Monday, November 29, 2010

100 grand

My odometer the other morning:


Vair exciting. Hit the big 100,000 whilst driving. Tragically did not document it due to it having been even more tragic had I gotten in a car accident.

To celebrate (because obviously these things must be celebrated), Steve greeted me with several:


I’ve also taken to going to the park behind where I work on my breaks (a bit of background: on the days I just do the afterschool program I work 10-6:30ish, but on the days I also do classroom teaching I work 8-6:30ish. Since my boss yelled at me about having too many ten hour days, I’ve been taking breaks!) and Steve joined me.

Some celebratory rock skipping:

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And yes, I can skip rocks! (Steve taught me :D)

Scant but compelling trace evidence:


Thought the merriment ended there, but no!

My car (edited for identity safety purposes) later that night:

 edited license plate

More festive luffliness:


Had a seriously lovely and Frenchie brunch at Praline, a ludicrously charming bakery/brasserie style place tucked into a fairly ugly strip mall.

Yes, that is a WALL OF MACARONS.


What did we go home with? PUMPKIN. OBVI.

More fun: spent Saturday bounding around Georgetown with my bestest pally Lydia, who I’ve been seeing far too rarely.

There’s something about this year that makes spending money way too fun.

Also fun: in Americorpse land, we have yet another new coworker. Obviously the way to get to know a new coworker is to interrogate them… over oysters. DC-ites: Sea Catch has a happy hour (on weekends, too!) with oysters. For a dollah each! It’s awesome.

However, rather than freak out my new coworker with interrogatories and forced poses for blog pictures, I declined.

Buttttttt then we went to Baked and Wired and you know how I and any person who eats food freaks out over that place.

I had a lovely tea with a lovely view:


Cool/weird: all the teas cost different amounts. It’s not Starbys where the cheapo, grass-tasting chamomile costs the same as expensive loveliness.

I got the vanilla black tea and it was delicious in addition to being gorgeous.


And Teresa got a German chocolate cupcake that was gorgey (and deliiiiiiiiiiiiicious, according to the one bite I took!)


And then Lydia and I literally followed our NOSES into LUSH, my fave. (Lush, for those of you unfortunate to be deprived of its lushness, is a British import that makes homemade bath and beauty products (and not an “alcoholic store”, as certain of the men in the group thought when Lydia and I mentioned it).

Anyway, for some silly reason they had apple cider and fortune cookies along with their dizzyingly delicious soaps:


Too bad they were nothing but shameless product plugging!


(note the further deterioration of my home-done manicure since my last post!)

Finally, Sunday, following Steve’s 12 1/2 hour car ride back from Chicago, I promised I’d make him dinner. He requested “green things” so I got together these:


And set off to make Spaghetti with Caramelized Onion and Radicchio.

This was the first time I forced myself to follow a recipe and actually properly caramelized onions. Lo and behold, 35 boring minutes later, these…


… became this…


Sweet goodness I love caramelized onions. And apparently am fearless when it comes to my breath. Foolhardy? Probably.

There was also a classy appetizer:


Well fine, not the tupperware, but fancy the sound of Crab Salad Stuffed Eggs?! The Thanksgiving appetizer leftovers came together rawther beautifully, if I do say so myself.


Aaaaaand then the pasta. When scaling the recipe, I accounted for 2 ounces (a pretty standard portion size for one) for me and 6 ounces (a pretty standard portion size for three) for Steve.

And it was perfect! God bless his appetite.

Mmm, pasta.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

brunch and boy talk for Thanksgiving

My thanksgiving meal had an OMELET STATION!


I am thankful for BRUNCH!

(Hahaha, sidebar: at some point, I am doing a photo retrospective called People I Photographed for my Blog Whom I Didn’t Realize Were Glaring at Me)

So Thanksgiving: my grandma is not super nimble on her feet anymore, so rather than move her to someone’s house, we went to see her at her retirement village land.

