Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Leading up to today, I've been referring to the event as Un-thanksgiving as we were staying home, laying low and cooking steaks. However, as we all know, Thanksgiving isn't about turkey and cranberry sauce (although I'm really jonesing for some leftovers... anyone wanna share?). The fact that there were just four of us and we had beef instead of poultry doesn't make the holiday "un". We were reminded of that fact this morning, in a shocking manner, when Western One learned a friend of his had recently been through a stunningly violent and traumatic event. I've never met this woman, yet I've found myself haunted all day and wanted nothing more than to have my loved ones close. I got that tonight, plus a great meal. Who can ask for more?

Just yesterday, I had a silly car incident that had me frustrated and feeling sorry for myself, and today such trivialities were quickly put in perspective. So today was most certainly Thanksgiving. We are all luckier than we know, a fact that's so easy to forget when we get wrapped up in our own lives. Lots of pics and details regarding my fantastic meal to come, tonight I'm going to revel in my food coma, wine buzz and the general feeling that I am truly blessed. Happy Thanksgiving all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I've mentioned before that Western One did a lot of wooing with his cooking. I recognize that I'm pretty lucky we're a culinary couple. My dear friend in the South reminded me of this fact recently when she mentioned her husband isn't too keen on her cooking Indian dishes. I gasped because throwing veggies and or meat into a simple simmer sauce and warming up some naan is one of our signature "we're too tired to cook" meals. The whole "he doesn't like this" and "he doesn't like" that thing is just something I really don't have to deal with. So we both like a diverse range of food and we can both cook. Pretty freggin awesome, if you ask me. (Please pardon the giant link to nowhere .... Wonderpup, in a desperate plea for tug of war, knocked something on my computer and I can't make it go away. I simply don't have the energy tonight to fight technology!)

We do, of course, have our specialties, and Mexican or Southwestern is Western One's. I've dabbled but will never hold a candle. The other night he decided to whip up a dish ... in a nutshell - black beans, homemade guac, skirt steak marinated in chipotle and grilled, all atop a tortilla and accompanied by fried plantains and a lovely mango-cilantro jobby. It was great - now I just can't decide whether I should keep practicing or just make him cook when I have a hankering for Mexican. What I do know, however, is I am so glad I don't like with a picky eater!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I didn't sleep well last night as a result of the chicken bone incident, so I'm dragging (and procrastinating...) today. I did manage to pack myself some breakfast in the form of english muffins and a little container of peanut butter. At the 3 o'clock slump, however, leftover breakfast became a sugar rush. Yup, I dipped hershey kisses in peanut butter. Don't judge, you know it's awesome. It's natural peanut butter at least...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scary Chicken

I made a pretty simple chicken and potato dinner tonight. Nothing noteworthy and I didn't even plan to mention it here (although I did toss the taters in my homemade chili-infused oil). But then we learned major lesson when the meal was all over. Dear Wonderpup, who has been a little bold with the garbage can of late, was just a bit too quiet. Western One went to investigate and discovered pup choking on chicken bones he'd dug out of the garbage.

A scared puppy and a panicked call to the emergency vet later, I think we dodged a bullet.
My little buddy seems to be ok, but we have to keep an eye on him for a few days. I think we were more shaken (not were...I'm still shaken) than Wonderpup was. The little shit went straight back to the garbage can as soon as he'd stopped choking. But, even when he's being a little shit, how can you not love a face like this??

Tour de Albany

I just realized I promised all sorts of back posts that I indicated were just waiting in the queue. Well, they were in the queue in my head...and then my week got away from me. My birthday celebration earlier this month led me on quite the culinary tour of Albany. While I don't often play the role of critic here, I do have some observations to share. First the tour, then the observations.

We started at 74 State for drinks on a Thursday, which was a colleague's birthday, and a smaller group of us wandered down to Jack's for dinner afterwards. The next evening led us to Cafe Capriccio for apps and some tunes from the lovely Julia Donnaruma. Western One and I were up bright and early on that Saturday (my actual birthday) and headed off to the Biergarten for some EPL action and my birthday boot.

Yes, that is a boot with coffee, and I have witnesses that can verify I had it in my hands before noon. That's about as badass as I get at this age. Home for a rest and off to Dale Miller for Dinner. I needed a detox from the food and booze, but my friend Hammer (sorry, buddy, you'll always be hammer) and I hit up The Brown Derby the next Friday to enjoy a joint birthday celebration.

