Tuesday, August 30, 2011

oh, meat

Last week, before I fled DC for home, Sophie came over for dinner, and I basically forced her to eat steak since it would otherwise go bad during my extended trip. Because I didn't want to face packing, I decided to search for a good marinade recipe.  Many of the options google presented me with involved balsamic (I'm not a fan) or some other steak-type sauce that I don't own.  So I cruised over to Dinner: A Love Story (which is quickly becoming a go-to after Epicurious and food network), and found their seemingly simple recipe.

I didn't have scallions and I skipped the hot sauce (Sophie doesn't like spicy food), but it came out pretty well nonetheless. It didn't have an overwhelming flavor, but wasn't too plain and boring, either. 

The steaks, however, were definitely overcooked, and I blame George (Foreman).  See, George and I are still getting to know each other.  He seems to be pretty old, and is entirely lacking in any sort of options. You plug him in, and that's it.  So I'm not quite sure when it reaches maximum heat (or what that temperature is).  Nor am I sure of the average cooking time for various foods.  So what I'm saying here is that it's a bit of an experiment every time. 

The first time I checked the steaks, they were practically still raw, so we let them cook for what seemed like a reasonable extra amount of time. And then they were far too done for our medium (or medium-rare) preferences. But Sophie was a good sport and pretended it was perfect. They at least looked pretty...

On the side we had roasted baby potatoes with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary (aka the convenient, long-time pinch hitter in my family's dinner arsenal), which were perfectly crisped (I'm allowed to have a moment of selfish gloating over the potatoes, right? I mean, I totally bungled the steak temperature). We skipped the wine thanks to my weird esophagus pain, which was so bad that night that I only ate because Sophie practically forced me to do so. But I made up for it by offering her a dessert sampler of all the ice cream flavors in my freezer at the moment. 

bottom left: chocolate with crushed red pepper, top: salted caramel, 
bottom right: jacked up cookies and cream

I think it was a hit

After dessert, Sophie gamely offered to do the dishes. While she scrubbed everything else, I used the little scraper tool that comes with George--easily the grossest part of the whole process. When I popped the grill plates off for Sophie to scrub, I noticed (and pointed out) a tiny pool of grease on the counter.  

"Oh, meat," Sophie said. Oh, meat, indeed. I couldn't help but think of her matter-of-fact statement the entire time I was reading The China Study. I first heard about the book on the CNN Health site (probably one day when I was a little on the bored side at work). Dr. Gupta briefly described the study, explaining that there's a whole slew of physicians and researchers who believe we can eradicate heart disease and drastically reduce instances of cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other less-severe health issues by eliminating animal protein from our diets. I realize it sounds drastic, and probably hard to buy in to (especially if you're an enthusiastic meat-eater like me), but the wealth of evidence the authors presented is staggering to say the least. 

I'm not saying I'll be an overnight vegan, or even vegetarian (in fact, I made risotto with chicken last night).  But the information they presented was eye-opening and hard to ignore. I'll definitely be thinking about making some changes in the LKTC...

Monday, August 29, 2011

lake of caramel

I'm spending some time at home for all sorts of reasons, none of which are worth really discussing.  But let's just say that I found myself frighteningly close to purchasing a one-way ticket to Italy and/or volunteering for a stint in a war zone, and I knew it was time to take a little break. Luckily my bosses were really generous about the whole thing, and so here I sit, "relaxing" at home.   

Relaxing gets the quotation marks, because I'm not the best at chilling out, and there have been some...exciting...moments since I got home. 

Saturday we had some friends over for dinner.  Right before I jumped in the car to drive home Friday, I tossed Fiona in the back seat.  She was a horrible car companion, very boring and quiet, but I knew she'd redeem herself making salted caramel ice cream (a special request from Mom).  

Making the ice cream batter went much smoother than my first attempt, which probably had something to do with having an extra set of hands in the kitchen.  When it was time to churn the batter, though, Fiona and I had our first spat.  

