28 January 2009


Sunday morning, Meg and I had a chat about bacon. She'd visited Blue Tractor for the first time and ordered the mac and cheese with bacon. I commented on how I like bacon but I don't like it IN stuff because I think the flavor overpowers everything else (this is important for later in the story!). I spent the next few hours thinking about bacon, though. So when I hit the grocery store, I grabbed some turkey bacon, fantasizing about the delicious BLTs I was going to make.

In an effort to be frugal and use the tiny butt ends of the french bread in the fridge, I made a handful of mini BLTs, with a little mayo and some baby spinach. Cute, and tasty. I would like to eat another right now, actually.

In the meantime, I'd also picked up a fakie bento box -- miss Lisa has been a lunch-making inspiration for me. It's funny, I've always HATED making lunches. Growing up, I had to make my own lunch. And I hated it so much, I'd just throw a bunch of crap in a bag to satisfy my chore of making my lunch.... And then would pay the price the next day. I started making Brad lunches about a week ago -- ironic timing, eh, now that he kind of has to take lunch. :) But while at Target this weekend, I saw this four-piece box Lisa had recommended and I couldn't resist.

Here Brad is showing off his leftover beet, chicken, and goat cheese filling for a tortilla wrap sandwich. Applesauce and cupcakes to boot.

Brad mentioned yesterday that he's always jealous of the fancy surprise treats his buddy brings in his lunch, so now I must continue to pack more and more creative lunches. I will not lose the cool lunch war!

Another fun foodie surprise this week.... Mini cupcakes! A little pick-me-up courtesy of Lisa Z, lunchbox and mini queen. Lemon strawberry with pink sprinkles... They certainly hit the spot and I can't believe I've managed to control myself -- I still have a few left! I've been rationing us, no more than two each a day. I hope they never end! Hugs hugs, you!

And finally, back to the bacon!

We'd designated Tuesday to be mac and cheese night, so mid-afternoon when I realized I had all the time in the world to make dinner, I decided to look for a new recipe. I make mac and cheese a lot, but I make lazy man's mac -- all in one pot. Cook the noodles, dump in some milk, drop in some cheese, stir, and eat. I remembered my conversation with Meg, remembered I had some bacon in my fridge, and thought, what the hell -- why not try bacon in my mac and cheese, too!?

I settled on this recipe from Food Network. I mostly followed the recipe, but I didn't have any cream and I certainly wasn't using whole milk -- I ended up just using about 3-1/2 cups of skim milk. I also didn't have quite that much cheese, so I used about 4 cups total, then sprinkled a handful of cheddar and parm each on top. The lemon juice seemed weird, so I skipped that step, and I also added a few sprinkles of breadcrumbs on top. Threw it all in the oven... and man, did that smell GOOD cooking. It was still bubbling when I took these pics:

I couldn't wait to dig in and dished out the goods, pairing it with a little creamed corn and some classic white bread -- a little southern WT dinner, ya'll! (PS I'm totally in love with these separated dishes I bought for the kids at Christmas dinner a few years ago). Oh, and FYI, the little green specs? Those are just some tricolor rottini I threw in (we have like 5 open boxes of noodles in the cupboard, sheesh!).

The verdict? I think I am sold on bacon in mac and cheese!! It definitely is a strong flavor element, but I think it worked. It also felt more like a meal and I filled up quicker than I normally do (only one trip back to the pot for more!). I can only imagine how delicious this would be with the whole milk, cream, and real bacon.... Definitely recommendable, either way. And the leftovers? Even MORE delicious. I'm excited I have one last spoonful for lunch again tomorrow.....

26 January 2009

It's a veggie, right?

Just a quick note to tell you about my newest discovery...... Yummm.Myyy.

I drove up to Troy today to take care of some final business, and the lovely LC took me for a delicious lunch at Olgas. I don't care, I flippin love Olgas, and I could eat an original Olga every day. (Although it is INSTANT stomach ache for me. Dammit all.) Anyway, given my commitment to health (hey, Olgas has a waitress! it's not technically fast food -- score for me!), I didn't want to order curly fries. But the zucchini fries immediately caught my eye. Hmm, intriguing compromise.

They finally arrived, and they were so much more than I could have even hoped for. Even at Olgas! They were just lightly fried -- more like tempura at a Japanese restaurant than deep-fried onion rings... I've been thinking about them all night. I need to make these at home. I shall keep you posted. In the meantime, go gets yourself some!

