30 April 2012

Fun guy.

A few months ago, I got biscuits and gravy for breakfast at the Phoenix with Brad (if you haven't been, GO! Or, obviously, request I take you when you visit). I've only had biscuits and gravy once before, and, of course, it was meaty gravy. But, oh my heart, the gravy at Phoenix was mushroom gravy. 100% vegetarian. It has been SO LONG since I've had gravy. I nearly turned into a little puddle of happy right there. And, no surprise, this meal was delicious - two yummy biscuits, amazing gravy, and two poached eggs (I think there were potatoes, too). We went back a few weeks later and it wasn't on the menu, so I've been dreaming of it for ages. Yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands and got my mushroom on.

I googled recipes and decided on this Martha version. Mushroom gravy kind of takes forever to make. And requires oodles of mushrooms.

I couldn't find cremini mushrooms, so I just bought all shittake (and the one portobello). I was even a little short, but it still created quite the mountain of fungus.

You hang on to all the chopped caps for a bit. First you have to make stock - which is hilarious because it is really like making chicken stock. Just with, you know, mushroom stems.

After a while, it was time to start cooking the the actual mushrooms - Martha said to scrape the bottom of the pan with marsala, but I cracked open a bottle of White Pine (local winery) Dune Shadow Red. I ended up cooking the mushrooms in a few sploshes - when did a little extra wine hurt anyone?

Eventually you mix everything together. I added a few more sploshes of wine, a few sploshes of half and half, and a ton of pepper. Done! We had to have real food with our gravy, though, so I also made some mashed potatoes, some local (yeah!) asparagus, and Parmesan-crusted whitefish. Be sure to also take note of the ridiculous but cute chicken napkins I got in town for 99 cents.

The fish was ok. The asparagus was yummy. The potatoes and gravy were super duper! Very mushroomy, very gravy-like, probably a lot like a homemade mushroom soup, actually. That being said, this was not at all like the Phoenix gravy I've had in my mind for months (which was creamier and super peppery). So... when we've come down from all this gravy (it makes a LOT), I'll try out different recipes to hopefully  replicate it. But I give myself two thumbs up for a valiant effort. Brad even liked it - and this was kind of like his nightmare meal. He hates mushrooms and onions (there are a ton of shallots).

Also on my mind for a while - the portobello burger I had in Saugatuck a few weeks ago, when Brad and I got out of town for the afternoon. Phil's Bar and Grille is one of my favorite spots we've found thus far. A small hometown bar with great food but a humble and cozy atmosphere (it hits that right-in-the-middle of fancy and dive perfectly). Anyway, I had my very first ever portobello burger, which was on a pretzel roll with goat cheese, avocado, and sun-dried tomato pesto. I had one portobello leftover from gravy, so tonight I tried to re-create this meal as well.

I couldn't find good pretzel rolls and I wasn't too worried about the pesto, but I had goat cheese and avocado, so I was happy. I marinated the cap in balsamic and oil for about 20 or 30 minutes, and then I sauteed it for about 15 minutes - 7-ish minutes on each side. (Side note: Real burger for Brad. I bought him a pre-burgered burger at the store. I didn't even have to touch it. Sweet!)

This was SO GOOD. Why are portobello burgers just now coming onto my radar? I need to have this often. Who knew?

26 April 2012

Dirty pillows.

Since I disappeared oh so many months ago, I've been busy being obsessed with Pinterest. I know some people use it as dreamy inspiration board, of lofty plans off in the distant (never?) future - which is fine, there are no rules - but I use mine as an actual of reminder of stuff I actually want to do, eat, buy, etc. And the anal editor in me goes back and deletes stuff once I buy it (or make it and don't like it!). I was sitting at work the other day and thought, I need to make some Pinterest purchases, tonight! So I made myself a reminder on my phone, and that night I sat down and finally purchased a few things I've been wanting for a while now.

Credit to Kristal, who originally pinned these geometric yellow pattern outdoor pillows from... Kmart! For under $10! Anyone who has pets (or kids!) should embrace the benefits of outdoor pillows - for indoors! They hold up great to repeated vacuumings (dog hair!), they wash up easy (just a quick wipe wipe takes care of any George butt spray!), and they can really just take a beating in general. Plus, they are typically cheaper than your average couch pillow. ($10 is still pretty cheap even for an outdoor pillow, though.) Lest you worry they feel like vinyl or something else outdoorsy, they are cloth and are perfectly comfy for head resting!

