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Thursday, January 31, 2013

3 on Thursday

I've really been enjoying this week of warm weather.  It had been too cold to do anything but sit inside my apartment underneath my favorite blanket with a plate of pad see ew from my favorite Thai takeout spot.  Now that it's become bearable outside, I've found a renewed fervor to get out and enjoy the city.
On Sunday, my black boots officially crapped out.  After three years,  the heels were hurtin and I had worn a hole that went all the way to the sole.  I figured they wouldn't completely fall apart with one more wear so I put them on and took myself directly to the shoe store.  I found these guys on sale for $98 at Aldo and wore them out of the store to test them out on an errand run.  The brown is light enough to wear with both black and brown outfits and the black stripes in back only confirm this.  Since I never got a new pair of brown flat boots after my last pair wore out two years ago, these boots fill two holes in my wardrobe at once.  I still want a pair of black riding boots, but I'll get those at the end of the season (which hopefully isn't that far away) when everything is on super sale.

Matt and Karina went to Morocco for their honeymoon - one of the destinations on my Top 5 wishlist.  I couldn't believe that in between basking in their newly married love, they found time to think of me on the trip and picked out an incredibly thoughtful souvenir.  They brought this gorgeous lantern all the way back to the US for me and even picked it out in the exact blue that decorates my living room.

Apparently it snowed once before in NYC this season, but I was out of town so it doesn't count.  Last Friday, I walked home in the season's first snow.  It really can be magical.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken Taco Salad

When you want a big salad for a meal but are sick of the good old cobb, I highly recommend turning to taco salad. It's healthier than eating actual tacos and is full of protein.

I like using crisp lettuce for this, like romaine hearts. Instead of using ground beef, I decided to go with chicken to cut down on the fat. I covered nugget-sized pieces of chicken with a mix of garlic powder, chile powder, oregano, paprika, cayenne, and cumin (all the ingredients of taco seasoning that I already had in my pantry - no need to buy those packets!), drizzled with olive oil, and sautéed til it was cooked through (about 5 minutes). In a bowl, lightly toss canned black beans, canned corn, chopped tomato, onion, and avocado. I would have liked cilantro but the store was out (no worries, it tasted just as good). Cover a bed of lettuce with the corn/black bean/tomato/avocado mix as well as some shredded cheese (pepper jack or cheddar are good options). The chicken goes on last. Worried it won't feel like a taco without sour cream? The quick and easy homemade dressing you prepared will solve that issue. Greek yogurt will make you forget you wanted sour cream in the first place and it makes a great base for creamy dressings. Mix it with scallions and adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo. (Once you have a can of these, you'll find plenty of ways to use them). I had some buttermilk in the fridge from when I made biscuits so I used just a teeny bit to thin it out, but if you don't already have it there's no need to buy it for this recipe. The adobo sauce is spicy, a little sweet, and has great smoky flavor. This dressing takes the salad from good to great - and if you're going to compete with the Cobb, you better be great.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Last night during our weekly TV night, Brutus' sister Kim whipped out her new toy to prepare a special treat for us.  With Yonanas, you just peel and freeze overripe bananas and then put them through this magical machine to make ice cream.  That's it.  No cream, sugar, or any other ingredients...that is if you like it simple.  You still won't use cream or sugar, but you can always add other fruits, nuts, or chocolate to give your Yonanas some extra character.  Kim made us strawberry banana Yonanas and I couldn't believe how much flavor came out of 2 ingredients.  At only $40, this is cheaper than a regular ice cream maker and as long as you remember to stick the bananas in the freezer 24 hours in advance, it takes no time to churn out tons of ice cream for a party...or just for yourself when the mood strikes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: The Dressmaker

When my mom found a New York Times bestselling novel featuring a character named Tess, she decided it was a must read and immediately ordered it to be sent to my apartment.  Kate Alcott's historical fiction novel follows Tess Collins, a maid eager to escape her station and become a designer.  She wins the attention of Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, a designer and one of the wealthiest passengers aboard the ship, just before the Titanic sets sail.  Madame, as she prefers to be called, hires Tess as her secretary with the intimation she will be able to apprentice as a designer once they arrive in New York.  After the ship has gone down and they are settled in New York, Tess is caught between saving her apprenticeship with Lady Duff Gordon and taking a stand against the unethical events that supposedly transpired on the Duff Gordon's lifeboat.

