Monday, November 28, 2011


Thanksgiving this year was infinitely better than last year. We ate with Sam's one remaining local brother, and it was the best of both worlds. I made several dishes, but I didn't have to host or clean my house or even clean up my cooking mess immediately after. Though I still dream of making a turkey some day.
Since we spend the holidays at home rather than traveling to visit family, it's important to me to make nostalgic dishes. Stuffing was spoken for on the Thanksgiving menu, so I made my mom's stuffing for Tuesday night dinner to make sure I got my fill. And when brainstorming what I could bring to the feast, I found a perfect balance of recreating McPhie traditional dishes and experimenting with new recipes. One of the new ones was the curried brussels sprouts, which were Bria's favorite side dish-- a new tradition perhaps.
Non-photographed dishes contributed included this McPhie family favorite jello and Martha's incredible green bean casserole. Below you will see the evidence of pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie (the ultimate crowd-pleaser of the night), corn custard, and Martha's curry spiced brussels sprouts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

making dents

 Over the weekend Sam and I went to New York. It was a quick and efficient trip. The majority of the time was spent eating-- walking to and from restaurants, planning meals and snacks-- which is exactly my kind of trip. And we made a significant dent in my To Do In NYC list.

We found the world's freshest California Roll at Kiku Sushi in Chelsea.

We had pretty awesome pizza and absolutely amazing banoffee at Co., across the street from Kiku, in Chelsea.

On Sunday morning, I suggested we go to Levain, and Sam seemed wishy-washy about it, since we'd been there before. Shouldn't we go somewhere new? Explore more of the city? I felt pretty devastated about this suggestion until about 15 minutes later when I put my foot down. "I want to go to Levain, so that's where we're going." Sam didn't complain, because really, how could you?

Our friends Mandy and Trent did a NYC trip where they visited restaurants who defeated Bobby Flay in a throwdown. (Genius, right?) One such restaurant was Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg. It was too dim inside for pictures, but the food was out of this world. I definitely recommend it-- order the yoyos for an appetizer.

And then there was Eataly. I think I may have said something along the lines of Eataly being the exact replica of my heaven or something. It was that awesome. Every new counter and aisle I was gasping and clutching my hands together in glee. It was almost more than I could handle. The cheese in particular. Dozens and dozens of variations within each type of cheese. There were probably 20 different kinds of parmesan. The blue varietal caught my eye with its creaminess, and I would have taken it home if not for the logistics of transport. Beautiful I tell you! There was also the world's largest and tiniest apples and some very cool looking sodas. We even saw Andy Richter there buying chocolates with his wife and kids. (I was standing maybe 10 feet from him!) Sam and I each chose a pastry (baba al limoncello and tiramisu) and shared some gelato (stracciatella and hazelnut). If I ever live in NYC, it will take serious self control to not turn Eataly into a daily habit.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

try this tuesday: the passing of time edition

Ready to hear something everyone else is saying today?

I can't believe it's November.

Like, wasn't it just July? or March, for that matter? Ah, the passing of time. I remember being in Kindergarten and thinking (very distinctly): "I have been in Kindergarten" And when I was a Sophomore in high school realizing I was not yet half way through high school, and it really bummed me out (I didn't enjoy high school). Two+ years seemed like eternity to me at age 15, and now it's practically the blink of an eye. (We've now been in Virginia for two years.) And now here I am wondering what the next two years will bring, and . . . I've come full circle to my last post. I spend a lot of mental energy on the passing of time. Can you tell?
Um. Anyway. I've been out of town a lot lately, which is making me feel slightly disconnected from the real world, but it's also really fun. Sam and I are headed to NYC this weekend, and a handful of weeks later, Bria and I are headed to Utah for a week. This year is practically over, and it's freaking me out. In the meantime, I have food to keep me grounded. or something. This is the food I'm obsessed with lately:

This salad will knock your socks off. I keep making it expecting the novelty to wear off, and it has yet to do anything but please me to no end.

Whole Foods brand crumbled blue cheese. In a salad, on slices of fresh pear, or just snitched from the fridge-- I just can't get enough.

