Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Love Costco Take Two

Sometimes Sam and I get a little grumpy on the weekends. I know that seems just plain wrong. We should be so happy to be together and have free time, but something about unmet expectations and lack of communication coupled with staying up late and sleeping in just makes us a little salty.

But when it started snowing yesterday, and the grumps started to threaten our entire weekend, Sam took charge by insisting we go out. We took the metro to Pentagon City to get Sam some new shoes, and then we walked from the mall to Costco, since, while we were out, we realized Sam's Costco-purchased coat had ripped. We exchanged his coat for a new one, and ended the outing with the good ol' $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. Did you know the price of the Costco hot dog has never changed? One more reason I love Costco. And because I am on a roll with some serious Costco lovin', I will tell you that I go to Costco probably once or twice a month, and my absolute highlight is eating the Costco hot dog. I always time it so Bria and I go at lunch time, and after we shop, we get hot dogs. Bria has a lemonade, and I have a diet coke, and if I'm feeling fancy, we get a swirl frozen yogurt. And I sit there and enjoy every. single. bite. of that hot dog (drenched in ketchup, of course). It's so relaxing. And it's only $1.50! (Well, $3 for both of us.) It's the highlight of my slightly-more-than-once-a-month.

The short story is, my friends, there is no grump that a Costco hot dog can't fix.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Bria and I were riding the metro today, and Bria dropped her domino on the floor (yes, a domino. it's one of her favorite things in the world). A man on the metro pointed this out to me, so I thanked him, picked up the domino, and handed it back to Bria. The man was then horrified as Bria brought the domino right up to her face and put it in her mouth. He pleaded with her to stop and looked at me and said "she's putting it in her mouth!" I replied, "yeah. well, it's pretty much impossible to keep her from putting things in her mouth. It's gross, but what can you do?"


I have no idea why I said that. And then I felt really weird about it, because it's disgusting right? If anything that has ever touched any part of the Metro ever touches Bria's mouth, it makes me want to scrub her entire body, head-to-toe with steel wool. And when I request that Bria not put things (metro windows, metro seats, metro poles, metro-touching-dominoes) in her mouth, she almost always complies. She's very agreeable. So, I'm really not sure what possessed me to say something akin to "I don't care if my small and adorable child licks the floor of the disease-ridden, scum-covered, germ-producing Metro. In fact, I encourage it!"

I rather felt like a pariah. I was incredibly happy to switch trains at the next stop so I could stop being judged by the people of the Metro. Everyone there is probably going home now to tell their friends and family of the horrible mother they saw on the Metro today WHO LET HER DAUGHTER LICK THE METRO FLOOR. (essentially.)

Also, we went to Potbelly today for lunch with Sam after he forgot his glasses for work and we took a trip into DC to give them to him. Yum!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In Which I Wax Philosophical and Also Have a Lunch Idea

I've said it before, but I hate lunch. I never know what to eat, and I am known to complain about it. I end up eating leftovers more often than not, but if we've gone out the night before, or if I'm just not feeling it, I end up whining a lot and eating mac and cheese or something very unfulfilling, which then results in heavy snacking and sadness later. It's all very dramatic.

But when I went to Costco the other day, I decided to buy some falafel. (Speaking of Costco-- it is one of the only things that ever makes me want to have a big family. then I would have an excuse to buy so many of the delicious things that feed far more people then I ever have the occasion to feed. Yes, buying in bulk makes me want to have more kids.) So, yeah, I bought some falafel. I thought it could help my lunch predicament. I also bought some flat bread from trader joe's with a bunch of crunchy vegetables-- green peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers. I tossed them all together with some of this divine lemon yogurt sauce, and it made a fantastically satisfying lunch-- which is good, because I have oodles and scads more falafel, since it came from Costco.
The other thing I want to say is that I am really, really happy. When we first moved to Virginia, I started thinking what did we do?! I realized that the boredom I often experience as a stay-at-home mom is the same wherever I live, and I was also incredibly (painfully, achingly) lonely. But in the last month or so, I have started to feel so at home here. I am really starting to feel like I have a life here. And the other thing is that, for so long, I have had this image in my head of The Person I Want To Be, and it's been so drastically different from The Person I Actually Am. But I feel like I'm finally taking charge and making changes in my life. I feel more at peace with the things I know I can't change, and I feel so excited about the things I am doing to make my life the one I want it to be. In short, I am happy-- and I haven't felt like this in a long, long time. Life is good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Try, Try Again: Part Two, or Redemption