I left everyone on the patio chatting to quickly toss the batter in the machine.  I was obviously not thinking straight, or was just really excited for ice cream, because I neglected a hugely important step.  I DIDN'T PUT THE BOWL ON THE BASE.  So I turned the machine on and started pouring the batter in to the base of the machine.  Luckily I realized what I'd done before I poured in every last drop, but it was still a huge mess. There was suddenly a lake of caramel in the kitchen, and I was so ill. 

I poured as much batter as possible back in the mixing bowl, cleaned Fiona up as best I could, pulled the churning bowl from the freezer and set it on the base, and tried again.  It worked (as you can assume most things will when you do them CORRECTLY), but I was worried I may've gunked up the motor.  So while I fumed, Mom got to work cleaning with a paper towel/wooden skewer contraption...

Thankfully neither the ice cream nor Fiona seemed to suffer from my total idiocy.  In fact, it was completely amazing scooped over brownies and "lacey" cookies...

I only wish I could have enjoyed it more, but I haven't been feeling well at all. In fact, I pretty much convinced myself that I've acquired an ulcer.  Whether it's an ulcer or my first brush with heartburn in my entire life, my esophagus hurts like nothing I've ever felt before (and no, there is no logical correlation to my eating habits).  Subsequently my appetite has taken a nose dive.  In what I can only imagine is a logical next step, I spent most of yesterday extremely dizzy.  Even I, one of the most anti-doctor people ever, was ready to go to urgent care first thing this morning. 

And then the dog groomer called us early this morning to let us know our dog had a huge bruise on her throat. Since I'm home and the parents are at work, I got to pick her up from the groomer and take her to the vet. It turns out I'll make one nervous mother if I ever have kids, because I was especially worried. The vet assured me that Gracie is fine (apparently dogs, like humans, bruise when they have blood work done, and she had just had her annual vet appointment Saturday). Still not sure if I'm fine, though, as I've now talked myself out of my own trip to urgent care. 

I'm here for another week, but I'm hoping we've gotten all of the excitement over within my first few days, or I'm going to go back to DC just as strung out as I was when I left...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

where are my people?

On the morning of earthquake day, I had a long conversation with one of my two bosses.  It started out as some sort of briefing, but somehow ended up being about of our frustrations with grown up life. (Note: she has way more ground to stand on, as she is married with kids, owns a home, and leads a large team of eccentric auditors.)  

But we both agreed that even though we had some suspicion that post-college life wouldn't be easy, we assumed we'd be compensated, at least in some small part, by the company we would keep.  We figured we'd find ourselves among smart, funny, successful, kind people, and that would dull the pain of mortgage (or rent) payments and the 9 to 5 grind.  

Instead, we have found ourselves consistently surprised by how unintelligent, disappointing, and/or hurtful people are.  Where in the world are my people? we want to know. Probably not in this office, we concluded. And then the earth rumbled. Big day, really, between existential crisis conversations and building evacuations. 

So when I got home from the earthquake, I decided to go ahead and make the jacked up cookies and cream ice cream, and realized that this is the kind of ice cream you make for your "people."

It's a labor of love, what with the sticky, messy affair of coating (football-shaped!) oreos in melted chocolate...

And letting vanilla bean pods steep in warm milk for an hour...

And then there's that whole egg yolk-cooking step that I have yet to execute gracefully (not to mention photograph successfully).  The dulce de leche-making step should go on behind the scenes of the rest of this, cooking up nicely in the oven while you melt chocolate and steep vanilla.  Unless you're me, and forget to cover the pan of sweetened condensed milk with foil.  And then you pull the oven open an hour later to find curdled sweetened condensed milk. After having had to smell and deal with that business, I'm here to tell you that stuff should be reserved for whatever the opposite of "your people" is.  

But even without the dulce de leche, it is divine...

I've made plenty of tasty ice cream with Fiona, but this was a new level of success.  This is the ice cream you make for the people who are there for you when those dumb/hurtful/disappointing people have you in a bit of a tizzy.  For the people who let you rant and rave and complain, even when they've heard it all before.  For the people who force you to eat even though you've stressed yourself out so much that you barely remember what an appetite feels like (and may have given yourself an ulcer...).  For the ones who remind you that you're actually very lucky after all.  Bless all of you, especially the ones who I haven't been able to give a container of jacked up cookies and cream yet.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

earthquake-proof caffeine

Yesterday, maybe twenty minutes after I told you about drunken noodle deliciousness, we had ourselves a little earthquake here in Virginia. Although I have to say, it seemed anything but little at the time.  

