Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Table for One

Now it's my turn to dine alone at the Rowdy House.  Rowdy doesn't really "dine" per se... he mostly just makes a giant mess as he picks the chewy bits out of his food pushing his bowl around the room.

Tonight's dinner was nothing special. Just some warmed up leftovers on a bed of spinach with a glass of wine.

However, I wanted to take a minute to talk about my trip to Alabama and a cool little side trip that I went on while I was there.  Base camp for the conference was Camp McDowell, which is a lovely spot with a dynamic program and lovely, lovely staff that showed first rate hospitality and tons o' fun. Mark and his crew were spectacular and we had a great time.  I'm sure that Rowdy and one of the camp dogs, Beans,would have had a great time hanging out together.

My friend Teri and I took an afternoon hike together to enjoy some of the sights (and thrills, right Teri?) from Camp McDowell's swinging bridge.

 These photos don't really do any justice to how wide the river is, how swingy the bridge is or how steep those steps are!  What a great afternoon.

While at this conference, participants have the opportunity to take an afternoon field trip and I was super pumped to find that one offering was to the Jones Valley Urban Farm.  I was really inspired by the mission and work done by the staff of the farm.  They established themselves in a food desert in downtown Birmingham and work to provide a variety of resources and programs to promote healthy eating in the city.

The farm has several individual garden plots that nearby residents without yards can rent and use to grow their own fresh produce.

The farm also provides education programs to local school students and school food service managers about the importance of balanced nutrition and fresh fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet. 

Oh, you know, just a field of winter greens right next to a major highway, no big deal.  

Jones Valley Urban Farm also provides locally grown produce and herbs to local chefs who help promote the farm's mission and education programs.  On top of all that, they have a summer farm stand!  Busy, busy farmers over there. 

I cannot mention my trip to the farm without mentioning this ugly creature that I met there.  

It's a TURKEN!  It's 2/3s of a turducken, but ALIVE! This charming character is a crossbreed between a chicken and a turkey.  Who knew those even existed?  This guy was seriously ugly with his half bald turkey neck, and was kind of a farm yard bully.  Meeting him was a definite highlight.  I just couldn't leave him out. 

My point is this, if you're ever in Alabama, stop by Camp McDowell and the Jones Valley Urban Farm.  Lots of good work is being done down there!  Enjoy!

(sorry about the cell phone photos, I do what I can...)  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

She's back!

I started my friday off with a less than green smoothie (honey greek yogurt, wild blueberries, strawberries, pear and pineapple juice).

So friday night, we just snacked.  I had some food from Whole foods I took to Julia in the airport, because nobody ever eats enough when they're traveling (except me, who eats everything...).

Let us welcome back Julia.  After her long absence in Alabama, we're both home this weekend!  She got in friday night, and we went for a drink out for a friend's birthday (Happy 31, Kerry!).  Great place, pretty good drinks, and a great atmosphere.  There were boats hanging from the ceiling, awesome brass light fixtures, a nice bar top, and the place was packed.

Saturday we slept late, and then started some errands including food shopping, and Home Depot, where it seems like I haven't been in a month!

We're building a table out of some wine bottles and planks of "naughty" pine (Julia likes that name better).  We'll show you this later, its still in process!

Dinner Saturday night was delicious.  Julia has me rate ever dinner we eat on a 1-10 scale.  This, I think, was the first time I automatically went 10.  Shrimp and Grits!  Some awesome barbecued shrimp over a cheesy corn grits with some roasted green beans on the side.  Her time down south must have inspired something in her...

BBQ Sauce, Bourbon, Shrimps... Delicious.

Sunday, breakfast was grits and eggs, and I put some of my leftover chili on top.  It was awesome.  More shelf work today, a few more errands, watched some christmas trees burst into flames down at the parents' beach, and some laundry and packing for another business trip.

Dinner was a delicious tofu and veggie stir fry.  And I made a crust for another Chess pie that Julia filled to take to her book club meeting tomorrow.

this is how Julia makes the rice extra good,  adding the dish towel makes a tighter seal on the pot and helps stop boilovers. 

Princess Crazy Hair strikes again. 

A great weekend.  Unfortunately, I have to head out on a business trip this week to sunny Hawaii, but hopefully I'll get some pictures and Julia will update the blog a bit while I'm out!

