Tuesday, January 29, 2013

random day trips

Steve and I drove to Annapolis one day. For funsies. We knew that with traffic we’d have to leave either before 2:00 or after 7:00 because guys, this is the DC area, and rush hour is rush five hours.

We opted for a shorter stay and began our time in town by hydrating ourselves at this cute place:




They had an unexpectedly awesome selection of fresh juices. Not the type of place you would’ve necessarily pegged for it!


I am not really a juice person, except once a year or so I enjoy some carrot juice. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, literally once every year and three months- I vividly remember finishing the GRE in October of 2011, booking it to the nearest establishment with food which turned out to be a cute little natural foods store and deli, downing a carrot juice, and loving the flow of glucose to my brain.

This was delicious, cold, frothy, and served in an adorable stein.


The highlight of the trip, as is the highlight of all our trips to Annapolis, was Quiet Waters State Park. On one of our past trips we visited in sunnier weather and rented bikes (Steve also ventured into competitive eating later in the day, which I'll let you see for yourself) No bike rentals in the off season, but it was still wonderful to take in on foot.

You start on meandering paths through serene forest…

   DSC02234    DSC02239 

But the real money shot comes when you reach the water. The river opens out to the Chesapeake Bay and it is always a stunning view. Particularly on this not-particularly-lovely day, actually. Lovely clouds!


And now for something completely different.

Another random day (let the record state these jaunts occurred before Steve and I started class. The luxury of a student schedule, I know. We are now back to being responsible citizens and studying diligently. Minus the time it takes to write blog posts, of course).

Got up, Steve called, wanting to hang out. Though it was a gloomy day… it was decided we’d go to Charlottesville! Yknow, only 2 1/2 hours away. Hah.

I feel like I’ve been to Charlottesville since so many of my favorite bloggers live there.

We were SO ready to eat, and I was delighted to stumble upon the fabulous menu at Eppie’s- I realized Kath had been there!

Love them for their decor.


Like Kath, I ordered the plate of side dishes. Didn’t realize a salad counted as two sides- explains the unexpectedly high price tag and the massiveness of this meal! The thing is, every one of these dishes was UH-MAZING. And I was sharing the meal with Steve, the man who ate everything. So it worked out, in an exceedingly full belly kind of way.

Cream-licious butternut squash bisque; wondrous flavors that made me feel warm on a raw day.


Southwest Caesar salad, ordered dutifully for vegetables but savored for the tangy dressing and perfect cherry tomatoes. Nixed the (ridiculously abundant) croutons; not my jam.


Mac and cheese. Forget that quinoa b.s. This is what mac and cheese is supposed to taste like. Smallish portion (use that fork for reference) and didn’t make it halfway through that. Not that that still wasn’t 10,000 or so calories, I’m sure. SO AMAZING. It came recommended by the guy at the counter, and it was ALL HE SAID IT’D BE AND MORE.


And of course the famous cornbread, which is everything Kath said it would be. Oh carbs. Sweet carbs. So many carbs. I love you carbs.


Steve snarfed down the chicken and dumplings special at a speed that would indicate it would also quite tasty. (And then, of course, he had to start working on my food, as I required his assistance).


I mean really. So much. So good! So cheap!


We popped into a hippie tea room to warm up even more, then were finally adequately heated to walk around. We strolled around UVA’s beautiful campus, which was nice, even on a gloomy day. Neither Steve nor I had been to C’Ville since we did our respective college admissions visits (though I never bothered to apply, since my cousin’s stories about people wearing pearls to football games and nonstop frat parties made it sound like a great place for her but not so much me).

Best of all, by campus is an outpost of Arch’s, the froyo place so often extolled in the fabulous Smart Kitchen for their famous gooey brownie.

Sarah. Whoa. Gooey brownie is everything you claimed it was and more.


Oh yeah and that’s peanut butter froyo. And uh-mazing.


(Thumbs down for them having styrofoam containers. Thumbs up for the guy working there letting me reappropriate the milkshake cup. Plastic’s better than styrofoam, right?! Agh, consumerism).

Then I went to another blogger favorite, Feast! It has the exclamation point in its name, but I would have added one anyway because Wow! Feast! Is! So! Fun!

I am such a freegan. I would love an all-sample diet.


Friday, January 25, 2013

the blogs I read

I read many many blogs and I have a weird schedule about it.

