Inspired by Friday Night Lights, I embrace hot chicken

I’ve been binge watching Friday Night Lights over the last couple of weeks.  It’s soooo good.  If you haven’t watched it, remedy that as soon as possible.  I love so many things about it: Coach and Tami’s marriage, the way Tami says “hon”, Tim Riggins, Julie’s real struggle to get what being an adult is all about…

I finished the last couple episodes earlier today while reading the paper.  I’m not afraid, and surely  not alone, to admit I cried several times throughout the series and these last few episodes were no different this morning.

The last few episodes also made me really pumped about the idea of community.  You watch what Coach Taylor does to East Dillon, the way he creates something to rally around and support, they way they come out and root for the Lions and tell me you don’t want to be a part of something.  Inspired by that feeling I took a little lunchtime field trip to Hot Chicken Takeover.

This place has had a bit of press – when they first launched and then with their kickstarter campaign.  Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Cream has tweeted about them even.  I watched their Kickstarter video a couple weeks ago and put it on my list of things to get around to.  That time came once I was all riled up by the last episode of Friday Night Lights – I wanted to go out and be part of the community.  So I got Hot Chicken for lunch.

The place is exactly as described in the articles and Kickstarter video.  It is a walk up window with a long line  and a few tents with community picnic tables.

I waited about 20 minutes until I got to the window - then another 10 after I ordered.  Not bad.

I waited about 20 minutes until I got to the window – then another 10 after I ordered. Not bad.

I love that the window sign is partly made of tape.  A true start up on a budget.

I love that the window sign is partly made of tape. A true start up on a budget.

Their entire menu.  Free sweet tea and ranch dressing.  Community.

Their entire menu. Free sweet tea and ranch dressing. Community.

I was cautioned by reviews that they are not messing around when they say “hot.”  I started off with “cold” which just means no heat from spice, it’s still hot, fresh fried chicken.  People in line are chatting, the owner comes around asking if anyone is there the first time and thanking people who are wearing Hot Chicken Takeover shirts that indicated they’ve donated to the Kickstarter.  The neighborhood this is in is very “transitional”.  One of my favorite breakfast places is just down the street, but there’s not much else here yet.  The two houses across the street from HCT are boarded up.  One of their hallmarks is that they hire the “harder to employ” individuals.  Everyone there was awesome.  And I got the dose of community I wanted.

My carb-tastic lunch.  I'm glad I went with the "cold".  I'm not sure I could even handle Medium.

My carb-tastic lunch. I’m glad I went with the “cold”. I’m not sure I could even handle Medium.

It was really, really good.  It’s a perfect meal, even the way pickle juice soaks into a bit of the chicken breading, the ranch dressing that came from no bottle, and yes, really good mac and cheese.  I also happen to love non-mayo based cole slaws, so this light and vinegar-y one was perfect – and I can tell myself that was the right amount of vegetables for lunch.  So, thanks Hot Chicken Takeover for giving me what I needed today.

A: Ladies 80’s night & Bachelorette Parties

Q: Where to not take pictures so there is no proof later?

I’m on a roll, friends.  A Birthday Month, no holds barred, maybe more events than I can handle roll.

This group of 6 consultants that I hang out with occasionally (and have over for dinner and Wii dancing) found out about “Ladies 80’s” night at a local bar.  It is exactly what it sounds like – a ladies night with all 80’s music for dancing the night away.  They invited the whole program team, and since I enjoy the group and have a tiny, little, innocent crush on one of them, I was sure to go.  I invited my favorite co-worker, three or four other project team members showed up and we had an absolute blast last Thursday night.  I drank a tad too much vodka (read: much too much. Luckily, the worst thing I did that night is lose my glasses.  I’m sure I was a dance floor maniac, but no one seems to care.  We had a super fun time.

So much fun that I missed my flight the next morning… I was headed to Florida for a bachelorette weekend.  I had a 7:10am flight.  I got home at 3am from Ladies 80’s night.  One could probably see this coming.  I had two alarms set for that morning, was all packed…to no avail.  I bolted up in bed at 7am, looked at the clock, texted the bride telling her I’d be on a later flight due to “flight issues” (I told her the truth once I was there in person) and called the airline to see what my options were.  Luckily, Southwest Airlines rules all and as long as I got to the airport within 2 hours of my original departure time they would put me on standby flights to get there.  I missed the beautiful non-stop from Columbus to Orlando, so I don’t land in Florida until 2pm.  But, the only thing I missed out on was going to the new Harry Potter World which will be there next time.  And, it might have been worth it to party the night before with the gang.

