Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

So remember when I said I'm not a breakfast person?

I seem to be in active defiance of that lately, because last night, I decided to make breakfast for dinner!

I'm not so great with pancakes, so I decided to take the easy route and use Bisquick, as shown above.

Sean wanted plain pancakes, but I wasn't about to let that happen. I made a batch of chocolate chip pancakes for him, and then added banana to mine!

Man....mushed banana is so hideous. But delicious! Just add mushed banana (more than one, in my opinion; the banana taste was way too subtle) and stir it in with the rest of the batter.

My pancakes aren't pretty, at all, but they were tasty!

Then I fried up some frozen home fries (are you sensing a pattern? Nothing was from scratch!).

And finally, we had some chicken-apple sausage (which was really just okay).

It was so good and I was SO stuffed. Lesson learned: There is such a thing as too many pancakes!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wine Country Salad

I am really bad at eating healthy, good lunches at work. I tend to eat a mix of leftover chips, Diet Coke, yogurt and breakfast bars.

But last week our office went out to lunch at The Baker's Crust, where I spotted the "Wine Country Salad" on the menu and thought, "Geez, I could make that at home."

It makes for a great lunch, with ingredients you could use in myriad other recipes so you aren't stuck with a bunch of stuff you wouldn't use again. You will need:
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Mixed Greens
  • Crostini (or croutons)
  • Goat Cheese
  • Candied pecans (optional)
  • Raspberry Vinaigrette
I used this (VERY EXPENSIVE) belle chevre goat cheese with Ile de France crackers that could easily become bread crumbs if I don't find myself using them again.

I also used this Olde Cape Cod raspberry vinaigrette, but it was really just okay. Go light with it; I was a little heavy-handed in the pouring.

Smear the chevre on the crackers and place on top of the salad, or use them as accompaniment on the side.

It was a delicious, sophisticated salad with simple ingredients. The goat cheese elevates it to the expensive realm, but I think this would be a great salad to serve at parties or to guests (wine party and cheese party, perhaps?).

Brunch with Pat and Carmel

Last weekend, we were invited to have brunch at Pat and Carmel's new house.

One of the things I love about Pat and Carmel is their complete confidence in decorating their home. Their taste is a cool hybrid of antiques, curiosities, ethnic patterns and pop culture. This is their art wall.

The wall features a mini shrine to Stonewall Jackson for no reason other than "why not?" (Pat and Carmel are Yankees, for the record.)

Chartreuse walls!

I can say with confidence this might have been the best brunch ever. I'm not an eggs girl and I'm over pancakes, so this was a nice spin on brunch.

We had crepes, stacked neatly above.

We had apple-cardamom dinosaur muffins. Woot woot for stegasaurus!

We had fruit salad, care of Arthur.

We had mimosas, care of me.

My brunch choices: nutella-and-strawberries crepe, apple-cardamom muffin, kielbasa slices and fruit salad. Soooo good.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Clementine Cafe in Harrisonburg

While we were in the Valley, we went to have drinks and dinner at Clementine in Harrisonburg. The bar has a very chic silhouette design and backlit liquor bottles with beautiful murals and exposed brick.

I had possibly the best mixed drink I've ever had in my life. I gulped it down in no time, and I can't wait to make my own versions at home all summer. It was:
  • Vodka
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Honey
  • Basil
Sean had a beautiful "dark and stormy":
  • Goslings rum
  • Ginger beer

Blue Mountain Brewery

Last weekend, we traveled to the Shenandoah Valley, where I lived for three years up until last April. Some of our closest friends live there, so we are happy to take any opportunity to visit.

Sean's BFF Arthur took us to Blue Mountain Brewery, a perfect lazy Saturday spot with lovely mountain views, delicious beer and great food. The Brewery is in Afton, Va., a hop from Veritas Winery and a skip from Charlottesville.

The line-up of beers. I can't remember which is which except mine on the end, a chocolate pumpkin beer. Mmmmm.

Sean and I ordered a brat pizza, with bratwurst, apples, balsamic vinegar, caramelized onions and cheeeeese. It was such a great combination of flavors, but omigosh between that and a heavy beer, we were stuffed for the day!

Sean digs in!

I'm hoping to recreate this pizza at home sometime, but it's more tempting to go sit on that deck in the sunshine the next time I crave it!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Best v.16

The prettier days have me thinking about the bright, bright colors of Slim Aarons photographs. Isn't that such a great nickname?
  • March Madness fans: Ever wonder what on earth a hoya is?
  • Polaroid film is back! Sorta.
  • The perfect gift tags for wine. Too bad they're sold across the ocean.
  • Possibly the best wedding photo ops ever!
  • Don't feel bad about your day job. William Faulkner was a postmaster at Ole Miss.
  • In case you didn't know, Miley Cyrus is brilliant.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Artwork by Dolan Geiman

I love the mixed media artwork of Dolan Geiman, a bonafide country boy from Waynesboro, Va.

