Friday, December 4, 2009

Is it December 8th yet?



Because I seriously can't wait for it any longer. On Tuesday, one of my favorite movies will be out on DVD. I saw Julie & Julia with a group of girlfriends in the theater and fell in love. I laughed, I cried and I laughed some more. Meryl Streep just shines in this film. I adore the love between her and Stanley Tucci, her charming personality and how the viewer gets to experience their life in France.

The best thing is that Dave hasn't seen this movie yet. On Tuesday night, we'll be parked in front of the TV and hopefully he'll love it as much as I already do. (But I wouldn't count on it!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A farewell to Mangino



After much speculation, Mark Mangino resigned as head coach of the University of Kansas football team this afternoon. Rumors of player mistreatment have been circulating for weeks and a formal investigation was launched prior to the end of the season. While I certainly don't condone any mental or physical abuse--I wonder what Division I football coach doesn't get in the faces of his players from time to time. I can't imagine that Mangiono is the worst of the millions of coaches out there.

I think that Lew Perkins and the KU athletic department are making a big mistake. Mangino brought more success and tradition to the football program in the past eight years than it had seen in the previous 10. Being an KU alumna myself, I remember going to football games my freshman year of college with hardly any KU supporters in attendance. When attending a game this fall against Southern Miss, the bleachers were full and you could feel the pride of the fans in the air, knowing that we were no longer just a basketball school.

Alumni, students and fans owe Mark Mangino a huge thank you, as he finally allowed us to know what it was like to have a winning football program. Coach--I wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside...

Nothing makes me happier on a cold winter night than a hot, steamy bowl of soup. I love how it warms you from the inside out and provides a great sense of comfort. Two years ago when planning our Thanksgiving dinner menu, we found a delish Butternut Squash Chowder recipe from Williams Sonoma that we've been serving up ever since then. It's always met with rave reviews and is perfect for any occasion.


Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

2 large butternut squash
2 T butter, melted
4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage, plus small sage leaves for garnish
4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice butternut squash in half, length-wise, and place all four pieces on a cookie sheet. Brush squash with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until roasted, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

While squash is roasting, cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towellined plate. Set aside.

Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bay leaf, chopped sage, the 4 tsp. salt and the 1 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the vegetables are soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes.

After squash has cooled, remove the skin and puree in food processor. Add the puree and bacon to vegetable mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

Ladle the chowder into warmed bowls and garnish with sage leaves.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Target Rave!

This is the first fall in what seems like forever where I have worn boots. I have a hard time finding any that fit correctly, especially in the calf area. Once again, Target comes to the rescue with this seasons Kady Boots. I love them so much that I actually purchased them in two colors.

First, in grey:




And in Cognac:

What are your favorite boots?




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An open letter for my sanity...



Dear ESPN,

If there is a KU basketball game on and we're unable to watch it because another game is running late, please at least change it in our area. I can't take much more of my husband and his friend yelling at the TV because they're missing over five minutes of our game. My sanity and ear drums would appreciate it.

Thank you very much,
Me

Restaurant Review: The Westside Local



One of the perks of my job is that we have sales reps who come into town to visit and look to us for suggestions of fun after-work activities. Oftentimes, we visit some of the new up-and-coming places and about a month ago, we found ourselves visiting The Westside Local.

Westside describes itself as a "gathering place that combines the lively social setting of a tavern with flavors and service of upscale dining." With its long picnic tables in the outside beer garden and closely situated tables inside the restaurant, it's a perfect place to connect with friends, new and old alike.

During our visit, we of course started with drinks. Being a beer garden, they have pretty extensive beer list but also had a nice offering of wines. The only downside to drinks is that they were out of not only some of the more adventurous, but also of the local favorites such as Boulevard Pale Ale.

After drinks, we moved on and ordered a few of the small plates and sampled the Deviled Eggs, the Charcuterie Plate, the Cheese Plate and the Arugula Beet salad. With affordable prices ranging in the $2-10 range, these are great options for sharing between a small group or ordering a few of each for sampling with a larger crowd. Everything was a hit that night, with the exception of the beets. But who really likes beets anyway?

As we had been partaking in beverages for quite some time, the majority of us also decided to try some of the large plates on the menu. These range from Steak Frites to Sheep's Cheese Raveloni to an assortment of sandwiches. Everything looked so good and it was hard to pick, but I finally decided on the Mussels while Dave chose the Grilled Cheese.



