28 August 2012

Words schmords.

The word of the day is.... wordle! I know I've been out of the loop somewhat for a while, but I've never heard of such a thing before today. It's a website where you plop in a bunch of text and it makes a fancy graphic for you (there are actually marketing-type purposes for this, I suppose, but for me, I just think it's fun). So is wordle the end product, or just the name of the website? Who knows. But, apparently, I like the words quiche, eggs, and like....

Text taken from my last post about, obviously, quiche.

That is all. Happy Tuesday!

26 August 2012

Quiche Stephanie.

I've professed my love for eggs many a time. However, my guts have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with eggs. This is going to sound totally crazy, but while I can eat a poached or fried egg almost always issue free, I wasn't able to eat scrambled eggs for many, many years (and, by default, any sort of eggy casserole like quiche). I've gotten braver this past year or so, though, while I've been enjoying what will hopefully continue to be a long-term remission. Unless I'm going to be exercising soon after or sitting in the heat at the beach, I don't really think twice about eating scrambled eggs at home (I still don't usually risk it if we're out). I eat them all the time now, actually. But one thing I've remained hesitant about was quiche, even though I knew I would love it (I've not really had much of it). Well, no time like the present... I dove in and made my very first quiche for Saturday dinner, inspired by a recent issue of Cooking Light. I present the zucchini and caramelized onion quiche.

I followed the recipe for the most part, although I didn't feel like bothering with the dry bean step with the crust. I baked it without and it was totally fine. I also had no interest in babysitting onions for an hour, so I didn't actually caramelize them - rather, I sauteed the heck out of them. And added in a handful of mushrooms. For assembly, a layer of onions (and mushrooms), then a layer of sauteed zucchini.

Then I whipped up the egg mixture, which surprisingly only had 3 eggs and 1/4 cup of cheese. I suppose that's what makes it a Cooking Light quiche...

Actually looks kinda gross once you pour in the egg..

The good news is that 35 minutes later, a work of beauty comes out of the oven...

Very rarely does stuff I make, at least the first time, turn out as I expect - in looks or taste. But I was so excited by how this looked that I took like 20 pictures, from all angles. Of course, none do it perfect justice, but these give you the basic idea.

Some carrots for crunch so I didn't run back and eat the whole quiche when I finished my slice...
(Maybe if I had gone back and eaten more quiche I wouldn't have been starving later in the evening and would have better resisted the 2:30 am Taco Bell run, but that's a whole other story.)

Up close quiche.

This is my new favorite recipe. It tasted as good as it looked (hooray) and was actually pretty light - not too heavy on the egg or cheese (again, Cooking Light). Now that I've seen how easy and delicious quiche is (and my tummy handled it just fine!), I see oodles of quiche possibilities in our future. Especially because.... I got Brad to try it! And he liked it! Even with the onion and mushroom. And even for dinner. This makes me so happy. What also makes me happy? I still have a good two or three slices left in the fridge.

21 August 2012

Veggie love.

Today, an ode to beautiful vegetables. (In contrast to the last post about molten lava liquid cheese. And yes, we went BACK to Moe's for lunch on Sunday.) I've been slacker queen this summer in terms of farmer's marketing, so I've been trying to get as much action in as I can before, sniff sniff, our lovely little market closes up shop for the year. Last Saturday, my sister-in-law and I took a lovely beach cruise through town, then popped in to see what was looking good.

Mini peppers from the market.
Yellow tomatoes and jalapenos pillaged from Hillary's garden.

Oodles of broccoli from the market.

I didn't get these guys at the market, but they are still gorgeous, so a little shout out to the purple potatoes -

I seriously am obsessed with pasta primavera this summer. And all these goodies just screamed "put me in pasta and mix me with cheese," so who was I to argue? Besides, our pasta had a very special guest this week....

Squash blossoms!

