food


I know it’s taken me a while to post about my recent birthday celebration – let’s just blame it on getting old.

Thursday night entailed going out with co-worker friends and getting lots of too-sweet drinks (one amaretto sour from my hairdresser after getting highlights at 3p.m., one fruity margarita from my friend’s ex who happened to be at the restaurant, and one house margarita with an extra shot of orange liqueur I bought myself). The end result was finally experiencing what all of you likely experienced in college. Yuck. Not fun.

Hookie Day Friday (my actual birthday) was wonderful. (And, for the record, I drank nothing but water or tea all day and night.) It’s not that I don’t like my kid, because you know I adore her, but having an entire 8 hours as a couple again is so refreshing. We could to be spontaneous; we could go shopping for a stretched out period of time (without chasing a 2 year old around); we could go out to eat twice without having to think about the menu and if it could accommodate Claire’s allergies to dairy and egg; we could go to a movie in the middle of the day; and we could spend time at the cheese counter at Whole Foods, carefully selecting the rich and fatty chunks of cheese that were to be the highlight of my party. It felt luxurious!

I told Huz not to bother with getting me a gift because, frankly, getting to dress up and have friends over to sip wine and eat cheese was enough for me. But he really surprised me by thinking hard about what I would like and, boy, did he hit the nail on the head. He replaced a pair of tan leather boots that Neville chewed up a few years ago. I’ve been wearing them, even with holes in the heel, because they were expensive boots that he bought me when we lived in Chicago and I really do like them. He remembered that the holes bothered me though and actually did research on Zappos (!) to find me a new pair. He got these darling boots for me and, I have to say, the boy knows my style to a “T” even if he says he was nervous while shopping for me.

Talk about sexy, right? The leather is buttery soft and the gathers are perfectly bohemian and sexy. But the great gift-giving didn’t end there! Remember when I told you that I took the interior design quiz in Real Simple a few weeks ago? Well, Huz noticed that under each design category there were book recommendations and he bought me two books that totally speak to my type of design!

What an amazing guy! It got even better when he spent all day Saturday preparing for my wine and cheese party. Based on the cheeses we had picked out together the night before, he bought a bunch of wines that complimented them perfectly. He then baked french bread and an amazing devil’s food cake that is, quite literally, the best cake I’ve ever had. Since I was just newly inspired by the books he got me, I decided to go to a local thrift store to find some china plates for the party (I got 11 for .99 cents a piece). I also aquired a nice cheese board for a mere $2.99 and a few glass bowls to put flowers in. We had a lovely time enjoying decadent cheese and wine, getting all dressed up with friends, and chatting the night away. Bonus: Claire didn’t wake up once, even when someone dropped a (full, unopened) bottle of wine on the tile floor!

Got my smoky eye on:

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We labeled all of our cheeses (with wine pairing recommendations):

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The cheese and wines we had were:

Belle Chevre from Alabama – a creamy, tarty, sweet goat cheese that paired well with Sauvignon Blanc
St. Andre from France – an amazing triple creme, soft, buttery, intensely tangy cheese that paired will with Cotes du Rhone (This was my favorite of the night.)
Appleby Double Gloucester from England – a rich, nutty, mellow, butter cheddar that paired well with cotes du Rhone and Sauvignon Blanc
Rogue River Blue from Oregon – a sweet, earthy, pungent blue cheese (that won best blue in the world in 2004) that paired well with Coted du Rhone or Riesling
Petit Agour from Basque – a buttery, sweet, nutty sheep’s milk cheese that paired will with Sauvignon Blanc and Cotes Du Rhone (This was my 2nd favorite.)
Manchego from Spain – a nutty, sweety sheep’s milk cheese that paired well with Rioja (My 3rd favorite.)

.99 cent plates that looked like a million bucks:

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The spread:

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Me and my lovely friends:

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Notice my dress changes in this shot. I bought a great convertible dress that can be worn 9 different ways, so halfway through the party my girlfriends took me to my room and changed it up!

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The utterly amazing cake Huz made for me:

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I’m not the only one who thought my birthday books were cool:

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Needless to say, I had a great time. I’d like to thank my friends for getting all dressed up with me and for their love, support and friendship over the past 5 years here in Nashville. I’m especially grateful for my husband who put an enormous amount of thought and energy into giving me a perfect birthday. I feel loved and blessed. Can you tell in this picture? I can.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope everyone had a nice time with their loved ones. Huz, Claire and I spent the whole weekend together since Huz submitted his dissertation last week and, for now, isn’t holed up in the library all day on Saturdays.

I hope you got to eat something sweet.

Claire did, obviously, and so did the adults as you’ll see at the end of this menu list. Good thing I hoop-walked 5 miles (!!) on Saturday in order to work off all the chocolate.

I hope you got to spin and twirl and giggle as my two favorite people did while I prepared a Valentine’s dinner.

And I hope you acted a little crazy.

