Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ok....I admit it...I love to cook

I really do love to cook.  This doesn't meant that I'm particularly good at it, but I do love to try out new recipes and work at perfecting old ones.  Sssshhhhhhh, don't tell my husband.  I sort of like to pretend like I'm a martyr because of the cooking (i.e. "Uuhhhh I've cooked for you ALL week.  Do you think you could scratch my back for a little bit?")  I know, I's wrong.  But I do it.

Anyway, since I'm not particularly gifted in this area, I've had to learn a few tricks along the way.  I thought this blog would be a good opportunity to share these with you.   Maybe you're like me:  having fun experimenting with new recipes, learning something new every day.  Perhaps you're like I used to be:  not wanting to have anything to do with cooking unless it was perfecting your method of re-heating the fries from Chick-fil-a....   Maybe you're like my mom, who can make a perfectly scrumptious meal when it looks like there's literally NOTHING in her kitchen (I still don't know how she does it!!).   Here's to hoping you can take something helpful away from this blog post....or add your own personal wisdom (please add it if you've got it!!).

Before I start, I must give MAJOR props for everything I know about cooking to my mom and my two sisters.  They taught me (and continue to teach me) everything I know.  My dad also gave me the following invaluable words of wisdom:  "If you can read, you can cook."

1)  If at all possible, always use fresh ingredients.  Fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, fresh mozzarella, fresh blue cheese, etc. 

2)  Use what you have.  This is one I really need to work on (yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition...).  I am infamous in our household for running out to the store for a last minute ingredient.  I am learning about the art of substituting and adding to recipes.  It is sort of fun!

3)  Get the right kitchen tools.  I used to hate working in the kitchen b/c I couldn't cut anything with my knives and my chicken never browned the way that it did in the recipe picture.  Two kitchen tools that have saved my life:  nice knives and a cast-iron pan.  If you don't have anything else in your kitchen, get these two things.  Knives can be expensive.  My amazing mother has given me one nice knife for Christmas and my birthday for the past few years....add in what we got from the wedding....and I almost have a full set.  Hallelujah!  The cast-iron pan is not at all expensive.  I recommend this one.  It's amazing and will change the way you cook (and it only costs $30!!  You can't go wrong!)  I use this pan 95% of the time.

4) Be inspired by new recipes all the time.  You can't see enough new recipes.  They help you to get out of your weekday ruts and intrigue you to make something new.  I highly recommend registering at Fine Cooking and signing up for their "recipe a day" e-mail.  Best of all, it's free!  I definitely don't make everything they send me, but I archive all of it or save it to my "favorites" if it looks good.  The best part is, my mom and sister are registered there so we can let each other know if we made one and how it turned out.  It's a lot of fun. 

Tonight I made this one and followed a few of my own rules as well.  The recipe didn't call for avocado, but I LOVE it and had one that was too ripe to pass up, so I tossed it in.  Same with a few cherry tomatoes and bacon left over from making these for breakfast.  Here are a some pictures:

 This salad bowl is the best.  We use it almost every night.  Thanks again Liz & Bryce and Lane!!

 Yummy steak cooks up really well in the cast-iron pan.

 And then you can just throw in the shallots!  I also highly recommend some nice bamboo cooking utensils.  I use mine daily.  This one is from Pampered Chef, but I also have some nice ones from Crate&Barrel (Thanks Rebecca and Pete!)

 Adding in the tomatoes and bacon....

 Sea salt (or kosher salt) is something I never cook without.  It will change your life. 

 The finished product!

Curt was quoted tonight, saying this was the best salad he had ever had.  Score!  And yes, that IS a juice box next to him.  It's his drink of choice....pretty much every night.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Cozy Tea Cozy

As I said before, I worked on a new sewing project during the snow day.  I wanted to make a tea cozy for my little teapot that I bought a few years ago at Mrs. Hardesty's Tea Room (one of the best places to work, ever).  I found a great tutorial online (let me know if you're interested and I can e-mail it to you) and got to sewing.  I definitely hit a few bumps in the road, but overall I think it came out looking pretty cute.  I learned how to do some quilting, experimented with double fold binding tape, and used up some little scraps from my fabric collection.

Also, the other day I worked up a little pretend logo for my pretend Etsy store.  I tried attaching it to the cozy, just to see.  I decided that I love it.  What do you think?

Snow Day!

This past Wednesday, a huge snowstorm came through Boston.  We got close to 2 feet of snow (I think we actually got a little more than that, but I'm no meteorologist)!  Snow days are very different up here than they are in the South.  In Virginia, you see the little snowflakes coming in the 10-day forecast on and you get really excited.  As the days get closer and the snowflakes stay snowflakes (and don't turn to raindrops), you get even more excited.  Finally, it is the night before it's about to snow.  You already battled it out in the grocery store, buying every comfort food that came to your mind, and now they are calling for 3 plus inches of snow!!!  Unbelievable!  School is already canceled and you can't wait to drink hot chocolate and sit in your PJs all day tomorrow.