This bbq sauce is . . . interesting. Sam and Bria l.o.v.e. it, but I am not wild about the Asian undertones (perhaps I'll omit or reduce the hoisin sauce next time?). It does however, make dinner a cinch. My freezer is packed full of small portions of the sauce, and my favorite quick dinner lately is a slew of oven roasted veggies, black beans, brown rice, and a scoop of this sauce all mixed together.

And because I know you just want more sugary things the day after Halloween on the brink of the holiday season: I dare you to make this carmel sauce and not attempt to drink it straight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wisconsin Wins

In August I was in a bit of a rut. It was too hot and humid to go anywhere, and I was more than a little tired of staying inside. I needed something to look forward to on the calendar to get me through the last hot weeks of summer, so I made good on a promise to visit Matt and Elisa in Wisconsin. I found a screamin' deal on plane tickets, and scheduled the visit for mid-October. Sure enough, it made those last weeks of summer fly by.
There were tornado warnings in DC the night I took off, and we were stuck on the tarmac for almost 2 hours before we were finally given the green light. Once in the air, we encountered some fairly terrifying turbulence. I've been on my share of bumpy flights, but nothing like this. Passengers were screaming, my neighbor offered to hold my hand, and it took a lot of self-control to keep my compsure (and, let's be honest, I'm not sure I succeeded). It resolved itself after several minutes, but it took the rest of the flight for my heart rate to return to normal.

Once I landed and met up with my welcome committee (Elisa, Matt, and Amanda), it was a non-stop party. There was a lot of Wisconsin-wooing, since they all work for a kind of incredible company in Madison, with mind-blowing facilities. (Hence the awesome pictures of me while taking a tour of the campus: on that rocking horse above and fighting Matt in the Dragon's Lair while he was on a conference call below.)

It was only fitting to eat a lot of amazing food, since the idea for this blog was born out of weekly dinners with Matt and Elisa when we all lived in Provo-- our friendship always revolved around food. Of note was the dinner at Graze, in downtown Madison. A soft pretzel served with a local soft cheese spread and three house mustards that changed my opinion of mustard. (from strong dislike to obsessive adoration.)

A cheese board which I failed to picture because we were all to eager to eat it, but which I devoured with my eyes closed (I didn't want any excess sensory stimulation to muddle the experience). A soft brie-like cheese with an ash rind, a cow-sheep-goat cheese that was my fave, a 10-year aged cheddar, and a blue cheese, all accompanied by a rustic house bread and apple butter rounded out my favorite-ever appetizer. I knew I should have taken the cheese list home just to remember the specifics of these show-stoppers.
Our entrees were all delightful, with Elisa's being the star. A gnocchi dish with butternut squash, brussels sprouts, goat cheese, sage (and more), in an aged balsamic brown butter.

Sunday was my last full day, so it was perfect to have a large meal with Matt, Elisa, Amanda, Kjerstin, and James. I felt so nostalgic cooking with everyone-- just like the good ol' days in Provo (though missing Katherine heartily!). I don't think any of us imagined we would be cooking together in Matt's apartment in Madison four years later. Our lives are all so different from what they were back then (and different from what we thought they would be now, I think). In whose kitchen and in what state will we be cooking dinner in another four years? ok. Enough navel gazing...
Matt really took charge on Sunday night and fed us well: two roasted chickens (with potatoes, carrots, and onions), acorn squash roasted with butter and brown sugar and stuffed with an incredible sausage stuffing. Kjerstin treated us to some delightful brussels sprouts, and I made a salad with craisins, candied pecans, pears, blue cheese, and a maple vinaigrette.

After gorging ourselves silly, we sat around chatting, sharing youtube videos, and watching the most recent Parks & Rec episode for the fourth time (treat yo self!), while eating M&E's pots de creme.