We had a big beach house in New Smyrna, FL for the weekend and had a really nice weekend.  Again, I have no pictures of this.  10 girls, so many bottles of liquor, wine and beer, dance parties, laying on the beach, Cards Against Humanity, dancing at a townie bar and ice cream sundaes.  There is the weekend in a nutshell.  I got home late Sunday evening and charged into the week ahead.  I had a happy hour with a woman I’m becoming friendly with Monday night.  She and her husband are some of my new favorite Columbus-ites and it was nice to hang out with her for a while.  It was beautiful Monday night here so I went for a walk in the Short North neighborhood after that.  (Amazing how functional I am after an actual happy “hour” with one drink.)

This afternoon I got home a little early (I start early on Tuesday mornings because of my calls with India.  Yup – I’m international.)  I went for a run and then whipped up a new Sweet Potato recipe for a Pinterest Party!  I have gotten into Meetup.com lately and joined a home cooks/bakers group.  Tonight was my first event with them and the theme was to bring a dish that you’ve had pinned but have never made.  It was such a good idea!  I thought I’d take the opportunity to test out a potential Thanksgiving Side dish recipe – Mashed sweet potatoes with kale and boursin cheese.

Photo from A Family Feast blog

Photo from A Family Feast blog

wpid-20140909_191439.jpg

I was happy to see so many savory dishes – including an awesome roasted zucchini pasta salad, cuban sliders and a watermelon mint salad. Dessert highlight was the creme brulee cheesecake!

This is the best potluck in town!

There were about 18 people and everyone was super nice.  It was a really nice evening.

Non stop fun continues this week with an alumni event on Thursday, the Craft Beer Festival on Friday night, my friend Kristy coming to visit Saturday for this vintage flea market and an early birthday dinner, and a Soup Cooking Class/demo on Sunday!

content Sarah and the finished wall!

content Sarah and the finished wall!

Cat and door in the picture for size context.

Cat and door in the picture for size context.

Columbus Restaurant Week

I love a restaurant week.  My sisters and I always made “sistah” dates during the St. Louis ones.  It is such a good way to try a new place.

Columbus restaurant week is this week and last night I arranged a night at Lindey’s – one of the restaurants on my must visit lists pretty much since I moved here.  The restaurant is fine dining in the German Village neighborhood.

Lindey's.  Photo courtesy of their website.

Lindey’s. Photo courtesy of their website.

Friends Rex, Andre & Peter and I decided to take a table out on the patio.  It was warm, but not miserable, and the Lindey’s patio is really lovely.

Lindey's Patio

Lindey’s Patio

There were delicious cocktails, amazing food and really fun conversation.  This particular group of gentlemen are so smart and diverse that I never know exactly where the conversation may go.  Last night included topics such as a lively discussion about how many big cities a state had to have to be considered an urban state (i.e. Ohio has 3 larger cities and 2 medium sized cities and is a smaller state – we are urban.  Missouri has two larger cities and 1, maybe 2, medium sized cities – they are not an urban state.)  and what terrible movie you tolerated watching just to make out with the person you were watching the movie with.  (Idiocracy.  That’s the movie I suffered through just because I wanted to make out with the the guy.)

Additionally, we came up with the topic that may very well be the research topic I pursue.  We were doing some word association with corporate buzzwords at one point and hit a combination that is probably a really good idea.  I’m sure the idea currently exists in pieces so I need to explore it more – but it might just be genius.

The food was just really fantastic as well.  I had a chilled asparagus and crab soup, shrimp and grits, and root beer creme brulee.  I got a taste of everyone’s dishes and I have to say I made great ordering choices.

After dinner we walked a couple blocks to a little bar to play darts, where this happened…

I managed to do this three times.  I'm good at darts after some drinks.

I managed to do this three times. I’m good at darts after some drinks.

