Deployment Diaries #9

This weekend started out with some pretty epic news. When I saw that gay marriage had become legal in all 50 states, I was beyond ecstatic. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had been in DC when the news was announced.

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In other news sure to disappoint my mother, my Hillary 2016 bumper sticker will arrive next week.

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True. And hilarious.

Anyways. My BFF was in town visiting for the weekend, and even though the weather sucked, we headed down to Virginia Beach Friday morning. Our first stop was Waterman’s for lunch & one of their famous Crush cocktails (for me, anyways). The blackened tuna tacos were delicious. 2015-06-26 13.04.50-1
After lunch, we did some shopping & relaxing on the beach before heading back. We stopped at MacArthur Center in Norfolk, so I could restock my bath bomb supply. Seeing these bars of soap at Lush totally made my YayGayDay! even better. Of course I bought one. 2015-06-26 17.20.34-1Unfortunately, my phone wasn’t having as good of a day as I was. It had an unpleasant introduction to the pavement of the parking lot. I decided against getting it fixed, and upgraded to the iPhone 6. I’m now poor, and I’m unsure if I like the phone. I like everything about it, except for the size. I was really happy with the size of the 5, and this just feels unnecessary, but oh well. Everyone says I’ll get used to it, so we’ll see. 2015-06-29 22.16.32-1Saturday, we went to Williamsburg for pedicures and shopping. I took Britt to the outlet mall, and the Yankee Candle flagship store. This place is AMAZING. We’ve been there a few times, and I’m always blown away! This trip, Santa was even there! Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt (he is on vacation after all…), he was there to look up your child’s name in his book, and tell the kid if he/she is on track for a visit from him in a few months. Since Brittany’s little girl wasn’t there, he recorded a video message for her. 2015-06-27 15.11.32-1The weather was meh on Friday, but really gross on Saturday. But, we made the best of it. Lots of shopping, then dinner (with more cocktails for me). I typically avoid chain places, but when I asked Britt what she was in the mood for, for dinner, she mentioned lasagna or chicken pasta. So, we went to Carrabba’s. My cocktail was almost too pretty to drink! 2015-06-27 17.59.15-12015-06-28 09.55.27-2The sun finally came out on Sunday. We went for breakfast, smiled for a selfie, and then she headed home, and I spent the day by the pool. 2015-06-28 12.37.23-1

So, in other news, I miss my husband. There is an event next week that I would love to attend, but all of my friends here have plans, so it looks like I’ll be going alone. I miss having a guaranteed date for everything.

He and I are both doing well, and time is continuing to fly by. This past week, we hit the 50% range… We’ll be to the halfway mark fairly soon, and I can’t wait. He’s busy with school & working on the business he hopes to jump into as soon as he gets home. I’m staying busy with social obligations. My mom & our friend Kelly are arriving on Thursday to spend the 4th with me. We’re heading to DC for the 4th, and if the rain will go away, we’re going to spend Friday at the beach.

I’m also really tired of cleaning Buddy & Charlotte’s litter box every day. I’m thinking of buying one of those kits to teach them to use the toilet. Has anyone ever tried one of those?

And now, I’ll leave you with this photo of Hermione & her newest friend, Isabelle (a 2.5 lb. Maltese/papillion mix). I can’t even handle the cuteness.
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50 Women Game Changers in Food: Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray (Week 26)

In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week 26 gives us Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray.

26 ruth rogers and rose gray

Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray were founders of the “iconic” River Cafe, located on the Thames River in London. The restaurant opened in 1987, and specialized in Italian cuisine. The restaurant has trained a number of notable chefs, including Jamie Oliver, and Rogers and Gray have also published six cook books.

Rose & Ruth met in 1969, when Ruth first arrived in London from New York,  but their partnership didn’t begin until 1987. Ruth’s husband, Richard, was an old friend of Rose’s. He was an architect and wanted to build a community in the development where his office was located. Ruth brought up the idea of a restaurant to Rose, who had recently returned to London from time abroad in Italy and New York City.

Though their experience working in restaurants was very minimal (Rose had worked at a restaurant in New York for a mere six months), the River Cafe opened in 1987. Rose wanted to take introduce London to Italian food beyond bolognese sauce & tiramisu. She created a menu featuring the meals she had enjoyed during her time in Italy. Though the restaurant started out small, both had ideas about what they wanted it to become. They wanted to create delicious food, using fresh, seasonal ingredients. I absolutely love this statement from Ruth:

We lived over a market in the Maraisin Paris for five years when Richard won the contract to design the Pompidou Centre, and I learnt to go shopping every day, for every meal, and never to stock the fridge. With supermarkets people think that choice is important, but actually it isn’t. What’s important is seasonality. (source)

The restaurant flourished, and in 1998 it was awarded it’s Michelin star. Both women threw themselves into it, and eventually all four of Rose’s children would take part in the restaurant.

