Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3 Year Anniversary Weekend

Wow... it's been quite some time since I've written on here!  And what better reason to make a new post?  An awesome weekend with the hubby!  Get comfortable, because this is long enough to make up for the gap in my posts.

Today is our 3 Year Wedding Anniversary!  Since it fell on a Wednesday, we decided to spend this past weekend celebrating.  We bought a house a month ago, so instead of going to the hotel where we spent our wedding night (our 1st anniversary) or going on a trip (our 2nd anniversary), we decided to stay home and enjoy our new house!

When we were in the thick of saving for our house and house hunting over the summer, we had no clue where we would be living on our anniversary or what our financial situation was going to be. Would we have to up our housing budget and continue our cutbacks to save money?  So we decided to take the Friday of the weekend before off work and play it by ear.  It happened to work out that the October OKC Philharmonic concert was the same weekend, so Saturday night out was covered.

One week before our close date, the City of Norman announced a free tree giveaway.  We've never been able to participate in the past as it's restricted to homeowners.  I was ecstatic!  The registration was just 5 days after our closing.  SCORE!  Tree pickup was scheduled for the Friday of our anniversary weekend.  We registered, put in our preference for an Oak tree (I LOVE red oak trees!), and had at least one activity for our day off work.  I was also very excited because landscaping our backyard is a project we want to do.  It doesn't have a single plant or tree!

I've been going crazy with all the boxes, and random things lying around our house.  We've also been incredibly busy, so I seem to stay up late each night trying to unpack a box, organize some closet, or try to find that one item that doesn't seem to be anywhere!  Hubs on the other hand has a more laid back approach to unpacking.  I can't relax with boxes and random stuff everywhere, but it doesn't seem to bother him.  So my goal is to get it all done ASAP so that I can start relaxing.  Needless to say there has been some tension.  So we agreed to spend Thursday night doing as much as we could unpacking and cleaning up so that we could take a break from it over the weekend.  I really wanted to stay at a hotel for the weekend because I honestly didn't think I could not do anything house related for a full weekend right now.  Some last minute searches for hotels turned up disappointing results though.

Thursday night finally came and we ended up at Lowe's again (I never thought I would spend so much time in a home improvement store, let alone actually enjoy it!) looking at light bulbs.  Hubs was really into this part of the house, and by 8pm, I had to drag him home to get our house stuff done so that I didn't do it over the weekend.  He was procrastinating, and it clicked with me that he likes this part, as do I.  So we agreed to spend some time this weekend shopping for our house.  That should take care of our weekend!

We got a lot done Thursday night!  All boxes are contained to 3 rooms of the house, and there are not many left.  We stayed up REALLY late!  But it felt good to get so much done.

On to our weekend...


Friday:

Since it was "first come, first served" with specific species in each tree category, I wanted to be there right at 7:30am when the tree pickup started so that we had the best change of getting a red oak.  Not the sleeping-in, lazy start I wanted for our weekend, but we got a free tree out of it.  After staying up till 1am working on the house, we didn't make the 7:30am pickup time.  But we did manage to get there within an hour and I was thrilled that we got a red oak!

Hubs was a bit grumpy with me for getting us up so early, but I knew once the tree got planted, he would get over it.   We went to Old School Bagel to pickup some breakfast and headed home.  We lounged around for a while and hung out until it was time to go pick up our anniversary cake at 9:30am.

Our wedding cake vendor recreates the top layer of every couple's cake the first year for only $10, so you don't have to endure stale cake if you don't want to.  We are pretty picky about quality, so we liked that idea.  It was so delicious.  So delicious in fact that we decided to do it again for our 2nd year.  We declared that it's a new tradition.  So each year, we have our awesome wedding cake vendor do the same order.  3 years in, she has picked up on it and thinks it's really cute.

It was really cold and raining, so the cake could stand to sit in the car for a while.  Since we were out, we decided to start doing some house errands.  Back to Lowe's again to continue looking at lighting.  We also hit up Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, and Home Depot.  We stopped by Bath & Body Works to use a gift card we had received for a previous anniversary to pick up some bath supplies, now that we have a jetted tub to enjoy, and got some nice soap for the various bathrooms.

We managed to get a lot done, and headed home to get some Raising Cane's for lunch and then take a nap.  The 5-ish hours of sleep was not going so well.  But after eating lunch, we were both energized.  We changed out most of our light bulbs with energy efficient florescent and LEDs.  Our electric bill was insane.  I forgot how how much energy incandescent bulbs sucked.  Made worse that our house has mostly canned lighting with flood lights!

