Thursday, 24 December 2009

..And the real deal..

The whole spread

My plate: rolls, salad, mash, and the port-cherry porkchop

Hubby's plate: Substitute salad for black-eyed peas.

Dessert: Brownie a la mode, Chocolate Amore redaction and cocoa mix sprinkled on top.

The two things I did differently: I ditched the soup, and forgot the bacon in the salad. Didn't miss it in the least, everything is delicious, and we have leftovers of everything, including the porkchops, as we cooked more than two.

Hope everyone's having a fabulous holiday season!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Xmas Eve tentative dinner

We decided to have the dinner on the 24th for two reasons: Firstly, we're not much of religion followers, so any day during the holidays would do, and secondly, we 'd like to spend Xmas day watching Holmes and eating leftovers without worrying about having to cook a nice dinner when all shops around are closed. Plus, it's only for the two of us. So, we went grocery shopping last night for the following:

  • Butternut squash soup (just for me, so I 'll cheat and use a ready one)
  • Warm salad: broccoli, cherry tomatoes, Gorgonzola, bacon and almonds
  • Pork chops in cherry-port sauce (In Greece, pork was the traditional fare of choice for the holidays before the Great Turkey Invasion)
  • Red skin mash potatoes
  • Bourbon black-eyed peas (we've discussed the Texan significance of this dish..)
  • Chocolate brownies a la mode with Chocolate Amore sauce

I still have to think about the wine, since at least 3 dishes of this menu has booze in it. I have a nice sparkling wine but I'll probably keep it for New Year's. Bah, I'll let hubby choose that!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Holiday baking

I had that initial plan to bake 2-3 types of cookies for the holidays, just to have the apartment smell divine, and then ship as many of them as possible to hubby's work and get them out of my diet-induced reach.

I started yesterday with a small batch of lemon cookies that turned out pretty decent. I'm keeping those since hubby likes them and I'm not particularly fond of lemon, so they're safe.

Then, I had to go to downtown Chicago for a couple of errands and ended up walking all the way to Greektown just to see how it looks like. It's mostly restaurants, but it also has a bakery cafe that carries Greek Xmas treats: melomakarona and kourambiedes. The prices were only a bit higher than in Athens, from what my mother told me! So, I ended up getting a couple of each just for the season's sake.

I might have enough ingredients for a simple shortbread, but I'm addicted to shortbread so I don't know what I'll do..

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The weekend in photos, Part 2

After the tree was all done and taken care of, I browsed around and realized that I had missed the events I wanted to do in downtown Chicago - both the Lucia event and the German Xmas market were only for the previous weekend. I somehow thought that they were running till this event, but sadly it was not the case. So I looked for happenings closer to home, and I found out that there was a port wine tasting at a wine and liquor store in downtown Naperville.

I love port. I have a modest 10 year Taylor Fladgate still unopened waiting for the Real Cold (TM) to happen. I especially love port with chocolate. There's nothing like coming home from work and relax with a glass of port and a chocolate treat. So, when I got there, I was happy to see that they had a guided tasting, meaning that the ports and other dessert wines were served in a particular order, along with a commentary from the attendant. We tried a riesling, a madeira, two vintage ports, a late bottled vintage and a tawny port, and then a chocolate merlot-based wine and a raspberry one.

The chocolate merlot (which was actually aged like port) is called Chocolate Amore, and damn me if I wouldn't get out of the store w'out a bottle. Feeling just a bit buzzed, I ventured out of the store and into a Starbucks where I had a mini scone and a cup of green tea to sober up a bit.

Having succeeded in not having much of a red nose, I got a call from hubby who would meet me up for drinks and a snack, so I decided to kill some time at Barnes & Noble. It's a bookstore, but what caught my eye while browsing was this magazine tote made of bottle caps and wire:

I drooled over cookbooks but since I had already bought the wine I left empty handed and went to meet hubby at the bar, where I had a glass of massively inferior wine and we shared a serving of really yummy pot stickers. The sauce was very similar to the one served with Peiking duck, so it was both sweet and hot. Delicious.

While at the bar, the discussion as to what to do for New Year's Eve came up, and we decided to make reservations at a Hibachi Japanese restaurant. Nothing says New Year's Eve like a big chunk of meat! When we got home I called them hoping they have a late sitting, which they did. Yay plans! Then, I put my newly acquired wine next to the tawny for some wine rack socializing:

Tomorrow it's football day, but there are some movie plans too. Dear me, I can tell it's holiday season cause we just can't stay indoors. Maybe I should buy more board games?

The weekend in photos, Part 1

Starting Friday, when the cold became just a bit less severe - enough to get me on the train downtown to post my holiday cards. After that was done, I decided it was finally breakfast time. I walked around and when I was afraid I'd have to end up at Starbucks, I found Tangerine Cafe.