I enjoyed the historical backbone of The Dressmaker; however, I found the love triangle between Tess, a sailor, and a 1st class businessman to be a bit much.  Just like the film Titanic, probably the most famous of all Titanic commemorations, I found this part a little cheesy.  I recognize I may be the only person who didn't really like that movie: lame dialogue, overacting, and an unlikely story about a great piece of jewelry - not my thing.  I really don't think it deserved an Academy Award, and I'm sorry for airing such an unpopular opinion.  I did, however, love the intricate sets and seeing the wide variances between classes.  I am amazed by how the class system worked back in the day, and in 1912 there were strict rules to follow.  The opulence of the first class compared to the inadequacies of the 3rd class is incredibly interesting to me.  This same aspect is what held my attention in the book as well.  This time, instead of seeing the classes pitted against each other on the ship, you get to see how everyone deals with the aftermath of the sinking between trials and frenzied journalists.  It's a fine line, but in this case the fluff of the rest of the story took away from the historical piece of this historical fiction.  It was still a fun read, but I would have preferred a little more meat and a few less liberties taken.

5 out of 10 stars.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Curry Chicken Fingers

I have been in a bit of a funk when it comes to cooking lately.  Even easy recipes seem too time consuming or ingredient-heavy and I just end up making boring basics or something from the frozen section of Trader Joe's.  This weekend, I decided it was time to get myself out of my supper slump, but I needed to prepare myself because going to the grocery store without a plan clearly hadn't been working for me.  I pulled several cookbooks off the shelf and started menu planning, focusing my attention on the cookbooks labeled "quick and easy" so I could ease myself back into the whole cooking thing.

Wednesday night's recipe was curry chicken fingers that I made by dredging strips of chicken in egg and then in a mixture of panko bread crumbs, curry powder, and cayenne.  I would like to say I baked them because it was healthier, but the real reason is because I didn't want my apartment smelling like curry for days if I had done it on the stove top.  I always eat chicken fingers with honey mustard, but since these were curry chicken fingers, they required a different dip treatment.  I mixed greek yogurt with cucumber and scallions and it was the perfect soothing accompaniment.  I'm more of a savory gal, but if you're a fan of the fruity, I'm sure you could mix the yogurt with some chutney for a dip that's cooling and sweet.  I had gotten b-o-r-e-d with chicken lately and this was a great way to change it up a bit without adding any extra steps.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

3 on Thursday

Gotta love short weeks (thank you MLK day)!  Sometimes you just need one less day at the office to keep yourself from going crazy.
I've been looking for a simple gold necklace that I could wear every day.  I wanted something with character, but it needed to be delicate enough that I (someone who feels awkward layering tons of jewelry) could wear it with other pieces.  This was a recent buried bauble at Bauble Bar so I scored it for only $10.

Every year, Karina and her Mom take a trip to Amish Country for a weekend away.  This year, she was kind enough to bring back a sampler of Kitchen Kettle Village jams for me.  I love jams with cheese plates and on the occasional breakfast bread, but I never eat enough to go through a full jar so these minis are perfect.

When I moved I realized I didn't really have any framed pictures in my apartment.  I have a truly amazing set of family and friends who I should be showing off.  The problem has become that no one prints rolls of film anymore.  Everything is just uploaded to facebook, but since most of us don't keep printers around after college, they remain in cyberspace.  The photo feature within the Wallgreens app is going to change that for me.  It pulls pics directly from your phone, whether they're saved in your iPhone's photo album or even on facebook.  This way, you can even print pics that you love but didn't take yourself.  You can pick them up right at Wallgreens about an hour later, timed perfectly with your laundry detergent run.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Biscuit Baking

I recently had my Mom go over to my Grandma's and have Mildred tell her some of our family recipes.  Mildred is an amazing cook but at 88 years old, someone else needs to learn how to make these recipes or we risk losing them forever.  Unfortunately, most of Mildred's cooking is done from memory.  She has tweaked them over the years so the written recipes are never what she actually ends up cooking.  Even if they were, the "formal" recipes contain a lot of measurements like "some butter" or "flour".  How much flour?  What's "some"?  Basically, my Mom managed to get me a bunch of recipe skeletons and now it's my job to flesh them out.