Hubs was feeling rather handy, so he worked on changing out light switched to put dimmers on our exterior lighting switches.  Even getting lower wattage LEDs, it was still too bright.  The previous owners had the house lit up like Clark Griswold's house at Christmas!

I thought for sure he was going to crash around 3pm, but he wanted to plant the tree.  It was quite cold, so I bundled up and went outside to help.  I tired helping, but about all I could do was measure to make sure we were off the easement and help break up dirt.  I thought the ground would be soft enough for me to shovel, but I dug the shovel in, stood on the top of the blade, and nothing... "Honey!?"

He was happy to do most of the work. :)

   








We picked a spot at the SW corner of our property so that we wouldn't block the lake view, and it would hopefully provide some shade (eventually) for the master bedroom which gets really hot. It was a little smaller than we expected, but we are still happy to get a free tree!  One of the many perks to oaks is that they grow fast.







Now came time for something I could do!  I've lived in Oklahoma my whole life (sad, I know!), and I always knew we had red clay dirt, but I guess I never went digging after a rain.  My hands are still a little sore from trying to break up the hard, thick, clay chunks.  I gave hubs quite the laugh when I walked out of the house in my frog hat he had gotten me several years ago. :)

 



I was right... after the tree was planted, hubs was very happy we got up early and got a red oak (which he also likes).



I think it's really cool that we planted a tree in our own back yard for our 3rd year anniversary!



Next it was time for dinner.  We made Roasted Lemon Chicken, angle hair pasta, and steamed sugar snap peas.  I failed to take a picture of our dinner :-0


We spent our first Christmas married 2 years ago in the San Fransisco area of California with my father-in-law.  They are very close to the Lodi Valley, which has wines that rival the Napa Valley, so we spent a day touring wineries and buying wine.  Father-in-law made an awesome DD for us!  We managed to bring back six bottles of wine!  We save them for special occasions, so we decided to open the last white we have for our dinner.  It didn't quite go (way too sweet), but it was still good.

For dessert we went and got custard.  I of course had pumpkin!  We came home, lit the fire, and played a game while watching an old movie in the background.  We crashed early for a long night's rest!


Saturday:

I worked on unpacking office stuff while hubs slept in a bit.  By 10am I was starving.  I broke down and woke him up.  Thinking we didn't have anything for breakfast, he reminded me that there were some left over potatoes from his recent camping trip, along with some bacon he stashed in the freezer.  We had just bought eggs, so we had hash browns, bacon and fried eggs for breakfast.  I hadn't eaten that in years.

Then we went to see Gravity in the new IMAX 3D theater.  It's apparently one of the largest in the world.  I've never been to this one, so I was a little excited.



The scientist/physicist in me had a really difficult time with parts of the movie, but that aside, it was really good.  I can't imagine seeing it in 2D and enjoying it as much.

Next up was dinner and the OKC Philharmonic.  I had heard about this restaurant called Metro Wine Bar & Bistro.  It had really good reviews among the foodies in OKC, so I showed it to hubs and he was on board.  It was delicious!  We started with the Smoked Salmon appetizer.  It came with course-ground mustard, another sauce, capers, onions, tomatoes, and toast.  It was delicious.  Our waiter listed the specials, and among them was a Roasted Red Pepper Bisque.  It sounded too good, so we shared a cup.  I'm glad we did because it was outstanding.  It had a very deep and bold flavor and was well seasoned.  Oh, and they also had awesome rolls!  For dinner I ordered the tenderloin.  I had heard their mashed potatoes were not very good, so I substituted them for the Parmesan Risotto.  Oh my... this was some serious Parmesan Risotto.  It was thick, rich, and had strings of cheese with every bite.  My steak was so tender, I really didn't even need a knife.  It was cooked perfectly and was well seasoned.  I ordered with a red wine reduction sauce that paired perfectly with it, and the risotto.  It also came with green beans.  They were not anything special, but they were good.  Hubs had the Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna special.  I tired a bite and it was quite good.  He seemed to really enjoy it.  We were saving our anniversary cake for after the Phil, but dinner was so fantastic and we don't know when we will be able to go back, we decided to do the ultimate splurge and try deserts too.  I had the Vanilla Bean Pot de Creme and hubs had the Fudge Cake.  Mine came with caramel, chocolate, and raspberry sauce, all of which were homemade (I verified).  It didn't need sauce though.  It was so rich, smooth, and creamy.  The sauces hid the delicate vanilla bean flavor.  Good thing all the sauces come on the side!  Hub's cake was more like a brownie.  It was over the same raspberry sauce as well as a coffee sauce.  I didn't care for the coffee sauce, but the cake was pretty rich.  It was topped with real whipped cream.  The wine list was the biggest reason we went.  It was quite extensive, and I liked that you could order by the bottle, half bottle, glass, ounce, or try flights.

