Friday, October 29, 2010

Hello happy Giants' fans

Well as I'm sure you all know, the Giants have made it to the World Series!  Nick and I were enjoying a nice dinner at the Monterey Fish House while the last game against the Phillies was going.  I'm not a big baseball fan myself, but there were plenty of people who were very into the game when we were waiting for our table.  While we were waiting outside for the taxi to pick us up, Nick was watching through the windows at the score while I was on the lookout for the cab.  As soon as we got back to the hotel we could see a huge crowd of people in the restaurant/bar area.  Nick practically dragged me over so that we could see the last inning of the game.  The  rumble of happy fans was pretty gosh darn loud after that last pitch.

My dinner at the fish house

Our trip to Monterey was quite a bit of fun.  It's a good thing that 1 year anniversaries only happen once because we couldn't afford to stay in such a nice place all the time otherwise.  The hotel was beautiful and well worth the small fortune that we forked out.  There was even a little zen sandbox and bonsai tree on the desk and when I went into the bathroom there was a live orchid on the counter.  I thought that was cool since we (my mom) has a difficult time keeping orchids alive in our house.  It was a pretty fancy-smancy place and I'd love to go there again.  Maybe when we're rich and famous.  We were able to check into the room early so we chilled our champagne that we picked up the weekend before in Napa in the sink with some ice.  The ice bucket that they provided was tiny!



We forgot to take pictures of the room before we messed it all up, but I found some pictures on google.

When we first arrived in Monterey we went to the London Bridge Pub on Linda's recommendation.  It was really good; a little heavy, but good.  We parked a little far away because our GPS didn't exactly know where 2 Wharf II was, but it worked out well because we were able to get street parking and mosey around the street markets.  By the time we finished our awesome lunch, walked back to the car, and checked into the hotel, I was ready for a nap.  Nick wouldn't let me though.  While he was filling the sink with ice, he heard me flop on the bed and yelled, "Are you laying down?!"  and then made me get up.  We had plans to go to the aquarium and do a behind the scenes tour so he didn't want me passing out on him for three hours.  After we finished with icing the champagne, we walked down to the aquarium, which was about 500 feet away.  Unfortunately, the big tank that I love was being renovated, but everything else was good.  Soooo many children running around and strollers being parked everywhere.  It was like an amusement park!  We did the behind the scenes tour like we planned.  It was pretty neat.  Unlike the tour in Chattanooga, we didn't see the pipes and go to the noisy filtration parts of the aquarium, but we did get to go on top of the roof-ish area where you can look into the tanks and see where they were building new tanks.  For $12 a person I thought it was a great way to learn more about the aquarium and the local wildlife.  I think that next time we go down, I'm going to get an annual membership.  Nick and I have decided that we will be going down again because somehow I managed to lose half of our pictures from Carmel.  So, we'll have to go remake the memories!  Plus, my dad has been talking about going down as a family for months. By then an annual pass would have paid for itself.  I'm kind of regretting not getting one this time, but oh well.

Cold plankton that we threw into the tank to feed the fish in the kelp tank. 

Fish eating our plankton


On Sunday we went to Carmel and the beach before heading home.  In total we had ordered three dozen oysters between us.  Yum yum yum.  I think our trips are always going to be food trips.  We didn't really have that many set plans, but we did have a lot of places that we wanted to go to eat.  We found this tiny little restaurant on the wharf to have breakfast at.  It was so small that the stove was right in front of us and we could watch them work.  There wasn't even a bathroom in there!  We will definitely be going back to Lou Lou's.

Nick's breakfast

My breakfast



On Tuesday night Bonnie and I went to the Sound of Music Sing Along.  It was a special thing going around at movie theaters all over the place to celebrate the movie's 45th anniversary.  We first went and scarfed down some Chipotle because we were both starving and had been texting each other about how excited we were to eat.  After we finished inhaling our food we had half and hour to spare so we headed to Michael's to see if we could find a mask for me to make a Halloween costume out of.  Nick and I originally were going to be chefs, but since we wanted to have our names embroidered on the chef coats they won't arrive until the first week of November.  I ordered them on October 8th too!  I figured there would be plenty of time to get them.  Apparently not.  So Bonnie and headed over to Michael's and I found a mask, googly, eyes and glitter glue.  Even though she wasn't shopping for anything, she found a can coozie, pink glitter glue, and pink rhine stones.  We already had planned to have a dinner, movie, and wine night at my house on Thursday so we saved it to decorate together.  By the time we were done with our Michaels shopping we practically had to run to the theater.  It was pretty fun.  The group behind us was a hoot.  We later discovered that it was because they had imbibed quite a bit of wine.