Recipe(ish) things for those who are interested:
Barbecue Shrimps:
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined (this recipe actually made WAY too much, tons of leftovers)
Barbecue Sauce (Matt bought some super tasty sauce from some hipster types at the hipster market across the street from the JFX market in Baltimore, I'm not gonna lie, I was a little nervous about it, but it was really tasty.)
1/4 c. Bourbon
Salt and pepper

It goes easy from here, clean your shrimp, into a bowl with them.  S&P, toss around,  cover in BBQ sauce, add bourbon.  Drinking additional bourbon is optional.  Grill on grill pan over high heat brushing with additional sauce as necessary for caramelization.

Cheesy Grits:
(again, this recipe made too much, by design so there would be leftovers for breakfast and otherwise)
4 c. veggie broth
red pepper flake
1 clove garlic
(boil broth, with red pepper)
add garlic and...
1 c. corn grits
turn heat to medium and stir frequently until grits are tender, about 20 minutes
take grits off heat add 1/3 c. sharp cheddar, 3T heavy cream and 2T butter.  stir, stir, stir, s&p to taste.

Oven roasted green beans are SO EASY, SO TASTY and NOT SQUEAKY when you bite them.
350 degree oven, green beans, olive oil, s&p, 15 minutes. Done!  Toss 'em around once or twice while they're in there!  Enjoy!

My stir fry is recipe free.  I use the veggies we have around (tonight: bell pepper, onion, snow peas, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms) and a variety of other flavors including: ginger, garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds, chili powder, red pepper flake, green Tabasco, white wine, honey, soy sauce, salt and pepper.  We included some oven baked tofu for protein and brown rice alongside.
I start with onions, then add veggies from hardest to softest/lightest... have fun with it.

When a guy tells you he wants veggies for dinner, give him veggies!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Julia's still away!

I try to get house stuff done when Julia is gone so I don't become a complete slave to the Boob-tube.  I've done pretty well this time while Julia is in Alabama.  I've done laundry, vacuumed, lots of dishes, lots of cooking, and I've completely avoided going out for food, coffee, or shopping (except for groceries and some shop speakers, which are a necessity).  See, the speakers just fill out that lonely corner in the shop!

Not the neatest arrangement, but neither is my shop.  It even got a little use this weekend.  

Now, for while Julia and I are working on this not eating out goal, I'm forbidden from having coffee/mocha/cappuccino/lattes at Starbucks/Rise Up/Dock Street/William III.  But between drip, french press, and the wonder machine below, I've been doing pretty well.

I really like my coffee drinks to taste a bit like coffee ice cream, so latte's are a natural fit when sweetened up a bit.  I had been trolling the internet and found this at one point, so Julia got me one for a birthday present, along with a coffee grinder!

This, my friends, is a Mukka Express, from Bialetti.  I got it at Williams Sonoma.  It builds steam pressure in a pressure vessel on the stove, passing the hot water over coffee grounds for a while like a percolator, until it seeps out the top.

At some point, the pressure in the bottom gets high enough to spring the gravity pressure relief valve at the top, and it springs open violently to foam the milk captured in the top, making that lovely milk frothing sound we all love.

Pour and Enjoy!

I also made some chili this week.  It is a recipe my mother found a while ago in the newspaper.  I don't really use the measurements, make a couple substitutions, but it still turns out delicious.  The biggest differences in taste are made by adding sugar or vinegar, beef broth or Worcestershire sauce until it tastes right.

Add some fresh or frozen veggies and some lean beef, and I can almost convince myself it's healthy.  

Finally, I had to do some house work to make both of us happy.

We had started painting the sunroom a a bright yellow a while ago, and just never got around to finishing the painting, so I took the weekend to throw some new paint on, and to put a couple coats on the existing to fill it in.  The wood paneling just sucked the paint right in.  So it gladly took another coat.

Now just to build a breakfast nook, pull out that carpet, and hang some pictures.  Probably in the reverse order from what I just said...

Hope you're all having a great week!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Julia's Away, it's time for Tacos!

TACOS! Delicious Fish Tacos.  Part of the joy of Captain Larry's, one of our favorite bars in baltimore, is their fish taco's.  Julia and I thought we would attempt to recreate them at home.

 Unfortunately, Julia and I went out for dinner (with my parents, it doesn't count) the night we planned to have the fish taco's, so I had to make them myself after she left for a work trip.  Well, Rowdy helped by making sure the floor was spotless.