Up here they are calling for snow pretty much every other day.  The day after Christmas, they were predicting a blizzard, with 18+ inches of snow falling in a 24 hour period.  The snow came, the wind blew, we had white-out conditions....and I was at work at 9am the next morning.  BUT....this past Wednesday was different.  We got almost 2 feet of snow, and it fell most heavily during the morning commute.  Perfect!  The mayor called a state of emergency and I finally got my snow day!

I had to take full advantage of this rare, rare opportunity.  Here was my day:

Now, on my typical snow day, I prefer to sleep in.  However, I didn't even find out about my snow day until about 7am.  In my excitement, I ran in to the bedroom, jumped on Curt, and yelled something about snow, pajamas, and hot chocolate.  Needless to say, he was confused and not quite ready to share in my snow day enthusiasm.  I decided to let him sleep.

I started the day with a leisurely cup of hazelnut coffee in the fun cup and saucer (as opposed to my regular travel mug).

 I peeked out the window at the snow.  It was really coming down!

I baked up some Grands cinnamon rolls.  A must-have (in my humble opinion) on a snow day.  I had bought these the night before in hopes of the snow day.  *Blaine: This is for you.  I know how much you love to read about what people ate for breakfast.

I enjoyed a last look at our Christmas tree.  We finally took it down that day.  Until next year, Christmas tree....

 After being lazy for most of the day, we eventually ventured out into the snow. 
 The front of our apartment building.

 I thought I was so smart to leave the wipers up on the car.  It ended up looking like a giant snow bug with 2 antennae sticking out.

 Jen and Rachel

 The walkway through campus.

Because of the snow, the flash, and his glasses, Curt ended up looking like Marcie from Peanuts in every picture.
 Our snowman!

 Me, Marya, Snowman, Jen, and Rachel. 

 Curt, Chris, and Patrick.  Yes, Curt is holding the snowman's hand.  Sorry for all the snow in the pictures, our little camera couldn't take without a flash.

I also worked on a new sewing project on the snow day... more to come on that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Sunday Afternoon in Boston...

Our friends Chris and Rachel suggested we take a trip into the city to tour the Harpoon Brewery and go ice skating.  In that order (I know that's not a full sentence but that is how people write these days).  The Harpoon Brewery is located in the downtown wharf area, near Barking Crab, and the financial district.  This was my first time seeing the inside of a brewery, and it was a lot of fun (Catherine is actually a brewery pro and has been to the original Guinness brewery in Ireland).  Harpoon only has two facilities - the main one here in Boston, and a larger one in Winchester, Vermont.  The Boston brewery puts out 1,800 barrels of beer a week!  So odds are, if you had a Harpoon, it came from this one.  We got to smell the different kinds of hops and see the whole process from start to finish.  At the end of the tour we tasted each beer.  One of our favorites was the Leviathon, a fairly heavy session beer (beer snob term for heavier type of beer you sit down and drink over an extended period of time, i.e. Guinness).  We also liked the Pilgrim Brew, which won first place in a home brewing contest put on by Harpoon a few years ago.  The Pilgrim was fairly dark, and was intended to be similar to something the Massachusetts Pilgrims might actually have made.  It included molasses and some other unusual ingredients, and had sort of a smoky flavor.  It was surprisingly good.  Catherine and I added a Harpoon fridge magnet to our ever growing collection, which dates back to the first one she sent me of the City of Richmond while I was still living in Chicago (awww).

 Our little tasting glasses.

What the Harpoon employees affectionately refer to as "Beer Heaven"

After the brewery tour we drove to Boston Common and went ice skating on Frog Pond.  I am essentially a pro figure skater, but unfortunately we don't have any video of my triple axles and other crazy Scott Hamilton spin moves on the ice.  We did have a lot of fun though.  It kind of reminded me of my middle school days of skating it up at the Peninsula Family Skating Center in Newport News, VA.  Nobody fell, which was good. 

*Quick add-in by Catherine...  I am really sad that we didn't take more pictures at Frog Pond (low lighting leads to bad pics with our camera).  I really wish I could have permanent proof of how Curt tucked his khakis into his skates.  hehehe!

We ate at a delicious Vietnamese Place in China Town where I had a giant bowl of Pho Beef Soup (as opposed to the spicy rare beefballs, which are evidently a customer favorite).

Welp, I've fulfilled my husbandly duty of completing my blogging quota for the month!  Thanks for hanging in there and reading!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

We rang in the new year by having some people from our building over, playing games, and just hanging out.  It was low key and nice.  In lieu of pictures, I'll leave you with this gem from Justin Beiber.  We may or may not be doing a lot of dancing/singing to this song in our apartment these days...