Friday, 27 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, part 2

Thanksgiving dinner was for 4 people, hubby and me as well as a couple we had invited. Everything was pretty on course by the time they arrived - everything cooked and in the fridge, and the bird in the oven already. I had put the finger food in the little bar-like structure that separates the kitchen from the living room

Yellow corn tortilla chips with bean dip

Bagel crisps with herb cream cheese

Then our guests arrived and brought a metric ton of additional finger foods, desserts and drinks! Two trays of cheeses, crackers, olives and fruit (including prosciutto and parmesan rolls, cheese with cranberries, cheddars, and a nut covered cheese ball.. yum!), 4 different desserts (pumpkin pie, apple pie, peach pastry and two types of tartlets, AND neapolitan ice cream AND cool whip!) and three bottles of spanish wine. I particularly enjoyed the white one.

I didn't take any pics of the food that was brought in as we quickly sat down with drinks and chatting, and once we had a couple each, we played Apples to Apples. It was hilarious, and I managed to win. Yay!

Then the bird was ready, and it came out of the oven and hubby started carving it on the spot. We don't have a huge dining table so we put the food buffet style:

Mad carving skillz.

Top: Mash potatoes, corn bread stuffing, beet salad
Bottom: Bourbon black eyed peas, southwestern corn, gravies (one plain, one bell-pepper infused)

All the food was delicious, I got compliments on the mash potatoes and felt a little embarrassed to admit that it started with a couple of Steam-n-Mash microwave bags, however, it was just to eliminate the process of cutting and boiling the potatoes ;) Thinking some more about it, I think they turned out so good because the bags tell you exactly how much milk and butter to use, so the texture is foolproof - in addition, I used whole milk and butter for them - the diet could wait till the next day!

Happily stuffed with everything, we then watched a couple of comedies on the TV and then sent our guests home with at least 3 tupperware containers full of leftovers. Our fridge is still full of them though. I'm sending some of the desserts to the sports bar tonight, I think!

All and all, I believe this was the best Thanksgiving I had.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, part 1

I woke up early today as to maintain a cruise control speed till dinner time. Lots of prepping and pre-cooking happened last night, so I'll just post a couple of teaser pics for now. More later!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Thanksgiving dinner menu (draft)

Starters: Chips and salsa, bean dip, herbed soft cheese, crackers, celery sticks

(I thought of both warm starters and soup but decided against it. It's only gonna be 4 people)

Dinner rolls and butter.

Beet salad with gorgonzola and walnuts

Turkey, roasted with garlic and herbs, and apples, baby carrots and celery

Mash potatoes

Corn with peppers

Black eyed peas

Cornbread stuffing

Pie, ice cream and whipped cream.

Most of the sides will be store bought, at least in part, as I'd need two kitchens to make everything from scratch ;) I'd personally do w'out the corn and the peas, but it's Texan tradition and hubby must have'em - I don't mind, more for him!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Impromptu premature birthday lunch

As I mentioned on my previous post, hubby's birthday falls right after Thanksgiving. This makes birthday plans a bit problematic as 1. We'll be up to our eyebrows with leftovers, so dining out would feel really unreasonable, and 2. Traditionally, this particular Friday is called Black Friday due to the door buster deals that many stores (mostly electronics) feature, which makes people virtually camp outside the doors well before the sun rises. Hubby mentioned that he might want to take advantage of such a deal or two, as long as the weather allows for standing outside. If he does that, he'll probably won't want to leave the house again after he's back.

That been said, dinner plans for Friday night will probably just not happen. So, today we decided to go to downtown Chicago and get him his presents: A bunch of heavy metal CDs and vinyl records from the premier heavy metal record store of the city, Metal Haven (The Chicago Headbanging HQ, as their store label informs us). There is a good number of nice restaurants about the area, notably a pizzeria called Giordano's, a Greek restaurant called Mythos, that serves Real Greek Food (TM) and a Thai place called The Royal Thai.

We originally wanted to go to Mythos as I had missed their saganaki, but unfortunately they are only open during dinner hours. I opted against pizza since I'm trying to eat some sensibly with Thanksgiving in the horizon, so Royal Thai it was.

We had dined there before, and we were very pleased with it. It's particularly nice when you can get the table right on the window so that you can look outside, however this time it was taken. Oh well, the table we got was equally nice.

I ordered ginger tea which was really tasty, hubby had diet Coke, and we started with pork pot stickers. I have been asked for more pics in the blog, so I took the camera out of the purse and started snapping away.

Then we both had Thai curries, he had the Green curry and I had the Panang, which was delicious with a very deep flavor between the coconut milk and roasted peanuts.

I didn't get up to get a pic of the green curry, but it was equally good looking and tasty, as bite swapping is always part of dining out! We could choose between mild, medium, spicy and very spicy - I got medium and he got very spicy, and I still got all teared up with it!