The OKC Philharmonic was set to be a good concert.
Smetana: The Moldau
Barber: Violin Concerto
     Jennifer Koh, violin
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

It was one of the top 5 concerts from the OKC Phil.  The Moldau was everything I remember from playing it years back.  The orchestra was energetic and full of sound.  Jennifer Koh was really great!  I don't normally like violin concertos, but she played so fluidly and freely.  You could tell she was born to play the violin and play it well.  Barber's Violin Concerto is also one of the more lighter violin concertos, so it was quite enjoyable.  Beethoven!  I haven't gotten to listen to a live performance of Beethoven's 5th since playing it this spring with the OU Civic Orchestra.  Wow!  Talk about energy and stamina.  I've never hurt so bad after playing a concert as I did after playing Beethoven's 5th.  The OKC Phil executed it greatly.  It had energy until the very last note!  Great concert!

Home we went for our annual cake and champagne!  When I went to buy a bottle for our first anniversary, it was on clearance.  Clearance?  The vendor who sold it was no longer working in Oklahoma.  OK... so why not just order it?  Or go to another liquor store?  Or buy it online?  Thanks to our outrageously ridiculous alcohol laws, this meant that you would no longer be able to buy it, find it, or get it shipped to Oklahoma... at least legally.  So I bought all they had left.  We don't really like champagne, so we spent a few good evenings sampling champagne (or more accurately, sparking white wine) to find a good one for our wedding.  I think it was hub's favorite part of wedding planning.  I distinctly remember a drunken evening, blowing off wedding steam when we found a winner.  I don't want to substitute with sub-par sparking white wine.  So we are well stocked for a few more anniversaries and celebrations, until I have to find another way to get some.

I pulled out our toasting flutes and cake knife and sever from the wedding (part of our yearly tradition).  And we had cake and champagne... just like at our wedding!




Sunday:

I had picked out a restaurant to try for brunch:  A Mexican Diner.  It was really small, but had an extensive menu.  I had Papas con Chorizo which was scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, homemade choizo, cheese, and plenty of mexican spices.  It was served with two corn tortillas and a warm salsa.  I really liked it.  Hubs had almost the same thing, but potatoes on the side and everything else wrapped in a tortilla and topped with green sauce.  He wasn't a fan, unfortunately.  For some reason pancakes sounded really good, so we shared an order of plain buttermilk pancakes. They were very good!  Overall, it was a so-so breakfast.

A few years ago we started a yearly tradition of going to a pumpkin patch out in Newcastle.  We haven't made it out yet this year, and the weather was beautiful, so we took a drive out to Newcastle.  We've been to a few pumpkin patches, but so far, this has been the best one.  They have hay rides, a corn maze, hay maze, various barn yard animals for petting and feeding, pony rides, pig races, tricycle races, and of course the pumpkin patch.  They also have enough fall gourds, pumpkins, hay, corn stalks, and various canned goods to bankrupt me.  My favorite part is feeding the animals of course!

This year they had baby goats!  I was told they were about 4-5 months old.  {sequels}  They were so cute and lovey.

 


Usually the goats are full and not all that social.  This year, however, they were quite hungry!  I've never had goats climb up on me to get food.  And they were all about the food.  As soon as I tired to pet them, they ran off.

 



After feeding goats, and pigs, and petting ponies and bunnies, we did the corn maze.  We've had lots of rain this year, so the corn was very tall.  Much better than last year when even 5'2" me could see over it.  We didn't do the hay maze, but we did do the hay ride.



Usually they have the pumpkin in an area where they actually grew pumpkins, so you have the pumpkin patch feel with the vines.  This year though, they just scattered pumpkins out in a pasture.  :-/ We still had fun though and each picked a pumpkin to carve.

We hadn't spent much money decorating for fall or Halloween because of the expense of moving and buying a house.  But now that this is our house, we were able to talk ourselves into getting our usual hay, pumpkins, gourds, and mums for the front porch.  We went home to decorate!  In just the few minutes we were outside setting it all up, two people walked by and we overheard them talking about how much they liked our porch, and another couple in a car slowed down in front of the house and were pointing and smiling at our house. :)

While we were at it, we deiced to pull out our Halloween stuff.  Hubs REALLY likes decorating for Halloween, and the holiday in general.



