Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: May 30, 2012

Originally, I was going to make beef stroganoff from an recipe, but since my Mastering the Art was still sitting out I used Julia's recipe and adapted it to the ingredients that I had.  Instead of whipping cream I used light sour cream as the recipe called for and left out the white wine.  I didn't want to open a whole bottle of wine for 1/3 cup when neither of us drinks white wine. I just added extra beef stock and it tasted just fine.

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It's not much to look at, but it sure was tasty.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: May 29, 2012

Now that my fridge has food in it again, Nick and I can actually eat at our own place.  We grilled up some chicken and veggies for spicy fajitas.  I butterflied the chicken breasts so that they would grill faster and more evenly.  This whole meal took less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.  It took less than 10 for us to scarf it down.

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That's fresh parsley (far right)  from my itty-bitty herb garden on the balcony.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Monterey trip of a lifetime

It really was.  First the engagement and then a spectacular weekend of relaxing and celebrity chefs.  The format of this post will be picture book-like.  I'm not sure how else to make sure that I get all my pictures in and that I go in chronological order.

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We started our lovely trip with breakfast in Hubcaps diner in Walnut Creek.
I had a hearty omelet.  I think it was called the Kitchen Sink.  Whatever it is
called, it was delicious.  

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For lunch we stopped at our favorite oyster place in Carmel, A. W. Shucks, for
a dozen.  We didn't want to eat a large lunch because we had a really nice
restaurant reserved for a late dinner.  We were originally going to go to a
promising looking salumi place, but we were still full from breakfast and
didn't want to spoil our appetites for dinner.  

Our favorite beach in Carmel.  This is the beach that Nick was originally
going to propose at, but after my Mom mentioned that I might accidentally
flick the wand and the ring would fly off, he decided to do it in our apartment.


We were pleasantly surprised by this room.  I had found it on since
all of the rooms in hotels near Monterey were either booked or $400+.
The Sunset Inn was only $140 and was very quaint.  It even had a fireplace and
river rock flooring in the bathroom with a rainfall shower head.  



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For dinner, we went to Restaurant 1833.  I had
heard of it through Food and Wine Magazine.
We were apparently in the right place because
Rick Bayless walked in while we were having
our celebratory champagne at the bar.  After I
was not so discrete about being excited to see him,
Alex Guarnachelli walked in with a small group of
people.  She promptly popped her head into the
kitchen and then sat at the bar next to us.  I
have to say that I'm not a huge fan of hers, but
after reading an eloquent article that she wrote
about her childhood and the influence of her
 mother's cookbook writing, my opinion of her
softened.  I took a large swig of my champagne
and had to go talk to her and tell her how beautifully
I thought her article was.  I'm sure you know by
now how easily I swoon over a well written piece.
Shortly after I introduced myself to Alex and she
thanked me for the compliment, we were seated.
This is a complimentary fennel soup.  It was
interesting and rather creamy.  

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Foie Gras

Bone marrow with crostini and roasted garlic.  These were by far the biggest
bone marrow portions that we have gotten in a restaurant and they were super

Bone marrow, garlic, and crostini.  Mmmmm...

Nick's seared sea bass with a creamy mussel sauce.

My seared diver scallops with a savory olive and fennel sauce.  

Fancy s'mores.  It was actually really, really good.  The cookies were a
crispy ginger cookie with house-made toasted marshmallow.

Event tickets to Carla and Alton.

Carla Hall in action!

Artichoke-crab benedict that we watched Carla make herself!

Cornmeal blueberry waffles.  The cornmeal added a great texture to the
waffle as well as a light flavor.

Thick-cut smoked apple bacon, turkey-rosemary sausage, citrus poletta, and
a savory biscuit. 

Our view from our brunch table.  We sat with a really nice couple who had
been at the event all weekend.  They were a very down-to-earth couple who had
spent the whole weekend at the event.  After hearing about their experience
with Cooking for Solutions, we definitely want to save our money
so that we can go to the whole thing next year.  They sounded like they
met a whole bunch of famous chefs while actually interacting with them.  They
even made sure that we met Carla Hall and told her about our engagement, which
then lead Carla to congratulate us.  CARLA HALL CONGRATULATED US!

I look normal, but really I'm practically bursting inside.

