Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trader Tuesdays

It feels a bit odd to post a recipe that includes champagne during these economic times. Go ahead, do it. You can buy an individual Sophia or you can substitute a nice dry white. When times are tough, you can enjoy a lovely, elegant (but EASY) dinner at home.

This recipe has developed over the years. It started a s a recipe in Southern Living, but it was a bit bland. So I tinkered with it. Then, a few years back, Rachael Ray made something similar, so I took a page from her playbook and sometimes add in some red grapes.

Champagne Poached Chicken

  • 1 cup champagne
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (I pound them I tiny bit)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • scant 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • small clove minced garlic ( i use a pretty small clove to keep the flavor more on the "delicate" side)
  • pinch of ground red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • red, seedless grapes - cut in half

  • Bring champagne, and broth to a boil in a large skillet.
  • Add chicken - reduce het. Cover, and simmer until chicken is tender (about 10 - 15 minutes depending on size and thinckness of chx. Sonce I poind mine a bit, it usually right at 10 minutes.)
  • Remove chicken and keep warm.
  • Whisk in the whipping cream, mustard, garlic, pepper, and salt.
  • Simmer over medium heat, whisking occassionally, until thickened. (about 10 minutes)
  • Add chicken and grapes (if you are using them) back to the skillet and heat through.

I have served this with several types of pasta, but orzo with parsley is my favorite. My other favorite accompaniment is asparagus or thin, French green beans (haricots verts). The asparagus I like to roast, and the beans I like to blanch and then saute in a little butter with a bit of shallot and garlic and finish with the tiniest pinch of nutmeg.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Therapy By Phone

So, I called our friend, Mrs. Therapist, today. I had missed a call from her earlier in our never-ending game of phone tag. Of course, she does not answer the phone while in a session, so another therapist in the practice answered my call. Here are some bits of the conversation resulting from the complicated appointment scheduling...

First of all, I apologized that it was taking so long for my computer to pull up Rich's October schedule. He asked if Rich was on a month by month schedule. When I answered "yes," he then replied, "Oh, is he a pilot?" I said, "Yes." He then asked me, "Is there something in the air or going on the industry? You are the sixth or seventh pilot couple to call today." I told him that "We're all just trying to avoid being victims of AIDS." **Dead Silence on the other end** I quickly clarified, "You know? Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome." **Burst of snorting laughter on the other end** He said, "Wait , let me get a pencil. I've got to write that one down. I might need that in a session sometime soon."

A moment later he offered me an appt to which I had to reply that Rich was flying that day. He asked, " I thought you said he was flying only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays?" I explained that, "Well, yes. BUT, Rich was flying for the navy that day." Sounding incredulous he asked, "You mean he has two flying jobs? And did I just hear you talking to more than one child? How old are they?" I answered his questions and he continued, "Would you just like to book appointments on the 20 year plan? Maybe weekly into perpetuity?"

After a few more attempts at dates and times that would work, we found one that would work. It was, however, further away than I would like. He asked if I would like to be on the cancellation list. I said that I would, but that I would like to make sure I had my cell # on file since I missed out on one of those type of appts last week due to the fact that they called my home phone. (hello run-on sentence. I see you and I don't care.) Somehow in that course of conversation I answered something about the PTO. His reply was that, "How about weekly into perpetuity AND I recommend you to an inpatient treatment so that you can have a prescription for a vacation? And, obviously you are a masochist."

These were some much needed giggles for me today. Free therapy by phone. I love this office. I have a feeling it is going to get harder and harder to get an appointment with them given the current state of the economy. That'll suck.

