Thursday, November 10, 2011

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

There is a restaurant in town that makes this unbelievable butternut squash gnocchi.  It is the right amount of sweet, salty, and completely delicious; the perfect Fall meal.  I could eat it by the bucket, and so could most of my friends, but at $8 per plate it's not a habit to get into!

The Gimpster and I are house shopping - yes, you read right - house shopping, so our house budget is taking away most of our restaurant and bars budget so I was determined to get this one right.  I need to get the sauce right also, but I mastered the gnocchi!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
1.5-2lb butternut squash
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of nutmeg
2 pinches of cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
3-4 cups of flour
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400.
Chop the butternut squash into little cubes and put in a glass baking dish.  Toss with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and chop the butter into 8 pieces and sprinkle them around.  Bake for 45 minutes until fork tender.

Put in a bowl and mash with a fork until there are no lumps.  Let cool to room temperature.

Add flour a cup at a time until it forms a dough that pulls away from the sides.  It took me close to 4 cups to reach the right consistency.  Flour a smooth surface and your hands.  Put a pot of slightly salted water on the stove and bring to a boil while you begin to roll out the first thing of gnocchi.  

On the floured surface, make sure you have a small pile of flour on the side and put a scoop of the dough on the board.  Roll a long thin piece of gnocchi out, and cut into 1" pieces.  I pinch mine from the sides so they look a little bow shaped, but you can use a fork to give them the traditional grooves if you'd like.  
Drop one into the boiling water and let it cook for 3-4 minutes until it floats to the surface.  Taste it, if it tastes gummy or falls apart in the water you need more flour.  If it is good, roll out all the dough and boil the portion you want to eat.  In a small pan, heat up some butter, pour over the top of the gnocchi, and top with shredded parmesan cheese.  

This recipe ended up making enough that I froze several portions of it.  To freeze, put a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet, put the gnocchi on it and put the sheet in the freezer.  Once they are solid, peel off and put in plastic bags and freeze.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Love Fall, and Especially Apple Picking

There is something magical to me about Fall.  It's my all time favorite time of the year, the crisp air, the beautiful colors of the leaves changing, pumpkin spice latte, boot season, and let's be honest, much better hair weather than the Summer time! 

A few weeks ago the Gimpster and I went apple picking with a small group of friends.  The sad thing was - it ended up being 80 degrees and it was the second weekend of October!  Needless to say, I could not wear any of my cute boots, but we did get to go on a hayride.

The next weekend we were headed to Virginia for Gimpy's homecoming, so I had to figure out something to do with all of my apples aside from the required apple crisp that I made that afternoon.  I wanted to be able to use a lot of apples - I had 28 or so to cut up and cook - so I made two batches of apple cumble coffee cake.   

Apple Crumble Coffee Cake
For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples

For the crumble:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350. 

In your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until fully mixed in.  In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add to the wet ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla until all are blended together.  Fold in the apples and pour into a buttered 13x9 baking dish. 

To make the topping, mix the dry ingredients in a new bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or if you're like me and don't have one, two knives.  Pour the crumble over the cake and bake for 35-40 minutes. 

Once I made the coffee cake, I realized I still had a TON of apples left, and I didn't know what I could do with them all.  I don't have the freezer space right now to freeze whole pies or anything!  Luckily a co-worker told me that you can easily freeze apples.  I set off right away peeling, coring, and slicing the rest of my apples so that I now have about 6 baggies in my freezer each filled with 2-3 apples ready to be thawed and used in baked goods all winter long!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy 95th Birthday Grandma

My paternal grandmother is one of the strongest, most amazing women I've ever met.  She married a man she loved and very importantly respected, raised six strong sons, traveled the world, and continues to teach everyone around her on a daily basis.  This weekend, she turned 95, and we had a big family birthday party to celebrate. 

I was in charge of flowers, so I went out to Whole Foods and looked around to see what would be appropriate for five centerpieces on a beautiful Fall day.  I am a big believe that the mark-up florists charge is astronomical, and I know their overhead is huge, and flowers are fragile so they need to have their prices to make a decent living and profit, but I also think with a little imagination you can create something beautiful for considerably less money. 

