Happy New Year!

I’ve spent the first day of 2013 searching for and finding lost items. About twenty different items, all told. I don’t know if this is going to be a theme for the year or not, but if so at least I ended up finding everything I lost… eventually. :-) I also spent the day with friends, relaxing, and fixing things that were broken. I think that is a good theme for this year: fixing what’s been broken. It’s something I tried to start working on last year. If anything, 2012 was the year that broke. 2013 is going to be all about picking up the pieces and making something new and better out of them. I have high hopes for you, 2013. Please don’t let me down.

Well Hello There, 2012!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe I have to start learning how to write 2012 now. I still remember being in grade school and having difficulty replacing the ’87 with an ’88. That was a long time ago.

2011 was a mixed-up year. It was filled with some incredible highs:
-Travel to India
-Graduation from business school with two masters and an intact sanity
-Summer vacation, for the last time in my life
-Finally moving into a grown-up apartment of my very own
-Starting a new amazing job, and getting a steady paycheck once more
-Running my first 5K

and some incredible lows:
-Poor health
-Feeling cut-off from my friends; realizing some people were not who I thought they were
-The day after my 29th birthday
-And some other things which I won’t detail here.

Overall the pros outweighed the cons of the past year, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I wrote some things that I didn’t like about 2011 down on slips of paper and burned them last night. Two of the slips were named ‘fear’ and ‘complacency’. Without setting any specific resolutions for this year (I don’t really like resolutions, because I think they’re made to be broken), I hope to be more conscious about not letting these two things take me over.

So far 2012 has been wonderful. I have watched movies, hung out with friends, cleaned my apartment, hung pictures, unpacked boxes, cooked, caught up on reading, and have just been happy. If the rest of this coming year can be like this, it will be a great year. There will be bumps in the road (in only 1 month I turn 30, ugggghhhhh … really not looking forward to that). But I definitely have high hopes for this coming year. Here’s to you, 2012!

Happy Holidays

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m kind of inordinately excited about this year’s holiday season. I didn’t get a chance to properly celebrate last year, since at this time 2010 I was busy preparing for my epic India trip. I think the actual night of Christmas Eve was spent at a friend’s wedding reception. All good things. But not quite the typical American Christmas season complete with snow, winter jackets, Christmas carols, and Christmas trees.

Which is why I am loving my little Christmas tree. Or, as I have been calling it, my Beer Tree. This is a ‘gift’ from my parents, who frequently get beer-themed items like this.

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Here’s another shot of the tree. In case you can’t tell, not only is the topper a Coors Light “Make it a Banquet” sign, but the ornaments are also Coors Light ornament balls.

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And here is a pic of my electric log fire. It’s kind of ridiculously awesome. It came with the apartment but I love it.

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It’s not the holidays until you’ve got the electric logs flickering away and the Coors Light sign beaming out!

P.S. People have actually found this blog by Googling Coors Light Christmas tree ornament…. wow.

Alcoholic Pasta

This is my last week of vacation before I start work next week, so I thought I’d attempt a new recipe and a new style of blog post. I think the key word here is ATTEMPT.

Please bear with me. I tried to recreate this amazing-looking recipe from the Pioneer Woman, but due to some kitchen limitations and my refusal to go to the grocery store two times in two days, my end result fell slightly short- but was still delicious! I realize that my pictures probably don’t convey the full tastiness of the ingredients, but that’s just cause I suck at taking photos. My bad.

My ingredients. Yes, that IS a lot of alcohol. Hence the name. The original recipe called for chicken broth, but I didn’t have any and I didn’t feel like getting some. So I decided to sub in some light beer I found in the fridge. Genius or Insanity? Only time will tell. I also had a very pathetic looking hunk of onion. If I made this again, I would use a whole onion. Or at least a half. I swear!

Wow, I really am lazy when it comes to cooking, huh.

First things first. Heat up a few swigs of olive oil and butter over medium heat. Or, if you’re impatient like me, medium-high heat. I like using the little butter pattys they give you in restaurants- it’s perfect built-in sizing!

Dump in your tub of cute little baby bella mushrooms. I like these babies because they save you the step of having to chop up your mushrooms. Less prep time = more fun time!

At the same time, start boiling the water for your pasta. Cooking, I’ve learned, is rather like business school. It’s all about multi-tasking and being able to think on your feet!

Now, the original recipe called for roasting the mushrooms separately, but I didn’t feel like doing that. So I used a large frypan, and sauteed the babies for a couple minutes until they started sweating (see the moisture in the picture?).

Around this time, the pasta water began boiling, so I dumped in my penne pasta. Ignore that claw in the upper left hand corner. PS I used a mason jar to store the pasta before adding it in. Just cause it looked pretty, and that’s the way I roll.

Tip: if you are a lazy cooker like me and don’t want to have to switch out pans, just move yo pan over a little further! This especially works if you were supposed to be frying a whole onion, but you only have a pitiful tiny bit to cook. Mushrooms and onions, can’t they all just get along? YES.

