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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Foodie Friday: Maple Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

When I was growing up, the child of hippies, we had many dinners that were entirely composed of vegetables. We ate meat often, but I still love to curl up with a big bowl of sliced tomatoes and avocados with dressing, just like I did when I was young. Weird, I know.

Josh did not grow up like this, so when I first mentioned that we were going to start eating less meat and more vegetables, he was understandably concerned.

I consider the fact that we nearly fought over the last serving of this bowl of roasted veggies to be a sign that a) I have an awesome and very open minded husband, and b) it was insanely good. Like, so good it will be on at least a monthly rotation.

Brussel sprouts have become one of my favorite vegetables in recent years, and this summer we discovered the beauty of  broccolini (aka broccoli rabe or rapini). They both have a certain bitter flavor, so tossing them with maple syrup and balsamic before roasting is perfect.

We chose to eat this as a main course and polished it off. It would also make an excellent side dish, and might possibly show up on my Christmas table.

Maple Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts (recipe copied from here)

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 3 or so handfuls of arugula
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim the brussels sprouts and cut in half. Cut the broccolini into bite sized pieces.

Put the brussels sprouts on one baking sheet and the broccolini on another. Drizzle with the olive oil, maple syrup, and balsamic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss them around and make sure they’re well coated.

Place brussels sprouts in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes (they take longer to cook than the broccolini). Toss the sprouts occasionally.

At the 25 minute mark, put the broccolini in the oven as well. Continue roasting both for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. You really want some good color on them.

When they’re thoroughly roasted, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

Once they’re no longer sizzling, toss with the arugula and cranberries, and taste. You can add a little more maple/balsamic/oil or whatever you like at this point.

Serve, and fight for seconds.

Splish Splash, I took a bath

Last weekend my husband took me to Hot Springs, AR. I know, so glamorous, right? Not. He needed to see an account and I decided to ride with him and make a weekend out of it.

Apparently the thing to do in Hot Springs is the baths. They have a whole row of bath houses, which are terribly cute.

Before we left I scheduled appointments for the both of us not really knowing what we were getting into. A bath and massage sounds pretty harmless, right? Hahahahahaha

We arrived into town early Friday afternoon and Bryan saw his account leaving me to drink on the patio. He finished up his work with a few hours to spare before our appointments. We decided to use this time to explore because I had a feeling after our baths and massages we’d be too much like putty to consider moving, much less exploring a new city.

Behind bath house row is a brick pathway called a Promenade. I didn’t really read all the signs, but apparently in bath culture you should exercise or something. The end of the walk spits you out at the other side of the bath house row and in front of spring water fountain. Apparently the founders of the town were not really creative when coming up a name for the town. The springs are actually hot. Huh.

We walked back to our hotel along the bath house fronts admiring their beauty. Only two of them are still open and functioning today. One of them is used by the National Park Service. We stepped in and the whole bath house is open for touring. I thought this would be a great time to see what we were getting into.

First we watched an educational video on the whole bathing process circa 1980. Besides the hilariousness of the 80s hairstyles, it was horrific. I was scared and traumatized. Oh how I wish that video was on YouTube for me to share with you. I searched and couldn’t find it, so instead I’m going to share with you the bathing process. Below are photos I took of the Fordyce Bath House which is now the National Park Service museum.

When you walk in you check in like you would any spa appointment, but they send the men and women their own separate ways. Once inside the segregated door you get ushered into a locker room in which you strip down into nothing but a towel wrap. You are assigned an attendant who draws you a bath in a very large soaker tub. The water is spring water that’s been cooled to about 100 degrees. You can get it warmer if you like to burn.


Above is a men’s room. Behind each of the wooden doors is a tub.

The attendent hands you some hot spring water to drink. I hate drinking hot water, but you’ll need it due to the steam and how dehydrated you are about to become. The attendant turns on a whirlpool thing and you soak in your whirlpool steam bath for about 20 minutes. Then they come back and scrub you. Yes, they scrub you like a baby.

My attendant made a joke of it saying, “Sit up, Miss Rachel. I’m going to bath you like a little girl.” Somehow this made it seem more natural. With a loofa mitt the attendant scrubs your back, arms, and legs. Bryan said his attendant only scrubbed his back and then handed the mitt to him to let him do whatever other areas he wanted scrubbed. I guess men aren’t into letting a stranger scrub their naked body. Whatever.

After rinsing off the dead skin you and your attendant dry you off a bit. You can spend a few minutes in the sauna at this point if you choose. Let me recommend that you skip this portion. The bath is steamy enough.

Next you are ushered into the cooling room. The cooling room is a white, all tiled room filled with lounge chairs and signs that warn you this is a quiet zone. Its a marvelous, marvelous place.

You lie on your lounge chair and your attendent hands you some cold water to drink. Then she’ll put a towel soaked in hot water over your shoulders. She’ll also wrap up each of your arms and legs in hot towels. As you lay down, she’ll also put one over your entire body. To finish you off she places a cold wet towel over your face. Now that you are totally mummy-fied you sit and enjoy the quiet for 20 minutes. This was my very favorite part.