Rose was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. After chemotherapy & surgery, the cancer went into remission and she was clear for five years. In 2009, her doctors found brain tumors and she passed away on February 28, 2010.

Ruth still works at the River Cafe, and lives in London. She & her husband Richard have a family that includes 5 sons, and 12 grandchildren.

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Plums are a fruit that I rarely ever think about. They’re in season during a time where I’m eating my weight daily in watermelon & peaches. But, I saw this cake when I was googling them, and decided to go with it. You can use whichever plums you like, but I went with black plums. And as I was cutting them up for this, I became furious at myself for not eating plums more often. They’re so delicious, and the color is absolutely gorgeous! 2015-06-24 04.15.45The cake comes together quite easily, and is absolutely delicious. It’s not super sweet, has a really nice, crunchy topping, and the color… I’m in love with that shade of purple. It’s absolutely beautiful. Anyways. This is delicious on it’s own, warm & even cold. But it’s really, really good with vanilla gelato. 2015-06-24 04.12.07
Plum & Orange Cake
(Recipe adapted from this one, originally found here.)

Ingredients:

Plum filling:

  • 1 lb. of ripe plums (about 4-5), halved & quartered
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • juice and zest of one orange
  • 2 t. of vanilla extract

Cake:

  • 10 T. of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups of self-rising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup of sliced almonds

Almond topping:

  • 2 T. of unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T. of sugar
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 of sliced almonds

Directions

Plum Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. In an oven proof bowl, add the ingredients for the filling. Combine, and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

Almond topping:

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Set aside.

Cake:

  1. Grind the almonds in a chopper or processor, and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter & sugar together, until fluffy & pale yellow. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Spread the cake batter into a greased, 10″ springform pan. Add the plums, and their juices to the top. Press the plums lightly into the batter.
  4. Set pan on a larger baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325. Spread the topping mixture over the cake, return to the oven, and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan before removing the sides.

New rugs & cat toys…

Happy Caturday everyone!

Last week I bought a new rug. It’s wonderful and thick and plush and I love it.

And so do the animals.

Especially Buddy.
2015-06-13 16.19.55 2015-06-13 16.54.13 2015-06-13 16.54.32 2015-06-13 16.55.04My furry little monsters (and their claws) were wreaking havoc on it. So, I bought them this yellow toy from TJ Maxx. It has a scratching surface, and bells. Buddy loves it.
2015-06-19 15.00.44 2015-06-19 14.02.28Fingers crossed that it helps. And my new rug doesn’t end up a pile of gray threads.

If you love cats, be sure to link up with Susan & I for Caturday!

50 Women Game Changers in Food: Paula Wolfert (Week 25)

In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week 24 brings us to Paula Wolfert.

This photo taken Friday, May 30, 2014, shows cookbook author Paula Wolfert with a bunch of kale at her home in Sonoma, Calif. Wolfert spent more than 50 years researching and writing about food. Now, she’s enlisting food as an ally in a fight to stay mentally sharp. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

I knew nothing about Paula Wolfert until this. I had never even heard of her. And the first thing I learned about her is that she was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. Once she was diagnosed, she essentially ended her culinary career, so she could spend her time raising awareness for the horrible, horrible disease.

After reading this, I couldn’t really focus on the other things I learned about her (She was born in Brooklyn in 1938, went to Columbia University, dropped out & got married, moved with her husband to Morocco, became fascinated by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, got divorced, remarried, authored nine cookbooks). Here’s a fact about me: Alzheimer’s gives me nightmares. in 2007, both of my grandmothers, who had suffered with the horrible disease for years, passed away.

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My mom’s mother.

And I am beyond terrified that it will someday happen to me. I’m not trying to minimize the suffering that people with cancer, or any other horrible diseases go through, but I honestly can not think of a worse thing to go through, or to put your family through than Alzheimer’s. I’ll never forget my grandmother, who I saw literally every day, or every other day of my life, not knowing me anymore. Or not recognizing my mother (her only child). I’ll never forget the fear of my brother’s friend calling us and telling us that he found her walking down the street of a very bad neighborhood, very late at night. I’ll never forget when she got mean. She had moved in with us at that point, but really didn’t know us anymore. It was worse at night, and I remember sitting in my bedroom, crying in my boyfriends arms while she ranted, raved, used profanity I had NEVER heard her use. I remember when it finally got bad enough that my mom had to move into an assisted living home I was relieved.