I flew home the next afternoon feeling so rejuvenated and happy. I was eager to see Sam and Bria, but really just wished they could come up to Madison to join in on the fun. I absolutely adored Wisconsin and could not have asked for better food (cheese!), better company, or a better autumn getaway.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bethesda Delight / Bold Bite

Sometimes we wonder if we chose the right spot to live. I had some serious anxiety about balancing cost, size, DC-proximity, quality, public transportation when we were apartment hunting, but, for the most part, we did ok. I like to daydream and pretend that living on the hill would be practical for us, and sometimes I even entertain thoughts of apartments with more than 200 square feet per person. And, in all honesty, we often laugh about the fact that we probably should have chosen Maryland over Virginia, since Sam's contracts have been split between DC and MD (and never VA). 

But regardless of living on the opposite end of the metropolitan area, we have come to love Bethesda. Sam worked there for about a year (he's back in DC now), and it's one of my favorite spots. The neighborhoods are old and super posh, and the drive to Sam's office led us past schools such as Holton-Arms (boasting Julia Louis-Dreyfus as an alumnus-- did you know she's a billionaire heiress?). And besides a significantly less-crowded Georgetown Cupcake, there are plenty of restaurants to try, like Bold Bite.
(Should I be embarrassed that we went out to eat specifically for hot dogs so soon after our hot dog binge? [Because this was in August-- just over a month after the contest.] Well, no! I am not embarrassed! I have never hidden my love for hot dogs!)
Well, I'll tell you this much: I had an all-natural beef frank with ketchup, mayo(!), shredded cabbage, diced onions, and crunchy potato sticks, and it rocked. Sure, maybe after that and tons of fries my arteries were significantly more clogged and my blood sugar spiked, but it was oh, so worth it.

(guys, what is it about hot dogs? why do I love them so much?)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

promises, promises

I don't know, guys. This ol' blog is sure struggling stay alive. But despite it being four years since I graduated college, there is still something about the  start of a new school year that makes me want to buckle down and get things done. I apparently never keep my blog promises though, so I am not promising anything. (Because then, when I do come back here, y'all will be super excited-- I just KNOW it!)In the meantime, last week was my sixth wedding anniversary. And Sam and I went out on a real live date, and let me tell you, those are very few and very far between. We went over to Shirlington to finally see Midnight in Paris, and I loved it with all my heart. I am so glad I knew nothing about the plot. It was such a lovely surprise. I kind of want to own it so I can watch it again and again. And now I have been researching plane tickets to Paris all week. (Purely hypothetical at this point.) (Also, random tidbit: did you know I studied French for seven years? C'est vrai.)
After the movie, we wandered over to Thai Shirlington, a place introduced to me by one of my all-time favorite people, Amanda. Even at 9 pm the weather was fantastic, so we sat outside to enjoy our Thai feast.
There was coconut shrimp, tofu musaman, and green curry. All delicious and wonderful. 

And then for dessert there was stuffed roti dough. Sam saw the mysterious thing on the menu and wanted to be adventurous. Something about a taro root jam stuffed into deep fried roti dough topped with taro root ice cream and and taro root chip. It was fun and cool, and I would totally get it again, but Sam testifies that it changed his life. It made him a better person, and I almost thought he would begin glowing or crying tears of pure gold he loved it so much. Moral of the story: I love marriage. I love Paris. I love Thai food. Yum.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Try This Tuesday/ Back from the Dead

I promise to return shortly with so many posts about all the crazy indulgent foods I've been eating this summer, which is why I have one very key recipe to share with you. For dinner last night (ok, and leftovers for dinner tonight, too), we ate vegan stuffed shells. It's all been a little much-- the burgers, the pies, the hot dogs, the cheesesteaks, the ice cream-- and a wholesome, vegan meal was so incredibly necessary. If anyone else can relate to my summertime gluttony then please let me know-- the buddy system may be in order to finding equilibrium again. The No Red Meat policy is back in full effect, and for the first time, I'm thinking of taking a break from dairy. I would cry if it weren't for those shells that tasted really cheesy. Actually, no. I will probably still cry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Move Over, Joey Chestnut

*caution: do not read directly before or after eating.

