Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Having babies around certainly added a new dimension to our happy crew. Good friends can always go with the flow though, and Chloe and Payton were passed around, coddled, fed and changed by every single one of us at some point throughout the night. As the 7 of us (Joe couldn't come) took turns on baby duty, I couldn't help but notice the truth behind the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." Holy handful. It would be a lot easier if Chloe and Payton had five "moms" instead of one and they all lived in one giant hut.
Erin and hubby, Grant, had anticipated the chaos, though, and as former servers at the esteemed Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville, they broke out some old tricks to make dinner easier. The day before Erin had plated the tossed salad and wrapped each individual plate in saran wrap so it was ready to pull out and serve at meal time. She'd also pre-made a delicious Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette, which was the perfect winter dressing.
Grant prepared two types of creamy risotto - one with shrimp and one with sausage. He garnished each risotto with vegetables julienne to add simple color.
Dessert was peppermint sundaes served in Christmas mugs and topped with crushed candy canes and homemade glazed sugar cookies! Charming presentation, and a delicious, festive taste.
Kudos to the McElwains for pulling off a wonderful dinner and night of friendship while juggling baby Chloe. If I'm ever in their shoes, I can only hope to be as graceful!
I'd been to the Hotel many times since it's close to Virginia Tech. We spent the day walking around Roanoke's downtown square, and grabbed lunch at Trio Bistro Bar Bottle off the main square. We sat in the bar, which was bright and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. Trio had several dishes with fried green tomatoes! Ah! A fried green tomato BLT, Caribbean spiced green tomato soup, and fried green tomatoes as appetizers. Yep, I was officially back in the South. And loving it.
Back at the Hotel, we took a bunch of family pictures in front of the massive Christmas tree before we were seated for dinner. My brother, sister and I had given our parents a night's stay at the Hotel the night before, so they'd already staked out the good photo opps.
The Regency Room did not disappoint. For Christmas Eve, the chefs had prepared a gourmet buffet that was truly a feast for the eyes. Our family shared a bottle of wine and must have done at least three toasts over the course of our meal. The most famous dish, though, is the Hotel Roanoke's signature Virginia Peanut Soup. For those who've never had Peanut Soup, it is truly a Southern dish and is best made from Virginia peanuts. It tastes like pureed peanut butter. It's kind of a rite of passage for Virginia guests and hosts.
A pianist entertained us throughout the evening before we rolled ourselves out of the Hotel for the two-hour drive home. It was a beautiful afternoon and evening in celebration of our wonderful parents! Here's to another 30, mom and dad!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Finally, December came, and I left my agriculture rotation and moved into Home Ec. Woo hoo! And wouldn't you know it, the week we were supposed to bake Monkey Bread, we got the biggest snow storm in five years and missed an entire week of school. We never got that time back in Home Ec, and my shot at a batch of Monkey Bread of my very own was lost.
Until this Christmas! My mom, never forgetting my disappointment and subsequent longing for Monkey Bread, bought me a Monkey Bread baking mold so I could make my own. I tackled it tonight.
Please note, the baking mold came with two recipes: one for the "Working Woman", which was meant to be quicker and simpler, and the "Gourmet Chef's" recipe. I had all the ingredients for the latter, so I thought I was up to the challenge.
Well. After four hours of mixing, rising, kneading, rising, rolling, rising, and finally baking, I finally got to taste my very own Monkey Bread. While my final product looks nothing like the delectable photo on the box, it does taste good. Simply put, Monkey Bread is sweetened bread dough rolled into 1/2 inch balls, stacked and caramelized with brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans. You cook the stacked dough balls in a sort of bundt cake pan, so it should form a tower that you can invert onto a plate when it's done baking. Mine just fell apart when I tipped the mold upside down to dump out the dough.
Next time I'll use the "Working Woman's" recipe, which calls for refrigerated biscuits instead of made-from-scratch dough and should save me about three hours. But today, with nothing but a collection of Gregory Peck classics and the smell of 6th grade memories, I owed it to my 11-year old self to start at the beginning.