I just returned from the Shenandoah Valley (pictures forthcoming now that my comp is back in business!) and I find myself wishing I had bought more beautiful artwork when I lived there. When I worked in Staunton, we did an article about Dolan's work; his momma is a well-known artist in the Waynesboro area, too, and their artwork is about as different as night and day.

He told our reporter he was inspired by his country upbringing now that he lives in Chicago; I can certainly relate. His mixed media pieces with wood are especially fantastic, but especially out of my price range, as well.

You can get some lovely little prints at his etsy store, though.

LOST in Translation V.8


WHEW. That's about all I can say after last night's BAM-IN-YO-FACE slam dunk of an episode. I felt at the end the same way I felt at the end of "The Constant": like things were making sense, and intrigued, yet confused. But most importantly, excited!

The LOST producers were really winking at us the whole night, with Richard announcing early on that they're all in Hell and Jacob calling his enemy the "Man in Black." I both like that and don't like it; I don't want the producers taking their cues from us! But quibbles aside, let's get on with it.

That was such a rich backstory with really excellent storytelling, heartwrenching love and loss, questions of faith and more. It was like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel or something, which is kind of the beauty of LOST. Because of the backstories and flash forwards, the producers have been able to explore almost every genre: the buddy cop show, the "Bourne Identity" show, the Spanish colonial romance.

I loved most how the backstory humanized this man who's always been stone-faced and passive, especially with his struggle with faith. He starts out a devout Catholic, is told he has no chance at forgiveness by a priest, believes he's landed in Hell, finds out he hasn't, but must now serve as a prophet, only to lose his faith more than 100 years into the gig. It was just very rich and complex and delicious.

Most delicious was his redemption toward the end of the episode, when Hurley found him at his most vulnerable, about to make a deal with the devil. He found his faith again.

Ah, the devil references were abundant in this episode. The priest told Ricardo in jail, "The devil awaits you in hell." As the boat of Captain Magnus tossed toward the island, a fellow prisoner shouted "El Diablo!" When Ricardo sees his beloved Isabella in the cargo hold, she tells him they're in Hell.

When he comes face-to-face with the would-be devil (an incredibly sexy Titus Welliver; don't tell me I'm the only one who has a thing for the bad guys!), he tells him, "The devil took my body." Literally, perhaps?

And of course, Jacob tells Ricardo the man he met is a darkness that needs to be kept in, like wine in a bottle.

So this brings us to the most important question: Is the MIB the "devil"?
The evidence is stacked against him. He...
  • Wears black
  • Is incredibly charming
  • Kills people as a black pillar of smoke
  • Possibly appears in the form of lost loved ones
  • Makes offers that are hard to refuse
There was a moment when he was talking to Ricardo in the ship that even I was almost convinced he was in the right. The thought occurred to me: what if Jacob were the devil? What if Jacob took his body, he was forced to inhabit a dead body (as he has with Locke) and has no real body? But how? And why?

Jacob's endless messing with people (who just end up killing each other) and mind games don't make him look too good either...but the same could be said of the Judeo-Christian concept of God, could it not?

And what to make of his plan to kill Jacob, which had pretty much the exact instructions Dogen gave Sayid to kill the MIB? Was the MIB stealing Jacob's line or were Dogen's instructions possibly misguided?

In the end, I was pretty much swayed in Jacob's favor. He makes good sense, and he wears white and is blonde, and in our culture, that means he's probably the "good one." But how does he "bring" people to the Island? Is he God, quite unlike we imagined him? Is the Island the gate to Hell and he, the gatekeeper? Is Widmore the closest thing to a real chosen one, with his electro-charged gates that keep the smoke out?

I'll finish by sharing some of the best lines, imbued with deeper meaning and possible hidden clues:
  • "Verily, I say to unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country." - Luke 4:24, where Richard's Bible lands open.
  • "No one comes in unless I invite them in." - Jacob, talking about the statue. Seems like a lot of people have come in uninvited lately.
  • "He believes it's in man's nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong" and "I want them to know the difference between right and wrong. I have no desire to step in." - Jacob, right before he names Ricardo his "representative."
  • "It wasn't your fault. It was my time. You've suffered enough. We are already together." - Isabella
  • "You have to stop the Man in Black from leaving the Island. If you don't, we'll all go to hell." - Hurley
Lastly, what about Ilana? I get the impression she might be older than she looks, too, due to her intimate knowledge of the island. But what do I know?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Pie Chips

I am not a brunch or breakfast person. I don't like eggs, I'm not crazy over pancakes or waffles and I crave hash browns about once every two years.