I am now going to tell you about something a bit gross. It involves a lot of hot dogs.
You may be aware that on the 4th of July, in addition to being Sam's birthday, is the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island. Sam has always had a fascination with competitive eating, so we decided to attempt an at-home eat-along this year.
Without thinking, I had created an awesome birthday breakfast, all ready to eat just two hours before the contest. No matter. We pressed forward. We boiled up a bunch of dogs and prepped the eating station.
The contest lasts for ten minutes, during which time you eat as many hot dogs (and buns) as possible. If you, ahem, toss your cookies, you are disqualified. We set some goals-- Sam: 10 Courtney: 2. And then we began.
I started slowly and finished slowly. Two hot dogs was definitely gross, but I didn't feel in any danger of my stomach exploding. I took the rest of the time to bask in my achievement and document Sam's journey.
Most competitive hot dog-eaters dip their dogs in water to help them move on down the gullet. (Nathan's Runner-up, Patrick Bertoletti, dips his in fruit punch.) If the whole thing weren't nauseating already, the thought of eating a soggy hot dog bun is enough to make me dry heave.

And just like that it was over. I chowed down my two with ease. Bria ate 1.5 (we didn't encourage speed with her, since we weren't keen on doing the heimlich). Sam dominated with a hefty SIX hot dogs. To say we all felt a bit disgusting is an understatement. I'm not sure I'll be able to eat a hot dog for another year or so.
But now let's ponder the reigning champion, Joey Chestnut, who pounded 62 hot dogs in ten minutes. SIXTY-TWO.

I'm sorry for ruining your appetite.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Cake

Several weeks ago, I emailed Sam a list of possible cake options for his 4th of July birthday. He took a couple days to decide, but predictably went with The Cake that Shouldn't Be Called Cake-- a white cake with a sweetened sour cream filling and sour whipped cream topping with chocolate shavings.The only difference from this cake and the ones I've made before is I made the actual cake from scratch, rather than from a box-- obviously it only made it more delicious. We had a couple friends over for cake, ice cream, and You Don't Know Jack to help Sam ring in the big 2-9. The gathering was probably more for me than for Sam, but it doesn't feel very practical to make a huge cake for three people (especially when one of those three can't even eat a whole piece).The remaining cake stayed in the fridge for another two days while we sneaked bites here and there until the whipped cream was past its prime. I've really gotta learn how to make things smaller. Throwing away 1/3 of a cake just makes my heart hurt.Also, having a birthday on a holiday means this isn't the only dessert we were eating all weekend. Maybe I just need to learn how to stuff more sugary things in my stomach without passing out. Yes. That is a much better aspiration.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Capellini Pomodoro

If I can admit something, it's that I'm superstitious (against my better judgment). On Monday I said to Sam, "this weather has just been so amazing. I love it!" And BAM. Yesterday was a hot, humid sweat fest. I jinxed the weather, and I'm sorry! And now when dinner time rolls around, I don't want to turn on the oven. Actually, I don't want to move at all. I just want to sit on the couch, sip diet coke, eat watermelon, and watch Downton Abbey. Is that so much to ask? But I have this charming three year-old who requires three meals a day, plus snacks. Enter capellini pomodoro. I have a feeling this will be our go-to dinner all summer (because, it was actually already our go-to dinner all spring).

You kind of can't go wrong here. It's simple, and I think it's best to not follow a strict recipe. But to make things easier, this is how we do it 'round these parts.
1 package capellini (or angel hair)
1 box small tomatoes (cherry, grape, plum, or even roma all diced up will do)
8 cloves garlic (or more! don't hold back!)
1/2 cup olive oil
a handful of fresh basil, torn or cut chiffonade
kosher or sea salt, pepper, and freshly-grated parmesan to taste

Put on a big pot of salted water to boil, and while you wait, begin quartering your tomatoes and mincing your garlic. Before you put the pasta in, tomatoes and garlic should be ready. Put the olive oil in a small sauce pan on medium heat and toss the garlic in to loosen up a bit. Toss the pasta into the water (it only takes about 2-3 minutes). Once it's done, drain it, and immediately toss it into a big bowl with the tomatoes, garlic, and oil. Using tongs or two spoons, gently toss everything together to combine, adding the basil as you go. Season with salt, pepper, and top with parmesan. You can also toss the tomatoes in with the garlic to cook a bit, but I just warn you to not let them cook much. You want the tomatoes to be firm and fresh. Also be sure to cook the pasta al dente. This provides our small family with plenty of leftovers that get better after a night in the fridge and are stealthily eaten by the forkful throughout the day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I've typed "luck" so often tonight it no longer has meaning...

