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TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Furlough)

{at the top of the Sullivan Canyon fire road}

Thanks to state budget cuts to the UC, we had a four day weekend with the help of Cesar Chavez Day + furlough day on monday.  It was a wonderful weekend and after all of the stress David and I have been under (law school, possible move, possible job change, wedding planning, + our everyday life of work, dog care, house maintenance, etc) it felt so good to have a few days to enjoy some couple time and the incredible southern california spring time weather. 

Friday we did what David claimed was a mellow bike ride in the santa monica mountains.  I'm sure this was a mellow bike ride by his standards (he of the routine 80 mile bike rides), but not so mellow for me.  At the time the photo below was taken I was pretty tired and demanded that he treat me to a margarita by the time we were done. 

{we have how much farther to go???}

Saturday I headed out to Claremont for the inauguration of Scripps' new president, and it was SO MUCH FUN.  Cheryl, Catherine and I closed down the dance floor and partied til the band stopped.  A wonderful preview of how much we're going to enjoy reunion!!!!

{dance floor divas}

Sunday David and I had our culinary adventure, making the ultimate lasagna (previous post) and spiffing up the house.  Monday, I spent doing NOTHING (nothing but all the dishes that we're piled up after said cooking marathon). 

A very good weekend indeed!

Why Marcella Reigns Supreme

{didn't get a good shot of my own, here's an approximation of what ours looked like}

We had a great dinner last night with an old friend of mine and his wife (click here to see her incredible letterpress designs--she's designing our wedding invite!).  David and I decided to make two recipes from Tyler Florence's Dinner at My Place cookbook: the ultimate lasagna bolognese and a bibb lettuce salad with tarragon dijon vinegrette.  This lasagna turned into an afternoon-long process that was fun, amusing, and very educational.  And yes, I did forgo my mainly vegetarian diet to consume it!

Click below to get the full recipe and my lengthy commentary:

Read more...Collapse )

Eating at your desk...

I just ate the most delicious and veggie-packed lunch and the best part is I assembled the whole thing in the break room of my office. 

Scrumptious Pita Pockets

take 1 pita (mine was whole wheat) cut in half, pop in toaster oven to warm
meanwhile, thinly slice a persian cucumber, a tomato, and a few half moons of red onion.
spread  about 1tbs of hummus (homemade from Bittman recipe) inside each pita
stuff with spinach, sprouts, and the veggies you just cut
Voila.  Filling lunch, super healthy, and ready in about 5 minutes. 

I'm thinking that a fancier version of this, say with grilled veggies and goat cheese or balsamic dressed salad greens, or grilled fish, could easily make it into the summertime, too-hot-to-cook repertoire. 

Chickpea Tagine

David prepared a wonderful dinner this evening, this Chickpea Tagine from Fitness Magazine.  We substituted dried raisins and plums for the apricots and improvised with ground cinnamon instead of a whole stick; it was delicious, filling, and made lots.  Worth all of the chopping and we already have our lunches portioned and packed for tomorrow.  While D. was chopping away I used up our very ripe bananas and made a batch of the cooking light banana bread, still my favorite BB recipe believe it or not--I also add toasted chopped walnuts and a touch of vanilla.  House smells really good!

Oscar Night Feast

An Oscar watch party with me and a good friend snowballed into a full-fledged Oscar bash.  David made the crowd-pleasing and time-consuming Neopolitan-Style Pork Ragu (or what we call the sauce with four kinds of pork--proscuitto, pancetta, pork butt, and italian sausage) and I made some vegetarian fare: mushroom and fennel risotto (Greens Cookbook), roasted cauliflower, and a simple green salad.  The food was great and we had a fun time watching Kathryn Bigelow best her ex.  Thank to lexie616, we even had Oscar Bingo cards.  For dessert, we had Compost Cookies from NYC's Momofuku Milk Bar--cookies with chocolate chips, pretzels, and potato chips, soooo delicious!

Following Ina Garten's lead, I set my table hours before my cooking was complete, and she's right, it really does help organize your thoughts and your cooking, but it also put me in the mood to entertain.  

A few pics:

Quick Pasta Dinners

Pantry Raid!!!

Late in the evening, don't want to run to the store, but want something healthy and delicious for dinner.  We had several jars of pasta remnants--one serving of about three different shapes--, onions, assorted canned beans, olives, capers, roasted red pepppers, canned tomatoes, some herbs, etc.  Resulting "recipe" was fantastic, quick, and easy.  Trust me, you can throw this dish together faster than you can get the pizza guy to get your order straight.  And, because we had mismatched shapes, David and I each got a different shape, kind of a novelty in and of itself.

Pantry Pasta Version #471
-1tbs olive oil (best quality)
-1/4 cup capers
-1/2 cup roughly chopped black olives (briney is better)
-1/2 a large red onion cut into crescent shapes, then cut in half
-clove or two of garlic rough chopped
-1 cup rough chopped roasted red and yellow bell peppers (jar is fine)
-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup parsley
-1/4 cup or so reserved pasta water

Cook pasta.  Add olive oil to pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions, cooking till just golden, throw in everything else (olives, capers, peppers), toss in pan till warmed through.  Add cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to pan and combine.  Top with cheese and parsley.

Pantry Pasta #2, Cheers to Bittman.

I didn't make it to the market as planned and didn't have time to head over this evening and pick up quinoa, nixing the moroccan butternut dish I really wanted to make (see previous post).  A quick google search turned up this gem of a Bittman recipe and 40 minutes later a very hearty, flavorful pasta.  Substitutions:  I had some whole wheat penne on hand, so i used that instead of regular; and I had some fresh thyme that I used in place of the nutmeg.  Also, I threw in one clove of very thinly silced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes for a kick.  My favorite part of the recipe, however, was grating the squash in my food processor--which took seconds and looked awesome because the bsquash resembled grated cheddar cheese!!


Bedroom Makeover

Our bedroom needed some serious attention and I am pleased to say that an incredible sale at Macy's gave me just the shot in the arm I needed to breathe some new life into the room where spend 7 hours a night.  Some spring cleaning and new sheets made the room feel so much fresher and lighter.  The biggest challenge of our room is that there is one window tucked in an awkward corner which means we get very little natural light, the other challenge is that our bed is the favorite napping spot for our dogs.  To alleviate the first problem, I'm considering taking down the existing curtains and frosting the glass so that we can maximize the light that we do have; secondly, I'm also thinking of adding another mirror as a focal point to help retain and reflect as much light as possible; finally. I think I might repaint the room--the landlords used a really cheap paint that always looks dirty.  I'm thinking of repainting in a soft white or ivory.  As for the dogs, new rule is that they are absolutely barred from the bed.

Under Pressure

So glad to see that Mark Bittman featured the much-maligned pressure cooker in his blog recently; my mom uses hers all the time for pots of beans and I can't wait to get one--brown rice and other long-cooking grains are ready in less than ten minutes instead of the usual 45-60.  Check it out...

Quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash

Made this amazing recipe for Quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash that I've had in my "to try" file for well over 18 mos.  Though the dish requires a little more chopping than the average recipe, there is very little involved once everything goes in the pot and there's very little clean-up.  This earned rave reviews from David and Zack and after we all had very generous portions, there was still enough left for me to take to work as lunch twice.  It also makes an arresting presentation--all those warm colors plus the green from the cilantro and mint, huzzah!

This recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking is a relatively easy and super healthy alternative to the real thing.  I subbed broth for water and the result was great.  This recipe also makes TONS, so David and I were both able to eat it for lunch twice in addition to our dinner portion.  Economical and a great way to your whole grains--all the satisfaction of comfort food without all the calories and carbs.