I was so excited to find these at the market. I swear, in previous years, these little buggers came and went long before this time of the year, but maybe I'm just misremembering. I am definitely not misremembering their blink-and-you'll-miss-them availability, though, so I was more than willing to pay $0.75 each (although, I must admit, I paid for six yet accidentally grabbed seven, oops).

To get ready for the pasta (seriously, are you sick of hearing about this yet??), I chopped everything up -

A rainbow of yum.

Then got to prepping the blossoms. First, the stuffing - light ricotta, lemon juice, lemon zest, basil, salt, and pepper.


Stuffed ladies.

Or rather, stuffed men. I just read an article about squash blossoms, and, apparently, its the men that don't turn into actual squashes (if these had been plucked from ladies, there would be no stem).

It seems like every year I try to fry squash blossoms, and every year I screw up the actual "fry" part. The first time I ever tried, I was hosting Birgit for dinner and am pretty sure they were just a big oily mess because I'd completely forgotten the batter. Years later, I'm still not quite there, but I'm getting closer. I basically just flipped these around in flour, so that turned into a globby mess when I dropped them in the oil. But hey, when I scraped the globby mess off, a few of them had a little bit of a crisp on them.

For final assembly, I dropped the veggies in with spaghetti noodles, then squeezed a half of lemon in as well as a little oil. Lots of basil, salt, and pepper, then I mixed in about a half cup of ricotta. Mix mix, top with parmesan, and then..... and then.... The squash blossoms!

So, even though the blossoms weren't really fried, I tasted them more than I ever have - they are perfectly sweet. Loved them. Brad cut his off the stems and mixed them in with his pasta. I couldn't wait and just chomped them right off the stems and ate them first. As for the pasta, I'm loving the ricotta in this (usually use mozzarella) - need to remember to just always keep it on hand. Which, reminds me, I'm out and went shopping tonight... and didn't pick any up. Grr. Better run and write it on the list before I forget....

16 August 2012

Nachos, a love story.

A few weeks ago, after two years of talking about how great it would be if a Moe's opened here, we discovered (thanks, Moody on the Market!) that we were ACTUALLY getting a Moe's. Just proof that if you wish and wish and wish hard enough, your dreams can come true ;)

I don't ache for Ann Arbor like I used to. For the most part, I've stopped referring to it as "home." I miss it, but not the same way I did when we first moved here. But the second I realized Moe's was on the horizon, it struck me how excited I was to have a piece of "home" here, at our new home. Now, I realize Moe's is a chain. It did not start in Ann Arbor. But I have so many very distinctly Ann Arbor memories tied to it. Most significantly, Moe's is where you go after a night like this...

You'd wake up, drive to Moe's, and get you some nachos and a giant fountain coke. It's just what you did. Sometimes, you'd meet friends for lunch at Moe's. Sometimes, you'd order delivery from Moe's and, eventually, it would probably arrive (perhaps two hours later, in which case, free Moe's!).

We have a Qdoba. And, of course, a Taco Bell. I love me some nachos, so I'll happily eat any variation - when you grow up hating pizza, you learn to love other bar-food-type options (probably why I'm still so obsessed with subs and Crazy Bread). But it is not the same. Not even close. For a true nacho (or delicious bean burrito a la Art Vandalay), nothing beats the ooey gooey spicy yellow queso from Moe's. Is it kinda like high school nacho cheese? Yep. Does it hint of Velveeta? Yep. Do you need any more convincing? Without further adieu, I give you the FIRST ST. JOE RUPRICT...

You ready for this?

Pouring... pouring... pouring...


We're almost there.

Now mix it up into a big gooey mess!!!

And that, my friends, is nachos.

*Good thing Brad and I ran after work.
**30 to 40 minutes later now, and STILL no stomachache. Amazing!

15 August 2012

Yeah for Meg.

A quick thanks to my dear friend Meg for helping me get a new, refreshed blog header posted here. She's the one that always helps me fix bloggy stuff, so I told her she's part owner now. ;) 

14 August 2012

California dreaming.


