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Monthly Archives: July 2008

…and we’re back?

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I know, I know…I still have to bring the Whip It Up goodness to blog-town, but believe me when I say that this week has been just short of madness. Apparently, I find sending out 25 engagement party invitations very, very overwhelming. Oh, and I am working two jobs. So shut up. Now, for the comeback of the Friday Fill-Ins:

1. I believe whatever doesn’t kill you makes for great cocktail party stories. As long as it’s that kind of party.

2. If you’re good at something, let it show! For instance, I am good at procrastinating, making little comments, baking, and playing FreeCell. You’re welcome, world.

3. Why so many people in California use the left lane for driving rather than passing is beyond me. Being that my longer of the two job commutes is along a mountainous, two-lane highway, this drives me completely insane.

4. Something is out there, it’s that gardenia that I bought before we went to Paris and has since withered. I’m convinced I can somehow resurrect it, though! Any advice? It’s so sad and yellow right now…

5. If my life were a sitcom, it would be titled Tea and Cake Time. I realize this sounds more like a talk show, but I am feeling lazy and, hello, it’s my blog name! What is not to love about that? Oh, and if my life were a sitcom, there would be nary a laugh track, and we would have to think long and hard before any spinoffs occurred.

6. Sitting on my back porch I see
my sad little gardenia, my more-thriving palm tree and star jasmine, our complex’s pool, and some screamy kids playing outside. What, still summer vacation?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to arriving in Roseville at the home of GP’s friend (mostly due to the fabulous Peju we’ll be drinking), tomorrow my plans include hanging out at the pool of the aforementioned friend and not thinking/worrying too much about upcoming wedding/school madness, and Sunday, I want to see my uncles on the way home. Rumor has it that there will be ribs and corn on the cob!

What are you up to this weekend, internets?

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Whip It Up! Week One, Apple-Onion Pork Chops

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I tried a couple new recipes this week, but due to photography constraints and general blog ennui, I am only sharing my favorite. Inspiration came in the form of the ingredients, and the recipe that was used was the simple result of a Google search that contained the words “pork,” “apple,” and “onion.” (I have a “bad” habit of bulk-buying things like apples and onions because I feel like they’re “anytime” ingredients, and some are invariably wasted because that “anytime” really isn’t.) Thanks, AllRecipes!

First, the lineup. So few ingredients, which I loved:
(Note the bag of pre-cut sweet potato fries…I’ll get to them in a sec.)

After trimming and browning the pork, it was time for the apples and onions to join the fun. What I loved about this step is that you’re using the same pan, so there is less to wash, and as the cider vinegar is added, it helps everything form a really nice pan sauce!
Ok, now for the sad tale of the sweet potato fries. Last week, I was a total badass and walked to Trader Joe’s rather than driving (yaaay!), and picked up a bunch of produce, including a tempting bag of pre-cut sweet potato fries. I had had them before in restaurants as more of a sweet than savory item, and was eager to try them out. They seemed like a good match for the general sweetness of this dish, so I followed the really, really easy directions on the back of the bag, and popped them into the oven. When I opened the oven to turn them about halfway through, it became clear that we would not be eating them as traditional fries– I had neglected to lubricate the baking sheet, and there were bits of sweet potato allllll over it. Despite my best scraping efforts, this was the resulting sweet potato “bed” for our pork chops: After the pork chops had done their thing in the pan along with the onions and apples for about twenty minutes, this was the resulting plate:
And now, the verdict!
Was the recipe easy to follow? Yes, absolutely. There were two steps, folks!
Did the dish taste good? Yup– it was very tasty. Having the combination of apple, slightly caramelized onion, sweet potato, and pork in each bite was the ultimate comfort food experience. So sweet, but in a very healthy-seeming way!
Would you make it again? Certainly. I think that, because it is so similar to a Rachael Ray recipe that I have made a bunch of times with chicken, I will borrow from that one and not cook the pork all the way through when browning. All that simmer time, despite the liquid, can tend to dry it out a bit. Otherwise, it’s perfect– though I might also want to re-try to sweet potatoes, or play with some root vegetable puree next time.

Apple-Onion Pork Chops, from AllRecipes.com (this one serves 4, I halved it)
INGREDIENTS

* 4 (4 ounce) lean boneless pork loin chops
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided
* 2 cups sliced red onion (1/2 inch slices)
* 1 large tart apple – peeled and chopped
* 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
* 1/3 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

DIRECTIONS

1. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, brown chops in 1 tablespoon oil on both sides over medium-high heat. Remove and keep warm. In the same skillet, cook onions and apple in remaining oil over low heat until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
2. Return pork chops to the pan. Add vinegar; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes or until meat is tender.

The bonus with AllRecipes– you can scale back the recipes using a really cool clicky-number field (technical term) that they include. Not that I am that awful at math, but come on, I need all the help I can get.

The swing of things

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My three-day weekend begins now, with a cranberry, lime, and vodka, and a pledge that I will get to the following in the next 48 hours:

1) my WIU report for this week. Spoiler alert: it was delicious!

2) doing a meme that Gretchen tagged me for. I do love the summertime!

3) Friday Fill-ins. Remember those?

4) rehash of what the heck I’ve been doing the last two weeks. Not being on vacation is haaaard.

In the meantime, my lovelies, I have finally gotten all the Paris pics into Flickr. For your viewing pleasure, I present pictures taken by me, those taken by GP’s dad, and even some of My Precious. Ask and you shall receive, right?

Whip It Up! Week One, The Pasta Challenge

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All right, you guys, so technically I made this way earlier in the week, and am just posting it now that I have miraculously found my special digital camera uploader cable in a pile of post-Paris stuff. Forgive me!

