Monday, January 31, 2011

Hell's Bells

Well, hello there. Are you still here? Sorry about that. I have been in a funk. Really, it's been more like a Funk. I've been a real joy to be around for the last eleven days. Just ask Hugh. Poor Hugh. Saint Hugh. Wonderful husband of my life, Hugh. Remember when I talked about how even good marriages being hard? Hugh is not arguing with that assertion right now, I can promise you that.

Anyway, here we are. Hopefully out on the other side of my bummer of a mood. Let me tell you about the happy things that have been going on lately, because, bad mood and all, life just keeps going right on, doesn't it?

  • This girl came to visit last weekend. We didn't take a single photo. We did, however, spend the whole weekend eating and cooking and shopping and drinking wine (and happy hour margaritas) and catching up. We'll call those two days a hiatus in my Funk. Nicole is busy these days being a doctor, so it was nice to have a whole uninterrupted weekend to just hang out and be awesome. Awesome ding dongs. There was a lot of head shaking on Hugh's part.
  • During said visit, I got some happy news in the middle of Macy's via the telephone that may or may not have had me squealing and jumping up and down. I love it when my friends procreate; they make the darn cutest babies.
  • I came home from Savannah on Wednesday night to these:
Hip hip hooray for the first tulips of the year! My husband is a peach! Also, please note the masticated leaf. Henry is rotten.
  • A perfect email from this girl on Friday. Apparently my pseudo-happy voice did not fool her one single bit in our Thursday phone call. It was a three sentence message that was the perfect combination of pep and a reminder that things are never as bad as they seem. And, she's coming to visit in four (!) days! With her sweet husband and the cutest, sassiest two-year-old boy you ever did meet. When I talked to her yesterday he was in the background shouting greetings at me. Who could be in a bad mood after that?
  • Shut your mouth right now with sixty-five degrees and sunny all weekend long. I played in the yard all day on Saturday with Fletcher (and even Henry). This made for two happy boys:

  • Yesterday Hugh and I took Fletcher for a ninety minute nature walk. And then we came home and had an evening cocktail on the back porch. Life was just peachy until Henry pushed out a panel of the porch screen and tried to make a break for it. Really, cat? You are quite possibly the most spoiled feline in the country and you're trying to run away? Fortunately he didn't get very far. He ran to the edge of the patio, flopped over, and started eating grass.
  • Delicious Saturday night hamburgers with a blue cheese sauce:

  • One of my January resolutions was to bake bread. I remembered this on Saturday night. Fortunately, two days was plenty of time to produce this beauty (be prepared to be jeal of my apparently awesome bread-baking skills):

  • Henry Parker sticking his tongue out - never not cute:

I know, after reading all that you are thinking how could I be anything but so happy? Point taken.

Stay tuned this week for a few good recipes, things I love Thursdays, and an update on my sweet Fletcher. Thanks for hanging around, internet friends. I sure do like knowing you're out there, somewhere, reading along, probably wearing a great outfit and drinking a glass of champagne. My internet friends are the cutest.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not Things I Love Thursday

I don't have anything I love to tell you about this Thursday (except these three bozos; they've got my heart. But I tell you about them all the time.). Hugh says I'm a slacker because it's only my second Thursday (I say make that two bozos who have my heart). I was trying to come up with a list of things and then I decided, don't force it, man. So instead I'm giving you this work of literary genius:

1. An example of a realization that is not rocket science: eating six Hershey kisses, three (mini) Reese's cups, and a fun-size bag (why yes, yes you are fun, little bag of chippies) of plain Lays does not set you up for a productive afternoon at the office. It sets you up for an afternoon of surfing the world wide web and watching the clock. And feeling very thirsty.

2. I really wanted the fun-size Doritos, but then I noticed the Lays and remembered a commercial about how their only ingredients are potatoes and sunshine. The Doritos ingredient list included Disodium Phosphate and Red 40. And no sunshine. Lays it is, for this marketing sucker.

3. Teen Mom. It's like crack*. It makes you feel so bad. But you just. can't. stop. I simultaneously love and hate the person who first made me watch 16 and Pregnant. A gateway drug if there ever was one.