Working Woman's Recipe (from Tumbleweed Pottery):
- 4 cans of 8 buttermilk refrigerated biscuits
- 1.5 cups light brown sugar
- 1.5 sticks butter, melted
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
On low heat mix butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts together until sugar is dissolved. Spray Monkey Bread Pan (or 9-inch tube cake pan) with non-stick cooking spray. Quarter biscuits and dip in sugar mixture until well coated. Place biscuits in pan and pour remaining sugar mixture over biscuits. Place in cold oven and turn to 350 degrees. Bake 45 minutes. After removing from oven, carefully release edges and center with a knife. Invert onto a serving platter and serve warm.
Along with a beautiful vintage pearl and diamond ring that has nothing to do with food (incredible!), Joe furthered my culinary promise with a subscription to Wine Spectator, and the 75th anniversary edition of "The Joy of Cooking", which he deems the true marker of any respectable cook. Guess that means he thinks I've got potential ;) I can't wait to get to know sweet cicely, irish moss, epazote, and more!
Since I had the whole day to myself, I decided to try out all my new gadgets without anyone around. Hand mixer - can I just say, what an upgrade. I treated myself to an after dinner coffee from my personal French press, which was as charming as I'd hoped it would be.
I currently am on the third and final rising stage of the Monkey Bread, but I'll do a separate post on that. There's a gourmet cooking store in Charlottesville that I like called The Happy Cook, and that's exactly how I feel! Cheers to cooking and wining in 2009!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Long story short, our attendance was more "compact", shall we say, than last year, but we love all our wonderful friends who remained flexible in their schedules and were able to attend. Mostly, we have a holiday part to show off our tree, courtesty of Whole Foods. How yuppie white-bread is that? Yikers. But it's easy to get to downtown.
This year Joe made a carrot and strawberry tart, topped with goat cheese and plum chutney. I made turnip fries (which I'm always struggling to perfect), assorted cheeses and olives, prosciutto and cantaloupe, french bread and olives, and endless rounds of champagne. As if that's a surprise.
It was an intimate group, but Joe and I always love to entertain our dearest friends and show them a good time. We thank all for coming, and since Joe is passed out on the sofa (post call and too much champagne), I'll thank all our guests for making our holiday special once again. Happy holidays to all from #105!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Apple and fennel salad with chives. So light and fresh!
Porkchop with apple mash and greens.
Apple crepe with creme fraiche. My wonderful sis, Erika.
Wines were from local Virginia vineyard, Rappahannock Cellars. We had a great girl time and even learned a few things in between chatter! The group instruction was a great setting for going out with groups of friends. Everyone was super friendly and seemed to be regulars. I guess The Seasonal Cook is on to something good!
Monday, November 17, 2008
So we stocked up on produce and once again spent ALL our cash in 30 minutes. Even though we always spend way too much money, we leave feeling giddy with our recyclable bags and sore shoulders. We cooked from 12:30-7:30pm.
We invited our friends Dex and Lisa over for dinner in repayment for two lovely dinners they've served us. We used them as our official testers for our upcoming holiday party (date TBD) menu. Check it out:
- Cheese and pate plate with Sicilian olives
- Marilyn Monroe cocktails (champagne, sherry and grenadine)
- Sweet potato and apple bisque (inspired by a soup I recently had at the Wine Market)
- One slice of fried green tomato served in the hollow of a red cabbage leaf, drizzled with a chive, dill and yogurt sauce, with turnip fries on the side
- Portabello mushrooms sauteed in red wine
- Red grape salad with fresh citronelle, red onion and olive oil
- Single link of pork apple sausage served over sweet and sour red cabbage
- Mulled raspberry wine and Glarus chocolates for dessert
Servings were small so we could enjoy a little bit of everything. My two favorites were the sweet potato and apple bisque (which I ate chilled for dinner tonight as leftovers. Yum!), and the sweet and sour cabbage.
I'd never cooked red cabbage before, but I couldn't walk away from this beautiful head at the market. I found a super simple recipe that called for vinegar (I used cider vinegar), melted butter, and a few tablespoons of sugar simmered with 12 cups of shredded cabbage. So delicious. My German grandmother would be proud of this near-kraut concoction ;)
We'll see what makes the cut for the holiday party, though. Food needs to be easily served and passed without utensils and lots of mess. I think that means the cabbage is out.