Prices were also quite reasonable, we paid about $24 plus tip, and we left pretty stuffed.

Next time though, we're doing Mythos!

Upcoming Plans

  • Initiating Cooking Mode towards the Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday. I'm mostly doing traditional dishes (turkey, cornbread stuffing, mash potatoes), but I might go with a twist for appetizers and salads. We'll have a couple from hubby's work who will be dining with us, and they're bringing dessert - I am having high expectations, as apparently the person who's making it has taken part in pie contests. Awesome. I'll post the menu and try to take some pics before we devour everything.
  • Find out what's to do during the holidays around downtown Chicago, as well as Naperville. For starters, I'm looking into this. I will have to pass on the Vienna Boys Choir next Friday as it's hubby's birthday, and I'm sure that it's not gonna be the kind of treat he'll ask for!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Interesting hospital art

This is behind a glass wall at the front hallway at the medical center I visited for an exam this morning. You can see the connected buildings in the background.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Indoor activities

Like I said at my previous blog post, winter is rather upon us, which brings the need for more indoor activities. I cannot think of myself watching TV or surfing the Internet all day (ok, I don't know about the surfing part), and I realized that I have a good number of board games and the like to make time pass when scraping snow off the car's windshield is just not worth it.

I've always enjoyed playing Scrabble, both in English and Greek, and it felt awesome beating hubby once or twice. (in English. In Greek I win by default because he's clueless). Last week I picked a card game variation of Scrabble called Scrabble Slam, in which you have to create a 4 letter word by changing letters on a word already played by another player. It looks like it's gonna be fun for 2 people.

Another game that I have missed playing is backgammon. Hubby never learned how to play, being a chess type guy. I tried to learn chess when I was a kid and let me tell you, I sucked like nobody's business! I can't think that much in advance to strategize effectively. So, he's reduced into playing chess against his laptop, while I've played backgammon against my iPhone. However, just the other night, he mentioned that he was willing to learn backgammon to play with me. We have a nice wooden set that I bought for when my sister visited, and it should really get some action!

Then, there are games that require 3 or more people, which means that our (remarkably few) friends would have to brave the elements to come visit and play. One of my favorite such board games is Apples to Apples, in which you have to match cards with various nouns to a card with an adjective; thus, G. W. Bush can be fluffy, the Grand Canyon can be dangerous and Michael Jackson can be patriotic. I have spent many hilarious evenings playing this game.

For last, there's this DIY game that my friends back in the 'burgh called it "The Best Game Ever". The players divide a piece of paper (A4 or 8.5 x 11) into horizontal divisions - then they write a random phrase on it and pass it on to the next player, who has to draw a picture of said phrase, then pass it on to the next player that has to make a new phrase out of the drawing. It's like Broken Telephone on paper, and as a matter of fact it's available as an online game here.

This post is getting rather longish, so I'll make a part 2 for console games and the like in a future post.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Naked branches

Tinsie and I were discussing about the brutal winds that both our locations suffer from, and how it'd pretty much wipe any leaves left on the tree branches, and I remembered this snap I took yesterday after hitting golf balls at the range.

Now all we want is the minus temperatures and the snow, and we can call it winter alright!

Friday, 13 November 2009

In Nashville, Tennessee, it's Xmas season already.

This one was taken by hubby while participating at the AiChe conference held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN.

Normally, one would expect that the tree is put not earlier than Thanksgiving, but apparently there's no such thing as "too early"!

Truth to be told, the stores are already selling ornaments. But actually putting a tree up? Maybe a little overboard..

Thursday, 12 November 2009

No cooking today!

Hubby has been out of town since last Sunday (which is a main reason for me running rampant in the kitchen) and he's returning tonight. Since he'll be eating at the airport, I was not going to bother with cooking for myself - I microwaved a pouch of biriyani rice for lunch, and had bread and butter with tea for a snack. I decided to autumnize my tea by adding the following spices into it, in small dashes:

lemon peel

I brewed the tea double strength, added the spices with a sachet of Splenda (I'll have to try this with brown sugar too though) and then added half a cup of pulp free orange juice.

Then, I took them for consumption at my favourite place - my computer desk. The spices and the citrus flavors are currently battling in my mouth. Yum!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Initiating Cooking Mode - Grilled Veggies Pitta Wraps

I had this craving for grilled veggies for a few days, so when I went to the store the other day I got a couple of portabella caps and a medium sized eggplant. The plan was to just grill them on my small Foreman Grill and have them with a bit of bread.

So, thinking some in advance, I sliced the veggies, plus a yellow bell pepper that I happened to have around, and grilled them on the Foreman till softened, then put them in a container with a simple vinaigrette that I whipped on the spot (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, pepper and sugar), but any vinaigrette would do. I closed the lid on the container and threw it in the fridge. Then I went shopping.