Weekend Re-cap and a Weighty Question

**First of all - Sorry for publishing unfinished post! I'd still swear that I hit save, not publish!**

Weekend was pretty darn good. Parent-Teacher conferences on Friday went smoothly. My children are brilliant and well behaved, but one of them is terribly unorganized. No shock there. Tell me something I don't know! Later in the evening, Rich and I did some furniture shopping and then stopped for a drink or two. I should have not had the "two." Bad, Bad, Bad idea. I don't know if the bartender slipped something in my drink or what, but lets just say Friday night will go down in the history books as one of my very worst nights ever. At some point I decided the cooler night air felt better so I went to sit outside for a bit only to have Rich come to find me an hour later saying, " I really think sleeping on the front porch is not a classy option." Thus, I have concluded my yearly refresher session of "Why MaryB never has more than one drink." I am a lightweight. I take Children's Claritin, Tylenol, and Motrin for Pete's sake! The silver lining to this Friday night cloud is that my net calorie consumption was definitely a big, fat zero.

Jamie had a tennis tournament on Saturday, but did not have to play his first match until 11am! Meaning, of course, that we got to sleep in! I LOVE waking up without some obnoxious beeping or buzzing jarring me awake. I am also getting spoiled by the fact that Rich is finally senior enough to hold lines with weekends at home. **knocking on wood** So, waking up with a husband to no alarm clock = bliss! The weather was lovely so long as you were in the shade and there was plenty of shade because the match was at TCU where trees line all of the courts. I packed up a cooler of drinks and snacks, my folding chairs, and a big blanket. It was really nice. Jamie was nervous as this was his first time to play in the boys 14 bracket, but was so happy to be doing it on his home turf and his coaches in charge of the tournament. He made it to the semis despite the fact that some of the boys looked like grown men. Meanwhile, Connor had his second session of First Tee. Guys, if you have children, I can not stress enough how wonderful this first Tee program is!!! Look into it, really! I think of it as junior cotillion taught through the medium of golf. Especially if you have a shy child or a child who lacks self-confidence, or if you just want a child with a winning attitude - this program is great!!! AND it is cheap!!!! Unfortunately, I have no pictures to share because I turned on the camera to take some pictures only to discover that my memory card was full.

Sunday was a day of exercising, furniture shopping, and general housekeeping. The weekly event of the Sunday night uniform laundry was made much more exciting by the start of new seasons for Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters. Oh, my love, lust, and obsession with Rob Lowe knows no bounds. I'll be his nanny any day! I love him any way I can get him, but his character on this show makes my knees even weaker than usual. His voice unnerves me.

As I climbed into bed, I grabbed two more letters from "the box." I am more than half-way through reading all of the letters ( I told you there were A LOT!). I usually grab two letters from the box as I climb into bed. I grab randomly and out of order so I never know what I'm going to get. I suppose that I should have ordered them by date and then read them like a story. Oh well.

Here is what I find strange. He was so effusive in his declarations of love and devotion back then. What happened to that? Yes, yes, I know that kind of drunk-love loses out to everyday life and normalcy at some point. But really? The person who wrote those letters and the man I live with are NOT the same person. So, being the idiot that I am, I asked him about it. His reply? That he loves me more now than then. Huh? Really?

So, I have been mulling this over and here are my thoughts that are actually questions for you all... After 13 years does the phrase, "i love you" lose some of is lustre? Have you heard it so much that you cant really accept it for the true depth of its meaning anymore? Does he think the same thing about me, that I do not have the same passion and love for "us" and him as I did back then? Because, really NOTHING could be FURTHER from the truth. I always just assumed that he was VERY clear on the fact that he makes me crazy, drunk-in-love with him. I think that I go out of my way to make it clear. The only difference between back then and now is that there have been times in the past 13 years that I could have killed him with my bare hands. (e.g. here!) In the end, it all makes me love him and us more. How do you all find new ways of letting your man know you love him? And he for you? AND, remember my MOM reads this blog so if you know her and don't want to blush next time you see her, you might want to edit or email me your comments... If you don't know her in real life, then what do you care? Comment away! And, really, I don't think much shocks her anyway. Seriously, she has ME for a daughter.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rich Comments on the Blog

me: Hey, did I tell you I am going to try to grow my hair out, like waaay longer?
rich: yes, I know.
me: Did i tell you that already?
rich: i read it on your blog.
me (in head): Oh shit.

me: blog surfing and checking comments
rich: reading over my shoulder
rich: geez, everyone who reads your blog is going to think I'm a spoiled brat.
me: and? You have problem with truth in advertising?

rich: your new background is hard to read and looks like an old lady's house.
me: Oh? I'll change it then.
me: changes background to polka-dots
me: Is this one easier to read?
rich: Yes, but it is so damn effeminate.
me: Uh? The "about me?" Did you read that? The "a girly girl" part?
rich: girls are stupid

Cooking Is Fun If You Are In the Kitchen With a Fungi

Here is the pasta I promised in the previous, hurried post.