For Pasta Week, it was hard for me to choose just one thing– I am looking at beginning The Great Wedding Dress Weight-Loss Plan of 2008-09, and carbs will be the thing I miss most of all. I settled on a Giada recipe, because she has never steered me wrong, and this one in particular satisfied my need to feel like I was being “healthy” about my my fat bowl of pasta (she even recommended multi-grain pasta! …too bad I didn’t have any on hand). I present to you…”Penne with Spinach Sauce” (oh yeah, and I substituted farfalle, which I figured would “hold on to” the sauce just as well as a penne rigate):

The suspect lineup– both for WIU photography purposes, and because I hate to have to be rushing around the teeny kitchen in The Apartment while I am making something for the first time.

I find pasta recipes help me out more than any other with pacing myself, in terms of being able to multi-task. For instance, while the water was bubbling away on the stove, cooking the farfalle, I took the spinach/garlic/goat cheese (I skipped the cream cheese, mostly because GP is a lactard and we didn’t have any on hand, and it still ended up deliciously) mixture from this:

…to this:

Once the pasta was cooked and drained, I mixed the sauce into it, back in the big pasta pot:

Now, finally, into the bowls that have some of the fresh spinach layered in the bottom (note to self: register for proper pasta bowls):

The beauty of making a recipe that serves four, for only two people? Lunches! (Clearly, this one is mine, what with all the cheese and red pepper flakes.)

Now, for the judgement:
Was the recipe easy to follow? Absolutely. I rarely have any issues with Giada’s recipes, and I think pasta is simple enough– in a recipe that includes only 8 ingredients (including the pasta!), there is little room for misinterpretation.
Did the dish taste good? Yup! Definitely a good recipe for summer, with the lightness of the spinach and the fact that it is a completely stove-top meal. In the future, I plan to play with the flavors a bit, maybe with some lemon (which is a WIU trend, so how could I not? Lemon is apparently to WIU what red accessories were to M:PT), sun-dried tomatoes, or chicken added in.
Would you make it again? Certainly. I might make some changes or additions, but I think that the recipe is a great base upon which to build. The first thing that GP said when I presented him with his bowl of pasta was, “There’s no meat in here, is there?” I like that this recipe is easily adaptable to whatever tastes are being served.


Penne with Spinach Sauce
, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis
1 pound whole wheat or multi grain penne
3 garlic cloves
2 ounces goat cheese
1 ounce reduced fat cream cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the goat cheese, cream cheese, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and half of the spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Set the cheese and spinach mixture aside.

Meanwhile, place the remaining spinach leaves in a large bowl.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Spoon the pasta atop the spinach leaves in the bowl. Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta mixture and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the Parmesan over and serve.

The Good Stuff

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I have had this grand plan of chronicling our entire New York-Paris trip– and I will, I swear!– but really, I am in no mood to write about anything but what might arguably be called the highlight of the trip.

I got engaged in Paris!

Yes, apparently we are those types of people, the ones who go to the most romantic city in the world and go and get engaged. Truthfully, I had no idea it was coming– I had been hearing from so many people, “Oh, he’s going to propose there! Of course he will! It’s Paris!” that I was convinced that there was no way that was going to happen. I didn’t want to come back from the trip snapping at everyone who asked to see my left hand, so I was determined to have a simply amazing trip, diamond ring or no. Rest assured, friends, that I am completely appreciative that it did happen there, and that an already-wonderful trip was highlighted by a perfect proposal. What happened, you ask? Well…

It was the fourth day of our trip, one that started with a visit to the Louvre with GP’s parents, but the two of us decided to make an Express Trip of it: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Hammurabi’s code, and the Winged Victory, a couple more things along the way, and we were headed out. Lunch in the Marais, with its labyrinthine streets and slight drizzle, peeking out from under an awning and finishing a bottle of wine. Then it was a few hours in the Picasso Museum, and back to our local supermarche in the 16eme (where our apartment was) to get some picnic items. The plan was to head to the Bois du Boulogne for a picnic, complete with a fresh baguette, some insanely cheap and delicious French wine (seriously, not a bad bottle was had on this trip), and a blanket that we had pilfered from the apartment (likely not intended for outdoor use).

Now, between the two of us, we knew that “bois” meant “woods.” Why we went to a park that translates into “the woods of Boulogne” for a picnic may seem silly now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. After wandering through several of the park’s trails, surrounded by trees and any number of Parisian predators, ready to spring out of the aforementioned trees and grope one or both of us, we found a suitably grassy area and spread our blanket under a tree. Bread was broken, wine was drunk, and pigeons were shooed away. It was a perfect “early” dinner– apparently in the summer, the sun is up in Paris until about 10:30pm, so this picnic began at about 7. I had already been talking about what we had to do when we came back to Paris, and GP began talking about how we have to come back to Paris now, as he pulled an Estee Lauder gift-with-purchase bag out of his pocket. What follows is a combination of what actually was said, and what was going on in my head…

Huh. What is this? Did he get me mascara?
GP: I never want to go anywhere without you, ever again. And I want us to always remember this trip…[He pulls a small green box out of the bag.]
What?! The boxes from New Brother-In-Law’s jewelry store are green! It’s too small to be a bracelet, or a necklace…did he get me earrings? What a wonderful way to remember a trip…
GP: [Opens the box, which contains my beautiful, cushion-cut solitaire on a white-gold band, ring] Will you marry me?
Me: Oh my God! Yes!!! [Begin crying, because really, who does this?]

So, that’s about it, folks. That’s how it happened. Now we’re back home, and as surreal as it felt to be engaged in Paris, it is even more surreal to be engaged at home, and to begin to think about a wedding, my wedding, and a marriage, and a husband, and forever. But you know what? I can definitely get used to this…