Archive for the ‘Food & Wine’ Category

The old standby

My dinners become fairly predictable. I like to roast veggies in salt and olive oil, sauté spinach in olive oil and garlic, and make caprese salad. Here are two variations on a theme from the last two nights.

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Slightly different ingredients last night. Can you tell?

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Roasted veggies and caprese salad

Another evening with caprese salad, this time both the basil and tomato were from my garden. Add a little zucchini and a sweet potato.

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The caprese salad was drizzled with olive oil and vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with a little hawaiian sea salt. The other half of the plate was zucchini and sweet potato, tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt then baked in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes, flipping at the 10 minute mark. 

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Full Circle

This morning, I walked the dog and fed the pets like always. Then, I called the hospital in New Hampshire, where my mom is staying after her hip replacement, to order flowers to be sent to her room. I know she said no flowers, but I think it is fun to send them anyways. Hospital rooms need some decorations, guests need cheering up, and it is the least I can do since I can’t be there.

The woman at the gift shop who took my information was having a hard time hearing because of all the background noise. I should have made her repeat the full credit card number since after she repeated the first four digits, one of them was wrong. But I didn’t. I should trust my instincts.

I showered and headed to my eye doctor appointment. The office is located in San Jose, and I’ve been enough times that I didn’t ask Siri how to get there. I got lucky and didn’t hit traffic on 280. At the doctor’s office, between the assistant asking me all the good questions about my drinking (yes), smoking (no), and family history (I don’t remember), I was alone in the room for a few minutes when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize from Vermont.

I answered. I hate those people who do that while in a doctor’s office, but the doctor wasn’t in the room yet. As soon as I started talking, the doctor walked in. Sure enough, the woman at the gift shop had gotten the credit card number wrong. I told her the correct number, hung up, and profusely apologized to the doctor. He said he knows I’m not the kind of person who does that normally, so he figured it was something. I was just trying to be a good daughter.

The doctor went to put drops in my eyes. We had the normal conversation about not dilating my eyes. The last time I had that done was years ago and I came very close to passing out. Sounds got really far away, I had tunnel vision, and I had to lay on the floor with my feet in the air for half an hour. He says that some people have that reaction to it and that they are always good about mentioning it. But these drops were numbing drops so they could touch my eye. I hated the feeling, but I didn’t pass out. 

I got to work in time to watch some live blogs about something. Afterwards, there was cake and champagne before lunch. I failed at my diet today. When I start the day with cake and champagne, all bets are off. So being Tuesday, I went for a (veggie) burger with the boys at the normal Tuesday lunch haunt. I do miss hanging with them, but my wallet, my diet, and my liver keep it from being a regular thing. But I was already down the path of no return today, so I might as well enjoy it.

In the afternoon, in an effort to counterbalance earlier mischievousness, I had a half-caf, non-fat, extra ice, iced latte. Just enough caffeine that I suddenly felt ridiculously productive and even figured out the solution to a coding problem I’d been staring at on and off for days. Next thing I knew, it was after 6 pm and I was already late to dinner.

Dog walked, and pets fed again, I headed to dinner in San Jose. I let Siri tell me how to get there and she directed me away from the highway traffic and over surface roads instead. After parking the car, I rang the door bell, but no one answered, so I walked into the house. I figured the hosts are the kind of people who would find this acceptable. They hadn’t heard the doorbell because everyone was hanging out in the backyard enjoying the lovely evening. I was greeted by the most gigantic, gentlest dog I’ve ever met. He decided I was allowed to enter and let me through.

I was asked often how I know the hosts. The answer is always that we met through Mountain Man from Colorado (we are wondering when Mountain Man will be in town next). He’s a common friend in another state, but no, I have never lived in Colorado, I live here. The hosts are known for picking up strays like myself, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise.

At one point, the men separated from the women, and as seems to be a common theme this week, the conversation turned to breasts. Not mine this time, but another woman who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So I remind you again, if you are a woman you should get mammograms, and if you are a guy, make sure the women in your life get their mammograms.

Mastectomies, breast replacements, enlargements, and reductions eventually faded away, but somehow dinner conversation evolved into talking about vasectomies and manscaping. It wasn’t me, I swear, since I have no personal knowledge of these things.

Our table of fantastic foods and desserts attracted three female bees, one of which took a nose dive into my wine. She was rescued, but I was on to tea by then anyways, so it wasn’t a problem. I was watching the bees, and one kept falling over as it walked. I asked, “Is it the drunk one that keeps tipping over?” just as one of the women’s chair legs sunk into soft ground and she spilled out of it. “I meant the bee! The bee!” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and the table erupted in laughter.