Yesterday Bonnie and I had a nice girl night of decorating coozies and masks.  I made chicken parm, string beans, and potatoes.  It turned out pretty well except that you're supposed to use chicken cutlets and I used chicken breast.  I just covered the cheesy chicken with foil so that the cheese wouldn't get too brown and left it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.  I took this picture with my phone halfway through eating the chicken.


It wasn't that hard to make, but I don't think I'd make it again.  My dad said that he like the chewy, stringiness of the cheese, but that he liked the chicken that my mom made the other day better.  The best part of the chicken was the homemade tomato sauce that I made for it.  I didn't follow Giada's recipe in the second half of the link.  This was my improvised tomato sauce:

Fresh Tomato Sauce

1 onion, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 head garlic minced (if you don't like garlic as much as I do just use 2-3 cloves)
2-3 mushrooms, sliced

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (the sauce will be too thin with the juices added)
2 8oz cans tomato sauce

2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tbsp fresh sage, minced
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar (this reduces the acidity of the tomatoes)


Saute onion, shallots, and garlic until translucent.  Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Add diced tomatoes and stir until they are soft.  Add tomato sauce.  Drop in thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Lower to a simmer and cover for two + hours.  Stir every 15 minutes or so.  Once you are close to serving, take off the cover, and let simmer for another 15 minutes.  This will thicken up the sauce.  
Note:  This makes about three to four large servings worth of sauce.  If I were making this for my family to put over pasta I would double the recipe since we always like to go back for seconds.  I usually don't like parsley of any kind, but since I minced it really finely and then let it simmer for a long time I didn't bite into any large, over powering chunks of leaf.  The parsley added a lot of flavor to the sauce so don't skimp on the parsley.

After dinner Bonnie and I went to go watch movies and do crafts in the study.  I had ripped a copy of The Ugly Truth, but it stopped working about 15 minutes into the movie.  I will have to try it on the downstairs dvd player to see if it works.  If not, then I'll just have to break down and buy it because it's a really cute movie.  We decided on Hello Dolly instead since neither of us had seen it.  I spent the first half of the movie working on my Halloween mask so I didn't catch it all, but I'm definitely going to go back and watch the whole thing again.  It was really good!  I loved all of their choreographed dances.

Ever since I've known Bonnie she has always like pink and princesses.  She made this coozie for her desk since her office is already decked out in Disney Princess stuff.


My Halloween mask made of googly eyes blue glitter glue.  For $6ish it was a pretty good deal!  I just need the eyeballs to stay on until the end of the night.  Hehehe.

In other news I have been working out 3-4 times a week for the last three weeks and I'm gaining weight!  All I have to say is that it better be muscle.  Nick told me that I looked a little thinner, so hopefully he is right.  My legs and rump do feel firmer.  Shanna is now part of our motivation team to get fit.  She's been doing a really good job at getting herself up in the morning before work to go on walks on top of her roller derby practice in the evenings.  Nick said that the giant hill to his house is getting easier for him to walk up too.  I've even noticed that his belly is much flatter.  So it's working!  I probably should have taken my measurements before we started the whole thing, but my belly fat and double chin are disappearing.  I've started to run up all of the hills that are on my path and walking on the flat parts so instead of taking an hour to do my three mile route it only takes me 50 minutes and it's more challenging.  If anyone wants to join our gang let me know!  We email, IM, and text each other with how were doing and also pressure/compete with one another to work out.  I'm telling you, it works!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lamb shanks and wine tasting

Oh how I love me some lamb.  Bahh ram my stomach!  This past weekend we went up to Napa for some wine tasting and lunch at Bouchon with some friends.  I had the best lamb shank and was inspired to make something similar for Nick and my one year anniversary.  So we found this braised lamb shank recipe online and Nick started it when he got home from work.  We also steamed some broccoli and made mashed potatoes.  Instead of using chicken stock or milk for the mashed potatoes, we used some left over beef stock.  At first we were a little apprehensive about putting in the brown stock, but it was really good and worth the risk.  It gave the potatoes a very meaty flavor that made me think of steak-house mash.  Nick also roasted a whole head of garlic and squeezed it in before mashing.  Oh, they were sooo good.

Nick's Mashed potatoes

3 Idaho potatoes, chunked
1 head garlic, roasted (standard roasted garlic recipe)
2 pats butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c beef broth (or as much as you nee for desired consistency)

Boil potatoes until they are soft.  Squeeze in roasted garlic. Add butter, salt and pepper.   Mash while streaming in beef broth until it reaches desired consistency.

Note:  The beef broth will make your potatoes a little brown in color, but it shouldn't be too brown that it looks unappetizing.

Bouchon's lamb shank ($33 + tip)

Our lamb shank ($30 for two + sides + left overs)

I would have to say it was a great success.  We will be making this for my mom's bday that's coming up in November.  She doesn't like lamb, but we're going to braise her a separate turkey wing since she really likes those.  The rest of us will get lamb though.  I'm going to start the lamb while I'm taking my lunch.  Our lamb was really good, but it could have braised for another hour or two to get to that nice fall-off-the-bone doneness.  We also managed to dig out some of the marrow.  Boy, that stuff is rich.  It's like a heart attack waiting to happen.  