These mussels were to.die.for. While you'll have to excuse the picture (I was like four glasses of wine in by this time) it just shows how complex this dish was. They weren't just served in boring white wine, but with herbs and croutons and yummy, steamy broth. They were seriously so yummy. It was a perfect combination of buttery goodness combined with the crisp flavors of the wine sauce. If you can't already tell, I just couldn't get over how good these were.



The grilled cheese was served on an aged crusty bread, with a side of garlic pomme frites. It was everything you could ask for in an upscale version of this childhood favorite. Dave even texted one of his good friends, who is obsessed with cheese, and told him to get down there ASAP to enjoy the melty goodness.

Overall, our experience at The Westside Local was a great one. The only suggestion I have is that they should add a happy hour, as I think it would draw in a larger crowd that would probably stay through the night.


24 Hours of Basketball



The ESPN Network launched its second annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon today-- featuring 12 consecutive live college basketball games in 24 hours. I wonder if anyone can guess what Dave will be doing all night.

Don't forget to cheer on our 'Hawks as they take on Memphis tonight at 9pm CST on ESPN in the Hall of Fame Showcase. Rock chalk!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Over the Top Award!




So even though I've been a bad blogger as of late, my lovely friend Megan of Chasing Davies bestowed the Over the Top Award to Feasting on Life! I think she gave me this award partly because she loves the blog and also so that I would start at it again!

To accept this award, I have to answer a few questions. Here it goes!

1. Where is your cell phone:
Always with me! I keep it in my clutch wherever I go.

2. Your hair:
Bobbed, with low and hi-lights for the fall/winter seasons. I’m contemplating going darker next month.


3. Your mother:
I’m a reflection of her. She’s taught me to be the strong woman that I am.

4. Your father:
My rock. My friend. I couldn’t ask for a better daddy.

5. Your favorite food:
Anything Dave cooks. Seriously—I am spoiled. He is the best.cook.ever.

6. Your dream from last night:
I slept sound last night, so nothing

7. Your favorite drink:
Wine, vodka tonics and coffee

8. Your dream/goal:
I want to advance my career, travel more, grow closer to my wonderful husband and eventually, have a family.

9. What room are you in:
Living

9. What are your hobbies:
Reading blogs, Facebooking, tennis, shopping, cooking, entertaining

10. What is your fear:
Not achieving my goals in life

11. Where do you want to be in 6 years:
Living in a new/old house, returning from a trip with the hubs, hanging out with our kids

12. Where were you last night:
At the house of some good friends—Tony and Lorna. Tony and Dave were deployed to Iraq together and Lorna is his lovely fiancĂ©. We’ve just recently started spending more time with them and always have a blast!

13. Something you are not:
Patient

14. Muffins:
Eh

15. Wish list items:
For Dave to find a job, our master bedroom wallpaper to be gone, to spend more time with family and friends, for KU to actually win another football game

16. Where did you grow up:
The ‘Ta, Ta-town, Wichita

17. Last thing you did:
Fixed our wireless internet—I’m kinda tech-y sometimes

18. What are you wearing:
Grey Target Boots, black tights, purple sweater dress from Old Navy

20. Your pets:
Bella the Basset Hound and Sophie the Kitten

21. Your friends:
Wonderful, caring, loyal, lovely

22. Your life:
Hectic, fun, fulfilling

23. Your mood:
Tranquil, relaxed

24. Missing someone:
Always—especially my sisters

25. Vehicle:
Honda Accord

26. Something you’re not wearing:
I think I have everything on tonight

27. Your favorite store:
Too many to pick from, but if I had to choose, probably Banana Republic

28. Your favorite color:
I can’t pick!

29. When’s the last time you laughed:
This afternoon

30. When’s the last time you cried:
Oh, last night. That’s what happens when your husband loses his job and you find out that your grandpa has a brain tumor all in one day.

31. Your best friend:
Ms. Taylor-Orr. Even though she is miles away!

32. One place you go over and over:
Target. I wish I could say a travel destination, but we haven't been on a trip in what seems like forever.