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My dad’s mom & myself

Paula Wolfert spent 40 years teaching people to cook. And now she has to look at the recipes she wrote, to remember how much cream to add to a dish. Things get overcooked. Her husband has to check behind her to make sure that appliances are turned off. She knows there is no cure, but she’s doing what she can to slow the process as much as possible.

“Wolfert knows that her condition has no cure. But once she was given a diagnosis, she looked to food to help — not just to keep her mind engaged, but also to see whether superfoods could buy her time: “My feeling is, accept that it is what it is, but stall it by trying to do as much as possible.” (source)

Okay… that got serious. On to the recipe. I chose to make shrimp with orange, shallots & grilled radicchio from her book, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. This was absolutely delicious! G doesn’t really like eating shrimp that much… he claims there is never enough flavor. That definitely isn’t a problem with this dish! There is SO much flavor in every aspect of this recipe & I can’t wait to make this again!
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Shrimp with Orange, Shallots & Grilled Radicchio
(From Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. It can also be found here.)

Ingredients:

  • 4 T. of olive oil
  • 1 t. of minced garlic
  • 1/2 c. of orange juice
  • 1 t. of grated orange zest
  • 3 T. of lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 T. of unsalted butter (or ghee), softened
  • 1 T. of finely chopped shallots
  • 1 T. of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lb. of jumbo shrimp; peeled, deveined & tails removed
  • 1 small radicchio, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 t. of balsamic vinegar
  • Baby greens

Directions:

  1. Early in the day make the marinade. In a small skillet, gently heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and add the garlic, 3 tablespoons of the orange juice, the orange zest, 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice. Cook on low heat for about five minutes. Remove from the heat & let cool completely.
  2. Make the butter by mixing the shallot, softened butter, parsley, remaining lemon juice, & salt & pepper.
  3. About one hour before serving, marinate the shrimp in the orange juice mixture.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the radicchio wedges with the remaining olive oil, and grill for about five minutes. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with salt & pepper, & place in a covered dish until ready to serve.
  5. In a small skillet, add the shrimp & the marinade. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp are cooked through & the marinade is syrupy. Add the butter mixture, and cook for another minute.
  6. Divide the radicchio & the shrimp between two plates. Add the remaining orange juice, the balsamic vinegar, & 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and let the sauce reduce slightly. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp & radicchio.
  7. The original recipe says to top with a few baby greens. I just served a larger handful on the side.

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What I’m Loving Wednesday: The Kitchen Edition

So… Graham & I are semi house-hunting. We can’t do anything until he gets back later this fall, but that doesn’t stop me from stalking realtor.com daily.

When we buy a house, we’re going to keep the style fairly neutral. Wherever we end up, we know it’s not going to be our forever home (that won’t happen until we’re back in Charlotte). The house we buy here, we’re buying with future tenants in mind. We’re child free, but we have to think of school systems, and nice neighborhoods vs. busy streets. I want bold colors, and high end finishes. But since complete strangers will one day live in this house, I don’t want to put too much of myself in it.

It doesn’t stop me from fantasizing though… Especially about the kitchen. And my fantasies include subway tile, butcher block, carrera marble, gold hardware, and most of all, blue cabinets.

Blue Apron: A (unsponsored, unendorsed, unsolicited) review.

I’ve read quite a few reviews of Blue Apron over the past few months. And to be honest, half of the time I rolled my eyes and complained to my husband that the service was stupid, and a waste of money. $60 for three meals, that you still have to prep & cook yourself?

No thank you.

Then I read Jen’s latest review of the service a couple of weeks ago, and I signed up. The food looked good, and I’ve been in such a food rut since G left, so I thought “why not”. She offered a code to get two meals for free, so it came up to $40, and since I spend way more than that at the grocery store, I had nothing to lose. So, I signed up, picked which meals I wanted from that weeks options, and anxiously waited.

Once the package arrived, I was excited to unpack it, and make my first meal.

2015-06-05 15.13.20They send you one box, per two people, so if you’re on the larger, family plans, you’ll get more boxes. Inside is a refrigerated bag, cold packs, and all of the food you’ll need to make your three meals.

2015-06-05 15.12.52-1You also get a letter, telling you about what inspired the recipes, along with three full color recipe cards with step by step instructions & photos.

2015-06-05 15.17.302015-06-15 13.59.40I immediately sort out the food for each recipe, put in a large plastic container, and put it all in the fridge.