But I like the idea of brunch, and I recently saw this great fruit salsa recipe in Cuisine for Two and thought that would make a great brunch or lunch dish.

Before we go any further, know that I can not honestly say I ate this entire dish. That's because I made one VERY BIG mistake. I ignored their directions to not mix until it's time to serve. I made the dish the night before I was going to eat it and it congealed into fruit mush and the strawberries became a juice. Not great.

Trust me, it's good. Just not after a night in the fridge.

So first, I sliced some strawberries, then kiwi. I also had pineapple chunks and diced peaches on hand.

Meanwhile, I pulled out a frozen pie crust Sean had bought for me. I asked him to buy frozen pie crust thinking he'd buy a sheet that I could easily cut into triangles. Nope, that is not what happened.

Instead, I tried desperately to cut a circle into even-sized triangles to disastrous results. You shall see.

Mixed cinnamon and sugar for the pie chips; these will be the "tortillas" to your "salsa."

Melted some butter.

Then brushed the pie chips with butter and sprinkled very generously with cinnamon sugar. I then popped these bad boys in the oven just long enough to turn golden brown.

Chopped some fresh mint.

I then mixed honey and lime juice to create a dressing for the salsa.

Tossed all the fruit together, with the mint and the dressing!

I think this would be excellent SERVED IMMEDIATELY for brunch. But with time to congeal and basically get gross, it was not good the next day.

ALSO: pie crust is the worst idea for this. It's too flaky to hold up under the weight of the salsa, so I would definitely go with cinnamon pita chips.

Monday, March 22, 2010



So I came home from visiting the Shenandoah Valley this weekend to find my beloved Mac's battery had died. While I'm waiting for the fine folks at Apple to rush me a new one, my posting might be sporatic at best. Enjoy some entries I had saved while you wait for fresh, new fun.

Friday, March 19, 2010

LOST in Translation V.7


Soooooo. This week was a killer, for a multitude of reasons that I will just breathlessly type here: night meetings all week, threat of layoffs, threat averted but sadness for those laid off, beer drinking with those laid off, celebrating birthdays, school board, dinner, Target.

The point is, I didn't recap LOST in a timely fashion, and for that, I apologize. Although with so many other people out there who do it so much better, I'm not sure you really need me around. But I like working out my LOST theories with ya'll.

This week's episode was a dud for me. I love Sawyer, and I was one of those people who was anxiously awaiting his Sideways world in hopes he'd be shacked up with Juliet somewhere.

Alas, no. He's a LAPD cop haunted by his parents murder/suicide and bent on hunting down the man who started the whole thing (who may or may not have a healthy relationship with Sideways Locke).

His partner is Miles, who sets him up on a date with Charlotte, who we find to be a bit nosy and quite unforgiving. What does that say about her?

This episode didn't really light my brain on fire, but here are some observations:
  • Fake Locke tells Sawyer he's the smoke monster (c'mon Sawyer! how did you not know this?) and says he killed the Temple folks because it's "either kill or be killed." To which I wonder, what could kill him? Jacob? Jacob's ashes? Kryptonite?
  • Sawyer's dialogue with Zoe on the Hydra island was hilariously similar to the recon mission Ben sent Ethan on when Oceanic went down. The difference? It seems like Sawyer's playing all sides by just telling everyone everything he knows. Interesting tactic.
  • Who killed the people on the island? Was it definitely Widmore's folks?
  • I loved when Locke explained to Kate that he gave Claire an enemy on purpose. Seemed like he had perspective on his own experience with Jacob.
  • The MIB had a crazy mom? Crazy moms are quite the theme on this show...but he also seems to be playing Kate and Claire off each other. Not sure if Aaron is really his big priority.
  • I loved the moment when Sawyer watched that clip from Little House on the Prairie, in which Pa explained people aren't really gone when they die. Another hint this is a reincarnation situation? Hmmmm.
So what do you think? Were there Big Truths Revealed and I just missed it? Did you think this episode was super lackluster? Are you peeing your pants in anticipation for next week's Richard-centric revelations episode?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Irish Stew

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of the holiday celebrating all things Irish, I thought I'd share a recipe from my future family. Sean's grandparents hailed from County Kerry, Ireland (shown in this gorgeous National Geographic photo) and his grandmother, Nora, was famous for her stew.

It's still his comfort food; he's a real Irish eater. He would subsist on shepherd's pie if he could.