And then home.

Not a remarkable night.  Probably even an ordinary night from the outside.  Even as I write this, I know it’s not that exciting.  Except to me.  It was nice to get out, be out and to have a nice time.  Time heals all wounds.  Time…and laughing.

Ode to the sister who just had a baby

I intended this to be a post about my attempt to grill pizza.  It’s going to be about a little more than that.

Before I got to dinner, my sister – the one who recently had a baby girl – and I spent some time on Facetime.  Her husband was out helping his dad so Em had my baby niece Avery on her lap the whole time.  I got to make faces at her and watch her giggle and wiggle and even squeak a few times.  Em and I chatted about alllll the upcoming family wedding and baptisms and baby showers and I got to see her be a mom for a little bit.  She mentioned a few events she had to pass on because of aforementioned baby niece.  As we were getting ready to go – her to put Avery to bed and me to make dinner and drink wine – we talked about what we were having for dinner.  She said she was probably having scrambled eggs because she needed to get grocery shopping.

Now, I love scrambled eggs.  Love ‘em.  But as I started to prepare for the pizza grilling adventure, I felt a slight twinge of wishing I could be there to have Em over for dinner also.  I know she occasionally reads this blog (Hey sistah!) and I felt bad that I’d be posting about all the leisure time I have to make pizza and drink wine on the patio.  I thought maybe I should keep the pictures to myself.

Except…the grass is always greener.

To my dear sister, I think you’re amazing!  You have this marriage that you have worked at making work.  You and Al play sports together and have couple friends and you know his email password and you have that photo frame full of the wedding photo booth photo strips.  Every time I pass it I think about how many times I’ve started some kind of photo tradition with an ex and how they don’t matter anymore…  Now you have this crazy adorable baby girl who you get to teach things to (hopefully a second language – I just really want some toddler in our family to be able to speak a couple languages) and you get to experience this thing that I never will.  I know I never wanted to have kids, and I’m okay with my choice, but it does close the door to a whole world of experiences and emotions.

So, tonight, while you dealt with your giggling, yet fuss face of a daughter, I made pizza on the grill.  I promise you, your night was more fulfilling.  Doing whatever you want when you want can be very dull.  If there is no one there to eat the pizza, did it even exist?  (Well, it did, because I took pictures…)  I’m so ready to have my person, to build a life, to be helpful and supportive to someone else.  But tonight, the fact that I figured out how to grill pizza is all I’ve got.

So, let’s talk about that.

Start with a really hot grill.

Start with a really hot grill.

I prepped a plate full of potential pizza toppings.  Prosciutto, mozzarella, peso, tomato sauce, basil, goat cheese and Sarah's Farm Fresh tomatoes.

I prepped a plate full of potential pizza toppings. Prosciutto, mozzarella, pesto, tomato sauce, basil, goat cheese and Sarah’s Farm Fresh tomatoes.

I had a hunk of Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough.  I wanted to test the process before I loaded up a pizza with all the delicious ingredients.  I made a mini margherita pizza.  The dough puffed up more than I expected, but other than that it worked great.  The dough didn’t stick to the grates at all.

Baby test pizza

Baby test pizza

The process was to take a section of dough and work it until it was fairly thin.  I sprayed one side of it with some olive oil spray and then tossed it right on the grates.  I closed the grill lid for about 2 minutes and then flipped the dough over.  I then topped the dough with the chosen ingredients and closed the lid for another minute.  I moved the pizzas to the top rack of the grill while I cooked the next one so the cheese kept melting, but the crust didn’t burn.  They cook pretty quickly.  And they all tasted pretty delicious.

The pesto, prosciutto & goat cheese

The pesto, prosciutto & goat cheese

The margherita deluxe

The margherita deluxe

The everything.  Pesto, marinara, prosciutto, mozzarella and goat cheese

The everything. Pesto, marinara, prosciutto, mozzarella and goat cheese

The empty wine glass.

The empty wine glass. 

