Monday, September 26, 2011

Treasures Matey



When I was younger, my mom used to do a old "camp song" on my brother and I which involved tracing up and down our back:

We're going on a treasure hunt
X- marks the spot
With a Dash-Dash-Dash
and a Dot-Dot-Dot
Up the river
Down the river
All around the river

And this is really a very long introduction to a treasure I found in the supermarket. They were these little premade shortbread tarts. Mini guys, just begging to be filled with custard or fruit. Although after I made the banana cupcakes last week my coworker informed me that he really liked pumpkin pie and cheesecake. Which meant these puppies were going to be filled with cheesecake.

Since the "crust" was already prepared, I didn't want to cook them so I went for a no-bake recipe. Which is basically just cream cheese and sugar blended together. Except I had some other treasure to use up too. And this treasure was a golden treasure (like real pirates have) - Trader Joe's Lemon Curd. I love this stuff. And I decided to use it instead of sugar - all the sweetness but without having to worry about making sure the sugar was fully beaten into the whip cream. For some added fluffyness since these were going straight into the fridge, I took a trick from icebox pies/cakes and used cool whip to aerate. You can top these with whatever you like, I ended up with kiwi jam and kiwi, which kind of gave them a key lime pie feel once combined with the lemon curd. This is probably about as Sandra Lee as I get!



Cheater Mini-Cheesecakes
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup lemon curd
1 cup cool whip
mini-shortbread tarts

  1. Place cream cheese in electric mixer and mix until smooth.
  2. Add lemon curd and mix thoroughly.
  3. Fold in cool whip.
  4. Divide this mixture between the mini-shortbread tarts.
  5. Garnish with whatever fruit you like!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Winter Cookies for Fall



Last night after dinner I was in an especially mood. I lay on the sofa bed and confided in Thatboy I couldn't be any happier. The temperature was perfect, I was decidedly full but not stuffed, and was incredibly comfortable lazing in bed. So comfortable that I even let Thatboy do all the dishes - unlike our normal routine where I pop up to help. "The only thing that would make this night perfect, would be hot chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven." I told him, while he stood with his hands elbow-deep in suds. "But I'm too comfortable and lazy to get up and make cookies."

"Can I make them?" He asked. I gave him a look of shock. Knowing that of course he couldn't make cookies. This is a man who needs help cooking "meal in a bags." "Don't we have one of those refrigerator packs where you can just cut them up and put them on a sheet?"

Another look of shock on my behalf. "In the time we've known each other, have you ever known us to have refrigerator cookie dough lying about?" He admitted he did not and therefore wasn't surprised there was no dough ready for him to pop in the oven.

But today was all about food. For the most part. I got up and headed to the supermarket to "stock up" on essential supplies just in case it's my last chance. (Which doesn't seem likely for anyone who's concerned. I'm sure I'll be making another trip next weekend.) Then it was home for lunch - chicken with fava beans.

Then I headed out to the farmer's market so I could load up on produce for the week. And pick up some fresh flowers. I love having flowers when we have company coming and with the New Year this week it's an excellent excuse to pick up something bright and colorful. This week my egg guy wasn't around and I skipped the bread so our haul this week ended up as $20 instead of $30.


Those little strawberries are delicious. They've already been chopped up and placed in our lunch for tomorrow. And those apples have "crisp" written all over them. But I ran out of time to make the crisp today.

Instead, I came home and made Mexican Meatloaf (which incidentally has completely won this non-meatloaf girl over. I highly suggest you try it. It's my new go-to recipe.)

And since I was already in the kitchen, cookies seemed like a natural next step. To go along with the Mexican Meatloaf, Mexican wedding cookies seemed to make sense. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania we called them snowballs. But then again, I doubt anyone in my town had any cultural ties to Mexico. Instead they popped up as Christmas cookies all over town. Vanilla cookies, rolled in powdered sugar conjure up wintery feelings everywhere. It's still a ways from Christmas, but chocolate and cinnamon are definitely autumnal, right? Cinnamon is so very close to cider. And chocolate? Well they're no chocolate chip cookies, but they will definitely do.


