Rice Attempt #3

Recently I tried to reacquainted myself with the food guide pyramid.  It does not exist.  I’m sure you know.  I’m probably one of the last remaining few that believes my plate should be guided by this image:USDA_Food_Pyramid

Your plate should look like this now:myplate_blue

In any case, it’s recommended that you get six servings of whole grains a day.  To me that’s a lot of whole grains.  If I don’t make the effort to add whole grains to my day I think I’d end up with two servings a day thanks to oatmeal.  Do you get six servings of whole grains in a day?  I’m sure I’m lacking in other food groups, but this post is about rice.

We had tacos for dinner on Sunday and to help us get in a whole grain or two Sean decided to add brown rice to the menu.  His search started with Spanish rice, but then he found a recipe for Mexican rice.

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As with our previous attempts we have no loyalty to this brand.  We were just looking for organic brown rice and this is what we found.

For the rice, Sean added more than one tablespoon of serrano chiles.  The same is true for the cilantro dressing, and he added more than one teaspoon.  In both cases he also added some seeds because we really like spice.  We were really happy with the level of spice with our extra additions.

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Sean’s continuing with this year of rice project so he can learn a little bit.  But, he still believes that he’ll never be able to make really great rice until we have a kitchen with a gas burner.  Again he had to move the rice on and off the burner.

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It was a little mushy, but better than attempts #1 and #2!  Luckily the dressing helped perk up the dish.

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This recipe makes a lot of rice!  You should half it if you’re making it, although we’ve really enjoyed having the leftovers.  It reheats well.  We had some leftover rice with simply grilled chicken breasts on Monday and it was great.  We also had a little leftover dressing, so Sean added some mayo to create a tasty dipping sauce for the chicken.  We haven’t tried it but I think leftover dressing with mayo added might make for a nice sandwich spread, too.  We also had taco and rice leftovers last night.  If you’re looking to increase your whole grains on your taco night, this one is a winner.

Snow Day

Monday was my third snow day this winter.  Luckily, Sean’s office has also been closed for the last two.  Snow days are so much better with company, so much cozier.  Even though snow and days off of work have been common this winter, when I received an alert from the city of Alexandria Sunday night I not nervous.  It warned us to be prepared for power outages and up to three days without the ability to travel!  What!?  I shared the alert with Sean.

“We need to stock up on water!” he said.photo 2

“Sarah, why do we have all these pitchers?”  “Two matching crystal for future breakfasts when we have company over and water and orange juice are served, one smaller crystal pitcher for a smaller crowd, one stylish plastic pitcher in case we have a pool one day, and this last plastic pitcher you brought to the marriage.”  Obviously, husband.

“With all these pitchers do we really need to fill the punch bowl, too?” he asked.photo 1

Apparently not.

“Oh my gosh, do we have enough flashlights in case the power goes out?  How will we see anything?” (Me.)photo 3

I forgot we were campers.  While flashlights and lots of pitchers are not all one needs to survive a power outage for multiple days, we were more prepared than I realized.  Go A Team.

I’d just like to clarify that this isn’t our usual style.  We don’t usually stock up on anything before a storm.  We’ve never whiped out that emergency kit before.  But for some reason this one got to us.

Yes, we had snow, and yes our neighborhood was poorly prepared so the roads remained un-plowed even into Tuesday morning, but we didn’t lose power and things were just fine.  Cozy and warm and snowy.  So I made hot chocolate.

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I used this recipe.  I love Pinzey’s so much I was happy to find a recipe that included vanilla extract.  Personally, I needed much more chocolate, so I would double the cocoa powder and sugar amounts if I were to make it again.  Maybe the vanilla, too.

Then we did some working form home and snow falling observing.photo 12photo 8

It was nice to be snowed in together (again), but enough.  Enough, Mother Nature.  I’m ready for March to turn into a lamb.

Pizza Night

We really like pizza.  There are at least four references to us eating pizza, wanting pizza, thinking about getting pizza, and making pizza on this blog.  I’m sure you’re wondering what else we could possibly say on pizza.  Well this week we made a pizza and it didn’t include a single piece of pepperoni!  It’s unprecedented in our household!  It’s blog-worthy.

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This was all Sean’s idea, too.  The man famous for ordering at least extra, extra pepperoni at the bare minimum.  Instead of making our own dough we used flatbreads already available in the store.  Shredded chicken (!) took the place of the usual pepperoni and breakfast sausage.  Then there were lots of other ingredients that were the same.