 

 

Miracle

First, watch this little clip from HIMYM:

My turn…

Miracle – my sister scheduling my niece’s (and soon to be goddaughter’s!!) baptism for the first weekend of August despite me trying to persuade her to reschedule it for reasons that are fairly ridiculous.  I got a second wind slap in the face from the recent break up today and came home to listen to some Cowboy Mouth, the official soundtrack of break ups.  Then I decided this was a serious enough break up situation that I need them in concert and was willing to drive to a nearby city to make this happen if need be.  Cowboy Mouth will be in St. Louis the weekend of the baptism!  Woo!  Ticket procured.  I’m ready.  I can’t even remember the last concert of theirs I went to, which means it’s been waaaay too long.  Some have religion, I have Cowboy Mouth.  Appropriate for baptism weekend, really.

Now that I think about, this week (outside of the above mentioned break up nonsense relapse) has been full of things that went my way.  I got an unexpected extension on this project that had become the monkey on my back.  I have been struggling with a work assignment for months.  It’s a smaller assignment, I could have knocked it out if I had put the attention on it, I had reached the point where I thought if I avoided it – maybe it would be forgotten about.  No such luck, but an unexpected shift in the deadline and a push by me to get it done means I can stop dreading this thing!

I got a second chance to fill my house with some good entertaining moments.  I had a housewarming/Tres de Mayo party (Cinco was a Monday) that ended with some drunken shenanigans (not my own) that have always left a bad taste in my mouth about the evening.  This past Tuesday I invited the 6 consultants that travel to Columbus each week to my house for dinner to give them a break from hotels and restaurants.  It ended up being a great night – but any night that ends in people playing Just Dance on the Wii is a good night!

I recently gave a presentation on Org Change Management to an IT group at Nationwide during their annual meeting.  It went well, and I received good feedback from the leaders on it.  That’s good news because I want to be very successful at NW, but the most exciting part of that is the random email I got a few days later from a woman who attended saying, “You were funny.  I know you’re still kind of new here – want to get lunch?”  Umm, yeah I do!  To top that off, I got an email from someone else who was there saying they are arranging a large all team meeting (about 250 ppl) and want me to speak to that group also.

There comes a time in the post break up/dealing with stuff phase that I stop looking backwards and switch gears to what lies ahead.  Today is that day.

I’m looking at a four day weekend ahead (I took off Monday too) where I will finally begin work on the kitchen!  I pushed it back a couple days for the following reasons:

1. Didn’t want the wall torn up with people coming over for dinner Tuesday night.

2. I need to buy a crow bar to pull this dang backsplash down.

3. And I need to understand what joint compound is and how to use it.

I may walk to my little neighborhood’s 4th of July parade tomorrow morning.  I may go see a showing of 1776 at the local theatre this weekend (Mr. Feeney as John Adams!).  I’ll take a break from the kitchen Saturday night to go to this supposedly awesome brewery in a town about an hour away with some friends.  I’ll say yes to the BBQ invite I got from a newer co-worker for Sunday afternoon.  And I’m taking Rex on his first trip to Ikea/Jungle Jim’s on Monday.  That is a BIG day for him, I don’t even think he realizes!

When the hermit is ready, the social life appears!

Whole 30, Day 15 – good food tastes good

It’s oddly easy this time around.

Sure, I miss the wine and ice cream, but I’m not lusting after them.

According to the Whole30 timeline, I’m in the wacky dreaming yet feeling good phase.  Almost.  Last time I did this I remember that I slept sooo much better, which isn’t too hard, because I’m generally a terrible sleeper.  This time I’m fighting against myself and sleep.  I’ve gotten into bad habits with tv watching at night and it is really counter productive.  I also think I need I need to kick this cat out of my room at night again…

Oh Oliver.

Oh Oliver.

Because as adorable as the purring and nuzzling are during waking hours, they are exactly the opposite amount of adorable while trying to sleep.  Quinn, the good cat, has always slept at the foot of the bed.  Oliver has decided he needs to lay on the pillows, and right next to my ear.  Sorry Ollie.  You’re getting kicked off the island.

Back to the Whole30.  My friend Claire and I both pinned the same picture of a Mango Curry Grilled Chicken dish last week and I made that last night.  It was out of this world delicious.

The marinade is thick.  I had three large chicken breasts in it.  My only regret is not putting more in this amazing mixture.  Don't forget to reserve some for sauce before adding the raw chicken!