I'm getting to those 200 other photos, I swear. But life has been changing a bit in the last couple weeks, and I've been a bit preoccupied. More on those changes later, but in the meantime, let's ponder the universe, shall we?

You have entered to win Oh Happy Day's Trip to Paris, right? Because it would be simply foolish not to! Also, if you win, please take me with you. But if I win, I'm taking Sam. Sorry.

I've been thinking a lot about luck lately. Several blogs I read mention feeling "so lucky" to be living the life they're living. What, in life, would make me feel so lucky? And shouldn't I identify those things and work toward them? I have a sneaking suspicion many of those things would have to do with delicious food (what with my equating luck to homemade pop tarts recently). Certainly having a girl like Bria makes me feel lucky. I mean, seriously, that girl is hilarious.
And, I really want to know, what would (or does!) make you feel so lucky?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Try This Tuesday

And we're back! I've overcome the intimidation of photo file organization on our computer. I uploaded 200 photos today, and I'm ready to start sharing some incredible things we've eaten in the last two weeks. So, in the sometimes-recurring series, Try This Tuesday is here to save the day.

I think I've perfected the Hawaiian pizza. This crust (add 1T olive oil to the dough); Trader Joe's pizza sauce, canned pineapple chunks, and canadian bacon; and Safeway mozzarella cheese (Lucerne brand, the mozzarella log that is not water packed).

My friend Erica has some great recipes, and this Mexican Tortilla Bake is one of them. It's easy to freeze ahead of time, and adding some homemade pico de gallo on top turns it into a fresh, filling meal. Funny enough, I made this meal during National Vegetarian Week-- along with four other meat-centered dishes that week. We usually average less than one meat dish a week, so the strange carnivorous menu was delightfully ironic.

I just discovered the dreamy 101 cookbooks blog. Do you know it? The photography is delightful, and most of the recipes have me reaching for a pen and my shopping list. This Pappardelle with Spiced Butter was delicious. Warm, earthy, and complex. It was fun to make, though I think I need to steer clear of recipes that require to me to buy ingredients I'll never use again (I'm looking at you, wilting and dead mint plant sitting on my counter). I'm all for branching out and trying new things, but sometimes it's not very economical. It's a delicate balance though, because I'd love to make a permanent leap into new food territories-- one where scary new ingredients become familiar friends-- but it's a long process to create familiarity.

Do you read Cup of Jo? Because you really should. Last week she posted about Greek Yogurt and Berry popsicles and Avocado popsicles. I know, right? So we made them this weekend. They were just as she described them-- the avocado were surprisingly sweet and the yogurt were tart and creamy (we used raspberries). I will be making both again and again (especially the avocado!).

It's no surprise my favorite food blogger continues to be Molly Wizenberg. I can never get enough of Orangette. We tried her Baked Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella for dinner on Sunday and were absolutely smitten. If I had to commit to one cheese and forsake all others, might I choose fresh mozzarella? I can't say for certain, but it's a definite possibility.

More on this later, but I made a batch of granola for my dear sister Lindsay, who just had a baby (darling, precious Chloe Eve!). Smitten Kitchen's is my favorite granola because it results in a crunchy, clustery granola. Also, pepitas? Yowza. Those things are TASTY when they are all baked up in sugar and honey.

Are you still reading? Wow. You're a trooper. Well, I appreciate it. I also promise more (and shorter!) posts to come in the following days. Now I'm off to frolic in the gorgeous weather (not quite 80 and no humidity!)-- a rare, but greatly appreciated late-spring gift from Mother Nature.