Monday, December 31, 2007

Oh, and By The Way...


Happy New Year!

Tim and I are staying in and nursing our colds tonight, but if you're going out, please be safe!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas in Maine, Part 4

Have I mentioned that New Englanders are obsessed with L.L. Bean? We ended up with two gift cards, so we figured we would go shopping at some point. I also got a cute little tote bag with paperwhite bulbs in the "yankee swap", which I really liked, but couldn't fit into the suitcase. L.L. Bean has a great policy on returns, so we knew we could just go and get a credit.

The day after Christmas started with another breakfast at The Kopper Kettle. This time, they did have the biscuits and gravy and Tim was happy. He said it was very good. My favorite part of both breakfasts was the toast, surprisingly enough. It's homemade bread cut into about 1" thick slices - it was great.

After a filling and satisfying breakfast, we headed to his mom's house. She went on her lunch break at noon and it would be the last opportunity we would have to see her before we left. On the way, we stopped at his sister's house to pick some stuff up and say goodbye to her, Pete, and the boys.

After visiting with Tim's mom for a while, we headed to Walmart to get me some more cold medicine, cough drops, and tissues. Before I tell you this next part, let me explain just how miserable I was. I hadn't slept very well, I was struggling to breathe, I was coughing constantly, my nose was running, and I was just all-around unhappy. Okay, so here goes. We get to Walmart and discover they don't have any Puffs tissues - only Kleenex brand. I prefer Puffs because they're softer and don't tear, and my nose was already raw. I also HATE the Puffs Plus with the lotion - they're nasty and gross. We get to Walmart and they don't have any Puffs. I was about two seconds from throwing myself on the floor and having a tantrum. So we bought the other stuff we needed, and headed out. Then, we stopped at a grocery store to check for Puffs. If they hadn't had them, I was on the verge of tears, so luckily, we were able to find them. I don't normally go into a rage or burst into tears because of tissues, but in my defense, I was very sick. :)

That night we had dinner at Joe & Deb's - fondue. We've done it there before, and it was good, as always. Unfortunately, I could taste next to nothing because I was so sick.

Thursday we headed home. We left at 5:00 am and got to the airport VERY early, but Tim was nervous because of the freezing rain and the promise of a snowstorm. Our flight out of Boston was delayed about an hour, and our flight out of Newark was a little late, too. Despite these delays, we made it home relatively on time.

Now that we're home, we're settling back into our lives and trying to recover. I am still sick - it's been over a week, and now Tim has gotten sick, too. At least he waited until after we got home to get sick. I have a four-day weekend for the new year, so I've been resting a LOT. Thanks to the good people at DayQuil, Robitussin, Puffs, and Ricola, I may live to see the new year!

Christmas in Maine, Part 3

Christmas day was a busy one in Maine. It started very early in the morning. Tim's family tradition for Christmas is presents and breakfast that morning. We were asked to be there at 7:30 to partake in the festivities. The middle of the night on vacation by our standards, but a strange thing happens when one is in Maine. Time seems to get warped there. We were up early every morning, ready for dinner at 4:00 and ready for bed at 7:00. It's like we turn into senior citizens when we go there. I'm really not sure what that's all about.

On our way to his parent's house, we drove by a Walgreens that I noted was going to be open from 9-6 that day, and I knew that was going to save me. I was pretty sick by then. My throat felt like it had razor blades in it, I couldn't breathe, I was coughing, and all around, pretty miserable.

We got there and the orgy of presents began. Tim's sister and the boys loved the marshmallow guns we got them, and it was a great day. I got Tim this and this. Nothing special, but they were things I knew he wanted. There is one more thing, but I knew we wouldn't be able to bring it home in our suitcases, so I haven't given it to him yet. I'll tell you about it later. :)

I got something very special from Tim. I got a ring. It's not an engagement ring, as he was quick to point out, but it's a very, very special ring. His parents have a quarry on their property and many years ago, they found a great deal of tourmaline. Tim thought the tourmaline was all gone - given to family and friends, or sold. It turns out, they had a few left and I got one. His mom, dad, and sister helped pick out the setting and it's gorgeous. It's a little piece of his home. :)

Breakfast was also a family tradition - French toast, citrus salad, bacon, and lots of coffee and tea. Tim's dad received some Korean ginseng tea from someone as a gift and Tim really liked it. Charlie, in case you're wondering, it was Tim who stole about 10 packs of it out of your box!

After breakfast, we headed to Walgreens to get some DayQuil, cough drops, and cough syrup. Lucky, lucky me. When we got back to the hotel, I zonked out for a couple of hours. Then, it was time for Christmas with the family, round 2. This one was at his sister's house. We had a great time there. The entire family, except Grampy, was there - aunts, uncles, cousins. Grampy had a mishap a couple of weeks ago and he is recovering in a rehab center. There was the "yankee swap" or "white elephant" gift exchange, which was pretty funny, and then a new game his sister did. She wrapped up a present and everyone had to put on oven mitts and try to open it. Imagine the most duct tape you've ever seen in your life. There was a giant box with about six or seven duct taped boxes inside. It was a lot of fun watching everyone trying to get into the boxes.

Dinner was terrific. Jen really did a great job. She had marinated one beef tenderloin and just grilled the second. We had twice-baked potatoes, peas, mushrooms, baked onions, glazed carrots and pea pods, baby spinach salad with strawberries, and I'm sure more stuff I can't even remember. Dessert was mini-cheesecakes, lemon pound cake, brownies, and ice cream. In all, a great night.

After dinner, we went over to Tim's aunt and uncle's house to watch the Bourne Ultimatum on their new HDTV. By the time we left, I was pretty sure the cold or whatever was going to kill me. We headed to the hotel and passed out. It was a great Christmas - just the way it should be with family, friends, lots of food, and fun.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Maine, Part 2

Since we spent Saturday night in Boston, we spent a good portion of Sunday driving. We woke up Sunday morning and did a little research on Chowhound for a good breakfast place near our hotel. We settled on Danny's Diner in Somerville. It was absolutely terrific. I had the bacon and cheese omelet, which came with home fries and toast, english muffin, or pancake. I chose wheat toast. The omelet was perfectly cooked, and we all know that bacon makes everything better, it was exactly what I wanted. You could tell everything was homemade. Tim had a corned beef hash omelet and chose a pancake as his side. The pancakes were fluffy and thick and very good. In all, a wonderful breakfast.

Danny's Diner is a little hole in the wall place, but everyone who was there was clearly a regular. As Rachael Ray says, you gotta eat where the locals eat. Speaking of locals - a quick funny story: There was a table of five older guys behind Tim and I was facing them while we were eating. They were obviously regulars and it sounded like they ate breakfast there every morning. At some point, they were talking about medications and side effects and the one mentioned some procedure or surgery he had been through four times. Judging by their breakfasts, I would guess heart surgery. :) Anyway, he said, in his perfect Massachusetts accent, "I figure I lived through four of those damn things, I must have nine lives. I'm paht pussy". I happened to be looking at them right when he said it and I started laughing and all five guys turned at once and looked at me and got up and left the table. It was hilarious.

After breakfast, we were walking back to the car and passed by a pie shop called Petsi Pies. I stood outside the building and I could smell a very strong apple and cinnamon smell so I grabbed Tim and walked inside. They had some hot cider going, which is what I was smelling. It turned out to be a cute little bakery with a few homemade pastries and pies to order and take home. I wanted a molasses ginger cookie and Tim got a lemon scone. We also got a little bag of Christmas cookies. The cookie was very soft and good, although I'm not a huge fan of candied ginger so I didn't like the little chunks in there. Tim said the lemon scone was also good, and the lemon glaze had a nice kick.

We arrived at our hotel in Brunswick, checked in, dumped our stuff and headed to his parent's house. His parents were there, as well as his sister, her husband their two kids (and the baby on the way!), and his brother Jon. They had prepared a feast for us - lobsters, fresh Maine shrimp, potatoes, peas, and coleslaw. Ahhhhh....... the best part about coming to Maine is definitely the seafood! I can never remember how to pick out the lobsters, so Tim had to show me again. One of these days, I'll learn! I had also never had Maine shrimp before, and I'd never had the ones with the heads still on them. That, too, was a learning experience. It was all so delicious.