I found some portabella and ricotta stuffed frozen ravioli at the local grocery (Tom Thumb). It was the store brand actually. I would guess that Publix has something similar if you are one of those people lucky enough to have a Publix available. (The best reason to live on the east - PUBLIX!) I have noticed that many items at Publix can be found at Tom Thumbs here in Texas.

Obviously, you will cook those raviolis per package instructions. Basically, boiling water, 3-4 minutes. drain. Duh!

While that's happening you need to mince up a shallot (or if you don't have one handy mince, and I mean MINCE - TINY, a little bit of regular onion, maybe a tablespoon or less.) Saute that shallot/onion with a clove of minced or smashed garlic in about 2-3 tablespoons butter. After a minute or two add in 8 oz (a whole package) of pre-sliced (because I am LAZY) portabella or baby bellas. Toss in a bit of dried Italian seasoning, possibly it was about a teaspoon? Continue cooking for about 8-10 minutes or until the 'shrooms are looking brown and tender. (If you are not used to cooking with mushrooms this will look like a lot of mushrooms, but they cook down to so much less so quickly.)

Now, the yummy part....Add in 1 cup cream, a pinch of salt, and a few turns of pepper. Let it simmer for 5 minutes or so. Then, stir in some chopped, fresh basil (three or four leaves) and some grated Parmesan cheese(maybe 1/2 cup). Stir in drained ravioli and enjoy!

Its not Tuesday - What's it to ya?

So, yesterday was recipe trade day. I had a recipe to share with you all, but then I made dinner. A dinner which I had never made before. A dinner which resulted in my husband coming to the kitchen on bended knee begging me to marry him again. Apparently, he liked his dinner. Earlier in the afternoon we were at Central Market and he had a sudden severe craving for "the darkest dark chocolate cake." So, I grabbed a big chunk of Callebaut bittersweet and made him a cake. Without further ado here are the two recipes that caused the stoic husband of mine to consider renewing his vows. I'll save the champagne poached chicken for next week, and Ill get it out on time (on Tuesday). Maybe Ill even write it up and use that "post at future time" feature! (Note: sometimes when I say "recipe" what I really mean is a "guide" as I often do not actually measure and stuff like that. I am a taste and adjust kind f girl.)

Dark Chocolate Kahlua Cake (adapted from R.S.'s recipe back in Atsugi)
1 box dark chocolate fudge cake mix (use Devil's food if you can't find, but the DCF is better)
4 eggs
3/4 cup Kahlua
1 cup sour cream
1 cup oil
6 oz chocolate chips
a bit of cocoa and granulated sugar (for prepared pan)
*Dark chocolate ganache

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare Bundt pan with non-stick spray and then coat with a mixture of cocoa and granulated sugar.
  • Mix all ingredients except for chocolate chips.
  • Stir in chocolate chips when batter well combined.
  • Bake approximately 45 minutes.
  • Cool on wire rack and then invert onto serving plate.
  • Glaze with Dark chocolate ganache

*Dark chocolate ganache - grate a good amount (I probably used about 10 oz) of high quality bittersweet chocolate. Warm about 1/3 -1/2 cups heavy cream in microwave (DO NOT BOIL!) Whisk chocolate into warm cream until melted, smooth, and shiny. Spoon over top of cake and let it ooze down the sides.

Okay, I have to run. No time to post pasta directions, but want you to have time to make a cake for tonight. Will post this now and add the mushroom pasta this afternoon, mkay?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Superficial and Random

I WANT long hair!!!!!! I do NOT WANT to pay like, $2K for extensions. So, who has ideas? Any of you take any special vitamins while trying to grow your hair out? Special shampoos and/or treatments? How did you survive the supremely annoying and miserable growing out process?