My favorite part is that I ordered these Tuesday night. And they arrived TODAY!

I haven't decided where to put them all yet (I ordered four), but I definitely wanted to enjoy one right away, so I stuck it on the couch, where it can make friends with my other flower-pattern outdoor pillows from Target.

Georgie saw me taking pictures and begged me to let him model the new pillow...

Such a handsome man.

Moral of the story: Pinterest rules and is so handy. Outdoor pillows for indoors = best idea. Georgie is cute.

23 April 2012

Bun in the oven.

No, no, not me! Hillary!

Last weekend, Molly and I co-hosted a baby sprinkle for Hillary. I like to think I made up the term, as clever as I am... :) But it's baby number two, so technically not a shower. See? A sprinkle! Just some friends brunching it up in honor of the expectant mama and new baby.

Molly was kind enough to host everyone at her parents' condo on the waterfront, and we divvied up the food duties. Molly made the dessert, I made (and/or purchased) the food and punch(es). When we first broached the idea with Hillary a few months ago, her one request was deviled eggs. So, I made some deviled eggs.

That's a lotta hardboiled eggs!

I have to confess I made somewhat of a mess peeling the eggs... but I think I managed to disguise my hack job pretty decently...

I followed a pretty basic recipe - the only frills were a 1/4 cup of pimentos. I dare say they turned out pretty well for my first try!

Next up, macaroni salad (I know, kind of a mayo-heavy brunch!). I settled on this recipe, even though the addition of sugar seemed odd. I skipped the carrots (lazy), added a few spoonfuls of pimentos, and went a little light on the sugar. Even still, it tasted way too sweet at first. Luckily this had overnight to sit because by the next afternoon, it tasted great (and just the right amount of mayo-y - a few people said they don't normally like mayo-based salads but liked this [unless they were just being nice, ha!]. I will definitely be revisiting this recipe.

I also brought a spread of mini bagels (plain and raisin), cream cheese (plain and garden veggie), avocado, and smoked salmon.

To drink, Preggo Punch (sparkling cherry water, limes, raspberries, sprite) and Non-Preggo Punch (Yellow Tail moscato, mint, peaches, kiwi, raspberries, and a splash of sprite).

Preggo punch for mamas!

And crazy props to Molly for making super awesome (and delicious) flower cupcakes (did I mention the sprinkle was garden themed?).

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share this special time with Hillary and her family. I know I had a great time at her sprinkle, and I sure hope she did, too. Can't wait to meet the new addition very soon!!!

Best wishes and lots of love to baby Smits! xoxo

22 April 2012

Eggs in the city.

I <3 Chicago. I really do. I've come to the conclusion that outside of New Orleans, it is my favorite city in the states. It makes me have smooshy feelings when I drive over the bridge and can see the skyline. And, although Birgit may not believe me (ha!), I can maneuver around, usually know where I am, and feel comfortable scooting around by myself. Driving in and around doesn't even stress me out too much. I feel very lucky to now live so close. Especially when I have friends there for business!

Attending a social media conference, Melissa S. had a room at the Blackstone Hotel in Grant Park, just across from Millennium Park, and she was so lovely to invite me to join her. So I headed west Wednesday from work and spent the night and most of the next day with her. (Btw, highly recommend the hotel - it was beautiful and the rooms were nice and comfy.)

Wednesday night we walked (it was a lovely evening!) the 2+ miles to the West Loop for dinner at de cero. Brad and I ate here when we went to Chicago for our anniversary this past fall, so I knew it would be yummy (and public props to Ceile for recommending it in the first place!). No pics (close tables, which always makes me extra self-conscious about photo taking), but I assure you the catfish taco, fried shrimp taco, and tilapia taco - all with their accompanying fire-hot sauces - make this place worth repeat visits. I couldn't this time - darn sinus infection and stupid antibiotics - but next time I will for sure be trying the hibiscus margarita!