Last time we were here (Thanksgiving 2006) Tim's brother had told us about a breakfast place he loved so we gave it a try and instantly fell in love with it. The Kopper Kettle is in Topsham, Maine, and it reminds us a lot of The Farmhouse in Gilbert, AZ. It's down-home cooking at its very finest. Tim really wanted to try the biscuits and gravy since his brother loved them, but unfortunately, they had run out. He ended up getting eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries. I got basically the same thing, but no sausage. The best part of the meal is the homemade bread. They make their own breads, muffins, and pastries, and their bread is outstanding. Tim had cinnamon bread and I had just plain ol' wheat. I loved my breakfast, but Tim didn't really like his. He was very disappointed about the biscuits and gravy, so it kind of ruined the meal for him.

We spent the rest of Christmas Eve running around. First up was Christmas shopping. His sister Jen had just bought a Wii, so we got her and her husband a couple of accessories for it. His brother Jon has had a little bad luck lately, and he had mentioned to Tim that his DVD player had died, so we got him a new DVD player, and we got his parents a gift card for one of their favorite restaurants. For Tim's nephews, Charles and Noah, we got these. We got to try them out the day after Christmas when we went to his sister's house and they are a LOT of fun! I want to get one to take to work!!! Uncle Tim had a hard time letting the boys play with them!

After our shopping was done, we stopped over at Tim's friend Joe's house to visit him and his wife Deb. We only stayed a couple of hours as we had plans for dinner with his parents. We had dinner with his parents and his brother - leftover lobster and shrimp. Yum! While we were having dinner, we found out there was going to be a white elephant gift exchange on Christmas Day at his sister's house. Oh crap. We didn't know. So, it was off to L.L. Bean in Freeport, where they are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We ended up getting one of these, and this, along with a coffee mug.

Just to give you a little background, L.L. Bean is an obsession out there. It's a HUGE store in Freeport, with several different stores all in one. Everyone out there gets gifts from there, or gift cards to there. In fact, we received a $100 gift card and a $25 gift card for the place.

On the drive from Joe & Deb's house to Tim's parent's house, I felt like my throat was a little dry and I was kind of thirsty. By the time we left his parent's house, my throat was really hurting and I was kind of feeling stuffed up. We tried to go to Walmart or Walgreens or anywhere to find some cold medicine, but on Christmas Eve at 8:00 in small-town Maine, apparently everything is closed. Bummer... Tim's brother had some extra Advil Cold & Sinus, though, which seemed to help for a couple of hours. By the time we went to bed Monday night, I was pretty miserable.

More to come...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in Maine, Part 1

We just flew in from Phoenix and boy are our arms... Okay, sorry....never mind. :)

I am a night owl, so on the weekends, I like to stay up late and sleep very late. This weekend, however, is a bit different. This morning, we were up and out of bed at 4:00 am. The middle of the night for a Saturday for us. Our plane took off at 7:40 am this morning, which meant we got to the airport at 5:30. Surprisingly, it wasn't all that busy. I know it was early in the morning, but I was expecting a lot bigger crowd, given the fact that it's a holiday weekend.

Neither Tim nor I are small people, but we're not gigantic either. Imagine our surprise when we sat down in the seats and were practically sitting on top of each other. We were contorting ourselves into pretzels for four and a half hours from Phoenix to Newark. When we landed in Newark, we had about 30 minutes to get from gate C121 to gate A23. Look up the Newark Airport sometime and check out where that is. Fortunately, there was a shuttle and it took us almost right to our gate.

We got on the plane bound for Boston and once we took off, the flight attendants passed out the peanuts and drinks. Well, silly me. I took a bag of peanuts. And I broke my temporary crown into about three pieces. Oops. Eating peanuts wasn't necessarily a great idea.

We got to Boston around 4:30 local time and headed to the Alamo counter for our rental car. After checking into our hotel, we did a little research on Chowhound and found a Thai place to go to. Tim almost got us lost getting there, but I digress. :) While enjoying my pan fried noodles at Montien, I broke the rest of my temporary crown into another four pieces. Sigh. I always manage to do this on the weekend, and this weekend is even worse! Tim is probably going to review the restaurant, so I won't get into that.

It hurts a little, but not too awful. It certainly doesn't hurt as bad as it did before the root canal, so that's good. I'm a little afraid to eat just about everything, though. I'm such a dork...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stuff - Mostly Junk

Just random thoughts today.

This whole "getting older" thing is really for the birds. Remember when I used to be able to remember things? Yeah, me neither. I swear - I can't keep a thought in my head these days. Does your brain get full? I don't know, but I hate it.

I had my root canal yesterday and today I can honestly say is the first day in almost two weeks that my tooth hasn't hurt. It's a little sore because it's been through a lot, but I don't feel the throbbing pain from my head down my neck and into my shoulder, and my ear doesn't feel like it's going to explode. Progress. After the endodontist gave me the novocaine yesterday, I asked him to please give me a little more, just to make sure I really couldn't feel anything. I have a deep fear of pain.

We have about 40 million things to do before we head to Maine for Christmas, and I'm so tired and worn out, I doubt we'll get to any of them. We leave at the butt-crack of dawn on Saturday and get back the following Thursday night. I'm really hoping to relax and get some down time while we're out there. My job has been stressful lately, and I'm definitely looking forward to the decompression. I promised my bosses, though, that I would come back from vacation with a whole new attitude and a renewed excitement for my job. That's a tall order, but I think I'm up to it! Some good play time with Tim's nephews should do the trick!

I really wish I liked tomatoes. They look so pretty on salads and sandwiches and they're probably really good for you. I hate them, though. I really, really hate them. I don't even like spaghetti and lasagna or pizza or even ketchup. Tomatoes are one of those things I always thought I'd start to like as I got older, but I haven't. I want to like them, but I just can't.

(Told you this was random stuff)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yup. That's What I Was Afraid Of.

Well, in about an hour, I am leaving to have a root canal done. I went to the dentist yesterday and told him I was still in a lot of pain from the temporary crown. He popped it off and had a look (I screamed in pain and then bit his finger, but that's a whole other story) and said I need a root canal. Great. Just what everyone wants during the holiday season when they're traveling - a toothache.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Priceless

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I received a very curious phone call. The woman who had sold me my car two years ago after I destroyed my Nissan Sentra called to find out if I was interested in looking at another car. Great customer service, by the way. In the mortgage business, too, it's all about following up with your past clients and working your database. I told her thanks for calling, but I was going to wait a while before really looking at cars. Then last week I read Geggie's blog and found out she bought a new 2008 Toyota Camry in Blue Ribbon Metallic. I looked at the picture on her site and thought to myself, "ooh, pretty blue." That started a chain of events that culminated in one of the more interesting weekends we've had in ages.

Thursday night after dinner, I was surfing the internet a bit and looked a little on the Toyota website to see if they had any deals going on. After I went to bed, Tim did a little looking on Costco's auto-buying program site and on Friday talked to someone about the whole process. Before I left work on Friday, I called Jenny at Right Toyota to see if she was working. If she was a good enough sales person to call me, I wanted to give her a chance. I told her we'd be in around 8:00 - once we'd had a chance to grab some dinner.

After a quick dinner at Osha Thai, we headed over. I told her I was interested in the 2008 Camrys and that I really liked the blue. We test drove it and liked it, so we looked at some numbers. After some considerable crunching and haggling, I am now the proud owner of a 2008 Toyota Camry LE in Blue Ribbon Metallic, too! My payments have gone up, but the way we've structured the lease, hopefully I won't be carrying around any negative equity leftover from the Nissan From Hell.

We were the last customers of the night for the dealership, which is probably also why we got a good deal on the car. We pulled into our subdivision last night and all of a sudden, a light bulb went off in both of our heads. The garage door opener. In the old car. At the dealership that just closed for the night. The house keys on Tim's desk. Inside the locked house. (When L and M were here for Thanksgiving, we gave them our house keys and they never made it back onto my key chain).

The house that we're renting is owned by a former cop who has taken every step possible to make sure the house is secure. It was locked up tighter than a drum. We sat in the new car in our driveway for a few minutes, laughing our heads off. "Well, the seats recline and we have a full tank of gas!" "Should we break a window?" "The house across the driveway is for rent and might be on lockbox - we could break in" "There's a couch in my office" These are just some of the suggestions that were thrown out as we were sitting outside our house. Tim had his laptop with him because he's secondary on-call this week. He pulled it out of the bag and hacked into our own wireless signal. We ended up booking a room at the Comfort Inn about two miles from our house. While there are people we could call for a place to stay, we didn't feel comfortable doing it at 11:30 pm. We spent an incredibly uncomfortable night at the Comfort Inn and were awake at 7:30 so we could get to the dealership right when it opened. Jenny had taken the keys to my old car home with her and started work at 9:00, so we went for breakfast and went back. We got home at about 10 this morning and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon catching up on sleep.