Mildred's biscuits are perfect, so I was most nervous to take on that recipe, but since they are, as I say, perfect, it was most important for me to figure this one out first.  Since I had the day off work, I made it my MLK Day project.  Because I'm working so hard to preserve the recipe, I'm going to keep it to myself.  Most Southern families have their passed-down biscuit recipe - get your own.

I am proud to say that I'm on the right track, especially when I top them with butter and honey, just like we do at all our family dinners.  When the oven timer went off they seemed undercooked so I left them in and then I think I overshot it.  They kind of crumbled apart when I tried to eat them so I think I need to work on the buttermilk/shortening proportions a bit.  But the flavor was there so I know I'm close.  I won't rest til I can give my family the same amazing biscuits they've enjoyed for generations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dominique Ansel Bakery

I hate when it takes me longer than anticipated to cross a restaurant off my list, especially when the restaurant proves to be just as wonderful as I had hoped.  The pastries at Dominique Ansel Bakery look too beautiful to eat, but that would be a shame because they are some of the best baked goods I've ever had.  You know those pictures of Paris windows filled with delicate pastries?  I'm pretty sure those pictures are why people think living in France is so glorious.  American bakeries never make pastries that look or taste like that unless, of course, you have a French baker come to New York and take matters into his own hands.  

Each item in the case looked perfectly crafted.  Karina and I allowed ourselves to try three desserts and even though that sounds like a lot, it was an incredibly tough decision because they all looked so mouthwatering.  Karina's favorite dessert is the eclair so that was choice number one.  In addition to the chocolate icing, the pastry was filled with chocolate cream and topped with a long rectangle of chocolate.  Unlike Karina, eclairs are not my favorite, yet I may have eaten more than she did.  My complaint is usually the cream filling - I don't like whippy icing/filling, but this was a little thicker and in perfect proportion to the pastry encasing it that it basically changed my outlook on eclairs.  After having read about it a few months ago, my choice was the Paris-New York.  I've never had the original Paris-Brest for comparison, but Ansel's take made with caramel, chocolate, and peanuts was the perfect salty/sweet dessert.  For our third choice we wanted something fruity that wasn't anchored in pastry for a little variety.  Karina and I both like macarons so we went with something meringue-based.  The banana passion fruit pavlova sandwiched flambeed bananas with coconut lime cream between two passion fruit meringues.  

I absolutely could not pick a favorite, they were all so different and all so good.  Dominique Ansel Bakery is now tied with Momofuku Milk Bar as my favorite bakery.  Not for nothing, they have a great garden so you can let these desserts melt in your mouth while you're sitting next to a fireplace or underneath strung lights because these creations are meant to be savored.

Dark pink heart shaped macarons in preparation for Valentines Day

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mission: Accomplished

At about 1:30 AM on Friday night, I received a text from Karina that she was in the mood for Chinese food and a facial.  Thankfully I was still awake to make plans and set my alarm so we could make sure to arrive at Mission Chinese early enough to beat the crowds.

If you Google Mission Chinese, you'll find article after article about how long you have to wait to get into this place.  That tells me one thing: the food is probably worth it.  The restaurant opens at noon for lunch and I arrived at 11:35 to be the first in line.  Within 10-15 minutes, 20 people had lined up behind me.  I figured if the food is as good as people claimed (there was practically a parade thrown in chef Danny Bowien's honor when they announced that the famous San Fran restaurant was opening a place in NYC), a 20 minute wait is a small price to pay.

When they opened the doors, everyone in line stood at attention waiting for the hostess to give them the nod.  Most people looked confused.  Where were we going to go?  From the outside, Mission Chinese is the size of a takeout counter and looks like the type of skeezy Chinese place where you get wings instead of actual Chinese food.  The hostess led us through a thin hallway that opened up into the dining room.  The room is small but seems like a banquet hall compared to the teeny takeout spot that the confused diners thought was the whole restaurant.