It's the little things, my friends, the little things.

24 January 2009

Spit happens.

I've always tried to make this a blog about "something" -- whether it's food, travels, housewifery, dogs, etc. -- and try not to just ramble ramble ramble (trust me, I can be quite the rambler). But sometimes something just happens that kind of affects all of those somethings, and it feels weird to not mention it... As of 2:30 yesterday, I am officially without job. Rumor has it I was one of 30 to go yesterday, and I must at least thank my lucky stars I was in the comfort of my own home when I got the news (although the surprise! you're laid off! phone call from someone I've never even heard of wasn't super awesome). I'm trying to stay positive (and my super amazing husband and friends will have it no other way, and for that I am eternally grateful), and I KNOW that eventually things will work out ok. But in the meantime, my favorite somethings are going to have to change a little. Will I be able to eat out a lot? Nope. Travel? Not really, although luckily our Cancun trip is already paid for. Housewifery? I may perfect it (and even put my laundry away for once). And maybe I'll finally muster up the energy to throw myself into more volunteer work with HSHV and PP. So I dunno.... I could be gone for a while, I could be here 10 times as much. Time shall tell.

18 January 2009

A few of my favorite things.

Brad and I had been looking forward all week to revisiting Slows Saturday night, this time with the Zawackis in tow -- I was so excited to share the yumminess with them that Brad had so recently shared with me. Needless to say, the snow had another plan for us... Despite a short break in the clouds late Saturday afternoon, by the time Lisa and Brad headed over to meet us, the roads were a disaster and Detroit no longer seemed like a reasonable destination. We decided it was still to be a bbq night headed over to the Blue Tractor.

Again, despite the snow, downtown was packed -- at 6 pm. Weird! They estimated an hour and 10 minute wait, so we headed down to the in-between-bar downstairs and ordered up some drinks. First, we all discussed how nice it is to have a comfortable and cozy waiting lounge, where you can sit, order drinks, and appetizers (from Cafe Habana) if you want. Lisa and I split a carafe of Cuban sangria, which was just delicious -- it tasted like sangria, obviously, but it had coconut rum in it as well... Mmmm. Funnily enough, less than half way through the carafe, and hardly a half an hour later, our table was ready.

We'd all been to the Blue Tractor before, but none of us had tried the bbq. And since we already had bbq on the mind, well, we ordered some up. It worked out that the boys ordered the same meal -- the brisket -- and the girls ordered the same meal, too -- the North Carolina pulled pork. How cute! To start, though, we ordered the basket of fried goodness and the potato chips with cheese fondue. It was, by far, the best meal we've had there (and the company wasn't too shabby, either ;)). Although half the fried goodies weren't going anywhere near my mouth (fried pickles!), the fried okra and green tomatoes were GOOD; the chips, which I'm not typically a big fan of, and the fondue were perfect together. For starters, it was the perfect amount of food, too (although Lisa had more than her fair share of pickles [sorry, my dear!]). As we waited for our main courses, the boys ordered up some beers.

Nothin but class with this group.

The main courses... Well... Just plain yum. I was too busy chowing down on my meal, but the boys' brisket looked good (and they seemed pleased), and it came with mashed potatoes, too.

Brads like brisket.

Our pulled pork meals were just super yummy. It's funny because I've never ever ever liked bbq, and I went nearly two years hatin' on pork. But I'm totally totally reconverted. I would absolutely get this again -- tangy and sweet, with a slight bite. And it came with greens and cheddar grits, my fave (although the Z's are right, they are a little on the dry side). I just now realized we didn't get dessert... how silly of us! But after half a carafe of sangria and all that food... I was STUFFED.

And now onto my other new favorite thing.... beets! I cannot belive it, either. I've always found beets horribly offensive, even though I'd never really eaten one. But after Lisa Smith's delicious beet and chicken salad a few months ago, and Vinology's beet and goat cheese salad, I finally felt brave enough to buy my own beets. At the store today, I grabbed a package of pre-cooked beets (thanks for doing the work, Trader Joe's!) and was determined to work them into dinner tonight.

Now, our dinner was nothing too crazy, and I basically ripped off Lisa's chicken salad. But Brad and I BOTH loved it (Brad even liked the beets ["tastes like corn on the cob!"]), and I am already craving it again. Who knew beets were so sweet and completely nonoffensive. Please accept my humble apology, beet.