This is Vacation B. Vacation A was a Boston/Cape Cod trip. We were hoping to go the first or second week in October, but there was a maybe something that maybe I'd have to maybe do at work... and I just couldn't commit to anything. And the ferries stop running on October 15. It wasn't looking good. Last week I read a blog post from a Southern California blogger... and she posted amazing, colorful pics from a hotel in Palm Springs. I KNEW I had to go there. Which brings us to Vacation B.

This trip came together pretty quickly (within a day!) - tickets, hotels, dog sitters... And I couldn't be more excited. I would have loved Cap Cod, but I have a certain level of enthusiasm for this trip that I wasn't feeling for Mass. I love colorful! I love retro! I love beach! So many awesome pictures for me to take!

We didn't end up booking the "inspiration hotel" in Palm Springs. On closer inspection (Trip Advisor user photos), it looked like a big frat party. We cross referenced a few sites and decided on the Del Marcos Hotel - a newly remodeled hotel built in 1947. All the furnishings are retro fabulous and authentic, not knockoffs. We booked the Errol Flynn Suite, and we cannot wait to lounge on our private patio and sip cocktails while we look at the amazing view.

For San Diego, we originally thought we'd stay in the city... but looking at hotels, we couldn't resist the beach views and the chance to sleep our patio door open and here the ocean. In the end, we decided on Tower 23, on Mission Beach, or Pacific Beach? I can't remember which it is - but it is close to both. Either way, the moment I saw this photo, it was decided...

We booked a "Surf Pad," so we can relax on our ocean-front patio and watch the sunset while we sip beachy cocktails. AND... the "best" sushi restaurant is just down the street. It was meant to be!

That's as far as we've really gotten in our trip planning, but it's gonna be good. I can feel it.

12 August 2012

Don't mess with Texas.

When Sara visited last week, she didn't just bring enormous zucchini. She also brought me a huge stash of Texas goodies from her recent trip to Austin. What a swell, swell girl!

This afternoon, I was standing in the kitchen and thought, "I want cornbread. I NEED cornbread!" I remembered my Texas-style mix in the cupboard and was immediately SO happy.

I got these guys in the oven and conferenced with Brad about dinner options. We decided on shrimp tacos and I headed to the store.

A brief note on shrimp: Previously, the only non-Thailand/Vietnam shrimp options were in-shell shrimps, and they weren't deveined. I did that once and vowed NEVER AGAIN. Within the past few months, they've started deveining the shrimp at the store - YEAH! So I've been able to buy exclusively US-caught shrimp. Today I got tricked - only half of the shrimp were deveined (and I bought a lot, a whole pound). I don't know that there are many things grosser than pooper scoopering shrimp. Ok, that's enough. I can't even think about it anymore. * shudder * My point was... If you're going to say you've deveined shrimp - DO IT!

Back home, I decided I would open up the strawberry jalapeno jam from Sara, too. Sounded like the perfect spread to slather on my cornbread.

We've had shrimp or fish tacos quite often this year, so a pretty typical meal here for us - lime-marinated shrimp, lettuce (or cabbage, usually cabbage - today we just had lettuce), avocado, crumbly Mexican cheese, tomatoes, today I had some leftover green onions, and I also whipped up another small batch of the sour cream + lime + water sauce from Friday's taco pizza. I also buy these really yummy green chilli corn tortillas. Definitely one of our favorites. (And still delicious, once I recovered from the pooper scoopering)


Beautiful taco.

As for that strawberry jalapeno jam....

I am officially obsessed. I haven't stopped thinking about having another muffin with jam since I finished the first one (hours ago). I'm pretty sure I will have one as soon as I finish writing... I also did a quick search for homemade jalapeno jam, for when I finish this one off. It is the perfect mix of spicy and sweet, and it makes your lips tingle a little. Texas, you know what you're doing!

