Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peaches and Dreams

Well, friends, the unofficial end of summer is coming up soon, so I figured, why not get all sorts of last minute summery things in? After reading this lovely post about peaches in SimpletoSucculent, I couldn't resist making a peach pie. Since it's still warm out, I didn't want to be doing all sorts of baking, so I decided to make a peaches and cream icebox pie. Great idea, until I couldn't find a recipe that I liked. So I made one up. This, friends, is Amber's Peaches and Dreams Pie...
I. Can. Not. Wait. toeatthiswholething!

1 ½ cups finely crushed ginger snap cookies
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Fruit Filling

4 tablespoons sugar
4 medium-large peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into bite-sized cubes (cut ¼ peach into slices for garnish)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Whipped Cream

¾ envelope gelatin
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup simmering water
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease 10-inch pie pan. Chill bowl and mixers for whipped cream. Pour gelatin over cold water (in a heatproof cup or bowl) and let soften for 5 minutes without stirring. Add simmering water and whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Mix all crust ingredients with a fork or pulse in a food processor until all ingredients are moistened. Press mixture evenly into pan, over the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides of the pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Let crust cool thoroughly before adding filling.

Gingersnap crust
To prepare the peach filling, add all filling ingredients to a large saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the peaches soften and become syrupy, approximately 15-20 minutes. Chill the peach mix, either in the freezer, or put in a small bowl inside a larger bowl full of ice and water (It took about 20 minutes to chill in the ice water bowls, but I’m not sure how long it would take in the freezer.)
After peaches are chilled, take half the mixture and puree in food processor, until it is the consistency of baby food.
Peaches and cream filling

For whipped cream, add cream to chilled bowl and beat until thickened. As the cream begins to thicken, add sugar and room temperature gelatin mix. When the cream begins to form stiff peaks, mix in peach puree. Gently fold in remaining peach mixture. Pour whipped cream/peach mixture into crust and smooth it evenly over. Garnish with peach slices. You can either freeze until set, approximately 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least an hour, and keep refrigerated until a few minutes before serving! **If you freeze the pie, be careful after freezing, as the crust will be difficult to cut. Let it sit out at room temperature for a few minutes to soften up.**
All set and ready to go!

The next time I make it, I think I'll tweak it and try it with a graham cracker crust. Either way, I might just have to add this pie to my Mmmmmm, Monday list. And BTW, that wine right there is some of my Homemade Wine Spritzer... And it all comes full circle. Enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mmmmmm, Monday...

Oh, hey friends! I hope you've all had lovely starts to your week! And if not, at least Monday is almost over...and there's a 3 day weekend coming up. Huzzah!

Here's what I'm digging on today...

Boyfriend Breakfast

The boy woke up earlier than me (which is unheard of when he has the day off!), at like 8:15 (also unheard of...) and was rummaging around in the kitchen. When I got out of bed about a half hour later, he was in the middle of making breakfast for us. When I asked him why, because I know he's not a big breakfast eater, he said, "I was hungry, and you have an interview today, so I wanted you to have a good meal." Um, swoon?!?

Homemade Wine Spritzer

One part sparkling water, one part chilled red wine (I prefer Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz. It's inexpensive, but one of my favorite reds. I can always drink it in the summer because it isn't too heavy or dry.), a few mandarin orange pieces. You're welcome.

** A note about this: I know that wine spritzers are usually made with white wine. And that red wine usually isn't chilled. But check it's my mouth and I'll put whatever kind of wine I want in it!

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

I have a lot of okra in my garden, and it's the one thing that I have been consistently harvesting. This is my own take on this recipe, because the okra and tomatoes are usually cooked and then served over the rice. As I hate doing extra dishes, I just make it all in one pot.