Expecting mashed potatoes made from flakes and limp canned green bean casserole, imagine my delight to discover that not only was there classy Thanksgiving food, there was also their typical BRUNCH being served!

Guys, I live for brunch!

Picture all the delicious bagel fixin’s: smoked trout, lox, capers, tomato, hardboiled egg:


In the less-healthy but oh-so-awesome category, fresh baked BISCUITS!


An entirely respectable salad bar (though I had to laugh that it included prunes)


I apparently didn’t even bother to photograph the actual Thanksgiving meal (they had turkey, mashed potatoes, the whole shebang) but did capture these nods to seasonality:


Muffins ‘n scones ‘n warm winter bevvies! There is just something about apple cider. I drink juice beverages about once a year since the ensuing blood sugar spike they cause often makes me mean and nasty. However, I can’t not have hot apple cider.

And, obvi, scads of desserts, including…


Pumpkin... moose?

For me, at an all you can eat buffet, I showed positively heroic self control.

Beginning with brunchy loveliness, I had a made-to-order mushroom omelet; smoked salmon, trout, and veggie fixins (I love love love capers!); and because it was just necessary, a rockin’ biscuit:


And got my veggies in, via a taste of cranberry slaw (which was delicious; I went back for more!), and in a nod to the holiday, some glazed carrots and sweet potato casserole (though I avoided the marshmallows… no one on either side of my family has ever made marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and I kind of just don’t get it)


All together, with a cute seasonal placemat. Kudos, retirement village. You have a nice vibe going!


Also got s’more slaw (I am always putting craisins in my coleslaw now!) and a bowl of fruit.

Obviously, dessert was a foregone conclusion. I went for aminiature sampler platter.


From your ten o’clock going clockwise, that’s cranberry upside-down cake (of which I ate the top); a sliver of pumpkin pie; the pumpkin moose (which turned out to be a nice light vanilla cake with a airy pumpkin whip filling); and apple crumble (which was awesome and not too sweet and I went back for more).

Very pleasant and not excessively indulgent. My grandma, showing that my eating habits may be genetic, ate a salad, a biscuit, and an extremely large piece of cheesecake. She is awesome.

I went home for a bit after that and took a long walk around the neighborhood (I think some people found a person walking along on Thanksgiving depressing looking, hahahaha. Little did they know I was just filling the time between meals).

Then I headed off to my aunt’s house. But, of course, not before making something. When I am a houseguest, I can’t not bring something. And when I see large quantities of food in my house, I can’t not prepare things with them.

Thus, a gratin was born (y’all, this was GOOD).

A layer of thinly-sliced, washed but not peeled, red potato:


Then, a layer of golden delicious apple, (which I totally stole from work after the kids ignored them for several weeks) also sliced thin.


Now the yum factor: I’d found a recipe that had called for just pure melted butter, in vair large quantities, on top of these, but that seemed excessive, particularly in light of the day’s earlier indulgences.

So, I made a blend of some real butter (obviously), canola oil, some milk to get everything steamed and tenderized, and for flavah, a sprig of fresh rosemary from the deck, and a wee bit of honey. And salt and pepper, of course.

I nuked it to melt the butter and to infuse everyone with rosemary loveliness.


Then dumped half of that on top of the potatoes and apples (or pommes and pommes de terre). Then I sprinkled on some sharp cheddar cheese (yes, still from the cheese prize). I didn’t use a lot because I wanted this to be light. Use your judgment.

I repeated the same layers (potatoes, apples, rosemary butter awesomeness, and cheese).


Then packed that up in my car and drove to my auntie’s. Spent a lovely leisurely afternoon reading Vogue, hanging out and talking.

At a certain point my uncle Tim started assembling appetizer ingredients:


And then deposited this fantastic thing in my hand:


Cornbread (actually, jalapeno cornbread) topped with smoked salmon, light sour cream, and capers.


(Also, Malindi, thanks for the purple nail polish! I really like it! Though am terrible at applying it!)

We kept dinner decidedly on the light side.

