Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hello!!!! This wraps up 2010's bloggin' posts! I took a week off to hang out with family, hubs, and pups. We got some major todo's done- all without thinking about snapping photos of eats or worrying about how many calories were burned.  2010 was bittersweet with the loss of a dearly loved dog, but adoption of 2 sweet pittie girls- we couldn't imagine our house without their puppy paws running around!  We took a couple trips to Portsmouth Island- our own deserted paradise.  The first trip was windy- beyond windy.  The second trip brought on a torrential downpour of rain and lightning show that rivaled any fireworks production to date- and destroyed our beloved North Face tent! We spent September- November working on home improvement and had a custom deck put on- the perfect spot for Spring gatherings galore! To ponder the past, and look to the present, we spent a day this week hiking up Crabtree Falls! Now that the holidays are about done it is time to put efforts into continuing the things that made 2010 great- and adding goals to 2011!  We have house decorating aspirations-i.e. paint, tile projects, and finding the perfect art for the dining room-, race goals + fitness goals, and financial plans!!   2011 will be busy from jump! To ring in the New Year we celebrated at home with a holiday dinner of our dreams. Everything was grilled- lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon.  All was enjoyed alongside a bottle of Cooper Vineyards Norton Reserve- my fave!!

                                                                                                                                                                   tomato + fresh Mozz + balsamic glaze 
 clams getting ready for the grill
 wine on the deck admist the last evening of Christmas lights
 all done and ready for some hot sauce
New York Strip- post grillin' 

Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I am not a baker...

baking is not my thing- the  butter, the sugar... it kills me, every tastey little bite...alas the only real food eaten today was pizza- from Leonardo's... it was amazing! After a whole day of baking I didn't want to even think about cooking dinner- enter the nom-tastic Super Delux...
Last year I made healthy treats for the holidays- people weren't having it! So now, once a year there is a dessert indulgence- and I've come to terms with it!  Today's cookie baking bonanza started around 10 AM.-read, I started eating cookies at 10 AM!!  I set to work with my coffee, kitchen companions, and began making treats for neighbors, friends, and family. 
 Ramsey was right in my corner, under my feet- occupational hazard- powdered sugar on the nose!
Pumpkin Spiced Walnut Cookies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
 Last night we unveiled the wrapping paper. Our paper choices are a bigger surprise than the gifts themselves. Each roll gets a special hiding spot in each respective closet, until the wrapping and sharing.  A Christmas tradition we started back when we were dating, it gets better and better each year. I look forward to wrapping gifts, knowing it holds such a special part of the season for us- end mushy segment.  We each ooohed and aaahed the selections. I went with a retro teal, blue, sliver and white style for the hubs. He totally loved it.  He knows I adore paisley more than 1985 and found paisley Christmas paper- bonus points for style!


Snickerdoodles and brownie bites

 There was a lil' something special  from the ladies to me! How sweet... funny they found a couple sweet 22 oz bottles of beer for their Daddy- both IPA's.  From Whiskey there is the Dogzilla black IPA, and Ramsey the Alpha Dog IPA.  Pitbulls really are a thoughtful breed!
Rumor has it there is a Dogfather Imperial Stout in his stocking, but don't believe everything you hear...
I leave you with cookie recipes for all of the tastey treats being delivered in the morning!
(in each goodie bag is a treat for the neighbors dogs... er cat in one instance... for dog treats see this post- ahhh and check out Blitzie photos!!!)

Cheatin' Brownie Bites- ABSOLUTELY not from scratch
1 box of brownie mix + oil, eggs, and the water the directions call for
Preheat oven to 325
Spray mini muffin pan with non stick spray
put about 2 tsp brownie mix in each muffin spot ( I added heath bar to the middle of mine)
Bake for 20 minutes
Let cool
Run knife around edge
twist bites out and eat...
Go run 3 miles :)

3 cups flour- felt so naughty using white all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup softened butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Cinnamoon Sugar Dusting
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the dry ingredients together well.
Beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs- beat some more.  Add vanilla- beat again.
Stir in dry ingredients 1 cup at a time.
Cover dough and put in fridge for 1 hour.
Pre heat oven to 375.
Once chilled roll dough balls into about a 2 inch circle- roughly. Roll the dough ball in the cinnamon sugar dusting and place on baking sheet- 2 inches apart.
Bake for 11 minutes.
This makes roughly 4 dozen- try not to eat them all- it will test your forititude for sure!