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Isn’t Aiden peeking up so cute back there?  It’s nice that he made his way into the kitchen.  While we’re cooking, he can often be found here:

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Weirdo.

Anyway, the pizza turned out really well.  Have you ever tried flat bread for pizza crust instead of regular dough?  I recommend it.  While we will go back to pepperoni pizza of course, shredded chicken was a pretty happy substitute.

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A Dinner of Olympic Proportions!

The Olympic rings are seen in front of the airport of Sochi, the host city for the Sochi 2014 Winter OlympicsI love the Olympics, as I’m sure you do, too.  My favorite Olympic memory is from when I was a kid, around the age of 7 or 8, I think.  My parents let us stay up waaaay late to watch Kristi Yamaguchi and eat cookies & cream ice cream.  It was awesome!

Anyway, so because I love the Olympics and because I love a good excuse to be festive, we had tacos for dinner as we watched the opening ceremony.  I know you’re wondering how tacos could be festive for winter Olympics hosted in Russia.Olympic Tacos 005

The colors of these ingredients match up to the ring colors!  Yellow = cheese and shells, black = beef and black olives, green = lettuce, red = tomatoes and salsa!  I had been bummed for a few days that I couldn’t figure out how to work blue into tacos.  Sean came up with the genius idea of food coloring the sour cream!  Olympic Tacos 004That guy!  Always willing to play along with my ideas and get just as (or at least pretty close to just as) excited.Olympic Tacos 007These are Sean’s.  He really knows how to make tacos look good, doesn’t he?  In another life he must have been a chef, restaurateur, food stylist, something.  He’s really got a touch.Olympic Tacos 006I did not have any of those jobs in another life.

Did you watch the Olympic opening ceremony?  It was a little boring, no?  I hate to admit this but we switched to Downton Abbey after seeing the US enter.  But we’ve been enjoying the actual games ever since.  Ski jumping!  How amazing is that?  I don’t ever remember watching ski jumping in the past.  If I were to do my life all over again, I would be a ski jumper so that I could have the sensation of flying without wings or airplanes.

Rice Attempts #1 and #2

photo 11Sean’s first attempt to master rice happened last Monday.  He bought brown rice at the store and followed the directions on the back. photo 12

Finding non-instant rice in the grocery store was quite the task, so this brand isn’t a favorite or even one we’d used before.  It was simply the brand available.  I wasn’t there for most of Sean’s cooking process, but he remembered to take pictures for me!  photo 2

Sean likes butter so our version definitely included the optional butter.  photo 3 photo 5

We think that one of the difficulties we’ll have with mastering rice in our kitchen is the fact that our stove is electric instead of gas.  Or maybe it’s more that it’s difficult to maintain the right temperature on our stove.  When you set the burner to a low number it barely heats up but when you change it to a higher number it gets too hot too quick.  It makes cooking on it tough.  At the beginning of his process, Sean moved the Le Creuset on and off the burner in an effort to keep the rice at the right, lower temperature.  photo 6 For this first attempt Sean choose the Le Creuset.  He wanted to see if the heavier lid would remain tight during the cooking process.  He doesn’t think it worked any better than using a regular pot (which he did the next night, Tuesday night, his second attempt).  photo 7photo 8Sadly, not all of the liquid cooked off and the rice was still a little underdone at the end of the recommended cooking time.  We cooked it a little longer and it was better.  photo 9On its own it was a little mushy yet still a little underdone.  An odd and disappointing combination.photo 10This is no the best picture, but we ended up throwing this into our version of chicken tortilla soup (minus the tortilla this time since we used rice).  It was a great addition to the soup and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t cooked perfectly.  We were happy with the result overall even though this first attempt at rice wasn’t successful.

Sean’s second attempt was pretty much the same.  Fine in the soup but not the best example of rice on it’s own.  Again, the only difference in the process was a pot instead of the Le Creuset.photo 13

And this is why we’re calling it the year of the rice!  2014 has plenty more weeks and months left for our continued attempts!