Bogarted Schmitty Beet Salad
~1 lb chicken, chopped
3 beets
2 handfuls of fresh uncooked spinach
Goat cheese
Spicy mustard
Red wine vinegar
EVOO (yeah, I said it. EVOO!)
Salt and pepper

I like to use chicken tenders because then I don't have to touch the chicken -- I just start chopping it with the spatula as it cooks. Anyway, I cooked the chicken for a few minutes, seasoned it with salt and pepper, then drizzled about 2 tbs each of the vinegar, oil, and mustard in the skillet. Smooshed it all around, and finished cooking the chicken. When it was done, I dropped the chopped beets in (I chopped them small in case Brad didn't end up liking them) and stirred them together. Then I spooned the mixture on the spinach and topped with goat cheese. So easy, but so delicious. I served it with baked potatoes, so lots of veggie action tonight. I'm totally confident now in my ability to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day! Now... if I could only get a handle on that drinking enough water thing. Bleh!!!

17 January 2009

Smooth move.

So more about exercise and being healthy. Sigh.

For book club, January through April, we are reading You: The Owner's Manual. To complement learning about how our bodies work, we decided to challenge each other with Commit to Be Fit (Lisa, thanks for letting me gank your blog post! hehehe). Lisa Smith brought this to the group -- it's something she's also doing with her co-workers. Why this is good for me: I'm NOT good with open-ended, vague, non-rewarding goals. I'm just not. If I need to do something, I typically just do it. However, like I've said, I do NOT like to exercise, and despite my special gut needs, I'm not necessarily the healthiest. We just don't eat a lot of fruits and veggies and I drink a lot of Diet Coke. Anyway, what's good about this is that there are clear cut ways to gain points, lose points, and, the best part... There is a winner. He he he he! Now, it's not about "winning" -- BUT... the challenge is a big motivator for me. So, come this Monday, I'm committed. ;)

I HAVE been practicing in the meantime... that whole pesky eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies. A day! Yes, a day. That is so nuts to me. Alas, I have discovered a sneaky trick. Rather, I stole a sneaky trick from Krissy, who so kindly shared her smoothie recipe with me. With her help, I've managed at least 5 servings every day this week (except Tuesday -- I was tied up at the dentist. blech!). I even bought myself a cutie smoothie mug to further motivate myself. And, of course, a matching towel. Oh cute owl home goods I cannot resist you.

Krissy's Tasty Smoothie Recipe
Handful of spinach
Handful of frozen berries
~ 1/2 cup of juice (I've been using fresh-squeezed blood orange juice)
Banana (which, for the past few years, have sent my tummy on a tailspin, but I am happy to report I am a-ok w/ them all of a sudden!)
Sprinkle of protein powder

*Krissy is a little more adventurous than me, going so far as to use red cabbage, which I did try, and it wasn't bad, but I don't know that I've that brave to make a full one for myself!

Smoothie = yum.

Lastly, I am happy to report that I am FINALLY free of the creepy Ouija board I got Aunt Sandy for her birthday. After a month, I was almost used to it being around. But the first few weeks I was afraid to walk by the room I was storing it in, especially in the dark. Eeeep!

Maybe Aunt Sandy can use her new Ouija board to channel the ghost that I am SURE lives in the creepy mannequin in her front room!

10 January 2009

These shoes are a fonDO.

One of the downfalls of liking food so much is the inevitable need to exercise. Getting older, a slower metabolism from, well, not going anywhere ever... that doesn't help either. But, ultimately, one needs to exercise. I of the crazy clown feet have a million excuses -- "my feet hurt" "my hip hurts" "my heel hurts" -- all legitimate, but mostly fixable. So inspired by Lisa Z's post last week about Running Fit, Brad and I hit the store up last Saturday afternoon.

I've always had problems buying shoes. When I was little, my mom had to take me to Buster Brown -- the only store that carried shoes that fit me -- where I remember very little selection. And so started my love/hate relationship with shoes. The feets are disproportionately long, super narrow, and ridiculously flat. 30 years have helped me hone the art of finding non-clown shoes, but it's still drama I'd rather avoid. This is why I LOVED my experience at Running Fit. I walked in, said I needed shoes to walk on the treadmill. The sales girl measured my foot, checked out my non-arch, and went back to get relevant boxes. No staring at shoes on the rack for an hour, no struggling to decide which wouldn't make my feet look gigantic, and, most wonderfully, no look of horror and doubt when asking for a size 10. She just went back and got what she knew I needed -- and after I tried on the first pair said "You need a bigger shoe" (egads!)... But she was right. Who knew? I'd say it took less than 15 minutes and zero stress. And, having walked in my new shoes for a few days now, I'm still super happy. Perhaps this is the exact motivation I needed -- I want to walk on the treadmill JUST so I have an excuse to wear my fancy new shoes!