Gimpy and I went after church to check out the flower selection.  They always have beautiful blooms, and have much more of a selection than other grocery stores, and better prices than a florist.  I picked out some Harvest Bloom roses, which have an interesting meaning - friendship that's falling in love.  I got some beautiful mustardish colored daisies, some hypericum berries, and some greenery.   I think they came out beautifully.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I have been a total slacker this summer.  I stopped working out, went to far too many happy hours, and spent all of August taking care of The Gimpster after yet another ACL surgery.  Don't even get me started on how much I want to pull a Shane Stant on the jerk that maliciously took out his knee...

That being said, I promise to write all about new fantastic barb-e-que foods, the White Party, this year's wine tasting mini-bus, vanilla pudding shots (seriously, amazing), and more.  Starting this weekend - so by Monday there will be a new post.

Little J

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Perfect Date

Gimpy starts his new job on Monday, so we decided that we should do something fun together, and I should take a vacation day this week.  We settled on Thursday, and I arranged for the day off.  Wednesday night we mapped out our strategy, and decided that we would go to two new wineries - one of them just opened May 1st - and go hiking. 

We got up early yesterday, and went to Fairway to get some bread, cheese, fruit, tomatoes, and pack my little wine picnic basket. Then we got on the road! 

The new winery we went to was called Paradise Hills.  It was a beautiful new building, but they were getting their growing pains out.  One of our favorite things is being able to collect a signature glass from each winery we visit, but sadly they were out of glasses AND their most popular wine.  I guess we'll have to go back! 

From there we went up the street to Gouveia Vineyards, because we knew they'd be an amazing place to have a picnic, and we weren't disappointed!  There were several places we could sit and overlook the vineyards, and I was in heaven.  

I unpacked our picnic while I sent Gimpy in to deliver a slice of my new favorite cheese (Parrano) to the ladies who helped us. It was a beautiful day, and a delicious spread.
We stuffed ourselves silly, and then went hiking for a little over an hour.  When we got home, exhausted, we had some sushi and went to see The Hangover II.  Hysterical.  If you haven't seen it yet, GO! 
I hope you all have a great weekend!

What's the big deal? You just call a bunch of bars and show up...

"What's the big deal?  You just call a bunch of bars and show up..."

A friend of mine said that last night at softball when I was stressing out about the Preppy Pub Crawl next weekend.  You see, now that I know we'll be over 115 people (we have 104 confirmed so far), it requires much more planning than the first year when we were 35. 

Where we live, there are a lot of bars, and the great thing is that most of them are in close enough walking distance to have a successful pub crawl.  The bad thing, is that some of them have a maximum occupancy of about 200 people.  When you are bringing 120-130 people with you, you need to make sure that they will have the capacity, the staffing, and the drink specials.  It's a bit of a balancing act to make sure that you are going to the smaller places earlier in the night, avoiding the ones with a busy dinner crowd at dinner time, and making sure everyone can get in! 

With that being said, I am totally stressed out.  I had ordered the koozies and planned my outfit, but then the outfit came and looked awful on me.  I had planned out timing of bars and then started arranging drink specials.  Then, I got a new dress... and called two of the early evening bars.  First bombshell hit! 

Butterface has a comedy show and can't accomodate us unless we start there - which we aren't doing.  The Showgirl informed me that they really, really, really wanted us to come, but their dinner crowd started at 6, so we would need to be gone before then.  I thought about things a lot during a run on Tuesday night, and decided I was going to move things around a little to accomodate.  We're starting at 3:30 this year, and were going to go to Crabby until 4:45 - it's on the water.

We'd then go to The Showgirl, hit my least favorite bar in town, and then head to a cute Irish pub before continuing our crawl.  Perfect.  I call the Showgirl's manager back, and he is excited, until he tells me that he has too many dinner reservations at 5, so we can no longer come there. 


Needless to say, I wasn't happy.  Then I went to softball with this weight on my shoulders, trying to decide what to do.  I pretty much had decided I would discuss with a beach bar next to Crabby to fill in my now vacant slot, when I went to the Grizzly for drinks with my softball team.  The manager told me that Hula Skanks (huge, open spaces) would no longer be closed for renovations, as they are waiting till after the summer.  So of course, now I don't know what to do! 

