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

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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.

Pinterest – nailed it!

I’m heading to my super adorable friend Becky’s annual S’mores party this evening.  Never wanting to show up empty handed, I thought I’d make some interesting cookies to bring as graham cracker substitutions for warm and gooey toasted marshmallows.

My first thought was to make a sweet potato cookie.  Hear me out… My favorite Thanksgiving dish is the mashed sweet potatoes with the broiled marshmallows on top.  Almost every other Thanksgiving side dish from my youth I’ve created a more upscale version of as I’ve gotten older, but I still kind of love the old school sweet potatoes.  So, I thought a sweet potato cookie with a warm and toasty marshmallow would be kind of amazing.  Except…the cookies are not delicious.  They kind of just taste like bland white flour.  I cooked the second sheet tray of them until they were a little crispier, so I’ll bring those along with me as kind of an experiment, but my sister reminded me my cookie reputation would be on the line so I should maybe do a take two.

Now, I pride myself on making a pretty amazing classic chocolate chip cookie.  I’ve made all kinds and they are always delicious.

For this event, I thought I could do it with a trip of chocolate chip varieties (milk, semi-sweet and dark chips) and I thought I’d look through all the recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest and find a thinner cookie recipe.  Which I did

The Canal House cookie recipe

The Canal House cookie recipe

It seemed perfect!  The blog author described it as thin and chewy, crisp edges and a little salty – I thought that would be great for the marshmallow goodness.

Now, a few things could have happened here.

1. This is the first time I’ve tried really baking in my Columbus kitchen…with it’s electric oven.  It’s just different.

2. It could have been a butter issue.  I didn’t use super high quality butter (it was butter though, not margarine, not something generic…)

3. I felt it was light on flour in the recipe, but I’m used to thicker cookies.

Here’s what I just pulled out of the oven…

Cookie tragedy

Cookie tragedy

 

NAILED IT!

NAILED IT!

 

So…. I think I’m going to pick up a six pack of my new favorite beer, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, and let that be the thing I bring tonight.  There will surely be enough junk food there already.

 

The Bad, the Good and the Ridiculous

 

 

The Bad:  Starting the day with news that the speaker presenting four hours of my class this afternoon wasn’t feeling well and not coming in.

The Good: Being awesome and just taking over the four hour section impressing my boss even though it was really no big deal.

The Ridiculous: Getting more news at work that our company was….not sold.  Kind of.  An anticipated sale came – of almost every banner except ours and some small regional chains.  This could be an indicator that the company is focusing on being a wholesale distributor again and focusing less on operating their own retail ops.  Which could be fine.  But still, not at all the expected news.

The Bad: My Christmas tree is still up.  I feel some shame over this.

The Good: Forgetting that you put a pork roast in the crock pot this morning until about 5 minutes before you got home so I was pleasantly surprised dinner was ready!

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The Even Better: Deciding NOT to go to that movie after work because that pork roast would have been in there a really long time then.

The Bad: Trying to take pictures of meat with a camera phone because my real camera battery is dead.

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The Good:  This Pioneer Woman recipe for pork roast.  Mine has yet to come out like her pictures, but she turns her occasionally while it’s cooking and uses a LOT more chipotle pepper and adobo sauce than I do.  Still, it comes out delicious and today, I made it even more so!

The Ridiculous: Making a 6 lb pork roast for a single gal.  Seriously.  A 6 lb pork roast yields 3 lbs of delicious shredded pork.  I weighed it.

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The Bad: Nearly ruining my appetite with hummus and pretzels while I was shredding delicious pork roast.

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The Good: Making sauce!  I pulled some of the liquid out of the the crockpot after I pulled all the meat out of the crock pot to shred.  There were onions and chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and goodness that I ladled into a small sauce pot and started boiling so it would reduce and thicken.  (And – in true happiness project style I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher while the sauce cooked.  Don’t waste small amounts of time!  Also, a watched sauce never reduces.)  I threw in a tablespoon or so of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice to sweeten it up.

The Ridiculous: Not needing a plate at all really because I just kept dipping shredded pork into the sauce and eating it over the stove.

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The Good: Combining delicious shredded pork, perfectly smoky and sweet sauce and a sweet potato!

 

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The Ridiculous.

Photo on 1-10-13 at 8.22 PM #3

 

 

 

 

 

The End.

Put some cumin on it

(Disclaimer: I am supposed to be writing a research proposal right now.  If you enjoy this post, know that somehow that makes you an accomplice to my procrastination.)

I love Mexican food.  What’s not to love?  You get chips and salsa to snack on immediately while making food decisions.  No matter what food decision you make, chances are it will include things like melted cheese and sour cream.  And there are margaritas.  There is only upside to Mexican food.