Some of them I read in Google Reader- but I’m perpetually 3-6 days behind. It’s a little bit deliberate, though- it’s like I’m saving the immediately preceding few days for myself in case I have a boredom emergency and need to read blogs for a long time.

Some of them I prefer just pulling up the site and reading several posts at once, in a little bit of a narrative.

Sometimes I read blogs written by new mothers and pregnant women all at once. I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE A BABY. But I’m having this biological phase right now where I’m completely enthralled by the whole process. BUT DO NOT WANT ONE AT ALL. THIS ISN’T ONE OF THOSE JOKING SARCASTIC THINGS. No offense. It just seems sort of terrible.

And then some blogs, the ones written by my friends, I immediately read each new post as soon as that friend posts it on Facebook. Such is the case with Grace, my former coworker. You may have seen her on Chopped (!) Or read about her in the Wall Street Journal (!!!) She’s getting super famous and I’m sure eventually it’ll be “I used to know Grace…”

In the meantime I read her blog, Goose Eats DC. And make her mac and cheese.

Secret: put goat cheese over the pasta and cheese sauce but under the bread crumbs.


The buttery, awesome breadcrumbs. This recipe uses essentially a stick of butter. I made this and immediately froze two thirds of it. For our arteries.


Cheers, Grace. This’ll comfort you real fast.

Next blog.

I am a long time reader of Carrots n Cake. I think her pug is annoying but her husband is hot. When she posted pizza with a sweet potato crust, I went OH YEAH. So I used sort of an amalgamation of Tina's paleo-esque sweet potato crust and another one I found that was a more traditional crust.

Basically, an ENORMOUS roasted sweet potato, 2 eggs, an egg white, 2 cups of whole wheat flour, and my seasonings of choice.

Pre-baked it for 25 minutes.

Spread with tomato sauce..


Sprinkled with goat cheese…


And topped with mushrooms


The crust was SHOCKINGLY good! Pleasantly chewy, subtly sweet. Everyone agreed it’d be particularly good with caramelized onions on top. And/or bacon.


I’ve only recently begun reading Smitten Kitchen. I knew her recipes were great, and lately there’ve been a lot published, in honor of her cookbook, which is fabulous. Anyway, in the past I preferred food blogs with a touch of voyeurism- is that bad to admit? I kind of love the people who overshare about their lives?

But the food porn of Smitten Kitchen has converted me. I was particularly intrigued by ethereally smooth hummus because come on! That’s a title that sticks with you.

As she said, the peeling of the chickpeas is not a deal-breaker with the amount of time it takes. I read the paper and did it.

The ensuing texture is indeed good.

The flavor is… not ground breaking. I ate it, and enjoyed it, but might try the technique with a different recipe. Keep fiddling.


At the same time I made that hummus, I was making this:


Since it’s from Gourmet, it has scads of butter (well I 1/3’d’d the recipe, so it had a third of scads of butter). I compromised by half and halfing it with canola oil. Still buttery flavor. Less saturated fat. I had, after all, recently made Grace’s mac and cheese :)


It was goo-ood! I made it mainly because we had so much cabbage and wine in our house (classic situation, right? Right?)


I smeared hummus on a whole wheat tortilla and stuck it in the toaster oven. It is not terribly attractive. But this was good.


Any blogs I am in desperate need of checking out?

Steve’s birthday

One of my favorite people just turned 28!

I was relieved. I never ever want to be 27, nor do I want my loved ones to be it. Did you know that your 27th year is the year the stars realign closest to the position they were in at your birth? It can be a “rebirth”, but that can be PAINFUL. Witness all the people who didn’t make it past 27- Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, my beloved Amy Winehouse. It’s just bad news, that age.

Steve is past it now :) We celebrated with wine!


The pre-birthday adventure on which I took Steve was actually a birthday gift to ME from my mom: a Groupon for a wonderful wine tasting excursion at Cobbler Mountain Cellars.

Locals, it’s only an hour from the DC area and just five miles from Route 66. HOWEVER. Driving around the windy roads surrounded by gnarled trees, ringed by mountains, passing through their beautiful property, you really expect a fairy tale character to jump out at any moment. This place gives you the feeling of having been utterly transported!

Then you go up to this beautiful house…


And step into their Alice-in-Wonderland-esque tasting room.


If you give me chocolate to taste your wine with, you will be my friend.


All their wine was GREAT, guys.

They’ve got cred:


We ended up opting for the most distinct, multifaceted, thoroughly delicious Chardonnay ever. Who knew Chardonnay could be that? It was like EATING. Can’t even thoroughly explain it.