33. One person who emails me regularly:
All of those pesky sales reps

34. Favorite place to eat:
Anything local here in Kansas City—CafĂ© Trio, Carmen’s, Waldo Pizza, Kokoro Maki House, 1924 Main, La Bodega, Lew’s, Oklahoma Joe’s to name a few

Now, it's my turn to nominate some other bloggers:

Leslie at The DIY Diaries
Julia at Pugs Not Drugs
Jennifer at My Gnome Life
Rachel at Sillyness Abounds
Dawn at Water into Wine

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Veterans Day!

Note: I know this is a day late, but important nonetheless. I thought I had posted it last night, but apparently the internet thought otherwise.

Today we honor all of those that have served and continue to serve our great country. The men and women of our armed services deserve our respect and appreciation not only today, but each and every day.

I'm lucky enough to have my own personal hero, that I have the utmost love and respect for.


Dave being honored as a student veteran at the
University of Kansas vs. Louisiana-Monroe football game in September 2006.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sick...

I know that I promised an update on our menu for the week and a plan for Miss Chasing Davies, but I'm sick. What started as exhaustion on Saturday has turned into a sore throat, runny nose and hacking cough. Even after sleeping most of yesterday and today, tonight I'm pretty sure that I have a fever.

So, my menu for this week is soup and rest. At least, until I get to feeling better.

Easy Weeknight Meal: Bierock Casserole





Growing up, if my parents needed to pick up a quick dinner in a pinch they would drive through the Bierock Kitchen, instead of stopping by Burger King or Pizza Hut. When I came across this recipe for a bierock casserole, it took me back to my childhood and the memories of eating a meat-filled pocket pastry when we were on the go. While the casserole isn't an exact replica of the German dish, it does feature the same hearty taste and flavor that everyone looks for on a cool Fall night.




Bierock Casserole
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
-1 (16 oz.) can sauerkraut, drained
-2 (8 oz.) cans refrigerated crescent rolls
-1 (8 oz.) package shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown onion and ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat; drain extra fat out of skillet, then stir in drained sauerkraut. Heat through and set aside.

Press 1 package of crescent roll dough into the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread beef mixture on top, sprinkle cheese on top, then lay 2nd package of crescent roll dough over the top of the beef mixture. Press dough seams together. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Menu Planning Update

So, a little over a week ago I posted this entry on how my goal for the fall is to plan our weekly meals out in advance. Let's review how that went:

Sunday: Planned on Wine, Cheese & Shrimp Cocktail. Delish!
Monday: Planned on Philly Cheesesteaks. We ate Philly Cheesesteaks. Win.
Tuesday: Planned Garlic Pork Chops with Savignon Beurre Blanc with mashed potatoes. We had Spicy Cajun Pork Chops with mashed potatoes. Close enough.
Wednesday: Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta. Made it. Cooked it. Was.Not.Edible. I'm not sure what it was, but this dish was not good.
Thursday: Westside Local outing. Fantastic beer list. Wonderful wine. Yummy food. Restaurant review to come soon.
Friday: Planned Manale Shrimp. Ordered Sushi. It was a long week and neither one of us felt like cooking.

So, out of five nights of planned cooking we actually did cook four of those nights. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. This week, however, is a different story. No menu planned + a busy workweek = little cooking, frozen food and takeout.

Next week, I'm back in the planning saddle and will not only be featuring the Warren weekly menu, but will also be coming up with some recipes for my lovely friend, Chasing Davies. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hummus among us...

I was fortunate enough to have a very diverse upbringing. My great-grandparents immigrated over from Lebanon before my Jidi was born and the Lebanese traditions, food, culture, and even what we called our grandparents (Jidi and Sitti) have been a huge part of my life. Some of my favorite memories are the time that I spent in the kitchen with my Sitti, learning how to make all of my favorite Lebanese dishes. 

I was raised in the Orthodox faith and each year, my hometown church holds an annual dinner that features the cuisines that my siblings and I all grew up with. This year is the 76th Annual celebration and will feature all of my childhood favorites: Kibba, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Roos and Yakhnee (Rice with Meat and Green Beans in a Tomato Sauce), Salad and Baklawa. While I won't get to be at home to enjoy the food and festivities, in honor of the annual dinner, I'd like to share one of my favorite Middle Eastern recipes-- hummus.





