Friday, December 31, 2010

Date Night! (not quite as adventurous as the movie...)

So, because Scott's dad is amazing, we were the recipients of a gift card to a rather expensive restaurant downtown. I'm pretty sure it is a chain, so if there is a Sullivan's in your area, I recommend you save your money and RUN there as soon as you can.

We strolled on down to Sullivan's , which is a couple blocks away from our house, and immediately had our socks blown off as we entered. Classy, refined, with a live pianist in the lounge. Not to mention a WALL of wine bottles (sorry, didn't get a picture of that).

Happy and handsome hubby.
Blurry, but a general idea of the restaurant. The lighting was a lot more
dim and intimate than the picture looks.
I don't look tired after a long day at work at all right?
Ahh..."The Knockout". My drink was Orange-Infused Vodka, pineapple juice, and fresh orange twists.
So simple...and so good!
THE MOST AMAZING appetizer in the history of the world. I have great plans to go back
if only just to get this appetizer again. It was called a Cheesesteak Egg Roll. There are truly no words, I just suggest you get this if you go to a Sullivans. Whew.
Recipe to make a hubby smile: 12oz filet mignon. Oh yeahhh. 
I got Filet Duxelles - mushroom stuffed filet with a mushroom ragout. Absolutely to die for.
 Definitely an amazing night and wonderfully delicious. Thanks Dad Collins!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sausage & Kale Soup

The Thursday Dinner feature is back with a recipe I made while we were in Vermont visiting my family.

Much to my mom's hesitation, we decided to check out this recipe, with a few substitutions. Mom is not a huge kale fan, but because she loves me and she hates to cook, she was willing to let me experiment on her. Dad of course was enthusiastic about any form of food that I produced. So we dove in. This recipe is from Woman's Day magazine, although since it's a soup, we made a few modifications.

8 oz fully-cooked smoked turkey sausage, sliced (we wound up using sweet italian turkey sausage and cooked it ourselves ahead of time on a George Foreman grill)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 lb), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
12 oz fresh kale, stems removed and leaves chopped (8 cups)
crushed red pepper (optional)

1. Heat a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute 5 minutes or until browned.
2. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add broth and bring to a boil.
3. Stir in potatoes and kale. Simmer, partially covered, 10 to 12 minutes or until potatoes and kale are tender. Serve with crushed red pepper, if desired.

Some festive, home-grown garlic. Isn't it cute?

Gahlic. To keep the vampires away. 
I think kale is pretty, don't you?
I have a fear of peeling potatoes, and my
momma loves me so she does it for me.
I think I could make a meal out of just this portion. Hmm...

Mom also chops potatoes for me, because she's the best.
Hmm...reckon it will all fit??
Starting to look like soupy goodness.

My helper during the cooking process. Or should I say the eager vacuum cleaner.
My precious puppy. I keep trying to convince them to let me bring him to Maryland.
Looks lovely, don't you think?
The Verdict:

  • Let's just say that Scott had three helpings, Dad could only make happy grunting noises, and Mom just kept repeating in shock...I actually REALLY like this!!! I'd say it's a keeper.
  • We modified a bit, the main changes being the Italian sausage in place of the smoked sausage, and we wound up doubling the meat, putting in an entire 16 oz bag of kale, and adding two more small cans of broth. So it made quite a bit but I think that's just fine!
  • I was feeling lazy and didn't de-stalk the kale. Pick up a 16-oz bag and tell me YOU feel like de-stalking it. Mom and I picked out the big "trees", but dad and Scott happily munched right through, comparing it to the trunk of a piece of broccoli. To each his own.

Overall, this was a delicious choice, so thank you Woman's Day magazine for another winning recipe! Also, don't tell the men, but kale is considered one of the super-foods, and is incredibly healthy. Shh...

Happy Thursday!

Hello...New Jersey...

If any of you are Seinfeld watchers, you will have read that title with the same expression as Jerry saying, "Hello...Newman...".

In case you weren't aware, New Jersey and I are not on good terms. Ever. The one small exception is the town of Cape May, although that's where my brother was in boot camp for the Coast Guard so my pleasant memories are weighed down with his bad ones.

My hatred of New Jersey goes back to childhood. I grew up in North Carolina, and as my grandparents lived in Vermont...we made the trek at least once a year from the South to New England in one long, marathon road trip, usually totaling around 17 hours in a suburban (which usually overheated at least New Jersey).