My floor in this office building has been undergoing air conditioning construction (yes, we've gone an entire southern summer without functioning central air), so initially many of us assumed that construction was to blame for the shaking.  But we quickly realized there was way, way too much swaying/shaking for the construction to be at fault.  The next natural thought for many of us was that it was something sinister (although I think it's sad that so many of our minds immediately made such an assumption). The earthquake buzz circulated around the office, and while we were all busy contemplating that possibility, we were ordered to evacuate.  

I say "we" like I was at my desk when this happened and was able to immediately confer with colleagues.  But that's a little misleading.  See, internet, I was in what I have decided is one of the worst places to experience a mild earthquake (or major one for that matter).  The bathroom.  And the bathroom here is small and dark.  While I was nowhere near hysterical, I definitely had a moment of mild panic and thought I do NOT want to die in the bathroom on the 9th floor of an office building!!

When I rushed out to see what was going on, that's when the earthquake buzz had already started. Most people were surprisingly nonchalant about the whole thing, but this being my first earthquake and all (and having thought I was going to die in a 9th floor dark, dingy bathroom), I was thinking something more along the lines of just an earthquake? JUST an earthquake? EARTHQUAKES DON'T HAPPEN HERE! 

After the evacuation and some frantic head-counting in a nearby park, we were dismissed for the day at 2:30ish.  I opted not to join the thousands of people on the roads and on the trains, and instead had a late lunch and drinks with a coworker down the street.  Not a bad deal all said and done, and we were lucky enough to snag an outdoor table, so we could watch the hoards of people generally acting like idiots while swapping earthquake stories. Note that from now on, any time we talk about this seismic event, I get to say "well, I was in the bathroom alone at work." Cute.

I decided, though, that for any future earthquakes (or, say, looming hurricanes...), I need a hardier travel coffee mug.  You know, if the building is going to start swaying again, I need something that's going to stand up to the job.  And I really just have found myself enamored with this tiny little eight ounce travel mug from Bodum. I always end up tossing half the coffee from my 16 ounce travel mug out each day, and while I could just fill it halfway full, how could I turn down something so (wait for it....) cute? 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

lent leftovers

I have this little list tacked up on my fridge (sadly there's no photo, not even a crappy blackberry photo).  It lists all the dishes I had hoped to attempt (and dare I say...perfect) over the course of my "no eating out" edict during Lent.  Off the top of my head, I remember: waffles, pancakes, biscuits, patatas bravas, and drunken noodle.  

Embarrassingly, I only attempted (and in the case of biscuits, I'd say nearly perfected) the first three. If you search for a patatas bravas recipe, the wide array you'll find is, in my mind, overwhelming.  I typically check a few different recipes each time I'm trying something new to get a handle on possible variations, but there were just too many in this case.  I decided I'd just have to visit Jaleo often to devise my own approach.

I can't recall what my excuse was in the case of the drunken noodle dish.  It's my favorite Thai dish, and one of the things I probably missed most during Lent.  I suspect sheer laziness likely won out in this battle.  

BUT, great news. Well, great for me anyways.  Allie decided to try and make it, and it was amazing. She found this recipe, and we made a trip to the local H Mart to round up supplies.  We didn't find everything we were looking for (looking at you, mini corn and young green peppercorns), and spent a lengthy amount of time contemplating the overwhelming plethora of soy sauce/oyster sauce options. Following many "oh what the heck, let's try it" proclaimations, we found ourselves facing one of the area's more tenacious storms this summer.  The lightning/thunder were seemingly right on top of us, and I've literally never seen it rain harder in my life.  We made a run for it, and subsequently looked like we had showered in our clothes.  The soy sauce, however, was fine. 