Dice and saute 1/2 of a medium onion and a minced clove of garlic. Slice up about 5-6 okras, peel and dice a medium tomato, add those to the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium-low heat, until the tomato begins to soften. Add 1.5 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup water - 2 cups total- (or vegetable stock and water if you want to make it a vegan meal) and 1 cup rice and simmer until the rice is cooked. Season with a little salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and a pinch of cumin. Add a few dashes of hot sauce, and you have magic in your mouth. I've also chopped up a few frozen shrimp and threw those in there in the last 2 or 3 minutes of cooking and they add an amazing flavor (It's kinda like the lazy man's gumbo...)

Friend Reunions

I went to a baseball game with two of my besties last week. We call ourselves the Tripod and we are AWESOME! I met these ladies when I was in grad school, and I was the graduate advisor of the campus programming board, of which they were members. We went to a conference in November 2006, and it's all history from there. We laugh and have inappropriate discussions, eat tube meat, make inappropriate comments about DILFs and just generally make folks around us jealous because they aren't part of the AWESOME that is Tripod. I don't mean to sound douchey, but if you have great friends who you can always have a great time with, you know what I mean. Sucky part of the Tripod is that we have this pattern of moving away, one at a time. When I finished grad school, I moved to California for 2 years. When I moved back to Columbus, B-Rock moved to California for 2 years. B-Rock just moved back to Columbus, and now Double Dubya is moving to Philly for grad school for 2 years. Once we get it together and are all in Columbus at the same time, magic will happen. Like double rainbow magic. Get. Ready.

Fall Weather

It's starting to get cooler, we can sleep with the windows open without melting, Oktoberfest Sam Adams, pumpkin flavored anything, sweaters, boots. I would say football, but I'm kinda meh about it. I can't even wait to go apple picking (and I will totes miss my staff from last year) and make a shit-load of pies. Yum-tacular. If you're nice to me, I might make you one ;-)

What made your Monday yummy?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What the Deck?!?

We finally finished the deck on Sunday! It's so pretty! We'll put some skirting around the bottom at some point, but for right now, it's all done, the grill is in its new home, and I've even sat on it with a book in my little camp chair. Look at how far we've come, and I think we did a dang good job, especially since we did this whole thing from the ground up!

Funny story though, we were going to make burgers on the grill to celebrate the deck being done (and not having to drag the grill out of the garage all the way to the side of the house, walk all the way around the house from the kitchen to use it, wait forever for it to cool down enough to put it back in the garage, get eaten alive by mosquitoes when putting it away, etc, etc)...aaaaaaaand the propane tank was empty. What is our life?!? So we made them on our tiny George Foreman grill (yay for knocking out the fat!). And you know what? Those burgers were delicious, because they were sating the hunger caused by a job well done.
Eeek, only a few boards left!!

And the finished product! (Don't mind that giant concrete pile...)

Oh, hey creeper in the door!

That is one good looking deck, if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Om Nom Nom: Skillet

The boy and I have had a tradition for the past year and a half or so of going to brunch on Sundays whenever he's not working, and trying to find a new place each time (sometimes we go to tried and true favorites. I'm IN LOVE with Banana Bean Cafe and the corned beef hash at Best Breakfasts and Sandwiches in Westerville is to die for!) This weekend we went to Skillet in German Village (which, coincidentally, is where Banana Bean Cafe used to be, before it moved to Greenlawn). Skillet is a pretty cool little (and I do mean little. There was enough seating for 30 people, tops) place, and you get very cozy with your table neighbors and they focus on locally sourced, seasonal food. Our waiter was friendly, and the food was pretty dang good! There was about a half hour wait, but that's what you get when you combine a tiny restaurant with delicious food and the weekend brunch rush.

I had the house-smoked Andouille sausage gravy and biscuits, with a side of polenta with goat cheese and maple syrup, and Danny had the mac & pulled pork. Danny said that his was good, and I'll just have to take his word for it. The fact that I can't tell you myself how delicious his food was is pretty unheard of, because 1) I ALWAYS eat off his plate. There's just something about someone else's food that makes it more delicious than your own! 2) I was too busy shoveling food in my mouth that he even commented about how quiet I was being during the meal. It was almost like I had never eaten food before!