The few times I've gotten car-sick, oh wait, that was in New Jersey.

Hideous horrible traffic? Yep. New Jersey.

Terrible drivers? New Jersey again.

Now, I have friends and family that I love dearly that are from and are even still currently living in this state, and I commend them for their dedication to the armpit of the East Coast.

But really...when you're on your way home from a long vacation and your GPS looks like this...

...I vote you just bypass the state entirely. Please note that you can't tell that 3/4 of the length of the New Jersey Turnpike was colored red...otherwise known as "Bend Over And Kiss Your Butt Goodbye Crimson".

But I digress.

Except, not really. The whole purpose of this post was to bash New Jersey and to let go of a little post-holiday-travel anger I've been retaining. 

I feel much better now. Sorry New Jersey friends, but remember: you always have the choice to move.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And we're back!

I know, I know. I shouldn't have abandoned you all like that. But the good news is, I have 7 days worth of vacation pictures and stories from snowy, beautiful Vermont for you!

Since we were stuck in traffic in New Jersey for what felt like 12 years (along with every other citizen on the east coast...which is another rant entirely...) I haven't had much time to write, but I do have lots of pictures.

Here are some of sledding at my grandparents' house (pre-blizzard snow). Enjoy! :)

My brother (right) and our friend Sandy (left) racing down the driveway.
Me and my daddy racing (hopefully you can tell us apart!). Please note
that I am about to be run down by a crazy black lab. We love that animal though. ;)
My brother and his wifey. Also please note the black ears in the
bottom left corner. We've started referring to Addie (their dog) as
"The Blur" - she moved faster than the sleds and would try to jump on
you as you were moving downhill. She is a BIG fan of sledding. Crazy dog.
My 85 year old a sled. Have I mentioned I love him?
My brother Andy and....who is that with him??
Not only does she like to chase sleds, she likes to ride on them too!
Off they sail into the sunset.
Andy's war face. His arm is reaching out to "gently" nudge
away his competitor.
Again, my 85 year old grandfather, leading the troops. Hilarious. 
The sun setting on a gorgeous day of sledding. Vermont is beautiful this time of year, haven't you heard?
Don't worry. There are plenty more photos to come!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I know, I know.  I'm a terrible person... I haven't blogged in several days. Isn't this supposed to be a regimen or something like in Julie & Julia?

Except I'm a believer that every diet needs a day off, and the same applies to regimens.

Thus... I am on VACATION for seven days in my home sweet Vermont. I promise there will be pictures and lovely recipes, etc. But maybe not for seven days. ;)

Merry Christmas!!!! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Featured Home: Lauren

This is a feature I would like to begin on a regular basis once I find some willing subjects. (cough cough). My precious friend Lauren was my first brave volunteer and has decided to share her home with us. I love her AND her home, not just because of her distinct modern and classy style, but because she has only lived in this townhouse for about three months, and it looks this put together.

Here's her house tour, in her own words.

“Martha Stewart’s holiday DIY wreaths were taunting me with their gorgeous simplicity (and some not so simple options… pass), and thus I was inspired to make the most of the materials I had around the house. I used beautiful grey ribbon saved from last Christmas’s wrapping and four (ahem, fake) eucalyptus strands that I got at Pier 1 that had been sitting in a vase last year. I wanted Frasier Fir boughs, but I had the eucalyptus around and I remember my Mom always hanging fresh eucalyptus in the winter, so it made it special and nostalgic.  I bent them and fastened the strands together with thin, green wire in four places. The real feat was displaying it. No one makes wreath hangers for 9 foot doors. Or I assume so, because my brilliant, resourceful husband came up with a solution before I could suit up and go searching. We simply thumb tacked the ribbon to the top of the door. Minimal swinging. No sign of it from unless you are 10 feet tall, in which case you have bigger fish to fry, my friend!”

“I love dining rooms because I love the idea of a room solely dedicated to eating and enjoying the company of others. My two favorite things, surpassed only by napping. World Market table & chairs were one of the first things we bought together. It is nice and big now, but collapses so we can transition it to a smaller kitchen table someday when we have a house. The Christmas table d├ęcor was put together on the fly. Josh & I love unassuming festivity. It doesn’t shout “CHRISTMAS, SUCKAS!”, but it does nicely tie in the colors and materials of the season (WM placemats, Crate & Barrel garland, napkins & rings, Pier 1 twiggy things. The curtains are on their way out once we find a suitable alternative. Ideas welcome! Also, that light. That effing 1990’s light straight out of “The Fifth Element”. It has zero redeeming qualities, so pretend you never saw it.”