After 20 minutes of peace and quiet its time for your needle shower. It’s not as terrible as it sounds. You walk into a small shower with pipes on 3 sides. Holes are cut into the pipes making “needle” streams of hot spring water. Apparently this step is to rinse off all the dried sweat from your steaming. I’d say the needle shower lasted about 5 minutes then your attendent wraps and dries you in a sheet. Yeah, you walk around in a sheet like a Roman.

The final step of the whole bathing ritual is a massage.

The standard is a 20 minute rub down. I upgraded to a 60 minute.

My only complaint about this whole process is the massage, surprisingly. The massage section was not as private and as quiet as I’ve become used to at home. You’re in your own private room, but it’s the equivalent of a dressing room at the Gap only a little larger. And my masseuse wanted to talk the whole time. I prefer to not talk and concentrate on the movements when I get a massage, but that’s just me.

In conclusion, the whole bathing process is the ultimate in lolling. Here’s why:

  •  Someone is responsible for you the whole time, leaving you free to wander in your thoughts. Don’t worry about what you are supposed to do next, they’ll tell you.
  • Whole chunks of time are devoted to just laying there and relaxing
  • People bring you water (if only they’d bring cocktails!)
  • You don’t even have to bath yourself.
  • Comfortable attire (i.e. towels and sheets), when you have to be clothed
  • You can just lay there and people rub on you

Would I recommend getting a bath? Hell yes! I will do it again. Next time I’ll be even more relaxed since I know what’s coming next.

Have you ever had a bath?

Travel: Atlanta

Since Josh and I are gearing up to hit San Francisco soon, I thought it was time to recap our trip to Atlanta. Better later than never, right?

We stayed two nights in the Midtown area, and pretty much just ate our way through the city. My phone kept dying, so I only took a few pictures. Note to self: always bring the camera.

Here are the highlights!

HD1-

The best hot dogs ever. The best sides. If we lived here, I think we’d go on an almost weekly basis. My lamb hot dog was SO GOOD. It was our first stop as soon as we hit Atlanta, and was our favorite.

Flip Burger- started by the same guy who created HD1, these were some great burgers. Killer onion rings. The milkshakes looked so good, but I was stuffed, and since Josh can’t have dairy, I knew I couldn’t count on him to finish what I couldn’t. Sigh. Maybe next time.

Top FLR- Our drinks stop our first night. We sat at the bar and had a long talk with the bartender. He handcrafts so many of the ingredients that go into his cocktails, and could not have been nicer. I was being indecisive and let him make me two random drinks. Both were delicious. I love that in a bartender.

Octane Coffee- Our fuel of choice through the trip. We’d both order iced coffee and split a pastry. Perfect.

Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ-

Since this is the closest Hawaiian restaurant for us, it is pretty much a requirement for my Hawaiian husband to go there whenever we’re in Atlanta. the food is not exactly what you would call healthy by any means, but it is tasty. Yes, Spam is on the menu, and yes, we definitely ordered some:

Spam Musubi is basically Spam sushi, and while it’s good here, Josh’s homemade version is my favorite. This is the only way I’ve ever had Spam, and I’m really okay with that fact.

Malaya- Malaysian food. If there’s ever a Malaysian place, we go. We haven’t had any since New York, so it was long overdue. The roti and the rendang are legit. Wish they delivered here.

Proof & Provision- Our drink stop the second night.

Lots of potential. Great atmosphere. I liked my drink, Josh not so much. Will definitely go back and try some of the food next time as well.

Hong Kong Harbour- We went here for Dim Sum.

I wouldn’t say it’s the best. Not bad, but not the best. I think the main problem is that the place just isn’t busy enough to keep the food really fresh. Oh well.

We also hit up Ikea for some curtains, and the Atlanta Aquarium, which is SO COOL. I would go back in a heartbeat!

It was so nice to get a few days away without having to spend the money to fly somewhere. We’re going to start researching some more places that are just a 4-5 hour drive from us, because sometimes you just need a little break.

Anyone else have a favorite weekend getaway? Suggestions for San Francisco?

Foodie Friday: Monkey Bread

I actually had to convince a little girl that this had nothing to do with actual monkeys. It was not monkey brains or monkey guts, like she was being told by all of the evil men (her father included) around her. Oh well. It certainly disappeared fast enough, monkey association or not.

Josh loves this so much that he requested it for our very first Christmas morning together. I’ve also made it many times to take to work potlucks and the like. Cheap, easy, and delicious.

Monkey Bread
•3 cans buttermilk biscuits (the non-flaky ones)
•1 cup sugar
•2-3 tsp cinnamon
•2 sticks butter
•½ cup brown sugar
•Chopped pecans

Note: I often assemble everything except for the butter and brown sugar drizzle the night before, then throw it in the oven the next morning while I’m showering/ whimpering that I’m awake so early.

