili garlic sauce, stirring with a whisk.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; cook 4 minutes or until done, stirring to crumble. Add ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tofu; cook 4 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Add broth mixture to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Serve tofu mixture over rice. Sprinkle with onions.


What's for Lunch?

I bring my own lunch to work. It's cheaper and far healthier than eating out at one of the hundreds of places by my office. Even when the meal is semi-unhealthy, it's still better than restaurant stuff. I like to spice it up a bit with sandwiches, salads, soups, even. This is a quick easy lunch because it can be made the night before and still tastes good at lunch time. It's a take off on the BLT - minus the mayo. I hate mayo. Instead it uses ranch dressing, which I love. I also throw in some extra chicken for protein - a girl has to get through the day!


Chicken BLT
Cooked chicken breast, cut into strips
tortilla
cheddar cheese, shredded
tomatoes, sliced
ranch dressing
green leaf lettuce
2 slices cooked bacon

1) Spread ranch dressing on tortillas.
2) Cover with cheddar cheese.
3) Top with lettuce, sliced tomato, and chicken.
4) Add bacon and roll up!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tea and cookies


Today was such a relaxing day! We went to dogpark in the morning and then to Blockbuster to pick up some movies. We spent the rest of the day at home watching movies and playing in the kitchen. Well, Jon didn't play in the kitchen, just me. But it made me ever so happy. I made special treats for everyone. For Ringo, I made pumpkin treats. For Jon and I, I made almond horns.

I spent a month studying Health Law in Austria. I lived in Vienna, and it was a wonderful time. I loved sitting in the cafes, drinking melange, and eating croissants. The croissant has a storied history. To many, the croissant is a quintessential French delicacy. But to the Austrians, it is a Viennese tradition. According to the Viennese, the first croissant was made to celebrate the victory of the Austrians over the Turks in the battle of Vienna. Viennese bakers created the pastry in the shape of the crescent found on the Turkish flag.

I miss my days in Vienna, and every now and then try to recreate them here. These almond horns are not Austrian, by any means, but their crescent shape echoes the famous Viennese pastry. I served them with Vanilla Tea, also not Austrian, but I can't do coffee at night or I'd never sleep. So this is my Americanized take on an evening in Vienna.


Almond Horns
1 1/3 cups blanched whole almonds
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp orange flower water
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
7-8 Tbsp cold water

1) In food processor, grind almonds and sugar to fine powder. Place mixture in large bowl and add orange flower water, butter, almond, and vanilla extracts. Using electric beater on medium speed, beat to a smooth paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
2) In medium bowl combine flour and salt. Break solid shortening into small pieces. Cut in shortening and cold butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time over mixture, mixing lightly with a fork after each addition, until pastry is just moist enough to hold together. Divide dough in half. Shape and flatten each piece of dough into disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
3) Heat oven to 350. Working on lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough halves unto a 12 x 15 rectangle. Cut dough into 4 equal strips horizontally, then 5 strips vertically. Each resulting square will measure 3". Place one of the squares on the work surface with one point facing down so it resembles a diamond. Using measuring spoon, take 1/2 tsp almond filling and roll into log. Place in center of square of dough. Brush edges of dough with tepid water and roll securely. Seal ends. Bend slightly in center to form crescent shape. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining filling and dough.
4) Bake 20 minutes, or until slightly golden. Remove from baking sheet to wire rack to cool completely. Dust lightly with confectioners' sugar.

Vanilla Tea
1 vanilla-caramel tea
1 /4 split vanilla bean
dash of anise

1) Bring water to boil.
2) Place tea bag, vanilla, and anise in a cup. Add boiling water.
3)Let steep 4-5 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.
4)Add sweetener and milk.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur is not the most fun of all Jewish Holidays. You start fasting the night before, right before the first dose of synagogue. Then its rise and shine the next morning to head to another fun filled day of synagogue - a dose in the morning, and a dose in the afternoon that leads into the evening. Dose is the appropriate word because it really is like taking your medicine.