Luckily, I don't have dinner plans until about 7 tonight... so I am going to do some mental shifting again during my run.  Hopefully I can get it all worked out.

Friday, May 20, 2011

We're Going Out for Steak

So Gimpy tells me the other day that he and some of our guy buddies got this really great deal for a steak restaurant in the City.  They had to use it by the end of June, and so they were going to go in the night before the Preppy Pub Crawl and enjoy these amazing steaks. 

Everyone who knows me, knows that two things are true.
1. I LOVE food.  I look at restaurant menus for fun, and when I go out to eat I try to make dishes at home that I've enjoyed.
2. I'm absurdly insecure.  Always worried that Gimpy is going to find someone prettier, skinnier, just all around better.

Keeping these things in mind, I asked Gimpy what the name of the restaurant was.  I was thinking it would be fun to send over a round of drinks for these boys - since I adore them all - so I looked it up to find the location and check out the menu.

I thought he was getting this

Here it is. 

"Roberts may sit a balcony of the Penthouse Executive Club, and be filled with flirtatious strippers, but it serves a steak that is above reproach."  Um.....

Apparently he's getting this

The insecure little girl in me immediately goes to one thought - "Oh, so now I understand why he didn't want to come over tonight because he doesn't know how late he'll be home because he'll be too busy motorboating strippers and getting bernaise sauce on their g-strings."

And I decided I wasn't drinking tonight??

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dinner for Twenty

My dear friend V will be meeting her new boyfriend's extended family in June, and they are up for cooking dinner for all twenty people that will be staying at the house.  She asked me for some ideas on what she could cook for a big group - so I figured I'd come up with some for her here!

The first thought I had, was that she should have a Mexican theme dinner.  Nothing is easier than throwing together fajitas, nachos, guacamole, queso, salsa, margaritas, and sangria.  It's a crowd pleaser, and you can have something for everyone by getting chicken, steak, and shrimp and throwing them all on the grill.  You can even get a few portobella mushroom caps if you have any vegetarians.  I know V can make some serious margaritas and sangria!

Another idea I have for them, is to whip up a lasagna or two.  You can do a veggie one with spinach, mushrooms, peppers, and a creamy bechemel sauce and do manicotti with a meat and red sauce.  Pair that with salad, garlic bread, and it's always a crowd pleaser!

You can do an old fashioned bar-b-que too!  Make some ribs and bar-b-que chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, and baked beans.  Grill up corn on the cob, and add a festive beach element to it by doing mussels or steamers in a white wine garlic sauce.

Any of these are great options when you have to entertain a large crowd and give you something for even the most picky eaters.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Salmon Shells in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

A few weeks ago we had free biometric screenings at work.  The good news, is that everything about me was wonderfully healthy except my good cholesterol levels were low - they told me I need to eat more salmon!  Gimpy and I love salmon, but it's one of those things that I feel like I have to buy the day I'm going to cook it.  So, on Good Friday I stopped at Whole Foods and picked up some salmon fillets and made a creamy tomato sauce with shells and salmon.

Salmon Shells in a Creamy Tomato Sauce
2 salmon filets
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp tomato paste
15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups small shells

Spray a sautee pan with a little olive oil and heat to medium.  When the pan is hot, add the salmon filets.  Make sure your pan is hot, or the fish will stick!  In the meantime, bring salted water to a boil and cook your pasta.
In a small bowl, mix the heavy cream until it gets foamy and doubles in size.  Mix in the tomato paste.  Cook your fish about 3 minutes per side, until they turn more opaque.  Remove the skin, add in the tomato halves, and chop the fish into small pieces.  Add the pasta.
Once the pasta, tomatoes, and salmon are mixed together, add the cream sauce, toss together and add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

You've Been Invited to a Dinner Party

You've been invited to a dinner party.  Your hostess is known for how much she loves to cook, entertain, and being your only friend that has a dining table that extends to seat 12 comfortably.  It's a major religious holiday, and she's stressed several times that she'd like you to bring wine.  Wine only.  Please, please don't bring anything but wine.  I'm serious, all she needs you to bring is wine.  You know that stuff that they mostly make from grapes that's got an alcohol content and comes in a pretty bottle?  Yeah... that stuff. 