The night ended with a challenge: the guys had to cook the girls dinner, and then girls cook the guys dinner. We huddles separately and chose themes for each other, and Lisa and I decided the boys had to make us a dinner that is entirely blue WITHOUT using food coloring. And the boys had decided we had to make them an entirely RED Christmas dinner. Seriously guys? At least try to make it challenging for us! Ha!
Game on. But more to come on that as we start plotting.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Whenever I'm in Whole Foods, I catch my mouth hanging open, like a kid gawking in a candy store. I'm pathetic, I admit. How come I never see anyone else with their mouths hanging open?
We filled up a basket and had more fun than two sane people should at the self-checkout counter. (If surgery doesn't work out for Joe, I think he has a promising career as a supermarket cashier, and I make a mean bagger).
I have a philosophical issue with eating big meals after burning major calories, so we kept portion sizes super small and made the following:
- Sauteed onions, snap peas and mushrooms, seasoned with minced garlic and soy sauce (very Asian)
- Olives stuffed with sundried tomatoes (not so Asian)
- Fresh salmon seared in butter and seasoned with pepper (Note - as Joe was walking out the door this morning at 5:30, he stuck his head back in to tell Sleeping Beauty that if I blogged about this recipe, I must clarify that it's important to mix the pepper into the butter first before pouring over the fish. Done, honey).
- Homemade pesto made with soynuts instead of pine nuts, served over the salmon, plus a dallop directly on the plate for color
Our friends recently pointed out to us that our veggie-heavy diet probably doesn't provide enough protein, and we've been paranoid protein scavengers ever since. The soynuts provided DOUBLE the protein at HALF the calories, and were a THIRD of the price of pine nuts. Great alternative.
We popped a bottle of Marques de Riscal Tempranillo, 2004, which had an initial buttery flavor, followed by a peppery finish. This was the first of two Tempranillos we got at the Wine Market for a taste test. I loved this one, so I hope the Tierra de Vientos can live up to it!
Monday, October 20, 2008
- Pommes Frites (French fries served in a triangular basket. I saw them on someone else's table and couldn't say no).
- Aubergines Croquantes (Crispy Eggplant Napoléon, Tomato, Chèvre)
- Terrine à la mode Landaise (Foie Gras Terrine, Toast Points)
- Salade de Betteraves (Beets, Chèvre, Mâche, Raspberry Dijon Vinaigrette)
- Local salad special (Local lettuces and herbs, tossed in a house dressing)
- Seared scallop special (No idea what was in this, but it was divine. None of the usual "fishy" smells that scallops often have).
Friday, October 17, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
LAUNCH OF GLOBAL FOODBUZZ BLOGGER COMMUNITY
LEVERAGES REAL-PEOPLE, REAL-TIME POWER OF FOOD PUBLISHING
San Francisco – October 13, 2008: Foodbuzz, Inc., officially inaugurates its food blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners, a global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world. At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content.
“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said
Foodbuzz is the only online community with content created exclusively by food bloggers and rated by foodies. The site offers more than 20,000 pieces of new food and dining content weekly, including recipes, photos, blog posts, videos and restaurant reviews. Members decide the “tastiness” of each piece of content by voting and “buzz” the most popular posts to the top of the daily menu of submissions. Foodbuzz currently logs over 13 million monthly page views and over three million monthly unique visitors.
“Our goal is to be the number-one online source of quality food and dining content by promoting the talent, enthusiasm and knowledge of food bloggers around the globe,” said Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Inc.
The Foodbuzz blogger community is growing at a rate of 40 percent per month driven by strong growth in existing partner blogs and the addition of over 100 new blogs per month. “The Foodbuzz.com Web site is like the stock of a great soup. The Web site provides the base or backbone for bloggers to interact as a community, contribute content, and have that content buzzed by their peers,” said Mr. Dehan.