In Catholicism, there is the idea of confession. It's understood that everyone commits sins, but if you repent you'll be forgiven. In the Jewish religion, we have a "one time a year" confession - Yom Kippur. There's a lot of synagogue because instead of a weekly confession, we only have one day to get the sins out. The fasting is to help cleanse the soul. It reminds us of the pain we caused others, and shows our commitment to repentance.

By the end of the day I am the last person you want to talk to. I'm hungry, I'm tired, and I am sooo annoyed by all the people in synagogue who don't bother to put away their rudeness and disrespect on the day of atonement. Some people don't like to be spoken to before they have their morning coffee. Don't speak to me before break-the-fast.

Break-the-fast is supposed to be a light meal. I prepared ahead of time by making egg salad and cucumber salad. Perfect and light. This egg salad is Jon's favorite egg salad. It's a nice change from the usual, although we didn't bother to tell anyone it was "different" and no one noticed.

Cucumber Salad
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup mayo
2 Tbsp mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp chopped dill

1) place cucumber in colander with salt and let sit for 30 min. Rinse in cold water to rinse off salt and press out excess water with a paper towel.
2) Combine mayo and mustard. Add to cucumbers.
3) Season with salt, pepper, and dill.

Egg Salad
12 hardboiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

1) In medium bowl combine eggs, mayonnaise, scallions and curry powder.
2) Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lobster Bisque-style


Every now and then I stumble upon something at Trader Joes which intrigues me, worms its way into my cart, and then onto the table. Such was the case with lobster ravioli. Jon was equally excited.
"What kind of sauce are you going to use?"
"Hmmm, I hadn't really thought about it, do you have a preference?"
"Something creamy"

So off I went, in search of a cream sauce that wouldn't overpower the ravioli. Along the way I stumbled into Peabody's blog. Okay, it wasn't really a stumble, since I tend to head there as one of my first steps in recipe searches. I remembered seeing something about a lobster in her blog earlier this year. And then I found it. Her grilled corn and shrimp chowder. She claims it works best with lobster. I was a little disappointed because it was soup, but then I thought - there's not a huge difference between soup and sauce, so I placed her recipe squarely on the diving board and jumped off.

I used similar flavors and techniques, and added a few twists of my own to create a creamy sauce that perfectly complemented the lobster ravioli. Top with some roasted cherry tomatoes (mmmmm I love roasted tomatoes) and the dish looks half as fantastic as it tastes. Well, Jon doesn't like tomatoes, so he preferred the dish without tomatoes, but I loved it!



Sauce
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced carrot
1 garlic clove, chopped
5 TBSP butter, divided
½ tsp coriander
a dash of white pepper
sea salt to taste
2 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream

1.In a large stock pot, cook celery, carrot, onion and garlic in 1 TBSP of butter. Saute for about 5 minutes, until tender.
2.Add coriander, white pepper and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes, while the stock reduces.
3.Add wine, cream and 4 Tbsp butter. Simmer another 20 minutes.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp fresh chopped basil

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Toss tomatoes with oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Spread tomatoes out on baking sheet and roast 20 min, or until skin begins to wrinkle
4. Combine with basil

Pretty in Pink

The only thing girlier than sipping champagne is sipping pink champagne. Champagne does come in a pink, or rose version, but sometimes its more fun to make your own. Champagne is often mixed with other fruity combinations to create drinks such as bellinis. I mixed the champagne with some raspberry vodka. Raspberry vodka + champagne = champagne colored drink. You wouldn't even know it had a hidden surprise! I had to change that so I added a splash of grenadine. Now I had a drink that was as good to look at, as it was to drink. And nothing goes better with ANTM than a girly pink drink.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A classic

A classic spinach salad consists of spinach, bacon, hardboiled eggs, and blue cheese. I hardly ever eat my spinach salads this way. Mine usually involve some variety of fruit, cheese, and nut. But sometimes classic is the way to go. So I tossed together some spinach, bacon, and mushrooms and swirled it with blue cheese dressing instead of blue cheese. I skipped out on the egg - I'm a rebel.

