Posts Tagged ‘food’

Man in the kitchen/man on the porch

One of Gerry’s contributions to the family that I appreciate most is his role as social coordinator. Sure, I like people, but I’m not the type to actually plan a get-together, and I often forget to check in with my friends and ask those simple little questions like, “How are you doing?” Gerry never has these problems.

Every few weeks, he’s been gathering half a dozen people at the house for dinner, and it’s a great thing to come home to! It’s always a great guest list … he’s got a knack for picking people who may not know each other yet, but are going to get along just fine.

Last night, we had over three of his coworkers (two are new to the team), two former youth group students, and our roommate. Gerry had cooked up some fantastic spinach/cheese ravioli, and he made sure that there was a serving left over for me. Odd fact: This was my first time to ever have ravioli for a meal. And it was deeeeeeeelicious! Why didn’t I know this stuff existed before?!

Later, after Gerry had gone to work for a late shift and I’d been in bed for a short while, the doorbell rang twice. After finally recognizing the sound, I rolled myself out of bed, threw on a bathrobe, and went to look out the peephole. Whoever had rung the bell was gone, but had left our screen door swinging open. And then, I heard some sounds on the porch, and then there was a guy opening up the screen door and putting his hands on the glass door! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

…good thing that I recognized our roommate’s fiance quickly. That boy nearly got himself shot!

Since it was him, I went and let him in from the porch. He had just come to check on her since she was feeling ill and had gone to bed early. I didn’t say much to him last night, but apparently our roommate gave him an earful this morning about not sneaking around on people’s porches at night. (Good for her!)

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It has been hot here in Los Angeles this summer, and our western-facing kitchen bears the brunt of it in the evenings. The last thing either of us wants to be doing at 6 o’clock is standing in front of a hot stove! But cold food is only appealing for so long … sometimes we just want something steamy and savory!

The solution is to wait for the sun to go down and then eat a fashionably late dinner after dark.

I’m really proud of tonight’s “after dark” dish. I wanted to use up some chicken that had been thawing in the fridge for a while, as well as a bunch of yellow squash that we’d picked up last week. For a summer dish, I knew it couldn’t be heavy, therefore no cream sauce … and I wanted to be able to double up inside the oven and cook our side dish for the same time and at the same temperature. The less heat escaping into the house, the better!

So here’s what I came up with … savory/spicy chicken legs with squash and green beans, baked potatoes on the side. The cinnamon and dash of flour gave the dish an incredible bready aroma, and the other spices gave it a perfect light summery bite.

I didn’t give quantities below because I want you, the cook, to be able to spice this up in proportions that your own family enjoys.

Chicken legs
Yellow squash
Garlic cloves
Canned green beans, drained
Olive oil
Flour
Paprika
Cinnamon
Chili flakes
Thyme
Black pepper
Sea salt

Chop yellow squash into small pieces. Mince several cloves of garlic (according to your tastes; I used four small cloves to season five chicken legs). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour olive oil into a 9×13 casserole dish to cost the bottom. Place chicken legs into dish with skins up. Add squash and garlic on top of chicken, and shake the dish so that it all settles. Sprinkle with a few teaspoons of flour. Sprinkle with paprika, cinnamon, chili flakes, thyme, black pepper, and sea salt. Once again, shake the dish so that the ingredients settle. Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven.

As a side dish, place washed and pierced potatoes on the oven rack beside the casserole dish.

Cook for 25 minutes, then remove casserole dish from oven. Carefully remove the aluminum foil, and drizzle olive oil on top of each of the chicken legs. Add green beans evenly on top of the other ingredients (I used french cut beans). Re-cover with aluminum foil and place in oven.

Cook for another 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of chicken is 170 degrees. Potatoes are also done at this point. Enjoy!

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Tour o’ Texas

Although my brother and his wife have been married for almost the same amount of time as Gerry and me, they have spent only half of those two years with each other. Titus trains monthly with the Marines, and for the past year he’s been preparing for and then deployed to Afghanistan. Right before he left this last time, I promised Lydia that I would visit her sometime during the deployment to help break up the waiting time. And although he NEWS FLASH: just landed in the States, I kept my word and went out to Texas for five days last week. Lydia and I had such a great time together!