Pumpkin Spiced Walnut Cookies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Toast 1 cup Walnuts for about 5-7 minutes in oven while getting all of the ingredients set.
2 cups flour-again all purpose white flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cuup softened butter
1cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup roasty toasty walnuts

1/2 of a 8 oz cream cheese package- I used the light version
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup

Mix together dry ingredients
Beat butter and sugar togther until fluffy- using a hand mixer or stand mixer makes it much easier (unless you've got guns!!!) Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla and keep beating!  Stir in dry ingredients, one cup at a time. 
Cookie dough will seem wetter than typical cookie dough- but these bake into softer cookies!
Drop dough (roughly 2 tsp amount) onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Allow your cookies to chill.....
Prepare icing by mixing confectioners sugare, maple syrup, and cream cheese until smooth, creamy, and blended.
Okay-not being a baker I rig my "piping bag" using a ziplock. Fill it with icing. Twist the end. Snip a tiny... super small... corner off the end of the bag.  Decorate at until your heart's content..
Even with this amount of frosting I had a TON left over- you could probably 1/2 the recipe and still be fine!

If I even look at another cookie I will lose it... but then again I am NOT a baker!

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome back, GYM...

So sometime in September I decided that paying for the gym and not going- while I figured out a new curriculum, took a couple of classes, and spent way too much time at work.... so I put  my membership on hold.  Things have settled down a bit since September, and now I have the time and desire to get back into my routine.  Enter today's hour long weights class- and jello arms!  So pumped to have it back!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

my how you've grown...

I am a home body... no lies a HOME BODY!!! I love my house, my dogs, my husband, my kitchen- coming up with whatever I want for dinner and only paying for the materials needed... love it!

bloggin' wih my favorite girls!!! ignore the pj's after 12pm and bed head... I'm on vacation

This homebody loves an occasional night out on the town every once in a while, however my every weekend, plus Wednesday and Thursday nights of painting the town red have long been put to rest- thank God... it gives ya wrinkles and bags under your eyes...

While my club days have been moved to my kitchen, I'll still a bust move to whatever we're listening to- again whatever we want to be listening to...

My drinks are ALWAYS top shelf, and my tab is minimal...

Life is good as a grown up! 

Tonight this grown up and her better half wanted seafood- without heading downtown, we brought seafood to us!
Enter Coconut Curry Mussels- the appetizer that started this music playing, Christmas lights having, course after course of food and drink  evening to our doorstep!
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 whole chopped green onions
2 tsp Sriracha
dash of fish sauce
1/2 cup fish stock
1-2 tsp Curry powder- depending on taste
1 lb. Mussels- cleaned rinsed and ready to go
1/3 cup light coconut milk

Saute the garlic in the oil (which is a solid- that will liquefy with heat).  Add all of the ingredients and cook till mussels open- if using previously cooked and frozen mussels cook until warm.

Easy- but delicious!!!

favorite table at our favorite spot

And then this character showed up...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I knead the bread!

This morning's conversation started like this- me- let me know when your game is up, I've got pics to show you.
Hub- Pics of what?
me- Hamburgers, sexy hamburgers!

Some might find the thought of hamburgers- repulsive! I totally get it- the whole meat is murder thing, but this meat eater LOVES a good hamburger (and I'll totally bust out a black bean burger on a whim as well, but last night was beef!).

Don't shy away if your strict veggies only kind of eater, this post isn't about the beef, it's about the buns! Being immobilized by 4 inches of snow having extra time with a snow day, I decided to make my own sandwich buns.  Bread (without a bread machine) walks a fine line of being great or dear God I wouldn't serve this to an enemy bad... the latter being my first attempts with bread!  Persevering through some whole wheat bricks, I made peace with the yeast and have produced some edible loaves, rolls, pretzels, pizza crusts and- Sandwich Buns!!!
With any good recipe, comes humble beginnings, learning from your mistakes- and in my case purchasing a cookbook- The Mixer Bible.
And while I  won't plagiarized the recipe- I will offer my tips to making edible sandwich buns.

1. whether or not you are using active dry yeast or Highly active dry yeast (which I opted for this time) use a thermometer to get the temps on your liquid just right. Too cool- yeast won't work, too warm- yeast won't work. 
2. Active and Highly Active yeast are different- they require different TLC. I studied this website when I first attempted bread and still made mistakes.
3. Start early. Not only does it take hours to make fresh bread, if your  buns don't turn out right, at least you have time to go to the store to pick some up!

4. Use the right flour- I attempted 100% whole wheat- very unsuccessfully. Now I use white wheat flour- but have a stock pile of white bread flour too. I have some very special flour from a farmer's market I'm saving- well I'm saving it until I pick up Vital Wheat Gluten- it always escapes me when I'm grocery shopping!
Making bread is hard- a frustrating and slow process. These tips don't even scratch the surface of bread how to's- there are websites devoted to it! If you find  yourself in the position of wanting to make fresh bread- GO FOR IT! If it frustrates you beyond belief- I KNOW what you're feeling!!!  I could devote an entire entry on the topic of "Temper Tantrums in the Kitchen- when things didn't quite go my way!"