Spinach, Bacon and Blue Cheese Salad
10 cups baby spinach
10 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 pkg white mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp minced fresh herbs
1 clove garlic, minced
blue cheese dressing

1) In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients but blue cheese.
2) Serve with blue cheese dressing.

On My Own

I hardly ever get the house to myself. Since I work so far away, I never get home before Jon, and during the weekends he likes to spend time with me *shudder*. Last night though, Jon went to LA to meet a friend for dinner which gave me free reign. I know a lot of you think I cook because I'm the world's greatest wife or other such nonsense. That's completely untrue. Jon is spoiled in the food department as a complete by-product. I first started cooking for myself. After a rough day of law school, nothing helped me unwind better than some time in the kitchen. At the time my roommate benefited from my culinary experiments. Now that I live with Jon, he's the beneficiary. I don't cook for him - I cook for me! So last night when he was gone I went all out for myself. A creamy chicken dish, risotto, spinach salad, and even a little alcoholic enjoyment of a new champagne drink I wanted to try. I got to enjoy dinner stretched out on the couch (as much as Ringo would let me) watching trashy tv (Yay for the new season of ANTM!) and chatting online with some friends. It was a perfect evening!

The chicken dish was phenomenal and left me licking the plate. Warning - it is FAR from healthy, but sometimes you need to treat yourself. The recipe is old, and I can't even remember who I got it from, so forgive me for not naming the source. I can tell you it's absolutely amazing and I may very well use the sauce for a variety of other dishes.....

Basil Chicken
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 jar sliced pimento peppers
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 tsp black pepper

1) Place milk and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls.
2) Dip chicken in the milk, then coat with bread crumbs. In a skillet over medium heat, fry chicken in butter or margarine, 6 minutes per side. Remove skillet and keep warm.
3) Add broth to the skillet; bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to loosen browned bits from pan.
4) Stir in the cream and pimentos. Simmer and stir until heated through. To serve, pour the sauce over the chicken.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fall Greenery

There are some foods, which just sound decadent. Risotto is one of those dishes. Simply mention that you are preparing risotto will definitely elicit some oohs and ahhs. In truth, there is nothing especially hard about risotto, but it is one to watch. Because of the constant stirring, it's a high maintenance food. But then again, I'm a bit of a high maintenance cook. And nothing compares to that rich, buttery, creamy flavor of risotto which makes it taste more unhealthy than it is. The only unhealthy aspect? The Parmesan cheese. And really, the cheese makes the risotto. I like this one because it has loads of green vegetables to make you feel like you're eating a farm - in a good way.Veggie Risotto
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 head of broccoli, trimmed
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesean Cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1) Heat 1/2 Tbsp oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute about 2 minutes. Set aside.
2) Bring broth to simmer in medium saucepan over low heat. Cover, keep warm.
3) Heat remaining oil in large heavy pot over medium high heat. Add leeks and garlic. Saute until leeks begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
4) Add rice; stir until rice is translucent, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 cup broth, stir until liquid is absorbed. Add broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed before adding the next 1/4 cup, until there is only 1/2 cup broth remaining.
5) Add cheese, peas, broccoli, and remaining broth. Simmer until vegetables are just tender and risotto is creamy.
6) Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Today's Post Brought To You By The Lemon


In Italy, lemons, or limoni, are everywhere. Italy produces several varieties of lemons. This ubiquitous fruit is used in one of the most popular Italian dishes - piccata. According to dictionary.com, there are several definitions for piccata, but all have one aspect in common. No matter whether you serve it with parsley or spices, butter or wine, piccata is not picatta without the lemon.

This is a very healthy version of piccata because it isn't dredged in flour, chicken broth instead of wine, and uses EVOO instead of butter. My best tip for making this a true piccata is to make sure to pound the chicken thin - scallopine style!

In tribute to the lemon, and to echo the flavors, I served this chicken piccata with the new lemon pepper papperdelle from TJs. It was a very citrusy night. Now mange!

Light Chicken Piccata
1/16 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2/3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
2/3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/8 cup chicken broth

1) Heat oven to 400.
2) In a small bowl combine all ingredients but chicken and broth
3) Place chicken in pyrex baking dish , spoon herb mixture over top and pour broth over.
4) Bake 6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through
5) To serve, arrange chicken on platter and pour pan juices over it

Monday, September 17, 2007

Too tired to cook?