4. I cooked with vegetable broth this weekend for the first time ever. Strange stuff with it's brown, mushroominess. Reason number 327 I don't want to read any books that are going to make me not want to eat animals. Reason number 1? Bacon, obviously.

5. Remember how I told you I fell this weekend? The damage:

Tough, right?** I'm not going to show you my hip. Because that would be like showing you my bottom (I know, bottom is weird right? But other word choices seemed decidedly unladylike). And this isn't that kind of website. Plus, I have to leave some things sacred and private for the one who cooks my carbonara. Because I tried to make that deliciousness myself and it was way less good. Also, don't be jeal of my awesome sweatpants.

6. I like to pick a new phrase every now and then and repeat it until it catches on and other people start saying it. Then I move on to a new phrase. Lately I've been saying, "I love it so much I just want to have thousands of little ____ babies with it." For example, "I love this new wallet so much I just want to have thousands of little wallet babies with it." I realize that this is a bizarre thing to say, so I only say it to Hugh. He, however, thinks it's my new phrase. Clearly he overestimates my ability to make things seem cool.

7. Don't you hate it when you get your haircut and no one even notices. Me too. Come on, coworker friends, I chopped off four inches! I realize this point makes it seem like I got far too much praise and attention as a child. That would not be an incorrect assumption. Next week I'm going to wear this wig to work and see if that garners any attention.

8. Do you hate getting your haircut? I do. Hair stylist conversation can be so, so awkward. And you know they feel the same way. Fun fact: since I have known Hugh, we have collectively seen thirteen stylists. In six years. And I only get my hair cut once every six months. This seems like a lot to me. Of stylists. Not hair cuts.

9. I am rocking some of my resolutions for January. Others I am failing dismally. Interestingly enough, the hardest one has been getting up before 8:25am when I'm working from home. This girl and my Mom are going to be shocked by that one. Check back at the end of the month for a full update.

10. I have company coming this weekend. It's scheduled to be the best kind of visit; that in which you have nowhere to go and nothing to do and you just get to talk and laugh and eat and drink wine and sleep in. Counting down the minutes!

11. I feel like I should give you a sussy if you read through to the end of this post. But Hugh and I are on a budget crackdown, so no presents for you. How about this: happy Thursday, friends.

*Hypothetically speaking, of course. I only dabble in the reds and the whites and the gins, no hard drugs for me.

**I think we can all agree it might be best to skip posting on a day when your best material includes a photo of your bruise. But I had typed this whole post before that crossed my mind. And it seemed a crying shame to waste it. Bummer for you; you're never getting that two minutes of your life back.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spicy Meatballs and Marinara

Is there something in male DNA that predisposes husbands to a love of comfort foods like meatballs? Personally, I've always been a little bit eh about meatballs. I mean, I think they are just fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat them. Until Hugh came into my life, actually, until Hugh turned twenty-four, I had never made meatballs. But that was his birthday dinner request in 2007, and you know how I feel about birthdays, so meatball subs were made and eaten. Hugh seemed to enjoy them and that was that.

I made them a few times since then, but I felt like they were never anything to write home about. Additionally, they are a hassle to make because you're standing over a pan of hot oil, cooking five meatballs at a time for one million hours. And you are hot. And your guests are hungry. And you have eighty-five thousand raw meatballs left to cook. And you don't even freaking like meatballs!

But then Hugh gave me this cookbook. Oh, Ina. You just never, ever disappoint me. These meatballs, well, you don't want to write home about them either, because you don't want anyone else showing up for dinner. Because then you'd have to share your meatballs. Hugh may or may not have come in the kitchen to find me eating a meatball (or three) with no utensils while I "waited for the marinara to finish cooking."

Oh yeah, I also made a delicious marinara to accompany said meatballs of glory. Mostly because it's easy and I'm loathe to pay four dollars for a jar of sauce that is loaded with sugar and doesn't taste very good.

Now go make this delicious perfection:

Spicy Marinara
A White Hot Original
makes approximately 3 1/2 cups, depending on simmering time

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on your spice tolerance
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, saute 5 minutes or until slightly soft.