We ran some errands and went to get pizza for dinner, and continued working until well after dark. The house looked awesome, but before I could get any pictures the next day, the wind tore a lot of it down.  I'll have to take more pictures after we get it set up again.

This was the best anniversary weekend so far, I think.  Totally random, last minute, and not at all what we would have planned ourselves.  But I loved every minute of it because we spent some quality time together and worked on our own house, that we own, together!

Happy 3 years to us!!!!! It's been an awesome 3 years and I look forward to the many more ahead!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Quest for Completion - Part II

As I mentioned in my last post about trying to complete my lineup of the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Cuisine line, the meat fork has been very difficult to find!

I had pretty much given up hope after my father-in-law had done an extensive search online, and even called the manufacturer over Christmas.  When I recently launched my new quest to complete the set ASAP, I looked again.  All these months of searching (maybe even a year), and now I was finally able to find it!

I present to you, the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Cuisine Fork!




I didn't tell hubby that I had ordered it, holding my breath that it would actually show up.  I was a little skeptical since the site I found it on was in the UK, and looks less than professional.  But I do have to give a shout out to http://langtoninfo.co.uk/.  Placing my order was pretty difficult.  I wanted to pay by CC, and the site said it took PayPal or CC, but every time I tired using my CC, it bounced me back to PayPal and gave me an error and told me to wait 15 minutes.  Imagine how frustrated I was becoming after 4 attempts and still no luck.  In finally caved and used PayPal.  Once I got that all set up, everything else went smoothly.  I placed my order, got a confirmation that it was in the system, got a confirmation the next day that they had received my order and began processing it, and it shipped 3 business days later with an additional email notice.  I emailed them to find out how long I should wait for the package to arrive in the states.  They promptly emailed me back the next day (quite timely given the time difference!).  They were always informative with timely updates.  I think I was told to give it 3-4 weeks.  It arrived only 5 mailing days later!  Imagine my surprise when it wasn't even on my mind yet since it had just shipped and we were walking in the door from our Memorial Day Chascation when there it was.  WOW!  The box was a bit beat up, and in German, but the fork is in perfect condition and hubby was so surprised and impressed that I obtained it.

TWEET, TWEET!

My current difficulty - the bread knife.  I've attempted to order it from 4 sites now, and all have failed.  I wish these companies would take out of stock items off their websites. :-/  But I will continue trying to find one of my last few knives that I need!

After that, we hope to get a set of steak knives.  One thing at a time though... these babies don't come cheap.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Quest for Completion

So, I never followed through with making a blog post.  The weekend I had anticipated doing that was spent trying to forecast and keep friends and family save from the tornado outbreak in NW Oklahoma and Kansas on April 14th.  We actually had a tornado go through Norman, OK on Friday, April 13th.  Luckily no one was severely injured and there were no deaths.  But on Saturday, a significant tornado came way too close to one of my dear friend's houses.  Luckily instead of trying to prep for the storm and ride it out, she fled the state and went to visit her mom instead.  Her husband remained at home, so I kept a watchful eye out.  Since then, my weekends have been filled with other things, and this blog continues to be neglected.  I had intended writing about the tornado events, but that never happened either.  So... onto something current and exciting (for me!).


My husband always give me a hard time b/c I'm more interested in "home" items for birthday and Christmas gifts. He says I'm nesting, like a bird. I got an Amazon gift card for my birthday back in October, and I have been trying to figure out what to spend it on, and trying to think of something fun, and not home related, but I recently found out that Zwilling J.A. Henckels has discontinued their Twin Cuisine line. My heart was broken.

I got my first Twin Cuisine knife (the 4" parer) way back in October 2005. My hubby (then boyfriend) went against all his upbringing advise to never buy a women kitchen or house things as gifts, and bought me my first professional knife that I had been eying for months. I was ecstatic! I fell in love with it when I first tired it out at a William-Sonoma store. They were surprised I like it with its heft and my little hands, but the grip was so perfect for my hand, and I liked the weight behind it. Even better, hubby liked it too and thought it felt natural and comfortable. A knife we both agree on... SOLD! To boot, I thought the handle was beautiful and unique. I don't care so much for the rivet look.

We were poor college students, so buying a block set was not practical for us at the time. We were also just starting to ease into enjoying cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I decided to take this new, and very expensive I might add, endeavor to get a complete set slowly. I envisioned buying a new knife or two each year until I had my complete set.

