Sunday, January 27, 2013

Put On Your Fancy Pants (Insert Giggles)!

You know what's hilarious? Conference calls where your friend (who lives in another state) giggles like she's 5-years old. It then starts a chain reaction of laughing by me. Then you wind up leaving that job, but it doesn't matter because you and this friend still call each other to giggle. Yes, we are both over 30. (Hi, Brandi, miss ya!)

It's also funny when someone requests to be mentioned in your blog. Poor Brandi, she thinks she's going to become famous from Food Beautiful, but that's really only for Lucy.

So in my quest to understand champagne, Miss Brandi sent me this beautiful bottle.
I had to Google it (do you all remember life before Google, I do, I was more confused) because as you know I have no champagne knowledge. Just that it tastes good. Well most of it.

Pommery Brut Royal, sounds fancy, right? Well, I felt pretty fancy drinking it. I believe champagne should make you feel a bit special. Even when you drink it in your 10-yr old sweats while doing work by the fire. It makes those sweats feel like fancy pants. So here's what the experts say about this bottle:

critical acclaim:
"Lightly toasty, with a lively bead and flavors of poached pear, dried apricot, brioche and honey. Displays chalkiness without being too angular, and culminates in a lasting, apple-tinged finish."
90 Points
Wine Spectator 
How fancy are these!
All I know is that this drink was yum! It tasted light but special and all around good. Definitely on the hunt to buy a couple more, know so I can put on those 10-yr old sweats, sit by the fire and make the night a little more special!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I'm REALLY Hungry

And why is this news to you, it just is, read on and you'll understand. Let's start with some housekeeping items. Sidenote: Does anyone understand that phrase - I don't and it always confuses me. 

It's really cold here, but before the bitter blast we had this awesome warm weather. Lucy likes the sun on her face. She takes after her Mom (I'm her Mom in case any of you were confused)

I'm obsessing, no OBSESSING over this bag. I want to purchase it, but then this little voice tells me not to. Do you think my partner-in-crime has brainwashed me?
See it here!
Sore Muscle Update: For those of you that do crossfit (and those of you that don't) it's a humbling experience. Every single time I go. Someone once told me the day you aren't nervous for the workouts means there's something wrong. So that means I'm normal right?

And now on to food and my lovely hunger. I heart chocolate and wine, no lie.
Peanut Butter Truffles, yes please
But why is this a topic of conversation you ask? Well, this hunger is a welcome feeling after weeks of not wanting to eat and not enjoying a single bite. A food lover's worst nightmare. Back in November I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, which is basically the body's inability to digest properly. There's no reason people have it, it's unknown why or how you get it and many times it doesn't cause any harm. But then there are times when it's super yucky and bad - makes you seriously nausea, you have no appetite, and makes it hard to eat. Like really hard. And as someone who wants to be healthy I wanted answers. There were none, it was trial and error. And 8 weeks later today I have found my appetite.
Love the art of sharing bread at a table
I'm so happy I could jump for joy - or really just eat a cupcake and a coffee and just be. Not think about if I'll be okay, not worry if I'm being annoying to the nurse, not over-analyze every little thing I eat.
Beautiful dessert made by my bro

And that, my friends, is why I won't take food for granted, I won't underestimate its purpose and I'll enjoy every bit. For my body and my soul. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday = Cookies

Yesssssss, it's Friday, cookie day! What? Friday, isn't cookie day for you? Well, it should be. Why wouldn't you adopt this. It's just happy. And as we discussed yesterday, we should all be nice and happy. So eat cookies. On Friday (and any other day for that matter).
This isn't my recipe, but it's good. And how do I know, because Julie of Table for Two was one of my Secret Cookie Bakers in the the First Annual Food Blogger Cookie Swap. So I've eaten her cookies first hand and I love her. Too much? Maybe I shouldn't love everyone.

But these cookies are ta-da! Like the moment when you realize it's going to be good and you know everyone will enjoy. I love cookies like this. PB Chocolate Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies, thank you for being invented - head over to Julie's blog to read her recipe as I've made some minor adjustments below (I'm not good at following directions). Oh and feel free to gush over her photos because you know you won't get those over here!

PB Cinnamon Raisin Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from the Table for Two recipe
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. Peanut Butter & Co. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Natural PB
3/4 tsp baking soda
1tsp cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats

Beat together (stand or hand mixer works best) butter and sugars for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each egg, then finally the vanilla extract and beat for 2 more minutes
Add the peanut butter, baking soda and cinnamon and mix until incorporated. Add the oats, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips. Your mixer will be working hard, but don't worry!
Using a cookie scoop or heaping tablespoons, drop dough onto lined baking sheets and gently press down to flatten with your fingers

Bake for 13-15 minutes depending on how large your cookies are and how crazy your oven is (that's mine, crazy). The edges should be slightly brown and crisp.

Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Eat all weekend long!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not Everyone Plays Nice

I'm afraid to have kids (and no, there's no baby in my tummy, just lots of mac & cheese). I watched a documentary on bullying, it's horrible. Why are kids so mean? Why are people so mean? Did you know that I work at a pretty happy job, where we talk about pretty things all day. It's awesome, it makes me smile, like a lot. I applaud all those teachers out there. When we have kids, can you help us raise them?

Well, that was sad, sorry about that. Let's talk about crowding your pans. You know you've done it, I've done it too. When you dump everything in a pan and hope it cooks and turns out delicious. It cooks, but it's not delicious, it's more or less confused. Because you crowded your pan. I'm an offender, don't worry.
So here's the new rule. Be patient. I am anything BUT patient. Ask my Mom, ask my partner-in-crime. But patience creates better-tasting weeknight meals. Like a simple chicken sausage with peppers and onions. Saute each ingredient separately and the outcome is delicious. I love this easy meal.

Weeknight Sausage & Veggies
Chicken, turkey, pork, veggie sausage. I have a caveat here, if you are a paleo friend or a health-food lover, Whole Foods sells non GMO sausage and it's worth the extra dollars. Please trust me on this, I never lie (wait, not that's a lie, but still buy it!)
Veggies, cut - seriously any kind, but always use onions and garlic - there's really no reason not to
GOOD Olive Oil
Salt + Pepper

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and a little salt until nice and soft (it's important to stir every so often). Then add the garlic to cook for another minute. Remove onions and place in a big bowl.

2. If needed add more oil and cook each veggie separately with a little salt and pepper. This allows each veggie to cook perfectly for the best taste possible. Add each veggie to your big bowl once they are cooked.
3. Add cute sausage and cook until golden brown. I personally love the sausage with little burnt edges - yum! Once it's all cooked add all the veggies back in, turn the heat to low and cook for a couple minutes to meld the flavors together (is meld a word?)

And that's it, the patient person's version of Weeknight Dinner.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fancy Mac & Cheese that's Not So Fancy

Dreary, hazy days scream mac & cheese. But not any ordinary mac & cheese, but one that is a little bit special, a little bit unexpected and a whole lot of cozy. Yes, mac & cheese can be cozy. If you don't agree, we can take this offline. (Side note: I love when you're on a work conference call and someone says that, it's like being called to the Principal's office - I put myself on mute and crack up every time.)
I've tried many a mac & cheese, just for the main fact that I think everyone should know how to make a good bechemel sauce. And it's not easy. If you think it's easy then you're probably much better at it then me. It needs to be creamy, sans lumps and also be flavorful. This is where a lot of mac & cheese experiments fall flat. Not this one I promise.

Have I ever told you I'm not a huge fan of bacon. Yeah it's true. It's something with the smokiness, just not my fav. That's why there's prosciutto. A whole lot of adult fanciness that becomes a little less toned down in mac & cheese.
 And then the cheese. I think it's important to have a mix and to try different combinations. You really can't mess it up so veer a little bit away from the traditional cheddar and it's amazing how mac & cheese becomes a fancy Sunday night meal. And while we're on the topic of cheddar, definitely buy aged, definitely buy one from a farm (can be found at the grocery store) and don't even think of orange.

Real Deal Mac & Cheese (must enjoy with wine, by the fire, in your fleece-lined leggings)
8-12 pieces of prosciutto - I start with 12, then usually eat 4 during the whole production
1lb fancy shaped pasta (trust me, it helps the cheese attach to the pasta)
1 1/2 cups milk (full fat, don't skimp here)
2 garlic cloves, smashed but not taken out of the skins
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup Fontina cheese, grated
2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Rosemary sprigs
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

How To Make
-Place prosciutto on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350F, until crisp. Set aside to cool and increase the oven temp to 400F.
-Cook pasta according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside
-Meanwhile, on your lowest setting heat the milk, 1 rosemary sprig and 2 garlic cloves (yes just place them in the liquid with their skins!), 1/2 tsp pepper, 3/4 tsp salt in a small saucepan. 

-You want the liquid to be warm, but not something you can't touch. (Again, this is me asking you to put your finger in hot liquid.) Strain the liquid so you only have the seasoned milk.
-In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk over low heat for 2 minutes, don't stop whisking! While whisking, add the hot milk and cook until it becomes thick and smooth and wonderful. This is a roux, it's a beautiful thing!
-Turn off the heat and add the Gruyere, Fontina and Cheddar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the pasta.
-Now crumble the prosciutto and mix this into the pasta cheesy yumminess.