Add garlic, saute 2 minutes. Add black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt, saute 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, thoroughly breaking up with your hands as you drop them in. Stir in red wine and sugar. Bring to boil. Immediately reduce to simmer.

Simmer at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning; adjust if necessary.

Note: You can leave this on the stove for longer, but I would turn the heat down to low so the sauce doesn't reduce too much. Also, it freezes beautifully.

Spicy Meatballs
Slightly adapted from Ina Garten's How Easy Is That?

I think the key to these meatballs is the prosciutto, so don't leave it out!

serves 4, generously

2 cups white bread cubes, crusts removed
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/3lbs ground sirloin (i.e. 90/10 ground beef)
1/3lb Italian sausage (turkey or pork), casings removed
2 oz very thinly sliced prosciutto (approximately 4 slices), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

Process bread in a food processor to medium crumbs. Transfer crumbs to small bowl and add milk. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Add bread mixture, beef, sausage, prosciutto, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, Parmesan, and parsley to a large bowl. Gently mix by hand until combined. Add egg and olive oil and lightly mix by hand until incorporated.

Using hands, shape mixture into 2-inch meatballs. Place meatballs on prepared sheet pans.

Bake meatballs for 35 - 40 minutes, or until completely cooked through. Rotate sheet pans halfway through cooking time.

When meatballs are cooked through, remove from sheet pan and add to marinara sauce. Stir very gently to combine. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Meatballs and marinara can be served over spaghetti or on sandwiches (toast french bread, sprinkle with grated mozzarella, broil 3 minutes or until bubbly and golden, top with meatballs). We prefer the sandwich preparation around these parts. Either way, top with additional Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Post Script: Oh, and Hugh really loves these meatballs too. In fact, we may or may not have strongly debated over who got to eat the leftovers. Lucky for me, Hugh was a lousy hunter the day after we made these, so those meatballs were mine all mine baby. I may or may not have danced around the kitchen, taunting him with the deliciousness of my lunch.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chili Dogs

I made these for Hugh on a whim several years ago. They immediately sky-rocketed to the top of his most-requested meals list. I have also made them for the Savannah Family so many times that I wouldn't be surprised if we all die of nitrate-poisoning (Or cancer. Or whatever you get from eating too many hot dogs. Shoot. Sorry, fam.).

Anyway, these are delicious. And easy. And delicious. I like to serve them with oven fries, preferably the Alexia Waffle Fries. Which, coincidentally are the perfect vehicle for more chili. Sometimes you just have to go all in, man.

Chili Dogs
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence
serves 4

Chili Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1lb lean ground beef
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups ketchup
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup water

Additional Ingredients
4 all-beef hot dogs
4 hot dog buns (I like to buy the un-split bakery buns and split the tops. This makes eating them much easier.)
3/4 cup freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
Additional toppings (optional): minced onion, yellow mustard, dill relish, pickled jalapenos, hot sauce, Tums (I kid, I kid. Tums are clearly not up to this job. It's a double-Nexium kind of meal.)

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Saute until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, saute 1 minute. Add chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes; saute 1 minute. Add ground beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Cook until beef is browned, 8 - 10 minutes.

Add ketchup, yellow mustard, water, and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to simmer, simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. If chili gets too thick, add more water. If it is too thin, continue to simmer until desired consistency is reached. Desired consistency = thicker than regular chili, but not so thick you can't spoon in onto your hot dog. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

While chili is simmering, grill hot dogs until browned. Alternately, cook in a cast iron skillet on the stove top if you are too lazy to get the grill going for four hot dogs (even though you know it will be worth it because they taste so much better). We like our hot dogs very well-browned.

When chili and hot dogs are almost finished, toast buns in oven. Top bun with hot dog, chili, cheese, and additional toppings.

Eat it up:

My apologies for this terrible photo. I could tell you the lighting was bad (which it was), but really I was so excited to eat that I only took three photos and the other two were blurry. Way to overestimate your camera skills, blogger. So, this is what you get. Just make these and you'll see that it doesn't matter what they look like, because they taste so. good.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekend Recap

I just love the weekend with my heart and soul. This one was no exception. There was some delicious eating, general relaxation, a cute new haircut (a new year needs new hair), working on the office, playing in the yard, and practicing with my lovely little camera.