The next morning Melissa had to work (lame!), so I walked around for a bit while I waited for her to finish. I dumped my bags at my car (so glad I parked offsite - saved $20+!), then headed over to Naturalizer, because I am an old lady with gimp feet. I was SO excited to find the shoes I'd pinned recently, and they were even on sale!

The best part? "Cushioning insole with Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insert." Then a quick stop at the Modern Shop at the art museum. Then back to the hotel to meet up with Melissa for lunch. Just a few blocks down from the hotel, we tried out Yolk. Well, I tried out Yolk. Melissa returned to Yolk for a repeat visit. I know I certainly hope to return for, well, a return visit, myself! This place was a breakfast lovers dream come true!

Melissa got lunch (crazy girl!) - a blt with avocado. After much debate, I settled on a three-egg egg-white scramble with tomatoes, capers, cream cheese, and smoked salmon. For dessert, Melissa pulled my leg and MADE me agree to get the red velvet french toast to share for "dessert." We had quite the spread...

I made lots of mmmm-y noises as I ate. I mean, you can't go wrong with that combination can you? Eggs + salmon + cheese? YUM. A reminder that I need to have smoked salmon on hand at home more often... Anyway, onto that french toast of ours. O. M. G.

Seriously. Do you see what I see? Red velvet. OOZING cream cheese filling. I mean, this is essentially cake, but it is breakfast, so it's perfectly acceptable.

After breakfast, we hopped across the street to play in some fun art. Who could resist giant legs?!


What a lovely mini break all around. Awesome company. Delicious food. Super fun sights. Can't wait to play more with Melissa in July!

Disclaimer... Blogger updated, so new posting page! If this post ends up looking weird or crazy - not my fault! :)

17 April 2012

Simply eggsellent.

I think it is safe to say that I am obsessed with eggs. A few weeks ago on Iron Chef the secret ingredient was eggs. At one point, they cracked open and poached an ostrich egg. That baby was huge - I mean, check it out:

All I could think about was how in the heck do I find myself an ostrich egg so I can cook it sunny side up and soak toast in the delicious, gooey yolk? Does it get any better than that? Seriously!

For a while I was making batches of hard-boiled eggs on Sunday nights and bringing an egg a day for work lunch snacks. Then for a week or two I was making batches of egg salad and having that for lunch (unfortunately, that one my stomach couldn't handle, so no more egg salad sandwich lunches for me). My current kick is poached eggs for lunch, via this AWESOME gadget my mom got me for Christmas:

The screamy face is my favorite part.

I'm pretty sure she got it at TJ Maxx, but they sell it on Amazon, too, for $9. On Sunday nights, I've been making a big batch of rice (white, still can't handle brown - yuck) for M, T, W. For lunch, I poach my egg, add it to my rice, and mix in whatever else I've brought - avocado, salsa, just remembering I have delicious crumbly Mexican cheese in my fridge at home and that would go perfectly, too, darn it! Anyway, super filling, protein packed, and delicious. Definitely helps the day go by faster....

*Note, I still have enormous chicken guilt about eggs. BUT I only buy local-ish farm eggs that are literally labelled "Happy Eggs!" So that helps....

13 April 2012

Bright lights, big food.

The good news is that the plague cleared up and I had my appetite back for my trip to NYC (the bad news is that I am now sick AGAIN), so I have lots of yummy food tales to relate! No matter your opinion of NYC, there is much delicious food to be eaten - I kept telling Birgit, I wished we could just eat ALL day. Even then, you still couldn't squeeze everything in... But you could sure try!

First things first, our hotel (I love me a good boutique hotel!) - which, even though he wasn't invited on our girls trip, Brad found for us. I was overwhelmed trying to determine area, price, unlikelihood-of-having-bedbugs-ness, so Brad just said "I'll do it!" He even found us a sweet deal, and we booked our room at Morgans NYC. On Madison at 37th, it was perfectly located and super cute. I mean, side by side twin beds? How much more adorable does it get?

I've never been one to publicly comment on business sites, but I am tempted to leave a post at Trip Advisor - I mean, these were some seriously comfy beds!!! They completely made up for the all-night/day-long door slammers next door and the weird freight train exhaust pipe that ran at 3 am, and I'm not even being sarcastic! (And they have an iPod doc for in-room Kelly Clarkson dance parties! [Yes, we did.])

