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Posts Tagged ‘Cooking and Entertaining’

I had a great night last night at the MRC Battle of the Bands (check out this link if you want to see a news story done on the event). But, right now, that’s not what’s on my mind. Since I got home last night around 10, all I’ve been focused on is sinking into my couch and lounging around my house. So that’s what I’m gonna write about!

Let’s start with this.

That’s right. It’s banana, almond frozen goodness. This is gonna sound weird, but frozen bananas are amazing. A few years ago, I discovered that frozen bananas are the trick to good smoothies (because the banana’s frozen, it acts as a built in ice cube, so you get a cold, thick froth instead of bits and chunks of ice that ultimately water down the flavor). I even talked about frozen bananas in my Green Monster post. But, this frozen banana recipe might top them all.

I saw Claire Robinson make this peanut butter and banana ice cream (link lets you check out the full video of her making it). So I decided to give it a try this morning. She only uses peanut butter and banana but I substituted almond butter for peanut butter, and I used a splash of almond milk to thin it out (I found it wasn’t mixing enough in the food processor). Here’s what it looked like after I added a little milk.

It’s like eating ice cream for breakfast but in reality it’s a really healthy, protein packed breakfast. The only problem might be when you scarf it down in under a minute and want another!

We also finally put up some curtains! Remember me complaining about needing a little extra something in our our living room? Well, I finally decided to do some DIY curtains that I found instructions for here on younghouselove. I pondered different patterns, but I ultimately realized that the curtains in almost all of my inspiration pics were white (and most of the pics had white walls, too). Take this room for instance (that I spotted in Elle Decor) that has somewhat of a similar theme as mine: white(ish) sofa, big blue pillows, metallic lamp, white walls, camel-colored accents, and wicker chairs.

I love how the curtains help draw the eye up and fill in some of the vertical space without adding any heaviness or noise to the room. So, that’s what we went for. Also, please note, in the interest of keeping it real, I did not clean up before taking these pictures, so what you see if what our house looks like on a day-to-day basis. Complete with Ryan’s golf clubs in the foreground.

I don’t know if it’s the most dramatic change ever, but for under 100 bucks, it’s a nice improvement! I’m also looking at getting a big planter and little tree to go in the back right corner of the room.

And, I couldn’t end this post without showing a pic of the beautiful roses my sweet husband brought home for me! Have a great week everyone!

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I realized that it’s been a long time since I posted anything about food, so I thought I’d share some delicious recipes that I’ve gotten hooked on recently. For starters, I cannot get enough of this Green Monster smoothie that I spotted in C-magazine.

Here are the ingredients:

1 cup almond milk (if you haven’t tried almond milk yet…. go buy some… immediately!)

1 banana (I peel, dice, and freeze mine the night before so that I don’t have to use ice cubes but using a fresh banana works just fine)

2 handfuls organic spinach

1 tbsp. ground flax

1 tbsp. almond butter

1-3 ice cubes (not necessary if your banana is pre-frozen)

I know what you’re thinking…. spinach… hmm…. but it truly tastes like a banana smoothie, you don’t even taste the spinach! If I have some blueberries, I throw a handful of those in, too. I’ve never been a big smoothie person, but this one is so good, it’s worth the hassle of cleaning the blender everyday! And, as I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been doing a little googling and discovered that this smoothie has quite a reputation… in fact, there is a Green Monster Movement.

Apparently, this smoothie has such infamous results (increase in energy, decreased cravings for sweets, increase in nail and hair growth) that there’s a web site dedicated to it. I haven’t noticed the latter two results, but I can definitely say that on days when I have the smoothie, I do feel more energized and have fewer cravings throughout the day. Love that!