The verdict is in: Hugh is my most cooperative subject, followed in distant second by Henry. Fletcher basically does the opposite of whatever I want him to do. Good thing they're all cute:

Oh, and fifty-five degrees and sunny? Where have you been all my life? I wanted to put on a sundress and drink a Pimm's Cup on the porch. Instead I uncovered all my plants, hauled them out into the sun, and refilled my bird feeders. I'll just call it early Spring cleaning.

I'm mainly here to tell you about some necessary eating. Since I'm doing a vegetarian meal plan this week, I decided to make Hugh's favorite, decidedly non-vegetarian dinner on Saturday night. Brace yourself for this lowbrow glory: Chili Dogs. Check back tomorrow for the recipe.

How was your weekend, friends?

Post Script: For all its goodness, there were some downs this weekend. Mainly that I'm the clumsiest human being alive. Like, sometimes I am standing still and I just fall over. On Saturday I was walking out of the office and somehow my foot got tangled in the laptop cord. I ate it. Like, fell so hard on my leg that I thought it was broken. Instead, I just have a very swollen and purple knee, a hip that's so sore I can't sleep on it, and a sprained big toe. Fortunately, my husband is basically a doctor, and he thinks I'm going to live.

On Sunday, I was carrying my full twelve ounce mug of coffee and it slipped out of my hand. It landed on the floor and coffee shot up like a geyser. All over my face, the floor, the walls, my nightstand, my books. You name, it was covered. Did I mention that I put about five tablespoons of sugar and a quarter cup of half-and-half in my coffee? I was really excited to spend forty-five minutes cleaning that stickiness up.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who Can Get Any Work Done...

...with all this yelling?

Post script: Obviously, they're just yawning, but these pictures make me laugh. As in, Hugh and I have looked at them fifteen times and cracked up every single time. Also, I'm trying to save the pet-centric posts for the weekend, lest you not find my pets as hilarious as I do. But, they are hilarious, right?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Meal Planning

Do you want to know a little secret? I love meal planning. Some weeks I feel overwhelmed because there are so many things I want to cook, and I'm trying to stick to a budget, but I love to sit down and dream up a week's worth of dinners. In the future, I'll be offering up my meal-planning services to you, so sit tight for that treat.

I have decided to give my weekly meal planning posts a little revamp. And to actually make them weekly posts. Each Friday, I'll post a recap of the last week of dinners (Friday - Thursday). This way I can tell you what I thought about the things we made. After all, I hate to send you off with a recipe that I've never made before only to find out it's not even good. And, on Friday because I think most people do their meal planning and grocery shopping on the weekends.

Finally, I'll include all seven (or six) days of dinners because we have a very specific eating pattern at the White Hot house. Monday through Thursday, we go healthy and fairly easy; we're talking in and out of the kitchen in forty-five minutes most of the time. Friday and Saturday, we are a little bit more indulgent and have more time to devote to the cooking; these are the nights I am most likely to experiment. And Sunday, I'm all about some Sunday dinner; I like it to be at least moderately healthy so I feel like we're ending one week and starting another on the right foot, but I usually have a lot of time on Sunday afternoons so I'm willing to tinker away at the stove for awhile.

One last thing, most Tuesday nights we eat leftovers. When I'm in Savannah, I stay at a hotel and there isn't a lot of cooking (that I want to eat, anyway) to be had in a microwave. So many weeks you'll only be getting six dinners, but they'll be tasty.

Now you know the new plan, friends, so let's get to it!

Greek Nachos - Make them. Eat them. Lick the plate. Go back and dip your finger in the sauce when no one's looking, I won't tell. But do it next week, because I'm not giving you the recipe until then.

Meatball Subs - I made these using my own marinara sauce and an adapted meatball recipe from How Easy is That?. I'll be posting the recipes early next week. Hugh might have proposed to me after this dinner if we weren't already married. What is it with men and meatballs?

Sunday Tuscan Minestrone - Just what you want from a Sunday soup. Including the ability to taste even better the next day. We served this with toasty hunks of sourdough.

