Friday, August 31, 2007

Ex-pat For a Week

At long last, the trip I've been waiting for is HERE! I leave this afternoon for my first ever trip to Scandinavia (Copenhagen and the Norway, to be exact) to visit my favorite ex-pat.

I wrestled with whether not to post our amazing itinerary - didn't want anyone to drool more over this than pictures of food - but I thought it might be fun to follow along as we venture through the beautiful city of Copenhagen and the fjords of Norway. *I've read some interesting things about the food over there, too - not sure how I feel about smoked fish but I'm trying to keep an open mind.

9/1-3 explore Copenhagen... Christy's friend's going-away party and hopefully a canal tour, Nyhavn, Stroget, etc.

9/3 leave for Oslo

9/4 begin our own personal "Norway in a Nutshell" tour: Oslo to Myrdal to Flåm on the Flåmsbana; Fjordsafari & Cheesetasting in Flåm

9/5 second leg of our Norway tour: Flåm to Gudvangen (by boat) to Voss and finally to Bergen

9/6 spend the day in Bergen

9/7-9 back in Copenhagen for more Danish sites

9/9 return to the US of A

Quite a whirlwind tour... but we wouldn't have it any other way!!

Watch out Scandinavia... here we come!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So MUCH Food... So LITTLE Time

Only the fact that I am back and able to tell you all about what a beautiful and special place Penn Yan, New York, is can dampen my memory of a really wonderful long weekend. Though, truth be told, even the memory of the relatively few days we had with family and friends is enough to keep me happy.

How can you go wrong when spending time in a secluded lake front spot (thanks Sprint - no cell phone service!) with great company, multiple speedboat rides, getting your exercise on a paddle boat exploring new parts of a gorgeous lake (and dreaming about how you'd "do" your lakehouse), winery tours (when the sun hid behind the clouds), and tons (and tons) of food!!

For Chris' family (and I've learned very quickly these past few visits), PY is one of those places they've been going to for so long that the list of "must-dos" almost requires at least a week's stay. And, good or bad, most of these traditions are centered around food, both making and of course, eating it. In our 3 1/2 days, we managed 3 trips to our favorite ice cream shop, Seneca Farms, a delicious fresh seafood dinner at Sarrasin's, Sunday brunch at Miller's Essenhaus, and blueberry-buckwheat pancakes at Angel's... not to mention the wine-tasting circuit (this time, Dr. Frank's and Hunt Country) and our own GREAT chefs (thanks, Chris, Dave, Sean, and Ben!) at home firing up the grill.

Grilling and eating together is absolutely one of my favorite parts about the Penn Yan experience. Ben, who I personally am always nervous cooking for (because he's such a master, himself!), treated us to an absolutely fantastic flank steak meal Saturday night; and, rumor had it that he'd made some pretty darn good ribs earlier in the week too (silly work always gets in the way of good food!).

Delicious Grilled Flank Steak

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce (can use low-sodium)
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp black pepper
1 1/2-2 lbs flank steak

Combine all ingredients except the flank steak. Marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours, with the last 30 minutes at room temperature. Grill. Let meat rest for up to 15 minutes before cutting. Cut thin strips of meat against the grain on a severe angle.

And of course, none of the food needed embellishment, but it always seems to work out that we have someone headed to one of the local vineyards who can keep a ready supply of our favorite whites and reds (and some blush... Hunt Country's Sweet Gus!). Chris and I made our own run to the vineyards Sunday afternoon and happened upon Dr. Frank's 45th Anniversary celebration. We didn't stay to celebrate but the party-atmosphere definitely enhanced our wine-tasting experience (along with our tasting-guide).

If all of that wasn't reason enough to get you packing for the Finger Lakes, then please go for the buckwheat pancakes! It only took one trip for me to learn about these and in that same time, find that I can make them at home, too (thanks to Indian Pines, I have my pancakes at home year-round!).

Yet, there is still reason to return... the famous grape pies that I have heard so much about continue to elude me. One of these years, though... but for now, I'm happy with buckwheat and my memories!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In Dog Years

How many dog years are equivalent to one human year? Is this theory possibly right?

No matter your take... today, up in Penn Yan, New York, we celebrated the birth of my cutest little pooch, Annabelle. She certainly doesn't seem to have any regard for her age, still acting like the adorable puppy she was 4 years ago... anxiously opening her birthday gifts (thanks, Mom - she loved her new toys!), fetching sticks, and swimming for hours on end.