You read that right: Jack's, Capriccio and Dale Miller in 3 days. And Brown Derby a week later. I'm not sure what I think I am (besides poor).

I have to say, my meal at Brown Derby was stunning from beginning to end. (check out our pretty desserts!) Kudos to the folks there that have revamped the menu. Appetizers and wine in the bar at Capriccio is probably one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, and it didn't disappoint, nor did Dale Miller (we ate at the bar and watched the Breeder's Cup, way more our style than the dining room). The bison short ribs, if not necessarily rave-worthy, was a well-rounded, very good dish. In another category, beer, soccer, mac and cheese and ping pong at the Biergarten was a perfect way to ease into 30+) At the bottom of this list, sadly because it is an institution, is Jack's. Way at the bottom. The oysters were great, but everything else was ... meh. The stunningly-overcooked tuna appetizer was beyond meh and just full-on wrong. It makes me a little sad to say it, but it's true.

And now, after my stunning display of opulence, I'm back to my own kitchen for a while. Neither my wallet nor my waistline can maintain that pace.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Things I love

Some things I love:

1. Wegman's
2. Goat Cheese
3. Really, there's more to life?? .... ok,
4. Balsamic

These things I love combined to make a great meal the other night. We are trying to work through the random collection of groceries in our pantry and freezer. Despite my protestations that there's never food in the house, there is. A ton of it. Often it just doesn't add up to a meal, but we're getting creative. I had this jar of roasted red pepper bruschetta tucked away in the pantry since (obviously) a previous trip to Wegman's - which was a long time ago. Western One had left chicken out to thaw so I figured it was as good an opportunity as any to use up the jar.

I sauteed some shallots (from the CSA) and garlic then browned up the chicken a bit on the stove top with a generous dose of olive oil. I cooked up the remaining half a bag of orzo I had in the cabinet. We have so many freggin partially consumed packages of pasta, I couldn't take it any more. I pulled the chicken out for a moment, deglazed with some balsamic, poured the orzo (cooked only half way) into the pan, reserving a bit of the pasta water just in case, and put the chicken back in on top. I've never baked orzo like this before, so I wasn't sure how it would work out, but the half cooking plus a little extra oil, balsamic and pasta water worked

Then I topped the chicken with the Wegman's special, threw the cover on and popped it in the over to finish. When it was about done, I added some extra goat cheese and tossed in some chopped up rosemary and black pepper roasted walnuts (made with rosemary from my garden) to give the orzo some texture. All in all, it was a pretty great meal... I used up stuff in my pantry, did not have to go to the store, and the chicken was vegetarian fed, hormone/anti-biotic free and normal sized for not a ridiculous price - not perfect but a step in the right direction (Thanks BJ's).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tales from the Drought

I've been awful lately. Not cooking. Not writing. Certainly not writing about cooking. Heck, I couldn't even manage to write about not cooking. Ah well. I've recently been re-inspired on a few fronts and I have a nice backlog of fun ditties to share with you all. Many are connected to a recent anniversary of my 30th birthday. The first is the lovely box I came home to find on my step today.

My dear friend from the South and I have a fantastic tradition. See, we quite literally became friends because of food. Through the misery of the first year of law school, we bonded over our mutual love of eating and cooking. We dined out way through Central Ohio and now I have a friend for life. I'm not sure how it started, but we exchange foodie gifts for our birthdays. It was she who first taught me that you could ship ice cream. (I'd been at my job for less than two months and I squealed like
a child when a box of Jeni's arrived at my office ... my colleagues must have thought I was a total nutter!). I returned the favor and introduced her to Penzey's. The tradition has become great sport, it's just as fun seeking out a new, fun treat to send as it is to receive one.

So back to today. It's been a long week, and I dragged my sorry butt home to discover a box from the Salem Baking Co. in North Carolina containing all these goodies! (yeah, wonder pup thinks he's getting in on the fun, but he will be sorely disappointed) Caramel cookies with fleur de sal, dipped in chocolate and topped with toffee. Are you kidding me?? Best part is each cookie is individually-wrapped so they stay fresh if you crazy and want to let them sit around the house. I've also already done some serious damage to the gorgonzola cheese straws. Yum.