2008 Toyota Camry: $well, enough
1 Night at the Comfort Inn: $71.17
Trip to Walmart for toothbrushes, toothpaste, contact solution, etc.: $14.79
Look on our faces when we realize we're sitting in our driveway and can't get into the house? Priceless...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Double Ouch

I went to the dentist this morning and yup - I broke it. He numbed me up and took off the broken part of tooth (and showed it to me. Why do they do that? It's disgusting!) And then he did some drilling, put on a temporary crown, and sent me on my way. After the first of the year, I get my permanent crown. Isn't that a nice little treat for the holidays? To make things even happier, I came to work and found myself in a whole bunch of pain. When I called to see if I could get something for the pain (*cough* Vicodin, please *cough*), they mentioned he may have hit a nerve and I may need to have a root canal now. WHAT??? Man, I wish I'd never bitten into that piece of pork.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ouch

The mortgage industry tends to attract people who drink a LOT. Think young loan officers who are great in sales and have WAY too much money.

Friday night was the night of our very, very, very lame office holiday party. I've worked for this company for a while and Tim and I have been to two of them. They were always at the Biltmore Resort and involved appetizers, drinks, dinner, and dancing. Sounds fun, but it really isn't, unless you're a total drunk. Most people leave work by 3:00 the day of the party and start drinking and by the time the party starts at 7:00, they're already in a pretty good place. This year, they changed things up and decided to hold it at the Wrigley Mansion instead and it was just drinks and appetizers. As you may or may not know, the mortgage industry is in a bit of disarray lately and I'm sure our company was trying to save some money.

Instead of going to the party, I decided I wanted to have my co-worker D and her husband J over for dinner. I made Giada's pancetta-wrapped pork roast, the Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes and rolls and my version of succotash for dinner. D brought a chocolate trifle for dessert. We also had a simple cheese and cracker tray for appetizers. It was a very fun night and it was a terrific meal. The pork was cooked perfectly and was moist and flavorful. The Pioneer Woman never disappoints, so the rolls and potatoes were great too. My version of succotash was also very good and very colorful. The recipe is below, although I change it every time I make it.

Here's the "ouch" part. We were eating dinner and chatting and I bit into a piece of pork. I think I bit into a stem from some thyme and ended up breaking my tooth. I heard a VERY loud crunching noise and felt an awful lot of pain. I wasn't able to eat a lot of dinner after that.

About four years ago, I had to have a root canal and a crown on one of my teeth. Somehow, the root canal was done wrong and I ended up having to have the tooth pulled almost two years ago. At the time, I didn't have dental insurance, so I wasn't able to get an implant to replace it, so I have a hole on that side of my mouth. The tooth I broke Friday was on the other side of my mouth. Naturally.

Tara's Succotash

1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 Zucchini, cubed
1 Summer Squash, cubed
1 Bag Frozen Corn
2 Tbsp. butter (or more)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and bell peppers and cook until translucent, seasoning to taste. Add zucchini, squash and corn. Cook until zucchini and squash are soft and corn is warmed through.

I use lots of butter. It just tastes best that way. But then again, I love butter with everything. I make this differently every time. I know traditional succotash has lima beans, but I don't like them, so I generally don't add beans. You can really add anything you want, though. I just love how sweet the corn makes it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

NOW I Remember!


Date: December 4, 2007
Time: 5:49 pm
Temperature: 69 Degrees Fahrenheit

When I first moved to Phoenix, I swore I would NEVER get used to the weather here. Everyone told me that after the third summer, I would completely change my mind. They were right. Today's high was in the mid-70's and it's the beginning of December. NOW I remember why I live here! In the summer, when it's 115 degrees outside and we're all complaining, we just have to remember to hold on until winter. THIS is why we live here.

I will also go ahead and admit that I now think 69 degrees is chilly. When I left work tonight, I was glad I was wearing pants. Yes, I'm a big wimp now.

To my friends in family in Minnesota - so sorry you've gotten 20 inches of snow the past few days and it's below zero. Hahahahahahaha!!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Send Blankets!

Friday and Saturday were strange days here in Phoenix. I am speaking, of course, about the rain that fell for about 48 hours straight. This wasn't "Phoenix rain" where there are 15 drops every two hours, this was real rain.

The temperatures got into the 50's and it turns out that the 5+ years I've lived in Phoenix have turned me into a real weather wimp. Apparently 50 is just too chilly for me these days. I know my family and friends in Minnesota are dealing with a huge ice and snow storm this weekend and I'm soooooo thankful I don't live there! A friend of mine said the temperature on Friday was 3 degree above zero. No thanks - 64 was cold enough for me!

Quick funny story - Friday night after dinner, Tim was a little stir-crazy (he works from home and doesn't get out of the house much!) :) so we did a little shopping. As we were driving to Fry's Electronics, it was raining pretty hard. The windshield wipers on my car were making that awful scraping noise that they make when they're worn out. Wiper blades tend to dry out and crack during the long summer months when it never rains, so they don't last long in Phoenix. That noise drives both of us nuts, although it was definitely making Tim more grumpy than myself. After Fry's we went to Walmart to see if we could buy replacement blades and they were almost completely wiped out. It was almost comical. We went to Target, but the new Super Target near us doesn't sell them so we would have to wait until Saturday morning. After breakfast Saturday morning, we stopped at Auto Zone. We pulled up to the store and right in front of the car was the garbage can - FILLED with old wiper blades and wiper blade packaging. We both had a good laugh about it. Apparently the automotive supply stores were packed this weekend. That's what happens when it hasn't rained in months and months.

As of 8:45 Sunday night, it's 52 degrees. Someone send blankets! Oh, if you're in Minnesota, hope you manage to shovel your way out of your house soon. MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Yum

Yesterday, I found a recipe for a breakfast casserole (hotdish to you Minnesotans!) on a blog I've been reading for a while. After dinner last night, Tim and I went to the store and picked up some roasted garlic bread. You basically cover the bottom of a casserole dish with slices of bread. Top with cooked bacon or sausage and some shredded cheese. Then whip four eggs with a cup of milk and some salt and pepper. Pour eggs over the bread and let sit overnight. In the morning, all you have to do it bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes and enjoy! We both thought it was great. I'll be making this again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Feast

Yesterday was a terrific day and a great meal (if I do say so myself.) :) It was great to spend the holiday with friends and despite the cooking frenzy, it was a very relaxing day for me. That's surprising, usually I completely stress out and freak out and am generally impossible to live with when we're having people over. I think just the fact that I wasn't at work caused me to really relax.

We got up early (well, for us), and I started with the rolls. I had prepared the dough Wednesday night and kept it in the fridge. I took it out around 9:00 am to warm up a little, then I rolled it into the balls and got them into the muffin tins. They rose for about three hours.


They were then baked in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, and here they are in all their gorgeousness:



They were awesome. Simply delicious and nice and sweet. Tim had about three of them throughout the day and we each had a few at dinner. They were great and my very first attempt at bread. Thank God there was no kneading!

Appetizers were veggies and dip and meat, cheeses, and crackers. Here's the veggie "tray".

Is that not the cutest thing you've ever seen? Well, I have to give credit to Glenna over at A Fridge Full of Food. I saw this on her blog originally, and showed it to Tim and we decided to give it a try. We went to Walmart and bought a little tin bucket for $.97. The bottom has a thick piece of the end of a loaf of French bread. It is covered with kale and then the skewers are held in by the bread. The skewers have grape tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, and peppers. It was adorable.

I have a dip tray I bought at Cost Plus a few years ago and that was the centerpiece of the tray.


Two of the sections have Ranch and Bleu Cheese dressing, one has different types of crackers and the one you can barely see has sausage and two kinds of cheese. It was great fun and L and M really liked it.

Now to the main course - isn't that why we're all here?





The turkey was absolutely gorgeous - crispy, golden brown skin and perfectly cooked on the inside. Tim thought it was a bit dry, which it was, but the flavor was great.

The mashed potatoes are the best I've ever made. I used Yukon Gold potatoes and sprinkled the tops with crispy shallots. I've decided I'm in love with The Pioneer Woman and most of yesterday's recipes came from her, including the rolls, stuffing and potatoes. The crispy shallots on top of the potatoes were my idea. :)

Tim made the sweet potatoes, and we tried a recipe from Epicurious.com. Tim and L really liked them - M and I don't like them, so we're trusting that they were good.