Baked Potato Bar - Bake some potatoes. Serve with any of the following: grated cheddar, cooked and crumbled bacon, sauteed spinach (surprisingly delicious) or steamed broccoli (Hugh's preference), caramelized onions, quartered grape tomatoes, and sour cream. Note: I like to halve the cooked potatoes, top with cheese, and broil until bubbly before I add the other toppings. Because, browned and bubbly cheese on a starchy carb? Yes, please.

Carbonara - I found out on Tuesday I didn't have to go to Savannah this week (three cheers for crazy weather!), so Hugh cooked me my favorite celebratory dinner. I cannot help but inhale this meal; I have no self-control when faced with its cheesy, bacony, saucy, carby goodness.

Black Bean-Stuffed Burritos topped with shredded romaine and sliced avocado - We left the chicken out this week. Still delicious. I do have to admit, I make my own pico de gallo and sub it for the salsa. It couldn't be easier: chop up some grape tomatoes, mince a little onion, chop some fresh cilantro, squeeze in half a lime, mix it all together, and salt it to taste.

So, what do you think about the new format? What did you eat this week? Do you want me to help you plan your meals?!

Post script: Next week I'm doing a little project meal-planning project with a favorite friend. Check back next Friday for a week of vegetarian dinners.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Things I Love Thursdays

A new little series on the blog. It's not all cooking and eating around this place friends. There's also getting dressed and reading and shopping and make-up wearing and home-decorating. And here's the thing: I'm really picky about what comes into my life. From my clothes to my products to my friends (hi, friends!), I'm a maximizer.

(sidenote: It's actually not great to be a maximizer, apparently. It means you refuse to settle until you find the very best option, as opposed to being a satisficer and settling for the first option that is just good enough, so you spend a lot of time analyzing every single decision. Yep...sounds about right. Oh well, I am who I am. Hugh is also a maximizer. This makes tasks like registering for a wedding super fun. But, we did end up with a house full of the perfect versions of every single thing we wanted. So, there's that.)

All this to say, let's share the wealth. On Thursdays I'm going to post about things I love. Probably five of them. There will be a theme each week. And, I'm not going to lie, sometimes they will be food-related. But not always.

This week's theme is: Cookbooks!

This will likely be a multi-volume theme, as choosing five was like picking a favorite child. So, Cookbooks, Volume 1 in no particular order:

How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman - The name pretty much covers it. It's basically a food bible. Want to know how to perfectly boil a lobster? Cook Pad Thai? Make mayonnaise by hand? Remember at what temperature to bake your potatoes? Braise veal shanks? Check, check, check, check, and check. This is your book; it's got it all. This book makes such a huge variety of foods accessible to the home cook. Sometimes I like to try to think of an obscure food or preparation and then see if it's in the book. It is.

A Platter of Figs
, by David Tanis - Chef at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse, Tanis is the master of beautiful, simple food and this book is his ode to it's importance. There is no fussy food to be found here.

Southern Boy Cooks Good Grits!
, by Jim Shirley - A hometown favorite. Jim Shirley is from Pensacola and is the Executive Chef at the beloved restaurant, Fish House. This book is full of Southern classics and new additions, the writing makes you feel like you're hearing about food from a friend, and you get the recipe for his famous Grits A Ya Ya which is worth the cost of the book.

Eat This Book, by Tyler Florence - We have three of his books and love them all, but this one wins the contest for our favorite because several of our most-loved dinners come from Eat This Book. The sections are fun, the recipes are flavor-saturated, and the photographs make you want to cook the food.

How Easy is That?, by Ina Garten - This is the newest addition to my collection and I'm already wearing it out. As hard as it is to chose, I'm pretty sure this is my favorite of her seven books. It's classic food with deep flavor and the simplest preparation. And, as they always are, this book is a beauty. Each recipe is accompanied with a gorgeous photo.

What do you think? Did I leave any must-haves off the list? What's your favorite go to?