10 August 2012

Happy meal.

It's funny - I remember back when I was working full-time before, what seems like 100 years ago. By the time Friday rolled around, I'd had enough of home, and cooking, and was always ready for a dinner out. Maybe it's our surroundings, or maybe I'm older, but now I find it is completely the opposite. When Brad im'd me this afternoon and said "What's for dinner," my first thought wasn't "Oh, we should go out to X," it was "What do you want me to make?" Brad was working from home, so I had him take a peek at a recipe I'd pulled from a magazine this week - he was sold, so he helped me determine what I needed and I headed to the store after work. Taco pizza night!

The funny thing about this taco pizza is that it came from a "special kids issue" of Food Network Magazine (really just 5 to 10 pages set off within the regular magazine). There was a feature on mixing up your kids' favorite meals - so instead of tacos and pizzas, they have recipes for pizza tacos and taco pizzas. I've made taco pizza a handful of times (it was a good transition pizza for me back when I first started eating pizza), but this recipe had a few elements I'd not thought of in the past.

As I've bemoaned before, it is impossible to find non-frozen fresh pizza dough here. This leaves me with two options for day-of pizza: Boboli and Pillsbury (from the dairy cooler). We've tried both and I definitely prefer Pillsbury. I grabbed their new "artisan" crust - not sure what makes it artisan, but it was whole wheat. Oh! AND I had a mini-breakthrough! As much as I am for local, fresh produce... I haven't bought local corn since "the summer of almost eating worms in corn twice" - I buy the unhusked ears wrapped in plastic (I know, I know). Today, I said to myself, "Stephanie. Don't be such a wuss." And good news - when I unhusked them... No worms!

The recipe has you bake the pizza with refried beans - it calls for black refried beans, but I had regular old veggie refrieds (but with a twist - also with lime and chilis), so I used that. So you bake the pizza with a thin layer of beans, topped with a half cup of salsa, then sprinkle 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar, a handful of green onions, and a handful of diced jalapenos. While that's baking, you mix up the secret ingredients...

Top - 1/4 cup of sour cream mixed with the juice of half a lime and a tablespoon of water. Bottom - sliced romaine and chopped tomatoes tossed with the juice of the other half of the lime and a little salt. When the pizza comes out of the oven, you top it with these (and some avocado, of course. YUM.). It made Brad say all sorts of yummy words.

I have to agree with Brad and his gushing... This was pretty darn good. And I even liked the sour cream mixture - definitely adds something that was missing in previous taco pizzas. A few years ago I didn't like lime. Now I think it makes things amazing.

Look ma, no worms!

Did I mention we ate the whole pizza, save four tiny squares? (By we, I mostly mean Brad. And that is good because making his belly happy makes me happy!)

08 August 2012

Is that a zucchini in your pocket?

Last weekend, Sara was kind enough to bring me some of the fruits of her beautiful city garden.

And yes, by fruits, I mean ENORMOUS fruits. That zucchini is nearly the length of my kitchen windowsill.

Heidi and George wonder.... what will she do with it??

I got the bright idea to make pasta WITH it... that is, sub out the noodles for zucchini strips. So that was the original plan - and I got to peeling (because the only instrument I have that seemed workable was a veggie peeler).

I used about 1/2 of the zucchini making "pasta" -- but all I could hear in my head was Brad saying recently, "I don't think I like zucchini." So I broke down and actually used half zucchini noodles, half real spaghetti noodles. Especially since we were having a dinner guest (yeah, Ceile!) - I didn't want to serve up a dinner that I wasn't sure how it would turn out...

I was busy chatting, so I didn't take any final pics, but it wasn't anything super crazy. Basically pasta primavera, which I seem to be making at least once a week. This time around, I sauteed up yellow and orange peppers, peas, and some cherry tomatoes. I dropped the zucchini in with the noodles for about a minute, so they were just warmed. I mixed everything together with some basil, salt, pepper, oil, and the juice of about half a lemon. Then I scooped in about 1/2 cup of ricotta and grated some parm on top. I don't know that this is the best meal I've ever made, but it was yummy... and we finished it off!