The other recipe that I’m hooked on is carrot ginger soup. I got the recipe from a Glamour article and I can’t find it online (and it’s way too long to type out), but there are multiple versions online. The recipe I tried was seasoned with coriander, cinnamon, cumin, lemongrass, ginger, onion, and garlic. I used water, vegetable broth, and orange juice to thin out the soup. And, the recipe calls for some sour cream at the end the thicken it. Honestly, the toughest part about this recipe is peeling and fine dicing 2 1/2 lbs. of carrots! My wrist hurt by the time I was finished chopping! But, it makes a ton (perfect for lasting a whole week while Ryan is away). And, the finished product is so tasty and gratifying, especially when it looks like this:

Oh, and apparently carrot soup is fantastic for your complexion- bonus! Cheers to healthy eating!

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It seems to be a rare weekend that Ryan and I get a whole weekend to ourselves— no visitors, no dinner dates, no obligations— just us, alone in Charlottesville. This happened to be one of those weekends… and it’s been glorious! Yesterday we had breakfast at Bluegrass Grill, went to the market, putzed around in the afternoon (okay, I putzed around and Ryan “went into work” a.k.a. was playing on his new ipad for 4 hours outside of the house) and then we rounded out the evening by going to see Inception (it is as amazing as everyone says it is). I also tried out a new recipe last night: Ina Garten’s Pastitsio.

It’s a Greek lasagna that uses small shells instead of flat noodles. It was absolutely delicious and I would highly recommend trying it. I followed the recipe exactly, whole milk and heavy cream and all, and it turned out perfectly. It’s basically just a baked pasta in a meat sauce but the lamb and cinnamon give it an interesting twist that’s a welcome change from plain Italian red sauces.

Today, Ryan and I made a trip to Gordonsville— a small town that is a little north east of Charlottesville. I’ve been wanting to go to Gordonsville for a while just for the beautiful drive through Keswick and to walk around the little shops. But, when we heard that the chef at Fossett’s had opened a BBQ joint in downtown Gordonsville, it really “lit a fire under us” (pun very much intended) to get there. Here’s a few pics of me and Ry sampling the 3-meat platter at the BBQ Exchange.

Here are a few more pics of our stroll through the town. Unfortunately, most of the cute boutiques were closed because it was Sunday.

I finally finished the day by hanging some wall art that I’d made a week or so ago with some fabric that I’d found at a new local fabric store in town: u-fab. This store is amazing! They mainly sell close-out fabric, which is why their prices are so low, but I saw some really pricey fabrics in there that Calico Corners sells for $25-$35/ yd. and I even saw a really pricey designer fabric that Caroline Manzo has in her house! I’m guessing she didn’t pay $9.99/ yd. for it! After a productive weekend like this there’s only one thing left to do… sit around and wait for entourage to come on!

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On Friday night, we invited our friends, Ethan and Allison, over for a crazy night of… pasta making. As you can see by Alli posing with the pasta above, it was a huge success! I have to say, before Alli arrived and saved me in the kitchen (Alli also comes from a crazy Italian family), I thought my pasta making venture was going to be an epic fail, but with a little bit of teamwork we ended up having a really awesome homemade pasta dinner (with sauce of your choice… pesto or alfredo). We used the pasta making attachment for our Kitchen Aid Mixer and it was so easy… no hand cranking, just press a button.

Sheets of pasta before they went thru the cutter.

I really wish I’d taken pictures of some of our other dishes that night because we really had quite a feast. Basil hummus, sausage stuffed mushrooms, rose sangria and Alli’s lavender and lemon cookies for dessert… it was pretty tasty. Ethan and Allison have been great friends to us, but they are especially great friends to cook with, laugh with, eat with and talk for hours. Cheers to many more nights like Friday!

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I have to say that one of the best perks of not having a full time job is the time it has allowed me to cook everyday. That’s right, everyday. I guess, to some,  cooking seems like an antiquated chore. And, yes, if I lived in Paris and had enough money to shop at Le Grande Epicerie, then, yes, I would never cook again. But, alas, I do not.

A friend of mine, another newlywed Allison Dodson, gave me a copy of The Gastronomy of Marriage to read. It’s a light, lovely book that follows an Italian-Chinese couple through their first few months of living together, planning a wedding, and shopping and cooking in NYC. What I love about the book is that she not only talks about her family’s deep roots in Italian cooking and how that plays such a large role in the family’s dynamics but she scatters some of her family recipes throughout the book, and I even tried a few of them.