I dredged some Mahi (mmmmmm, fish) in some milk and corn meal which I mixed with some chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and other good stuff.  I dredged it a couple times, while the veggie oil was heating in a pan.

I didn't really check the temperature at all, but it seemed to cook really nicely.  I cut the first pieces a little large, but the second ones were just about taco sized.

Julia left me some shredded cabbage / coleslaw veggie mix, so I made some delicious coleslaw to go into the tacos.  A lot of cilantro and some jalapenos.  

Throw some of the coleslaw and fish in a delicious whole foods corn tortilla, add some fresh cut salsa, and BAM!!! 


And here is a video of Rowdy fighting his Christmas Present, a laughing Chuckle Buddy...

Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just for the Halibut

Rowdy is so helpful.

Another weekend comes to a close.  We're preparing for a (short) work week and looking forward to more tasty at home meals.  At least once a week, we try to schedule and prepare a "special" meal in.  This gives us our fix of restaurant style food, without the restaurant and the restaurant price.  Because we had a busy weekend including lots of housework, a party for 18 four-year-olds, another buffalo wing indiscretion (accompanied by fries--don't judge we're working on it!), two amazing football games, and lots of friends hanging out, we decided on special dinner tonight!

We have pictures and stories from the weekend, we will hopefully blog about that someday.

On to the menu:  Pan seared halibut, oven roasted garlic rosemary potatoes, brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze.  (I need someone to help me with my wording, or I need to use more interesting techniques.)

Let's do potatoes first.  These guys are going to take about 50 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

You will need: 
Red skin potatoes (I used 6 medium sized)
3 cloves of garlic- minced
Fresh rosemary, probably about 2 tablespoons (our plant in the garden is still good!)
Olive Oil to coat (I used the mister--this gadget really helps cut down the amount of oil used)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together on a cookie sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 50 minutes (or so). Stir/flip them around at least twice so all the sides have a chance to get crispy and brown. 

While this is happening, get your other gears going.  

Prep brussels sprouts by cutting of the stem end and removing the outer layer of leaves.  Cut in half.  If leaves fall off while you are cutting them in half  PUT THEM ON THE COOKIE SHEET  TO ROAST, the crispy brussels chips are the BEST! Seriously, trust me.  

Make deliciously seasoned flour to coat your halibut.  (Take your halibut out of the fridge when the taters go in.  It needs a little time to warm up before it meets the hot pan.)

For seasoned flour, combine the following (measurements are approximate):
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 t paprika
1 t. chili powder
1/4 t. thyme leaves
1/4 t. curry powder 
1/4 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. celery salt
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. marjoram
a suggestion of cayenne

truthy time:  I didn't measure anything here, except the flour.  Use the spices you have, make a seasoned flour that you like.  Seasoned Salt or Season-All would work great, too.  I'm not trying to be fussy, I'm just trying to include more things that resemble recipes here at the Rowdy House.  

Your flour should have some color to it.  When you taste the raw flour, it should taste like the seasonings and not just flour. 

When you have about 12 minutes left on your potatoes, get the sprouts going (olive oil, salt and pepper here, too) in the oven.

Heat vegetable oil in a non stick pan over medium high heat and wait for it to get warm.  Test it with a bit of flour

Coat your fish in the seasoned flour (we used 3/4 pound for two servings).

Fish goes into the hot pan.  Don't fuss with it once it's in there.  Apparently, I like to watch my fish cook.  Closely.  Call me eagle eyes. Or crazy hair, whatever...

When you're about halfway there with the fish, throw a fair amount of balsamic vinegar on the sprouts.  Four tablespoons, maybe?  Back into the oven with them. 

Flip your fish, take it out of the pan before it's 100% done, and let it finish cooking on the plate.  Remove the potatoes and the sprouts, and plate up that good lookin' dinner.

If you're lucky a really cute guy will have set the mood in the dining room.  And, he might still think you're cute even with your sweatpants and crazy hair.

If you're super lucky, he will thoroughly enjoy his meal, lavish you with praises and offer to give Rowdy a bath while you update the blog.  

Enjoy, friends!  Stay warm!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy Hour!

Sometimes, instead of going out to dinner, you go out for Happy Hour.

Sometimes, when you are having a no-eating-out-challenge instead of eating dinner, you have happy hour at home.

