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Appetizer Turned Dinner

Monday, January 30, 2012
Not much of a weekend recap picture wise today, but that doesn't meant it wasn't a great weekend. There was organizing, cooking, and general catching up.  Just what I needed (although there is never enough time!).

Instead of the usual weekend recap, I think I'll share what has become a favorite appetizer recipe. Just in time for the Super Bowl if you need an idea!  And in the rare instance that there are leftovers, you can turn it into an easy week night dinner.

Marinated Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
From All Things Good -- Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 Tbs capers
1/4 cup dried basil (see note below)
 ~    olive oil
 ~    goat cheese
 ~    salt

Preheat oven to 225°. Lightly oil a baking sheet, and place tomatoes, cut-side down, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 2 to 2.5 hours.  

While tomatoes are cooking, combine vinegar, garlic, capers and basil in a covered container.  When tomatoes are done cooking (they will be softened and a little carmelized around the edges) add them to the container and cover with olive oil.  Refrigerate at least overnight.  

Serve at room temperature over goat cheese with crackers, crostini or pita chips.

Note: My mom always substitutes fresh basil (julienned) for the dried basil, so that's what I do too!

Leftovers into Weeknight Supper

I made this appetizer for Supper Club and since we had a smaller group that night, there were some leftovers. Andy and I don't eat appetizers before our week night suppers (although that does sound quite lovely), so I turned it into our dinner.

Boil some pasta, whatever type you have.  I used whole wheat (still on a whole foods kick) noodles.  Put a few chunks of goat cheese in a serving bowl, and right before the pasta is finished cooking, spoon a little pasta water over the goat cheese.  The heat of the water will melt the goat cheese and the starch in the water helps make a creamy, thick sauce.  Stir the mixture until it's smooth and creamy, adding more pasta water as necessary.

Drain the noodles and toss with the cheese sauce and leftovers tomato mixture. Yum!

Weekend Update

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Can I still do a weekend update when we're closer to the next weekend than the prior one?  Well, I am because this weekend was a turning point for my parents and me.

"Ok, text me when you're home"
"No, you can't go to that movie theater after dark"
"Sure, as long as you're home before dinner"
"Let me know when you arrive"

Now I'm the one saying those things to them (not that they ever told me to text them as that wasn't even an option)!  The tables have turned now that my mom and dad have an apartment in DC!  Yep, they found an apartment and are happily settling in to part-time big city living, and I couldn't be more excited.

We had our first snow of the season on Saturday and our friend Stacy had planned accordingly by making a group reservation at Old Europe-- a German restaurant right up the street from us.  Our neighborhood is full of restaurants and bars, but only Old Europe has been around for over 60 years.  It's a little time capsule nestled in the midst of all new developments.  And it appears that not much has changed since they opened!

I can't believe how many times I've walked past this spot and never stopped in.  Amazing!  We were the youngest people there by a few decades and don't be concerned by the empty restaurant.  The place was packed when we arrived for our 8:30 reservations but the crowd (remember the age difference) was gone and they were literally closing up the restaurant when we finished up our dinner.

Orange Peel Beef

Friday, January 20, 2012
I'm sure it's pretty obvious that I tend to cook very meat and potatoes, southern food, so it was a little out of my comfort zone when I tried to cook Orange Peel Beef.  It's a rarity that I crave Chinese.  I don't even know if I've ever ordered Chinese food. Pizza?  Twice a week.  Chinese food?  Twice a decade.  But I was craving it.  It sounded good, so I decided to give it a go and I'm so glad I did.  This is definitely in the dinner rotation.

Orange Peel Beef
Adapted from Dianemwj on Allrecipes

¾ pound beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root - tip: peel the ginger and keep it in the freezer in a freezer bag and then just grate it on a microplane.  so easy!
2 tablespoon finely shredded orange zest
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Green onions

Yeah, I know, the ingredient list looks overwhelming.  But!  Once you buy the basics, it's easy and the perfect weeknight meal as it comes together very quickly.

Combine the beef, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and baking soda in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours.

Heat peanut/vegetable oil in a wok or large, nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the beef; cook and stir until the beef begins to brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside.

To the same pan, add garlic, ginger, orange zest, and red pepper flakes, and cook until the garlic begins to brown, 20 to 30 seconds.