Truly the best parts of the trip were simply our conversations with each other. Aside from our subdued mornings, Lydi and I talked almost the whole time. Stories of our childhoods, stories about Titus, plans for the future, regrets from the past, happiness from right now… We did a ton of cooking, a ton of eating, and a ton of simply sitting and talking. But she also had stuff planned for us each day.

It was a different sort of vacation for me, because I’ve typically lived in visited places where there are specific tourist destinations. Planning activities in East Texas takes a special kind of skill, I am convinced of it!

Wednesday:
After picking me up from the little airport where I’d flown in by prop plane, Lydia drove me into town for dinner at a favorite restaurant, the Little Thai House. On the window, however, was a “closed” sign explaining that they were now observing maternity hours and we just open for lunch. That made us curious, and we decided to try again later in the week so that we could congratulate whoever was pregnant!

We ended up at an Italian restaurant for dinner where I tasted my first Italian cream soda. Delicious! It’s club soda with fruit syrup and actual cream on top. (Pick your flavor, they had it.) And back at the apartment, I got the grand tour. Lydia has gotten into quilting, and so we spent quite a bit of time oohing and ahhing over her fabrics and various quilt projects as well.

Thursday:
It was broiling hot during my week in Texas, and this day was no exception. I slathered on sunscreen for our morning trip to Shady Grove Ranch, a farm owned by my brother’s previous roommate and his wife. A few years ago, the roommate was diagnosed with a disease that excluded almost all foods from his diet, but he and his wife discovered that he was just fine eating hormone-free meat, milk, eggs, and veggies. So they set aside their engineering degrees, bought some land and some cows, and started their own sustainable farm. They give names to their animals, let the pigs run free in the woods (with electric fence boundaries of course), and expect every animal on the farm to either feed itself or feed someone else. So we strolled through the property, the farmers’ son in his little wagon getting pulled behind mom. Lots of greenery and lots of animals to visit with. Afterwards, we stood in the shade and talked about the challenges of running a small operation. Then Lydia bought some fresh meat, and we got two gallons of raw milk thrown in as part of the deal … it’s illegal to “sell” unpasteurized milk.

We left before lunch, with the temperature hovering around 106 degrees.The Little Thai House was open for lunch, so we hit that up. It’s such a small and quirky little place, with modern art all over the walls, a menu that cannot be adapted (because the cooks know how Thai food is supposed to taste and it insults them if a customer thinks he or she knows better), and a pierced Caucasian owner who walks amongst the tables and tells stories about moments of enlightenment on top of mountains in Asia.

We broke out Titus’s baby photo albums in the afternoon, and I fed Lydia’s curiosity about his childhood and upbringing. And in the evening, we went to a ladies’ Beth Moore Bible study on the book of Daniel, where shoo-fly cake was served and I got to reunite with one of the very first East Texans I’d ever met … Kristen the author and high school teacher! She’s so sweet.

Crockpot chicken curry at home, and talking until well after midnight.

Friday:
This was quite a baking day. After wakening slowly, Lydi pulled out her recipes and baked us a pan of delicious and heart-stopping cinnamon sugar monkey bread. My heart was beating double-time after all of that sugar!

And we drank that fresh-from-the-cow milk. Aaaaaaa-mazing!

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It’s been almost a month since Gerry and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, and I can’t believe that I still haven’t written about it!We had work and school in the morning, but took the afternoon off to go play at Disney’s California Adventure. Although this didn’t exactly work as a strategy for skipping the crowds, it was still pretty neat to be there in the middle of the day when normal adults are supposed to be in office buildings being responsible.