I also wanted to report back on the Cal Shakes play that I went to see with Bonnie and Abby.  It was soooo good.  Bonnie and I are going to get season tickets for next summer's shows (unfortunately Abby's work schedule doesn't allow her the flexibility).  I highly suggest going to check out at least one of their shows.  They pretty much only do Shakespeare plays, but here is a their 2011 Season lineup.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back on track...hopefully

This week I've actually been waking up before my normal 10:45am shuffle to the bathroom before my daily conference call at 10:50.  Nick and I decided that we are going to try to wake up before work to go on walks and runs in our respective neighborhoods.  I started exercising last week by power walking about 3 miles around New Hall Park and am already starting to see a difference in my legs and rump.  Nick's area is much more hilly and difficult, but he lives too far away for me to go over there to work out.  Plus, I absolutely detest having to drive somewhere to work out.  We did try to work out together a couple of times, but that didn't really work.  He likes to run whereas I like to walk (though I do walk rather quickly, faster than my jog actually).  So he would run, get tired and walk so then I'd breeze by him and he'd start running again.  I think it's better if we exercise on our own since we clearly have different paces, but we're using each other as motivation to get up and do it.  Now I get up at 9:15 so that I can get out and be back by 10:30 for stretching and toning.  Even though I'm waking up earlier, the walk helps give me energy to carry on the day.  However, if I'm feeling a little tired, my mom bought me a single cup coffee maker so I can rely on that for a boost of energy.  Though, after I have lunch it just goes down hill from there.  I get so sleepy.  Today I sat at my desk for a minute with my eyes closed until someone called.  Maybe it was shorter than a minute, but it helped.  We'll see how long this exercising stint holds up.  Hopefully longer than my grand ideas about going to the gym, which I've now canceled the membership to.

This weekend is going to be packed.  Tomorrow (Friday), I will be heading out to Orinda to watch Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing at Cal Shakes with Bonnie and Abby.  I'm really excited.  Even though Bonnie and I froze our rumps off last time watching Macbeth, it was absolutely amazing.  I'm sold on Cal Shakes now.  Plus, it does help that it's only $25 for people under 30.  Hehehe.  Cheap entertainment is great.  Then on Saturday my family will be heading back out to the city for Justin and Katelyn's birthday party.  That should be fun.  Auntie Marvel, make lumpia!  And then teach me how to make it!

On Sunday Nick and I are planning to go to Bouchon and wine tasting with our friends Frank, Jenelle, Rob, and Linda.  At first it was questionable if Rob was going to come with us, but Linda informed me that they got him a little portable radio so that he could listen to the Giants game.  Hahahah, ah, what dedicated fans will do.  So we're all heading out to Napa to go and do some tasting.  Mrs. Ryan has been working at this vineyard called Consentino, it's her favorite.  She will be pouring on Sunday so we're going to go see her.  I've had Consentino wine before, but wasn't that big of a fan because it was a chardonnay and I don't enjoy it that much.  Hopefully they have a good riesling or pinot gregio.  We are also going to a place called Sequoia Grove, which I've never been to but Frank and Jenelle like. The third place we'll be going to is Mumm's to get some champagne.  Nick and I met while I was swigging the stuff at Frank and Jenelle's wedding (I was nervous to be set up).  It's our one year anniversary next week and we'll be going to Monterey I wanted to go pick up a bottle from the winery since they don't sell the champagne that we had at the wedding in stores.  This was our original intent, to just go up and grab a bottle and maybe taste some others, but then it snowballed into the lunch and wine tasting day that it is now.  The more the merrier!  I'll have Nick all to myself when I whisk him off to the aquarium.  Muaahahah.

In other news, Cal wiped the floor with UCLA last weekend.  Nick and I made lunch and watched the game...then fell asleep.  I think I spent more time sleeping last Saturday than I did awake.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It's October!

This is going to be a busy month.  I feel tired just looking at my calendar.  At least I've gotten through the first weekend.  Nick and I had a friend's wedding to go to on Saturday and then spent Sunday recovering.  This is the one that I went down to Pismo Beach about a month ago for the bachelorette party.  Nick officiated the ceremony and did a great job.  I was trying really hard not to cry, but the girl next to me and the woman in front of me were balling so it was hard to keep it together.  During the Maid of Honor speech I lost it and Linda said "Don't look at me!" because the tears were streaming and she probably would have started up too.  Even though I wasn't in the wedding party, I felt like I was since I helped edit Nick's speech and then went to help make the favors for the wedding.  We made carmel and chocolate apples with nuts and chocolate chips.  They were huge and heavy from all the toppings. It was a lot of work, but it was nice hanging out with all the girls doing crafty stuff.  It was also very fulfilling seeing people digging into their carmel apples like little kids.