Anyway, so after checking in to our awesome hotel, we had a quick lunch at a Greek diner, then headed over to MoMA. Pro - On Fridays from 4 to 8, it is free. Con - Five million people have the same idea. I think free outweighs the mass hordes, but it was still kind of a pain in the ass. That being said, we did see some sweet Dalis and Picassos (or a Garfunkel). Finally it was time for dinner - Grand Central Oyster Bar, in Grand Central Station.

This place was super neat. And not fancy and perfectly kitschy. And with a huge seafood menu. To start, we got oysters, of course. We had our server pick us out a variety, none of which I remember, except for the French Kiss oyster.

Kissy, kissy!

Not much to say except that they were yummy and oystery. For dinner, Birgit settled on the monkfish and I on the fried Ipswich clams.

These clearly were not frozen clams from the grocery store. So tender and delicious. I've been craving more clams ever since. With full bellies and tired heads, we headed back to our twin beds to rest up for fancy breakfast Saturday morning. At Iron Chef Zakarian's The National.


Silver Fox.

I'm not exaggerating when I say this is probably one of the best two or three breakfasts I've ever had.

Pancakes, obviously. But these were unlike any pancakes I've ever had... Light and fluffy... with crunchy edges! I love crunchy edges! I must figure out how to make this happen. On top of the pancakes, chopped hazelnuts and blueberries, and super creamy butter. We got cheddar grits to share. YUM. And Birgit got the chorizo omelet, and the eggs were beyond fluffy (I tried a meatless corner). We were just murmuring yum and oh and ah throughout the entire meal. Over pancakes!

We did lots of walking around post-breakfast, and by 3 or so, we were ready for a snack. Eataly was on our itinerary, so we headed there. I was really looking forward to going here, but I have to confess, it was TOO crowded to really enjoy. I could have spent hours perusing the oils and noodles and sauces, but there was no seeing anything around the mass of people. So we decided to grab a quick sandwich and run out, but a seat opened up and we got to sit down and soak it all in while we snacked on deeeeelicious paninis. Birgit got something with meat and I started drooling before I even took the first bite of my caprese - yellow tomatoes, fresh made mozzarella, basil oil, and sea salt. OMG I could eat one right now..... * sigh *

BTW, if you ever see an Italian citrus-ginger soda (see above) - STAY AWAY!!!!!! To get the horrendous taste out of our mouths, we had to get some gelato (also at Eataly). Birgit settled on pistachio, I decided on coconut. And it was coconutty delicious.

More walking, more resting, then it was back out for dinner with our lovely New York Lisa, who came in from Brooklyn to dine with us at Pure Food and Wine, which is 100% vegan and raw food. I can almost always find a few things on any menu that I can eat, so I don't think too much about it, but I can't tell you how much the little person inside my tummy jumped around and did a little dance when it occurred to me that I could eat every single ingredient on the menu (so thank you to the ladies for humoring me and agreeing to eat here). And to start, could we not order the "cheese" plate?

I found the "cheeses" more cheese-like than B & L did, but we all agreed that whatever they tasted like, they tasted tasty! Soft and spready, they went perfect with the rosemary crisps and huckleberry jam. For our main courses, Lisa ordered a special salad with "blue cheese" and avocado and edible flowers; Birgit ordered the tamales; and I settled on the pear ravioli with long pepper sauce (who knows?!) and lemon.

Vegan food scares people. Heck, it scares me. But anyone that ate here would walk away a believer. It's not about tricking you with fake meat - it's about making delicious food with vegetables and nuts and grains. You just have to give it a chance. And it is beyond beautiful - so many colors! And... it was delicious. Mine was definitely on the sweet side so I can see it not being for everyone, but it was tart and tangy and the filling tasted just like ricotta. I truly believe even the meatiest of meat eaters could be happy eating a meal like this. 

After dinner we went next door for a quick cocktail at Pete's Tavern, which is the oldest continuously operating bar in NYC (fancy!). Then back to the hotel to rest up for our field trip to Lisa's apartment and a tour of Brooklyn Sunday. I think it's fair to say Brooklyn is my favorite place in New York. I'm a neighborhood girl, what can I say?