Now, to what we ate this week:

Monday: (leftover jambalaya from Superbowl Sunday)

Tuesday: Huz made bacon, leek, spinach and cheddar quiche. Easy and good.

Wednesday: (leftovers)

Thursday: I made asparagus, potato and goat cheese pizza. Even though some may be taken aback by potatoes on a pizza, don’t fret. They were really good. Next time I’d serve a salad on the side, but it was a very easy and delicious weekday recipe.

Friday: Huz made smothered turkey burritos (using leftover frozen turkey and mole sauce).

Saturday: We enjoyed breakfast together at our local deli, eating french toast, bacon, sausage, grits…the works. We enjoyed burgers for dinner at Five Guys. (Not too healthy, I know, but like I said…5 miles….hula hoop walking….)

Sunday: I had a mean craving for some Pho for lunch, but the place that serves it was closed. Watanabe’s Udon pork soup was a fine substitute though. In celebration of Valentine’s day, I made Zinfandel-braised short ribs with rosemary-parsnip mashed potatoes for dinner and Huz made some lovely milk chocolate souffles with nougat whip. Suffice to say, it was a glorious meal.

I admit that I cringed when I had to pour an entire bottle of wine into the pot. Sunday in TN is a bad time to realize you don’t have anymore wine in the house, but thanks to a friend who loaned us another bottle, we actually had some to drink with our meal.

It was totally worth that bottle of wine though.

I’m afraid I didn’t get a photo of our dessert, since I was too eager to devour it. It looked something like this (especially the empty bowl part).

Today: Since the roads were so icy this morning (I got stuck and spun out a few times while trying to take myself to work and Claire to daycare), I turned back home and declared a snow day. The only way to have a proper snow day is to make homemade hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows. Yum!

What did you eat this week?

Sunday: Pork Stew with Hard Cider, Pearl Onions and Apples (I loved this so much I dedicated an entire post to it already) and Apple and Maple Bread Pudding (delicious and satisfying!)

Monday: (leftovers)

Tuesday: Ham, Artichoke and Potato Gratin (another hearty, satisfying winter meal full of bold flavors thanks to the ham and smoked gruyere cheese)

Wednesday: (leftovers)

Thursday: Lasagna (that I had made and frozen a few weeks ago), spinach salad with an orange vinaigrette, and some amazingly good chocolate olive oil blood orange cupcakes. I couldn’t find blood oranges at my lame Kroger, so I substituted with minneolas instead. These are so moist and chocolaty with a bit of citrus thrown in – even better, they are safe for Claire to eat as they are egg and dairy-free! These trump any of the vegan cupcakes I have made from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Try them. Really. I know mine aren’t as pretty as Love and Olive Oil, but they taste great.

Friday: Oven-Roasted Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with cauliflower and rice from 1,000 Indian Recipes We decided to order pizza from our local pizzeria instead of cooking tonight.  It’s our little way of celebrating Huz who just submitted the final version of his 290 page (!!) dissertation today (that and I bought him a special little time-waster too).

Saturday: Oven-Roasted Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with cauliflower and rice from 1,000 Indian Recipes

Sunday: We’re having friends over to watch the Superbowl with us and we’re going with a New Orleans inspired dinner. Huz is making Jamablaya, I’ll be making bacon-wrapped jalepeno poppers, and our friends are bringing the ingredients to make this fine Southern cocktail. Sounds like a party to me!

What did you eat?

Ohmygawdyouguys. Huz made the best freaking dinner last night which was perfect, perfect I say!, for an icy wintery night. I neglected to take any pictures, as I was too busy slurping down the hot, slightly sweet, oniony, porky goodness of the stew, so here’s the stock photo from epicurious for you to drool over.

As I ate this I pinned for a bacon old-fashioned, but we don’t have any bacon-infused bourbon. Just my luck, when I arrived at some friend’s for gamenight I was offered a bacon old-fashioned when I walked in their door! Talk about a perfect piggy-infused evening. Anthony Bourdain would have been proud (and jealous).

Speaking of piggy, I’m reading Julie Powell’s (of “Julie and Julia” book and movie fame) new book “Cleaving” and it has to be one of the most difficult, yet can’t-stop-reading books I’ve met. She’s an apprentice butcher and talks at length about the not-so-niceties of animal guts, bones, fat, sinew, etc. as well as the not-so-niceties of a failing marriage and extramarital affairs (including anonymous sex – what happened to the girl I identified with so well with* in the last book?!).

*Not that I loved the last book, because I didn’t, but I identified with Julie’s love of food, disdain for her 9-5, and her marriage because, like Huz and I, she got married young and survived it – or at least I thought she did.

Anyway, back to the goodness of my pork dinner. Note to Tennesseans: apparently there are more perverse liquor laws here than I knew. Not only can you not buy wine in the grocery store (and then you have to buy wine and beer at separate liquor stores due to alcohol content), but you also can’t buy beer (or hard cider, as the recipe calls for) before noon on a Sunday. Because God wouldn’t have that. Oh, no. So, Huz subbed beer we had at home for the cider and some bourbon for the brandy.