M loved the stuffing. It was half cornbread and half white bread, and then just the classic onions and celery with chicken broth. Once everything was mixed together, I also threw in two beaten eggs to hold everything in and it turned out good. The original idea was The Pioneer Woman's, but I added the egg. Judging by her reactions, I'm thinking the potatoes were L's favorite. As for me, it was a tie between the mashed potatoes and the rolls. Tim's favorites were the rolls and the stuffing.

Dessert was the pumpkin pie I baked Tuesday night and apple crisp. I ended up having to make a new apple crisp. There was an "incident". I don't want to talk about it. I sent Tim and M to the store to get apples and L and I stayed behind and talked about them behind their backs. :) Anyway, the new apple crisp turned out great. The apples were nice and mushy (the way Tim likes them) and the top was crispy and sweet. L and Tim said the pumpkin pie was really good, too, although M and I didn't try it.




This holiday season, I'm thankful for my boyfriend who puts up with me and all my strange quirks and loves me anyway. I'm also thankful for good friends. I've known L for about 4 years when we worked together and M for almost three years. They're good friends, and when they lived in Phoenix, we used to get together every week for dinner. Now that they live in California, we don't see them enough, but it's still very nice when they come home. I'm also thankful for all of the leftovers in our fridge, which are going to make some great meals. I'm thankful to have such bounty when others have to go without.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving! Have a wonderful day, eat lot of food, enjoy your families and friends, and be safe.

And So It Continues....

After a quick dinner at our favorite Chinese place tonight, we continued our prep work for Thanksgiving dinner.

Tim did his sweet potatoes (we had to get new ones) and we'll keep them warm in the crockpot tomorrow. We're trying to do everything that needs the oven before the turkey goes in tomorrow afternoon. I prepped my veggies, meats and cheeses for the appetizers, pre-chopped the onion and celery for the stuffing, and made the bread dough for the rolls. Once again, it was the Pioneer Woman to the rescue! She posted her recipe for rolls this morning and I immediately emailed it to Tim and we agreed that it looked great.

Stay tuned - I'll try to remember to take pictures of everything tomorrow before we devour it. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Prep

The preparation for the big day has begun in earnest. Tim made the brine and did a practice run with the sweet potatoes. We got them for a steal and we were both kind of wondering if they were any good. The jury is still out. I don't eat them, and Tim hasn't decided if they're good or not.
Last night, I made cornbread and cut it up, along with a loaf of french bread for the stuffing, which is now drying.
Tonight I made an apple crisp. It's not very pretty right now, but I'll take a picture once I've plated it with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I also made my first pumpkin pie. I've never made one, but Tim and L both like pumpkin pie, so naturally, I had to make it! That hole you see near the middle? That's where I stuck the knife to see if it was done.


Tomorrow night we're going to finish cleaning the house and I'm going to work on my veggies/meats/cheeses. I may also start the mashed potato process since the potatoes get boiled and mashed and then baked. I'm using the Pioneer Woman's recipe, which looks absolutely amazing. If you haven't seen her site, hop over there and give it a look. Her non-food site is pretty great too. She takes tons of great pictures and her recipes are simple and delicious. She's hilarious, too. Her butternut squash recipe cracks me up. If you read it, you'll see what I mean.

More to come...

It's Tradition!




A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is on TV right now. How can you not love that lovable loser? The part where Peppermint Patty is yelling at Charlie because he served toast, popcorn, jelly beans and pretzels for Thanksgiving was just on. I have nightmares about that kind of thing - I spend all day cooking Thanksgiving dinner and everyone yells at me. Yikes!

I am sooooooo excited for Thanksgiving. It is, by far, my favorite holiday. I've gotten to be a bit of a Scrooge about Christmas over the past few years, mostly because of the pressure of gift buying and traveling mess, and how crowded everything is. Thanksgiving, however, is all about being with your family and friends and eating good food. How can you help but love it? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving

It doesn't really matter what the menu is for the beginning of the week, does it? It only matters what we're eating Thursday, and I think we can all agree.

Tim and I spent eight hours grocery shopping yesterday. We went to about 6 different stores to get various things and then finished up the shopping tonight.

There will be four of us for Thanksgiving - myself and Tim and our very good friends, L and M. L and M will be eating another dinner earlier in the day, but they've promised they will come hungry.

So, here's what's on the menu:

Mulled apple cider
Meat/Cheese/Veggie/Cracker "tray" (It's a secret - I'll post a picture when it's done)
Turkey (Alton Brown's brined turkey recipe)
Cornbread Stuffing*
Mashed Potatoes
Buttnernut Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Sauteed Corn with Onions, Zucchini, Squash, and Bell Peppers
Bread
Gravy

For dessert, we have apple crisp and pumpkin pie. The only things that won't be homemade will be the bread and the pumpkin pie crust. The rest will be made by Tim and myself. Tim is 100% in charge of the turkey. I've made or assisted a couple of other turkeys and they never turn out as good as when just Tim does it.

*Is it still called stuffing if you're not actually putting it in the bird? Is that when it's called dressing instead? I really have no idea, but we always called it stuffing when I was growing up, so that's what I call it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Menu Plan

Monday: Beef stroganoff and salad
Tuesday: Chicken & mushrooms with balsamic cream sauce
Wednesday: Shepherd's pie
Thursday: Hot dogs
Friday: Parmesan dijon chicken
Saturday: Eating out for my birthday.

Catching Up

I've been a bad, bad blogger. Was it that I've had nothing to say for the past week, or just that I've been lazy? Well, it's a combination of the two. I haven't been feeling well for about a month, and it's really wearing on me.


We haven't done much, but I did take a few pictures of some of our meals. The first is the balsamic chicken. The picture didn't turn out very well, but it was terrific. This was Giada's recipe for balsamic drummettes, but we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts because that was what we had in the fridge. It turned out great, just like last time. It seemed to take a long time to thicken the sauce. I was starving when I got home from work, so I just put some of the sauce on there before it was really thick. We served it with some jasmine rice and steamed broccoli. Great dinner.

I thought this was also a good time to introduce you to Mickey.





Mickey has been with me for about 30 years. He's a plastic dinner plate that I've had for as long as I can remember. When I was very, very young, I didn't eat a lot. (Boy, how times change!) Anyway, it was a struggle for my parents to get me to eat more than a few bites of food every meal, so I got Mickey. It became a challenge to "uncover" Mickey. Mickey was probably made long before dishwashers, but he still goes in. He gets used many, many times during the week. He's my favorite plate, and one of the very few things that will never be "downsized" in all of my moves from house to house or state to state.


Another night, we had a really yummy salad. This was made from romaine hearts, mushrooms, red peppers, and corn. I don't even remember what we had it with, but it was so pretty, I had to take a picture of it.



Monday, November 5, 2007

Menu Plan

I am a little later than usual getting this up today. I ended up with a screaming headache last night after dinner. The kind where it hurts to blink or breathe and you see shooting stars.





Dinner last night was beef stroganoff and it was pretty good. I used this recipe from The Home Cook/Rachael Ray. It turned out great. The only thing I would change next time is to use a little more flour so it thickens up a little more, and add more sour cream. The sour cream flavor wasn't as pronounced as I would have liked it to be. The tablespoon of paprika made it really orange, too, I may only use a teaspoon of it next time. I didn't take a picture of it last night, but I did take a picture of my leftovers today at work. Apparently I take better pictures of food on my camera phone under fluorescent lighting. I really need to learn how to use my camera one of these days. Tim got it for me about a year ago as a birthday present (or something), and I still haven't taught myself how to use it. Some days I miss the old days - insert film, push button. Although, it would make it tough to attach the photo to this post, so you take the good with the bad.

So, without further ado, here is this week's plan:

Monday: Hunt & Gather. This is code for "I'm tired and not feeling well, so whatever you can find that's edible is what you're having. I'm going to bed."


Tuesday: Balsamic chicken - we're giving Giada's recipe another try, just tweaking the oven temperature and cook time, rice, broccoli

Wednesday: Marinated chicken breasts, yet-to-be-named side dishes. Not sure yet. This is a recipe Tim brought to the relationship. You get a bottle of Ken's light caesar dressing and marinate the chicken breasts in it overnight. It comes out juicy and delicious. We've baked them, grilled them, and sauteed them. No matter how you do it, they're great.