One thing she mentions briefly in the book (as part of the research for the book) is that she kept track of everything she and her husband cooked for a year. I suppose she was hoping that some pattern, revelation, conclusion could emerge from all this data. So, I started, in a more biased and less anthropological way, keeping track of what Ryan and I were eating. I should say, I began keeping a list of meals that turned out well and that we liked.

Here are some of our favorites over the past few months. Let me know if you want the recipes!

– Egg noodles with white beans, arugula, tomato and goat’s cheese
– Corn Risotto (a ZoZo’s immitation)
– Asparagus, potato and leek soup
– Spaghetti with roasted tomatoes and romano cheese
– Sausage, potato and cheese frittata

What I like about this list I’ve been keeping is that it reminds me of the 11×14 sheet of paper that my mother kept on the side of our family’s refrigerator for years. The sheet was divided into sections— chicken, beef, pork, pasta— but over the years, from additions and drawing in the margins, all the columns seemed to run together until it was one big mosaic of dining options. The sheet was a matrix of sorts, a place where should could compare what she had on hand to the recipes she knew by heart. Skip the lugging out and dusting off of cookbooks.

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Cooking

Sometimes I feel guilty about how much I love cooking. Mostly, I just love that I love it, but ever once and a while I feel like I’m cheating on my music with cooking. I think, I’m not supposed to love this so much, repeat: music is my passion, music is my passion, music is my passion.

But, as my good friend Shannon reminded me today, sometimes certain creative pleasures enhance our work in other areas, rather than detract from it.

Even though I tend to do most of the cooking for me and Ryan, occasionally we’ll hop in the kitchen together, and it’s a lot of fun. I think he put it well the other night when he was preparing one of his specialties, tomato and cucumber salad, he admitted, “I like cooking. When I’m cooking, I don’t think of anything else.” Without realizing it, he put into words exactly how I feel three times a day.

My goal with cooking has always been to be able to cook without recipes. Whether that means not needing to thumb through cookbooks and make lists of ingredients before going to the grocery, or if I’m standing over the stove, not needing to constantly glance down at the page, but rather to know with certainty what will happen if I turn up the heat or pour in a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

And, I have to say my ultimate, ultimate goal, is not to just cook without recipes, but to create my own. It’s in this mission that I find the most commonalities with music and the most creative freedom. To be able to blindly smell a spice and know what it is, what other flavors would go well with it, what kind of recipe you would use it in and the manner and stage in the recipe in which you would add it. To go to the market and not have a shopping list, but come home with the freshest ingredients and just an idea of how you’ll prepare them.

Smelling a spice is like hearing a chord of music. What is the tone? Would you use this chord in a sad song, a happy song? A song that is reflective, defiant, vengeful? What other chords go well with it? Does is lend to being played fast or slow? Heard as an entire chord or arpeggiated?

It’s funny that I loved becoming immersed in these details and subtleties of music… which really are just a string of a million, small, intricate decisions. Yet, day-to-day, I agonize over making decisions. I can spend five minutes in the supermarket staring at the cans of Progresso soup: “Which ones should I get? It’s 4 for $5, what if I only find three that I want? I feel like Clam Chowder now, but what if I don’t later in the week? What if their Chicken Tortilla is not spicy enough and too watered down? Is MSG really that bad for you?” Indecisiveness really is a form of torture and I’m not quite sure why I do it to myself. It wouldn’t have anything to do with my incessant pursuit of perfection and my fear of making “wrong” decisions, would it? Nope… nah…. totally unrelated.

Getting back to the topic at hand:

At this point in my blog, I have one post about music and one about food. They have equal weight right now. The balance is level. With post #2 I think I’ve officially broadened the scope of this blog to be about music and food. And, eventually, hopefully, the blog will fill out into a lovely blog about the pursuit of goodness. (I would have said happiness, but that one’s already taken). And, what I hope to show you later (right now, it’s just a hypothesis) is how following the path of self-fulfillment can ultimately lead you to be the best servant to others.

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