Grab a giant Ziploc bag and throw in the sugar and cinnamon. Cut each biscuit into four pieces (I use kitchen shears) and drop in the bag as well. Seal the bag and shake it all up, getting the pieces well coated in goodness. Grab a bundt pan and put pecans in the bottom. Scatter the biscuit pieces in the pan.(This is the point I tend to cover the pan and stick it in the fridge overnight, but that step is completely optional) Either way, the next step is melting all of the butter in the microwave, then mixing in the brown sugar. Pour this delicious mixture over the biscuits. Yes, it will look like way too much, but it’ll all work out in the end. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Your house will smell heavenly. Let it cool for about 5 -10 minutes, then invert on a big plate and start inhaling.

 

Things We Love: Unexpected Visitors

For the past few days, Josh and I have had a visitor.

Meet Minerva McGonagall:

She’s a super sweet stray who seems to have adopted us. We think she’s about 2-3 months old, but we’re not entirely sure yet.

I have never ever been a cat person, but this cat is so cute and cuddly that she’s already wormed her way into my heart.

Josh is calling our landlords today to see if we can get permission to break our no pets policy in our lease. Since we don’t have any carpet in the house, and we’ve been great tenants for over a year, I’m hoping they let us bring her inside!

Anyone else have anything exciting happen this weekend?

 

Foodie Friday: Gather Round the Table

Pretty much since we got together, Josh and I have been looking for a big dining room table. We love to cook and entertain, and I have a large family, so we wanted something that could comfortably fit a lot of people and still suit our personal style. We kept finding ones we like at places like Restoration Hardware, but they tend to be in the $2,500-$3,000 range. Um, no thank you.

It’s become one of those things where one of us will sigh and say “one day…”

Then I came home yesterday, and this was sitting in the middle of the dining room:

To say that I was surprised is the understatement of the year. Josh is talented in many areas, but the most he had ever built for our house before was a small picture shelf. Not only had he built me a 7 ft long farm table, he had managed to keep it a secret too! Love him so much.

It still needs some finishing touches and we have to pick out a color to stain it, but I’m SO excited! I’ll definitely post more pictures once we have it all finished. Considering building some benches to go with it too.

Anyone else tackled a building project like this?

P:S: Josh used these plans from the incredible Ana White website, though he made ours a foot shorter to better fit our space. Our table wound up costing less than $100!

Happy Birthday, Julia!

Happy 100th Birthday to one of the most inspiring chefs, Julia Child!

If you haven’t read My Life in France, please add it to your Amazon Wish List immediately.

Bon Appetite!

Foodie Friday: In Love with Beans

Josh and I recently discovered the true delight of cooking with dried beans. While they do require more time, they aren’t actually any harder to deal with, and the difference between opening a can of beans or cooking a big batch of beans from scratch can’t be emphasized enough.

Typically I set our beans out to soak in cold water overnight on Saturday night and cook a bean dish on Sunday. This works really well for our schedule. I spend most Sundays in the kitchen anyway, cooking up breakfasts and lunches for the week ahead, so keeping an eye on a pot of beans is no trouble at all. It makes Josh super happy to come home from work (yes, he works weekends. Total bummer) to a house that smells amazing and a nice hearty dinner ready for him.

Here are some of our current favorite recipes:

I’m sure that as the weather outside starts to hopefully one day cool down, we’ll be finding even more recipes. Beans are cheap, nutritious, and endlessly versatile. I fully intend to grow and dry my own next year, and to also order a bunch from Rancho Gordo over the coming months. Big plans.

Anyone else have any favorite bean recipes? I’m a recipe junkie.

 

 

Cheap Thrills: Clearance Flowers

A few months ago I started a new routine. Over the weekend I’d meal plan and buy groceries for the week at my local produce market and grocery store. This usually happened on Sunday afternoon as my husband was working. I’ve enjoyed this routine as it makes weeknight cooking much easier by taking out the guess work.

But one other side benefit is that I discovered on Sunday’s my local grocery store (Kroger) discounts the “old” flowers on Sunday afternoons. Most look brand new with few or any issues. And what is on sale is always different.

Several weeks ago I bought an orchid for $2. TWO DOLLARS for an ORCHID! This past week I bought two dozen peach roses for $5. I’ve also gotten daises, tulips, and lilies.

Growing up I used to swear that when I had my own house I’d have fresh flowers in the house at all times. The realities of floral pricing and budgets, don’t always make that happen. But I enjoy my cheap thrills every once in a while.

Things We Love: Anniversaries

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.

A year ago this morning, I woke up with a new last name and a husband beside me.

Everyone gives you so many warnings about your first year of marriage, how hard it is, and that if you can make it through, it’ll be (relatively) smooth sailing.

Let me just say, if the first year is supposed to be the hardest, then the rest of our lives will be an absolute breeze, because it has been the best year of my life.

I love you to the moon, baby! Can’t wait for the next 70 or so years! I have high hopes.

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