Chocolate Cinnamon Snowballs
1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for rolling)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Cream butter in an electric mixer.
  2. Add sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon and beat until the mixture is fluffy.
  3. Add the flour in 2-3 batches. Mix just until blended.
  4. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.
  5. Cool on wire racks just until you can handle them. Roll in powdered sugar and then let cool completely.
  6. Roll them in powdered sugar again (and if you like, do it even one more time because that's the best part).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pasta-mania



This has been a very unusual Saturday. I can't remember the last time I had one like it. We have nothing - absolutely nothing to do today. No errands to run, no cooking to get done, no work to do, no anywhere to be or anyone to meet up with, even all the laundry has been folded and put away!

Which means although we're showered and dressed, Thatboy and I have spent the entire morning on the couch, catching up on all the series premieres we missed this week. Currently we're exploring surgery and trauma via Grey's Anatomy. (Although, I just looked over and realized my husband isn't quite fully dressed given that he decided to put on pajamas after showering.) (And on a related unrelated note - anyone else think that to start a season off built around the benefits of lying might be the wrong message to send?)

I honestly don't remember the last lazy day we had. I mean sure, it's hard for me to sit around doing nothing, and in a few minutes I'll be up and cleaning the place a bit before our Rosh Hashanna guests arrive since it's always easier to clean on the weekends than during the week. But for the most part, I'm really enjoying the idea of not having to leave the house at all!

A lazy day calls for a lazy meal. And I honestly can't think of anything lazier than pasta. I know - there was a pasta recipe yesterday. All I can do is promise there will not be another pasta dish tomorrow. I make no promises about today. Especially when this is a dish that cannot be described with a better adjective than lazy. What else to do you call a pasta that cooks in its own sauce, so you don't even need to dirty a pot?

In Italy, a Ragu is meat sauce served atop pasta. In France, a Ragout is a thick meat stew. The common denominator in both is the meat. A thick meat sauce, no matter where you're from. The idea is universal and can be translated many different ways. This is my take on a Greek ragu - a spiced meat sauce served atop pasta, but using typical Greek flavors. (Or at least American Greek since I can't claim any authenticity into anything Greek.)



Greek Ragu
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
2 sprigs oregano
1 tsp cinnamon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth
2 tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup penne pasta (uncooked)
1 cup spinach, blanched, drained, and chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese

  1. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and cook until they are translucent.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until beef is browned.
  3. Stir in the oregano, cinnamon and garlic.
  4. Add the broth, tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
  5. Stir in the pasta, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in spinach and half of the feta. Cover and cook 5 minutes more.
  7. Remove from heat, sprinkle with remaining feta, cover and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Raising Spirits



It's been a rough week at work - full of ups and downs and confusing messages. Yesterday we got some news that took us all by surprise. I thought morale would be low today so I decided to bring in a treat for everyone - banana cupcakes.

They were a hit. Morale wasn't as low as I was expecting, but the cupcakes were welcomed anyway. And it ended up being a long day/night as we all ended up working late. Which means having the cupcakes around became very appreciated as we got hungry as the hours ticked by.

But for me, sweets aren't usually my morale booster. I'd much prefer something warm and cheesy. So when I came home, I turned to my favorite pasta - gnocchi. Really, you can't go wrong with any type of sauce on gnocchi. I love them all. Browned butter, marinara, vodka sauce. But I do love a good cheese sauce. Typically you see gnocchi with a nice gorgonzola cream but we had blue cheese at home. Thatboy doesn't like blue cheeses in general - although he does prefer gorgonzola. But this recipe wasn't for Thatboy. It was for me. And sinking into the couch with a nice bowl of hot, creamy, blue-cheesy pasta was enough to cheer up any bad mood.