So, the red wine marinara debacle just whet my appetite for more homemade pasta. I continued my search for a simple red sauce for the pasta and stumbled across this recipe for spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and garlic basil oil over at Steamy Kitchen. There was definite potential in that recipe, so we invited Hannah and Rob over to sample the dish with us.

As usually happens, making dinner took infinitely longer than I expected. Like, two hours longer. I usually think these things through like "well, all I need to do is make the tomato sauce and then whip up that homemade pasta. that should only take me about 45 minutes." Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's no logic involved in my time management skills. Welcome to the cause of 74% of my arguments with Sam.
So I started the sauce. The first step is to blanch some tomatoes. I have never blanched a tomato, and let me tell you, they were so beautiful (post-blanch) I thought I could cry.

And the skins came off so easily. It was lovely. Then I tossed them into a hot pan with some canned tomatoes and let the sauce go to work. I started getting worried when I realized the sauce was pretty much just tomatoes, but, in the end, my concerns were unfounded. The sauce reduced rather efficiently, and then it was time for the pasta.
Hannah was nice enough to cut the pasta with me (we used Pioneer Woman's directions again), and this time we pulled out the pasta maker my mom gave me for Christmas two years ago. (Of course, I haven't taken a picture of it. Why would I want to assist you in creating a mental image?) I've used the contraption three times, I think, and it proves to make much more uniform pasta than haphazardly rolling a pizza cutter along the dough. It does, however, take longer. But I think (hope?) Hannah didn't mind helping me feed the dough through the cutters.
Once the pasta was mostly cooked, I threw it in with the sauce and felt rather silly as I tossed it around with two wooden spoons (apparently this helps incorporate air into the dish). But I did it with feigned confidence-- like I knew what I was doing-- and it came together so beautifully. The cheese, butter, and basil came last, with a drizzle of the heavenly garlic basil oil.

I'm pretty sad to say this is the only picture I took of the finished dish:

As the recipe says, the pasta isn't over-sauced. It's a light tomato sauce, but the flavors are intense, particularly when complemented by the garlic basil oil. Oh, and that oil. Good heavens, that stuff was amazing. You steep garlic and basil in olive oil for at least 20 minutes (I steeped it for four hours), and the smell will send you to the moon. Drizzled over the pasta, it is just the punch you need to make pasta with tomato sauce exciting. And, now, having made the dish with homemade pasta, and I can't imagine making it with store-bought. Homemade pasta is so hearty. The texture is more rustic and it is much more satisfyingly filling. Everyone should make homemade pasta at least once in their lives. It's well worth the time commitment.

This dish may just be my favorite thing in the world right now. I'm scheming to make it again this week while my mom is visiting-- and then maybe again when my sister visits next month. It's just that good.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Try, Try Again: Part One

I think it's time to own up to one of my kitchen fails. And it's only because I have something glorious to share as a result of the fail.

This year Sam, Bria, and I spent Christmas all by ourselves. Every year up until now, we have spent Christmas with one of our families, but since we just moved, and plane tickets cost approximately one arm and half a leg, and because we're starting to be adults, we decided to start our own family traditions by staying home. In my family, we ate our big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and I wanted to continue this tradition-- but I wanted to put my own twist on it. I wanted to create some magnificent feast that was atypical for a holiday dinner and make that our traditional Christmas dinner. After some drool-inducing brainstorming, Sam and I thought it would be fun to make homemade pasta with marinara and meatballs.
As luck would have it, I didn't get any of my Christmas shopping or other holiday to-dos done before the big blizzard, so I was left with somewhere around one million things to do the week of Christmas. When it came down to Christmas Eve, I was still running around very much like unto a decapitated chicken. By 5:00, starting dinner was the last thing on my radar. Tears of unmet expectations and homesickness ensued, followed by Sam saving the day. In short: for Christmas Eve, we ordered takeout from Outback.