As to the biscuits and gravy...I have to be in the mood for those, because that's a whole lot of heavy food, especially when it's hot outside. But it did not disappoint. The gravy was spicy and creamy, with little pieces of andouille. There were two scrambled eggs hidden under the gravy, like "Boom! Gotcha with a shot of extra protein!" And the biscuits were something called "bird's head buttermilk biscuits." I don't even know what that means, but what I do know is those birds flew right into mah belly!

Now, I love polenta. And I also love goat cheese. I'm a little wishy washy about maple syrup, I could really take it or leave it. But the combination of the three was nothing short of spectacular...complete with jazz hands. The polenta was creamy, the goat cheese was tangy and the syrup gave it a bit of melty good sweetness that made each bite dance over my tongue. Bliss. Sigh...

We're always on the lookout for a new brunch spot, so if you have any ideas, shoot 'em my way! I think next week, we'll try Wildflower Cafe in Clintonville!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Good Girlfriend/Bad Girlfriend?

Here's a little fact about me...I have a mortal fear of vomit. A phobia if you will. Intellectually, I know if someone gets sick, it's not a big deal and it probably won't last that long. Irrationally and emotionally, I become a wreck. I get nervous, shaky, my heart starts pounding, my palms get sweaty and I get an anxious gut. If you have ever seen me in a hospital, you know what a mess I become.

Now that you know this, fast forward to last night. The beau and I went to the Movie Tavern for dinner and a movie (30 Minutes or Less...not that great). About 2/3 of the way through, he abruptly stands up and says "I have to go to the bathroom." My stomach instantly dropped, because I knew what that meant. After about 15 minutes, I texted him to make sure he was still alive and he said he was outside. I paid the bill and went to collect him. We got into the car and he sighed and looked at me and said, "You're gonna keep staring at me and asking if I'm alright, aren't you?" I said yes, but that I would try to keep it to a minimum, because I know that irritates him if he's not feeling well. And let's face it, if I needed to pull over, I wanted as much lead time as possible to make that happen.

We made it home without incident, but when we got there, I cleaned out the toilet (because I believe if you're gonna puke, you already feel terrible and shouldn't have to put your face in a dirty shitter), I put headphones on and sat on the couch playing on the computer and reading a book. But I stayed on the couch all night reading until I fell asleep at about 5 a.m. I did it for 2 reasons: 1) I knew that as soon as I went into the bedroom, the dogs would wake up and start fidgeting. 2) I knew I would be all anxious, I wouldn't sleep anyway, and everytime he moved, I would be on alert.

Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I didn't sleep in the bed with him because he was feeling nauseous (if it was just a cold, I wouldn't really have cared). But I wanted to make sure he wasn't disturbed by my restlessness and the dogs fidgeting. And I cleaned out the toilet. That has to count for something, right?!?

Small victory, he didn't even get sick at all :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WTF Wednesday?!?

On Monday, I talked about things that just make me happy. That was nice, wasn't it? But, in order to maintain balance in the world, you have to take the bad with the good. So I hereby declare Wednesdays to be "WTF Wednesdays?!?" Just a little chance to have a chat about the things in life that make you shake your head and say "For real life? For reals?" Not every week, of course, but just when the spirit moves me. And boy has the spirit moved me. Let me drop a little knowledge on you about...


You suck. In more ways than one...
These blood-sucking, disease-carrying, itch-making, soulless, breeding/feeding sumbitches are STRAIGHT. FROM. THE. DEVIL. They like to bite me a lot more than your average person. Not only do I look like I have chicken pox all over my body, but now they have decided that the tops of my feet are the great new place to focus. One got me on Monday and it was like this was the conversation it had in its tiny bundle of nerves it calls a brain: "Hmmm, the top of her toe looks tasty. I'm SURE she doesn't want to wear shoes that will actually touch her toes. Because this toe is gonna itch and swell and make her SUPER uncomfortable during her interview." Thanks mosquito. Dick.