Do not bring:
  • Any side dish
    • She's probably got that covered
  • Any appetizer
    • Chances are this hostess already has appetizers planned
  • If you've asked her if you should bring it, and she says no, don't bring it
  • Anything to be consumed that night that she hasn't specifically requested
When someone invites you to a dinner party, it is lovely and thoughtful to bring a gift to your host and hostess.  Chances are, they've spent a fair amount of money on food, flowers, candles, etc., and it's a lovely gesture.  Chances are also good that they've spent weeks planning their menu and they don't really want you to bring anything else for people to eat, because it can be perceived as a bit insulting (What?  You don't think I'm going to serve enough that you like or want to eat?  You think I'm not going to have appetizers, or enough sides?).

Flowers Brought to me for Thanksgiving - Great Idea!
 The things you can bring as a hostess gift to a dinner party are pretty simple
  • A nice bottle of wine or champagne for them, not something you're going to drink at said party, but actually a gift for your hosts
  • Flowers.  Flowers are always welcome and nice
  • A gift basket - you can bring them cheeses, crackers, jams, coffee, etc in a gift package for them - JUST NOT TO BE SERVED AT THE DINNER PARTY
  • A thoughtful gift for their house
  • If you must bring something edible, bring a dessert.  Italian cookies, brownies, etc.  Something simple.
I had a conversation with B this morning about this.  I don't understand if people just weren't raised the way we were to know these things, but I am always shocked when someone informs me that to Easter they are bringing wine, and like 6 kinds of cheese to sample before dinner!  Just say no, and practice safe dinner party etiquette. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wine Tasting Makes a Long Drive Easier

This title makes me sound like I drink and drive.  I don't - that's dangerous people!  It was just a little wine tasting!  As I mentioned before, Gimpy's brother got married this weekend down in Virginia Beach, which is quite the drive from home for us!  We were making pretty good time, when I saw a sign that said Chatham Vineyards, 3.2 miles with a left facing arrow.  I clearly had to stop, because you know Gimpy and I love to wine taste!
We tried all of their wines and had a lovely chat with the woman who works there.  She was funny, because she tried to talk a good game on the whites, but you could tell she loves her red wine!  We did too, and purchased our tasting glasses and some of their Vitner's Blend, before getting back on the road!  

As we drove further down the road, we saw another vineyard, but missed the turn off.  Apparently there are 140 wineries in the state of Virginia, so we figured we might see another one!  Sadly, we did not, until we got to Maryland. 

Gimpy was sleeping, I was driving, and we were supposed to be finding a place to stop for lunch when I saw it - a simple road sign that was just a bunch of grapes and an arrow.  I had to think fast, so I quickly jumped in the left lane and slowed for the turn.  Gimpy woke up in a daze, and I simply said "Vineyard, 5 miles this way."  It was on.  We drove down some windy twisty roads and came upon Bordeleau Vineyard.  It was stunning!  A beautiful brick house nestled among vines, and right along the lake.  Their tasting room was exquisite, and we were fortunate enough to meet Tom, the owner and winemaker! 
We tasted, we tasted some more, and we fell in love.  No, not with each other (silly), but with their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and their 2009 Cab Franc.  Tom ensured that we'd be back after the wedding we have in June because these two wines that we needed - were not yet bottled.  We'll be back Tom, and we'll be buying several of each!  

We came back with a bottle of their Wicomico Red for my sister and a bottle of cabernet for us.  All in all, a great little detour that I'd totally recommend! 

I Cook More Than You, and Entertain More Than You....

So why can't I have a registry too?

We just got back from Gimpy's brother's wedding this weekend, and last night had dinner with some friends who are getting married in June, so I have registries on the brain.  Plus with Easter coming up, I keep thinking of all the serving dished and things I wish I had. 

I also want a new wine rack.  Gimpy and I have been venturing to more wineries lately, which is a lot of fun, but we have too much wine now and no place to put it.  Gimpy told me I can't buy one because we both need to save money, and I agree with him totally because I really want a house.

What I should probably do, is just bring my wine rack, that never stays full, over to his place, but then we'd have nothing at Liberty, and there would be no place to put my wine glasses.  I basically just need to stop indulging myself, save my money, buy my little house, and then pull a V and invite everyone over for a housewarming, where they can buy things off MY registry...  I just don't understand why you have to wait until you're married to have people buy you things to "help you get started on your life together".  I've started my life, and it's a pretty darn good one! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do You Love Jello Shots Like I Love Jello Shots?