I bought Self Magazine, an entertaining book about female friendships, and Scrabble Slam, a card game. Then, I bought some ground clove and vanilla extract in case I decide to initiate Baking Mode in the future, and a waterproof mascara because the previous one I had purchased wasn't and I found out the bad way.

Then I returned home and realized that I forgot to buy bread. Or gruyere that I was also fantasizing about. However, I had pitas and crumbled feta, so that had to do.

I heated the pitas in a pan with just a bit of oil in it, while microwaving the vegetables. I divided them and the feta crumbles between the two pitas, though there was enough vegetables for possibly 3 of them. I didn't want to eat a 3rd pita, but I was hungry so I ate the whole thing, and it was delicious.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Initiating Cooking Mode - Turkey BLTs

I came home from the gym positively exhausted, and since my lunches are a situation of cooking for one, I didn't want to be with leftovers for the weekend, since tomorrow I'm going to a medieval reenactment event and I'll sample an abundance of period recipes during the day (far from diet friendly, but it's only for a day!)

Upon opening my refridgerator, I quickly noticed that I had the following items.

Strips of turkey bacon
Spring mix greens

I employed my faithful toaster and proceeded to toast 4 slices of wheat bread in it. Meanwhile, I heated my pan on high heat without any oil in it and put 4 slices of said turkey bacon in. I don't like my bacon extra crispy, so I removed them after they started curling a bit.

Once the bread was all toasted, I layered between 2 of the slices,a handful of spring mix, round slices of tomato and before I added the bacon I splashed the veggies with a dash of balsamic vinegar, since I don't like mustard and I don't keep it at home. I had them with the rest of the tomato (I could add some more spring mix greens for a more wholesome side salad - maybe next time).

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Initiating Cooking Mode - Pretend Mushroom melt.

Spending time at home being unemployed really puts me in the mood to cook. However I have two major obstacles in said endeavour. 1. I'm lazy and don't want to spend 1 hour in the kitchen for a plate of food that will be eaten in 10 minutes, and 2. I'm still on a diet, which means that I need to be careful of what I eat.

Mushrooms are awesome, and so is cheese. Add garlic and bread to it and it equals into a dish of awesome, diet and speedy preparation.

You will need:
8 ounces of sliced mushrooms (small supermarket container)
3 slices of reduced fat (I used 2%) swiss cheese, cut in small bits
1 teaspoon of olive oil
clove of garlic, pressed, or garlic powder for the forgetful types like myself.
2 slices of bread. I used wheat but any type will do.

Heat oil in small (but big enough to contain the mushrooms) pan. Dump in mushrooms and toss around to heat thoroughly. Cook till they shrink and release their liquid. Add the garlic and let them cook some more.

Meanwhile, toast your bread as much as you prefer it - I like it only slightly browned.

Add the cheese to the pan and toss so that it goes everywhere. It'll bind with the mushroom liquid producing a glorious cheesy goo.

Once said goo happens, remove the bread from the toaster, plate it and immediately pour the mushroom and cheese mix on top of them. Serve hot.

It was delicious and the whole deal was 374 calories per my calorie calculator. Alas, as with most of impromptu made foods, it was barely photographable!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I'm back, through planes and cabs!

I had a lovely time, there was laughs and good food and a couple of really silly costumes. Kudos to the guy that dared to come as Chuck Norris! There was also the oxymoron that I'd call Comfortable Domestic Flight.

I opted to flight with United since their scheduled flight and price suited me. However, when I went to self-check in, since I would not check in any luggage, I was offered with a service they call Economy Plus. To wit, a type of seating with more leg space (5 inches, per their advertising) than their standard Economy. They were asking for $14 for an hour long flight, so I thought "why not? My knees usually suffer during domestic flights with the narrow space that is usually provided" and opted for the upgrade.

It sure made all the difference in the world. I didn't fidget in my seat like I normally do trying to unlock my knees, and I could actually use my tray without pushing it with my stomach.

In addition, on my sold out flight back, they offered to check in my quite large carry on for no additional cost, since I'd be of the last to board and as such I might not find space on the overhead compartment to store it. I thought momentarily that I might get Murphy's law by finding my sack to be the last on the baggage claim blet, but since it was of the last to be loaded in, it was of the first to be placed on it.

So I might actively try to flight with United in the future. As for the cab part of the post, it makes me really happy that getting a taxi in Chicagoland is so less complicated than in Pittsburgh (where people just don't take taxis, period). I have a company's phone number in my cellphone's contacts list, I'm in their database, including my home address, so it might be that they sent me a driver that knows my suburb well and needs little direction.

Ah, little comforts that make for a Marg that gets home just mildly tired instead of trip-induced cranky!