Now, I'm not a big stir fry fan. I don't like soy sauce or Asian sauces typically. But I am currently obsessed with repurposing all the veggies I have on hand. Like I said, a veggie pasta once a week. And a few times a week, for lunch, I'm mixing up crazy veggie + egg + whatever I have laying around (leftover pasta, rice, whatevah!) scrambles. I cook my veggies up with fake butter spray (I know, so gross.... but I am obsessed with it!) and use fresh basil and salt and pepper, so I don't consider it stir fry material.

Not the greatest pics (and the scramble looks kinda weird)... But I promise you - delicious!!! On the left, I had leftover rice with salsa and corn. I threw in some extra tomatoes and onions and topped it with a fried egg. On the right, I sauteed more of Sara's zucchini, mushrooms, leftover peppers from last night, tomatoes, and onions, topped with two scrambled eggs and half an avocado. I must say, my favorite of these concoctions was atop leftover homemade pimento mac and cheese. In theory, gross, but it was super yummy.

I guess my point here is that I'm trying to keep eating healthy (and veggie-ful) meals, even though I have less time to plan and cook - and we seem to be eating out way more than we were before, so I need to offset that, too. While doing research for an article at work today, I stumbled upon an exercise and food tracker that actually seems pretty helpful. At the very least, it helped me determine that I need to bump up my weekly exercise if I have any hope to knock off the second half of the weight I hope to dump... I was telling Hillary, and she said, "Just do an extra 0.25 mile every time." So I did. And I felt great. Here's to keeping it up! (and keeping my sodium intake down, eek!)

06 August 2012

Whoomp '96.

I'm surrounded by Brad's childhood. Nearly all of his friends are friends he's had since high school. His family lives here and we spend a lot of time with them. I've been listening to Brad and his friends exchange high school stories for over 13 years. Now, I can relay stories until I'm blue in the face, but I didn't hold too many of my high school (let alone middle school) friends close. Most of my adult history, Brad's been around for - it's his history, too. So there is a special sweetness to watching him stare at me and my childhood friends with a mixture of confusion, disgust, and amusement. And for me, there's nothing quite like saying "I just have to get something off my chest" or "Rita Dog" - then just waiting for the immediate giggle fest to ensue without a word of explanation. This weekend was one such time, as two of my oldest friends were here for an overnight slumber party.

Triple summer birthdays, celebrated with much maturity.

Sara and Tabi (and then-newborn Lucia) were here around this time last summer, too, so we're hoping to make this a yearly girl's trip. Now, I plan to see them both between now and then, but I do love a good tradition, so I'm already looking to Saline Girls Weekend '13.

In between looking at old yearbooks, stalking former classmates on the internets, and catching up on the ins and outs of our current lives, we:

Had some drinks, apps, and salads at the Bistro...

Had some more drinks and danced to '80s music on the roof at RyeBelle's...

Had some pre-Antiques on the Bluff breakfast at Shu's. 
Tabi loves when I take pictures of her eating...

And bopped around in the giant waves.

A perfect little 24 hours. When they left, I was so sad that I needed to immediately drown my sorrows in food.

$8 organic, local-made pasta from the farmer's market.

Gorgeous multicolored cherry tomatoes, also from the farmer's market.

Seriously. Are these not the most beautiful tomatoes you've ever seen?

All these amazing ingredients (as well as basil, oil, and red wine vinegar) culminated in a very... just fine pasta dish. Perhaps my heart was just too sad to truly taste my dinner. Sigh. But hey, it still looks pretty! (And the leftovers taste much more notable - there's a good spoonful or so left in the fridge... Perhaps I'll top it with a fried egg for lunch tomorrow. Yum!)