Date Night & the Year of Rice

Last Thursday, Sean and I were desperate for a date night.  Even though it’s not great to be desperate, it’s nice to be on the same page.  Between the cold and just wanting to be cozy at home after traveling for the holidays, we hadn’t been out just the two of us since Raphael’s.  That’s over two weeks of nothing but dinners in jammies over Jeopardy!  Which is awesome, but it was time to shake things up.  So we did.  We headed to our favorite place in Alexandria.  We’ve been there before.photo 1 photo 2

We talked, we laughed, we ate things that made us happy, we caught up with the staff we’ve befriended there, it was great.  We left refreshed.  I never thought just a dinner out could make you feel refreshed but that’s exactly what happened.  Our moods were sour before we entered and much happier when we left.photo 3 photo 4

As we drove to Brabo, I told Sean a story I’d heard that day.  Someone I know was cooking for her date that night.  She’s not much of a cook but decided on a crock pot dish over rice.  She was really nervous about the crock pot.  But she was even more nervous that the rice wouldn’t turn out, so she ordered it to go from a Cuban restaurant in her neighborhood.  She was going to play it off to her date that she made the whole meal, including the rice.  Isn’t that funny?  Sean totally got it.  Non-instant real rice is difficult to master.  Honestly I’ve never tried so I didn’t know.  I’ve always gone for those awesome Uncle Ben’s 90 second deals.  Sean’s made rice a handful of times.  I didn’t realize he was bad at it or felt that he was bad at it.  So we decided that 2014 for Sean is the year of rice.  He’s going to start cooking it and see if he can master this tricky food this year.  We’re not so planned out about the approach.  He might try making rice once a week or it might be once a month.  However we decide, we’ll keep you updated and, finger crossed, he’ll be the best rice maker by 2015!  (No pressure, Favorite.)  (Or even if he’s not, he’ll at least have some strategies for being a better rice maker.)photo 6I’m pretty excited to see how this ends up at the end of the year.  I think Sean is too.

New Year’s Eve

It’s unlike us not to have plans, but that’s where we found ourselves on New Year’s Eve.  We talked about maybe having dinner at the pizza place we like so much in our neighborhood.  But we also liked the idea of staying home, being cozy, and cooking something.  I had no idea which direction we were headed until Sean texted mid-afternoon asking me to pick up a few items at the store on my way home from work.  A cozy New Year’s!

I had read on Martha Stewart about lucky New Year’s foods.  I shared a few of the highlights with Sean and he helped us incorporate them into our night. We had braised pork belly for dinner because pork, as a rich piece of meat, symbolizes a rich new year (and I took that to be rich in fortune and experiences).  NYE 005 NYE 006He also made one of his best dishes, creamy baked grits with sun dried tomatoes as a side.  (The link is to a recipe that calls for soft goat cheese, but we usually use aged goat cheese and it’s delicious.)NYE 010 NYE 011

We also ate 12 grapes after the ball dropped, a Spanish tradition.  Per Martha, each sour grape represented a sour month and each sweet grape a sweet month in the new year.  We’re both destined for a majority of sweet months, but four sour for me and three sour for Sean.  Although that doesn’t really matter because according to my colleague, we did it all wrong.photo 2My colleague lived in Spain until she was about nine.  In Spain you eat one grape per second as you count down to 12!  That’s a ton of grapes!  She told me it was hard and I didn’t for a second doubt it.  We laughed about how Sean and I did it wrong and laughed even harder when she told me she showed up at a bar with her ziploc baggie of grapes!  How funny would that have been to witness?  I don’t think we’ll be eating one grape per second next year, but it’s fun to experiment with lucky foods and traditions for the new year.  Martha also said that round foods symbolize the year coming full circle.  She recommended doughnuts.  I kind of like the sound of that for next year.

As I’ve already started to hint in my posts, welcome 2014!  We’re happy you’re here.

Pork Belly! & a Party

This past Saturday we attended the annual holiday potluck of one of our friends.  She hosts every year and Sean, being the amazing chef he is, brings the meat.  He always does a wonderful job and considering all the diet needs of the group he always makes sure everyone is included somehow in the protein.  This year Sean cooked up pork belly with a side of red snapper.  Delicious!  (He’s out of town right now, but when he gets back I’ll ask him if we can link the recipe if you’re curious.)Pork Belly 003Pork Belly 007

Yes, we had to break into a Christmas present for this dish.  Sorry we sneaked it in early, Parents, but at least you know we really needed that roasting pan!  It’s awesome!Pork Belly 008

You’re always your harshest critic, aren’t you?  Sean had a little wishlist of things he’d have done differently or things he wanted to work out better, but the diners around the table sure did love it.  Way high praise.  The snapper was good too, but I think the pork stole the show.photo