Even the brown paper bag of knick knacks (one bag for each recipe). This bag keeps your spices, seasonings, and sauces together. 2015-06-05 15.18.24

The recipes sound complicated, but they’re not. You don’t need any special skills or fancy equipment, but I’m not going to lie: having it helps. Most of these recipes say they take about 35 minutes to prepare. Some have, and some have taken about an hour. The first recipe I made, the steamed turkey buns with a quick cucumber radish kimchi came together VERY quickly once everything was prepped, but thinly slicing the veggies took forever. Someone not good with a knife would have found this process horrible. I *am* good with a knife, and I was tempted to go buy a mandolin.

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Another of the dishes was pasta with arugula pesto. It called for finely chopping the arugula. I threw it in the food processor & it came together very quickly.2015-06-09 19.58.29I’ve really enjoyed most of the meals I’ve created (I did not care for the pasta), and I love that I’m trying flavors I’ve always assumed I didn’t like. Like mint. I’ve never liked mint. And so far it’s been used in two of the recipes that I’ve made, and both of those dishes have been absolutely delicious. I’ve never tried crème fraîche, and with it I made quite possibly the best potato salad ever. It was just as delicious as potato salad made with mayo, but so much lighter.

I love that they send you (almost) EXACTLY what you need for each meal. It hurts my heart to throw away food, and I throw away SO much. Especially produce. I’ll buy a bundle of herbs for a recipe, use what I need, and the rest goes bad. I’ll buy a jar of a spice or a bottle of a special vinegar, use it once, and it sits in the pantry for years. The lack of waste & excess is what I love most about this service.

So, what don’t I like:

It really annoys me that they don’t send olive oil. That annoys me, because every recipe calls for it. Whether in the pan to cook the meat/fish, or in the pesto, it’s always there and they don’t include it. These boxes are supposed to include everything you need to make the dish, and excluding olive oil (and salt & pepper…) is freaking annoying. I also don’t love that you can’t put together exactly the menu you want. When you pick one meal, it automatically takes a few off of the list and tells you “That combination is not available”. For example:

blue apron And once I selected one of the vegetarian options, all of the meat options went away. blue apron 2

Surprisingly, one thing I don’t have a problem with is the price. I went to Kroger the other day to buy cereal, and I decided to price out everything that I would need to make all three dishes.

blue apron 3The items highlighted in pink are items I couldn’t find. The first column is priced as if you would need to buy everything (even things like flour & sugar). The second column is what I personally would need to buy for each recipe. Either way, Blue Apron isn’t as overpriced as I once thought it was.

So. Overall, I am a big fan of Blue Apron. And while I won’t use it every week, I will use it a couple of times a month. I like that it’s introducing me to new flavors, teaching me new skills (their method of zesting a lemon is my new favorite), and I like not having to worry about meal planning & grocery shopping for myself (since G isn’t here, six meals takes care of my dinners all week).

Deployment Diaries #8

Another week has passed (yay!) and G has now been gone for just over two months. Time is continuing to fly by, so I thought I’d check in on my deployment bucket list:

1) Change up my hair.
DONE. Thanks to the dress code at my place of employment, I was unable to go purple, did I am now blonde again. And I love it. It’s amazing what a change in hair color has done for my confidence level.

  
2) Successfully complete a Whole30.

DONE. By far, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m so, so glad that I did it & I would recommend everyone trying it at least once.

3. Lose 30 lbs.
Well… I’m working on it. I really need someone to hold me accountable, and make sure I’m getting SOME exercise and eating well. I’ve been eating out way too much lately, and that has to stop.

4. Continue to be social.
Oh dear God, yes. I’ve been more social over the past two months than I have been in my entire life. I’m not crossing it off yet, because I need to continue to be social, but so far I’m blowing this goal out of the water.

5. Purge my closet
It’s a work in progress.

6. Cultivate my interests
I’m almost finished with my photography class. My goal was to take my camera off of “P” mode once an for all, and I’m happy to say that it’s been off of “P” mode since my first class, and I’m please with the way my photos are progressing. 2015-05-01 21.58.07 2015-05-01 22.47.14 2015-06-08 07.13.12 2015-06-08 08.13.46Up next is a sewing class…

7. Read the complete works of Jane Austen, and one book a week one book a month.
Eh. I’ve read three books so far (Team of Rivals, Delancey, & John Adams). I’m amending the one book a week thing to one a month. Or maybe I just need to stop reading books that are 700 pages long…

8. Go through & purge all of the old magazines I’ve been hoarding. 
DONE.

2015-04-20 18.15.25-19. Save money.
Eh. We both need to do better. A lot better. I’ve been eating out too much, and treating myself a little too much.

So, two months down. We’re 1/3 of the way through with this. This week G is going to get a passport! We’re going on a cruise when he gets home, and I’m so, so ready for it.

This past week has been a good one. It included sushi, lots & lots of time by the pool, and lots of really good food! Hope everyone else has had a wonderful week!