Gnocchi in Blue Cheese Sauce
2 strips of bacon
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 pkg of gnocchi
  1. Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy. Remove bacon, but leave the remaining drippings.
  2. Add the heavy cream and blue cheese to the bacon drippings. Cook, stirring until the blue cheese melts into the cream and the sauce starts to thicken.
  3. While sauce is thickening, cook gnocchi.
  4. Drain gnocchi and add to the cream sauce, tossing to coat gnocchi.
  5. Divide into serving dishes and crumble bacon over.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Unwrapped




So the highlight of my day this week has been coming home and finding packages.

I make Thatboy play "Channukah" every night when we can open our "presents."



Normally, they're not really presents. I signed up for Amazon Mom which means I have free two-day shipping that I am definitely taking advantage of. In fact, I'm placing another order tonight.



But this week also brought an actual present in the mail too! Amber and I met on a wedding planning board, after we had both already planned our weddings. From the start I always joked we lived parallel lives in different places. It didn't hurt that she and her husband went to the same college as Thatboy and I. So it wasn't terribly surprising to find out that we were both expecting our first child within the same week of each other.

Amber took up sewing a couple years ago, and has made everything from formal dresses to blankets. This week, I got a package from Amber which was loaded to the gills with stuff for Thatbaby.


Blankets, covers, burp cloths, clothes - oh my! We're so excited to use everything.

Know what else we're excited about? (I may be using the "we're" a little liberally. I'm very excited for this, obviously) It's officially fall! Which means it's officially chili season! And there is no better way to break in the fall than with a new chili recipe. It's pretty well known that I love all forms of chili, but I tend to stick to the traditional kind when making it - ground beef or turkey in a thick red sauce. This is the first white chicken chili I've attempted. It's easy to go from red to white by switching the bean and adding chicken as the protein of choice. As with any chili, it's always best when loaded up with onions and cheese!



White Chicken Chili
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk, warmed
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 lb chicken, cut into cubes
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
2 cans white kidney beans

  1. Make the white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour until a paste forms.
  2. Slowly stir in the hot milk and stir until a thick sauce forms. Bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 more minutes.
  4. In a separate pot, heat the canola oil. Add in the chicken, chili, cumin, onion and pepper and cook until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Stir in the white sauce, 3/4 cup water, corn, and kidney beans. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and cook 5 minutes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Almost Italy

In the spirit of "let's get as much us time as possible before baby comes," Thatboy and I headed out last night.

It wasn't really a "night on the town" as we purposely avoided nightlife. Instead we headed to a not-so-secret little hideaway in our own backyard, the Grand Del Mar.



While we haven't stayed here, we thought it would be nice to try one of their two outstanding restaurants, Addison and Amaya. Last night we dined at Amaya.



The Grand Del Mar is modeled after an Italian Villa and Amaya follows suit with red and white striped awnings and curving staircases. We sat outside, watching the sunset over the manicured lawns.


After dinner we walked along the grounds. We stood and looked out over the hills, which looked as though they were painted in every shade of blue. We walked through the fountains and gazebo, and then through the hotel itself, stopping to sit in the library and journey through corridors.



And there was of course a bathroom trip - one of the nicest bathrooms I've ever been in. How fancy was this bathroom? Instead of paper towels, there were handtowels to dry your hands with.



It was such a lovely peaceful evening where we got to enjoy each other's company. We came home very relaxed, which is a perfect mid-week break.

Last post I promised you the fried rice recipe, which works out well since I obviously didn't make dinner while we were dining out.


Fried Rice
1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup cooked rice
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup of your favorite veggies
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and add the rice. Cook for 3 minutes and then push to the side of the pan.
  2. Add the egg and scramble in the open space and stir into the rice.
  3. Add the broth, vegetables, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dog Day of Summer



Thatdog has a pretty rough life. His typical day goes something like this:
* Wake up. Everyone else is still sleeping. Sniff around. Try to keep busy until the alarm goes off.
* Alarm goes off. Jump up on the bed and roll between the two people in the bed to make sure they get up.
* Go for a run with Thatgirl.
* Breakfast.
* Everybody leaves. Sleep all day.
* Thatgirl and Thatboy come home from work. Quick walk, then they hang out at home all night.