See, the thing is, you just can't go wrong with hummus. Whether serving as an appetizer at a dinner party, making it for a potluck dish or taking it to work for someone's birthday, I actually don't know if I have ever met a person who doesn't like hummus! The best thing about it is that you can make it your own. I prefer mine with a bit more tahini and a definitely more lemon juice. So, the lesson here is...feel free to use the guidelines below, but remember to make your own adjustments as necessary.

Hummus
-2 cans chickpeas, drained
-2-3 tbsp. minced garlic

-1/2 c. tahini

-1/3 c. olive oil

-1/4 c. lemon juice

-Dash of kosher salt

-Dash of pepper

Combine the chickpeas, garlic and tahini in a food processor. While it’s pureeing, add equal parts of olive oil and lemon juice through the top thing on the food processor until it reaches a smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.






Fabulous Fall Outfit!

This past weekend, I had a wedding to attend and the perfect fall dress to wear to it, an adorable orange-red silk number with a cut-out circle detail around the neckline. Paired with gold strappy sandals and fun chandelier earrings, it was a great option for the affair.

Unfortunately, mother nature had a different plan for me. See, there was a sudden change of temperature in Kansas City and a silk dress, strappy sandal combo wasn't going to work. That left me searching on Saturday for a new outfit that would not only be stylish but warm. While I was out shopping for a wedding gift, I just happened to stop by Banana Republic and found this adorable wrap dress. The best thing--it was on sale!




A new fall dress requires new fall shoes, right? Luckily, a month or so ago my good friend Chasing Davies posted a review of her trip to Payless to feature their latest shoe collection for the fall. The moment I saw the Koture Ruffle Peep-Toe heels on her blog...I had to have them! 

These beauties are available in both purple and black. While it was a hard decision, I went the practical route and picked up a pair in black to complete my outfit. Not only are they adorable, they're comfy too! I finished off the ensemble with a red, two-strand chunky necklace that added a pop of color for the night. As soon as I can find my camera cord, I'll post pics from the night so that you all can see the final product!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

FlashForward



Is anyone else watching this new ABC show? FlashForward is the only new show in this year's fall line-up that we've watched so far. Dave is enthralled by it and it's definitely growing on me. We really enjoy all of the twists and turns that it has brought to the table so far and we're looking forward to seeing where it will take us this year. What are your thoughts?

Restaurant Review: Georgie Porgie's



I usually try to have a positive attitude before judging any sort of restaurant that we decide to try. From the beginning, I had a bad impression of Georgie Porgie's and upon our arrival and dining at the place it just went downhill from there.

In order to save some money, I bought an Entertainment Book last spring. I originally noticed that there was a coupon for Georgie Porgie's and on Saturday when we were trying to decide on where to go for breakfast, I thought we could take advantage of the savings opportunity. When we got to the restaurant and I went to pull out the coupon, it said it was only valid for Lunch or Dinner. The place doesn't even serve dinner! Regardless of the fact, we still decided to give it a try. I wish we would have just turned around.

Upon our arrival, we stood in the non-existent waiting area and were told to pick a table. Once seated, we perused the menu and decided on a order of biscuits and gravy for me while Dave chose the Breakfast Special that included pancakes, two eggs, hashbrowns and bacon. While waiting for our orders, people came and went. But not all of those that arrived were served in a prompt manner. For a Saturday morning, the place was moderately busy but there were plenty of open tables. A party of three arrived and waited to be seated...the hostess greeted and informed them they would have to wait for a table because all that were available were those for large parties. What does it matter if there are only tables for large parties! Three people at a six-person table is not unreasonable. Not only did I feel bad for those people, but I was appauled by the way the hostess/waitress treated these people!

While not everything about the place is bad (they do have a good menu and reasonable prices), the food was just another thing that added to our poor experience at Georgie Porgie's. While nothing looks wrong with what we were served:




The taste of the food was another story. The eggs and hashbrowns were poorly seasoned and the pancakes were just so-so. The biscuits were a whole other story. Do you notice how first off, you can't even see the biscuits? They were also solid as a rock. The worst part was the gravy. It.tasted.like.fish. FISH! It was almost like they had made clam chowder in the same pot the day before and it wasn't cleaned. EW. DISGUSTING. GROSS.

Needless to say, we won't be frequenting Georgie Porgie's ever again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The countdown begins!

Eighteen days until the official start of basketball season! A friend posted this great video of KU basketball highlights and I thought I would share! I can't wait!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Going Mad!