Thursday: Ribeye for me, bratwurst for Tim, McAllister Potatoes. Saw this recipe on Guy's Big Bite this weekend and immediately fell in love. My favorite things, all rolled into one - potatoes, bacon, onions, parmesan! I won't be adding the spicy peppers to the sour cream, though. My poor ulcers are crying in protest just thinking about it!


Friday: Eating Out
In other news, I got some awesome news last night. L and M called after reading my last entry and said they had decided to come home for Thanksgiving Day, just for me! Well, for me and L's family, but I like to think it's just for me! Apparently I guilted them into it. :) I'm excited they're coming, and can't wait to cook Thanksgiving dinner now!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Holidays

This was never supposed to be a food blog, but I get the feeling it's turning out that way. I think the reason for this is the fact that food is the only interesting thing going on in our lives right now. Other than what I cook for dinner, every day is the same - get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed. We're pinching pennies right now so we don't go anywhere or do anything that would be considered noteworthy.

November begins a time of craziness. My birthday is in a couple of weeks. Less than that, actually - on the 17th. I've never really enjoyed my birthday for a variety of reasons. I've never known for sure if that was actually my birthday so I don't know if I'm celebrating on the right day. The short version of the story is that I was born in Korea and about a month later, I was abandoned and then found. The orphanage gave me a name and a birthday and then 4 months later, I was adopted. The birthday they gave me is still the day I celebrate, but it's always felt a little off to me. I'd almost rather celebrate the day I was found or the day I was adopted, but it's habit to celebrate November 17, so that's what we do. It's a day that's always been just a little melancholy for me.

After my birthday we have Thanksgiving. It turns out L and M won't be here to have dinner with us, so it will just be the two of us. It would have been great seeing them, but they were having a tough time finding someone to watch their dogs on the holiday. I wish we had someone to spend the day with, though. It would be nice to have someone to cook for other than the two of us. I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but I don't love that it's just the two of us. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. No gift-buying or huge pressure. Just food, family, and football. Given that Tim and I aren't much for sports fans and we have no family here, this year will just be food. Last Thanksgiving we went to Maine for Thanksgiving, which was nice. His mom prefers us to be there for Christmas, though, so she made sure that happened this year by buying us the tickets! :)

Anyway, L and M are having Thanksgiving with M's family on Friday and then a group of us are going out to celebrate L's birthday. She loves her birthday, unlike me. :) The first week of December is Tim's birthday, and right after that is Christmas. We'll be in Maine for Christmas, which I'm thrilled about. Maine is beautiful and relaxing, which I think it just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Haloween!


Happy Halloween!

I'm not much of a Halloween person, but these are some pretty great pumpkins. (Thanks for the link Michael!)

Have a great Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Balsamic Chicken

This was the second recipe from Giada I've tried. The first was orecchiette with toasted breadcrumbs. I screwed it up, though, and added WAY too much salt and it was practically inedible. I would like to give it a try again, though, because it looks really good. Has anyone else tried this recipe with better results than myself?



The second was the balsamic chicken we had last night. It turned out great. Yes, I followed the recipe. Since Tim works from home, he mixed up the marinade and soaked the chicken. We used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of drumettes, because that's what we had in the house. I also forgot to top them with sesame seeds, even though we have some in the pantry. As I was getting home from work last night, Tim was leaving for the gym, so I put them in the oven while he was gone. The recipe calls for 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes, but I pulled them out after 29 minutes and they were slightly overcooked. I did not factor in the consideration of the bones vs. boneless. Although overcooked, they were great. Slightly dry, but not awful, given that they had been marinading for a couple of hours. The flavor was excellent and when we finished dinner, we were both commenting that we wanted more. Definitely a keeper, and it was great with the rice. Next time I make it, I'll pay better attention to the cook time.

By the way, when Tim got home from the gym, the reserved marinade/sauce had been bubbling on the stovetop for a while, and he said the balsamic smell hit you like a ton of bricks when you walked into the house.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dinner Tonight & Meal Plan

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I've been blue for a couple of weeks now. I blame hormones. Girls, you understand. Today I also had to deal with the "Sunday blues", which happen every now and then, when I realize I have to go to work tomorrow. I really do love my job, but it wears me out and it wears on me. Poor Tim has been walking on eggshells lately because he never knows if I'm going to be my "normal" self (whatever that is), raging bitch or weepy Wendy.

We worked on our meal plan this afternoon and then did our weekly grocery shopping. When we got home, I wanted to try a new recipe, Tyler Florence's smothered pork chops. I made mashed potatoes and scalloped corn for the sides. This was another time when I followed a recipe. Tim has been nagging me about it lately and rather than argue, I have started to try harder to follow recipes rather than just throw things in a pan and see what happens. Well, they didn't turn out all that great. I think our stovetop is hot, because I had it on medium the way the recipe read, but they still had a burnt taste. I could tell they were a good piece of meat (which we expect from Von Hanson's), and I could tell that if the sauce hadn't had the burnt flavor, it would have been really good too. I am definitely going to try the recipe again, but I'll cook them on medium low instead of medium. This has happened to me before, so I'm wondering if our stove is just hotter than I expect. Tonight was the third time since we've lived here I've set off the smoke alarms. Oops. :) The potatoes were mashed with my Plugra and the scalloped corn was great. I was bummed about the chops, though, and I always feel really bad when dinner doesn't turn out great like I hope it will. I feel like I have to apologize to poor Tim, even though he's always really nice about it.

As for the coming week, here's what we've decided:

Monday: Balsamic chicken & rice
Tuesday: Garlic Cheddar Chicken & roasted truffled potatoes
Wednesday: Turkey & mashed potatoes
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Going Out

I've decided that on Fridays, we can go out to eat. We've been working very hard at eating at home lately, and we've done well, but on Fridays, we can splurge a little. We're not talking $150 meals or anything, but maybe some Thai food or something would be okay.

Well, my horribly messy kitchen is calling out to me and I'm going to have to drag Tim away from the Red Sox game to help me with dishes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Updates

My menu plan didn't work out so well at the end of last week. I worked late both Wednesday and Thursday nights so I was really tired. Thursday turned into "leftovers" and Friday was dinner at Osha Thai. We're pinching pennies lately, but we hadn't been out to eat in over a week, which is unusual for us, so after crunching the numbers in about 15 different ways, I decided we deserved a treat.

We also went to Welcome Diner for lunch today. It's a great little hot dog/hamburger joint that is crazy good and VERY affordable. It's in an old mobile home-type building with a counter and 9 stools and some seating outside. Despite some unseasonably warm temperatures (today's high was in the upper 90s), we sat outside and enjoyed our meal.

The chicken stock is in jars and freezing. I haven't had a chance to use any yet, but I will tomorrow night when I make smothered pork chops. We went to Von Hanson's and Phoenix Ranch Market to stock up on some meat for the freezer today, and the pork chops at Von Hanson's looked great, so we picked up a couple. We also got our usual two pounds of the best bacon in the city, some bratwurst for Tim, and some maple sausage. We got some ground beef and a ribeye at Phoenix Ranch Market.

Tomorrow's breakfast is a fritatta. I've never made one, but it's basically eggs with some stuff put in. In checking out our refrigerator, I'm thinking ours will have some maple sausage, red bell pepper, onion, chives, mushrooms, and maybe some other stuff. It's known as a "refrigerator cleaner" breakfast. I'll also make some bacon and maybe some hashbrowns to go along with it. I wish we had some good fruit in the house, but it's so difficult to find good, fresh fruit in Phoenix right now.

I'm still working on next week's menu plan, so I'll post more later. I need to take into account the fact that I'm completely exhausted from work toward the end of the week and to make concessions for that.

We have a client right now who is buying his first home. He also owns a very cool little coffee shop off Glendale Ave & 7th St., Unlimited Coffee. We stopped there today to check it out because he had also told me that his business partner makes their gelato on-site. So we each had a small bowl of gelato, and it was great. Very, very rich. It also has some dairy in it, and since I am lactose-intolerant, it has made me feel a little queasy the rest of the day. I had planned to make pork chops for dinner tonight, but instead, I'm sipping some soda and laying in bed waiting for my stomach to stop churning. It was worth it, but I'm reminded why I rarely eat ice cream and gelato and why I NEVER drink milk.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If Only I Carried a Tape Recorder For Times Like These

Let me preface this by admitting this: I have said a lot of stupid things in my life. I've said more stupid things than I'd like to admit. That doesn't keep me from making fun of other people. I've had two instances in the past month or so that have made me wish I carry a tape recorder with me at all times or that someone else could be around to hear them.