Except that it can get unhealthy really fast (see the part about melted cheese and sour cream).  I have learned that almost anything I throw together can become enchilada filling if you just put some cumin in it.  Case in point, last night’s dinner.  Sweet potatoes and black beans are delicious together and I had a sweet potato that needed to be used.  I started by dicing it up and tossing it into a pan with a bit of olive oil.  While that started cooking I diced up a zucchini and threw it into the pot with some crushed garlic.

imageOnce the zucchini had started to soften I added a can of rinsed and drained black beans and a lot of spice.  Some chili powder, a dash of cayenne and cumin – the magical spice that makes everything Mexican food.  (Try it in scrambled eggs sometime – Mmmm – eggs, black beans, tomatoes, spinach and cumin make an excellent omelet.)

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Once all my spices were in I added about 3/4 cup of water and brought it up to a boil, then covered it and brought it down to simmer for several minutes.  Once the water was mostly absorbed I removed the lid and let it simmer a little longer to thicken up.  Then spoon some into tortillas (I almost always have whole wheat tortillas on hand) and put them in a small baking dish.  I was only making three, I put the rest of the filling in the fridge to use later.  I poured on about 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce and popped them into the oven for 10 minutes.  I pulled them out, added some crumbled goat cheese and popped them back in the oven until the cheese got melty.  Oh goat cheese – you make everything better.

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I am a grouchy vegan

I don’t think one is causing the other.  I don’t think I’m grouchy because of Vegan month.  That would be an error of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc variety.  Post hoc is a logical fallacy that states because an event followed another event, that first event caused the second one to happen.  It’s often false.

I’m pretty sure I’m grouchy because I’m exhausted.  I am no good tired.  And there’s little relief in sight.  Usually, my job is not that hard.  It’s still not that hard this week, but it got busy.  Like, at work until 7pm two nights in a row busy.  And back early tomorrow morning.  And I’ve brought work home with me two nights in a row.  Not homework, actual work.  The work that pays me so I can go to school.  And I need sleep because I’m running a half marathon this weekend that this morning I felt really calm and prepared for and now I’m starting to wig out.  But there’s not a lot of time to focus on calming down about the race because then there’s the homework.  Blerg.

Speaking of post hoc, did you know The West Wing is streaming on Amazon Instant?  I have a Kindle, and I love to buy books, therefore I have Amazon Prime (name that fallacy!) which has all kinds of free streaming movies and tv shows.  The West Wing is one of them!  I feel I should have known this.  I own TWO copies of Sports Night on DVD, I’m one of 17 people who watched Studio 60 to the very end and own that DVD series.  Granted, I’m boycotting The Newsroom, so maybe the Sorkin mojo didn’t find me to tell me about The West Wing streaming on Amazon Prime!!  The worst part is I have to forget that I know this because if you’ll see the above paragraph, I’m too busy to enjoy Sam Seaborn and the gang.

Back to tonight.  The more I drove home in the dark the crankier I got.  I was home too late to run outside.  I missed Zumba.  I was out of leftovers in the fridge which means my options were stop by Chipotle or go home and make dinner.  I had a mushroom bourguignon on the menu.  I had all the ingredients on hand.  I know this dish takes at least 40 minutes to make.  I seriously contemplate the idea of eating a banana, almond butter and granola for dinner…again.  I decide to do it.  To make the yummy dinner food.  Because cooking relaxes me.  Because taking pictures of food makes me happy.  And because I needed a minute to get uncranky before I started on homework lest I snap at unsuspecting cohorts.

I got all Julia Child in the kitchen.  I chopped onions, garlic and carrots into a mirepoix, the smell of which immediately started lowering my blood pressure.  I added a bay leaf, because I’m fancy and started chopping mushrooms, one of my most favorite ingredients.  I even averted disaster when the one ingredient it turns out I didn’t have could be easily substituted.  (FYI – I didn’t have tomato paste, only tomato sauce – easy fix, simmer tomato sauce until it’s reduced by half and voila! Tomato Paste!)  I glugged some red wine into the Dutch oven and let that reduce.  I glugged some into a glass as well.  Sorry No Booze October – you lose.  Everything was delicious and simmering away and I started to forget that I had been all rage-y just an hour ago.

This adventure will probably cause me to be up even later, but at least calm has returned.  I did remember, for a split second, why people stay in not so good relationships.  Because sometimes that person has dinner waiting for you when you come home, and all you have to do is change your clothes, grab some food and settle into bed with text books.  I remember now.  Nights like that were easy and I could have used one of those tonight.  Nights like this can wreck you – if you don’t have mushroom bourguignon.

How dinner began…

Add onion, carrots, garlic, dried thyme, salt & pepper to some olive oil. Cook until onions are soft.

Move the softened onion, carrot, garlic to the side and throw in chopped mushrooms. Cook until they start to release liquid. Pull them out.

Wine for the pan, wine for Sarah. About a glass for each.

Add a few tablespoons of my newly reduced tomato paste, some vegetable stock and simmer away…Hard to be in a bad mood with the smell coming from this pot surrounding you.

How dinner was done…

 

 

 

 

 

If it’s good enough for Bayless…

It’s good enough for me!