The buzz surrounding Mad Men has finally hit us. We started watching Season 3, but then realized we could check out Seasons 1 & 2 from the library--for free!

I got an e-mail over the weekend saying that Discs 1 & 2 of Season 1 were on hold for me at our local branch. Needless to say--we're sitting in front of the television tonight!

Busy, busy, busy...

Okay, so I know that I promised to post updates last week. Obviously, that didn't happen. We have so super busy between work, a couple of weekend trips and all of the activities for my brother's upcoming wedding.

With all of this flurry of activity, we've also not made it to the grocery store which means less time cooking. When we got home from the KU football game on Saturday, our fridge was completely empty. A Lean Cuisine for dinner on a Saturday night is not my ideal choice.

When this hectic time of the year rears its ugly head, a fool-proof way for us to actually cook at home is to plan our meals for the week in advance. So, I headed to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, list in-hand. This is what we came up with:

Sunday: Wine, cheese and cocktail shrimp
Monday: Philly Cheesesteaks (using the leftover baguette) and roasted red potatoes
Tuesday: Garlic Pork Chops with Sauvignon Beurre Blanc and mashed potatoes
Wednesday: Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta
Thursday: Rep outing at The Westside Local (and yay--hubs is invited!)
Friday: Manale Shrimp
Saturday: Wedding reception/out with friends

As you can see, I tend to find my recipes online which is also a great time-saver! Two of those that we're trying are new, so I'll make sure to let you know how they turn out!

Monday, September 21, 2009

We were on a break...

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week...I guess we were on a break and I didn't bother to tell you all!

Watch out for updates from our trip to Wichita, simple skillet dinners, and another restaurant review or two, all to come in the next day or so.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Friday!


I'll more than likely be on a blogging hiatus this weekend...it's a fun-filled one, packed with a trip home, BBQ, football and a couples shower for my brother and his lovely wife-to-be. My parents might also be breaking out the margarita machine for our Saturday poolside festivities. Full recap on Monday!

Have a wonderful weekend!

We will never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wine Alert: Rex Goliath


Dave's dad introduced us to Rex Goliath some time ago, before it gained it's popularity in the wine world. He and his lovely wife, Anne, were huge fans of the Pinot Noir and we drank it often when spending time at their house. Since then, Dave and I have tried each varietal and we love them all.  

When picking up a few groceries at Sunfresh (hey--don't judge me, it's on the way home from work) I perused the wine aisles and noticed that Rex Goliath is now offered in 1.5 liter bottles. These bottles are perfect for many occassions. We often get them for the parties we throw, as many times they are much more cost-efficient than buying the regular 750 mL bottles. They are also great if you have a good vacuum sealer.

The best part of seeing these at Sunfresh tonight was the fact they were on sale for $8.99 a bottle! The 750 mL bottles were selling for $6.99, so there is really no reason why you shouldn't go for the upgrade. I picked up a couple for any upcoming dinner parties and for our personal enjoyment!

Not goodbye--see you soon!

Last Friday, we were lucky enough to meet up with most of our friends for a fun night out. While this wasn't unusual, there was a reason for this meet-up. A few months ago, our friends Billie and Jason made the decision to move to the East Coast to be closer to her family. Jason landed a new job in their new city in July while Billie finished her last few weeks up at her job in Kansas City. Last Thursday, Jason flew home to "collect his cat and his wife" and the next night, we all came together to wish them well. Friday was a fun, emotional night and I don't think I have ever cried so much in a bar before in my life. If any of you were out in the Waldo area and saw a girl in a purple cardigan who was bawling her eyes out, that was me. Please accept my apologies.


See, you don't often find friends like the Orr's. I met Billie and Jason while Dave was in Iraq, so the only things they knew about him were what I had shared in the few months leading up to his two-week leave from his tour. The night they met, you would have thought they were friends just as long as I had been with them, if not longer.


Johns' Upper Deck, July 2005


We watched countless KU football and basketball games, and even witnessed a National Championship victory together.
Big XII Basketball Tournament, March 2008


We tasted wine. On this day, it happened to be all day long.
Pinot Pushers, August 2008


We turned 30.
(Well, everyone but me did.)
Birthday Brothers 30th Celebration, March 2009


Most importantly, we had fun. Sometimes too much, but that's never a bad thing when you're with good friends. There were ups, there were downs and there was life--Dave and I feel very fortunate that we were able to experience all of these things with the Orr's.  The past five years have been filled with great memories and even though we're not all living in the same city, I know the future has more wonderful things planned for the four of us to experience together.