For my birthday in 2007, hubby surprised me with the 7" Hollowed Edge Santoku. Sequels! In 2008, he got me the 6" Chef's. What a nice little tradition we have started here! It was the perfect size to get used to using a chef's knife and the skills needed. Keep in mind, this was my first time to ever use professional knives. It took some time to get used to using less pressure and being mindful of the super sharp blade. I got engaged in 2009 and everything is a blur after that. For some reason hubby stopped buying me knives, but I know he got me other kitchen goodies for my birthdays. With my new skills, I was now ready for a larger chef's knife.

My father-in-law and his wife got me the 8" Chef's knife for either my birthday or Christmas in 2009, with some coaxing from my dear husband of course. My father-in-law didn't believe him at first that I actually wanted a kitchen item for a gift. He then had to make sure I was OK with it after I opened it and called him to thank him. How thoughtful he is!

My brother, was out in the summer of 2011 and was trying to cut something with a thick skin... maybe a tomato? I didn't have any serrated knives in my set. I had been wanting to get one, and had been looking at two different ones. We discussed options (him being a big W├╝sthof fan) and he recommended the 4" serrated parer. He surprised me on my birthday in 2011 with that exact knife. My little set was coming right along thanks to all my generous friends and family!

We were all set to host our 2011 2nd Annual Fritchie Thanksgiving, the 2nd Thanksgiving after we got married where we buy a huge 22 lb Turkey! The first year was last minute and went over so well, we decided we are now doing it every year! The first year was kind of a disaster trying to carve the bird with a huge ass chef's knife. I promptly went online and got us the 8" Carving knife at the beginning of November to ensure it's timely delivery. I had my heart set to get the carving set, but soon learned the fork was very difficult to find. I went forward to buy just the carving knife with hopes to find the fork later. The carving knife worked so well and sliced through joints like they were turkey meat, and hugged the curves of the bones to get every bit of meat possible.

My father-in-law was hellbent on finding me the fork for Christmas. He went as far as calling the manufacture, only to find out that it had been discontinued. I supposed they had already discontinued the whole line, but I didn't know that. I randomly keep an eye out for it every once and a while. I had just resigned myself to not having my Twin Cuisine Meat Fork and just buying one from another line.

Earlier this month I took a knife skills class offered by one of the Zwilling J.A. Henckels representatives who has been through culinary school. What a treat! Our local kitchen store that hosted the event didn't have any knives from the Twin Cuisine line. That was where I learned that the Twin Cuisine line had been discontinued.

I've since been trying to decide what knives (that I will actually use) I need to finish out our set and at the same time, not bankrupt us. At the class I learned the uses of a fillet knife and how to use it properly. I hadn't thought of this as a particularly useful knife that I, myself, would use often, but after that class, I changed my mind. Enter my Amazon gift card!

So, my first knife in my quest to finish off our set while we still can is the 8" fillet knife! I guess this means a belated happy birthday to me. It just arrived today, and as my husband would say, "Look at my new stick! {Tweet tweet. Tweet tweet}!"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Fear Came True

Well, it's been 6 months now since I last wrote a blog post. And even that one was overdue. I struggled for years trying to decide if I wanted to do a blog or not. Privacy was the first thing that held me back, but I have since gotten over that with the invent of Google+. I came to realize that I wanted to share my passions, mostly food and cooking, with other people. Then my only fear was that I would not have the time to keep up with it. And that has happened. Last fall got very crazy for us. Then it was the holidays, then we were catching up most of January from being so busy and out of town over the holidays. February was alright and I began taking pictures of food again, but just couldn't find the time to sit down and write. March was another crazy month, and now we are already to April. WOW...

Hubby has some plans next weekend that will give me lots of free time, so perhaps I'll do some blogging then. Will the posting of intent to blog publicly hold me to it?

Happy Easter!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's All Good!

It's been a while! We have been busy, but most of all we have been enjoying this wonderful fall season and pampering ourselves. Hubby and I had gotten into a wonderful habit of creating new dishes together on the weekends, so I had lots to blog about, but we haven't done that in a while... until tonight actually, but more on that later.

So what has been going on since my last post? Not a whole lot. The most exciting thing that has been going on is enjoying being newlyweds. We got some awesome news on the 14th last month that the long legal battle with my hubby and our former employer had ended. They had started the lawsuit back in May when he left the company to work for a competitor, and then after a motion to dismiss the parties decided to explore a settlement. Hubby said he is very happy and that it could not have gone any better, so we of course went out to celebrate. Since then we have pretty much been thrown back into newlywed bliss and celebrating ever since! For the first time since November 2010, just 3 weeks after our wedding and the week after we returned from our honeymoon, we are both employed, not trying to leave our jobs, there is no pending lawsuit, and we are very happy and content with our lives. It was a long 10 months, but it is finally over, and we are so much happier now on the other side!