Global Blogging Event
Demonstrating the talent and scope of the Foodbuzz community, 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs offered online food enthusiasts an international, virtual street festival of food and diversity. The new feature showcased blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz partner bloggers chronicling events occurring around the globe during a 24 hour period and included:
· Mid-Autumn Festival Banquest (New York, NY)
· The "Found on Foodbuzz" 24-Item Tasting Menu (San Francisco, CA)
· Aussie BBQ Bonanza – Celebrating Diversity (Sydney, Australia)
· The Four Corners of Carolina BBQ Road Trip (Charleston, SC)
· Criminal Tastes – An Illegal Supper (Crested Butte, CO)
· From Matambre to Empanadas: An Argentine Dinner (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
· A Sweet Trompe l’oeil (Seattle, WA)
“24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” captures the quality and unique local perspective of our food bloggers and shared it with the world,” said Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community. “It illustrates exactly what the future of food publishing is all about – real food, experienced by real people, shared real-time.”
About Foodbuzz, Inc.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008
- Steamed brussel sprouts with fresh apple chutney made with allspice, salt, pepper and cinnamon
- Baked eggplant drizzled with soy sauce, ginger and baked sesame seeds
- Baked swordfish with an onion, butter and dijon mustard sauce
- A bottle of Sangiovese (just because we like saying it)
Monday, October 6, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil
- Peel turnips and slice like French fries
- Toss in a large bowl with olive oil
- Put fries in a one-gallon freezer Ziploc and generously sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and dill (salt to your liking)
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until crispy
Monday, September 15, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
After much Googling, I learned you apparently can't just throw stuff in the freezer and expect it to come out tasting good in December. That worked for the mint leaves, but not the corn or peaches.
If anyone's interested in a little summer preservation, PickYourOwn.org is a great site that gives directions for how to freeze pretty much any type of produce.
We also bought our first Canary (aka, Juan Canary) melon today. The bold yellow color was too appealing to walk away from. According to the farmer I spoke with, this melon is almost a hybrid between a cantaloupe and a honeydew melon. I wasn't able to find too many recipes for using it, but fresh chunks are always a winner (maybe with a touch of cinnamon on top), or chilled soup.
Long story short, I got distracted from my end goal when I saw Chameleon Cafe (another new restaurant I've heard tons about), so I parked and got out, only to find that they're closed on Sundays. Whoops. Fortunately, a bookstore and coffee shop called Red Canoe was next door and looked inviting.
Great find! The interior is super cozy, just like you'd imagine a bookstore and cafe to be. We decided to stay once we saw they had 1) breakfast burritos and 2) outdoor seating on a back deck. We pretty much had the back yard to ourselves, and we were happy to enjoy our accidental find. I would highly recommend the breakfast burrito with basil pesto. It gave a new flavor to a regular menu item.
I never did find Clementine, or Hamilton Tavern for that matter. But Red Canoe is worth a try. As we ordered, I could hear kids upstairs rehearsing music, and later a little ballerina came in for classes. Someone's making good use of all the floors of this rowhome.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
So not to be outdone, our friends made homemade ravioli with a mushroom sauce for dinner. The ravioli was completely from scratch and tasted just gorgeous. (I was supposed to be on recipe watch for my brother who wants to make homemade ravioli, but it was already done when we got there so I don't have any tricks to share. Sorry dude). To start us off though, they had a spread of olives, homemade red pepper hummus, baba ganoush and fresh pita bread. Joe was battling food coma before the real dinner was even served!
We were in charge of bringing wine and dessert, so we picked up four bottles on the way, including a 2006 Santa Margherita Chianti Classico that managed to survive our bottomless glasses and came home with us to enjoy tomorrow. During our last-minute scramble to come up with our end of the bargain (plan in advance? please!), we found a new bakery and cafe on Light Street named DeDe's across from Dangerously Delicious Pies. While I circled the block, Joe ran in and got four BEAUTIFUL individual desserts - a mango cake, traditional cream puff, strawberry shortcake and a chocolate mousse pie. The four of us took turns sampling. They weren't too sweet, so it didn't feel like dessert overload.
We wrapped up with a couple friendly hands of Spades and then went home. I will say, this round of the Italian stallion showdown had to go to our friend. But dinner's at our place next time.
Friday, September 5, 2008
- Blanket or chair to sit on
- Finger foods that are immune to grass from dogs digging nearby
- Multiple bottles of wine