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.


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.