When Birgit first invited me to join her in NYC, my one absolute must-do was sushi. So for our last night in the city, on Lisa's recommendation (thanks, Lisa!), we headed to Amber. It was a beautiful night - on the warm side, no wind, and the restaurant was in a super cute neighborhood. Plus, the front was pulled open, so we could sit practically outside (with a view of the Empire State Building). And, there was almost no one there but us... Relief from the hordes!

We decided to start with a salmon tartare, and its deliciousness made me giggle with delight. I love love love raw salmon. I would pick raw or smoked salmon over cooked salmon any day. And I could eat it every day.

For sushi, we decided on a California roll (you gotta!), the Pink Lady (crunchy spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado... in a pink wrap!), and the ocean roll (rock shrimp tempura and avocado topped with spicy snow crab).


I love sushi. But almost every time I have it, I still wish it was Godaiko, in Ann Arbor. This might be one of the few times I haven't felt that way. The Cali was fresh and creamy, the Pink Lady was so crunchy and spicy, and the crunch in the ocean roll tasted faintly of Captain Crunch - in a good way. What else could we get for dessert but... another California roll?!

Did I mention the delicious pomtinis we also had with dinner?

Getting wild in the city!

What a great three days of food, drinks, sights, and, most importantly, time with very very special friends. Heart and tummy are bursting with happy memories of my weekend in the big city.

04 April 2012

Smart kitty.

You speak the truth, kitty cat. You speak the truth.

03 April 2012

You put the lime in the coconut.

I didn't expect to pop back in, but popping back in I am. Three days until NYC! Weee!!!

Fun discovery for fellow Picasa users - it has absorbed several of the fun functions of Picnik, which it bought then shut down. That's sad, of course, but I must confess I'm quite pleased with the now-easily accessible 1960s function (I'm experimenting below).

Anyway, I had a very silly dinner, so I thought I would share. My appetite is still all wonky, so the ONLY thing that sounded good for dinner was (grocery store) sushi. Brad didn't want it so I got him some chicken from the deli counter. And a little something for me that I just couldn't resist.

Nothing hits the spot quite like sushi... and instant mashed potatoes!

But for dessert.... Swoon.... Key lime cupcakes from Hillary, who is the QUEEN OF CAKE. (Our family Sunday dinners deserve their own post down the road, but for the last one she made a coconut cake that I'm still dreaming about.)

To make these, Hillary hand squeezed her own key lime juice (who knew, but apparently, Meijer actually carries true key limes?!) and I know she always makes everything from scratch.  And, lucky for me, she often makes too much and is so kind as to share with her neighbors! These didn't fail to amaze, and I actually swooned out loud with each bite I took. Sweet, tangy, and (sorry, have to do it) moist. Yum yum. My belly is happy now.

01 April 2012

I'm not dead yet.

I totally jinxed myself. Two weeks ago, I said the words "I haven't been sick in forever!" to a friend, and then I wrote here about how I've managed to keep up with my at-least-three-days-a-week running schedule since November... Well, I'm still sick, and I haven't run or even walked once this week. Sigh. On the bright side, I may have dropped some weight regardless since I have * gasp * lost my appetite. Here's what my week has looked like:

  • Three boxes of Kleenex
  • Two boxes of Chloraseptic throat drops
  • 1 bottle of Nyquil; 1 bottle of Dayquil
  • 1 box of Sudafed
  • 1 bottle of Mucinex
  • 1 bottle of antibiotics (went to the doc to discover a sinus infection, grr!)
  • 1 bottle Affrin nose spray (but only for 3 days, lest my nose become addicted!)
  • 3 nights in a row of buttered noodles with parmesan cheese (Brad's new specialty) 
  • Countless hours of CSI
  • Endless looks of "ew" from Bradford

Exciting stuff, right? I can only hope that at the very least I have my appetite back in full force by next Friday because Birgy Birg and I are off to the Big Apple, where will we also meet up with now-NYC resident Lisa Z. Here's what we have in store for our palettes:

Cheese made from nuts? I'm game!

Because I missed so much work this week, I begrudgingly agreed to work four days next week instead of my normal three, so between being bitter about that and getting ready for my trip, I may not be back until the following week. See you soon with lots of tales from the big city!