While the ingredient list looks daunting, I think I speak for Allie accurately when I say it was fairly easy (if a bit heavy on the prep work), and really delicious.  We used regular Thai basil and skipped the mini corn and green peppercorns with no real impact (in our opinions).  We did a soy sauce taste test, though, and we're here to tell you that the recipe calls for different varieties for a reason. It definitely gets the LKTC seal of approval, and I'll hopefully try making it myself soon. 

See, isn't it pretty? (don't mind the awful phone photo)

My contributions were small, but complimentary (of course I'd say that, but you're going to either have to trust me here, or make all of it yourself to test my assertion).  I made Asian slaw with ginger peanut dressing, which was light but spicy, and a good starter for the drunken noodle. I actually cut the honey and oil quantities in half, and we didn't notice any impact on flavor or quantity of dressing.  Luckily I realized last-minute that I accidentally bought parsley instead of cilantro at H Mart, and managed to correct my novice error. Not only do I loathe parsley, but it would've tasted awful in this dish. 

it was also a bit chopping intensive...
but overall, worth the effort!

For dessert, I brought the chocolate red pepper gelato that I made a while back.  I already knew Allie would love it, but Alicia was a fan, too, and couldn't get over the tickling sensation the red pepper left behind.

Never one to be satisfied for long with any singular kitchen success, tonight I tackle the "jacked up cookies and cream" ice cream recipe...

Friday, August 19, 2011

some like it hot

I'm still very much captivated by Fiona (the new ice cream maker), and I'm constantly looking for new recipes to try.  I'm accumulating quite a collection of flavors in my freezer as we speak.  So when Allie suggested we try ciocolato con peperoncino for Sunday dinner, naturally I was quick to jump on board, even if it meant further freezer crowding.  

The flavor was one we first tried in Venice at our favorite gelateria (Il Doge, in case you happen to be planning a visit soon...and you should).  While I nearly always bought mint or straciatella, I gamely tried Allie's chocolate with red pepper once, and found it intriguing.  And by intriguing, I mean spicy. 

So I combed google for recipes, and ended up using this one, and adding about half a teaspoon of red pepper.  I honestly couldn't tell you how it turned out though, because in a very very rare moment in my life, I was not even the tiniest bit hungry between lunch last night and breakfast this morning.  It smells (and looks) good, though...

Next I plan to try a recipe that's curiously named "jacked up cookies and cream." The oreos are coated in melted chocolate before being broken up and added to the vanilla ice cream. As if that weren't quite ridiculous enough, you add a swirl of dulce de leche.  I'm supposed to be giving it to friends, but we'll see how much (if any) of it makes it out of my apartment!

Yolky's first use was a great success!

 I'm still working on gracefully navigating the egg-cooking aspect...

 It still blows my mind that this soupy mess...

 ...becomes this deliciousness!

That's all for now, but I'm working from home today, so, you could very well see more from me later on when the cabin fever sensation really sets in...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a salty weekend

Like any true type A girl, I have a running list of projects I want to tackle.  It is sometimes in my mind, sometimes on a piece of paper I inevitably lose, sometimes on my blackberry.  This past weekend, in between various social stuff, I decided to take on two of the long-standing items: hangers and salted caramel ice cream.

Re: hangers... I decided a while back that I wanted my hangers to be consistent in my closets.  A luxury, sure, but I had a little wiggle room in my budget last month, so I went for it.  And last weekend, I decided it was time to take the matching black hangers out of their many boxes and get cracking.  Which led to my living room looking like this:

As if whipping my wardrobe in to some level of submission wasn't tiring enough, I also took on the ice cream.  I've made ice cream with Fiona before, but this would be my first attempt at an egg yolk-based recipe.  It also would involve making caramel.  Eeek. 

To tackle the project, I consulted this salted caramel ice cream recipe from Epicurious (typically one of my top go-to recipe sites).  I really wish recipes were better about indicating time requirements.

Still being a total novice in the kitchen, I don't have a good grasp on things like how long it takes sugar to become caramel (not long).  Or when to stop cooking the sugar (um, still unsure).  Or how long the milk will take to dissolve the caramel (a lifetime). Or the appropriate length of time to cook the eggs in the milk to avoid both salmonella and scrambled eggs (a heck of a lot less time than you'd think).