My shoes thank Lisa for sending me to them.

My feet are addicted to sitting on the couch.

Now, back to culprit of my needing-to-walkness... Food! I confess, I'm a little bit of an Ann Arbor snob -- I love all our restaurants and the charm of Main Street. Yes, we have a Mongolian BBQ, but for the most part, we have a lot of unique little restaurants. Upon learning Main Street would be receiving a Melting Pot, my brain said "Ugh! A chain?!" but my belly said "Oh la la! Sign me up!" Brad and I have been wanting to go for weeks, and we finally made a date with Rachel and Don and headed over there last Friday.

To start, I had the most amazing drink -- the Love Martini... Peach Schnapps, rum, cranberry... Delicious. They also have quite a decent wine list, including a full page of sparklers (Sex, too!), and other fancy cocktails. Ultimately, you go to the Melting Pot for the cheese, right?? Brad and I got the Wisconsin fondue, with cheddar and blue cheese. Hello? Yum! Why do they not give free refills of fondue?!? Sadly, the cheese ended and it was onto the "food" portion. Honestly, I could do without the food. It's hard to find a cooking method my guts can handle, and I'd really rather just eat more cheese, BUT it was still fun, and the tempura shrimp was a delicious surprise. Next up, and almost as lovely as the fondue part, dessert. Mmmm. The four of us shared the cherries jubilee and peanut butter chocolate fondues. PB/choc fondue plus banana? O.M.G. Why are there only four slices of banana? Come on, Melting Pot! Don't be such a scrooge! Give us more banana! Anyway, it was a great time, and the perfect double date night with our awesome peeps. All in all, I am glad AA got its own Melting Pot.

Special specials to check out:

Sunday Early Bird Special

Every Sunday from Noon to 4 p.m.
Receive a FREE chocolate fondue with the purchase of any "Entree For Two" or $14 off our Big Night Out from noon to 4 p.m.

Happy Hour Specials
Monday-Thursday 4pm-6pm
Receive 1/2 off cheese fondue, $2 off glass wine pours, $2 off specialty martinis, and $1 off all beer.


Finally, I leave you with my favorite new find. Gummie cherries!!! And they actually taste like cherry. YUM.

07 January 2009

Officially back on the meat.

Breaking News: Oh my goodness. Pot pies? At Zingermans? Does it get any better than that? It's $9.99 a pie, but the price goes down in bulk -- 10% off 10, 20% off 20... If only I had a bigger freezer (you can get them in frozen form, too). They're only available in January and February, though, so I need to get my butt over there soon to pick up a bundle. One of each, perhaps? Check 'em out! I'm particularly itching to try the dingle pie (hello? dingle! it's just funny) and, of course, the turkey -- classic. Num num num.

Speaking of Z's, Brad and I popped in last weekend (once finally recovered from NYE!) to try out the Oprah special -- yes, on our vacation, we watched Oprah. It's My Best Friend Gail went on a sandwich tour (including a delicious-looking grilled cheese at Cafe Muse in Royal Oak -- must go there next!), and she came to Ann Arbor to try out Lisa C's Boisterous Brisket (hand-pulled beef brisket simmered in Zingerman's own BBQ sauce on a soft bun). Brad and I are pretty lame when we go to the deli -- he almost always gets the Reuben, and I almost always get the Jimmy Wants Rosemary's Baby (rosemary-crusted baked Italian ham, Zingerman's handmade fresh mozzarella, tomato, olive oil, and red wine vinegar on Sicilian sesame semolina bread). I don't know that we'd ever even looked at the beef menu. But Oprah and Gail nearly peed themselves over the brisket, so we just had to try it, right?

Was it yummy? Yes, definitely. Was it amazing bbq? I'm not sure -- I'm relatively new to the bbq scene, so I definitely cannot offer any sort of expert testimony. It was an excellent lunch, though, and a perfect cold winter day sandwich. If you're craving a deli sandwich, it doesn't really satisfy that craving (no cheese!), but I would get it again, I think. FYI: the deli mac and cheese is NOT the same as the Roadhouse mac and cheese. Save yourself some calories and skip it. Eat a magic brownie instead or something, I say!