 “Yes, those are two bookcases. Yes, they are filled with glassware and bar accessories because, yes, we have more champagne flutes than we do Chaucer. I actually love that about us. But do not be deceived, we are literate! And to prove it, I stacked books (Barnes & Nobles Classics editions, $10ish a piece) to provide some levels and color. Mostly Jane Austen because she’s a bad ass. The photo on the smaller case is of Coit Tower in San Francisco, where my darling husband proposed (Etsy print, $30 + Target frame, $20). Frame within the case was the drink menu from our wedding, designed by my grossly talented best friend. “EAT” sign compliments of Pier 1 ($10 on sale), IKEA light ($15)”
“Best things about the living room are the couch and the light to the right of it. We both wanted a white couch, and coveted the ones from Pottery Barn, but knew they were well out of our price range. Enter the Outlet. This couch was basically stolen from PB Outlet for just under $600. It’s linen, people. For under $600. Shut. Up. It’s deliciously comfortable. IKEA lamp to the right ($60) is so fun to me. Very old Hollywood movie producer’s house. Josh spotted it at a friend’s house, who always seem to have the best taste. Others: IKEA Lack coffee table, $30; curtains came with the place, but I think from IKEA; hutch (with unstained legs, ahem, Josh) PB outlet, $20 (I KNOW); and why yes, that IS an IKEA dog bed basket holding our blankets. And no, we do not have a dog…).”

“As I suspect most newly married couples do, we mix and match a lot. A LOT. Josh is ultra-simple (borderline minimalist) and decidedly masculine in his color, fabric, who-are-we-kidding-everything choices. I’m not a floral motif kind of girl, but I do enjoy all things soft, charming and elegant. He loves Restoration Hardware, I love IKEA. The mix is evident. I’m just hoping we don’t look like a couple of frat boys anymore. Frames, IKEA; lovely white vases, Megs; painting, my own.”

Lauren is a Strategy Consultant at Touch, a Muzak Company. She has pretty much the coolest job ever, and resides in beautiful uptown Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband. Close friends since our freshman year of college, Lauren and I are two little odd peas in a pod, and I love her dearly.
Feeling brave? Think you've got interior decorating style? Send me photos of your own house tour - I'd love to feature it! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Freezer Soup

Today's Thursday Dinner Feature is a little different than usual. Since the next three weeks are absolute mayhem for us, and about half of those three weeks we will be traveling, I'm working on cleaning out the freezer and pantry so I'm ready for a clean start when we are finally home again for more than a three day period.

Tonight I was in the mood for something quick, easy, and warm since we got a good inch of snow today. (In Southernese, that means we had ourselves a right pretty blizzard y'all.) So thus, I started rummaging through the freezer. And here's what I came up with. I call it...

Freezer Soup
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups frozen edamame
1 cup frozen corn
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 packages chicken flavored ramen noodles, (we'll be using only one of the flavor packets)
4 cubes chicken bouillon

Boil 4 cups of water, dissolve chicken bouillon cubes in water, resulting in hot chicken broth. Place peas, edamame, corn, and onion into a large pot or wok. Slowly pour hot broth over veggies in pan. Turn heat to medium, bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the chicken, one packet of seasoning and ramen noodles. Simmer until ramen noodles are cooked through (about 3 minutes). Serve and enjoy!

Cheapest way to do chicken broth!
Mmm...freezer-burned veggies. Not that you could tell at all!
Mmm...getting to a simmer. 

It's oodles....of noodles...
Adding in the ramen.
Final product!
Tricks of the Trade

  • We like our soups to be thicker and less brothy. You can always control how much broth you want.
  • It might be a little salty for some of you. Use reduced-sodium chicken broth, and use less of the ramen seasoning packet.
  • It's soup - so add whatever you want. I have a personal vendetta against celery, especially in soups, so to me this was something amazingly delicious and celery-free.
  • Ramen noodles cook really quickly, so be sure to put them in just a few minutes before serving otherwise they'll get mushy!
Turned out pretty tasty! Makes about 5 healthy portions, probably 6 even healthier portions. Now...go see what you can pull out of your freezer and put into soup and let me know how it turns out!

Oh, and here are a few snow pictures from today. :)