Thank you, Billie and Jason for being such good friends. And since you are just now joining the digital age and probably don't know what a blog is--I'll be printing and mailing this entry to you :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ah, social media...

This pretty much sums it up. Courtesy of Boing Boing.

FYI...

Just in case you were wondering...I have been at the Missouri tag office for the past hour. I hate it. Please let me move back to Kansas...soon.

Must watch...and drool.


Have you ever seen the Food Network show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate"? If not, set your DVR. Last night's episode was about...bacon. Yum.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's with the grunt?


We've been regularly watching the coverage of the 2009 US Open over the past few days. Not only has it encouraged us to get out and play more, but we've been reacquainted with the tennis stars of today's world.

I've loved immersing myself in all of the matches, but I do have one bone to pick. What is UP with all of the grunting? For some reason, it doesn't bother me as much when the women do it.

Tonight I just couldn't handle it. We were watching the Nadal-Monfils match and I discovered that Nadal is a grunter. What I don't get though is that he is the most inconsistent grunter EVER. I mean, if you're going to grunt then do it. Do it with every shot. I can handle that as it almost becomes as part of the match as the sound of the ball hitting the racquet. But, please don't be a random grunter. It would make my viewing experience much more enjoyable.

Magazine redesign


I finally got around to reading the most recent issue of Cooking Light, which is another one of my monthly magazines that I make sure read soon after it arrives in the mail. (What can I say--it's been a busy month. This one may have set on the entryway table for a couple of weeks). I generally enjoy reading Cooking Light, but can't say that it's one of my go-to's when it comes my recipe searches. Sure, I'll tear things out when they sound good, but the chances of that recipe ever getting made is doubtful.

Finally it looks like the publisher of Cooking Light, Southern Progress Corporation, took a hint from one of my other favorite foodie pubs and made some improvments starting in the September issue. The most noticable improvement is that the magazine just looks cleaner. From the photographs to the type face and even the white space, it now features a much more clean looking page.


My new favorite thing about the magazine is that now, there is a picture of EVERY recipe that is featured in the publication. Imagine that! Pictures of the recipes that you want to make. If anything, this may just mean that out of all those recipes I tear out each month, I actually make a dish or two.

Simple Suppers: One Dish Chicken Skillet

Growing up, one of the my most favorite things my mom would make was Chicken and Stovetop casserole. As I was driving home in the rainy, cool weather this afternoon Dave and I were talking about what we could have for dinner and a recipe from the most recent Kraft Foods Magazine popped into my mind. I had seen a recipe in the publication that was so close to the casserole that I grew up with and knew that we had to try it. One of the reasons why my mom made the dish is that we have a big family and it could easily feed all seven of us, which makes it not as practical for a family of two. The Stovetop One-Dish Chicken Skillet recipe was a perfect solution for how I could make one of my favorite childhood dishes and not have leftovers for days.

As I made a few changes to the recipe, here is a somewhat step-by-step pictorial of tonight's supper:

Step 1: Set oven to low broil setting.

Step 2: Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add to greased skillet (I used EVOO) and cook on each side for five minutes:

Step 3: While chicken is cooking, combine stuffing packet, 2 tbsp. butter and 1 1/2 cups of hot water in a separate bowl. (I used my 4 cup measuring cup). Make sure stuffing mix absorbs water and set aside.

Step 4: In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup of fat free sour cream and one 10 oz. can of reduced fat cream of mushroom soup. Set aside.

Step 5: Remove chicken from skillet and cut into 1/4 inch or so cubes. This will allow for an easier distribution of the meal and for chicken to remain for leftovers!

Step 6: Combine sour cream mixture with chicken in skillet.
 

Step 7: Distribute stuffing mix on top of sour cream and chicken mixture. Place in oven for 3-4 minutes on broil setting until stuffing on top is lightly browned. (I like for my Chicken and Stovetop to have a nice crisp on top, hence using the broiler)
Check out that crispy goodness!

Step 8: Serve and enjoy!