A few months ago, a friend sent me a link to an Austin Wedding Blog that was talking about these amazing little jello shot creations.  I wanted ALL of them.  Today, I finally found the genius behind it all. 

The Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.  Have you heard of it?  Go.  Now.  It'll change the way you look at alcoholic jello forever.  I mean, who wouldn't want to make Candy Cane Martini Jello Shots?

Or Cosmopolitan Jello Shots?  Seriously, if I ever get married, I WILL be serving these.

Or espresso style at a brunch?

Oh!  Watermelon Basil Martini Shot.  I might be in love... sorry Gimpy, these look amazing!

Or for those of you who know my deep love of Sweet Tea Vodka, you know I'm going to try to make these Arnie Palmers with the Skinny Sweet Tea Vodka!
Oh Summer... You're about to get more interesting...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Koozies Ordered, Countdown Begins!

We are officially 45 days from the Third Annual Preppy Pub Crawl. That's approximately 1,080 hours, or 64,800 minutes, or 3,888,000 seconds.  Last year was so much fun, that I am already thinking about my outfit for this year, and just ordered our koozies today.  They'll be teal, with pink writing and an anchor - so excited!

For my outfit this year, I want something like this:

  Or something like this:

I am leaning toward the Vineyard Vines option because my friend works there and can get a discount... Thoughts?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Easter Menu 2011

Last year for Easter I adopted all of my "orphan" friends.  People who either weren't going to be with their families because of distance or scheduling, and hosted dinner at my house.  It turned into a crazy night

This year I've decided to step it up a notch and have started working on my menu, it's nearly complete, and I'm getting excited.  The one snag, is that I've decided I really want to make two tarts.  One is a wild mushroom tart with a bit of truffle oil, and the other is an asparagus tart.  Lovely and filled with Spring flavors!  Leftover they would also be amazing for dinner with salad.  I don't have any tart pans right now, but Williams Sonoma has a great one for $9.  I think I may have to invest in a few...

I'm thinking my menu will lay out like this...

Shrimp cocktail
Baked brie
Deviled eggs
Artichoke dip

Sugarcane baked ham with spiced apples and pears
Honey glazed carrots and sugar snap peas
Asparagus tart
Wild mushroom tart
Caesar salad in parmesan bowls
Rolls (according to Gimpy, as long as they are soft, warm, and buttery, he'll be happy)
Maybe another side?  Not sure....

Strawberry rhubarb crumble with vanilla bean ice cream
Rhubarb wine sangria 
       (Putney Mountain Winery makes a rhubarb wine that we got a bottle of that would be perfect with this)
Carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge

Tomorrow is the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge Finals, and my dad is racing his snowboard in the finals (he qualified in the 60+ category, yes, he's badass). While he has no expectations of winning, he invited us all to go up and ski/snowboard for the day and have a fabulous tailgate in the parking lot.

It's a small group heading up, but I found some great discounted lift tickets on Liftopia and we'll be on the road at like 6:30 in the morning (yikes!).  All day long there will be tons of free stuff they are giving away - muscle milk, mountain dew, cranberry juice, floss (haha), etc., music, and games.  It should be a great time!

I am bringing my little tailgating grill, and will be grilling up some of my favorite jalepeno mango chicken sausage, turkey burgers, veggie skewers, and rocking the chips and salsa.  Oh and beer.  Lot's of beer - though mostly for everyone else to drink because I'll be driving home... It'll be a long day, but it should be a blast!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shiny Monkey

I made the mistake of telling Gimpy recently that I have "shiny monkey" syndrome.  You know the concept that if you put something shiny in a jar, a monkey will reach it's hand inside and get stuck because they refuse to let go of whatever object they covet?  That's me, and right now the item in the jar is the kindle

Last month at book club, my friend Meridith showed me her kindle, and I became enamored.  It was so light, the screen so clear, and you could pack it easily in your purse and read on the beach!  You can fit thousands of books on it, and it would help me downgrade a ton of stuff, and save a lot of space in my house.  Last night, I was looking at hers again, and I really, really, really want it.  Sigh.  Damn shiny monkey.