General set up for the demonstrations.  We were sitting in the third row for
Alton Brown's presentation. 

It was too dark to get good pictures and they requested
that we didn't use flash.

Nick anticipating talking to Alton about firearms.

After Alton signed our book Nick had a full on conversation with him about
firearms.  While Alton was signing our book, Nick had made a comment that he
 really liked Alton's taste in guns (Nick follows Alton's Twitter posts and had seen
 a few of his tweets about guns). After Nick had finished commenting, Alton said
quickly "Oh you know I like them all Glocks, Kimbers...whatever. I try not to be more
than 5 steps away from a gun in my house." Nick then replied, "yeah I am working on it,
I actually just bought a new p226." At this point we had figured our short time with Alton
 was over, and were walking away from the table, the next couple had even showed up at
the table for their signing with Alton. When Alton turned towards us and asked
"Oh! have you shot one yet?", Nick then said that he had "dry fired it at the gun store"
(whatever that means) and finished with "how can you argue with the pedigree of the gun".
Alton then nodded in agreement and wished us a great day. Nick proceeded to squeal
 and say, "I just had a gun talk with ALTON BROWN!"

After waiting for Alton Brown's book signing we decided to walk around a
little bit, but I had to go to the bathroom first.  On the way to the bathroom
I saw a booth for the Cooking for Solutions event and went up to ask them
about next year's event.  They gave us a program, cook book of all the chefs
in attendance, and told us when we cou register for the next event (1/1/13).
While we were talking to the staff, a woman came up and handed them a ticket
saying that she couldn't make it to the event.  The staff looked at us and asked if
we wanted to go to Cindy Pawlcyn's event.  Uhh yeah, but there is only one ticket!
They told us that they always love when people want to come back and have
interest for the next year so they gave us the ticket and told the staff at the door
that we were allowed in.  Not only did we get to watch and smell Cindy's demo
I also got to meet Michael Chiarello.  We were sitting in Cindy's demo when
Michael came in to watch her demo.  (They're both Napa area natives.  Michael
is the chef and owner of Bottega in Yonteville and Cindy owns Mustards Grill
as well as a couple others that I haven't been to.)  Mustards Grill is also where
we saw Laura Dern from Jurassic Park and is
 Bobby Flay's favorite place for a Mongolian Pork Chop. My mom loves Michael so
I was whacking Nick's arm to get him to look.  I wanted to get him to sign a book,
but I didn't want to interrupt the demo to go buy the book in the gift shop.
Nick told me to get it just in case he didn't stay for the whole session.  It's a good
thing I did because shortly after I got his book and Cindy Pawlcyn's he got up to leave.
I bombarded him at the door so that he could sign my book.  He was very nice and
made it out to my Mom.  We also got Cindy to sign her newest book in dedication
to the couple who set us up at their kid's wedding.  They had also introduced us
to Mustards Grill so it was quite fitting.  We figured they would appreciate it,
but probably not as much as we appreciate them setting us up.  :) 
It's been over a week since our unforgettable Monterey weekend happened and I still look at my ring and can't believe that it's real.  I'm floating on clouds.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: May 23, 2012

We were gone all weekend so I didn't get a chance to grocery shop.  It has been an "eat with parents" week. I did, however, have some chicken in the freezer and red wine from our dinner with some friends.  I've been trying really hard to not drink wine in the evening so the almost full bottle needed to be used somehow.  It really has helped my figure.

The first time I made Coq Au Vin was from a recipe that I saw on Brian Boitano's Food Network show.  His friend had marinated his chicken over night in the wine before cooking it.  I remember it being really good the first time I did it for my parents.  This time around I used Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It did not call for 24-hour marinating.  Now I know why.  The chicken was entirely too wine-y.  I didn't know it was possible.  The sauce, however, was to die for.  It was so good.  The sauce was a little thicker than Julia described and could have easily been remedied with a little more brown stock, but I like my sauces thick to coat my pasta.  It's meals like this that I'm thankful for being able to go to nice restaurants.  If I hadn't been introduced to French cuisine this never would have appeared in my kitchen.