Happy cooking, friends.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Portrait of a Marriage

My friend Mandy (you may have heard me mention her, oh, nine hundred million times) does a little series on her blog called Love and Marriage. I always enjoy these inside glimpses and how they highlight the true Mandy and Matt - Matt with his logic and color-blindness, Mandy with her spacial reasoning and love for bright colors. They never fail to make me laugh.

So I'm borrowing this idea from my funny friend. In this little series, Portrait of a Marriage, I hope to give you an inside glimpse into my own relationship. And to highlight the fact that my husband is crazy.

You see, Hugh has a tendency to extremist. This shows up in most areas of his life, but I think it's always most apparent in the way he eats - like the days when he eats 4,500 calorie bowls of ice cream. Which are followed by days where he eats nothing at all.

I, on the other hand, am like a toddler. I'm not really an over-eater, but I do carry snacks with me in my purse. For myself. I call it self-awareness. Hugh calls it self-preservation. I just know I need to eat, preferably every three hours. I also appreciate the value of eating multiple times per day for the sake of keeping one's metabolism functioning in a normal fashion.

Anyway, all this to say Hugh is on a new eating plan. Something about it being the beginning of a new year and him feeling the effects of too many meals like this.

His eating plan is called Johnson's Up Down Day Diet and he found it on the world wide web. He says it's from a blog about evolutionary biology. Between you and me, I think it might be from the world's most accurate source for information: Wikipedia. Because, a blog on evolutionary biology? Oh, yeah, that's a real blog, Hugh.

The eating plan goes a little something like this:

Day One: you wake up and eat a normal breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You aren't gorging yourself, but you aren't eating carrot sticks for every meal either.

Day Two: You wake up and you eat nothing. Maybe you have a cup or ten of black coffee, but you don't eat a darn thing. When dinner time finally rolls around, you eat a normal dinner. You know, twenty three-and-a-half hours after you ate your last meal, you just mosey on into the kitchen and have yourself one regular-sized plate of dinner. And then you repeat: one day on, one day off.

Hugh calls this the Lousy Hunter's Diet. As in, one day you are a really great hunter and you get to eat three solid meals. The next day, you are a not-so-great hunter and you only get to eat dinner. I'll let you guess what I call it.

I am also on a new eating plan. It's called eat at least three servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables daily, stop drinking three glasses of wine every night, and quit eating out for forty percent of your meals. Being the Type-As that we are Hugh and I are, of course, in a competition to see who has more success with their eating plan. Between you and me, I know I'm going to win. I mean I don't want to rub it in to the personwiththetotallyunsustainableeatingplan, but so far we are on day eight and one of us is already back into pencil skirts that have been hanging in the closet, unworn since 2009.

I'll keep you posted, friends...

Postscript: I would like to add a disclaimer. Clearly I think this eating plan is entirely crazy and I in no way, shape, or form endorse it. But, six years of life with Hugh has taught me that he is an adult and is his own boss, and that lecturing him on the importance of maintaining metabolism through regular meals does not have any effect (it make have taken me five years to learn this last part).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Egg Sandwiches

I've written before about my on-again, off-again love affair with breakfast. Sunday, it was on.

I saw a recipe in my newest Cooking Light that reminded me of a favorite breakfast of Hugh's: Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox (you can take the boy out of South Florida, but...). And, it used my latest favorite egg cooking technique: poaching.

I made a few minor adaptations to the original recipe and, in less then fifteen minutes, brunch was on the table:

Smoked Salmon and Egg Sandwiches
slightly adapted from Cooking Light
serves 2

4 cups water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 large eggs
2 slices whole-grain bread, toasted
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3 less fat cream cheese
5 very thin slices red onion
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup fresh arugula
3 ounces smoked wild salmon
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt
Fresh-cracked black pepper

Bring water and vinegar to a simmer in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add eggs one at a time. Simmer three minutes (this will give you a fully-cooked white and a runny yolk, which is just perfect for this sandwich) or until desired degree of doneness.

Meanwhile, spread cream cheese onto toasted bread. Top each slice with half of the red onion, capers, arugula, salmon, and tomatoes.

Remove eggs with slotted spoon and drain briefly on a paper towel. Top each open-faced sandwich with one poached egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day!