While the veggies comingle, pull out the whiskey! Note the use of the pasta mason jar to measure out the Jim. Mom, if you’re reading this, we need some measuring cups. In a big way.

Dump the whiskey and the wine, followed by the beer. Stand in front of your stove. Lean forward. Take a deep whiff. Try not to get too intoxicated. Seriously. Simmer.

Now here’s where things got a little dicey. I didn’t have any cream (cream is not the best thing to stock up on at a vacation home). So, I pulled out a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese and mixed it into the broth to give it a little creaminess and bulk.

By now the pasta should be done, or close to being done. Drain and set aside.

Tip: reserve some of the pasta water in your measuring cup (in my case, the mason jar) in case you want to mix it in later. If you’re like me, I always end up forgetting to save the pasta water until it’s too late and everything’s spiraled down the drain. Fail.

Confession: I felt that the broth wasn’t creamy enough, so I lost my head and poured in some milk. Fat free milk. I would advise you not to do that. But I did. The world didn’t end. I merely had to stand over the heat and stir a little longer to reduce the liquid and thicken it up a bit more.

Stir in the pasta, and h/eat everything up. Nom nom nom.

Tip: Use the cooking downtime to clean up the kitchen. This way there isn’t a giant mess waiting for you once you’re done eating. I also like to use a bowl, or in this case the mushroom tub, to hold all the trash. Then, you can just dump a nice and neat package into your trashcan. Genius!

I think in the future I’d make this recipe again, but I would definitely try to adhere a little closer to the original recipe. In any case, if you are like me and like experimenting with what’s in your kitchen, here’s MY version of the recipe.

Alcoholic Pasta
(adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s Pasta with Whiskey, Wine and Mushrooms)
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Baby Portobello mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Butter
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Peeled And Sliced
  • 1/3 cup Wine (I used red because I had a bottle on hand, but white would work well also)
  • 1/4 cups Whiskey (I used Jim Beam)
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Broth/Light Beer
  • 1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese
  • 1/3 cup Cream
  • 8 ounces penne pasta, cooked Al Dente (or however much pasta you have left in the box)

How To:

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for 2-4 minutes, or until mushrooms start to sweat.

Throw in the sliced onions and saute for a few minutes, or until they begin to turn translucent. Pour in wine and whiskey and simmer for a minute or two. Pour in broth/beer and allow the liquid to reduce for a couple of minutes. Stir in cheese wedge until mixed in with broth. Reduce heat and cook until sauce has reduced and thickened sufficiently. With heat on low, stir in cream gently.

Toss in cooked pasta, using a little hot pasta water if sauce needs a little thinning.

EAT.

Hello Dear Sister

This is my sister, Simone. She doesn’t need a wheelchair to get around. She just likes to chill in assistive seating devices.

What can I say? She’s weird like that. She programmed herself into my cellphone as “Beloved Simone”. Every time I go to call her I think Toni Morrison’s gotten ahold of my phone again.

Every year on my birthday, she calls to me inform me that she’s still 5 years younger. She doesn’t remember that I drove her to see Simone, the movie, when it first came out in theaters.

Sisters.

Keep it Together

I am going out of town until next Monday, my devoted fans/readers/stalkers. Chances of my blogging are slim. Please try to hold it together until I get back. That is all.

P.S. Am I the only one who gets tired thinking about going on vacation? I need a vacation to recover from the vacation I haven’t gone on yet.

Devilishly Hot

In Philly this week, as in most of the country, we’ve been blasted with crazyhot weather. And Philadelphia hot weather is the worst because of the HUMIDITY. In case you are not familiar with what true humidity feels like, imagine that you are inside your house. Open the door, and step outside. The air outside has been baked until it’s almost a solid consistency. It’s as if someone came in the night and replaced the space outside the door with a brick wall made of air. So solid, you could almost cut it with a knife and see two pieces curl apart. So thick and warm, you could take a ladle and spoon up some of the soupy muck for dinner. Cali, New England, you have NO IDEA how humidity can make you suffer.

So imagine my surprise to see one of the hidden secrets of this area splashed all over the front page of the New York Times! 

I’ve written about the Wissahickon and Fairmount Park before. These areas are truly hidden gems of Philadelphia. I doubt that you’d venture into Fairmount Park on your average tourist visit here, but it’s really worth a look. The park spans more than 9,000 acres, was the site of the 1876 Centennial Exposition, and is the site of the first zoo in the United States. (According to Wikipedia).

Forbidden Drive is a gravel road for bikers, walkers, joggers, and horseback-riders only. The road runs next to a creek, and the walk I usually follow starts off by a bunch of ducks paddling around the creek, winds by Valley Green Inn (a great example of what a roadhouse in ‘olden times’ would have looked like), and takes you right by Devil’s Pond. At any given time, there are a handful of brave waders lining up to jump off the large boulders into the pond below, or waiting their turn to use the rope swing nearby. The lead image in today’s NYT captures this image perfectly.

I love the shout-outs to the places I love. I just hope that this doesn’t mean that my favorite hideaways get super popular!