Yes, sometimes even I am too tired to cook. This is mostly due to me going back to work and the hellish commute I now face. I leave the house around 7 and get to work a smidge before 8:30. I leave work a little before 6 and get home by 7. That's a 12 hour day for those of you keeping track. Lately when I get home, the first thing I want to do is eat, and the last thing I want to do is cook. This meant a lot of pasta for dinner last week. Jon complained. I can't blame him. Since I sit in a cubicle all day loading myself up with carbs at night isn't the smartest or healthiest thing to do. So I'm falling back to old, easy favorites. You know, where you throw some marinade on meat and stick it in the oven.

Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite meals for this. It cooks quickly, and serves 2 perfectly. This one got doused in barbeque sauce and stuck in the oven at 375 for about 40 minutes. While it cooked I boiled some potatoes in milk and threw them in my kitchenaid with some salt, pepper, onion powder, and sage. By the time the potatoes were done, so was the pork. Jon was much happier with dinner last night and kept raving about how tender and flavorful the pork was - which comes naturally with baking. As for me? It was easy and therefore I was happy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dippity-Doo Dah



"Um have we met? Dip is my number one fav food group!" This quote is brought to you by Liz, in response to my question of what I should bring to dinner. This made it easy for me because I knew I could do no wrong and she would love whatever I made. I decided to play with my BDE by adding some horseradish and the ultimate dip addition - chives.

The horseradish added a nice kick and I really do think tarragon belongs in every dip. It just makes the dip taste so fresh. And since I'm on such a paprika kick this month I threw some of that in too.

The dip went over well. I paired it with some nice crisp green veggies. It's almost spring like. Of course, its hard to say if the dip was amazing, especially since Liz loves all dips so much. I will say this one didn't disappoint.

Horseradish Tarragon Dip
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove minced garlic
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp minced fresh chives
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

1) In medium bowl combine sour cream, mayo, garlic, horseradish, chives, tarragon, and paprika.
2) Season with salt and pepper.
3) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Cool as a Cucumber


I told you that I've been hankering for summer salads lately. Especially on the weekend when I don't want anything heavy. I also have a problem with using up cucumber. I'll buy one, and forget about it until it becomes a mushy mess in the fridge. I decided to take the bull by the horns and convert this cucumber to a salad before it got to that stage.

Cucumber salads are great if you love salty foods the way I do. But because of the "blandness" of the cucumber, they never get too salty . I add a little spice to mine which makes it even better!



Cucumber Salad with Paprika
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup water
paprika
black pepper

1) Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and let stand for 45 minutes with a plate and a 5-pound weight on top.

2)Combine the sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, and water. Add the cucumbers and marinate for a few hours.

3) To serve, sprinkle paprika on half of the salad and black pepper on the other half.

E-stravaganza


I remember the first conversation I ever had with Abby. She remembers it too. I had just got the letter from UCLA giving me the names and phone numbers of my future roommates. When I spoke to Abby, she told me she had brown hair, brown eyes, and freckles. I pictured a cabbage patch kid. I made her tell me she was adorable. When I finally met her on move-in day I found she was not adorable, she was gorgeous. One of those people that could go out in a bathrobe with no makeup and still stop traffic. And yet, she had such a "girl next door" quality that made her approachable and made everyone love her instantly. She's the kind of girl you want to hate, but can't for the life of you find a reason. We hit it off almost immediately and remained roommates for 2 years. We've remained friends even longer.

I can't remember the first time I met Andy, but I would be willing to bet it was a loud, raucous fraternity party. I'm sure I wondered what this soft spoken, kind guy was doing in a fraternity. I'm sure we hit it off immediately. See, Andy was in Jon's fraternity back when Jon's fraternity was filled with good looking AND nice guys. It didn't stay that way very long, but back when I met Andy, he filled that criteria. Later, Andy would become my "boss" (as well as Abby's) as coordinator for Campus Tours. I know I must have liked him immediately because I was constantly trying to set him up with my friends. All failed attempts.