There was a lot of breakfast foods to choose from, but I went for a personal favorite: Banana-Nutella crepes and coffee:

I appreciated the personal coffee pot, since I didn't have to hunt the waiter down for a refill. The crepes were delicious. I was positively stuffed by the time I was done, and decided to walk around and window shop to burn some of the calories!

Saturday morning started really late. We slept in and enjoyed every minute of it, then went off to Baker's Square for brunch. I got a butter croissant, poached eggs with sausage and a bowl of fruit, while hubby had a country fried steak with biscuit and hash browns. Can't you tell he doesn't need a diet? I didn't take a pic of the food, mainly because the croissant arrived some later and I didn't want the eggs to go cold, but I did take a pic of the store's pride; the massive variety of pies:

After that, it was back home and tree decoration time.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

More snow and more cooking

I really wanted to take the train to the post office and mail my holiday cards, but I decided against it after beholding this:

So, I stayed in, watched a movie and cooked lunch:

1/2 pound pork chop, in cubes
1-2 ounces merlot wine
2 green onions, the white part, chopped
2 dashes parsley flakes
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

Heat skillet at medium heat. Drop in the pork and let it white in the outside. Add the wine and let it bubble. Add the onions and parsley. Cover the skillet and let it cook thoroughly. When it looks done, uncover, add the lemon juice and cook uncovered for another minute or two. Serve immediately. I had it with a couple of hash brown patties with lemon and shredded parmesan.

It is still snowing. I think the post office trip will either wait, or I'll order stamps online..

Monday, 7 December 2009

Shopping adventures

This past weekend, the weather was surprisingly cooperative (meaning it didn't either rain or snow), so we decided to hit the Chicago Premium Outlets that are only a short drive from our apartment. Hubby wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it, till we discussed how nice it would be to get some new pots and pans instead of xmas gifts to each other. The ones we currently have are a mishmash of things bought any time during the last ten years, and some of the older pieces are really worn off. Non-stick finish starting to wear off, handles won't insulate heat anymore, you get the idea.

Plus, I wanted a pair of winter boots.

When we got there it was late afternoon and the sun was already down. These outlets are built like an open mall, so we tried to spend as much time between stores as possible. First we hit Le Creuset, but I think I'm not ready for cast iron yet, let alone everything was rather expensive. It'd be nice to have pots and pans in red though. Our budget won the argument though and we went to the much humbler Kitchen Collection, which offered a variety of brands. We decided on a 10 pieces Calphalon set, and we bought one extra pan with lid and one stovetop grill from the same line:

We also got a new Foreman Grill, since the old one had completely lost its non-stickiness. Last time we made burgers on it, they decided to stick on the top of the grill and we ended having ground beef on a bun. Not funny. Here's a website pic of it, since ours is still in the box:

Hmmm.. Making skewers sounds like a good idea right now!

Anyway, after we decided on the purchase, I sent hubby to the Sony store to geek out while I went to Aerosoles and picked up these weatherproof babies. The ankle socks were on sale for a dollar a pair, so I grabbed a couple for my gym sneakers:

I have to admit I'm glad I bought them, because I woke up this morning and this was the view from my balcony:

Friday, 4 December 2009

First Snow..

..made its way sometime yesterday morning. Thankfully it was just a light snow, unable to "catch" on things, since the temperature was over zero degrees. It was quite impossible to capture in a photo; I stood at the balcony trying to zoom on various colored things to catch a glimpse of it, but this is all I could come with:

By zooming in, you might see some flake action. Today it's back to mostly sunny with below zero temperatures, but I'm certain snow will be back with a vengeance!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Mongolian-type grill

Hubby was feeling unwell almost all day yesterday, skipping breakfast and lunch living on crackers and carbonated drinks. Sometime in the evening, he declared that he felt some better and decided that he would rather eat out than stay in and cook (Good, the fridge was almost empty since the last of the leftovers were eaten some time yesteday). So, we decided to hit downtown Naperville and visit Flat Top Grill. There, they have a bar-like assortment of starches (rice and noodles), sauces vegetables and meats. You can create your own combination and leave it on the cook's counter to be cooked and then brought to your table.

I had a mix of noodles and rice with snow peas, mushroom and wheat meat and soy beans with egg and pork in indian curry sauce. Here's a pic after I had eaten almost half of it. I ordered a mango tea with it which was delicious and came with free refills. Yay!

The little wooden stick is for identifying your plate; you write your name on it and stick it in your bowl when you take it to the counter. I wrote "Maaaargh" on mine to see if the waiter would say it aloud, but he didn't, he offered hubby's plate (who had written his name normally) first.