"Look mom! Look what me and Lola made!!"
Hair on your body is fine. I'm not the biggest fan of super hairy men, but whatevs, I can deal with it as long as it's STILL ATTACHED TO YOUR BODY! If you brushed your hair and have pieces of it on your clothes, I will probably creep up on you all ninja style and try to pluck it off without you noticing. Random people's hair on me makes me cringe. I put my hand in my own pocket a couple weeks ago and my fingers got tangled up in a piece of long, straight, blond hair. WTF?!? Have you met me? There is nothing long, blond or remotely straight about my hair. And how the eff did it get in my damn pocket?? And dog hair is the worst. Sweet Jesus, it gets everywhere! This picture of Bozz is next to the mountain of dog hair I swept up from the house. Look how proud he is of it...

Caution Baby on Board Signs

Are you telling me that simply because you have a child in your car, that I am clearly driving like a bat out of hell, and I should immediately change what I am doing to protect your precious babe? How presumptuous. Or are you telling me that I should be cautious of you, because you are clearly distracted and driving unsafely due to your screaming demon bundle of joy in the backseat? Eh, potato, potahto.

I could absolutely keep going, but I'll end it there. What puts bees in your bonnet?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mmmmmm, Monday...

Monday gets a pretty bad rap. Granted, it can mean different things to different people, none of them great...It can be the end of an epic weekend. It might be the beginning of a week of soul sucking drudgery. You could just be starting up 5 days of the boring old grind. Or perhaps you just plain old have a case of the Mondays. Either way, I've decided to show Monday some love. So every once in a while, on Mondays, I'll share a little love and talk about things that just make me happy :-)

Starting off the list:

Eucalyptus Oil

It is the ONLY thing I have found that actually stops mosquito bites from itching and swelling up to the size of silver dollars. God bless this pungent liquid, but be careful using it near your stings the nostrils. Burns the eyes. The smell also reminds me of one of my favorite drives in California, from San Luis Obispo to Arroyo Grande, through the eucalyptus grove. And while there aren't koala bears running rampant through California, who can resist a picture of a koala??

Homemade Pizza
The boy and I had dinner at his parents house and his stepmom had all the fixins (including handmade dough) to make our own pizzas. They were delicious!

The First Day of Clean Sheets on the Bed

What a lovely bed setup! Wouldn't last a day in our house...
This one of my favorite sensual experiences (and I mean sensual like pertaining to the senses. Not sexy time...gutter minds!). I get so excited over fresh, clean sheets. They are all nice and cool and crisp and not wrinkly, and not covered in dog hair, and pulled super tight on the bed. And if I just took a shower and shaved my legs right before bed...(you can just go ahead and imagine me doing the Homer Simpson glazed eye, gurgly throat noise he makes when he has donuts.) LOVE. THEM.

Yoga in the Park on Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings are not a day that I choose to wake up early. But this summer I have been getting up at 8:15 a.m. to drag my ass downtown to the park, and it has been totally worth it! The weather starts out a little cool and cloudy, and as I'm getting my zen on, the clouds break up and the sun rises over the buildings. It's a truly lovely way to begin the weekend :-)

Mushrooms Part I: For some reason, after a heavy rain, the next day we have a few mushrooms in our front yard that are around 4-5 inches tall. WTF grows that fast?!? And they look like penises. Penii? Whatevs, our yard makes me giggle the day after the rain.

Mushrooms Part II: The beau went grocery shopping a few days ago when I was hanging out with my family. When I came home, I saw 2 containers of mushrooms in the fridge. He doesn't even like mushrooms, but he got them for me because he knows I do. What a sweetiepants <3

Building a Deck and Having All My Body Parts Still Intact

We're really close to being done! And I haven't smashed my hand with a hammer, shot myself with a nail, cut off any digits with the various power saws, or anything else that would require a trip to the hospital! Huzzah! (knocking on wood with all my heart right now to keep from jinxing myself!) Coincidentally, I have used some version of every one of these tools in the past month. Except the flashlight. Who the hell describes a flashlight as a power tool?!? It doesn't count.