Right as Karina and I sat down, the music clicked on.  It was a mix of rap and rock that let you know this chef doesn't take himself too seriously.  He's out to make Chinese food a little fun.  It's not fusion, but it's not your authentic dim sum.  Karina and I started with two small plates, the spicy carrot pickles and the Beijing vinegar peanuts.  These are the kind of snacks that I could never keep around my apartment because I wouldn't be able to stop eating them.  The carrots were certainly spicy, but were still so crunchy that I couldn't help myself.  I cooled off my tongue with a slurp of Karina's entree choice, rice porridge.  I usually find these porridges to be a little bland, but the cabbage made the texture not so boring and there was more flavor than what I've tasted in most Chinese restaurants.  Rice porridge will never be my first choice, but this was by far my best experience with it.  I was pretty much obsessed with my choice of entree, the stir fried pork jowl with radishes that had a fermented black bean and sesame sauce and was more than garnished with mint.  Many of Mission Chinese's most lauded dishes are spicy, but if you're not a heat person, I highly recommend this dish.  Actually, even if you're a spicy fan, I would recommend taking a detour with this dish of silky pork jowl, crunchy radishes, and fresh mint.

The food is already cheap (our total bill for two apps, two entrees, and tea was $38 without tip) and yet they're still donating $.75 from each entree to the NYC food bank.  How do they do that?  They're charging less for better food and then still being altruistic with a portion of the proceeds.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Zucchini with Lemon Dill Sauce

I love using fresh herbs in my cooking. They give crazy amazing flavor without adding to the calorie count. The only problem is I can never use them all up before they go bad. I'm trying to fix that lil problemo of mine so I've been incorporating the fresh dill I bought on Monday into as many dishes as possible. Last night it was used in a side dish and I couldn't have been happier with the results. I like sautéed zucchini fine enough but usually feel like it needs a bunch of cheese to really satisfy me. Coating it with cheese, however, won't help me on my quest to lose those last couple of pesky pounds so I sought out other sources of flavor.

I mixed some greek yogurt with lemon, salt, pepper, and fresh dill and spooned the sauced over the zucchini. It was exactly what I was looking for. My zucchini no longer tasted all boring, but I didn't have to tap into the queso to make it feel like it was worth eating.

3 on Thursday

Thanks to a Zpack, I'm feeling much better this week and think I might actually be ready for human interaction this weekend.  Lucky for me, it's a long weekend so I can build in plenty of friend time and me time.
How great are these hammered gold bowls that Liz and Puckett got me as a housewarming gift?!   I'm pretty sure they'll soon be moving to my console table to serve as a receptacle for my keys, making them not only good lookin but functional, too! 

Though my mother thinks I'll burn the house down, I plan to light more candles.  And I'm not talking about the kind that smell like birthday cake.  I'm going to start burning the fancy kind that you can't find at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Rebekah gifted me my first one, a pomegranate noir scent from Jo Malone, and I can't wait to use it for some ambiance around the apartment.  Single, 20-something girls are always lighting candles in the movies, and I can totally live a movie-inspired life. 

Agate is having a moment right now.  While bookends or a large paperweight are great ways to support the trend, they can get pricey and take up room.  While in Colorado I picked up these agate magnates and I love how they add a little style to my otherwise bare kitchen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Haricots Verts Salad

So the plan was for this salad to have fresh corn in it but it was out of season so I increased the amount of haricots verts and made it anyway.  With the help of a healthy portion of dill, this salad has tons of flavor with few ingredients.  While you're boiling haricots verts (those are the skinny French green beans), assemble the rest of the salad.  Chop up a tomato, scoop out an avocado, and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, dill, and salt.  Add the green beans and you're done.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ringing in 2013

I just realized I never filled you in on New Years Eve celebration!  I was surrounded by tons of my closest pals so we could have done anything and had a great time, but it just so happens that the events of the evening were fun as well.  A friend of a friend rented out the downstairs of Park Avenue Tavern so for a low price (by NYE standards) we had appetizers, open bar, and tons of fun hats waiting for us just a few blocks from my apartment.

Because people rarely eat at those things, I decided to have a little pre-party soirée so everyone could coat their stomachs before heading to the main event.  Once the party grew to 12 people, we were no longer talking about a sit down meal so I had to think of items that are as easy as apps to eat but heavy enough to be considered dinner.  Unfortunately, I was terrible about taking pictures so there's only one awful one to share, but I encourage you to use your imagination.