Hummus, crackers, cheese, cocktails, Rowdy snuggles, texting baby names to friends with needs for baby names... that's my kind of happy hour!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cheating and Stir Fry

Lets talk temptation.  It strikes me dozens of times a day, driving past Wendy's, the snack machines in the coffee mess at work, having a going away party at a bar, walking past dunkin doughnuts twice a day.  But, I've been doing really well... ...until last night.

We have a friend that is leaving her bar tending job, and the temptation of free drinks was just too much.  So we went to the Quarry House in Silver Spring. There were so many Scotchs and beers, and the few we made it through were delicious.  It was also taco tuesday, including free margarita, but we didn't do that. We refrained.  But then, while Julia was in the head, I gave in to the smell of buffalo wings.  Just six.  And they were delicious.  And spicy, and hot, and soo soo very good.  I admit it.  I failed at the challenge.

But, I did my best to make up for it tonight.  Julia had a late meeting, and I was getting a bit hungry so I looked at our food schedule, saw stir fry and tofu, and attacked it.

I started chopping the food, and then I realized I didn't really know what I was supposed to do.  I had a really good idea, but I just needed some confirmation.  Having found some general guidance, I continued.  I found all the veggies in the fridge, and sliced them up assuming (correctly) that they were for the Stir fry.

I realized the color of the dish was missing that telltale green color of beans or brocoli, but a quick trip to the fridge confirmed that non of those green bits were available, so I cut up some beet tops and put the stems in.  It added some color and some toothsome quality to the dish, and I'm pretty sure it was healthy too.

I cooked up some basic rice, put some basic baked tofu into the mix, and reduced some soy sauce, honey, vinegar and red pepper flakes into the mix, to get that delicious stir fry taste into the dish!  

It is delicious.  A little spicy, a little salty, and a little sweet.  Just like stir fry should be!

It was a nice dinner at the table again, and then we finished up the dinner with some chocolates.  That is in fact a pile of chocolate wrappers in front of Julia.  A pile...

...but she only ate one of them.  It seems we have different approaches to boxed candy.  I leave the wrappers in the box, and she pulls them out.  So that really probably is my collection of wrappers.

Its all ok though, because Julia had coffee today.  Temptation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No TV Tuesday

No TV Tuesday is a tradition I like to pretend that we have in our house.  We actually end up having a "No TV (insert day of the week here)" once a week for about three weeks and then we're right back on the horse with the boob tube.  Not too long ago, I lived completely without television, and it was glorious.  I got so much done.  The knitting!  The reading!  The paper grading! (I was a high school teacher back then).  Living TV-free is a thing of the past, and a hope (of mine) for the future (let's keep that a secret from Matthew until I've actually put a ring on it and can pull the old bait and switch.  I've got nothing against television, per se, it's just that once I start a darn Bravo marathon I can't stop.  Then my brain turns into cottage cheese.

Anyway, today is no TV Tuesday and we're posting early so we can go out on a hot date.  We're not eating out, but drinking out is a different story.  We're going somewhere cool for good company, craft beers, and old scotch, hurrah!

If you're new here and catching up.  Matt and I have embarked on a no-eating-out challenge.  It's going pretty well.  We've got a full week under our belts and that's nothing to shake a fist at.  Each day, we pack our lunches.

I also pack Rowdy-Man's breakfast.  There are treats in there, too. 

Then, I lug a grocery bag full of Julia and Rowdy snacks to work. 

That's a cup of morning coffee with a little coconut milk eggnog, in case you're wondering.  Can you spot Rowdy in that photo?  Did you miss him the first time?

Dinner was easy and Matt's favorite genre.  We had breakfast burritos and roasted broccoli.

I roast my broccoli in a 400 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper and some smashed open garlic cloves.  Roasting takes about 12 minutes.  Shake up the pan once or twice while the little trees are in there.  Some people might like their veggies a little more done, but Matthew says, "I really only want my broccoli warmed up."  What can I say? He's got good taste.  


Refried Beans
Perfect Scrambled Eggs using this method
Whole Wheat Tortillas
Sharp Cheddar


Over dinner, I tried to remember all the Ivy League Universities.  Maybe I didn't get into one is really because I can't name them all.  I borrowed Matt's wonderpod to figure it out.  I had no idea about one of them.  The following photos were taken of my enlightenment. 

Can you name all of the Ivy League schools?  There are eight.  I thought there were only seven, and I could only name six. Good Luck!  Have a good night!