When I got home from BC last night I looked it up - $139 isn't bad!  But of course I would need to buy a case too, I think that's where they get you.  I like the kind you can open up, not the kind you have to slip the kindle in and out of.  I of course want this one, because it's hot pink, but I feel like I should consider the green because it would match my Franklin Covey planner...

I have a bad feeling it'll be mine by the end of the day...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Want a Lot of Things...

I think living in Texas for four years ruined me.  When I lived down there, I was able to rent a 1200 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom place with a pool, a fitness room, and a walking path around a golf course for $799 per month - and I split that with my roommate.  Now I think nothing of my friends getting an apartment that's half the size, and splitting $2,500 a month in rent. 

Today I have encountered the huge problem of wanting a house with a big back yard for entertaining.  I clearly want this every day, but today I am especially frustrated by it.  Gimpy and I want to save money so that we can afford the things we want for the future (aka the little cozy house with a big sunny backyard), so for his birthday this year in April we (HE) decided he just wanted a casual house party. 

To me, a casual house party welcoming Spring and Gimpy to another year of being awesome means that I need some decorations and a luau party!  That means, I need some of these for sure - 
You fill them with ice and store your beverages!  I have one for Halloween that's a pumpkin, so you get multiple parties our of them for sure.  It also means I need some of these -
As clearly not everyone drinks beer.  And finally (not really, but all I am going to give away for now), you need some of these for doing your hair. 

The problem I am running into, is where to have this luau.  I have two friends with club houses that we can rent out, but at $100+ each, it defeats the purpose of saving money.  So now I am faced with really, really wanting one of these.

Or one of these

Or really.... both.  Sadly, it's not in the cards now, so I may have to settle for a park or on the beach, both great options, but a little chilly for mid-April!  Start praying now for an unseasonably warm April 16th, as I don't want B to freeze in her coconut bra...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fat Tuesday

Last week I was talking to my friend V about her upcoming Fat Tuesday party, so I decided to have one of my own.  I quickly emailed a bunch of the girls and got everyone together for a quick dinner.

I threw together some quick decorations
I mixed up a signature cocktail, I know that most of the Mardi Gras cocktails are made with rum, but my girls drink vodka and champagne, so I made a fabulous punch!

1 cup wildberry vodka 
1 bottle champagne 
A splash of crystal light pomegranate juice 
Frozen fruit

I made some jambalaya, we had 4 pitchers of punch, a few bottles of wine (a miserable Wednesday) and I made homemade beignets!  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

When I was sick the other week, all I wanted was some soup.   I have a horrible habit of only wanting homemade soup though, so it required a little bit of work!

Cream of Mushroom Soup
16 oz assorted wild mushrooms - I used henhouse, cremini, and shitake
1 oz olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter, separated
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, plus 1 tsp minced thyme leaves
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks (2 leeks), white and green parts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
2 cup half-and-half or light cream

Clean the mushrooms, separating the stems from the caps.  Chop the caps to bite sized pieces, set aside.

To make the stock -
Trim off the mushroom stems, and coarsely chop them.  Heat the olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a large pot.  Add the mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, sprig of thyme, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the veggies are soft.  Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Strain, reserving the liquid.  You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock.

Meanwhile in another large pot melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add the leeks.  Cook over low heat 15-20 minutes until they begin to brown.  Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for another 10 minutes or so until they are soft.

Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot.  Add the stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the half-and-half, cream, parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Heat through but do not boil.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Epic Find and an Alcohol Dream

The title of this post sounds a little bit like I drink too much, so don't judge me.  In gearing up for three weekends in a row of St Patrick's Day parades, I have to share three things I'm really excited about.

The first - this cool new trend in wedding drinks.  You have to love those fabulous girls in Austin, TX who discovered how to take jello shots and make them classy and wedding appropriate.

The second - one of my best friends and her husband just closed on a wine store.  Wine Styles in Flower Mound, TX.  They want Gimpy and me to come for the grand re-opening, and I'm really hoping to make it work, but it doesn't look likely with the weekends they are thinking.  Sadness.  Go down and buy lots of wine! 