Took this pic with my phone after all our hard work.  I didn't take a picture of the ones with chocolate chips though.  First we dipped all the apples in carmel, let them dry, dipped in chocolate, and then pressed on either chopped almonds or chocolate chips. 

I forgot my camera on the kitchen table when we were leaving, but my mom did take a picture of Linda and myself before we left.  I wouldn't have been able to carry the camera anyway.  The clutch I took matched perfectly with my awesome shoes, but it barely held my cellphone and some lipgloss.  Useless, I tell you, useless.  It is all stained now because I had to put it on the grass, which was wet and it is satin, but I don't mind much.  I think I bought it for $10 in Vegas a long time ago.  I've gotten my use out of it...well as much use as useless purse can give.


The last couple of weeks my family, Nick, and Briana have been getting together for dinners on Tuesday nights for Glee.  Nick and I used to have Tuesday night dinners at his house, but now that Briana comes over to watch Glee we just do it at our house.  Last night Nick and I made roasted chicken over veggies and a bacon and spinach rice pilaf that actually turned out like No-Mai-Fawn. I think we might have added too much chicken stock so it wasn't fluffy, but sticky.

Nick makes a pretty awesome rosemary and lemon chicken and I make a pretty mean sage chicken, so we decided to combine our two recipes and make a sage-rosemary-garlic chicken.  Yum yum yum.  We put the oven on a really low heat so it took almost three hours to cook, but we'll know next time to make the oven hotter.  Usually we sit in the dining room and eat out since there is more room when there are all six of us, but since the chicken took it's sweet time, we had to cram around the dinner table to watch Glee.  It was delicious though.  You can definitely reduce the portions and just make one chicken, but we're big eaters.  All of this food was roughly $45.00 so that comes to $7.50 a person.  Not bad if you ask me!


At the 50 minute rotation




Nick about to say "Ahhh it's burning my fingers!"

Nick and Allison's Roasted Sage-Rosemary-Garlic Butter Chicken

2 whole chickens, cleaned and patted dry
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped finely
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
1 head garlic, grated or very finely minced
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tbsp black pepper
butchers twine


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine butter, sage, rosemary, garlic, salt, and black pepper in large bowl until completely mixed.  Taking small portions of butter, spread under the skin of the chicken on breasts and thighs.  Truss your chicken.  (We just tied the drumsticks together and tucked the wings under the bird.) Spread more butter on the skin for flavor and browning.  Reserve some of the butter to put on your vegetables.   
Note:  When placing your birds on the vegetables for roasting make sure to put the breasts up and the ribs down to the veggies.  (Nick taught me that last night.)
Addendum:  If you aren't going to put the chicken on top of vegetables, make sure to put the chickens on a rack.  You don't want them to be sitting in their own juices and oils.  Baste to moisten. 

Roasted Rosemary Assorted Vegetables

5 red potatoes, large dice
3 carrots, chopped
8 mushrooms, quartered (8thed if they are large)
2 heads garlic, whole cloves
2 onions, 8thed
5 zucchini, thickly chopped
5-10 sprigs of rosemary
Reserved dallops of sage-rosemary-garlic butter
EVOO for drizzling

Spray bottom of pan with Pam.  Combine all of the vegetables in pan.  Add dallops of butter and drizzle EVOO.  Mix together with large spoon or hands so that everything is well mixed and coated.  Place chickens on top, breasts up.  Cover chickens with foil and put in 425 degree oven for 50 minutes.  Rotate and take foil off.  Put back in for another 50 minutes.  Temperature of chickens should be above 160 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken.  Make sure not to let the thermometer touch the bone.  

Chicken Gravy

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/4 c chicken drippings
6-7 mushroom slices from the pan

Melt butter and flour together over medium heat, stir continuously to make a roux.  (You don't want it to burn or get too brown --light brown is good.)  Add chicken drippings a few small ladles a time, stirring.  Add mushrooms and let come to a boil, stirring continuously.  If gravy is too thick, add more drippings (if it is to thin, lower heat and let simmer, stir frequently so that the bottom won't burn.)  Serve over chicken and vegetables. 

This dinner was a complete success.  When Christopher and I went to drop Briana off, my parents were apparently talking about how good it was and then when my dad came to give me a kiss goodnight he reiterated how good dinner was.  Usually he doesn't keep talking about dinner after it's in his belly.  Yay!  Success, though we can't have this all the time since there is sooo much butter in it.  I make myself feel better that it was split between us all.

As a second round dinner, my mom is using the chicken carcasses for jook tonight, but you could always make a really tasty chicken stock with them.