While we're on the topic of bbq, over break, Brad FINALLY took me to Slow's in Detroit. He's been raving and raving about this place, particularly the mac and cheese, for AGES... but he always goes for work lunches when I am sadly nowhere nearby. Anyway, we went down the day after xmas, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I ordered the Free Press favorite, the yardbird, and a side of mac and cheese and cornbread.

The sandwich -- applewood smoked pulled chicken, sauteed mushrooms, cheddar, and bacon with Slow's mustard sauce -- was just perfect. Again, I'm no bbq expert, so I don't know what to say other than it was simply delicious. The mac and cheese was pretty amazing, too -- and at $2 for a pretty hefty side, it's quite a steal. Cheesy, spicy, crispy on top. It might surpass the Roadhouse mac... Seriously. Now go check it out for yourself. And take me with you.

03 January 2009

My three Brads.

Hello from 2009! I must say, these may be the laziest, least productive two weeks of vacation I've ever had. But I must also say they've been glorious. I have no qualms about sleeping in until 10 am every day and watching at least 400 hours of various CSIs. I'm certainly not looking forward to returning to work on Monday, but at least we had one big last hurrah via a Very Churchy NYE -- our very first NYE party. Even though I missed some of the party (yeah yeah... insert various jokes and snickers here!), I'm pretty sure a good time was had by all, and Brad and I enjoyed ourselves, surrounded by our friends and loved ones. Thanks to everyone for making this a very special 2009 already.

I love to throw a good party, and I spent a few days planning and prepping. For snacks, I settled on a quick bean and cheese dip, olive dip, artichoke rolls, meatballs, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and chocolate chip oat cookies, and chocolate covered pretzels.

I threw the bean and cheese dip together based on a low-cal dip I made for Xmas -- I heated up two cans of red kidney beans and smooshed them, then spread them on the bottom of the bowl. I topped it with a layer of sour cream, then a handful of both low-fat cheddar and regular cheddar. Then a few sprinkles of cilantro on top. I've made the olive dip a few times before, and it never disappoints. It's a Rachael Ray recipe, minus the garlic. I also used low fat ricotta and cream cheese. The cookies were an old Cooking Light recipe I've had around for a few years -- thought now was a good of time as any to finally try it out. I can't find the recipe online, but the cookies turned out super tasty (they have oats in them, too). I can send the recipe if anyone is interested. The artichoke roll was a recipe I found in a cookbook I actually bought on accident, Better Homes and Gardens' Off the Shelf Baking. It's really just a premade crescent roll, rolled out, topped with artichokes, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper, rolled back up, baked, and sliced into bite sized pieces (again, if anyone wants it, I can send the recipe along). I thought these were super yummy and I'll definitely make them again. The chocolate covered pretzels were pretty straightforward, although I got the specific recipe from Martha Stewart (pretty in pink pretzels) -- this isn't the exact recipe (can't find it), but you get the idea. It always surprises me how much I like chocolate covered pretzels, but these were super yummy, too. Finally, the meatballs. Mmm the meatballs.

I was very excited to use my new party crock, which Brad got me for Christmas. I stole this recipe from Lisa and Kristal -- Trader Joe's frozen meatballs, in Kristal's ketchup and brown sugar sauce. I cooked these on the stove top (in the actual crock! exciting), then kept them warm throughout the evening on the warmer. Very exciting stuff. And everyone loves some 'balls.

Mmm balls.

Now that we've got the food covered, what's a NYE party without some fancy cocktails? For this, I got inspiration from Merry Kitschmas, a book I picked up in the bargain bin just after Christmas last year, as well as from my sister-in-law, who served a delicious cocktail on Xmas that went along well with the two drinks I pulled from the book. I knew I'd never remember the details, so I printed up drink menus for the "bar."

Pictured above... Rudolph the Rehab Reindeer's Nose. My drink of choice for the evening. When planning cocktails for the evening, I didn't even realize that these cocktails were straight hardcore booze... Silly me! Delicious but brutal. And, of course, Lisa Z was kind enough to bring a bevy of delicious jell-o shots. Mimosa, rum and coke, lemon drop... Classy jell-o shots, my friends, classy!

Food, drinks, friends, and even pooches that behaved... It was the perfect way to ring in the new year. Happy 2009, everyone. Thanks for joining us, and we wish you nothing but the best in the coming year.