The first of the heavier dishes was the antipasto lettuce wraps I posted about recently.  The other more dinner-like dish was buffalo chicken sliders.  I set out slider rolls and then allowed everyone to serve themselves from the crock pot where I had let chicken, cream cheese, and Frank's Red Hot simmer away for hours till it was pull apart style.  I set up some blue cheese right next to the pot so they could assemble their sandwiches as they pleased.  This was the winner of the evening - people went up for thirds!  I made stuffed mushrooms using crab dip as the stuffing (basically crab, onion, mayo, cream cheese, old bay, lemon juice, and hot sauce), set up some hummus and carrots for munching, and made dates stuffed with manchego for something on the sweeter side.  Dates are a hard thing to get people to try.  They don't look very pretty (just look at that pic below), and they're not common enough in America to not be a little on the scary side.  Once people taste them, however, they usually enjoy them so I recommend giving them a chance.

Of course, it's not New Years without a little bubbly, as evidenced by the six bottles of champagne our group went through in about two hours.  I pre-loaded each champagne glass with rock candy to make it even more festive.  It looks gorgeous and will make even the cheap champagne drinkable.  After the first round, we started adding a dash of pomegranate juice to the glasses as well for a little extra flavor.  Drinking fancy cocktails while dressed in sparkles makes you feel untouchable - a great way to start the New Year.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: My Reading Life

Pat Conroy is probably my all-time favorite author, with The Lords of Discipline as my most cherished of his works.  He is a supreme storyteller with the most fluid syntax that drapes the reader with enchantment.  I believe you can tell a lot about someone based on their favorite author.  If you judged me by my favorite writer, you would probably assume I have had a love affair with the Lowcountry and identify with slightly damaged characters that still maintain their strong moral fiber.  And guess what?  You would be totally right.

While getting a glimpse into your friend's life through her bookshelf is interesting, what we really want is to know what makes the writers themselves tick.  What inspires those who inspire us?  Conroy's latest book, "My Reading Life," describes the who, what, when, where, and why of his most powerful literary inspirations.  Though Conroy's works of fiction are admittedly influenced by his own life's events, there is something different about a writer saying "this is me and here's why."  Without writing a memoir, Conroy lays himself bare.  In this collection of essays, he describes the nurturing teacher who encouraged him for years because he wanted to see him succeed as well as the bitter librarian who didn't.  He pulls inspiration from his mother, a high school classroom, an old bookstore, and Paris.  Conroy reads the way other people breathe, as a way of life and it is restoring to see someone with such love for the written word.

3 out of 5 stars for the book in general,but if you're a huge reader or fan of Conroy, bump it up to 4.

Friday, January 11, 2013

La Maison du Macaron

La Maison du Macaron has a ton of great flavors and an adorable cafe to boot.  After walking past plenty of times, I was finally in a position where I wasn't already overstuffed from a meal and was on my way home (since they can't stay un-refrigerated for long).  These macarons easily rank within my top three...dare I say even better than that?  The meringue was light but still just crisp enough and the fillings were inventive.  I ordered six for $15 that included apricot champagne, jack daniels honey, rose passionfruit, violet medeira, one with pear, and mango.  All were absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

3 on Thursday

It's a miracle I'm getting this "3 on Thursday" out considering I am sick as a dog with bronchitis.  I have become thoroughly acquainted with my bed considering I haven't left it for about three days.  It seems everyone is sick and I am just the latest to fall victim.  I almost never get sick and I gotta say...not really enjoying it.
I got a beret and I'm really diggin it.  It keeps my head warm and in fashion at the same time.

Before the SEC championship game, Matt surprised me with this amazing jacket.  It was actually his as a child but fits me fine as an adult.  Obsessed.

I haven't had a coffee pot since living in my own apartment and decided to get myself one as an Xmas present.  Though I always thought French presses were really fancy, it happened to be cheaper than most coffee pots, takes up less counter space, and makes really great coffee.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Salmon Tacos

If I'm able to cook a healthy, delicious dinner while I'm doing laundry and haven't even gotten back from the gym til 9:00 pm, I'd say that must be one worthwhile recipe.  Salmon tacos are just that.