Before leaving, I did my best to get Murphy to sit still for a selfie. He’s about as good at getting his photo taken as Perl is. This is the best I got.

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That is not a camera trick. I do not have a tiny head. That really is Murphy’s head. He is enormous!

After tea and dessert, I headed home. I could have found my way, but I like to listen to Siri, since she is usually the only guest I have in my car. She took me past the house, down a different road than the one I’d come in on. We turned a corner and suddenly I recognized the street.

I passed my eye doctor’s office and the day had come full circle.

Popcorn

Some popping corn (skip the microwave), a bit of Greek olive oil with a nice grassy taste, and some Hawaiian sea salt.

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Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a pan. Wait until it is good and warm. Dump in the popcorn and cover. Shake it once in a while to keep from burning. Listen for the popping to stop.

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Sprinkle with the sea salt and eat while watching an episode of Burn Notice.

Grilled veggie wrap

Tonight’s dinner. Start with whatever veggies you have on hand. In this case, the rest of an onion, a pepper and eggplant (also known as aubergine—I’ve learned to love them) from my garden, and tomatoes from a coworker’s garden since mine aren’t quite ripe yet. You will also need a whole wheat burrito wrap, some hot sauce, and I suggest taco seasoning from Spice Hound.

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Chop them all up and toss them in some olive oil over medium high heat until they brown. I’m still scared of hot oil, but I’m learning to deal with it. Start with the onion, add the eggplant, then the pepper towards the end. This is also good with tofu, zucchini and squash. Some people, not me, might like mushrooms.

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Once browned, sprinkle the taco seasoning. While this is happening, if you have a glass cooktop, place a piece of tin foil over a burner, turn it on really low, and put the burrito wrap on it to warm it up.

Assemble the burrito wrap with the chopped tomatoes and hot sauce. You can also add shredded cheese, but I’m trying to keep the calories down.

Voila!

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Enjoy while watching an episode of Breaking Bad.

Homemade Dinner

Surprisingly, Chef showed up out of nowhere tonight and managed to create dinner out of what was in my fridge and growing on my deck.  This is what Chef created.

Chef started with homemade pesto with the overgrown basil on my deck.

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  • 3 cups packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Following the instructions, Chef made too much pesto, but I have a lot of basil. I’ll have to freeze some of this.

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Chef realized we were hungry, so made a few appetizers. Chef started with a cucumber from my garden, and some Hawaiian Sea Salt.

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Then Chef made some Caprese Salad. Chef was going to use the tomato from my garden, but it isn’t quite ripe yet, so we used one from a coworker’s garden.

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Tomato with a slice of mozzarella, and a leaf of basil, sprinkle a little salt, and drizzle olive oil and some Vanilla-Fig Balsamic Vinegar on top. Yum!

 

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Dinner was then served. Farfalle pasta with pesto, spinach sautéed with garlic in olive oil, and a yellow squash tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper then oven roasted.

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Just for fun, a little bit of vanilla ice cream with a raspberry-chocholate sauce.

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Thanks to Former Student (who I swear has a name, but I can’t remember now—I might need some new names around here) for suffering through another creative dinner night.

Halfway through the August 5!

We are halfway through the August 5 pound challenge. As of this morning, I hit the 2.5 pound mark, so I’m right on target. It is going to be a difficult next 16 days, but I believe I can do it if I set my mind to it. And so can you!

How are you all doing?

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

This has been a completely unexpected weekend. I might just need a vacation from it, but I’m out of vacation days. I did say a little while ago that I miss my crazy life. Well, it is back with a vengeance.

Friday night after work, I met up with some former coworkers for a little ego boost. I completely miscalculated and kept up with them on drinks. Three very strong gin and tonics later, I stood up and realized my mistake. I immediately got a ride home.

I ate leftover pizza, drank water, made myself some popcorn on the stove (with Greek olive oil and Hawaiian sea salt)” and watched tv in a desperate attempt to sober up before sleeping. I also drunk texted, which was not in the plan. None of it was in the plan. Last week, I had nothing scheduled from Wednesday-Sunday. Oh how that changes.

Saturday morning, I woke around 5 am and laid in bed pretending to sleep until 6 am. Five hours of sleep was not enough. I finally got up, walked the dog in the cold, cloudy, silent morning, showered and hailed a cab so I could retrieve my abandoned car. I felt like an idiot. I’m only telling you so you will learn from my mistakes. Of course, if I had been my grandfather, The Grump, I would have forgotten where the car was and sent one or a few of my six children to walk down the streets until they found it. Luckily, I am not The Grump.