Well, I'd intended to show up here this morning with a weekend recap and a delicious Sunday breakfast recipe. But we woke up this morning to the blinding glare of this:

When you grew up in Florida and you wake up to snow, you kind of freak out a little bit:

Hugh's campus is closed for the day and we're supposed to have an "ice event" and potentially lose power later in the day. But for now I'm snug in the office wearing my favorite warm and comfy clothes drinking my second cup of coffee.

Stay warm, friends!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Here Goes...

I have written this post six times now. I realize just by saying that, it’s setting you up to expect some greatness in the words below. It’s nothing great, in fact I think it’s quite ordinary. And I don’t know how to say what I want to say without sounding like I’m either ungrateful for all the happiness in my life or like I’m so wrapped up in my husband that I don’t have a life of my own. It’s hard, this putting yourself out there thing. But these New Year's posts have a shelf life, so I’m just going to do it, okay?

2010 wasn’t a great year for me personally. Of course, there were lots of fun trips and delicious meals and reasons to celebrate, which you know if you’ve been following along for any length of time. But as a lone person, not a wife or a daughter or a friend or even a pet Mom, I feel like I just kind of stagnated. When I got to the last day of the year and looked back, there wasn’t a whole lot of personal growth to be proud of. Between all of our obligations as a family and everyone being sick and work and commuting, 2010 was a year I just got through, not a year I thrived. And I saw it happening along the way, but I kept telling myself that I had so much going on and I was just tired and it was okay to keep putting off action for another day or another week. And then in a blink, we were clinking champagne flutes and watching the ball drop and the year was gone.

Let me tell you about being married. It’s hard. I say it’s hard and I think I have a really wonderful marriage. In fact, it’s the single thing in my life of which I am most proud. And if I do say so myself, I am a really great wife. But being a good spouse, even in a happy marriage, takes a lot of work. And being a good spouse to a medical student is a whole different beast. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Hugh, or even reading some anecdote I’ve written about him, you know he is pretty fantastic. He’s always going and doing and making something happen. Most of that is because he is who he is, but a part of that is because there is some serious support and behind-the-scenes work coming from yours truly. I am proud of how our marriage has thrived over the last year and I certainly don’t regret the time and attention I’ve given it, but I know I can't hide behind the obligation of making it priority and using that as an excuse. I won't continue to feel happy, or even interesting, if being a wife is the main focus of my life.

So, part of the stagnation is because I’ve been so wrapped up in the other parts of my life. But that’s not all of it. The other part, the bigger part, as it usually is when you’re standing still, is fear. I’ve been so afraid of failing that I just don’t even try. I keep thinking what if I try to be better, more fulfilled, to figure out what my big dream is, to breathe life to it, and I can’t. Because here’s the thing, I’m not even sure what it is I want to be doing at the end of this year. You know how a lot of people have one big dream that they want to achieve? Well, I have like fifteen. And I feel embarrassed when someone asks me what my dream job is and I can honestly say I don’t know. I don’t know because there are so many things I love and I’m scared to choose just one. I’m scared to invest the energy into something I think I might be great at only to find I’m not, and then I’ll have wasted my time and resources and I’ll be right back where I started. Shoot.

But this year I’ve decided: enough of that. Enough of floating along through my life, wishing I was doing something I loved, waiting for the perfect opportunity to fall into my lap. This is my year of figuring it out, of investing in my dreams...whatever they may be.

Goodness gracious, once I start typing this just poured right out. And I really, really don’t want to post it. Because, of course, I’m scared of what people will think. But maybe I’m not alone in feeling like this. And even if I am, December 31, 2011 will be here before we know it and I know I want to be able to look back on this year very differently. So, I’m posting it. Please be kind with my delicate little heart, friends.

Postscript: I want to give a disclaimer. Hugh is the one who encouraged me to write this. When I started talking to him about it last night after I tossed and turned for half an hour, without pause he started working through the details with me and reminded me that he knows how I feel and I know how I feel, we both know our marriage is a priority, and salty commenters will always be behind the scenes judging away. You see, this "where is Cassie's life going" conversation is nothing new for us. Hugh has been encouraging me to just do something, to just start, for eighteen months. Not coincidentally, since we moved and he started med school. As always, I'm coming around in my own good time and he's right there talking it out with me, for the twenty-third time, with the patience of a saint. He's my number one fan. Thank goodness.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Meal Planning

I have something I want to write but it's just not coming out right. Don't you hate that? Maybe just one more day...