The first - I went to lunch with one of my bosses and one of his real estate agents. We got there and I told the hostess we had reservations for noon. She asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. Since it's cooling down significantly here in Phoenix, I asked, "are there any free tables outside?", to which she responded "no, you still have to pay."

The second - I went to the grocery store Monday night to pick up some stuff for dinner. I also wanted to check to see if they had any canning jars. I walked up to someone who works there and this is our conversation:
Me: Do you carry canning supplies?
Her: Tanning supplies?
Me: No, canning, with a C
Her: Yeah, we probably have some stuff in the cosmetic aisle
Me: No. Canning. Do you have jars?
Her: No, I think it only comes in tubes

I am reminded of a news program Tim and I were watching over a year ago. I think some paparazzi were lined up waiting for the stars to arrive at the Academy Awards (or some such awards show), and the reporter stopped to talk to one of them. She asked him a question and he responded that he doesn't speak English very well and that he was from Switzerland. She turned to her camera and said "well, I don't speak Swiss, so we'll move on to someone else." Um, yeah. Swiss isn't a language. It's a cheese.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Stock

Something I've always wanted to do is make chicken stock. I've always imagined it to be difficult or time-consuming, and knowing my lack of patience, I assumed it was something that was beyond me. However, today I have given it a try. I took both of the carcasses out of the fridge, pulled off all of the meat, and put the bones into a big pot with onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves and peppercorns. I really had no idea what to put in there, so I just put a bunch of stuff from the fridge in the pot, covered it with water, and have been simmering it for about two hours now, and it smells heavenly. I figure I'll let it go another couple of hours and strain and store it.

I used my pasta pot for it - that way I can lift out the colander part of it and take care of most of the "chunks". I figure I'll use the mesh strainer and cheesecloth for the rest of it.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekly Meal Plan

Monday - Ribeye from Midwestern Meats for Tara and something else for Tim.

Tuesday - Pizza (Tim found a recipe for pizza dough he wants to try)

Wednesday - Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli

Thursday - Chicken pot pie (gotta use up that bird!)

Friday - Chicken Marsala, mashed potatoes, whatever vegetable I can find

Two for Two, Baby!

Roast chicken, night #2

Last night was the night to try the little chicken - the 3 pounder we got from Hobe Meats. We had brined it with the other one, but taken it out of the brine and stored it overnight. We did everything else exactly the same and put it in the oven. A couple of hours later, the thermometer beeped indicating it was at 161 degrees. We pulled it out and let it rest for 15 minutes. Tim went to carve it and guess what?! It was not cooked all the way! Now, we did cook it breast-side up, so that wasn't the problem, but we may not have had the probe thermometer in the right spot. Not sure what happened there. So once again, back into the oven. It turned out a lot juicier than the chicken the night before, though. It was still pretty tasty, but kind of disappointing that we had thermomether issues again. The rest of dinner was the leftover mashed potatoes and roasted garlic butternut squash. Tim loves butternut, but I hate it. He cubed it up last night and mixed it with some olive oil, chopped garlic, and parsley and baked it. It was delicious. I am obsessed with garlic, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. The butternut was merely a vehicle to get garlic into my mouth. We forgot to top it with parmesan cheese, though, which the recipe called for. I have no idea where he got the recipe, otherwise I'd link you to it. It turned out to be a pretty good dinner, even though it didn't happen in exactly the way it was supposed to.

We just got home from grocery shopping and I need to start dinner for tonight. After that, though, I'll work on this week's meal plan. Why do I have a feeling it will involve a LOT of chicken since we have about a chicken & a half left over? :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Dinner

Tonight was the night of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Here are pictures of the corn and potatoes:





The corn was started by melting Plugra with some roasted garlic oil. When the oil was hot, I added some diced onion. Once they were translucent, I added some frozen corn, along with some salt and pepper.

The potatoes were mashed with some chopped garlic that had been heated in some heavy cream and Plugra. Delicious.

Where's the chicken, you ask? Well, there was a small mishap. Tim is in charge of all poultry around here because every time I've been near the turkey, it hasn't turned out as well. There are a million things I can cook, but for some reason, turkeys and chickens are hard for me. Well, it wasn't his night tonight. He cooked the bird upside down first, and because he put the probe thermometer in the thigh instead of the breast, we took it out of the oven way too soon. So after letting it rest for 15 minutes, we cut into it, somewhat surprised to see dark meat. Then we flipped it over and cut into the breast. Still partially raw. We put the thermometer into the white meat and it showed 140. Not 163 like we were hoping for. Oops.

By the way, you've probably noticed I haven't figured out the whole taking-pictures-of-food thing. I really need to learn how to use my camera.

Update: About 45 minutes after I finished posting this, the chicken was done cooking for the second time. It turned out pretty tasty, although a bit dry because we had already cut into it. Good thing we can eat the little chicken tonight and give it another try. I'll let you know how it goes! Luckily we have about 2 pounds of mashed potatoes left!

I am also going to try and make stock with the chicken carcasses. I've never done it before. I'll let you know how it goes.

Updates

Well, we had our long-awaited dinner at Pizzeria Bianco Wednesday night. Was it the best pizza in America? Probably not. Was is very good pizza? Probably. Would I go and wait in line for two hours for this pizza? No. I don't think I'm the right person to ask these questions, though - I'm not really a fan of pizza. Generally, I can tolerate pizza about once every other month. Just not my favorite. Most of my friends think I should be dragged out in the street and tarred and feathered for not liking pizza, but I am who I am. :) That said, I will let you skip on over to Tim's blog to read about the rest of the experience. It was great to meet everyone and a good time was had by all.

Last night was a night at home. We grilled up some hot dogs from VonHanson's and had some potato salad. We also started brining our chicken. Wednesday before we left for the pizza place, Tim prepared Alton Brown's brine recipe and we allowed it to cool over night. Last night, we rinsed the chickens (more than one chicken? More on that later) and put them in the brine for the night. Tonight Tim will be roasting them and I'll be making the rest. I know I'm doing mashed potatoes for sure, and possibly the scalloped corn I made a couple weeks ago. I'm excited to try the mashed potatoes with my Plugra, which I first read on The Home Cook's Blog. Tim and I had some on bread with our dinner a couple of nights ago and Tim said he could taste a difference, but couldn't really define the difference. I did too, but it was just different. It smells a little strange to me - not bad, it's just that I can tell it doesn't smell like the butter we usually get.

I'm going to try my hand at taking pictures again tonight and see if I can't get something good on the chickens. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention?

Tim went to Hobe Meats yesterday to pick up a fresh chicken (we never use frozen bird). They gave him a 3-lb. bird. Um, hello? If you know me, you know I can eat that all by myself! So he went to Albertson's last night and bought a second chicken. This way we can also compare the two - grocery store vs. butcher. I'll post later with an update of dinner and how things turned out!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chicken Mushroom Cashew Risotto for Dinner

It was great. The risotto was rich and wonderful. I only changed a couple of things in the recipe: I put a rind from the Reggiano into the chicken stock as it was heating up so infuse the flavor into it, and I put a few tiny cubes of the Parmesan into the risotto itself as it was cooking. Otherwise, I actually followed a recipe. The mushrooms added a great earthiness to the dish and the Parmesan and cashews added some saltiness. The risotto was rich and creamy, just as it should be. I've tried a few recipes for risotto, but I really think this is the best one I've tried.

You probably want to know where the picture is. I take terrible pictures of food. If you look on almost anyone else's blog, you can see they take great pictures. I take terrible ones. So you'll have to take my word for it - it looked great and smelled great.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Menu Plan

I am going to try something I've been seeing on other blogs. A few people put up their plan for the week. This is something Tim and I try to do every Sunday before we do our weekly grocery shopping. Last night, we talked it over and here's what we came up with:

Monday: Hamburgers and oven fries (We picked up some "bacon burgers" from Midwestern Meats a couple weeks ago and defrosted them last night. Beef and bacon ground together and formed into a patty - what could possibly be wrong with that?!) I also may try my new truffle oil on the oven fries. Yum!
Tuesday: Chicken Mushroom & Cashew Risotto (from Taste & Tell)
Wednesday: Dinner at Pizzeria Bianco! (Woohoo! Best pizza in America, baby!)
Thursday: Hot dogs from VonHanson's and potato salad
Friday: Roasted chicken using Alton Brown's brine recipe

I'm hoping that by posting this, you'll all help me keep on track with our plan instead of going home, flopping on the couch and telling Tim, "I'm too tired, eat Ramen Noodles - I'm going to bed." I work about 14 hours a day, so that happens more often than I would like to admit. My poor man starves during the week! If you'd like to send donations to the "Feed Tim" fund, let me know. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lots of Stuff....