Whisk together 2 tablespoon soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, brown sugar, and 1½ teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the pan and cook until the sauce has thickened and turned clear. Toss sauce and beef together and serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.

Bedroom Inspiration

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
A few months ago, I found and fell in love with this bedroom image:

Found via Elements of Style // Originally Featured in Coastal Living April 2011 // Image via Quadrille Fabrics

Then while perusing the pages of the January 2012 Southern Living that I picked up in Miami, I found this image:

Southern Living January 2012 // By: Jennifer Kopf // Produced by: Lindsey Ellis Beatty // Photography: Laurey W. Glenn
Notice anything similar?  Yep, I need new pillows and they need to be in Quadrille's Tashkent.  I'm 85% happy with our bedroom (why I've never posted pictures of it!) but it's missing something. I think this just might be the answer if only I can convince Andy that we need another pillow.  I can never have enough pillows, he can never have enough sports.  That's just something we will probably never understand about each other...

The 2012 Detoxing Cleanse

Tuesday, January 17, 2012
We lived it up during the 2011 Holiday Season which called for a severe reset when we turned the calendar to 2012. Andy and I both felt blah coming into the new year. The travel, holiday parties, work social functions, big meals, early cocktail hours were tasty and enjoyable while we were celebrating and indulging but left us both feeling sluggish and bloated.

So I did what I do best... surf the internet and compile info in an Excel spreadsheet.  I read about Gwyneth's detox and the Daily Green's Detox which lead me to Juliette Kellow's detox plan (basically what we did). I also read 100 Days Real Food (when I was pondering the detox, a friend recommended checking out this blog which is full of great ideas for eating "real" food). Then I devised a detox/cleanse that would work for us.

I kept going back and forth between calling it a detox (we certainly were removing toxins from our system) or a cleanse (also appropriate as we were not only cleansing our bodies but also our palates), so it became the Detoxing Cleanse.

The Detoxing Cleanse
10 Days to Rid Your Body of Toxins and Cleanse Your Palate After an Indulgent Season

The Don'ts
  • No Caffeine
  • No Alcohol
  • No Added Salt (at the table or while preparing food)
  • No Refined Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners
  • No Red Meat
  • No Dairy (except Greek yogurt)
  • No Gluten
  • No Preservatives
  • No Processed Foods
  • No Condiments

The Dos
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Veggies
  • Fruit
  • White Fish / White Meat
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts (plain, unsalted)
  • Honey
  • Gluten Free Whole Grains (buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, brown or wild rice)
  • Greek Yogurt (yep, this one is kind of random but I decided we needed it.  Not only is it high in protein but also it is a good source of calcium)

Obvious but probably necessary disclaimer: Please keep in mind, I'm a tax accountant and not a nutritionist, doctor or anything of the sort. This is what we choose to do, but check with your doctor, make your own decisions.

The timing worked out well for us-- we returned from South Carolina for Weaver & Hugh's wedding on a Sunday, had Monday to prepare and Day One was Tuesday. Day 10 was the Thursday before we left for Miami. A good goal!

our produce bowl had never been this full... and this didn't even last 5 days

My Observations:
  • Wow, we spent a lot of time in the kitchen. There are few convenience foods that fit the list of okays. We ran our dishwasher 2 to 3 times a day!
  • I'm a salting fiend. I add salt to everything. So I was amazed that my palate really was cleansed, and I can now taste without overly salting everything.
  • We both depuffed after about 3 days and over the course of the 10 days, lost a few lbs.
  • We were never hungry. I will say by Day 9, I wasn't quite satisfied though.
  • We went through a lot of citrus fruits. They definitely brighten up a dish's flavor instead of salt.
  • Despite no caffeine, we both had lots of energy and no afternoon slump!

Here are some of the meals we tried and enjoyed.

  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal prepared with water and topped with cinnamon, raisins and honey
  • Greek Yogurt with Fruit and/or Homemade Granola

  • Some variation of a Brown Rice and Bean Salad with a vinaigrette and chopped veggies
  • Quinoa and Black Bean Salad from Gourmet via Epicurious - Detox Modification: Skip the salt.  Also, as a personal preference, I omitted the green bell pepper and used one red and one yellow bell pepper.
  • Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad from Smitten Kitchen - Detox Modification: Skip the salt.
  • Salads with Fruits, Nuts and Veggies
Simple Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Raisins topped with a Simple Vinaigrette
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

  • Nuts & Raisins (at the beginning of the week, I portioned nuts and raisins into individual snack bags)
  • Fruit
  • Carrots and Homemade Hummus or Giada's White Bean Dip (remember no salt!)