So I heated...

And swirled...

And dissolved...

And strained...

And got (amazing) ice cream!

Note that there are no pictures of the whole egg-cooking adventures.  Let's just say it's a two-hand process that does not lend itself well to photography or any other distractions.  It was a little stressful navigating the recipe for the first time, but, the result is so sinful, I can't even explain it.  Luckily it's beyond rich, so I only eat a few spoon fulls at a time, but it's just as dangerous as the chocolate ice cream with mint chocolate cookies.  

Now that those two things have been crossed off the list, I've got my sights on other projects (including new ice cream flavors, and much less thrilling things like 401(k) rollovers).  Exciting times, I know.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I have had a strange and not awesome week.  So even though it's still steamy and sweltering outside, I want nothing but cappuccinos, soup, and stews, preferably in front of a large fireplace.

While I have a generic dutch oven that came with my other pots and pans, I'm craving a more serious stove top to oven piece.  Cliche as it is, I find this Le Creuset "french oven" calling my name.  

Possibly I have a slight addiction to all things even remotely in the turquoise blue family.  If you've seen my bedroom in my parents' house, you'd understand. Anyways, I visit the "french oven" often, debating whether or not it's worth its slightly frightening price tag.  

Of course after I visited it at Sur la Table this weekend, I wandered in to World Market, where I spotted this guy.  Similar shape, larger capacity, fraction of the cost/guilt.  

I doubt I'll invest in either pan any time soon, but I have my eye on both as legitimate soup/stew weather approaches.

ps-I made salted caramel ice cream this weekend with Fiona, and it was incredible.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

farm fresh (well, sort of)

I was going to tell you all about slopovers tonight, since I know you were all on the edges of your seats about that business.  But, a series of uncharacteristic things happened, and I felt compelled to share (mostly so I could remind myself that, on occasion, I get things right). 

First, I came home from work at went to the gym in my building.  Gym is a generous term, it's nothing more than a few cardio and weights machines, but it's free and approximately 30 seconds from my couch.  And after a particularly unhealthy day of eating and general lethargy at training, I came home antsy (and chastising myself for my abysmal eating habits).  So I guilted myself right down to the basement "gym" for the first time in the nearly two years I've lived in this building.  Shameful, I know. 

Then, my poor, out-of-shape body needed some time to rebound after a mere half hour of cardio, so I went over to Allie's to water her plants.  On my way back to my apartment, I realized ALL, I mean all my body wanted was vegetables.  

Side note: I don't really buy in to any given food/diet phenomenon.  I a) like food too much, b) don't know enough about nutrition, c) am a bit lazy.  But one thing I genuinely believe is that our bodies crave what they need.  As a girl with a raging sweet tooth, even I don't believe that means my body always (errrr, ever) needs the endless sugar I consume.  When I say crave, I'm referring more to things like fruits/veggies/water/(occasionally) meat.  I'll be the first to admit I eat really poorly most of the time.  Not that I necessarily eat a ton of fried food, I just don't eat balanced meals. So when I realize my body wants, say, red meat or something green, I generally think that's its way of saying "um, vitamin C. PLEASE" or "hey, a little protein would be nice."

Which is my really long way of saying, I made this for dinner:

The squash, zucchini, and fruit were the only things that are actually fresh from the store.  The french green beans, peas, corn, and snap peas were all from my freezer and steamed back to life.  While I, like most people, I'm sure, prefer fresh, I tend to be pretty awful at using produce before it goes bad.  Case in point:

And third, I actually sat at my dining room table to eat (instead of just using it as a staging area for crappy food photographs), and left my phones and computer in the living room.  I realize that's a tenuous distinction when all of your rooms occupy approximately 700 square feet, but I'm typically glued to something electronic all day, every day, so I consider this an accomplishment in restraint.  I didn't even turn the TV on.  While I didn't go so far as to light candles or anything like that, it was a nice change from 

Ok, so those are really the only three uncharacteristic events, but, I'm a little (too) proud of them, and I want to try to do more of this healthy stuff.  The rest of my day was unfortunately very characteristic (forgetting my lunch in the fridge at home, eating poorly, hating what I was wearing, feeling guilty when I saw the girl in front of me snacking in watermelon while I ate my skittles, etc).  