Though it was cold we camped out by the (unlit) firepit for a bit.


To NOSH! The wine tasting came with a goodie box with bread, various tasty local cheese, and honey.


Then we climbed vertically up a mountain. Pictures did not do this killer trail justice. Suffice it to say it was vertical. My buns felt it for days (though I suppose that’s good).

Then we wandered down the long, rambly driveway and found an adorable picnic area by a stream with a TIRE SWING WHOO!


There are not enough tire swings in adult life. Being a grown up is rubbish.


A wonderful, beautiful day.

We stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way back. Steve had never been which is absurd. Their portions were made for him.



I got the beans ‘n greens. So good. NOT vegetarian. Definitely not. Doused ‘em in hot sauce.


As for the birthday itself, it was my first day of class, so I was running around semi-maniacally.

We went out for dinner for Indonesian food at Satay Sarinah which is delicious and offers a 14-course meal for my speedy metabolism’d boy, and meant I DIDN’T HAVE TO COOK WHOO. I was beat.

I did contribute something though. Dessert was quick but heavenly- similar to what I made following last year's birthday bacon extravaganza.

Same peanut butter custard (see previous link for details). Not the most attractive thing I’ve ever made, eh? But ohhhh so rich and tasty.


Sliced bananas.


And this truly decadent chocolate concoction I made that mostly consisted of melted Sees candy. Thus the occasional nuts. Mm.


Layered in a tasty parfait!


Happy Birthday Stove!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

roots and things

Love me some root vegetables!

Gourmet Today. A great cookbook. A great magazine, gone before its time. Stupid recession. Stupid death of magazines and newspapers.

This recipe is of course from a cookbook, but smart people know that pretty much every Gourmet recipe ever is on Epicurious.


So you chop up some parsnips. How do people feel about parsnips? My only exposure to them in my youth was when my grandmother would mash up some parsnips with her mashed potatoes, making a really complex,subtly sweet, utterly delicious dish. That being said, everything was peeled and boiled and combined with butter and whole milk, so it wasn’t the healthiest thing ever.

As an adult, though, I’ve gotten farmer’s market parsnips and loved their infinite capacity to caramelize and turn awesome. As they shine in this recipe.


Becauuuuuse… you make caramel! The only time I had made caramel prior to this was by accident. But when you do it on purpose, it’s a really simple science (maybe that’s why it’s so easy to do it by accident…)

Just put the sugar in the pan…


The center starts first


Then the runny part will slowly move outward


And slowly change color


Til definitively golden.


Then you add buttah!


Then the ‘nips.


Forgot my final picture, as I did in most of these. Oh well.

I popped open my Eating Well magazine (which is such a joy to receive every month. It has such a great mixture of recipes and food journalism. They have a really nice pulse on the whole slow food, locavore movement, and the dishes are always droolworthy). I saw a recipe for Miso butter braised turnips and went HECK yeah!


Root vegetables caramelize extra beautifully.


Not pictured is when you add the GREENS! This combo is wonnnderful- earthy miso, creamy butter, caramelized and sweet turnips, and then the slightly bitter and sharp turnip greens? Fab.u.lous.

Butternut squash and I are pals but one I roasted in pieces with spices just turned muuuuushy. So I pureed it. Then it wasn’t mushy, it was pureed but it was bland.

SO I topped it off with crumbled and sauteed Trader Joes’ soy chorizo.

That was SUCH a good decision!


Another initially disappointing root vegetable experience (… do I know how to start a paragraph or what?!) was when I tried to make a rutabaga-cardamom puree. It was a delicious sounding Epicurious recipe. It was totally my fault for it not turning out the right way- roasting, not boiling the veggies; using powdered, not pod, cardamom; overdoing the cardamom and then having to dilute the puree with carrots. Anyway, it was… a messy puree I had to put in stuff.

I put together a recipe for carrot rutabaga bread that was GREAT and made MANY loaves (ooh which reminds me, I still have one in my basement).

I also tried to make fritters.


Round one was a dis.as.ter. They turned to MUSHY MUSH MUSH.


I added more flour and then rolled each individual fritter in breadcrumbs. That worked wayy better.


Fritters just take so stinkin’ LONG to make! Good grief! You can only put four in the pan at a time which is a problem when your recipe turns out to make 20 or something!


Anyway, they tasted aight.

You can put applesauce on virtually anything and pretend it’s a latke.