What makes your Mondays happy?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Om Nom Nom: Babushka's Kitchen

I like to eat...a lot. I love trying new restaurants, and all different types of food (with the exception of offal meat - can't get past the fact that it's made of organs- and especially tongue. I'll be damned if I taste something that can taste me back.) Now that I've sufficiently queased myself out, I'm going to cleanse my mental palate with memories of the glorious lunch I just had!

So, I went to this place called Babushka's Kitchen, a Polish heritage restaurant. "Babushka" means 'grandmother' in Russian, and this restaurant definitely has some comfort food, that evokes feelings of being at grandma's house. I've driven past it a few times and never stopped in. I didn't have anything going on this afternoon and was kinda just driving aimlessly around and I drove past it again. My tum started grumbling and I realized that it was well past the lunching hour, so I figured, why not? After driving around the block to figure out where the hell the parking lot was, I finally made it inside. Nice, big airy rooms, order at the counter and find yourself a seat. They even have a family room where you can bring a framed photo of your  own babushka and they will add it to the wall. Pretty run-of-the-mill, right? Right. Until the food came and blessed my mouth.

I ordered the Gatherer's Platter, which included a golabki (pronounced go-womp-kee, according to the menu), a potato and cheddar pierogi and a side dish. The golabki was stuffed cabbage with some ground meat, and a magical mix of herbs and spices, covered in tomato gravy, and my side dish was sauerkraut with dumplings. And if you don't know what a pierogi is, we might not be able to be friends anymore... (in case you don't know, it's a dumpling traditionally filled with mashed potatoes and a mix of other ingredients, such as cheese, onions, or ground meat, and often fried or baked in butter and served with sour cream. It's dough with potatoes and cheese. What's not to love about this?!? But now that you know what pierogi are, we can go back to being friends again :-D)

Oh. My. God. The golabki was a perfect balance of savory from the meat filling and sweet from the tomato gravy. The sauerkraut was deliciously tangy with a little sweetness and the dumplings cut through the tang with razor sharp precision. And the pierogi. The glorious, pillowy, mouth-wateringly delectable pierogi. The dough was slightly chewy with a slight crunch from the frying. The potato filling was like Mom's mashed potatoes with small chunks of melty cheddar cheese. And the grilled onions and sour cream were the perfect accompaniment to offset the richness of the potatoes. I could have gotten chunky applesauce instead of sauerkraut for my side dish, which would have been even better with the pierogi. And it was all served with a dinner roll (I could have gotten rye bread, but I was afraid it would overpower the flavors of the rest of the food.)

This meal was so good I ruined my shirt. Of course a little of the gravy from the golabki splattered on my shirt. I mean, whenever saucy tomatoes are involved, it's pretty much a given that it will end up on me. But in addition to the splatter-back, I somehow got the gravy all over my arm and inadvertently rubbed it across my side. In a white shirt. Obviously. But this food was so good, I don't even give a shit about the shirt. I'll hit it with some Shout when I get home. And if that doesn't work, fuck it. It makes me look pregnant anyway. I'm not letting a sauced up white shirt ruin the glory that was the Gatherer's Platter.

Next time I go back, I'm getting the Chicken Paprikash. Or maybe the homemade fresh kielbasa. Oooh, or what about the potato pancakes?? And I'll definitely have to try a dessert, which also looked delicious. Aw hell, I'll just have to come back a few more times to get through everything on the menu...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Deck the Halls

We're building a deck on the back door, so that we can let the dogs out in the backyard instead of the front. We still don't have a fence yet, but hopefully that will be coming in the next month or so. So, back to this deck business. It's a little over 5x7, and we have been working on it for over a month, with Danny's ridiculous work schedule, my ineptitude with tools, and the fact that I WILL NOT work outside near dusk because the mosquitoes eat my ass alive.

It's bee a few hours a day, here and there, just to get the framing and the posts up. There has been a ton of frustration over not having the correct tool, or bolts being stripped, or hitting a screw with the spade bit, or effing up the calculations. But I think we finally got most everything figured out.
Here's were we were a few days ago:
Just a little frame
Lola and Bozz urging us on so they can play in the backyard

 And here's where we are today...There's even more done because the boy was outside with the skeeters (after dark...GASP!!) adding steps.
Ta daaaa! Let there be railing! And posts with covers!