The third - Firefly Sweet Tea vodka is coming out with a low calorie, carb free version.  Hello bathing suit season and bottomless John Daily's!  For those of you who don't know, it's sweet tea vodka and lemonade.  Yum!  Just in time for boating season.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Like to Celebrate Holidays When It's Convenient for Me...

Tuesday was National Margarita Day.  I was sick, and spent much of my week making home made soups (I'll post those later).  So, I decided that we'd celebrate tonight!

There is a fabulous bar in town that makes the most delicious guava margaritas.  Seriously, these things are epic.  I've had margaritas in Mexico, tons when I lived in Texas, and when I was in college, we used to go to Margaritaville on Tuesday nights, and NOTHING compares to these things.  They are trouble - which is why it's better to have National Margarita Day on a Friday.

So, I wish you a Happy National Margarita Day.  I will be celebrating at Riviera Maya, wishing I was drinking their guava margaritas at this Riviera Maya...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day

Today kicks off the many nights that couples choose to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Restaurants offer their free champagne, prix fixe, limited menu options tonight through Monday.  Flower prices more than double - last Monday you could get a dozen red roses for $10, this weekend, they'll be more than double that. 

Last year Gimpy and I went out on Valentine's Day.  It was our first, and I asked if we could go to Mitchell's Fish Market - yum.  We arrived at the packed restaurant, ordered our food which was off of their special menu, and waited.  While we sat there and enjoyed our wine and salad, we were shocked when someone dropped off our dinners and walked away, leaving us a little shocked to find where our lobster tails were supposed to be, there were Alaskan King crab legs - and Gimpy was not feeling it.  After another 10 minutes we finally got someone's attention, were told they were supposed to alert us, and they hadn't.  We ordered new entrees (I wasn't about to eat my dinner and wait another 30 minutes for his to come), had our meals comped, and went home. 

After that event, I decided that this year, I didn't want to go out on Valentine's Day. 

I was talking to my friend Carolyn yesterday and it perfectly summed up how I feel about this...
Me: Do you know if Morton's has a fireplace?
Carolyn: Hmmm.... no clue, why?
Me: We're going for dinner on Tuesday night
Carolyn: For Valentine's Day?
Me: Yup!!
Carolyn: So fun!
Me: I'm excited, I've never been, and the food looks amazing
Carolyn: Ummm.... you two know Valentine's Day is Monday, right?
Me: That's exactly why we're going Tuesday...

I feel like it's just too much pressure to go out on the actual day, and too much money.  I've told Gimpy I don't want flowers on V-day either (that's not to say I would turn them down if he brought some the following week!), so I'm hoping we can just have a nice relaxed night out and not end up like any of these people with crazy Valentine's stories~

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Death by Chocolate

Sunday we had, of course, a Superbowl party!  I made potato salad and Death by Chocolate, which is what I am sharing with you today...

For Death by Chocolate, a lot of it depends on what it is that you like, you can really use any type of candy for a filler.  You can also use chocolate cake, or brownies, and you can use cool whip layers or chocolate pudding if you want it to be super chocolatey!

For this Death by Chocolate, I started with a layer of browies and a layer of chocolate syrup.  I layer them into a trifle dish, and top with cool whip.

After the cool whip, I added a layer of chopped heath bar - yum.  Followed by another layer of brownie, syrup, cool whip, heath bar, brownie, syrup, and cool whip!

Add a final layer of syrup and another of chopped heath bar - I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, so this is the perfect dessert balance for me.  I've also done it with chopped peanut butter cups, which is fabulous. 

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

On Monday night, I was supposed to make big salads for dinner for me and Gimpy.  I decided after Zumba however, that I really wanted chicken parmesan.  So it was time to make some spaghetti sauce, pasta, and chicken parm with gooey slices of mozzerella on top.  I wanted to go all out, not do the overly healthy version I make!

Chicken Parmesan
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 egg
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Dried basil and oregano
2 thick slices of mozzerella

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the egg in a bowl, and put the bread crumbs on a plate with the spices.  Dredge your chicken breasts through the egg, and then cover with the bread crumb mixture.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Switch the oven to broil, and place the cheese on the top of the chicken.  Broil for 4 minutes until golden and crispy.  Serve over spaghetti and your favorite sauce.