Go forth and enjoy you some piggy!

Pork Stew with Hard Cider, Pearl Onions, and Potatoes

(From Bon Appetit, February 2010)

  • 30 1-inch-diameter pearl onions (from two 10-ounce bags)
  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon (preferably applewood-smoked), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt) or boneless country ribs, external fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsnips
  • 6 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Calvados (apple brandy; optional)
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 12-ounce bottle hard apple cider*
  • 1 1/2 pounds unpeeled baby red potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter), scrubbed, halved
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

Cook onions in large saucepan of boiling salted water 2 minutes; transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Peel onions; set aside.

Cook bacon in heavy large pot over medium heat until lightly browned. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle pork shoulder with coarse salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high. Working in 2 batches, add pork to same pot and cook until browned, about 7 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to large bowl. Reduce heat to medium; add shallots and parsnips. Cover pot and cook until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 teaspoons sage; stir 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup Calvados, if using; cook until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add broth, cider, reserved bacon, and pork with any accumulated juices. Bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pork is tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Add potatoes and pearl onions to stew; cover and cook until vegetables are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Add apples; cover and cook until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Spoon fat from surface of juices, if necessary. Stir butter and flour in small bowl to form paste; add to pot and whisk to blend. Stir in mustard, 2 teaspoons sage, and 1 tablespoon Calvados, if using. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Stew can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Simmer stew over medium heat to rewarm before serving.

Divide stew among bowls, sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon sage, and serve.

* Alcoholic apple cider; available in the liquor department of most supermarkets and at liquor stores.

This week is all messed up, as far as cooking at home goes. Tuesday night (Huz’s night to cook) we went out to the Family Wash bar for pie and pint night ($10 for a big shepherd’s pie and a pint of beer) with 4 friends and 1 toddler. Wednesday night I had worked late and so we were all tired and scrounged for food (I had nachos – a very un-fancy food indeed). Last night I thought I had a hoop presentation ceremony (where we are presented with the hot pink hula hoops that we’ll be hooping the half marathon with), but found out at the end of the day that it isn’t until next month. So I went to the grocery store after work and grabbed some things to actually cook dinner, for the first time this week. I wanted something easy, so I tried this quick Cashew Curry from 101 Cookbooks. I modified the recipe by omitting the tofu and adding chopped chicken breast, and I served it over rice. It was good, fast, and easy (that’s what she said).

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to start helping Huz cook more. Since he’s a student, his time is more flexible than mine, but I need to start contributing more to this area of domesticity. So, I got all organized and put a magnetic calendar/white board on our fridge where we write down our weekly menus (pictured is the little one I replaced). I cook twice a week and he cooks three times a week.

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Last week’s menu looks something like this.

Huz made:

Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage which was really flavorful and comforting on a winter’s night.

Poblano Albondigas with Ancho Chile Soup which, besides being super fun to say (albondigas! albondigas!) was a tad disappointing. We’ll blame the crappy Kroger poblano peppers for the lack of depth in the soup. Worth trying again, but needs some hotter peppers and something to provide depth.

I made:

Tangerine-Salted Turkey with Redeye Gravy. You read that right. I all up and roasted a turkey, y’all. And it’s not even Thanksgiving. There are few times when I take a bite of something I made and think – damn girl, you can cook! – but this was one of those times. The redeye gravy was amazing – full of rich flavor – and the turkey meat was super moist.

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We shared the meal with friends of ours who just had a baby and then made turkey BBQ sandwiches with the leftovers.

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding was a good, cheesy vegetarian meal that we enjoyed with some tomato soup.

Tonight I’m making Tilapia and yams with crispy skins and brown-butter vinaigrette and on Tuesday Huz is making Lamb Kofte with Yogurt and Muhammara.

I was recently told by a co-worker, when sharing our weekly menus with each other, that Huz and I eat “fancy” food. Do you think that’s true? Our food has fancy words (albondigas and kofte = meatballs), but we’re not making foie gras or anything. Her menu consisted of tuna casserole, ravioli, and hot dogs so we obviously eat in different culinary universes, but I don’t consider our diet “fancy.” Where are you on the fancy food scale?

Well, kids?

3 hours after going to the local grocery store (Kroger, which I hate, especially on Sundays because they have NO FOOD on the shelves) I am finished making 16 mini chicken pot pies and I have 8 turkey burger patties in the freezer for Claire. I diced the carrots and broccoli really small hoping that she’ll actually eat them and not pick them out (but who are we kidding? she’ll totally pick them out) and made little “C” shaped vents for her name on the crust. Awww! 🙂

I’m going to skip the third recipe for now because I’m hungry and ready to take a break. I’m reading The Magician’s Assistant right now that a friend from my ex-book club loaned me, so I think putting my feet up and reading it whilst the kid naps is in order.

Yay me! I love accomplishing little goals.

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