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Tonight's Dinner: May 22, 2012

Since the proposal we hadn't seen Nick's family.  To have a little mid-week celebration we went to  Lark Creek in Walnut Creek.  Nick and I have always passed by and looked in but never actually gone there to eat.  The food was pretty darn good, though if we're going to have a date night I think I still prefer Postino.  What I did really like about this restaurant is that they support the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program that promotes sustainable fishing.  (That is the Cooking for Solutions event that we went to over the weekend.  I'm still working on that post.)

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Starters of muscles, calamari, and spinach-artichoke dip.

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Melissa's Chicken Fried Steak

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My Paella

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Nick's Wild Salmon

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Small bites dessert trio.  I think that's a pineapple upside down carrot cake on
the to, espresso creme brule on the bottom, and something else.  

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Melissa got a butterscotch pudding.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Big News

As most of you know, Nick proposed on Friday night.  Can I get a HALLELUJAH!  I don't know if it's because I told my Mom a week into dating him that he was the one, but it seemed like a long time coming.  We've only been dating for two and a half years, but I guess we are getting to the age where we know what we want and how to get to it.  I of course, have not stopped smiling since Friday night.  This weekend by far has been the best weekend of my life.  (I'll get to the rest of it another day.)  I can't stop looking at it.  This is how it all happened.

I was at my parents house doing laundry and Nick went to his to have dinner.  Really, he went to his parents house to get the ring to surprise me.  I had done my nails at my parents place before I headed back to the apartment.  While carrying the laundry up the stairs I had throughly messed them up.  Nick helped me take the laundry into the bed room and I started grumbling about how I messed up my nails.

Nick: Babe, I have present for you.
Me: You do?
Nick: Look in the guest room.

So I go into the guest room and see a long box on top of it. It had been a very long and trying week so I figured he got me something to cheer me up.  He wrote me a nice very sweet little letter with a magical spell worked into the poem.  After seeing the gold writing on the box:

Me:  You got me a wand?!  (Tears start coming)
Nick: Look inside the box.

I opened the box and pulled out the wand.  My fake engagement ring that I wear when I go out with friends was on the wand.  I was confused and looked in the little wand bag but there was only paper stuffing.  He told me to look in my jewelry box and there was the little black box.  It even had a little light in it to make it sparkle.  When I turned around he was on his knee.  Tears were pouring at this point.  I couldn't even say yes because I was crying so hard.  The rest is history and many phone calls to family and friends ensued.

Originally, Nick wanted to propose on our favorite beach in Carmel, but my mom pointed out that I might do a swish and flick with the wand and the ring would go flying.  Proposing in the apartment was a much safer idea.

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I was supposed to say the spell and then the
real ring appeared.  Yeah...I didn't get it.  He
was also going to do it the following morning.

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Holding my new wand!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: May 17, 2012

Our wedding photographer friend was coming over to pick up some equipment for a wedding that she's shooting this weekend so we invited her over for dinner as well as her roommate.  They're pretty healthy eaters so I fell back on some trusted favorites, turkey-zucchini burgers and grilled romaine.  It's easy for a weekday to throw together and delicious while also being figure friendly.

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I also made some rosemary mayo to go with the artichokes, but I like mine

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Vanilla-carmel ice cream over cantaloupe with cinnamon sprinkled on top.  It's
a great figure-friendly alternative to chocolate syrup. 

Tonight's Dinner: May 16, 2012

Frozen pizza for $4 really isn't that bad. It got the job done when you're super lazy.  We were also prepping and cleaning the apartment for friends coming to dinner the following night.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: May 15, 2012

Boy was it a lonnnnggg day at work.  Naturally, I didn't really feel like cooking anything elaborate so after a run with Emmy I popped some chicken in the oven with zucchini, yellow squash, and mushrooms with a cream of mushroom based sauce.  Easy peasy and it tasted delicious.  

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Easy Sauce: 
2 cans cream of mushroom
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 1/2 cups chicken stalk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flake 
Mix all ingredients until blended.  Pour over desired pasta or poultry.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: May 13, 2012

For actual Mother's Day, my family headed out to San Francisco for Chinese food with our larger extended family.  Usually I have a difficult time taking pictures of Chinese dinners as the dishes come out one at a time and get scarfed down almost as quickly, but tonight they were piling the food on the table faster than we could eat it.  Plus, most of the people who read my blog are around one of our three tables.  I LOVE Chinese food.

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Crab and lobster medley

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