I remember when I first found out Abby and Andy were dating. It was Abby's 21st birthday, and I had just arrived at her apartment to get ready for festivities. The phone rang. Her roommate's eyes lit up.
"It's Andy," he whispered to me.
"ANDY?" I asked.
A mischievous grin lit up his face. "I've been waiting and waiting to tell you. They've been dating for 2 weeks now."

I remember where I was when I found out Abby and Andy were engaged. We had just gotten back into the country after Puerto Vallarta and were switching planes in Arizona. I was listening to my voice mail messages as we ran to the terminal. I heard Abby's voice. I heard the news. I started screaming in the middle of the airport. It was all I talked about on the plane and the drive home.

Last night was Abby and Andy's engagement party. Although I know Abby's family as well as my own, it was my first time meeting Andy's family. It was obvious where Andy got his kindness from. They are warm and generous people, and the party was amazing. Of course I didn't think to take pictures of the food but believe me - it was incredible. They even had cupcakes for dessert! It was so great to see the families together, to catch up with Abby's sister and her new husband, and even some people I haven't seen since college. I am so happy for Andy and Abby - I tear up everytime I think about them getting married. I can't wait for the wedding!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gifts from the Garden


I love tomatoes. I love them cooked, I love them raw, and Jon makes fun of me, but give me a fresh tomato and some salt and I'm in heaven. So when a co-worker brought in fresh tomatoes from her garden this week, of course I took some home. I've been trying to decide what to make with them - everything sounded so good. But since it's the end of the summer, this is the last chance I have to use them in a fresh summer salad.

This salad is from my "Jewish Holiday Cookbook" by Joan Nathan. According to the recipe, tomatoes were hardly used in Eastern Europe because they were considered inedible in their raw form. Many people believed the tomato was poisonous. Jews were especially superstitious regarding the tomato. Nevertheless, this Hungarian Green Pepper and Tomato Salad shows that there is nothing to fear from the tomato. Unless you're afraid of a delicious dish!

This is such a light refreshing salad. Jon had some on its own with his lunch today, and I mixed mine with some pasta to create a summer pasta salad.



Hungarian Green Pepper and Tomato Salad (from Jewish Holiday Cooking)
2 green peppers
3 tomatoes
1 red onion
salt
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

1) Remove the white ribs and seeds from the green peppers and cut lengthwise into slices.
2) Slice and remove the seeds from the tomatoes.
3) Thinly slice the red onion.
4) Combine the salt to taste, vinegar, and sugar, and slowly whisk in the oil. Pour over the green peppers, tomatoes, and onion, arranged in a glass bowl.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Say Cheeeese


Cheesecake that is. See, 2 weeks ago, my aunt came to visit and we went to The Cheesecake Factory. As soon as we sat down, Jon announced he would be ordering cheesecake after dinner. Of course, as is always the case, there is never room for cheesecake after dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. I felt bad for him. I decided I would make him a cheesecake last week. I've never made a cheesecake before. But really? Isn't it just cream cheese? How hard could it be?

I decided an Oreo cheesecake was, as one of my friends would say "TWTG" (the way to go). Honestly, it was pretty easy, but it cracked. It was one of those "baby in the oven" moments - brownie points for whoever gets that reference. Everything was looking good, and then I opened the oven door. The door dropped with a loud "slam" and the cheesecake cracked. Bah!


So the cheesecake wasn't so pretty. Sad but true. I think the pictures are even worse. But it tasted like cheesecake so I must have done something right. Nevertheless, after all my hard work I waited for praise from the man. I watched with baited breath as he took a bite. Nothing. He didn't say anything. Didn't he realize I made this for him?

K: Well, how is it?
J: It tastes thick, like cheese.
K: It tastes like cheesecake!
J: You know I don't really like cheesecake, right?
K: What about last week? At The Cheesecake Factory?
J: I like it there, because it doesn't really taste like cheesecake.

Great, and now we have a huge thing of cheesecake left. Cheesecake that tastes like cheesecake. Guess my coworkers will have something else to munch on next week.