It's pretty boring. We don't do a ton of fun things with Thatdog during the week, and on the weekends we're often running errands without him.

We decided to make it up to him today by making the day (almost) completely about him.

We started out by taking him out to lunch. We headed up to Carlsbad to walk around Carlsbad Village a bit. He loves getting out of the house and getting to smell new smells. We had lunch at a hole in the wall Mexican joint, which means Thatdog gets a couple of chips/some tortilla if he sits nicely and behaves. And he was pretty happy with those chips/pieces of tortilla until Thatboy made the mistake of letting him taste some carnitas. Then Thatdog was no longer content with a piece of chip. Spoiled much?

Next we had to do a quick errand for me - a trip to the Farmer's Market. Since I worked yesterday I couldn't get over to my usual Farmer's Market, so I went to the neighborhood one instead. And this is what $30 gets you at my neighborhood market:


Then we were back on track for Thatdog's day - a trip to the beach. Thatdog LOVES the beach because he gets to run around on the sand and play with other dogs. He's not so keen on the water aspect of the beach and spends a lot of time running away as the tide rolls in.


But today the beach was full of dunes for him to run around in, so he could stay far far away from those scary waves.


We came home so I could get some cooking done and Thatdog could rest up after his big day. Right now he's sprawled out on the floor under the coffee table - his favorite "den." Thatboy and I relaxed and watched the Emmys while we enjoyed some creamy chicken and broccoli. Adding a sauce to broccoli is a surefire way to get Thatboy to eat it - true of many vegetables, and a great way to get a picky vegetable eater to eat his vegetables. Mix in some chicken and you have an entire meal! (I served this with some fried rice - recipe to follow tomorrow. Because for now I have a kitchen to clean and laundry to fold!)

Chicken and Broccoli
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk, warmed
2 Tbsp sherry
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups broccoli, cooked
4 slices of cooked chicken
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour until a paste forms.
  2. Slowly stir in the hot milk and stir until a thick sauce forms. Bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 more minutes. Add in sherry and egg yolk, stirring.
  4. Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
  5. Spray a pyrex dish with cooking spray and place broccoli on the bottom.
  6. Top broccoli with chicken and spoon the sauce over both.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Curry in a Hurry



Today was one of those ridiculously long days. We all have them - when you try to fit in too much in a short period of time.

I had to run into work for a couple hours today, which is always the least funnest thing to do on a Saturday. At least I got to sleep in a bit before my cold-nosed alarm clock decided I had slept long enough and there were bushes to sniff outside.

Since my office is right near Trader Joes, I used working as an excuse to get our weekly shopping trip out of the way. Have I mentioned I HATE shopping on Saturday afternoons? Seriously I swear that for some reason they send out a bulletin telling every one to show up at the grocery store at that time - which means the place is always a zoo.

I got home hot and already tired, but Thatboy and I had decided that today we'd run all our errands so we could just spend Sunday relaxing. So off we went to Babies R Us to pick up a couple last minute items, make some returns, and use our completion code. Can I just tell you how awesome their staff is? I probably could have just sat in a chair and had them shop for me. They were running all over the store helping us find things we couldn't find. Then they let us combine a bunch of coupons which weren't supposed to be combined. Then they applied "use on one item" coupons on multiple items. We scored - spent a little over $70 for $270 worth of merchandise.

Next was a Target run since Target is beside Babies R Us and neither are particularly close. There are so many fabulous things about where we live, but we are sorely lacking in Targets. And this one is being remodeled which makes it even less convenient. But we were able to grab a bunch of little things that we needed.