Broiled Tilapia with Mustard Chive Sauce

Obviously we don't want to get into a yo-yo cycle of over-indulging, then severely detoxing, rinse and repeat. We learned some great things while doing this that we're definitely going to keep in our daily lives. Detox friendly breakfasts and snacks are easy and a must.  It's true what they say-- if you keep the healthy snacks around, you'll eat those instead of something else. We are also going to try to keep taking a detox friendly lunch to work when possible and cooking detox acceptable dinners when we don't have work/social plans.  We shall see!

Weekend Recap: Miami!

Monday, January 16, 2012
We jetted off the Miami for the weekend-- a quick getaway to soak up some sun in the hopes of getting us through the winter and a little hooray before tax season gets underway.  As usual, the weekend passed by too quickly (and by the time this posts, we'll be flying back to DC where the temp has consistently been 30+ degrees colder than here!), but I can't complain because it was the perfect weekend.

On Saturday, Andy and I walked over to the ocean side of South Beach. I'd never been to Miami, so of course, I had to see Ocean Avenue and the art deco buildings that I associate with South Beach.

The street was shut down for a little parade, art and food festival.  We wandered around, watched some vintage cars creep down the street before Patrick and Kea to join us for lunch.  Andy's close friend Patrick and his wife Kea recently moved to the Miami area and it was such a treat to spend the day with them.

We did lunch on Ocean Avenue and then headed back to our hotel which was on the bay side of South Beach.  Perfect afternoon filled with champagne cocktails for the girls, azulitas (8oz bud lights) for the boys and a fruit and cheese tray for all.

Sunday was our total chill, don't leave the hotel, reset day, and it was divine.  We dined poolside for breakfast and then retreated to our room.  Andy booked the perfect room for the weekend.  It was a 2 room suite with a little kitchenette, a living room and a balcony overlooking the pool and the bay.  Ideal for us as we weren't really enthused by the upbeat, social scene at the pool, but from our balcony, the people watching was great!  We soaked up the sun on the balcony while sipping on mojitos from the poolside bar. Andy could periodically check the NFL playoff games and I could play on my computer when I needed a break from the sun.

Now back to life and reality...

Short Ribs

Thursday, January 12, 2012
On Sundays, we like to put something in the oven or crock-pot early in the day and let it cook all day.  Then we have a homey Sunday night supper (and a great smelling apartment), plus leftovers to enjoy later in the week.  A few Sundays ago, we started out with this...

and this...

but ended up eating this...

Yeah, 1 + 1 does not equal 2 in this scenario.  Although I'll never complain that I have to eat 2 Amy's, it wasn't what we had planned.  Either I overcrowded the dutch oven or the cooking time in the recipe was a little off, but they weren't done when it was supper time.  I'm sure it was me, not Ina!

The good news was that we had a delicious meal waiting for us on Monday night.

Ina Garten's Beef Short Ribs -- I pretty much followed her recipe exactly, which is quite unusual for me!  Just start this earlier in the day, rather than later in case, you too, have stubborn short ribs.  You want them tender and falling off the bone.

Kitchen Tool We All Need

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Since I filled my Match tureen with clementines and red berries during the holidays, I was left with an abundance of clementines after we put away the decorations.  Not such a bad problem to have especially since Andy and I are post-holiday detoxing (more on that later) and fresh squeezed juice is acceptable!

I borrowed the Chef'n Citrus Juicer from my friend Stacy, and I was hooked.  Why don't I own one of these?

Not only did I squeeze all of our clementines (that we didn't eat whole), I also squeezed our lemons and limes.  We've been going through the citrus fruits during this detox-- turns out lemon juice almost makes you forget that you're not allowed to salt your food!

So many options...