An arugula salad with scallions, which I tossed with a simple mixture of olive oil and lemon…


And ze GRATIN!


Potato-Apple-Rosemary Gratin

2 1/2 potatoes (or however many make two complete layers in your pan, thinly sliced. I used redskin.)
2 1/2 apples (again, or two layers. I used Golden Delicious.)
1 T butter
1 T canola oil
2 T milk
1 large sprig rosemary
1/2 tsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste
sharp cheddar, or your favorite cheese, to taste

In a greased, large tart or pie pan, make one layer of thinly sliced potatoes, then another of thinly sliced apples.

Microwave butter though honey until butter is melted and rosemary flavor is infused (I did it for two- 25 second intervals and stirred thoroughly). Then pour half of that mixture (about 2 tablespoons) on top of your potato-apple layers. Then sprinkle with grated cheese to taste.

Repeat with another layer of potatoes, another of apples, the remainder of the butter mix, and more cheese to taste.

Bake in a 375 oven for one hour, covered with foil. Then remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and gratin is browned to your liking.



Simple, elegant, and nicely light after a day of excess.

So, yknow, then there was room for pumpkin pie.


Made by my aunt’s friend, this featured a graham cracker crust (!) and utterly creamy flecks of what turned out to be cream cheese (!!). It was exceptional.

I’d already had some tea and it seemed silly to waste another glass, so I had some wine in a mug. (Shiraz, picked out by Tim, vair vair delicious. I love knowing people who know things about wine, as I do not).


The mug’s message seemed entirely fitting…


I have so much fun hanging out with Jeanie. And of course, my hairy cousins, Roger and Daisy.


We watched a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which seriously I cannot remember the last time I saw and was just as magical!


And I got to catch up with my cousin Ashley. Who initially did not actually want to be photographed.


But it was a wonderful gossip-filled evening. And obviously we facebook stalked the important boys in our lives. And then just amusing people in our lives. God, what did people do before facebook?

One amusing and fairly unsuccessful photo shoot later…


(my favorite because Peppermint Patty’s in the background!)


(we came for a visit from the mother country)

And this is when Tim told us (based on a chat about facebook that is better kept in my family) to envision shirtless men on an island hahahahhaahahahaha.

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This year I am thankful for family and laughter!

Friday, November 26, 2010

glorious idleness

So Wednesday morning I drove someone to the airport.


I must REALLY REALLY like that person. (Well, yes, I do :D)



I got back under the covers, slept til 9:30, and realized I had the entire day ahead of me to do absolutely whatever I wanted. Obviously, that meant stovetop oats.


Went for apple-cinnamon today. Chopped up some apple (like 3/4 of one I started yesterday) and zapped it for one minute to give it a head start on softening. Then cooked it stovetop with oats, milk, n water. Finished off with cinnamon.

With a giant almond butter blob.


Then I readdddddddd the paper. For like an hour. Caught up on the Sunday magazine crossword puzzle. Read my cousin’s boyfriend’s Sarah Palin interview (!)

And I just did the wonderful sitting around at home things that I hated hated HATED doing over the summer when I had no job and no feeling of purpose and felt guilt over downtime. I took a long hot bath and read a book! I researched recipes! I caught up on blogs!

Now, lunch was really eaten over the course of.. mm… 4 hours. When I’m home I eat basically constantly. Grapes, triscuits, almond butter straight out of the jar…

The highlight, however, and the only item I bothered to photograph, was this rather extraordinarily fantastic specimen:

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Melt in yo’ mouf farmer’s market sweet potatoes. They’re all gigantic (maybe not the size of a football… but close!), so I actually just had half of one. I don’t know if it’s the Virginia soil or it’s just the fact that they are so stinkin’ fresh when we get them at the farmer’s market but everything that’s great about a sweet potato- its sweet potato essence- is that much more so in these. YUM!

Afternoon featured a rockin’ hour and a half walk (probably could’ve kept going but the sun disagreed) fueled by the 100 gazillion raisins I ate after that sweet potato.