HAPPY 4TH TO MY LITTLE ANNABELLE! (and thank goodness "people years" are one for one!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The problem (today's, at least) is that whenever it seems that I'm going to have an hour or two of free time, my immediate reaction is to start searching for a recipe that I can make - and let's be honest, it usually comes down to a baked good or goods. I'm not picky either - all it takes is a quick review of the ingredients I've have and voila, a (usually high-fat) recipe materializes. I know that it hasn't always been this way, but without a doubt, I've been inflicted for at least 3+ years. I can only imagine how many pounds I could have saved if I didn't have this bad habit.

Tonight was the first time in a very long while that I was home for the entire evening and just had a few chores to catch up on. And wouldn't you know... laundry and baking cookies are like peas in a pod - put your laundry in during the cook time of one batch of your cookies - clockwork.

This time it was Old-Fashioned Peanut-Butter Cookies. And, as usual, I will pawn them off on some unsuspecting by-standers (Chris' family, this weekend) - that is, if there's any left by then...

Tomorrow night, Chris finishes (yes, forever!) his MBA from University of Maryland so I have a hunch these might be part of the celebration!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Need To Get Out More

A sure way to become a tourist in your own city is to host friends from out of town... and we were lucky enough to have some of our best friends here this past weekend, from my favorite small-town, Kernersville, NC! And it just so happens that each time Jayne and Jason come to visit (which has been just about an annual affair!), I discover new things about the city I've called home for close to 6 years now! News alert: it appears that there IS more to the DC-area than softball fields, tennis courts, Mexican restaurants, and (my favorite) grocery stores!

Everyone arrived after yet another less-than-perfect travelling adventure Friday evening - but a few homemade ice cream sandwiches later, we had calmed everyone's nerves and were in for a great weekend.

Saturday morning we were treated to an unseasonably beautiful morning (it was so nice we immediately opened up all of our doors and windows to take advantage of the weather!) and enjoyed a fun brunch of Orange-Pecan French Toast, bacon, and fresh-sliced fruit. We headed into DC for the National Portrait Gallery and the National Archives - both were having special exhibits in addition to their usual collections.

At the National Portrait Gallery, we spent some time in the "America's Presidents" exhibit as we are all big US history enthusiasts. It was so interesting to learn a new little snippet about many of our Presidents and was a great primer for the exhibit we later saw at NARA. There was a very interesting "life mold" of President Lincoln's face both before his Presidency and a short 5-years later - wow, what a difference a few years of being President made! I'd also never seen this picture of Lincoln which showed him in quite a different light than the more formal portraits that I'm used to seeing.
We then made our way to my ultimate destination - the Harry Benson photography exhibit. It had been recommended by some friends and we weren't disappointed! *the exhibit closes 9/3! Benson got his start photographing the Beatles early-on in their climb to fame and has since taken a number of shots that you'd surely recognize. I could have spent hours there reading about each picture and how Benson just happens to always be in the right place, at the right time.

At the National Archives, the line wrapped around the outside of the building was a welcome retreat as we basked in the beautiful weather while waiting for our turn to enter; once inside, we completed our day's worth of education on the Presidents as we went through an exhibit called "Schoolhouse to White House: The Education of the Presidents".

No visit to the Archives is complete without a glimpse of the documents that govern this great nation so we chatted in line with some friendly Italians while waiting to see our Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Guacamole was next on our list of "to-dos" so we turned our ship around and came home to catch our second winds and have a quick snack before our 7:30pm crab-a-thon!

One of the biggest treats of the summer that we've discovered here in DC is sitting on the Quarterdeck's patio under the summer sky enjoying their all-you-can-eat "Feast" crabs. We were invited to this DC-find two summers ago and since then have made it an annual tradition. Jayne has heard me go on and on about how much fun it is so we decided this would be the perfect weekend... and was it ever!

We all decided that we would eat no less than 3 trays full of crabs (in order to get our money's worth of course) so by the end of the evening, we were absolutely covered in Old Bay seasoning, crabs shells, and stuffed full of delicious steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

*we thought this was "textbook" fat and happy

Even though we felt pretty darn full, I think it was more the fact that we'd been "eating" for almost 3 hours rather than the actual amount of food we consumed (shelling crabs is hard work!). We did, however, manage to find some room for more ice cream sandwiches and JFB's (brownies) after we rolled ourselves home.

Sunday morning, I started somewhat of an unusual "brunch" to feed my departing friends. I'd been craving homemade pizza earlier in the week so I decided to prepare the dough Friday evening and then all I'd have to do is just roll them and top the pizzas for an early lunch. All went according to plan so we had a great and easy meal... two pizzas: fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil, and turkey pepperoni, Italian blend cheeses, slivered onions, and oregano, plus a fresh green salad. I also sent my travelers with some cookies and brownies so they wouldn't starve on the way back home (one of my secrets for not having to eat them all myself!).