  • Little Mermaid ride: A preview two days before it opened (there was still a long line)
  • Toy Story Arcade: The line is always insane here, but the ride lasts about 8 minutes and is well worth it
  • People-watching: Gerry purposefully left his phone at home (he really loves me!) and we had a wonderful time whispering about our surroundings

Studio Restaurant at Montage ResortThen home for a short bit to clean up and put on our fancy duds, and on to the Studio restaurant in Laguna Beach. Go ahead, take a look at the website! Browse the menus and. Drool over the culinary photos. Yes, we went there! For three delicious and luxurious hours, we went there.

We arrived and were seated at the corner table pictured to the right, just as the sun was setting. A server brought us champagne, and we were then treated to a fantastic view of the channel islands silhouetted against the oranges and purples and grays of the diminishing sun.

And then the food started coming.

  • Hot breads and three different types of butters
  • Five delicious cheeses with fruit pastesnutshoneycomb, and flatbreads
  • Greens – This was delicious at the time, but I barely remember it compared with everything else
  • Bonni’s first course – Beef tenderloin carpaccio provencale (with capersarugulamarinated tomatoeseggplant marmalade, and a parmesan crisp)
  • Gerry’s first course – Spanish salad (with mizuna lettuceserrano hammanchegogarlic prawnspickled squash, and sherry vinaigrette)
  • Bonni’s second course – Sauteed Monterey calamari (with tarbais white beanschorizosweet pepper confit, and basil sauce)
  • Gerry’s second course – Seared Hudson Valley Farms foie gras (with caramelized onion asian pear salad and banyuls gastrique)
  • Bonni’s main course – Sauteed Alaskan halibut (with olive-oil poached potatoeshearts of palmkumquats, and smoked herb sauce)
  • Gerry’s main course – Oven-roasted veal rib-eye (with liquid polentacipolliniroyal trumpet mushrooms, and whole grain mustard)
  • Bonni’s dessert – Milk chocolate/cardamom mousse (with orange creamsicle ice cream)
  • Gerry’s dessert – Blandy’s Terrantez (spiced aged dessert wine), Madiera, Portugal 1969
  • Anniversary dessert – This was beautiful and tasty, but I barely remember it compared with everything else
  • Petits fours – Mostly intensely flavored fruit reduction jellies

That’s what a $300 meal looks like, friends. Oh, we ate and ate and ate… Of course we shared. We met the chef, we chatted with the restaurant manager, we delighted in the detailed service of the staff. And at the end of the meal, our server brought us a small gift bag containing a loaf of coffee bread and rhubarb marmalade to take home.

Our first year together was good, the second year was even better, and year three is off to a stupendous start. The longer we’re together, we experience…

less fighting
more sweetness
less time together
more unity

more forgiveness
less hurts
more mess
less stress

Being married to my Gerry is a good, good thing. ♥

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When my husband and I joyfully accepted the responsibility of planning a party for a friend approaching her 30th birthday, we had no idea of what we were getting into!

Surely it would be as simple as calling our favorite restaurant, making a reservation, and then showing up. And surely her Facebook page would be a good place to glean names for the invitation list, and to get an idea of how many people might attend. She’s a local girl after all, and dearly beloved by all.

Turns out that there are 1503 people on her friends list! Yeeeeeaaaaahhh… So we picked another strategy for building the guest list, and arbitrarily picked the 30 for the number of guests who might actually attend. *fingers crossed*

And it wasn’t as simple as calling a place and putting our names down. We worked with the birthday girl to determine a date and a time, and then I began researching restaurants online and making calls to see who might have space for us. This place? Already booked. That place? Too expensive. Over here? Not allowing groups on weekends. Over there? Can’t take multiple payments. In the air? You can only fit so many people in a balloon basket.

This has been going on for several days now, and I’m continually surprised by how difficult it is to hunt down the information I need to make a choice and book the dang reservation. (How wonderful it would be if there was a one-stop-shop called www.greatpartyrestaurants.com … but nobody’s even registered that domain.)

Arrrrrrr!