My good friend L and her boyfriend M came into town this weekend. M works at Google out in Mountain View, so they moved out there a little over a year ago. I was talking to L a couple weeks ago and she mentioned they were coming home to see their families and walk for Susan G. Komen. I was going to walk, too, but it was just so darn early in the morning for a Sunday! Instead, I donated money and let everyone else do the walking. They arrived in town Friday afternoon and we met them for dinner Friday night. Well, them, us, a few of her friends and their husbands/significant others & kids, and her parents and his parents. We went to Macayo's. This is a place I don't really enjoy, but as her family doesn't exactly have the most adventurous palates, and it was a central location, that's where they wanted to meet. I don't like Mexican food. Our friend from Chowhound, winedubar, had sent us an email earlier in the day saying "in the name of all that is good, do NOT go to Macayo's! Going to Macayo's becuase you like Mexican food is like going to Denny's becuase you like dinner!" Well, we weren't really there for the food, but rather, to see friends. Good thing we had low expectations to begin with, because it just wasn't very good.

Friday night L and M stayed at our house. After dinner, we came back to our house and sat and talked for quite a while. L and M are young, but Tim and Tara are WAAAAYYYY too told to be staying up until 1:00 am! Saturday we slept in and headed to breakfast at Harlow's in Tempe, which is one of our favorites. After breakfast, L and M left and I took a nap. Tim went car shopping, though, but after our last disasters, I opted to stay home. Tim didn't end up getting a new car, but he's still talking about it, and we'll see what happens. He's really upside down on his car right now, so that's going to make it difficult. I needed to go into work, but decided to nap instead. Tough decision. :)

Saturday night we decided to try Yupha's Thai in Tempe. Seth had been there recently, and there was an appetizer that sounded great to me. We arrived around 7:30 pm and the place was hopping. All but one table was full so we got that one. We studied the huge menu for a while and made our decisions. The first thing we ordered was the Little Mermaids. This is a shrimp wrapped in bacon, wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried. These are served with some sweet and sour sauce. They were great. Really, my only complaint was that the bacon didn't seem cooked enough to me. I would have like to have seen the bacon cooked less than halfway before being wrapped around the shrimp and fried. They tasted great, though. The bacon was definitely the star of the show (to me, this is always true), and the sweet and sour sauce just kind of brought it all together. Tim also ordered some Tom Kha Kai soup. After the disaster at Thai Hut, he deserved a good bowl of soup. When it came out, we were both excited to see it's wasn't pure white. Tim seemed to enjoy it and I had a sip, too. It wasn't as good as Osha Thai's Tom Kha Kai, but still good. Tom Kha Kai has a very complex mix of flavors - sour, sweet, tangy, salty. The soup at Osha is very, very smooth, and you taste all of the flavors at the same time. The soup at Yupha's was also very good, but had a bit more heat, which seemed to overpower the rest of the flavors at times. I felt like it wasn't as smooth and that I tasted all of the flavors in stages. For my entree, I ordered Pra Ram and Tim had Drunken Noodles. My Pra Ram was sauteed chicken on a bed of steamed spinach with peanut sauce. It was great. The peanut sauce was tangy and sweet, and tasted great. Tim loved his Drunken Noodles, too. They were quite spicy, so I only had a little taste. For dessert, we had sticky rice for me and Thai custard for me. They were both okay. Osha's versions were better, though.

When we got home from dinner, we were supposed to watch Knocked Up together, but Tim wanted to finish watching the Red Sox game, which ended up going into extra innings, so I went to bed and he stayed up.

Tim is on call this week, so he's been sleeping in the spare bedroom. He needs to have his pager and computer with him all the time, and if I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the pager, I would be quite unhappy. This morning, I woke up around 9:45 (shocking early for me) and lounged in bed for a while. Around noon, I started to get hungry so I went to the kitchen and started making breakfast. We had defrosted a pound of bacon, so I made a few slices of that, along with some home fries with onion and scrambled eggs. Tim woke up when I was about halfway done cooking. We had just barely finished eating when his pager went off, so he headed off to the bedroom to take care of it. About a half hour later, I could hear snores coming from the room, so I wanted to let him sleep. He never sleeps very well when he's on call and he tends to stress about it, so I knew he needed his sleep. I decided to head to work for a few hours today while he napped, so I went in for about 3 hours and got some stuff done.

In all, a great weekend. Even though I know L doesn't read my blog, it was great to see her. M reads it all the time, so give her a big hug for me and I hope you guys can come and have Thanksgiving with us so we don't end up with enough food for 8 days of leftovers! Love you and miss you guys!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Not a Bad Weekend at All....

Friday night we tried a Thai restaurant we hadn't been to yet. We kept meaning to try it, but we couldn't tear ourselves away from our favorite in Scottsdale. Seth reviewed it, though, and really seemed to like it, though, so we figured we couldn't go wrong. It's on McDowell and 1st Street and we forgot that it was First Friday downtown. However, we were able to find a parking place and the restaurant wasn't terribly packed. I'll let you read about the rest of the experience on Tim's site. It wasn't a good one, though. Saturday night we had dinner at Capital Grille. One of my bosses needed some help a few weeks ago - ride to the car dealership, ride to the airport, etc. and to thank me, we got a $100 gift certificate from Capital Grille. Wow. What an experience! I know it's a chain and as "foodies", we're supposed to hate all chains, but this was great. There are chains that know how to do it and this was one of them. It was a very classy place and we'd go back again. Tim posted a review of it, as well. (I love that he does all the typing and all I have to do it cut and paste the link!)

Sunday we chilled at home like we usually do. Tim made us pancakes and bacon and we were so full after breakfast, we crawled back into bed and took a nice, long nap.

In all, a good weekend. Yesterday, though, was back to reality. The mortgage business is hard right now. Everyone in my office is pretty down and it's beginning to wear on everyone. Morale is practically non-existent. I've heard a lot of guesses on when things will start to get better, but no one knows for sure, obviously. It's tough to keep a positive attitude in times like these in this industry.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Special Treats

We were out and about this morning/afternoon and I picked up a couple of treats for myself. One is white truffle oil. I can't wait to give it a try. From what I can tell from a few other people, you don't cook with it - it's more like something you sprinkle on a salad, potatoes, or other things once they're done. The other treat I bought myself was Plugra. I read about it on another blog, Taste of Home and have been wanting to try some. I don't know much about it, other than that it's butter with a higher fat content.

Anyone have any suggestions for using my two new treats?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

More Eating In

I spent most of today in the kitchen. I actually followed THREE recipes. Well, kind of. That's a big deal for me because I don't like following recipes, which is why I don't bake. I tend to think of something I want to cook, read three or four different recipes and then do my own thing. Or, at the most, I'll look at the list of ingredients and just kind of eyeball everything.

The first things I made were Pecan Cinnamon Muffins from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen. I really like her blog and these sounded great when I was doing a search for breakfast items yesterday. I also used the KitchenAid mixer for the first time all by myself. I don't bake - EVER, so I'd never had a need to use it before. Granted - Tim had to show me how to use it, but I figured it out. :) I thought the batter was really thick and I was concerned I had done something wrong, but they turned out great. Okay, I'll be honest. I did do one thing wrong. I forgot to add the vanilla. They taste fine, though, but I'm sure the vanilla would have put them over the top. We've each had one and we enjoy them a lot. I did double the amount of everything in the topping, like she suggested. I like a lot of the crumbly topping, so it was great.

The second thing I made was a marinade for chicken. My friend Scott sent me a recipe for a bourbon marinade a couple of years ago and we really liked it. After exhaustive searches on our emails, we weren't able to find it, but after doing some internet searching, I think we found the right recipe. Tim is going to marinade the chicken breasts tomorrow afternoon and we'll grill them tomorrow night. I figure we can have the chicken breasts and some sort of side dish tomorrow night, and may be salads with chicken the following night.