It's always far too quiet once fun house guests leave - even Annabelle moped around for the afternoon while I got ready for the upcoming week. Now more than ever I'm extending the invitation to come visit... DC's a great place to be a tourist and I promise that you won't starve!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Not Your Momma's Ice-Cream Sandwich

Taking another page out of MY mom's "book", I baked up a version of one of our favorite's... Kitchen Sink Cookies. And it's true, these really do have just about everything BUT the kitchen sink in them... for quite a delicious mix.

Kitchen Sink Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(courtesy of Wendy Gaynor)

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 c peanut butter chips
1/2 c toffee chips
1/2 c mini-marshmallows
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

*This time, I used M&Ms instead of the toffee chips, and a mix of butterscotch and white chocolate chips rather than peanut butter chips, though I think we prefer the PB chips.

Cream butter until fluffy. Add dark brown and white sugar and mix until thoroughly blended with butter. Add egss, 1 at a time, and mix until thoroughly blended.

Add vanilla extract and mix at low speed to combine well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter/sugar and mix at low speed, until thoroughly blended. Mix briefly at medium speed until completely combined.

Add peanut butter chips and mix on low speed until combined. Add toffee chips and mix on low speed. Add mini-marshmallows and mix on low speed. Add chocolate chunks and mix on low speed. Refrigerate batter for a few hours over overnight until cold.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray and drop tablespoonfuls of batter 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 12-18 minues, turning tray once during baking. Cookies are done when they are golden brown around edges and soft (not bubbly) on top. Let cool on wire rack.

Once these treats were done, and with a little bit of inspiration, (plus, some friends heading into town)... since "just" the cookies weren't enough, I decided to turn these into yummy homemade ice cream sandwiches. And to be honest, now I really can't see why anyone eats cookies without ice cream sandwiched in between two of them!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh How I Love Thee Margarita

While the title of this post would indicate otherwise, I actually only had one margarita this past weekend... but a good one it was.

Speaking of good things... this past weekend marked the 6th annual girls' trek to the beach for my best friends from college, and I must say that this tradition that we've developed is the BEST. *I'd also like to say a quick thanks to some of my friends' parents who've let us take over their lovely beach homes, year after year.

This summer, Destin, Florida, and the home of the Three B's (thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Bryce!) was our destination. We all arrived (in some form or fashion, don't ask me about air travel unless you want a tirade) Wednesday afternoon or evening and settled into the house, and our traditional dinner of pizza and wine, finished off with brownies - and this year, as a special treat, low-sugar Moose Tracks (it tasted like it was "full-fat"!!!).

The next few days all followed very similar routines... a lazy wake-up to hazelnut coffee, cereal and fruit and then beach prep - bathing suits, sunscreen, towels... check! Since the "dangerous marine life" flag was flying high, we usually opted for the beach side pool but we did venture into the sand on occasion.

Having done this so many summers now, we have some favorite dinners that we make each year. This year, after our first full day, including beach time, working out, AND a quick trip to the outlets, we enjoyed fresh seasoned peel-and-eat shrimp, a delicious green salad, and garlic bread.

Friday, we decided, would be our big night out; after a full day in the sun, we all were ready for a nice meal. We headed down the road to Seaside, a very cute little area, to a fun restaurant called Bud & Alley's. Our reservations were a bit later so we spent some time walking around, window-shopping, and trying on belts.

Apparently Seaside was founded by a man who loved dachshunds so of course, I was in 7th-heaven with all of the cute dachshie paraphernalia. After feasting on delicious scallops and grits, lobster risotto, and crabcakes, on Bud & Alley's fun back-deck, we decided we should turn in for the night.

Back at the house, though... unbeknownst to Katie, we had some birthday festivities planned. Katie's 28th isn't until this Tuesday but since we were all together, we thought it a good excuse to celebrate! We surprised her with a yummy chocolate cake and two tickets to the Rascal Flatts' (her absolute favorite!) concert this coming weekend in Charlotte!

Saturday was more of the same (which didn't bother any of us in the least!)... more pool and beach time, some outlet shopping (and looking), and back to the house for a quick and easy dinner... chicken-mozzarella over Barilla Plus pasta, green salad, and more tasty garlic bread.

This is a super simple meal that always seems to be a crowd-pleaser... as usual, I have my mom to thank for this one.


skinless, boneless chicken breasts (approx one per person)
jarred spaghetti sauce (of your choice)
approx 2 cups shredded mozzarella (eyeball it)

Preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees. After cleaning the chicken breasts, place them all in the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish. *I cut each breast into about 3 pieces this time but I usually leave them whole. Pour enough spaghetti sauce over the chicken to cover completely.