After an afternoon of mixing, kneading, and risings plus an evening of "Snow Grilling"- dinner was served! Grilled burgers, Grilled sweet potato wedges, and Weston Farm Rosso- a delicious VA wine!!! 
All was well with the world- well our piece of the world anyway!

With that I am making my way back to the gym- with hopes of not being recognized as the girl that hasn't come in 3 months! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Family Heirlooms

Last night we ate braised pork tenderloin with asparagus, smashed potatoes and pan sauce!  Tasty? Yes!  Healthy? Absolutely! Quick? Sorta! It wasn't the end result that was so special, it was how I got there. I have always loved reading cook books- I mean sitting down, cover to cover, studying cook books. Lucky for me I grew up in a home where my mother- an only child- inherited her Dad's cook book collection. By collection I mean somewhere between 40 and 50 different cookbooks ranging from Hungarian cooking to southern American cuisine. There is a cookbook for any possible occasion needed. My first experience diving into one of her books was The Seventeen Cookbook- first published in 1964! What 12-14 year old girl doesn't oogle recipes, food photos, and potential menus? So maybe I've had this "kitchen problem" for longer than I'd like to admit..
Which brings me to last night- on a recent trip home I systematically started sneaking cookbooks from my mom's and bringing them here! I'd like to think I am sly- however on the drive home I called to make sure it was okay. Always a goodie goodie....well....
My first acquisition was Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I flipped to pork, gained a basic idea of what flavors I wanted- loving the simplicity of flavors- onions, Dijon, wine, salt and pepper. With appreciation to  the no BS concise and directly stated wording, I set out to braise my pork in the dutch oven. 

As I flipped through the time capsule I gained a better knowledge of how our personalities, life goals, and characteristics are partially molded by experiences and exposure, but also instilled in our souls having been passed down from generation to generation.  I never met my grandfather, however I have been given the chance to explore my roots through his cookbooks. For that I am grateful.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day part II

Before the snow:

What are the chances we'd have 2 snow days in a week... a week before a scheduled 2 weeks off! I'm not complaining- that will come later in the year when we are made to work a holiday or two! If the predicted 5 inches isn't gone by tomorrow, it'll be a super short week-

So what's a girl to do on a snow day- the chips, salsa, beer, wine, and chocolate are all stocked up! 8 AM would be pushing it to open the vino, so after topping off the gas in the hubs' SUV, making sure we have gas- for snow grillin' no doubt, the puppers and I headed out for a MUCH NEEDED walk. These ladies have been feeling a bit couped up- as apparent by their wild romps through the hallways.

We walked a chilly 1 1/2 miles before coming home to play with the tug-o-war, balls, and sticks that litter the yard. The snow started to come down- adding a dusting to the crunchy leftovers still on the grass!

After a warming bowl of  pumpkin oatmeal- with pureed pumpkin, RAW almond butter, agave, and cinnamon- it's time for more Christmas Baking (this time for the neighbors and their pets)!

Stay warm!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby it's cold...

The temps in Virginia have dropped to the single digits and teens- perfect for puppy walks in the morning, I think not!  With the chilly weather, soup makes it way into our lives more frequently. This is fine by me- I love soup. I used to daydream of opening a little cafe naming it soup, and serving up different daily specials in a bowl... **sigh**
With a snow day, I had extra time to tackle some errands yesterday- some cleaning, shopping, and baking! I wanted an easy dinner that would warm up the hubs- who's job has had him outside, everyday for the past 8 days...
Enter Potato Soup- with extras!
3 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled
5 diced potatoes
1/2 head of cauliflower- chopped coarsely                
4 smashed cloves of garlic
1 chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 chopped leek
1/4 white wine
1 box organic Chicken broth
1 cup milk- skim
water-added to thin to liking
salt and pepper
Cheddar cheese for garnish
Fresh Rosemary for garnish

I cooked the bacon and then threw it in with everything else- minus garnishes- to the crock pot and came home to a a phenomenal smell after about 2 hours on high.  Everything was still very chunky- and I prefer a creamy potato soup.  Carefully I added small batches to the blender and whirled it until smooth.  I left 1/4 of the soup in diced form, blended the rest, and mixed them together!

It was perfect for warming up after a snowy, blustery day!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birthday Dinner!

The birthday morning set the stage for a chilled out- relaxed day!! We wrapped some trees with lights, went out shopping for a bit, and then hit up Whole Foods to pick up ingredients for the splurge dinner at home!  Having a December birthday means you celebrate in between parties, family gatherings, shopping, and all other festivities preplanned as early as October. 