Being home to make dinner (I did the math with my mom as we ate and realized that between festivities with friends and working late I hadn’t been home for dinner in a week and a half) meant that I could finally tackle some super exciting farmer’s market specimens!

#1: Fresh lima beans!


Truth: are there any lima bean haters amongst you? I’ve been lucky enough to avoid the apparently somewhat traditional exposure to lima beans (boiled to within an inch of its life with minimal seasoning) and have only been exposed to the occasional delightful succotash type dishes.

Anyway, with any fresh bean as far as I’m concerned the simpler the better (I sort of live for fresh beans). So I consulted Cooking Light and tossed my beans in a pot with water, garlic, thyme sprigs, a bay leaf, and a drizzle of olive oil.


Boiled for twenty minutes. Vair simple.

Simultaneous with the limas, I took on ingredient #2:

Green tomatoes!


Um… what?!

No, I am not color blind. I instead didn’t come home for dinner for a week and a half, and thus the green tomatoes sat on the counter… and thus… the green tomatoes… basically stopped being green.

However, in a process illustrative of why supermarket tomatoes suck, the fact that they had been picked green and left to ripen meant that their texture was still hard and their flavor lacking sweetness. So I treated them like they were still greenies and made a recipe for Cheesy Polenta-Green Tomato Gratin. Because they said it tasted like a tamale and I was like ON IT!

You begin by sautéing your green tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and green onions and spices.


‘Cept since the tomatoes were riper than they were supposed to be, they released a bunch of liquid. So it was more stewing than sautéing. But it’s cool: I took out the tomatoes and then cooked the extra liquid on high til it was all reduced and rich and awesome.


Meanwhile, cooked up my polenta. Is there anything better than watching polenta do its burpy-bubbling thing? I think not.

I did cut back on the milk in the polenta, due to my mama’s lactose issues. It was still creamy-licious. In this time of thanks, and thinking of Native Americans, I want to thank them for introducing the rest of the world to corn. Corn things are awesome.


Time to take out my LIMAS!


I get that a lot of people have had bad lima bean experiences but you couldn’t not love these. They tasted SO absurdly fresh and delicious. It really goes to show you that all you really need to cook is high quality ingredients. These were from the farmer’s market, had been picked very recently and hadn’t done any languishing on a grocery shelf. I didn’t cook the bejesus out of them or try to mask them with any crazy seasoning.

They are just there, basking in their own lima essence.


Aaaaaaaand then out came my gratin. Is there anything better this time of year than pulling something bubbling and amazing smelling out of one’s oven?!


Tasted absurdly decadent, despite the fact that the recipe was from Cooking Light. I actually used less cheese than the recipe called for, too (I had neither Monterey Jack nor queso fresco, so I used some of our classy cheddar- yes, still from the cheese prize) because sharp cheddar has such a strong flavor. And it was still tremendously cheesy.

I love the richness of polenta, the tang and unique flavor from the green (ish) tomatoes, and did I mention cheese? I wanted to make sure I mentioned CHEESE.

Melt in your mouth awesomeness. I am a big fan of this recipe.


So skipping Thanksgiving for the moment, we arrive at today.

Woke up with a food hangover (see future post on the fact that I am recommitting to mindful eating due to the mindless SHOVELING of food I’ve been doing of late) and decided to make some nice wholesome muffins.


Made berrylicious granola muffins with the following substitutions:

-Applesauce for oil
-Oats for granola
-wheat germ for 2 T of the flour
-1 whole cup of fresh cranberries, rather than a mix of fresh and dried

Not sweet, good and moist, pleasantly wholesome from the whole wheat flour, and who doesn’t love the beautiful sight of a burst fresh cranberry?


Finally ate breakfast around 10:30. A muffin, sliced pear, almonds. Chai.




I am making an effort to be a bit more active today: get my booty to the gym and possibly get some culture in my system via an exhibit downtown.

Sheila has  no qualms whatsoever about sheer idleness.