-Pour into a buttered 9x13 inch baking dish.
-Next, take a small nonstick pan (like one you make eggs in), add 1 Tbsp olive oil and heat over low heat. Add the panko bread crumbs and cook, stirring every so often, until they turn light brown. Remove from the heat and add the Asiago. Let them cool a couple of minutes and place on top of the mac & cheese - aka fancy  breadcrumbs.
-Bake at 400F for 30-35 minutes until you have THIS...
And that my friends is Sunday night dinner that trumps all other Sunday night dinners!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Please Give Me More Hours

I miss the weekend, and it's only Tuesday. Don't get me wrong, I love my job but somehow things are easier on the weekend. There's usually cocktails, leisurely coffee drinking and a couple more hours in the day. I miss this when Tuesday feels like I just can't get everything done. Oh well.

Let's reminisce though on what happened this weekend so we can get ourselves excited for what's to come in just 4 short days. (That's me tricking myself into thinking the week will fly by.)

There was puppy playtime on the beach.
Apparently, Lucy thinks playtime is naptime and took a sunbath instead. Don't ask.

Then there was Prosecco (I drank it to quickly to take a photo. Oh, you're not supposed to chug Prosecoo? Oops, my bad.)

 Followed by some oyster tasting. Ah love. I love oysters over and over again. And these ones were dished up from Mare in Boston's North End. I applaud them. Thank you. Now please deliver to our sleepy beach town asap!
6 on the left are Little Pleasant Bay, 6 on the right are Island Creek
Oh and can we discuss this raspberry mignonette in the middle. I would have drank that straight from the container, but I I was dressed all fancy, you know. But, it was truly perfect - many mignonettes take away from the true oyster flavor, this one simply complemented it.

And then after-dinner cappuccino. Because 1. we are old, 2. we needed to pretend we were in Italy and 3. to give us a couple more hours in the day.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Don't Push, It's Only a Salad

I love salad. No really, like love it. However, it's way better when someone else makes it, why is that? However, my partner in crime doesn't know how to make a salad. Well, he knows how, but I can't allow that. If I did we might only have lettuce with croutons. That's not a salad, that's like a bunch of green with stale bread. (Hi husband, I love you if you're reading).

But I have some tips for making salad, really good salad. So good you can make it yourself. Kind of like the first time you actually tied your shoelaces in a real bow. Smiling all proud only to realize everyone else mastered that one years ago. That didn't happen to you? Oh, me either. Moving on. To salads.
I only have iphone photos - need to pull out the camera

Know your Greens: I'm obsessed with Baby Kale right now! It's perfect and pre-washed. I find it at Whole Foods and it's labeled - Cooking Greens. And then in little letters it says Baby Kale. (I really don't think they need to be so sneaky.) Try different options for your green and get to undestand what you like and the texture of each. Boston bibb - nice and soft. Romaine - crunchy and watery. Arugula - peppery with a lemon flavor.

Toppings: Okay this can't be too little or too much. But it's all trial and error. The goal is to be able to taste each flavor and understand that each plays a role in this little salad. Remember the time you went to the salad bar and added every topping? Yeah that didn't taste so good, don't do that again. Salad Law (laws are serious, you can't break them): I like to add 2 or 3 additional veggies and sometimes a surprise guest. Some ideas:
  • Veggies: cucumber, radish, tomato, fennel (love this one), cabbage, pepper, onion, carrot
  • Surprise Guests: Avocado, feta, goat cheese, oranges/grapefruits, pumpkin seeds, prosciutto

Season Before Dressing: This one is HUGE. A lot of people season after the dressing stage but this doesn't allow the lettuce and veggies to get any love. It's sad, salad sad. Don't do it. Salt and pepper before you dress and we'll still be friends.
See the pepper on that fennel!

Basic Dressing: I think salads should be fresh, not sweet. It's okay we can fight about this, just don't push - it's not nice. My go-to is either half a lemon squeezed over the salad or a few splashes of rice wine vinegar, then finish off with a little GOOD olive oil. Here's the thing, the lettuce should not appear wet. So try to put a little oil on at first, mix, walk away and then return to taste the salad. This will allow you to adjust either the seasoning or any part of the dressing.

Oh and always use a big bowl. Really, are you waiting for a big party to use the big bowl? Unnecessary, just use it today. And remember, no pushing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Post Without Pictures

Oh the horror! Actually, I'll probably sneak in some puppy pictures at the end, but that doesn't count does it? It's like when you eat cookie dough, those calories don't count - I double checked and that's the truth.