I drove my car to my 9 am hair appointment. Wilson has been bored with my long haircut and normal color, required for wedding photos, so today I let him color outside the lines to his heart’s content. Two dying sessions, two shampoos, a cut and style later, my hair is so red, I think it glows in the dark. No fewer than three strangers approached me in the farmer’s market to tell me how much they loved it. That is why I let Wilson do it.

I am dog sitting this weekend, so I showed up to pick up Pascal and was greeted with two Jell-O shots. Hair of the dog, be damned. The pink was better than the blue. I haven’t had a Jell-O shot since either the afternoon I spent in the gay district in Dallas, Texas in 2010, or a 4th of July BBQ with a pink Jell-O shot mold of Darth Vader. Either way, I wasn’t sure if I was winning or losing.

I took Pascal home and he and I and Perl went for a walk. Doesn’t matter because he still pooed on my freshly shampooed carpet. My dog dug holes in their backyard, so all is fair in love and war.

I took out my contacts and put on my silk pajamas at 1 pm and took a nap. I was exhausted. I’m getting too old for my own life. At 4 pm, I threw on some clothes, tussled my glowing locks and went down to my favorite pub, Lily Macs, for a ladies’ afternoon beer pong game.

In an effort to ward off {^+~€~*} breast cancer, we drank the afternoon away. My partner and I won and then whooped the other team at a round of flip cup. We are amazing.

I told them about how, at the age of four, my father recognized my beer pong skills. By age six, I was training competitively. My first international competition was at age 13. I got my balls handed to me by a couple of Germans. I was not prepared to play with Bavarian stout. By age 18, I was ranked in the top ten in the world, however, because of drinking age laws, I was never allowed to play in the United States. My skills at swiping the ball away after a bounce were cat like and I became known as The Pussy. I was feared and revered far and wide. Two days before my 21st birthday, I was playing against the Russians since the Cold War was over. You don’t know beer pong skills until you see me sink a ping pong ball into a shot glass of vodka from twenty paces. Just as I threw the winning ball, I screamed in sheer agony as I threw out my shooting arm. The doctor said I had the worst case of beer pong elbow he’d ever seen and I would never play professionally again. The Pussy was no more. She now plays in seedy bars and hustles the college crowd, scowling at the Coors Light on the table and reliving her glory days through tales the kids don’t believe. What a waste.

Next, back in reality, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Roberto’s, for a little tequila and fajitas. I always forget that Saturday evenings in the summer on Murphy Street is a jazz festival. We enjoyed the music and some of my table danced with Das Deutschman.

I begged out as soon as the sun was setting, so I could go walk the dogs. I laid in the backyard in the hammock as they ran around the yard. Then I went to bed early. I’m talking 9:30. I slept until 6 am. It was glorious.

This morning, I walked the dogs and returned the little one to his house. He is a snuggler and Pablo, who is about the same size, was jealous. I got some laundry done while waiting for a text about hiking.

At 11 am, The Lawyer and I headed off for a hike at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton. We did not buy a map, instead, we went to look at the ridiculously old redwoods and then picked a random trail. We hiked for two and a half hours without getting lost. We did make one half-hearted attempt at crossing the river where there was no bridge, but eventually, after a couple prickly bushes, gave up on the idea.

Six and a half miles later, we went to Santa Cruz for a late lunch at 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. After burning 800 calories, we figured that burgers, fries and a beer were in order. I was good and left some burger and fries on the plate. I still can’t manage to leave beer. I blame The Lawyer for us being carded, although the woman next to us claimed everyone is carded. She was soon replaced by three people and a big, white, fluffy, year-and-a-half old, friendly golden retriever. Adorable!

Before going back to the car, The Lawyer came up with the Evil Detour Plan which took us to The Penny Ice Creamery. How have I never found this place before? I tried the fennel ice cream, but couldn’t quite convince myself to get a cone of it, so I went with the chocolate and salted caramel. I didn’t need the ice cream, but since when has anything I’ve really wanted been good for me?

Back on the other side of the hill, I headed home to quickly walk the dog and shower before heading up to SFO. There, I picked up TOK and Cabana Boy. I was so excited to see them! I don’t think I’ve seen them since their wedding in 2010.