Monday, January 9, 2012
For our holiday supper club last month, I was delayed in responding to the group email to sign up for something to bring-- meaning I didn't respond in 3.5 minutes. All the usual categories were taken so I decided to made homemade yeast rolls.  This was a big step for me since the last time (it was the first and last time) I made them, it was for Easter Supper.  I was working that Sunday, and it was a pleasant spring day.  The recipe said "let rise in a warm place" so that's what I did... in Andy's car. Next thing I know, I have a picture text from Andy "are they supposed to look like this"?  Gah, I wish I still had that text!  It was hysterical and no they weren't supposed to look like that!  I tried to resuscitate them but in the end, they were dubbed by Andy's aunt "Mississippi Easter Rolls" --a cleaver way to disguise failed yeast rolls.

Thankfully this time around, they were a success.  So much of a success that I decided to try the dough for cinnamon rolls and pigs in a blanket for Christmas Eve Breakfast.  Also a success. Actually, I think one of the best culinary achievements of the year.

Note:  The recipes below for the cinnamon rolls and pigs in a blanket each use 1 recipe of yeast rolls.  Since Andy and I already have a problem with portion control, I use one recipe of yeast rolls and do half a recipe of each.  Works just perfectly.

Yeast Rolls

½ cup water
½ cup warm skim milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
7 Tbs butter, softened
⅓ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3¾ cups all-purpose flour / 16 oz + ¼ cup reserved
1 package dry yeast (2¼ tsp)

Combine milk and water and warm to 110 degrees F (about 40-45 seconds in the microwave on high) Add the sugar to milk & water mixture and stir to combine. Add the yeast and allow to bloom.

Sift together the flour and salt. In a stand mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment, add the egg, water/milk/yeast mixture and butter. Start the mixer on low and slowly add the flour mixture. Continue to mix until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Slowly add the reserved flour if needed. Place the ball of dough (it will be sticky!!) in a greased bowl and let it rise in a warm place.

After it's about doubled in size, roll out the dough and form rolls.

Place balls of dough in greased baking dish and let rise again.  At this point, you can cover the rolls and put them in the fridge.  Just take them out and allow about 2 hours to rise before you're ready to bake.

Bake at 375 degrees for 16 to 20 minutes.  Don't over cook.  Brush top of rolls with remaining butter.

Cinnamon Rolls

1 recipe yeast rolls, above
4 Tbs ground cinnamon
¾ cup sugar
2-3 sticks butter, softened, very soft
2 Tbs flour
2 oz cream cheese
2 Tbs butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tbs milk
1½ tsp vanilla

Make the yeast rolls recipe through the first rise.  Meanwhile, mix together the cinnamon, sugar and flour in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 2 Tbs of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk.  Cover and set aside.  Butter two 8" cake pans and sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar on the bottom of the pan-- this is a little tip that my aunt kept secret for a few years until we figured out why her cinnamon rolls were always crunch and caramelized on the bottom!

After the dough has risen, divide it into 4 sections.  Form each section into a ball and roll out into a rectangle. I didn't measure my final rectangle but it was probably 8x14. It took me a little bit to get the hang of rolling out the dough.  If it's being fussy, let it be and move to another section. They seem to calm down after relaxing for a bit.  Spread each rectangle with butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Using the long edge, roll up the dough so you have about a 14" roll.  Slice it into 12 pieces and place it into the pan.  You can fit 24 pieces in each pan.

Cover the pans and allow the cinnamon rolls to rise for 2 hours or until they're about doubled in size.  Or you can place them in the fridge at this point and let them rise the next day.

Bake them at 350 for 18-22 minutes until they're browned on top.  Drizzle (with a heavy hand) the icing on top and devour!

Pigs in a Blanket

1 recipe yeast rolls, above
32 little smokies sausages

Make the yeast rolls recipe through the first rise. After the dough has risen, divide it into 4 sections.  Divide each of those into 16 little pieces (so you'll have 64 total).  Wrap each piece around a little smoky and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours or until double in size.  Again, you can place them in the fridge at this point and let rise the next day.

Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 8, 2012
Happy New Year!  Yes, I realized I'm a week late but that seems about the norm these days.  We ended 2011 celebrating dear, dear friends' wedding in Columbia, SC.

It was such a fun, celebratory way to end the year.  Weaver was a stunning bride and the reception was quite the party.  I love an NYE wedding-- a party celebrating a friend's marriage and you're with your other friends!  My first post-college wedding that I attended was another dear friend's wedding on NYE in Dallas-- 7 years later, it's still a fun night to have a wedding!