Cover the casserole dish and place into the heated over for approx 45-55 minutes. Test the chicken for doneness by cutting into a piece.

Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, take the cover off the dish and sprinkle on the shredded cheese. The cheese should cover the entire layer of sauce over the chicken. Put dish back into the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted.

Serve over your choice of noodles.

Sunday, sadly, came too fast. After enjoying a delicious meal at Another Broken Egg Cafe in Baytowne Wharf and some more window-shopping, we headed back to pack our bags.

And as tradition holds, in a weekend chock full of it, as we headed toward the airport, we were already planning this Christmas' annual Secret Santa exchange and next summer's trip! I feel so lucky and unbelievably blessed to have this incredible group of friends... and while we don't know what the next year will hold, we do know that we'll find each other at the beach!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Two for Two

Once again frustrated making the same (albeit tasty) dishes over and over again, I went looking for some recipes and came upon two winners... in a row (I just had to share)!

Yes, I'm always talking about healthy recipes that can be made with your everyday ingredients... so that's where this tilapia dish comes in. The brownies... not so healthy but so yummy and even versatile!

Tilapia in Mustard-Cream Sauce
*Don't be turned away by the "cream" in the recipe title, this was a Cooking Light recipe and as such, it's actually very light!


4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Cooking spray
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 ounce portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 TBSP whipping cream
2 TBSP Dijon mustard

Sprinkle fish with thyme, pepper, and salt. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish; cook 1 minute on each side. Add broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, uncovered, 1 minute or until mushrooms are tender. Remove fish from pan; tent with foil to keep warm.

Add cream and mustard to pan; stir with a whisk until well combined. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve sauce over fish.

*I halved this recipe and it still turned out perfectly. I also omitted the mushrooms (though I bet they'd be delicious), and served this over a bed of sauteed spinach. This sauce would be amazing over chicken as well!

My second foray into brand new recipes (don't you love having reviews of recipes easily accessible on the web?!) was Double-Chocolate Chip Brownies from Nestle.

Three things I loved about this recipe... that I had all of the ingredients on hand (a common theme, as you've noticed), it allowed some creativity with the selection of nuts (I chopped up some pecans), and in mere minutes, the entire pan was gone (granted, when do hungry guys turn down brownies... but I still view that as a good sign).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sweet Treat

I knew I'd taken the right job when about a week after I came on-board last April, we instituted "Sweet Treat Wednesday". Since then, my co-workers have been my guinea pigs for any fun new recipes I've wanted to try.

I'd had my eye on a recipe that Abby had made and recommended a while ago, for Cocoa Pound Cake (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours); since the ingredients were all things I had on hand, it was just right for my turn at Sweet Treat this week.

The cake was delicious and my co-workers happily cleaned their plates. *As Abby mentions, be sure to put a foil tent over your cake about 45 minutes into baking. And, I was even happier to get double-duty out of the recipe! I brought the left-overs home, threw two slices (small ones... TRYING at portion control) on my grill pan, whipped up some fresh cinnamon whipped cream, and sifted a bit (maybe too much?) cocoa powder over it all. *Another "clean the fridge out" exercise for me - and with delicious results!

I've read about grilling pound cake (usually topped with grilled fruit, but what the heck) and now that I've tried it, I must highly recommend it. If it can get any better, the cake caramelized beautifully on the grill and left a delicious sugary, crunchy texture.

So it's true... maybe not the BEST idea for the week before my only beach trip of the summer, but it was so worth it!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thanks, Coach

Thursday, July 26, 2007, is a day that will remain in the hearts and minds of Deacon fans far and wide...

Mens' basketball coach Skip Prosser suffered an untimely and sudden death Thursday afternoon. The Wake Forest community is and will grieve for the loss of this very special member of our family.

During and before the memorial service held yesterday, July 31, students, fans, and others related to the University joined in a ceremonial rolling of the Quad in honor of our beloved Skip.

I think these words spoken by those who knew Coach Prosser best say it all...

"Wake Forest is profoundly grateful for the gifts that this remarkable man displayed as he walked among us[]"

"Skip lived life to the fullest[]"

"He took everyone seriously, without pretension. His life reflected the values he professed."
- Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch

"God called coach early[]" "That team in heaven must have been pretty terrible. God needed coach right away."
- [Chris] Paul

"God got a great one[]" "He took the best coach he could find. I just hope I get to coach with you one more time."
- Associate Head Coach Dino Gaudio

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