Instead, for now, let me tell you what's on the menu this week:
  • Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole - From Everyday Food, so delicious, but I can't find the recipe online.
  • Chicken Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Soup - I basically threw these ingredients in a pot and cooked them so I'd have something to eat in Savannah on Tuesday night. It got the job done.
  • Almost Classic Pork Fried Recipe - Honestly, I can't give this a fair review. We made it last night and it was a bit of a disaster. However, I feel like it would be really good if you realized that "3 cups cooked, chilled rice" does not mean you take 3 cups of uncooked rice, cook it, chill it, and add it to the recipe. Hugh.
  • Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca over Whole Wheat Angel Hair with Green Beans and a Mixed Greens Salad - Tonight's dinner, and I am excited about it.
  • Greek Nachos - Not going to give you the recipe for these quite yet, because I want to have a good photo. Worth the wait, I promise.
You might notice that this week's meals are heavy on the veggies and light on the calories. Hello, New Year's life-improvement plan.

Okay, the sun is finally out so we're bundling up and going for a walk with our favorite pup. Happy eating this fine Thursday!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On the Road, Again.

Well, the end of our two and half week break was a doozy, friends. We had a little family emergency, so at 6am on Sunday morning we were up and headed to St. Augustine. Fortunately, it seems like everything is going to be okay.

And despite my plans of having the most productive day ever, I spent the day Sunday feeling grateful that we are in a position, both geographically and in our lives, that we can hop in the car and go when we need to. Also, Hugh's brother and his wife were there, so I got to spend a good part of my afternoon watching my niece walk up and down the hall at the hospital charming every single patient there, which certainly didn't hurt.

Yesterday morning, we were up at 6am and heading home. After about four hours of sleep on Saturday night and three hours of sleep on Sunday night, I was a mess all day long. You know those people who say they don't really need to sleep? I am most definitely not one of them. Hugh can attest to this because I spent most of yesterday melting down like a toddler. So last night I went to sleep at 8:15pm. And today, even though I had to get up at 5:00 in the morning, I feel like a new person.

Anyway, today is Tuesday so I'm on the road again, but check back later this week for my year-end, year-beginning post (which includes resolutions like: be a better blogger, and blogging excuses for why you haven't blogged doesn't count). Until then, some Fletcher cuteness from our Savannah Family Christmas:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out with a Bang, in with a Headache

Our New Year's Eve was low-key perfection.

We spent the day working on our office (we're redecorating it and I'm so excited!) and chatting about the year. But, of course, I'm really here to show you what we ate. Our final meals of 2010 were a perfect way to wrap up a year of delicious eating:

We started strong with a lunch of this delicious chili topped with a fried egg. Oh my goodness sakes alive. Also, Hugh would now like to top everything he eats with a fried egg.

An evening starter of French 75s and Stilton and Walnut Crackers. And gratuitous Fletcher cuteness.

A close-up of beautiful and tasty potatoes.

Tri-tip steak topped with Provencal butter, oven-roasted tomatoes, rosemary potatoes, and mixed greens with lemon vinaigrette. Out with a delicious bang, indeed.

My favorite part of 2010: eating dinner across from this handsome face.

One member of this household may or may not still be in bed, lamenting the fact that he just can't celebrate like he used to. Don't worry, I'm making restorative bagel melts as I type, so he'll be good as new in no time.

Check back tomorrow for a 2010 wrap-up and 2011 plans. For now, I'm off to make black-eyed peas and collards like a good Southern girl.

Happy 2011, friends!

Postscript: I have a full page of resolutions complete with a timeline and subcategories. Hugh has two resolutions:

1) Drink two sixteen ounce glasses of water per day.

2) Learn how to fully butcher an animal (not a chicken or a fish, as he has already mastered those).

He is the ying to my yang, folks.