New this year was a Secret Santa gift exchange, which turned out to be fun.  Sean walked away with a new Christmas bow tie (!) and I with a set of olive oil-based dippers.  And as I write this I realized I missed an opportunity with Sean out of town to eat a dinner of bread and dippers last night.  I love dipping.  Well, I’m confident this opportunity will arise again and I will get my very nutritious dinner of bread and dips.photo 1All in all a very fun night with a great group of people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Sean and I had a nice time spending the holiday with my parents in Oregon and the rest of the weekend wine tasting and eating our way through the Willamette Valley.  We are seriously stuffed.  We may have overdone it a bit and will be eating nothing but fruits and vegetables from now until Christmas.  Which is only partially true.  We’re also Pinoted out, which is a little surprising but with good timing.

My immediate family has never lived close to our extended families, so quiet Thanksgivings are the norm for us.  I missed having Maggie and Dustin there, but it was nice to get some one-on-one time with my parents.  My mom’s friend, Solange, also joined our table for our Thanksgiving feast.  She was such a delightful addition to our party!

photo 1photo 2My mom let me arrange our centerpiece.  I still have some learning to do when it comes to floral arranging, but I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.  I loved those curly branches!photo 4 photo 3This is Sean’s third time with us for Thanksgiving and his third time making green bean casserole for our table.  Not that it’s ever bad, but it was very delicious this year.photo 9photo 10It occurs to me that I still pile my plate like a little kid with specific separate plate areas for each time of food.  Will I ever grow out of this?  Maybe some people will always like separate areas for different food items?  Anyway, those mashed sweet potatoes were new to our table this year.  They were whipped sweet potatoes with chipotle and they were delicious!  Thanks for requesting sweet potatoes, Solange!

photo 5 If there was any doubt that I am my mother’s daughter!photo 7Between dinner and dessert the men watched sports and us gals went to check out The Festival of Trees.  Organizations and individuals decorate trees and wreaths all the name of charity.  Bids are taken for the items and the proceeds go to a hospice house in Eugene.  I thought we were going to see the trees as a way to ring in the holiday season.  That was only partially true.  My mom participated!  With colleagues she decorated a Wizard of Oz themed tree!
photo 11 photo 15Look at this tornado!  (My mom was not responsible for this element, but I couldn’t get over it.)photo 12My mom created Emerald City!  Can you believe it?photo 17 Of course this won a prize!  Best use of theme.photo 13photo 14 I really loved this pipe cleaner poinsettia and feel I might attempt my own one year.

The next morning we did a little Christmas decorating of our own.photo 20photo 21photo 19And my parents pulled out our stockings to fill with some early Christmas goodies.photo 22Cheers to the Christmas season!  Back later this week with more about out trip around Oregon wine country.

The couple that bakes together stays together

I’m still putting the finishing touches on our San Francisco trip video, but in the meantime…

Sean’s out of town this evening through late tomorrow evening for work.  He emailed me mid-afternoon yesterday suggesting we do something together since he’ll be gone.  He biked to work so asked me if I would pick up a few things for our project.  He sent me this very specific list and as soon as I saw the Crisco I knew we were making chocolate chip cookies.

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This is Sean’s favorite preparation of chocolate chip cookies.  Sean made these on a very early date.  All I could think was, really, Crisco?  I’m not even sure I’d had anything with Crisco in it before he made these cookies for me.

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This is Sean proclaiming to me that Crisco is great.  I don’t remember loving these cookies the last time.  Sean said it was because we were too new in our relationship and I didn’t trust him yet.  I think it was just idea of Crisco.

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We had a fun time making these together.  I like to bake more than to cook because baking is so specific.  I am someone who scoops the flour into the measuring cup and then levels it off.  I was happy Sean let me handle the flour and that he observed this rule himself with the salt and baking soda.

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Having only seen the ingredient list initially I was shocked this recipe only called for half the bag of chocolate chips.  Turns out you only need half the bag if you’re including nuts.  We didn’t so the whole thing went in!

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I got out my cookie dough scoop and made these very happy, perfectly shaped cookies.  I was so proud!  Sometimes the dough doesn’t cooperate and the cookies don’t come out so perfectly shaped even with the scoop.

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Sean was happy enough to eat a few of my smaller sized cookies but before all the dough was gone he requested to make a batch of his own.

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I think he may have actually called these man sized cookies.

I have to admit these are very good cookies.  I’m not sure what my problem was the last time but these are great and I would make them with you anytime, Favorite!

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