Speaking of truth, here it goes. My first post that's open, honest and whole lot of scary if you ask me. But with 2013 in full swing, I'm hoping many of you don't see this post and we can go back to our regularly scheduled program in a couple of days. For those of you that do, I apologize in advance. It's a lot of words, so grab a glass of wine.

I don't have resolutions this year, just goals. Oh wait, I just lied. I did resolve to snuggle more with the puppy and always hug and kiss when we leave and enter the house. But those seemed normal so I never wrote them anywhere. Those are normal right?

But back to goals, yes I have a handful of them:
  1. To use this blog as an extension of me, to let you into my little world a whole lot more. What does this mean? It means you'll get to hear about Crossfit, paleo, Gluten Free and a whole lot more puppy. (That's in addition to random food ramblings, which is how this whole thing got started.) I'm basically hoping Lucy becomes famous and can support us when we grew old. Should I make that a goal too?
  2. To get back into style, to accessorize and to own the clothes I wear. I work from home, I love yoga pants and they are completely acceptable for a Tuesday night dinner. But, I also love fashion, grew up in that world and don't want to forget that classic style I was handed from my Mom.
  3. To stretch it out and go to yoga more. I hate to stretch, then I have to think of things and then I get all nervous and sweaty. And then my sweaty hands can't hold a stretch. But it's good for me so I'll do it.
  4. To determine my own healthy. Most recently as a couple of years ago I thought healthy was fat-free, skipping meals and a lack of taste. Luckily, my brother's a chef, my family is Mediterranean and I figured out a new healthy. Yes cookies are healthy if made from scratch (in my own little world).
  5. To understand the world of bubbly. I know nothing about Champagne, unless you count knowing that good champagne doesn't give you a hangover. But I want to know more so I can drink more. How does one go about this goal?
  6. To cater a party. I'm probably going to have to pay someone to let this one happen. It's totally opposite of how the deal should work, but I'm kinda backwards so I'll probably let that happen. I'm not beneath convincing a 1st grader to let me make cupcakes for their big day.
And now some pictures of the puppy. She's available for photo shoots 7 days a week!
Who is cuter than Lucy - Happy 2013!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Well, Today Was Rough

I'm confused what day it is, the holidays are over and all of a sudden there's no cookies. Without cookies I get confused, so I drink, a lot...

Of tea and coffee. Get your heads on straight - I work, you can't drink while you work. Actually, that's a lie, I've done it before when putting in long hours. It helps, and I think the work has a special twist to it. But back to the topic, hot beverages - I love them.

I think tea cups should be big and coffee cups should be small and classic. My absolute favorite are glass coffee cups. Seriously, how do they not break with boiling liquid - it's like a science experiment every morning. Remember back in the day when I thought I  liked science and went to school to become a doctor, yeah that was funny. Now I just write and work and hug people. I tricked everyone.

so cute, yet fancy
As you know I don't make coffee, my partner-in-crime does. But I know a lot about the topic (see how tricky I am). Like too much that if I start talking I borderline become a coffee nerd. I'm okay with that because otherwise I'm super cool (tricked again!). Okay back to coffee. I don't make it. My husband does. And I love it.

I drink it black, always. Well, that was a trick because once a couple of years ago I tried it with milk and sugar for 2 days. I quickly smartened up and went back to the straight up kind. That is unless it's a cappuccino, then obviously there's a milk product included.
I miss the overabundance of cappuccinos in Italy
Beans are bigger and better. Sure, ground coffee is easy, but it doesn't taste as good. And I should know I drink it black! The freshest coffee is in bean form and is most recently roasted. That brew will knock your Monday into Wednesday, trust me.

And in case you need me to clear up any confusion, here are some of my favs:
  • Folgers - ahaha tricked ya again! This isn't one of my favs.
  • Cafe Du Monde - we order this New Orleans staple and always have cans in our house. It comes in ground format, and is the only acceptable ground coffee allowed in our little kitchen. 
  • African & South American Beans - you can find these at a lot of gourmet coffee roasters and they are worth the premium price.
  • Fresh Market - for those times when we can't make it to a gourmet coffee retailer I depend on this specialty grocer. They sell beans, lots of them. I like variety.
And even better is pour-over coffee - the way coffee was supposed to be made. I first tried this at the Queens Kickshaw and fell in love. (If there are any Boston shops that do this PLEASE let me know!) So naturally I bought my husband all the items to make this at home for Christmas. I hope he's reading and he tries them out soon. (I'm tricky). I'll report back soon on how that experiment goes. For now, no tricking just drinking.