Next stop was Blockbuster to trade in some movies. Then came Bevmo to pick up some beer for Thatboy. He's been dying to try one of the newer San Diego Microbreweries - Iron Fist. And luckily Bevmo carries it. And can I tell you how good it smells? I was also excited to see Bevmo appears to be carrying my favorite beer - which is usually fairly difficult to find. Thatboy asked if I wanted to pick some up and I gave him a look. "More than ANYTHING. Thanks for rubbing it in." I got some Oogave Ginger Ale instead - Oogave is my vice of choice at the current moment.

By the time we finally made it home, it was after 6. I hadn't been really home, except to drop off groceries, since 9 something in the morning. And both of us had been fairly terrible about eating. I was a step ahead of Thatboy since I had a bagel for lunch and he had skittles. We needed dinner. And we needed dinner soon. And we were both (understandably) exhausted. (Thatboy had been surfing while I was working.) I'm a huge fan of curried chicken salad. It's one of my summer staples. But cold chicken salad is such a lunch item. Or picnic item. Or beach item. For dinner, I thought I could easily take the same basic idea, but warm it up. Instead of using greek yogurt, which I use as a binder in most of my cold salads, a white sauce would serve the same purpose and turn my cold chicken salad into a warm dinner entree. And would be a little more stick-to-your-ribs for those of use who had very little to eat throughout the day.


Warm Curried Chicken Salad
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

  1. Melt butter in saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring until a thick paste forms.
  2. Slowly add the milk and cream and stir until it is thick and smooth.
  3. Stir in curry powder, raisins, chicken, and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dried Cherry Jubilee



During the week, Thatboy and I grab breakfast on the go. He takes a yogurt to work, and depending on how much time I have, I'll either have cereal at home, or make something I can eat in the car on the way to work. (By the way, the amount of chocolate milk boxes I have in my front seat is getting to be embarrassing)

On the weekends I like to make us a nice breakfast - if Thatboy is running off on a surf date. We can sit and enjoy something more time consuming, like eggs, benedicts, muffins, or pancakes. I picked up some dried cherries to make Ellie Krieger's Walnut and Dried Cherry Bars thinking they would do double duty. Nice breakfast for the weekend, and something we could grab on our way out during the week. I had some leftover dried cherries and decided to combine them in the best way possible - with chocolate.

Thatboy does not especially love fruit and chocolate (with the exception of chocolate covered strawberries - which seems to be an exception everyone makes). Because of this, I knew that making cookies or cake with chocolate and cherries would probably result in a lot of leftovers. I'm fairly certain he would have eaten ice cream, but we're trying to save room in the freezer. So bread it was.

This is a fabulous bread. I love it with an egg white on top for breakfast - the heat of the egg melts the chocolate ever so slightly. It's also great with some cream cheese. And don't tell anyone, but I've even seen Thatboy toast it and slather it with butter. Guess he doesn't mind chocolate and fruit so much after all.



Chocolate Cherry Bread

2 cup flour
1 pkg yeast
2.5 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter
1egg
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate, chopped (or 1/4 cup of chocolate chips)

  1. Heat the milk and butter and dissolve the yeast in the warm liquid.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in an electric mixer. Stir the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the egg and beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic.
  4. Mix in the chopped cherries and chocolate.
  5. Place batter in large loaf pan and let rise in a warm, draft free place until it has doubled in size (I usually give it an hour).
  6. Preheat oven to 325. Bake for 40 minutes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bringing Up Baby

I'll readily admit it - "I don't know nothin' bout birthin' babies, Miss Scarlett." I also don't know nothin' bout babies in general. I have held a total of 2 babies in my entire lifetime. (And that includes my niece and nephew - who I have never held) Most of the time Thatboy has swooped in and held whatever infant we're with. He loves holding babies and he doesn't always trust me to hold them anyway.

I babysat when I was younger, but not infants. I'm a hit with toddlers and "kids" but babies are a whole different ball game. So the past month-ish Thatboy and I have been taking as many classes as we can to learn to everything about babies.

We started with Infant and Child CPR - which really is a good idea for anyone who is around kids. I haven't been certified since my babysitting days and it sure has changed!