We went into Burlingame where the street we tried to visit was under construction and they wondered what kind of place I was taking them to. We chose to eat at Olea Mediterranean Cuisine, which I swear was a different name and decor the last time I was there. The food was good and the company was even better. I miss hanging out with TOK and Cabana Boy in upstate NY. Well, I don’t miss upstate NY, but I do miss them.

Everything was closed on the street, including the street, when we finished dinner, so we went back to the hotel lounge for coffee and dessert. The mini desserts were just the right size. We had, as the menu pointed out, “The trio of three.” Perfect for the trio of three of us.

Sadly, it was time to leave. They have an early flight and I have work in the morning. Overall, it was a fantastically typical, atypical weekend. I’m happy to have my crazy life* back!

* Although I could do without mistakes like Friday night. We live and we learn. Hopefully I learned not to keep up with the boys.

The August 5: Join Me

My diet has been stuck in a rut for a few months now. I got halfway through and then I plateaued. I haven’t been gaining, but I also haven’t been losing. I know a couple people who are stuck with me, so I’m creating this challenge.

The August 5.

In 31 days, we will each try to lose 5 pounds through exercise and making better choices eating. That is a little more than a pound a week. More fruits and veggies, fewer grains and meat, one less beer than you would normally drink. It is the last month of summer and the weather is beautiful. Let’s do this together.

Are you with me?

Day 10: Granada

We rented a room in an adorable little hotel in Granada, up at the top of the hill in an old part of the city. Tiny, one-way streets lined by white-walled homes, with no where to hide, but an inset doorway when the occasional car passed through. The little hotel was beautifully done in thick dark wood, similar to what you would find in a ski lodge, and a little out of place, but a lovely contrast to all the stucco. Like I’d seen in Morocco, it was set up with an open-air atrium in the center.

Andalindsia and I set out to wander the town. It turns out that the weekend we were there happened to be Fiesta de las Cruces or better known as Cuz de Mayo or May Cross. Each of the neighborhoods puts together a display with a large cross covered in red roses as the centerpiece. Each display was tailored or the neighborhood that designed it. During the days, there was live music and dancing. Girls and women everywhere dressed in traditional flamenco dress. It was amazing to witness.

I’m so glad that I visited Morocco and southern Spain in the same trip because I hadn’t realized how much of their history collides. Our Friday afternoon was spent at the Alhambra, which is a fantastic fortress and palace complex that was inhabited by both Christians and Muslims at separate times, each leaving their mark in the historical site. It is definitely a place that needs to be visited, just for the history of it. but I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed, mainly because the only thing left are the structures. The artwork and furnishings were all gone. However, the walls are particularly ornate, even if the architecture is only partially interesting. I was surprised to learn that Washington Irving had spent a lot of time in the Alhambra.

The gardens of the Generalife, part of the grounds of the Alhambra, were particularly stunning, although our walk through them was cut short due to a thunderstorm. Andalindsia explained the difference between Spanish and English style gardens to me. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but English gardens are often wild looking, with plants growing over other plants. Spanish style is very manicured. I finally feel like I understand the difference between gardens and landscaping in New England versus the Spanish-influenced California.

After the Alhambra, we took a nap, just like I used to in college so that we could go out at 10 pm and stay out until 3 am. Andalindsia and I had a double date! I don’t think I’ve actually ever been on an official double date, so it was kind of exciting. I’d definitely never been on a blind date that wasn’t just set up by the internet. Andalindsia had been out before with The Journalist and he was to bring a friend. Turns out, the friend he chose was a pretty good match. The Journalist brought me The Graphic Designer. Great smile, speaks English, and we had lots to talk about. The Journalist got nervous a few times because I was talking very loudly and with my hands, but it was just a heated discussion about some of the companies that I despise.

We had a lovely evening drinking in a couple different establishments, eating meat substance (I was a bad vegetarian and didn’t feel like trying to explain to them), wearing stranger’s hats and dancing in the basement. Sadly, I don’t remember where exactly that we went, maybe Andalindsia can fill in those blanks. I’m not as familiar with the area. I tried to remember to be a good friend and get water for Andalindsia occasionally. I loved that she is going through all the things I did in college but with the benefit of twenty years of life experience.

It was a fabulous evening. I hadn’t had that much fun on a date in a long time. Hopefully, that will change. That evening made me realize that I really should be trying harder on this dating thing. I’m not going to make it my second job like my sister did, but I can at least make more dates and look nicer when I go on them. It is all about first impressions, right? So far, I’ve been the one turning everyone down, so I haven’t had to try. Maybe it would help if I did. Stay tuned.

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