What else...? We met with our photographers to get all of our pictures and go over our final selections for the photo album. There has been so much going on since we got back from our honeymoon, that we never really got around to it until recently. It will be another 2-3 months until it is ready, but until then I have been going through the pictures and getting my favorite ones and posting them online. Here is a teaser!


As part of us enjoying our new, relaxing, newlywed bliss (again), we have been doing some fun date nights. We went to see the re-release of Lion King, and I got to see my first movie in 3D. It was really good, and definitely worth the extra price of the 3D ticket. Neither of us saw it in the theater as a kid, so it was great to be able to see one of my favorite Disney movies in the theater!

We also went to the Grand Opening Night at the OKC Philharmonic. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Pearl's Oyster Bar and then watch/listened to performances of Wagner's Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III (my favorite piece of the concert), Liszt's Les Preludes (also a wonderful piece), Turina's Danzas Fantasticas (a piece that sounded part romantic and part contemporary that I didn't like so much), and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto performed by violinist James Ehnes. James Ehnes played Tchaikovsky so delicately and precisely. I never used to be a fan of violin concertos, but have really started to enjoy them more in the last two years. Tchaikovsky is probably my favorite composer, so naturally I really enjoyed the performance. The Philharmonic sounded the best they have sounded in years. The last few years have been good, but not great. This past concert sounded much more rehearsed, the orchestra was together more, and they just sounded excellent. We have season tickets again this year, and I'm really looking forward to the remaining concerts if the first one was any indication to their new sound.

Speaking of orchestra, after a year break from playing, I have returned to the OU Civic Orchestra. I didn't join Fall 2010 because I was too busy trying to finalize our wedding, and would also have to miss about 4 rehearsals. That wasn't fair to the orchestra, and I don't think I could have handled anything else on my "to-do list" last fall. In Spring 2011 I was unemployed and trying to save every penny we had, so that was part of the reason for not joining. Even though hubby encouraged me to join, I was on round 4 of 5 of interviews for a big company in downtown OKC. If I had gotten the job, I would have had to drop out as I would not be back in Norman in time for rehearsal. If I didn't get the job, I still didn't know if my new job would have a schedule that would accommodate it. But I am employed now in a nice 8-5 job, so I have once again joined. We are performing Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (New World Symphony) and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"). I'm very happy to be playing again. Hubby has been spending money on paint ball stuff, so I decided I deserved some new strings, new chin rest pad, new metronome, and a pickup tuner that clips onto my instrument and plugs into my tuner so I can tune in noisy places (it will be very handy trying to keep the new strings in tune through rehearsal). Everything came in the mail last week, and I am one happy musician!

Hubby got really into football the last two weekends in September and I didn't feel like trying new recipes alone, so we didn't do anything fancy. There hasn't been a whole lot to post food wise from the last 4 weeks. Instead we have been enjoying the season. Last year at this time, we were getting ready for our wedding and were very stressed. We were too busy to stop and enjoy the season. We didn't get to do any of the stuff we normally do this time of year: going to a pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins, decorating for fall, decorating for Halloween, baking yummy pumpkin things, laying in bed enjoying the cool weather, and eating way too much. This year, we have done almost everything on that list! We were going to knock off the pumpkin patch on that list this weekend, but our patch is flooded.

For those of you who don't know, Oklahoma has been going through a horrible drought. All of our small ponds are completely dried up and have weeds growing them, and the larger ones are very low. Wildfires have been a big problem, and the summer heat was unbearable. We broke all kinds of records. This weekend however, we are getting some much needed rain. It started around 3:30 PM yesterday, and it pretty much has not stopped. As I'm writing this, we have had 3.80" since the event started. Once the rain started, the temperature held around 61F until today around 4:00 PM when the temperature started dropping again. It dropped to around 57F at about 7:30 PM and it's been hovering there ever since. The rain has been so refreshing. There has been lots of flooding, but we need the rain so bad that no one is complaining.

So that's about all that's been going on. Last week we finally got back to making dinners at home and trying to get back on the diet. Then this weekend, we used the cooler, cloudy weather to stay in and created some new dishes. I'll report on those in another post. We had a wonderful weekend together in true fall fashion. We slept with the windows open listening to the light rain last night, slept in this morning, and ate a late breakfast together. Hubby has gotten into coffee, so he filled the house with the wonderful aroma of coffee while we ate. I don't like the taste, but I sure do like the smell! We actually got hubby a french press and a hand crank coffee grinder (any decent electric one is really expensive!) last weekend and he is thrilled with the new addition to the kitchen that's just for him. After breakfast we went to see Moneyball, which was one of the best movies we have seen this year. Then we came back and cooked up a new meal. While Hubs was watching the Green Bay Packers game I baked up a yummy fall treat and caught up with my blog.