Aaarrrrrr! (Sorry, pirate moment here…)

Certainly others in the area have felt this frustration before, and certainly they will in the future. So I would like to share the information I’ve gathered along the way to booking my friend’s special day. When you want to do a little something special, whether it’s a rehearsal dinner or whether it’s a birthday party, start working on it well in advance and then check out these places…

Click here for the restaurants…

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Gather ’round the paella

A most fantastic evening with grownup friends last night! Laughter, smiles, jokes, sound advice, stories, and more … all with some of my favorite Californians. Gonna remember this night for a while. ♥

It all started when Gerry got the bug in his head to cook a paella. But you can’t just cook a little bit of paella … you have to make a lot all at one time. And it’s best fresh. That’s just how it’s done. So then he started plotting who to share this delicious dish with, and came up with a dream guest list:

Bekah: My walking buddy and friend. We’re going to Alabama for her wedding next month.
Mei: Former high school student. She’s still 17, but trying to make her mark on the world.
Jessica: My “boss” in the high school ministry. Also a walking buddy. Oh boy, she can talk!
Ben: Hilarious young fellow who’s bright in business and can tell great stories.
Stacey: Wife to Ben, stalwart junior high minister, and kind young lady I’m getting to know.
Bethany: Gerry’s best girl-friend. She’s also a junior high minister, and incredibly loyal. (‘Cept she didn’t show up.)

Now what would happen when we mixed them all together?!

But I am getting ahead of myself. Paella has specific ingredients that aren’t easily found at the corner store, so on Wednesday I had the day off work and Gerry and I drove around town to various ethnic markets looking for goodies. And rumors are true … we did buy organic saffron at the cost of $912.86 per ounce. Yikes! (Might as well chew on some gold while we’re at it, right?!)

Gerry cooked all day on Thursday. Scrubbed the clams. De-veined the shrimps. Marinaded the chicken. When I came home, the apartment smelled delicious!

Soon our friends had arrived, and we had a gay ol’ time around that paella. I may not have an official adult small group to be part of, and I may not see these people as often as I’d like, but I appreciate every moment all the same. And after it all was said and done, Gerry unexpectedly cleaned up. Whaaaaaaaat?!

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Blackberries

Gerry found some blackberries on sale and bought me a small box of them. While I find it super-sweet that he did this, I am having a hard time getting myself to eat them. Blackerries don’t come from boxes; they come from wild acres of thorny and sprawling bushes…

For the majority of my childhood, I grew up in a subdivision that was surrounded by woods and scrub and swamp. Lots of wild spots. (Although, I look at the map now and so much of it has been razed and developed for convenience stores and more houses.) My friends and I could leave the yard and go play in any number of tree forts that we’d built, run around in fields, or go on the hunt for edibles. Mainly blackberries!

bergamont

Each year, we had dozens of blackberry pies and blackberry cobblers as well as fresh fruit in the mornings with our cereal. We knew that it had been hard-earned, however, from Dad or us going out into the brambles and spending time plucking berries out from between their individual fortresses of thorns.

A scary moment that I still remember well is when Dad and I were in The Blackberry Field, a stretch of a couple of acres that was exactly that … a blackberry field. Toward the edge, the thorny plants were knee-high and tameable. Toward the middle, they stretched well over the heads of adults and had mature branches that would snag a person for good. No matter what the weather, I’d wear jeans, long sleeves, and gloves when entering The Blackberry Field. Dad had worked his way inward from the edge a bit and was carefully filling his bucket with berries when I heard him scream. It’s the first and only time I’ve heard this from him. A thick branch had hooked itself into his back and he could not get loose. I tried to help, but couldn’t do much good, so he sent me home to fetch Mom. Oh man, I ran sooooo fast! Got Mom, ran back with her, and somehow she got him loose. (Maybe she cut the branch with clippers?) Dad’s back was bleeding all over the place, and after that, I respected the strength of The Blackberry Field even more.

So now I have a small box of blackberries in my hand, and they cost $1.99. That simple. I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten blackberries from a store before. Something is weird about it.

I guess what I’m saying is that it feels wrong to eat these blackberries without some amount of pain involved.

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