The marinade is thick. I had three large chicken breasts in it. My only regret is not putting more in this amazing mixture. Don’t forget to reserve some for sauce before adding the raw chicken!

Cutting up the mango took the most time.  Otherwise, the rest of the ingredients went in the food processor and then poured over chicken.  I marinated my chicken for about 5 hours.

Then onto the grill!

Then onto the grill!

The grill needed a good cleaning afterwards since the marinade is thick and goopy.  Worth it!

I served it with cilantro lime cauliflower "rice" and an avocado.  PLUS, the reserved portion of the marinade as sauce.

I served it with cilantro lime cauliflower “rice” and an avocado. PLUS, the reserved portion of the marinade as sauce.

No time to take a better picture because I was ready to eat.  I remembered that about W30 also.  I’m hungry at about 6pm, so dinner has to be pretty quick after I get home from work.

Speaking of delicious food, how is it that Brussels sprouts have become part of my favorite breakfast?!

Sunday morning, W30 Style.

Sunday morning, W30 Style.

Fry bacon.  Remove from pan.  Add a diced, cooked sweet potato (I microwave it while the bacon is cooking) to the bacon grease to get the edges a little crispy.  Add shredded Brussels sprouts, cook for another minute, move sweet potatoes and sprouts to the side of the pan and cook two eggs as you like them on the other side of the pan.  (I’m sure you could do that in a separate pan, but I like to cook the eggs in what’s left of the bacon fat too.  Mmmm.)  The yolk broke on the left egg in the picture.  I like them runny so it mixes in with the hash and gets extra delicious.  Sunday morning is hauling this plate of delicious, a cup of coffee and the newspaper into the sunroom where I watch Food Network and flip lazily through the paper.  Seriously.  Sunday mornings.

 

In non W30 news, I’m having a paint color crisis.  After much blog browsing, Houzz, Pinterest and HGTV.com browsing, I had narrowed down my paint color for the kitchen walls.  I thought it would be a light, but still noticeably green color.  I put a little sample on the wall and it looks gray.  And drab.  And way darker than expected.  I put a second coat on some of the sample patches (there are now 5 random painted spots in the kitchen to see it in different lights) and not much improvement.  I guess I can see if the nice people at Benjamin Moore can lighten up this can of paint, or I buy a new gallon.  Stay tuned….

Whole 30, Day 9

Just a quick update on how the Whole 30 is going.

According to my favorite reference, the W30 Timeline, Day 9 is about your insides going through an uncomfortable adjustment phase.  I think I hit that phase a little earlier this time around.

The Whole 30 is going really well so far.  The book says this week is the hardest week, where most people will bail on it.  I’m not worried about that.  I’m in this, and I know it’s the best for me.  The hardest part about staying on track is socializing while staying committed.  I went to dinner with some friends Saturday night and it was this wonderful Italian restaurant that makes everything from scratch.  Two people at the table got the night’s special – a cannelloni filled with a braised short rib and smothered in some kind of delicious sauce that was most definitely made with cream.  The other three people drank delicious local beer.  I had a kale salad with salmon. I indulged in sparkling water.  Dinners are okay – there’s always something I can make work on a menu.  But I did pass on going on to this festival they were going to after dinner – considering it was sponsored by every delicious beer, wine, vodka, cupcake and ice cream place in town – that would have been too much temptation.

I do have a favorite breakfast during W30’s, and one I never would have figured out without doing this.  Brussel Sprouts for breakfast!  Cook bacon, then cook shaved sprouts and diced sweet potato in the bacon fat to make a delicious hash, then cook two eggs how you like them and serve on top of the hash.  Mmmmmm.  Eating that, reading the paper and watching some food network make Sundays magical.

Last night I really wanted BBQ pork, so I pulled out Well Fed and had almost everything to make her bbq sauce.  I ran to the store to get some dates (where the little bit of sweetness in the sauce comes from) and my store had none.  Well, they had no fresh medjool dates.  They had dried dates which include added sugar.  No bueno.  In a pinch, I bought a Larabar and added half of that to the blender when I was making the sauce.  It’s primarily dates, right?  It worked out fine.  I can’t say the sauce is my new favorite, but it did the trick.

So – that’s how it’s going.