Still wanting a special holiday dinner, we planned the homemade pasta for the Sunday after Christmas. I rolled out the pasta dough according to Pioneer Woman's directions. And I used a pizza cutter to cut the noodles, which was hilarious, because I do not have a steady even hand. It turned into a combination of angel hair, spaghetti, and linguine. No matter. Let's say the varied sizes of noodles just made the dish more visually appealing.

Then came the sauce. It was the first recipe I tried from Smitten Kitchen, and with a blog name like that, I really, really wanted to like it. But no. No, no, no, a thousand times no. It was awful. The sauce was easy to make, and it looked absolutely beautiful. It also popped and sputtered a lot and burned Sam's hand, and he took pictures of his own hand because he wanted to document it for the world,but that's beside the point.

The point is that is was gross. Since I don't drink alcohol, I rarely cook with it, but this special recipe called for the occasion. The friendly people at Trader Joe's helped me pick a red wine suitable for cooking. And, since we don't drink alcohol, we nearly destroyed the cork trying to remove it without a corkscrew (thank goodness our noisy upstairs neighbors are heavy drinkers and lent us one). And, then, when the sauce was coming together, and I started to smell it, I realized, that, since I don't drink alcohol, I didn't know that I think red wine is disgusting.

The basic sadness of this recipe is that all we could taste was red wine. There was no tomato flavor or herby-spicy-deliciousness. It was all wine. I think even if we were wine-drinkers we wouldn't have liked it. The wine overpowered every other flavor of the dish, and it was so incredibly unpalatable, we threw it all away. Talk about a disappointment.

The happier part of it all, however, was the pasta. Homemade pasta has the potential to change your life. And because I could sense this beautiful potential beneath all that horrific wine, I was inspired to try another pasta dish. And this one, my friends, was glorious. Stay tuned for part two, when I recount my culinary redemption found in Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil.

Monday, January 18, 2010


When I put Bria to bed, we have a fairly simple routine of books, milk, and songs. We particularly enjoy books by Sandra Boynton, and I usually sing her Once in Royal David's City or a modified, happy version of Tools Was a Baby Rabbit (in fact, I didn't know the real lyrics until I found that link right now-- thanks, Dad for changing the lyrics for us when we were little). However, today, Bria would not calm down and accept her imminent nap time until I sang her the following little ditty (complete with character voices). twice.

And when I finished singing it for the second time, she reached for her crib, I tucked her in, she blew me a kiss, and she went right to sleep. What a gem. Who knew the muppets were so soothing?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Soup Weather

The humidity in Virginia makes the 20- and 30- degree temperatures seep all the way to my bones. It is cold. Our windows seem to do nothing, so our heat runs constantly, and I find myself reaching for sweatshirts and blankets far more often than in winters past. Such weather calls for soup, I say! I made my mom's chili over the weekend, and tonight I made a new recipe for enchilada soup.
But first, speaking of my mom, I am going to have my very first Virginian visitor next week! My mom is making the trek out to see her only blue-eyed child, and I couldn't be more excited. And in honor of my dear mother, let me tell you how she thinks the mark of a true chef is one who can keep the kitchen clean as she cooks.
Now let me show you a picture of my kitchen after I made dinner tonight:

Clearly, my mom considers me an amateur. And, you know, I could say, "but I'm cleaning with an almost-two-year-old underfoot!" and to that, my mom would reply, "and I had five kids. Boom. Roasted." Oh well. We can't all inherit our mothers' neat-freakiness.