Two summers ago I went to a book signing/food tasting with Rick Bayless.  His new book Fiesta at Rick’s had just been released.  I love me some Rick Bayless.  I tried to get a reservation at Topolobampo in Chicago for my 30th birthday.  Six weeks out I tried and it was already booked.  Bayless had just won Top Chef All Star, and Topolobampo was noted as one of the Obama’s favorite restaurants when they lived in Chicago, so it was a hot ticket, even so, I thought six weeks out I may have a chance!

Back to the tasting two summers ago – Rick made a guacamole inspired by a BLT.  Which was pretty  much his standard guacamole with some crumbled bacon.  I had one piece left from the cheese stuffed date adventure, so I crisped that up and added it to my guacamole.

Sadly, it was not delicious.  This is not Rick’s fault.  It’s the fault of over ripe avocados.  They were probably about 2 days past their prime.  I also added lemon juice instead of lime juice.  Rick told me that could be an option in guacamole.  I favor lime juice.  I am having fun experimenting with guacamole.  The corn-crab guacamole of a couple of weeks ago and the bacon addition this time.  I also had some mango-pineapple salsa that I put on the fish tacos I made, and smooshed some of that into the guacamole also for a few bites.  Excellent!  For sure the next time I’ll try that with a bigger batch.  Yum!

Also, fish tacos are fantastic!  I maintain that I don’t cook fish well, but this was okay.  I just squirted some lime juice and jerk seasoning on the cod before throwing it on my grill pan.  Then I put something from every color of the rainbow on the tacos.

bacon guacamole! ::photo from seriouseats.com::

Colorful tacos!

Summer of 2010, mugging with my new cookbook about to be signed

A little private photo op with Rick Bayless. No big deal.

This was such an exciting moment for me that it made my 2010 Christmas card. Ahh, summer of 2010 – you were a good one.

Random food comes together

I follow some blogs that make “throwing” dinner together seem like an art form.  I’m trying to embrace more spontaneity in my meal prep and using the so much food I have in my pantry.  I also am trying to use ingredients in more dishes than I may have originally intended them for.  I buy more than my fair share of specialty ingredients for a particular dish and the remains of that ingredient hang out in my fridge until it’s gone bad.

So, here are some random dishes from the last couple of weeks.  Most pictures were taken with my phone, so it’s not great photography, but it has been pretty good food.

Corn Crab Guacamole
I was in Cleveland last December and found a restaurant recommendation through Yelp.  The restaurant was Momocho and it was known for it’s guacamole variations and taquitos.  Sounds good to me!  I ordered a Blue Corn Crab guacamole and it was fantastic.  So, on a recent trip to Whole Foods, I splurged on some claw crab meat.  My plan was to add the crab and some corn to my standard guacamole recipe.

This may have been one of my greatest ideas ever.  I used frozen corn and just microwave the 1/4 cup that I needed.  I’m sure it could have been better with roasted corn, but I still have no complaints.  I made this for dinner 3 nights last week.  Only one of those nights did I make actual food to go with it. And that night it was tuna with a pineapple mango salsa.  I do not cook fish well.  I overcook it or undercook it.  And I love it so much, I wish I did this better.

But seriously, make this guacamole.  Next time I think I’m going to add the pineapple mango salsa to the guacamole…

 

 

Overnight oats is all the rage among the fit chick blog circles.  It’s taking oats, some kind of milk, nut butters, etc and letting them sit in the fridge overnight so it’s all ready in the morning.  I have not tried this yet.  I think it sounds like it could be a great idea, but I don’t know.  I like oatmeal – do I really want cold, mushy oatmeal?

Not this morning, I don’t.  I topped my hot, steel cut oatmeal with a sliced banana, walnuts and a drizzle of Nutella.

Another genius idea on my part.  How good is oatmeal topped with a bunch of stuff?!

 

 

 

 

 

And then there is this.  For the 2nd day in a row, this is what I made for lunch.  And it’s awesome.  Saute some spinach in a skillet so it wilts down.  Add two beaten eggs, 1 chopped tomato and 1/3 cup black beans.  Cook, stirring often, and you have a very delicious scramble.  But we’re not stopping there.  I heated up two whole wheat tortillas and sliced up an avocado.  Divide the scramble in half and place on each tortilla.  Top with avocado.  I added a tablespoon of plain fat free greek yogurt to each one as well.  Greek yogurt is my new go to for everything – with cereal, on eggs, in a smoothie – it’s perfect!  I tried to roll them into a burrito, but they were too full, or my tortillas were too small.  Whatever, I ate them as tacos and they were still the greatest.  I love Mexican food and this Mexican inspired dish hit the spot big time after my two workouts this morning.

 

 

 

 

So there you have it.  Random food yields delicious results.  I didn’t take a picture of my snack just now, but same concept.  Chopped up apple, tablespoon of almond butter, 1/2 cup greek yogurt, granola and another drizzle of Nutella.  (I have a lot left over from the day I made crepes at work AND it’s in a convenient squeeze bottle.  I see a drizzle of Nutella making an appearance at weekend breakfast Sunday as well.)