Now I'm going to characteristically sit here on my couch, read my book, and ignore the dishes in the sink for a while...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

dangerously delicious

Ok, lucky for you all, I'm beyond exhausted and not feeling verbose.  I'm in training this week, and it's 8 solid hours of lectures, group bonding, and embarrassing adventures public speaking.  My brain literally aches.  I don't think I've had to concentrate this consistently since I graduated. 

So I will very quickly tell you about how my new ice cream machine and I are getting along. IT IS AMAZING!

Quick enough for you? I thought so. 

The first recipe I've tried is the one for basic chocolate ice cream, found in the instruction booklet that came with Fiona. Towards the end of the churning process, I threw in some chopped mint chocolate cookies.  I could lie and say Allie helped me polish it off, but the reality is, she ate a tiny bit, and I ate the rest.  In one sitting.  Obscene.  

So much chocolate.  So good. 

Wheeeeeeee.  (yes, I was captivated by this for longer than I care to admit)

We can all agree that I'm a terrible food photographer, but can we also agree that this looks delicious? I thought so. 

Here's the recipe in the event that you don't own the Cuisinart ice cream machine, or long since lost your instruction book:

3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
pinch salt
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract [in typing this, I realized I read this as teaspoon, not tablespoon, but I didn't think the ice cream was lacking in flavor]

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars, and salt.  Add the milk and, using a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk, beat to combine until the cocoa, sugars, and salt are dissolved [I used a whisk, it worked fine].  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight [I opted for overnight]. 
2. Turn on the ice cream maker and pour the mixture into the pre-frozen bowl.  Let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes [mine took about 10, but I also halved the recipe]. If you're going to add something like chopped cookies, do so about 5 minutes prior to the end of the mixing time. 

Just be prepared for the implications of having homemade ice cream in your freezer!  

Friday, August 5, 2011

introducing fiona

My office is a giant, messy construction zone, I'm super sleepy, and I'm preparing for a week away from work (for a training session), so my ability to focus and articulate myself is compromised.  (As I type this, a tattooed, hard-hatted man is gingerly removing the ceiling tile directly above my head.  I'm a little concerned about my lack of hard hat here, fashion statement aside)

So instead of cruising amazon.com to tack items on to my new "kitchen covets" list, I'm crossing a few off.  

When I was home last weekend, my Mom told me that my Dad had been searching for an egg separator for me ever since they read about my frustrating baking day.  (Side note: not to brag, but they're pretty much the greatest) When we took a family trip to a nearby outlet mall to stay out of the rain, he managed to find one at a kitchen supply store.  

Look how adorable this thing is! 

 (you can buy one here)

And, it's little name is "Yolky." Too cute.  Cuteness overload? I'm sorry, but I really hate raw eggs, so if I'm going to have to touch them, the more I can be distracted by my fun little egg separator, the better.  Bonus: it clips to the edge of mixing bowls.  How much more functionality could you possibly want?

Yolky is going to be my new best bud in the kitchen, because a sweet friend of mine read my first "kitchen covets" post and sent me the ice cream maker as a surprise!  What's the connection, you ask? Many of the ice cream recipes I've found call for plentiful egg yolks.  The bowl of the ice cream machine is in the freezer getting nice and cold, and I'll be able to use it starting tomorrow morning. I'm like a little kid, I'm so excited to give it a whirl. In case you're curious, The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz is apparently the go-to instruction manual/cookbook hybrid. I'll let you know how well Mr. L and I get along...

In addition to Yolky  and Fiona (the oh-so-cliche name for my new apple red ice cream machine), I've added a silicone pastry brush to the arsenal of the LKTC. If it had cost me more than about $3, I'd feel more guilty about what might appear to be a superfluous tool.  But it, in fact, cost me less than $3, and means I can now brush butter or oil on things without using a craft paintbrush from my art supplies drawer.  