So, on to the soup. Now, please, set your calorie counters aside. These long winter months require us to stock up on our fat stores, see. That way you can stop reaching for the snuggie and just relish in your plumpness keeping you warm.
My sister emailed me this recipe a couple years ago, and I just now got around to trying it. It's rather simple, and incredibly delicious and filling. There is just enough spice to keep your mouth and body warm, but not so much of a kick to keep you reaching for the water after every bite. And it's rather thick, so I don't know that soup is the best word for it. Call it what it you will, it's scrumptious, and just the sort of thing to get me looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Enchilada Soup

8 chicken tenderloins, raw and cut into cubes

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans chicken broth

1 generous cup enchilada sauce

3 scant cups water

1 cup masa (Mexican corn flour)

1 t salt

1 t chili powder

1/2 cumin

16 oz. velveeta cheese

In a large soup pot, brown the chicken in some butter, with the heat on high. Once it is fully browned, remove the chicken to a plate.
In the same pot, saute the onion and garlic until tender. Add the chicken back to the pot
Dump in the broth, water, and enchilada sauce. Stir and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat to low, then mix the masa, salt, chili powder, and cumin together in a separate bowl. Slowly pour the mixture into the soup while whisking briskly. Continue to whisk as fast as your little arm will allow to ensure that the masa doesn't clump. If it does, just keep whisking away until the clumps break up. Bring the soup to a low boil and stir constantly while the soup thickens.
Remove from the heat, and, once it stops boiling, add the cheese. Stir thoroughly to melt. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some tortilla chips.

Some notes:
When I said whisk as fast as you can when adding the masa, I meant it. And it will probably still clump. Just keep whisking; it will smooth out. I promise.
I stirred in some frozen corn to our individual bowls upon serving, as a way to cool it down. This was genius, because the sweetness from the corn worked so well with the heat from the enchilada sauce. I definitely recommend it. Also, I think the amount of cheese could be reduced slightly-- or at least cut it into cubes so it melts quicker. I ended up getting impatient and served the soup with large chunks of cheese sitting at the bottom of the pan. The soup still tasted great, which is what makes me think the overall amount could be reduced, but if you're intent on consuming the maximum amount of processed American cheese, just cut the cheese into small cubes to facilitate the melting process.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Would Be Nices

I really do like New Year's Resolutions. I like the symbolic fresh start the new year offers so that, while I do try to improve throughout the year, I can put the past year behind me and start anew. Maybe I like new years too much, because I get to a point where I think everything should be a resolution. Clearly, if I accumulated nine hundred resolutions I would end up keeping approximately none of them. I narrowed down my resolutions to a few key things I want to work on, and I put them on the fridge, but there are also some other ideas I have about this year-- things that would be nice.
So, here is a list of my 2010 Would Be Nices.
1. Read a new book every month (I can't believe I don't even read that much right now. It's sad.)
2. Try a new recipe every week
3. Go on a DC adventure every week (do something I couldn't do if I lived somewhere else)
4. Invite someone over for dinner every month

I think I will really try these Would Be Nices. I probably need to ride the Metro more, and I probably need to just suck it up and walk to the Metro. It's not so far for one single person to walk, but when you have to make a toddler ride in a stroller to and from, the idea gets less and less exciting. Plus, the germs in the Metro are almost more than I can handle, and Bria seems to think it's fun to lick everything when we ride. It almost makes me cromit (that would be cry and vomit simultaneously).
As far as trying new recipes goes, I think this blog could benefit from that Would-Be-Nice. And I suppose I could start blogging about all the culinary fails that have been going on around here. Some things I've learned recently, that maybe I'll get the mustard to blog about soon: I hate red wine in my marinara; rice pudding curdles quickly; ding dongs are not made from sponge cake. There you go.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

a milkshake a day . . .

I'm in a milkshake phase right now. I guess my entire life, thus far, has been an ice cream phase, but sometimes I just really adore milkshakes. I'm a thick-enough-for-a-spoon milkshake kinda gal, and I've been blending up some delightful cookies 'n' cream shakes for several nights in a row now. The ice cream is gone, and I am now eating the last of the shakes. Sam is working late, so I thought I could polish off the last of it. Turns out, as I blended, it probably could have made two moderately-sized shakes, but I already had it in my mind that the last baby would be all mine. So now I am enjoying this bad boy all by myself. (sorry, sam.) And I am savoring it with this lovely little spoon that Bria stole from the Blue Plate Diner almost exactly a year ago.
I am sorry I have had nothing to post lately. I have had so many things I wanted to post, but then, when executed in my kitchen, they have turned into sad culinary disasters. I'm in a kitchen rut, that's for sure. I'll kick this funk soon (I hope) and return with something to tickle your taste buds.