So that left us with a fire place, Christmas tree, movies, Veritas wine, and crab cakes- oh yes crab cakes. Thanks to my lovely friend Lauren, and a super sweet gift card to Whole Foods dinner was prepared -North Carolina Jumbo Lump Crab turned into giant crab cakes- with Roasted Red Pepper mayo, and Asparagus with balsamic glaze!

Crab Cakes- this made 5 large crab cakes

Jumbo Lump Crab meat- 1 1/2 cups approx.
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped chopped roasted red pepper
fresh ground pepper
dash of Chesapeake Bay seasoning
squeeze of lemon
4 Tbsp whole wheat bread crumbs
3 Tbsp Mayo
mix in the breadcrumbs leaving the mixture moist
heat a pan to med/med high and brown the crab cakes on each side- roughly 2 or 3 minutes per side. pop in a 350 degree oven to finish- check after 10 minutes- go longer if necessary.

It was perfect- exactly what I would have had no matter where we ended up. Lucky for me we ended up at my favorite place- with my dude, and pups! Perfect!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

birthday bliss

I woke up this morning... ahem... December 11th.... my birthday- in a full on birthday snuggle from the hubs! It was super sweet- and then he asked what I wanted for breakfast- well pumpkin pancakes and turkey bacon seemed like perfection on a plate.  After being spoiled by girlfriends, having a fantastic dinner at Mekong- including a tasty Belgian beer, the perfect way to spend today is with my hubby- with some serious quality time, i.e. food, wine, and Christmas movies!  We celebrated out on the town earlier this month with our Dashboard evening, so today will remain low key.

Without any prior pumpkin pancake experience, my faithful man set out with the help of Mr. Breakfast to create delicious pancakes- topped with greek yogurt, laced with syrup and blueberries. To satisfy the bacon craving, he 'whipped up' a veggie omelet- with asparagus, onion, mushroom and green peppers! He topped it with crumbled bacon and cheese...  We shared the omelet, went back for seconds on the pancakes!

We originally planned a hike- however it's getting a rain check! We bumped it to the week before Christmas- even more reason to finish all the shopping, wrapping, baking, menu planning now!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

decoratin' and dining!

The Christmas partay last Saturday kicked the holidays into full swing, and led to Sunday's decorations. Now we sit back, relax and enjoy some amazing meals among the twinkly lights that are spread out through the house!  The dogs are loving the decorations- I caught Whiskey chewing on the tree today...


Baked Chicken with Apple Slices on top-
apple cider and balsamic reduction
grilled asparagus
chili dusted sweet potato "fries"

beef and black bean burritos.... and the pit face!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

To Love, honor, and...

Take you to concerts for your birthday. Okay so not your traditional vows, but hey they work... right?! My grand finale of my 20's is approaching next weekend! My dutiful husband knows my LOVE for live music- anything from small jazz trios, college jam bands, country- old and contemporary, old hippie tunes, loud aggressive punk, and heartfelt emo... I LOVE IT ALL!!! I even try to make my music match my food, as much as the wine should.

Music sets my soul on fire.

So with a "Welcome to December" cold wind we set out Wednesday night for some tasty brews at Penny Lane Pub, followed by a 3 hour long serenade by different bands... we were of course there to see Dashboard Confessional- who after many glasses of wine at our wedding I decided it was appropriate to sing to my husband, in my bouquet, "Hands Down"...

nothing says "Welcome to married life" than having your tone deaf wife sing to you in her Gerber Daisies...

We had a fabulous night, which was recapped by the hubby here.  Being married to your best friend is pretty awesome! Don't worry- what I lack in singing, I make up for in the kitchen...

spinach and tomato omelet with black olives, and a pear!

Christmas Marathon kickoff!

Thank you for leaving tasty options for the Christmas party.... Jenny, the sausage balls will be making an appearance this month for sure!  I decided to go with Chipotle Shrimp Cups from Cooking Light. The recipe can be found here- the only thing I did different was set the oven to 375, instead of 350. Everything else was pretty much the same. I did need to drain some of the liquid off the mixture, and added 2 extra chipotles in adobo... for more kick! I kind of have a thing for the smokey, spicy peppers!

The hub's work Christmas party was a great way to start off the Christmas Marathon, that is December! It started off with a light dusting of snow, a dash through the country, and finally ended up at the gracious host's home... immaculate, beautifully crafted home! No pics, as "can I put this on my blog?" sounds a bit strange!  Floor to ceiling fireplaces, and hand carved wood floors set the backdrop for tasty eats, Fuller's London Porter- just 1 though, I was our DD, and catching up with people we rarely get to see!

Now it's time to finish what we started earlier this week.... decorating! The tree is here, but it's naked and ready for some sparkle... the outside trees are ready for their lights... and  I'm ready to finish the task that is Christmas Decorating!!!

Whiskey and her Naked Tree