All in all, it's an easy dinner that can be throw together in less that 30 minutes and is definitely a crowd pleaser!

Sunday Night Dinner: Surf and Turf

Sunday evenings are the time of the week Dave and I have decided to reserve for each other. It's a great opportunity for us to catch up before the busy week starts and spend some quality time together. Most Sunday evenings, we spend our time in the kitchen cooking a nice dinner and enjoy it with a glass (or two!) of wine. This past Sunday was no different.

I had ran errands on Friday and made a stop at Sam's to pick up dog food. Of course, no trip to Sam's is complete without perusing through the grocery area to try out a few samples and that's exactly what I did. Last time I was home, my mom had mentioned that Sam's offered fresh seafood on Friday's and Saturday's...low and behold as I picked up my pita chip with hummus sample, the seafood station was in sight. They had some lovely ahi tuna, shrimp and huge king crab legs.

As I was taking a look at the crab legs, the person working the station had just pulled together a one-pound bag and said "I would jump on these if I were you, they're the best ones of the day." She must have seen my huge eyes and knew that she could take advantage of my weak moment. But, hey, it was a holiday weekend and at $16.99/lb I figured it would be a good meal to celebrate the end of summer. Or at least that's what I told myself at the checkout line.

Cooking crab legs really isn't all that difficult, as most people just steam them for a few minutes and serve with butter or lemon juice. While that is a great method of preparation, we were looking for something a bit more unique that would give the meat even more flavor. That's when I stumbled upon Emeril Lagasse's Drunken Alaskan King Crab recipe on Food Network. Seriously...what could be better than crab steamed with beer? Since crab is the one of the components in Steak Oscar, it was decided that we would go all out for the evening and splurge on filets as well and serve them with a side of homemade mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. Dave happened upon this Wolfgang Puck recipe and used it for inspiration for our meal.

In keeping with the fancy theme, the night started with dirty martinis to enjoy while we were prepping in the kitchen (or just waiting for water to boil).

Olives. Vodka. Yummy.

Next, came the choron sauce prepartion. While I am a lover of anything that is vinegar-based, the aroma from reducing the wine and vinegar combination was too much for me to handle. Luckily, Dave is much tougher than me and manned the kitchen while I was trying to catch my breath outside.

Sauce. Reducing.

A couple drinks and about an hour later, the masterpiece was complete.

While it was a lovely Sunday meal, I think that it was a bit too much food for us (and we even split the filet pictured above!). I would definitely recommend Emeril's method of steaming the crab with beer rather than water and we'll probably be trying it again in the near future. Next time, we'll just save the steak for another night :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Restaurant Review: Spin Neapolitan Pizza

One of the perks of my job is that we frequently have sales reps bring us in lunch and one of the department favorites is Spin! Neapolitan Pizza. I've had it quite a few times and have even brought leftovers home for Dave, but he's never had it straight from the restaurant. Since I'm a member of their Spin! Club, a weekly e-mail hits my inbox on Monday mornings advertising their specials and the pizza of the week. We made a pretty nice dinner last night, so decided to take a break from the kitchen and take advantage of their Monday special: buy two pizzas and get a third pizza or a salad for free. The deal was even sweeter for us since I had earned a $10 gift certificate through the Spin! Club.

Tonight, we each picked a pizza and agreed on a salad:

Greek Salad with Cucumber Buttermilk Dressing
#5: Oliva e Carcioffo
(Roasted artichokes, kalamata olives, caramelized onions and roasted capers with a roma tomato sauce and Italian cheese mix)
#13: Cipolla e Chevre
(Roasted & caramelized onions, goat cheese, fig jam, fresh mozzarella with an olive oil glaze and Italian cheese mix)
Traditional Neapolitan pizza features a round, thin crust with minimal toppings and more often than not, a tomato-based sauce with fresh mozzarella. While Spin! sticks to the traditional style crust, they step outside of the pizza box with their wide array of toppings. Our choices tonight were some of their more adventurous options and did not disappoint.

I love anything involving olives. And capers. And artichokes, so the Oliva e Carciotto was an obvious choice for me tonight. Since these toppings can be slightly controversial and not the most popular, this pizza had never appeared at any of our lunch-time meetings. We are missing out. To me, this was a perfect combination of all of my loves and I enjoyed every bite of my slice. Dave wasn't so sure about the artichokes because as he put it "It's just not my cup of tea", but I felt they added an extra punch of flavor that I will enjoy with my leftovers tomorrow for lunch as well.