This will probably be the biggest failure of a project in the history of hair projects. My thin, fine half-curly, half-straight hair probably has no business being long.

It is now appropriate to wear black to weddings, no? I need to know. I have a wedding to attend very soon and am planning on wearing my favorite dress again. (and if I don't wear that one, then I want this one or this one!) There is that small southern voice in me, though, saying "you can't wear black to a wedding, MaryB." Opinions, please. Black - okay or not okay. Dresses - which one? Wear the old one and get some really hot shoes or get a new one?

If I do wear that dress...do I wear black shoes? Is that too boring? What if I take a BRIGHT fuchsia satin clutch? (it is so very cute) Then what? I need accessory help.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Living In the Past

I'd love to blog, y'all, but you see I found a big, forgotten box while reorganizing the garage. It is full of all the letters (and you can't imagine how MANY we wrote back then!) Rich wrote to me way back when. And letters from el-e-e. And PHOTOS. OMG! The photos! You would not believe them. I'm glad I found it because I thought all of this stuff was lost. This would not be a ridiculous assumption for someone who has moved 9 times in 13 years.

If you need me, I'll be on my bed with tissues weepily reading letters from the past. Somebody bring me some chocolate, please.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Trading

This salad dressing is from the junior league in my hometown. every girl I know from P-cola has made and eaten this spinach salad a hundred times (or for me like 8,000). It is a little different than any other spinach salad dressing I have ever seen anywhere else, and it is one of my top three most requested recipes. My girls in Japan dubbed it "the pink dressing," and they expect it whenever they visit me. So, I give you ...

Pensacola's Pink Spinach Salad Dressing

3/4 cup vegetable oil (I use extra-light olive - EVOO too fruity for this one!)
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sour cream (reduced fat or fat-free okay)
1 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp dry mustard (to taste - i tend towards the scant 1 tsp)
2 tablespoons sugar (or 3-4 packets splenda)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp freshly chopped parsley
2 cloves minced or smashed/pressed garlic

Mix it all up! I like to whisk in the oil last to see if I can get a good emulsification working! Let flavors marry for at least 4 hours (the recipe says 6hrs, but I don't always plan THAT far ahead!)
Serve over spinach salad with chopped boiled egg, crumbled crisp bacon, sliced fresh mushrooms, and sliced green onions (I leave these out because I despise them).

Okay, since you asked.... **Edited to add 2 most embarrassing moments of the evening

I was not going to bore you with stories from "apple land," but some of you ASKED about it. AND some of you might need to plan your own events one day. So, here's the scoop. Everything was red and white gingham. The centerpieces were overflowing baskets of apples tied with gingham ribbon. The kids decorated their own paper apples that will later be transferred to a big bulletin board in the front hall of the school along with pictures from the dance. (the pictures do not look as cute as it did irl. AND I look awful because I was 1. EXHAUSTED and 2. had non-contagious allergen/viral pink eye!)

As you entered the building...we blocked off the first entrance to the gym with a "picture spot" made with apple trees made by sparkly, beaded apple sin ficus topiaries, potted flowers, apple garland, etc. there were also five apples to put your face in...so cute.

As you proceeded down the hallway to the entrance there were more than a hundred apples lining the walls. We sent home paper apples to the parents and had them secretly send them back to school. Then, the kids "found" their apples at the dance to see all the beautiful things their parents said about them. This one about the "fanny dance" was one of my favorites.

Then, inside the "foyer" we had snacks and crafts. The snacks were apple "nachos." the "chips" were apple slices and the "cheese" was caramel sauce (all served in a nacho tray of course). We had also planned to have little cups of green jelly beans to be the "jalapenos," but those didn't get purchased in time...We also had the popcorn machine running and lemonade. (probably should've been apple cider, eh?)

The kids danced the night away and these are two very, very very, tired girls. They need a nap and a long lunch at Bistro Louise followed by pedicures. (meet the illustrious Jennifer...) You know, WHAT was I thinking taking a picure with a girl 8 years my junior when I hadn't slept and HAD PINK EYE???? I didnt even have on real make-up...scared to irritate my eyes.