I drizzled salmon with olive oil, topped it with chile powder, paprika, and cayenne, and stuck it in the oven to bake while I separated and loaded my laundry into the machines.  It still had some time left to cook after I started the wash so I prepped the toppings while it finished cooking.  I made a sauce by mixing greek yogurt, cilantro, lime, and salt.  I also chopped up an avocado.  I then ran down to put my clothes in the dryer and by the time I came upstairs, the salmon was ready to come out of the oven and the tacos were ready to be assembled.  

I would have preferred corn tortillas, but the store was out and flour worked just fine.  The yogurt sauce had all the sour flavor and creamy texture of sour cream with none of the guilt.  And avocado, well, avocado goes well on everything.

I may have decided to make this because I was in a rush and looking for something to keep my new year's resolution in tact, but I can tell you I'll make it even when health and time is not on my mind.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tommy Lasagna

Between the Christmas break and a busy few weeks preceding it, I felt like I hadn't seen Linds in  We decided to fix that by making dinner plans on Wednesday, the first day back from break.  We needed some comfort food to ease us back into work so we decided on an Italian restaurant that was new to both of us, Tommy Lasagna.

I feel like a lot of people dismiss lasagna as too simple and boring.  It's basically a casserole so it's easy to see it as "home cook-y".  I, however, have always loved lasagna so when I saw there was a restaurant that not only has the dish on the menu but is proud enough to put it in the name, I added it to the list.  Let's talk about that name for a sec.  Yes, it sounds a little guido and conjures up images of Bobby Bottleservice, but the restaurant itself isn't cheesy.  There's exposed brick, candlelight, and a gorgeous marble bar so you know you're not in the Jersey Shore.  If you're like me, when you say the name in your head, it kinda sounds like Tommy Mattola and then suddenly you can't stop singing the first line of that Gloria Estefan song "Tommy Mattola lives on the road..."  Oh that's just me?  Ok, moving on.

All the pasta is made fresh in house which always makes a restaurant stand out and typically deserving of the slightly higher price.  While that tempted me to try something like the pappardelle, there was no way I was ordering anything other than the lasagna.  There are about eight to choose from and include the classic bolognese as well as the trendy lobster.  I couldn't decide which to get, but good old Tommy anticipated this and offers a sampler that allows you to choose any three lasagnas for $16.  I was most intrigued by the lasagnas that fell on the middle of the classic to trendy spectrum.  I knew off the bat that I wanted the spicy Italian sausage and the lamb. For my third choice I was thinking of the green market lasagna (they use fresh ingredients from the nearby Union Square Green Market), but the current produce wasn't exciting me.  At the waiter's urging, I went with the mushroom truffle lasagna.  Of the three, it ranked #2 in my book.  I'm a mushroom lover so the thin layers of mushrooms (almost like noodles themselves) was perfect, but if mushrooms aren't your thing, steer clear.  It's rich, so I recommend ordering it as part of a sampler or as the full portion that you split with a friend while you each also order salads to cut the cream.  As a whole, the lasagnas are well assembled.  Nothing seems just slopped in a pan.  Sadly, the lamb was my least favorite.  The mint pesto didn't have enough force and the goat cheese was not pervasive enough.  The sausage lasagna, on the other hand, was the winner.  Just good sausage, good sauce, and good cheese.  Just what lasagna should be.
Oops - no flash.  Sorry!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans

After a rough childhood and years spent at the war front, Tom has put up an emotional wall.  He prefers a solitary life as a lighthouse keeper on a remote Australian island where social interaction in kept to a minimum.  Though he lets his guard down slightly when he meets Isabel, he is still comforted by the rigidity of rules and schedules.  They govern not only his job but his life, but love does not always heed such caution.

When a boat washes ashore their lonely island with a dead man and a baby inside, Isabel throws away the rules and insists on raising the child.  Torn between the love he has for his wife and his deep-seated need to adhere to his strict code of ethics, Tom agrees but is constantly haunted by the compulsion to tell the truth about the child they are raising as their own.  The lie they have been nursing for years threatens to ruin their marriage when they return to shore on leave.