Oreo Cheesecake
1 pkg oreos
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs

1) Preheat oven to 325.
2) Place 30 of the cookies in food processor and process until finely ground.
3) Add butter, mix well. Press firmly into bottom of 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
4) Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.
5) Add sour cream, mix well.
6) Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
7) Chop remaining cookies. Stir 1 1/2 cups of the chopped cookies into cream cheese batter.
8) Pour over crust, sprinkle with remaining chopped cookies.
9) Bake 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate overnight.

It's been a rough week

And I apologize for not being a good blogger, but I'm tired and I left my camera in someone's car so I haven't blogged since I haven't been able to take pictures. But now I'm back with a vengeance.



First up, lemon butter cookies. These were especially for Jon since he loves lemon desserts. I'm not as big a fan. And now that I'm working again, I don't have to have baked good sitting around the house. I brought half of these into work and they were gone like they were cookies or something. My mom stopped by this week to view the new pad and had one. She spent the next 5 minutes telling me how good they are. Even I (me?), who doesn't like lemon desserts enjoyed these. They're crisp and buttery like my favorite shortbread cookies. The lemon is there, but it doesn't assault the senses. Instead they melt in your mouth and leave a light citrus aftertaste.


Lemon Butter Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
sugar for sprinkling

1) Using an electric mixture, mix butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy.
2) Add egg until batter is fluffy.
3) Mix in flour, lemon juice and zest, baking powder and salt. Mold dough into log on wax paper. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm.
4) Preheat oven to 350.
5) Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
6) Transfer to ungreased non-stick cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops with sugar.
7) Bake 10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Birthday Overboard!

This was a major birthday weekend for me. I had two birthdays this weekend for people who are very close to me.



Friday was my brother's birthday. This entailed dinner with my family at Yardhouse. Yardhouse isn't anything special, but for the past few years, birthday dinners for my brother have started with a family meal out, then his friends would join him at the restaurant for a night of drunkenness which often times ended with him passed out on the driveway. So Yardhouse is a great place for both family dinners and drinking with friends. The problem with Yardhouse is that its not really conducive for conversation - especially on a Friday night. So there was a lot more pointing and nodding than actually catching up. I think I heard my bro mention that he's in Santa Barbara for the weekend, but who can ever really be sure?


Saturday was Sabrina's birthday. Sabrina and I met in college. She was in my sorority and best friends with one of my roommates, but we didn't really become close until Senior Year when we took History of the Beatles together. We sat next to each other and passed notes. We picked our favorite Beatles, planned our weddings, and decorated our gigantic houses we would have in the future. Next semester we took The American Musical. We sat next to each other and passed notes. All in all it was a pretty sweet gig. We were damn near inseparable. We were part of a group of girls who took trips to Vegas every year and all of us were very close. After graduation Sabrina was going to start applying to law schools. With a BA in theater I had zero job prospects and decided my pre-college goal of becoming a lawyer specializing in bioethics didn't sound like such a bad idea. Especially since Sabrina was applying to law school. We could sit next to each other, pass notes. It would be great. Except Sabrina ended up at a different law school than me. The next three years passed in a blur of emails, depression, and very little face time for the two of us. And 3 years of missed birthdays. So now that school is over, I just had to make the trek up to LA to celebrate.



I hate driving up to LA. Hate it hate it hate it. First there was a lane closure which backed up traffic for an hour. Then there was an accident which backed up traffic more. Took me forever to get up there. Luckily, I had reinforcements to boost my spirits when I got there. The world renowned Wee-Mo met me in Pasadena and babysat me for hours until dinner. She describes it excellently in her blog.

Dinner for Sabrina was at the Melting Pot. It was my first experience with this restaurant and I definitely think I would go back. For people like me, who have never been, its a fondue restaurant. Cheese, Meat, Chocolate - every kind you can imagine. There was endless food, and endless good times. I laughed so hard all night. I snorted, I gasped, I cried. I forgot how much I love my friends. It definitely made my drive worth it.

Happy Birthday Alex and Sabrina!