The third thing I made was potato salad. This is one of those times when I just looked at someone's recipe and used mostly the same ingredients and did my own thing. I left out the celery because I really don't like it raw and the scallions because we didn't have any. It's in the refrigerator right now kind of absorbing the flavors. I also used white potatoes instead of russets. I wanted a more waxy potato than starchy. This was from Simply Recipes - a site I consult quite often as a jumping-off place for a lot of dishes I make. I've never made potato salad before, so from the little taste I've had, I really like it. The real test will be tomorrow once all the flavors have soaked into the potatoes and eggs.

Speaking of eggs, I have found the secret to hard-boiling eggs without getting that nasty greenish hue to the yolks. The color doesn't affect the taste, but it's definitely not as pretty as when it's just yellow.

I did take pictures of both the muffins and the potato salad but they turned out terrible. How do people take pictures of food that don't look awful? Maybe I shouldn't be using white plates? Maybe I shouldn't be using my flash? I don't know - if you have a food blog and take pictures of food, I'd love to hear your secret.

Eating in this weekend

We are on a bit of a tight budget lately. Okay, we've been on one for a long time. It's a little tighter than usual right now because we're going to Maine for Christmas and we're trying to save for presents, hotel room, and rental car. We are also going to Kai for dinner to celebrate our birthdays on December 1. We're really excited about it - it's one of those places we've been talking about for ages, but it's so expensive, we have to really save for it.


So for that reason, we are eating in this weekend. Yesterday, I made scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and bacon from VonHanson's. It was great. Here's a picture of my plate with some of everything.






Tim actually made the bacon because he's a lot better at it than I am. I tend to get impatient. The way we do bacon is put it on a rack on a cookie sheet. That way, the bacon gets crispy without sitting in its own grease and it doesn't splash grease everywhere like it does when you do it on the stovetop. Tim has figured out the perfect way to do it, which is quite involved with timers and such. :) I whipped the eggs with a little milk and salt and pepper. I used to over-cook them all the time, but I have to say I've gotten really good at getting them just right. They were creamy and fluffy.



We also had some fingerling potatoes left from the bag I bought earlier this week for dinner so I sliced those into discs and added some chopped onion and fried them in a little butter and olive oil. If I'd had any bacon grease, I would have added some of that too, but I didn't. I've started saving it, though, and will probably be using it a lot.



This morning I slept in quite late. That's the best part of Sundays, right? When I woke up, Tim had already started the bacon and was in the process of making pancakes. I like mine with chocolate chips - they were always a special treat from my dad, so I've always listed them among my favorite comfort foods. Tim does a great job of making them, too.


Last night, I made fettuccine alfredo, with a green salad and garlic bread. I forgot to take a picture, though. I made a salad with chopped romaine hearts, mushrooms, corn, and red onion with a little Italian dressing. The fettuccine was made with both Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses to give it a lot of flavor. I always forget, though, how filling it is and I made way too much, which we just ended up just throwing away. I don't know what it is about fettuccine, but I don't like it the next day. We haven't decided what's for dinner tonight yet, but I'm sure I'll put something here about it...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Holy Grail

Through Chowhound and blogging, we've met some great people. One of those people is named Mike. We've never met him in person, but have chatted with him online on several occasions about food. Tim did a post on his blog a couple days ago about the elusive Vosges bacon candy bar. He got a comment from Mike saying that he had two of them and that we could have one. He came over this morning with it. If you remember, this is the candy bar we traipsed all over God's green earth looking for, to no avail. We came close at one candy store, but because of the heat in Phoenix, it was far too expensive to ship chocolate here. They said they would be getting it in the fall, so I've been anticipating it for months.


Well, Mike just stopped by our house about 10 minutes ago. We barely had enough time to take this picture...



...before I was tearing into it and making animal sounds of pleasure. First bite. Just chocolate. Second bite. Let it melt in your mouth, see what you can taste. Third bite. Fourth bite. I can feel the bacon pieces because they're crunchy, but they don't really taste like bacon unless I suck off all the chocolate and just eat the bacon. There is also some smoked salt in there. I can taste it, but barely. Not like the Barcelona bar. As a candy bar, it is very tasty. It was a bit of a letdown, though, because I didn't feel like the bacon was a very dominant flavor. I'm thrilled that I finally got one, but I wish the bacon flavor were a bit more pronounced.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Never Thought I'd See The Day


When I left work yesterday, this was what my car temperature was reading. I never thought the day would come when I would walk out of a building into 95 degree weather and think "I'm so happy it's finally cooling down!" Never thought I'd see the day.
The weather is definitely starting to turn, though, which is making everyone happy. Once the sun goes down, it gets down into the mid-80's and it's almost chilly!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Corn-y Goodness

I found a recipe yesterday for scalloped corn yesterday that I really wanted to try. So when I got home from work, I made some meatloaf, mashed potatoes and scalloped corn. I was going to take a picture, but I left work late and by the time everything was done cooking, we were too hungry to take pictures. I found the recipe here but made a few changes because, well, that's what I do.

I used 2 cups of frozen corn - half yellow and half white. I don't know why I did half and half, but that's what I wanted to do. I also did not pre-cook the corn since frozen corn basically just needs to defrost. I used Ritz crackers and I mixed some into the corn mixture, as well as sprinkling on top. They absorbed quite a bit of the liquid, though, and if I did that in the future, I would probably up the amount of milk. I also did not add the green pepper because Tim doesn't like it, but I did add garlic. In my opinion, all the best things in the world start out with sauteed onions and garlic - am I right? I had originally started to make just a half batch since it's just the two of us, but it didn't look like much and I'm glad I made the whole batch. I had leftovers for lunch today and they were just as delicious as last night. I may even make it for Thanksgiving this year. It will be just the two of us as usual, so there's always a ton of food.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday Breakfast


Most Sundays, we like to eat in. We sleep in, make breakfast together, and just kind of have a lazy Sunday. This morning we had French Toast and bacon. Tim got the bacon on his trip to Midwestern Meats yesterday. He tends to cook bacon much better than I usually do, so he was in charge of that and I made French Toast. We had some challah bread and I mixed some eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and soaked the bread for a few seconds on each side and cooked them on our griddle. They turned out great.
The bacon turned out great too. We LOVE VonHanson's double-smoked bacon. It's almost sweet and cooks up perfectly. The stuff Tim got at Midwestern Meats is our new second favorite, though. It's got some of the sweetness and cooks up perfectly, too. A couple of weeks ago, we tried some of the applewood-smoked bacon from Hobe Meats, a butcher here in Phoenix. It was okay, although nowhere near VonHanson's, though.
I love Sundays - sleep in, good food, lazy day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

FINALLY!

Tim and I bought a gas grill Labor Day weekend. We'd been threatening to do it for a couple of years now, but there was always something - the one we wanted wasn't in stock, we didn't have the money, whatever. We've used it a lot since we got it and we love it. I hadn't had a grill since I moved out of my parents' house and I forgot how nice it is to not have to heat up the kitchen and how great everything tastes.

We've been wildly successful with chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers. The only thing we had trouble with was steak. Tonight was the fourth steak I've tried. The first one was very tough. The flavor was pretty good, but it was almost impossible to chew. The second two turned out similar. The first steak was purchased at VonHanson's Meats and it was called "grill steak". I can't remember what cut he said it was, but it was extremely lean and probably wasn't the best choice for grilling. It would have been a lot better off marinating and then grilled. I bought two steaks at Safeway a couple days later and naturally, I can't remember what cut they were either.

One of the food blogs I read on a regular basis, Andrea's Recipe Box, had this post about steaks, which led me to another blog with a post about cooking steaks. This method intrigued me so much, I had to try it.

After breakfast this morning, I wasn't feeling well and I came home and took a nap. Tim was feeling a little restless, though, and decided to drive around aimlessly for a while. He came back with lots of goodies and one of them was a ribeye from Midwestern Meats. I used the salt method before cooking it and we fired up the grill. I grilled it about 10 minutes one each side at medium-high and when it reached about 155 degrees on my probe thermometer, I took it off. It was absolutely delicious. Certainly one of the best steaks I'd had in a long time. What a difference it makes when you buy a good cut of meat instead of the cheapest. Tim had a bite and he said the steak was so good it may even convert him. He has never really liked steak in the past, but he had several bites of mine and loved it. I'll turn him around in no time! My favorite part of the night, though, was just standing outside at 9:00 pm and it was only 82 degrees. We were watching our food cook, enjoying the gorgeous weather, and just talking. It was a good night. My man, my steak, and a lovely night. What more could a girl want?