Some of my own roots are Irish, too, but my family mostly hails from Northern Ireland. My dad usually gets up every St. Patrick's morning to make homemade Irish Soda Bread, but tells me that's not happening this year. Unfortunately, I'm too busy to make the stew, as well, but I hope one of you has the time to try it!

Mrs. O'Brien's Irish Stew
  • 1 pound of beef or lamb chunks
  • 2 yellow onions coarsely chopped
  • 4 medium-sized potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/2 pound of carrots, either baby or cut into rounds
  • 1 cup of green peas
  • 1 cups of sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 4 cups of water or beef broth
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 3 tablespoons of corn oil (or other)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of soy or Worcestershire sauce as desired
  1. Cut potatoes in advance and put into bowl covered with water to prevent browning.
  2. Put oil into stew pot on stove top and heat on high until sizzling, then reduce heat slightly.
  3. Put the flour into a bowl. Season the meat chunks with salt and pepper and toss in the flour to coat.
  4. Put meat chunks into heated pot, adding a bit more salt and pepper. Keep stirring with a fork for a few minutes until meat is browned on the outside and some of the flour is sticking to the bottom.
  5. Reduce heat to simmer, pour in three of the four cups of water/broth. Put on lid and let meat simmer for at least 3 hours. THREE HOURS. But this part is key: do not add the veggies too soon or they'll be mushy.
  6. Add the veggies about 1 hour after you started simmering the meat. Peas and mushrooms can wait until the last hour of cooking.
  7. Check on stew hourly, making sure things are simmering, not boiling. Add more water/broth if you think it's needed. If it looks too think, mix flour and water in a cup and add to stew.
  8. After 3 hours, you are done and ready to eat!
  • You have the option to add dumplings to the top of your stew. Sean's mom uses freezer case biscuits cooked on top of the stew for the last hour. If you do this, add plenty of broth because the biscuits will absorb a lot of the liquid. Serve when dumplings are dry inside, not gooey.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gorgonzola Tortellini

This recipe will not change your world, but it might shake up your weeknight cooking.

I love alfredo, but that gets old. I had a wedge of gorgonzola cheese that I intended to use for homemade pizza, but that wasn't going to happen. Instead, I made a gorgonzola sauce that was a tasty alternative to your standard alfredo sauce and paired well with cheese tortellini for a dish I'd like to call, "UNHEALTHY CHEESY CREAMY CARB EXPLOSION!!!"

First off, I grated my gorgonzola. Gorgonzola is typically crumbled, but I wanted the cheese to melt quickly, so grating was the way to go.

Meanwhile, I boiled the tortellini and melted butter in a skillet.

I added a cup of cream to the melted butter and tossed in the gorgonzola, then let the sauce reduce by about a third.

Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to cover.

Done and done!

Gorgonzola is a strong blue cheese, so a sauce of it is not for the faint of heart. But if you like that tang, you will enjoy this dish, which is just as easy as any other weeknight pasta dish but adds a little sophistication.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Down the Drain

You know how I'm always annoyed with Sean for acting like he knows everything about cooking when in reality, he's making half of it up?

It turns out he does know more than me.

We were cooking a few weeks ago and he casually mentions to me, "Hey, did you know you're never supposed to pour grease down the drain?"

And I'm like, "Nope. What are you talking about?"

And he's like, "Oh yeah. My mom told me that. You're not supposed to do it ever because the grease clogs the drain. Everybody knows that."

At this point in the story, I'd imagine you're trying to comprehend how I'm the person who didn't know that. Seriously, I have NEVER heard this. EVER.

So I go to the Google machine and I look it up and come across hundreds, nay thousands, of links about how everyone knew this but me. I thought I'd write about it in case one of you, dear readers, did not know.

But here's the sticky point about all this. I read that apparently you are supposed to pour your grease into a container, like a jar, and then throw the jar away (or sometimes hold onto it for further use in cooking).

So I ask you this: How come I have never seen someone do this in their own home? I cannot recall a single instance in which I've come across jars and jars of grease on someone's countertop or in their trash can. Seriously, where are you all hiding your grease?!

I'm sorry to say the "no grease" thing has slipped my mind since Sean first mentioned it, and I'd imagine I have a day of reckoning in my future. But in the effort of becoming domesticated, I'd like your advice.

Where do I put the grease? What am I supposed to do with it? What's the best, most handy trick you've come up with?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Best v.16

If I had one of those insane celebrity dressing rooms, this wallpaper by Ferm Living would definitely be on the walls. COVET!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today I like ... Floral Prints!

Cooperative Strappy '70s dress, $58 at Urban Outfitters.

Tucked-Away Blooms Cardigan, $88 at Anthropologie.

The Liberty of London collaboration at Target (not quite in stores yet, but check out the images!).