The view from inside. Don't mind that pile of concrete. That will be the patio soon!

Today's work was completely opposite of yesterday. We actually had the correct tools to work with, it wasn't damn monsooning, it was less than the temperature of hell outside and we had more than 2 hours before being eaten to death. We also got the decking for FREE from Danny's brother, which is AWESOME, because that stuff is around 8 bucks per foot. And the spindles in the railing came from the Habitat For Humanity Restore It store, and were the same color and brand as the decking. We got 3 boxes (57 spindles) for $30 total. When we went to Lowes after, the spindles were $3.56 each. Say whaaaaaaaat? What up $173 savings!

When it comes down to it, this project has not been cheap (At least to me. I'm always on the look-out for the sales), but in perspective, it has cost way less than if we a) hired someone to construct it or b) bought all the materials at full price. It will be cool to see how it all turns out :-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just One of Those Days

You ever have one of those days where nothing feels right? If you're sitting, you want to be walking, but when you start walking, you think, "This is just too much effort, and for what?!?"

I had one of those days yesterday. I was crampy and cranky, and wasn't finding any jobs to apply for, and tried to get some things done that didn't go the way I wanted, got a huge bill from my insurance, felt friendless and the weather was grey. So I decided that I could sit and wallow in my shitty day, or get up and do something.

So I did. I went to a kickboxing class (and I thought I was going to die. That old guy leading the class was NO JOKE!) at the park, came home, took the dogs for a run, did a little yoga and meditation. Just laid quietly upstairs and breathed and opened myself up to whatever good is floating around in my life. And afterwards, I felt better. And then 2 friends got in touch with me about getting together. One was last night (drinks at a dive bar with the girls, which was exactly what I needed!), and the other was trying to figure something out for the next week or so.

Today's going to be a good day. Because I said so, dammit! Have a lovely day friends :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Here are my two pups. Lola (my pretty girl) is the brown one on the left and Bozz (my handsome man) is the blond one on the right. They are 65 (each) pounds of pure, unadulterated, crazy ass, wanna-be-lapdog love. Since I'm home most of the day, we hang out. I work on the computer in the kitchen, they wrestle like UFC cage fighters in the living room. Sometimes they lay down next to me in the kitchen and Lola gets distracted by the squirrels she can see through the back door. The squirrels frolic and taunt her and she gets into her pitbull attention stance. It kinda makes me laugh, since I hate squirrels. On the other hand, it's a bit annoying when we go for a walk because she almost rips my arm out of the socket to get to them...usually while Bozz is on the other leash stopping to pee on something. Anything really.

They also shed like it's their job. Which is why I find myself sweeping the entire house every week and collecting enough hair to create my wig shop (you know, if you were in the market for an exceptionally short dog hair wig...). So today I decided it was time to get a little dog grooming on. I took them each outside and brushed them to get rid of as much loose fur as I could. They LOVE this part of the grooming. It's like a doggie massage. Then I took each one into the bathroom. For...A BATH...(cue horror music: dun dun DUUUUUNNNNNN)

This is the not so enjoyable part of the grooming. Lola loves the shower. Whenever Danny or I take a shower, she's got her big old block head right around the shower curtain trying to lick the water or climb in. When it's time for her to have a bath, it's a whole other story. But I got her in and did a whole lot of baby talk ("You're such a good girl, Lola-bear!") so she calmed down. Bozz, on the other hand, doesn't want to have anything to do with the shower, so when I got him in the bathroom and shut the door, the jig was up. Instantly, he was all skittery claws, trying to get away from me in our tiny bathroom. I heaved him in the tub, did a whole lot more baby talk, and got him clean.

Now I have a bathroom covered in water (Lola may or may not have jumped out right when I started spraying her down. And of course they both shook everywhere when I let them out of the tub), two damp dogs intent on rubbing themselves on every surface in the house, and me, covered in dog hair and water.

I love our dogs, but man, I need a shower now!