It looks just like this guy, but is red.  (The LKTC is mainly black, white, and red, in case you hadn't picked up on that trend).

(image from here)

The brush also came from the kitchen supply store at the outlets this past weekend.  Once Mom, Nanny, and I heard of Dad's egg separator discovery, we had to explore the store ourselves.  I could've spent a good chunk of change in the store, but I was flying back to DC the next morning and my tote bag was already burgeoning from the clothes I'd packed for the weekend (and rent was due the day of my return). 

I'll be back in a few days with ice cream updates and to introduce you to my family's "slopover" tradition. I know you're on the edges of your seats.   

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

riding out the debt crisis down south

(I promise, there is something cooking-related in this post.  You'll be rewarded with details and pictures if you read [or scroll] to the end)

I like to think of myself as a savvy traveler.  I've traveled alone frequently since I was about sixteen, and I've crisscrossed Europe solo and with friends during my two semesters and one summer abroad. I can get through airport security in a heartbeat, and have found no train station or bus terminal too tricky to master. My skill for packing a weekend's worth of things in to a tote bag is, dare I boast, impressive. 

But it's been nearly three years since I last lived and traveled in Italy.  (Pause for a moment of mourning and nostalgia).  And the more time that passes, the more traveling seems to throw me off.  I still fly through security and navigate modes of transportation with relative ease.  Even my packing remains fairly well streamlined.  But anymore, the week before and the week after a trip find me floundering. 

I don't cook, because I put off grocery trips ("Oh, I'm leaving soon" or "oh, I just got back...so much to do").  Clothes pile up on the empty side of my bed.  The refrigerator turns in to the home of more than one science experiment involving dairy and/or leftovers.  I eat really irrational meals (you would be amazed at how excited I was to find an uneaten Cow Tail [candy, nothing creepier] in my bag this morning...hello breakfast!).  I just feel...off.

It doesn't help, I suppose, that between yoga and happy hours with friends, I rarely get home before 9 at night.  Doesn't exactly leave a lot of time for unpacking, laundry, grocery trips, and cooking. [I'm sure somewhere in NC, my parents are maniacally laughing at my realization that it is, perhaps, just a bit difficult to be an adult.]

So I have no new LKTC culinary adventures to share, because I'm a big lazy slacker who has been happy hour-ing it up since my return from a glorious weekend at home.  My grandparents came up from Georgia and we mostly ate, caught up, and monitored the debt crisis. It was lovely.

So, I offer evidence that I actually cooked instead of asking my family to take me out to eat this weekend (well, minus that steak lunch on Saturday...). Hey, we had a new fancy grill/patio to christen, and maybe, just maybe, I'm really starting to enjoy this whole cooking thing.  Let's keep that between us, ok? 

For someone who doesn't love getting messy, I spend a lot of time with my hands covered in food.  But when Mom wants carrot cake, you don't tell the lady no.

Being meat-eating Southerners and all, we don't always think to include a vegetable. After the rousing success of the manchego lime corn at the most recent Sunday dinner, we decided to add it to Saturday's patio party menu.

My Nanny is a great cook (and even brought me a cookbook as a present!), and thankfully she volunteered her assistance for the patio party meal. This whole sour cream mixing step nearly didn't happen (I got a little ahead of myself).  Luckily Nanny caught the near-disaster and single-handedly saved the strip house potatoes first tested on my May trip home (noticing a "repeat successful recipes" trend here?).  After a second go-round with the recipe, we suggest adding crumbled smoked bacon, cutting the salt, and reducing the shallot quantity.   

Note to self: stop blogging about food in the vicinity of lunch time.

Somehow we all still stomached dessert.  Even though I'm not a big carrot cake fan, this recipe was pretty good.  It's light (after all, it hails from Cooking Light) so don't expect the original here.

The trip home was far too short, as they always seem to be.  You really can never get too much of boating on the lake, cooking in a normal sized kitchen, using free laundry facilities, inhaling "welcome home" french toast, or hearing your family at least pretend (convincingly) like they think you're totally awesome and accomplished. Miss you guys already.