Well, I think we are all caught up. I'll try and post more soon. Off to bed to start a new work week.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Mexican Afair

Mexican food is at or near the top of my "favorite kind of foods" list. I usually eat it at least once a week. I have developed a rather picky taste for my Mexican food, and tex-mex and grocery store convenient items just don't cut it anymore. I want authentic, fresh flavors with some serious heat (when heat is appropriate).

The hubs and I have gotten into a nice habit of cooking something new on the weekends. On Saturday morning before our usual shopping trip, we consulted the Healthy Family Cookbook again. Not really knowing what we were in a mood for, we flipped through the Poultry section to see if anything caught our eye. I was nearing the end when I flipped to a page with a nice picture of Chicken Enchiladas. We both paused and at the same time and made the same sound: "Ooooo!" A quick read of the recipe and we had our new weekend recipe to try out. We searched in the same book for some Mexican-Style rice. We found a Basmati Rice Pilaf recipe that had a "With Mexican Flavors" variation. To round out the meal, we cooked a pot of Anasazi Beans to last throughout the week.

What in the world are Anasazi Beans you ask?
A friend of our got us hooked on Anasazi Beans (yes, they really are the best beans in the world!). We had a gathering a few years ago where we made Indian Tacos and everyone brought an item to help with the meal. This particular friend brought beans. I don't recall if he made refried beans, or just simply cooked the beans and we ate them whole. What I do remember is how amazing they were. This was around the time the foodie in me was making a noticeable appearance. I knew what I was eating was not just any ordinary pinto bean. It was creamy, flavorful, and smooth. There was something unique about it, but I didn't know what. I'm forever happy that I questioned the hell out of my poor friend. I found out they are a type of bean specific to Colorado, and sadly, could not be bought here. He told me all about ways to cook them and why they were unique because you didn't have to soak them and they cause less gas than pinto beans (an added bonus!). Not long after this, he and his wife were on a road trip to CO when I called to see if they wanted to hang out. I was so in love with this new discovery that I talked him into bringing us back a 10lb bag! Over the next few months we experimented with the beans and we worked them into a regular part of our diet. We were just about to run out last October, but then he and his wife got us another 10lb bag of Anasazi Beans and a dutch oven to cook them in for our wedding! SCORE! The bag of beans were by far the oddest and funniest wedding gift we received, but completely practical and the perfect gift for this foodie couple!

Chicken Enchiladas:
I started by making their recipe for Green Enchilada Sauce. You first have to roast the poblano chiles and tomatillos.


Once the peppers have been roasted you remove the skin. Then you throw them into a food processor with the roasted tomatillos, chicken broth, a minced onion, garlic, a lot of cilantro, lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and a little sugar. We added a little salt to balance out the sugar, and it was perfect with just the right amount of bite with a subtle hotness!


Now it was time to make the Chicken Enchiladas. The chicken was cooked in a pot with the Green Enchilada Sauce and then shredded into bite-sized pieces. It was then mixed with some of the Green Enchilada Sauce, queso fresco cheese (I used reduced fat), green chiles, and cilantro.

Now it was time to assemble everything. The corn tortillas were sprayed with cooking spray and warmed up in the oven to make them more pliable. Then 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture (a generous portion) was spread down the center of the tortillas.


After everything was in the pan, more Green Enchilada Sauce was added on top, and then everything was covered with cheddar cheese (I used sharp, 2%). We baked it with foil over it to keep it from burning until everything was heated through and the cheese was melted, and then removed the foil and allowed the cheese to brown.



Basmati Rice Pilaf With Mexican Flavors:

The base of this recipe is just a little olive oil, a small minced onion, basmati rice, and water. We only eat brown rice now, so we substituted regular basmati rice for brown basmati rice. We forgot that you have to soak brown basmati rice before cooking with it in recipes like this, or that it takes longer to cook. Luckily we started early knowing the enchiladas were going to be involved and require both of us, and thinking the rice was fine to sit since it will stay warm. Instead of letting it sit, we just kept cooking it and it was done by the time we were ready to eat.