We had another hit this evening, as the Cipolla e Chevre was also a refreshing combination of ingredients. The figs added a sweet, yet tart flavor that complemented the caramelized onions and goat cheese without being overpowering. It definitely gave Dave inspiration for his next homemade pizza creation. Ever since taking his first bite, he's been coming up with ways that he could incorporate figs into his next freshly baked pie.

There's really not much to say about the salad. I generally enjoy the wide array of dressing that Spin! features for their leafy options, so tonight I requested a side of the Cucumber Buttermilk in addition to the Greek vinaigrette that comes with the Greek salad. Unfortunately, the Greek vinaigrette didn't make it into our takeout bag and the Cucumber Buttermilk was just so-so with this salad option.

Overall, Spin! Pizza is a good option when craving that thin-crust style and unique toppings. We'll definitely be adding it to our rotation, but with all of the great pizza options we have in our area it won't necessarily be at the top.

Sale Alert: Fish Eye Wine


Just a friendly PSA for our local readers...Fish Eye Wine varietals are currently on sale at your local CVS for $4.49! Fish Eye wines usually retail between $6.99-7.99, so this is a pretty good discount. CVS also offers a 10% discount when you buy six bottles or more, so right now you can pick up six bottles of this lovely weeknight wine for just around $24. We recommend the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Chardonnay!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pumpkin Spice!

Another great thing about Fall is here--pumpkin flavored treats! While running errands yesterday, I needed a little espresso pick-me-up and decided to drive through Starbucks. I almost couldn't contain my excitement when I saw the Pumpkin Spice flavor option is back. Since the weather wasn't quite cold enough to enjoy a latte, I ordered a Light Frappuccino with skim milk and an extra shot of espresso. It was delish!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Are you ready for a Throwdown?

As I mentioned in my previous post about our latest kitchen purchase, Dave was challenged to a Bobby Flay style pizza throwdown by our good friend Brian. On Saturday night, the battle commenced. And it was good.

One thing you should know...I'm all about a theme. Dave will attest to the fact that when it comes to entertaining, I go all out. Since this was pizza throwdown, I felt it only appropriate that our dining room make a transformation into an Italian-style pizzeria. I scoured online for the perfect appetizer recipes, picked up a chef's coat for Dave and parmesan shakers from our local restaurant supply store, and found the perfect red and white checked runner for our dining room table.


To start the evening, we served a few appetizers including bruschetta three ways, minted pea bruschetta, Arancini, white bean dip and Salami, Mozzarella & Tomato-Basil skewers. Brian and his lovely wife Natasha contributed to the Italian spread by bringing marinated eggplant--which I need to get the recipe for because it was delish!

While the boys were preparing their competition pizzas, we also premade some other entrees for sampling. First, the classic margherita that Dave cooked on our baking stone on the grill:


And next, a tasty red pepper, prosciutto, mushroom and fresh mozzarella:


After an hour or so of snacking on appetizers and enjoying some wine (or for me, a couple of vodka tonics), the pizza was ready. We started off by explaining the judging criteria to our guests. Each person would submit an anonymous score sheet that picked a winner in the five previously determined categories: taste, crust, toppings, originality and overall.

We started off with serving Brian's pizza, a deep-dish style, chipotle-flavored crust topped with caramelized red onions, chopped kalamata olives, prosciutto and a sour cream drizzle, taking the place of the usual cheese.


Following that, Dave served his thin-crust pizza with a fire-roasted tomato sauce that featured a hint of Sriracha and a variety of toppings: sweet Italian sausage, roasted red and yellow peppers, sliced portabella mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, crumbled goat cheese, crispy pancetta and a garnish of fresh basil.


Since both pizzas had great flavor, toppings and crust, I knew that it would be a tough decision for our guest judges. Who would win this epic throwdown?


After such a hard-fought battle, I'm happy to report that Dave came out victorious in the end! And if you're out there Mr. Flay, I can put you in touch with a pizza master that is ready for a challenge any day....


I must send out a huge thanks to Natasha for capturing these wonderful pictures of the fun-filled evening. Make sure to check out the Pizza Throwdown from Brian's perspective at Table Hopping.