Next came a 2 day birth prep class. Which was good for those of us who know nothing bout birthing babies. And those of us who wanted to see where it all takes place. We certainly appreciated the hospital tour which gave me a much better idea of what's going to happen.

Last week was breastfeeding, which felt like a ton of information in a very short amount of time. But alleviated a bit of fear and gave us some good resources.

This week was our last class - baby care basics.



A lot of my friends with kids rave about "The Happiest Baby on the Block" and apparently our hospital agrees since we got to watch excerpts of it in class - learning the 5 S's (swaddle, side, shush, swing, suck). Since we don't have a baby at home, we've been practicing with Thatdog. Who LOVES being swaddles, shushed, and swung. Guess he is our baby after all.

The classes were worthwhile, but time consuming. These were not the "date nights" I was referring to earlier. And it's nice to be done with them and have our evenings back. Because frankly rushing home from work, grabbing some fast food on the way over, sitting through class and getting home just in time to climb into bed is not nearly as fun as it sounds.

It also means I'm not getting nearly as much food in the freezer as I was hoping to do. I made up for it tonight! Since I didn't have to work late I could actually get some stuff done! Chicken tenders, lemon cake, and corn fritters all got made and frozen. Chicken pot pies in muffin tins are cooling on the counter. The muffin tins are perfect for freezer meals because you pop out what you need and defrost. But if you're looking for a homey, comfort meal for dinner, you don't need to worry about making individual portions - just go ahead, grab your pie plate, and load up.


Chicken Pot Pie
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
12 small cooked white onions
3/4 cup cooked peas
1 pie crust, unbaked

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour for 2 minutes until it's a thick paste.
  2. Slowly pour in the broth, cream, salt and pepper, stirring as you add them in. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring till thick and smooth.
  3. Put the chicken in a pie plate and cover with the sauce.
  4. Stir in the onions and peas.
  5. Put the pie crust over the top of the chicken and veggies and crimp the edges.
  6. Cut vents in the top of the crust and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Date Night

Earlier this summer, our neighborhood theater closed "for renovations." It reopened, but no longer as our neighborhood theater. Now it was something much much more. Part of the new generation of theaters. Back when I was in college the earliest progeny opened. It was a theater with leather seats where you could actually choose your seat. But other than that, it was your standard movie theater.

Now our "neighborhood" theater is like that theater, but on crack. Thatboy and I really wanted to try it out, and thought it was a good idea to do it sooner rather than later since our date nights will be limited pretty soon. For this reason we're trying to fit more and more of those in over the next couple weeks.

Friday night Thatboy called me on his way home from work and asked if I wanted to check out the new theater. We picked a movie, reserved our seats, and were on our way after dinner.

Upon entering the lobby we realized we probably didn't need to eat dinner first. We could have eaten there! This is not your typical movie theater lobby:



The theater has a full bar and full food menu. Which we knew going in to the deal. What we didn't know is that the lobby was set up like a bar/lounge/restaurant. Our plan was a little simpler. We were going to head to our seats and order from there. Yup, order your drinks, your popcorn, your pizza, your quesadilla, your panini, your sushi directly from your seat. And let me tell you about those seats.



The seats are in love-seat formation. Two leather recliners with a small swinging table on either side for your food and drinks. Each side of the love-seat fully reclines. Which is probably the best kind of seat when you're pregnant and short and constantly changing position. So Thatboy and I got to spend the whole movie kicking back with our feet up, cuddling, and eating some of the best movie theater popcorn ever. (And I'm a connoisseur) Thatboy loved having his beer brought to him, and I'm very much looking forward to trying some of their specialty martinis some time in the future.

I can see this being a regular event.