**Two most embarrassing moments of the evening:

1. I was busy refilling lemonade and realized that I was singing - I knew every single word to Miley Cyrus's 7 Things! Huh? How? I'm not 13!

2. Jennifer and I somehow ended up dancing the Macarena with the kids. I overheard a dad whisper, "OMG! What would it be like if those two WERE drinking?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Tuesday, and That Means It Is Recipe Time

Well, I did not know what I wanted to "trade" today, but sometimes it pays to be late to the party because then several people go and unknowingly create a "theme" for me! Apparently, the theme is desserts, predominantly of the cake variety. Further, seeing as I am currently drowning in apple craziness (see post below) this particular cake seems to suit the occasion. And, it is pretty darn yummy and perfect for fall. If you know me well, then you know that, for me, Fall arrives as soon as it is Honeycrisp time at Central Market.

Autumn Apple Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour 11/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda 3 cups peeled, cored, chopped apples (about 2 1/2 apples)
1/2 tsp salt 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional!)
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs

PreHeat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 10-inch tube or bundt pan.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Beat sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. until pale.
Mix in flour mixture one third at a time. (Batter will be very thick!)
Mix in apples (and nuts if you want them)
Into the pan, smooth the top.
Bake for 55 min (check on it early, Ive had it be done at around 45 minutes before)
Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely before glazing.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter (Ive used salted - it was fine!)
1/3 cup milk

Bring all ingredients to a rapid boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep stirring (kind of vigorously) until all bubbles are gone. Spoon over cake.

And just to be over-the-top decadent, I serve each slice with a bit of caramel sauce! (oh, and to be technical, a sauce is not REALLLLY a caramel sauce if it is made with brown sugar. Technically you have to brown white sugar to create caramel sauce. A sauce using brown sugar such as this one is really a butterscotch sauce...just trivia for you)

Caramel Sauce:
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream

Melt butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring with whisk. Remove from heat. whisk in cream and vanilla.
You wont use all of this sauce. you can keep it in the fridge to put on ice-cream, pound cake, or whatever. Soften it from the fridge either in the microwave, or set container in warm water.

Friday, September 5, 2008

AAWWWW, You Guys...You're the Best!

You guys....you are the best, really you are. It brought a literal mist to my eyes to get all the phone calls, email, and comments inquiring as to my whereabouts and well-being!

Unfortunately, I am still not really in the state-of-mind to blog. Just in a plain ol', old-fashioned funk. I have tried to work through said funk by writing about it, but it is so vague that there is nothing TO write. I just can't put my finger on what is causing it! Basically, it is everything and also nothing. Have you ever felt like that? I'm sure you have.

Also, I am short on time lately. Holy Hell! the PTO owns me. Maybe it is because the somewhat OCD part of me takes over and "good enough" is NEVER enough for me. And there is just ALWAYS another event to plan or group to organize or spreadsheet to create. Currently, I am entrenched in planning a Johnny Appleseed back-to-school family dance. The details, while interesting and adorable to me, would bore you to tears.

Lastly, the traveling husband has been home more than is typical lately. It has been nice, but he requires my time when he is here - hence, less time for blogging. (And Ill tell you a secret...I must be accustomed to his being gone so often, because he was starting to drive me Ca-razy and I was not too very sad to see him depart for a few days this morning!)

I'm still keeping up with all of you and your more-interesting-than-mine lives though! so, even if I'm not actually writing here, Ill at least try to be better about commenting. It just seems to require SO much energy...ugh, see what I mean? I am in such a funk that I think it takes too much energy to comment! WTH?

Oh, and, tonight is the first night that I've had to wait up for my suddenly-a-teenager to come home. He went to the high school football game with his friends and his friends' older siblings. I guess this is where IT starts!!!!!! EECK! Wasn't it just five minutes ago that I was tying green and gold ribbons onto my ponytail before a high school football game on a Friday night?