For the Mexican Flavors, jalapenos, garlic, tomato paste, cilantro, and a diced tomato were added. Luckily we bought 3 bunches of cilantro! At this point we had used more than 2 to get 1 1/4 cups of minced cilantro, and our other mexican recipe for later in the week to use up the beans and rice calls for another 1/4 cup. We LOVE cilantro!



The meal was amazing! We didn't like the rice all that much and felt it lacked flavor and didn't have much heat. However, it got better as it sat overnight. When we had the left overs, the flavors were better developed and the jalapeno heat was present where it wasn't the first night. I think it takes longer for brown rice to absorb flavors since it has the hard outer shell. I'm not sure we will be making it again though. A 3/4 cup serving was 5 WW points+ and neither of us felt it was worth the extra points.

The enchiladas were fantastic! They moved to the top of our recipe list and we will be making them often. They are 10 WW points+ for 2 enchiladas. A little heavy for WW, but so worth it, in our opinion. The flavors were authentic, fresh, and the Green Enchilada Sauce added just the right amount of subtle heat to the dish. The chicken was tender and very flavorful. And left overs were just as good. The texture of the corn tortillas was better the first night, but we both agreed that the flavors got better the 2nd night. They were delicious and so filling.

And of course the beans were awesome! :) I cook them in water with a little salt and canola oil. We found nutritional info for 1/4 cup dry beans and have noticed that the beans make about 2.5 times more cooked. Using that ratio, 1 cup of cooked beans is 5 WW points+, which is the same as what we normally do for our starch, 1 cup brown rice or 1 cup whole wheat pasta.

All in all, a VERY good weekend meal. I wouldn't have time to do this during the week, but it was a fun activity for hubby and I and we got 2 more nights of meals out of it. It was so worth the work and we will be doing it again soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Mouth Got Assulted Tonight

My husband and I wanted to do something different for dinner tonight. I have been very good this week on Weight Watchers and had a lot of extra points that I could use if I wanted to. So we decided to try a new place that had decent enough reviews to at least give it a try. We figured at worst it would make a good story, and in fact it did. Nothing like a fun night out making fun of the awful food!

A review of Cajun King in Norman, OK by a foodie who loves Cajun
(post as it appears on Urbanspoon.com. I was unable to locate the restaurant on Yelp, but it was so awful I had to put a review out somewhere to warn people!)

My husband and I wanted to try something new, and I don't normally like buffets, but figured it couldn't be that bad since it had so many positive reviews. Those people must not know what real Cajun food is! This place was awful!

I started with blackened chicken pasta. The pasta, meat, and sauce were all separate and you put it together yourself. The pasta was cold, the meat was dry, overcooked, and lacked authentic Cajun flavor, and the sauce tasted like it came from a powder packet.

Next I had the blacked pork chops. There were only the bone part of pork chops with very little meat. I managed to find a decent sized piece. But it was so overdone and dried out that I could barley saw through it with my knife. It was like eating jerky, and the flavor of the meat was awful. It tasted as though it had been freezer burnt, cooked, and reheated several times. It too lacked authentic Cajun flavor.

Our waitress was very slow, but she brought us benyas and fried catfish. The benyas were OK, but the catfish was actually good (not great). They put a special seasoning on it that is sorta sweet and the breading was very light. It came with a special sauce that was sorta like a spiced up honey mustard. This was the only good thing going for the restaurant.

Next I had the blackened catfish, jambalaya and some red beans. The jambalaya was again dry and lacking Cajun flavor (and meat!). The catfish was OK, but as everything else lacked Cajun flavor. The red beans were OK, not salty, cooked correctly, but lacked any kind of complex flavor.. they were just simply cooked beans.

I'm a huge potato fan, so I got a big scoop of the Au gratin potatoes, because, how can someone mess up potatoes? They can! They tasted like fake mashed potatoes with potato chunks added in. Very few times have I ever had potatoes that I couldn't eat. This was one of those times.

For dessert I tired the bread pudding. This was NOT bread pudding. And anyone who thought it was needs to get to NOLA immediately, or any other respectable restaurant (Pearl's in OKC or Bourbon Street Cafe in OKC) and try bread pudding and you will see what I mean. The pudding part was not rich and was like undercooked cake with a weird slime. The "sauce" that you put on top was in desperate need of some bourbon, and actually crystallized as it cooled on my plate because it was so sugary and didn't have enough butter.

Simply disgusting. I feel like I just ate at a bad Chinese food buffet. Stay clear and go to OKC for some decent Cajun. I highly recommend Bourbon Street Cafe in Bricktown or Pearl's up by Penn Square Mall.