I'm also including a recipe that's a little different than my typical posts. Mostly because it's a sweet! I've started working on filling our freezer with things that will be useful - breakfast foods and snacks among them. And if there's one thing I've learned from Thatmom it's that quickbreads freeze very very well. I made two of these loaves, a twist on a lemon poppyseed bread since I prefer oranges to lemons. One of them went straight into the freezer and the other got dressed with a sour cream glaze. It's double duty for sour cream, which, as I've mentioned before, I use to give the batter some tanginess. It also serves the same purpose as egg/butter/oil so I can leave them out. Yogurt would work equally as well if you're looking for a sub or hate sour cream.



Sour Cream Poppy Seed Bread
1/2 orange
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 Tbsp poppy seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray. Zest half the orange and reserve the zest.
2. Juice the orange half and combine with the zest and remaining ingredients in an electric mixer.
3. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes. Cool completely.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thatboy's Wife Gets Married



When Thatboy likes someone he never shuts up about them. It's "Mitch this" and "Eric that" and "Adam says..." I always joke about his never-ending stream of boyfriends. Of course, it doesn't help that for a while he was coming home in the clothes of these men.

Well, this is a ragging that I didn't start. Thatboy has a relationship with one of his coworkers that has caused the whole office to dub them "work spouses." They're always checking in with each other, having the other's back. She's fabulous, and loads of fun and in actuality, her own guy is pretty fun too.

Last year Thatboy would come home with all the stories of Workwife's engagement drama. Her boyfriend was messing with her for weeks. Planning romantic dates every weekend that she thought would lead to an engagement. Trips to wineries, hot air balloon trips, the whole gamut. And every Monday she would come in to work and gripe to Thatboy about this tomfoolery. Finally Thatboy came home with the good news - there was a proposal! Workwife was getting married! (The actually engagement story? They went skydiving - told you, fun people - and he landed first, so that by the time she landed, he was down on a knee and waiting. And of course the whole thing is on video.)

So this year, instead of engagement drama, I got to hear all about Workwife's wedding plans. How her now fiance wanted his fingers in every aspect (which I totally get because that's exactly how Thatboy was.) How the summer wedding of their dreams got turned into a fall bonanza that wouldn't be nearly as uncomfortably hot.

Labor Day weekend was Workwife's wedding, so we headed up to see the happy couple make it official. (Although, in the middle of the ceremony, Thatboy leaned over to tell me that technically they were already married after their Vietnamese ceremony which had taken place 2 weeks earlier)



The wedding had a photo booth, which of course meant dress up, play time, and foolishness.





There was also a candy buffet, and I had to warn Thatboy it wasn't really appropriate to take 3 boxes of candy. Especially since he wanted to fill up an entire box of skittles AND an entire box of gummy bears. (On this note, it has been 2 weeks and the box of skittles remain untouched.)


Dinner at the reception was a duet of steak and chicken. I'm not going to recreate it for you, but have you noticed how chicken is ubiquitous at weddings? I mean, I get it - it has wide appeal, it's not offensive to most, and it's easy to cook in large quantities. But unfortunately, wedding chicken is just never as good as chicken you can make at home. In part, this is definitely due to the large quantity aspect. It's hard to cook large amounts of chicken without them getting dry or cold. So instead of what we had, I'll show you how to create a perfect "wedding style chicken" at home. Dressed in white like a bride, the chicken can't get dry - not with the perfect creamy sauce sitting on top! But just to make sure, the chicken is braised (low and slow), to help it retain as much moisture as possible.


Wedding Chicken
whole chicken cut into 8 pieces
1 stick of butter
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 Tbsp flour
1 cup heavy cream
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
  1. Heat half of the butter with the canola oil in a dutch oven. Brown the chicken.
  2. Lower the heat and cover the chicken with boiling water. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer 40 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken and strain the broth. Return the strained broth to the dutch oven and reduce to 1.5 cups.
  4. While the broth is reducing, melt the remaining butter in saucepan. Stir in the flour and make a paste.
  5. Slowly add the cream and broth, simmer, stirring until it is thick and smooth.
  6. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to sauce and spoon over the chicken.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dining in the Dark



Maybe you heard about the natural disasters that were affecting the entire country this week. It's unbelievable how so much can happen in a week in areas so vastly disparate. While not nearly on the scale of hurricanes and floodings, here in San Diego we experienced our own "state of emergency" on Thursday.