M.L. Stedman's novel reminds us that there was a time (back in 1927 when the novel takes place) when were not so connected.  Complete isolation was a possibility for those who wanted it but even a simpler time does not make the ethical dilemmas like Tom and Isabel's any easier to decipher.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Antipasto Lettuce Wraps

The full NYE recap will be in another post, but there was one dish I made for the New Years pregame I hosted that deserves it's very own post here and now.

You don't hear "lettuce wraps" without thinking of P.F. Changs.  I think even people who have never eaten at P.F. Changs know the two terms are practically synonymous.  Even outside of the upscale Chinese food chain, lettuce wraps have been an Asian thing for years.  However, things have taken a turn toward Italy in the Konter household.

Antipasto lettuce wraps takes all your favorites from the typical Italian appetizer platter but mixes them together instead of forcing you to peck here and there.  Just grab a head of iceberg lettuce and pick your favorites from the olive bar and deli counter.  There are plenty of options, but some of my faves are as follows:
  • Basics (aka: The Musts):
    • Cubed or Sliced Meat (I used a mix of salamis)
    • Cheese (here, you can use mozzarella balls or cubed provolone/swiss - I went with mozz)
    • Halved Grape Tomatoes
  • The Add-ons:
    • Marinated Artichoke Hearts
    • Roasted Garlic
    • Olives
    • Hearts of Palm
    • Marinated or Roasted Peppers
As long as you're picking most stuff out of the olive/antipasti bar, it will have more than enough seasoning.  All you have to do is mix it all together in a bowl and scoop it into your lettuce wraps.  This makes a great weeknight meal for the fam and could easily be used as a pot luck or picnic dish.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

3 on Thursday

I may be terrible at normal sports, but I excel at skiing.  The fact that neither my body nor an instrument needs to make contact with any sort of ball means I actually have a fighting chance at doing well.  This year I skied better than ever before.  I dominated the moguls and had both speed and control as I zipped down the mountain.  Yes, I'm bragging.  But it's only because it felt so good to recognize that my body was doing exactly what I wanted it to do.  So yes, this week's "3 on Thursday" is all about skiing, but instead of boring you any longer with my prowess on a pair of Rossignols, I'm going to focus on a few moments that made this year's family trip special:

I hate to laugh at anyone's misfortune, but watching my father struggle to get up after falling was hilarious.  If I had only managed to reach my camera about two seconds earlier, I could have snapped a pic with his legs in the air, pointing in completely opposite directions.  Thankfully, this wasn't a bad spill - it was what my family calls "a timber."  Basically, my Daddy was practically standing still when...timberrrrrrrrr.

While Daddy's fall was funny, Allison's was not.  Allison fell during what was basically the first run of the trip and broke her wrist (her left wrist, no less (she's a lefty)).  I hated that it meant Allison couldn't join us on the mountain for the rest of the trip, but she was definitely a trooper.  After falling, she hopped back up on her snowboard and boarded herself down to first aid - all without crying.

One of my favorite parts of the sport of skiing is the hot toddies.  This was a s'mores drink made with marshmallow vodka, hot chocolate, and a graham cracker rim.  YUM.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Blue Moose

My love for moose (mooses? meeses? mice?) is family legend that is revisited each time we go skiing out West, aka Moose Country.  After saying for years that we needed to have breakfast at The Blue Moose in Breckenridge, we finally gave it a try before heading back to the East Coast.

Honestly, I would have been happy to eat here just for the name, but they do the kind of hearty breakfast that will start your day off on the right ski.  There is a pretty extensive menu of eggs done every which way along with pancakes, french toast, and a massive sticky bun.  As a savory breakfast fan, I went with Marie's Special, sauteed veggies (spinach, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, broccoli) topped with two over easy eggs and a little cheese.  I added avocado because eggs + avocado is one of my new favorite combos.

There's enough variety on the menu to intrigue every member of the family and they are eager to top off your coffee mug - one of those little things that always makes me happy.  I recommend going on the earlier side because this is one of those places everyone tries to hit up before hopping on the gondola because it's one of the best places to fuel up for a day on the mountain (or in our case, at the airport).


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