I was about to leave for a doctor's appointment when all of the lights went out. Now, growing up on the East Coast, I'm kind of used to summer brown-outs/black-outs and it has been abnormally hot this week. So I thought nothing of it except "Man, it's really not that hot. San Diego really needs to get over itself."

I drove to my appointment thinking the lights would be on any minute. They didn't come back on. Every street lamp was out. Every shopping center I passed was out. I got to the doctor's office - lights out there too. Luckily as the nurse pointed out, "pregnant women don't really need electricity for their appointments." So I still got my blood pressure taken, my belly measured, and the baby's heartbeat checked. AND I got tested for Group B Strep. Even without lights!

We got home, still no power. Plans for dinner were scrapped since I knew not to open the fridge or freezer. BUT you don't need power for pasta! So we had a super simple dinner of linguini tossed with garlic, truffle oil, and tomatoes and ate by candle light. I also chopped up a cantaloupe for dessert. Nothing gourmet by any means, but we sure know how to make the best of a bad situation! We spent the evening putting finishing touches on the nursery, reading, and playing card games. As soon as it cooled down enough, Thatboy opened all the windows and screen doors.

In the middle of the night, the power came back on. All was right with the world again.

This is obviously not the pasta I made. This is what I would have made if I could open the fridge to pull out chicken, cream, sour cream, butter, and chicken broth. It's infinitely more impressive than pasta with oil.


Hungarian Chicken
1 chicken, quartered
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
salt
2 Tbsp paprika
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
cooked egg noodles
  1. Melt butter in a pan and cook onion until they are translucent.
  2. Add the chicken and salt and brown chicken on all sides.
  3. Remove chicken from pan. Add paprika to pan and cook for a minute.
  4. Add in the tomato and half of the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 7 minutes
  5. Return chicken to the pan, cover, and simmer 35 minutes.
  6. Take the chicken out again and sprinkle flour over everything remaining in pan. Stir for about 3 minutes until it begins to thicken a bit.
  7. Add the rest of the chicken broth and the heavy cream and cook until heated through.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in sour cream.
  9. Place chicken on the noodles and spoon the sauce over.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

It's OUR TIME down here



Thatboy is having a very Goonie summer. The highlight was obviously our trip to the Oregon Coast. But all summer he has also been looking forward to when our community was showing The Goonies as one of the summer outdoor movie series.

The Goonies? On a giant screen? Outside? Minutes from our house? It's like someone knows my husband.

He even asked me to take his picture with "the boys."



Thatboy knows every line of the movie by heart. He told me that when it came out, he rented it every week from the video store. Many times he starts quoting the lines to me, expecting me to recognize them. Sometimes I do, with the more obvious ones.

A couple of weeks ago, he started speaking to me in Spanish. He kept saying something about "las drogas." I had no idea what he was talking about. He gave me one of his most withering looks before informing me that he was quite obviously referring to the scene where Mouth translates Mikey's mom's instructions to the housekeeper.



Sad that the only Spanish my husband speaks are lines from a movie...even though he took Spanish all through high school. Although, to be fair, my Spanish knowledge was gleaned completely from my time as a waitress, so consists of mostly food words. You know, like "pollo" or "queso." In honor of the limited Spanish in Thathouse I present you with Spanish Chicken! If you know anything about me, you know that means it's going to include green olives. And tomatoes. Since everything here includes tomatoes in the summer.



Spanish Chicken
1 chicken, cut in 8 pieces
2 Tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, diced fine
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1 tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp raisins
2 Tbsp sherry
1/4 cup green olives, sliced

  1. Heat oil in large skillet. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Remove chicken from pan.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and green pepper to the pan and cook until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the chili powder, tomatoes, raisins and chicken back to the pan.
  4. Pour the sherry over top all and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is done.
  5. Sprinkle olives over chicken before serving.