Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year In Review, 2010

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Went to Japan! It was seriously the highlight of my year-  a great time, with a great friend.  I can't wait to go back. 
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I did okay with my Yearly list, but I want to complete EVERYTHING on this year's list before I turn thirty.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Nope!

 4. Did anyone close to you die?  I am very lucky to be able to say no.

5. What places did you visit?  I visited friends and family in Rhode Island, went to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. I also spent a lot of time driving back and forth to New Jersey.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Last year I said: "A better sense of purpose and direction. Some answers for questions I've been asking myself for a long time. "  and unfortunately, I have to repeat that.  and make it happen this year.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I don't think I have any specific dates burned into my brain, just some good memories throughout the year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?  Beginning my new Cookbook Blog, I think.

9. What was your biggest failure?  Not completing all of my 28 in the 28th list,  sitting at home in my apartment much more frequently than I wanted to.
 10. Did you suffer illness or injury?  let's see.... I fell and jacked up my wrist in Japan,  I burned myself pretty badly in November... I think those are the two major ones.
 11. What was the best thing you bought?  I didn't really make any big purchases this year, but I think the groceries for The Project have been pretty awesome. Oh! My palm Pre is pretty great.
 12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My sister! Her first semester in grad school, and she's a straight A student. Woo, for the Super Smarty!
 13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I try to not get too appalled and depressed at other people's behavior. I can't think of anything right now that I was appalled enough to put on this list. I may come back to it.
14. Where did most of your money go? Rent. Food. Cat expenses. (same as last year!) and some car expenses

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?   Trip to Japan!  Week in Chincoteague, Beginning the Cookbook Project!
 16.  What song do you associate with 2010?  This is hard, because the most recent songs are the ones that have been on the brain recently. (namely the Glee cover of Teenage Dream)  but I also listened to a lot of Edie Carey (like every year) and The Rescues, and The Weepies.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?  Happier
b) thinner or fatter?  Fatter
c) richer or poorer? poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I'd read more. I knocked about eight books out on vacation, but I am not reading as many books as I would like to.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Staying in my apartment when I could be out doing things. there is life outside my apartment!

20. How did you spend Christmas in 2009?  With the family, in New Jersey.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? Nope, not even a little bit.
22. What was your favorite TV program? GLEE.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2010?   I had a wonderful birthday this year- I went to Chincoteague Island, where my mom and aunt and cousin had rented a house, and ate good food, and relaxed. it was winderful

24. What was the best book you read? Hmmmm. I can't think of anything that stood out in a crazy awesome way, but I really liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan

25. What did you want and get?  An awesome Cuisinart Food processor! (also awesome kitchen supplies.

26. What did you want and not get? A fancy camera, and an ipad. I don't think they'll be on the menu this year either, but a girl can dream.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?  Toy Story 3. and Harry Potter. It's a tie!

28. Did you make some new friends this year? I did!

29.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I think a better sense of direction in life would have made it somewhat more excellent and satisfying, but I feel like like i've had a pretty good year.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? haaaaaaaaaaaaa.

31. What kept you sane?  Good friends, Talking to my cousin Kelly on the phone, and emails with my cousin Kate.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Rachel Maddow.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?  The striking down of DADT was an awesome end to a fraught political year. Mostly, I've just been annoyed that Democrats couldn't get more done. 
34. Who did you miss? I think I missed My little cousin Evan the most- He's growing up so fast, and it's hard that I don't get to see him as often as I'd like. It's better now that we can Skype and I can see his cute face on a regular basis.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.  You're the only person who can make YOU happy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snippets from a wonderful Christmas weekend

*Waking up on Christmas morning and having biscuts and white gravy with bacon on the side. As my sister said, it was the Best. White Gravy. Ever.

*The little dog that my sister was dogsitting. so tiny! so cute! So well behaved!

*Getting into helpless giggle fits with Helena on the couch. My cousin Dan's girlfriend can give my sister a run for her money on giggle attacks, and at one point, I was lauging so hard my sides hurt.  Helena, you're my favorite.

*The framed tea towel that my sister gave me that says "when life gives you lemons, make gin and tonics"  Love it! and it's going to look great in my dining room

* How happy my uncle was when he tried the shortbread cookies I made. That, right there, is why I love to bake and cook.  He liked them so much that he ate three of them on Christmas morning!

*Everybody liked the ornaments I made for ornament exchange

*Thinking about all the recipes I'm going to make in my new food processor.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the time with my family, above anything else. I had a great time hanging out with them, and talking, and laughing, and generally having fun.  It was really hard to leave- I had to bail early on Sunday in order to outrun the snowstorm that dumped 16 inches of snow on them, so I missed the second get together with the cousins I didn't see on christmas.  But I hope I'll see them soon, and for now, Skype-ing with my little cousin will have to suffice.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ten things that are making me happy right now.

1 Half a day left of work and then I'm off for four days!

2 Making lemon drops- I can make gummy candy! so neat.

3 All my Christmas shopping done, less one person, who is notoriously hard to shop for.

4. I love when people request I make things that I've made for them- most recently, my dad requesting cheese straws. (yay!) makes me feel good.  Especially since he doesn't usually request things.  (unlike my mom, who requests crunchies at every opportunity :) )

5  I had a really good hair day this week.  (It's not today, but that's okay)

6.  Christmas is coming!

7. An awesome drink that my friend Julie created, which is comprised of Whipped cream flavored vodka, Pumpkin liquor, and sheer wonderful.

8. Learning how to make martinis for the first time, and drinking my first martini. (So good! I have been missing out on a great drink)

9. Glee Tuesday. I really like having this weekly tradition of getting together with friends, watching a fun show, and cooking good things for them.

10. Four day weekend deserves another list item, because I'm SO HAPPY about it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cooking With My Dad - breakfast burritos

Ever since the first time I made breakfast burritos for myself, my dad was interested in them. I had made a bunch to freeze and eat for breakfast. He was trying to figure out how best to use them for the Methodist Men bible study that he has once a month. And by best use them, I mean finagle me to make them for him. 

And then, I have been making breakfast burritos for my sister, and her stressful grad school life.  When she told my Dad that I was making them for her, he called me and said, "hey, when you're home this weekend, you should make some breakfast burritos for me"  And because I'm a good daughter, I did. 


Ingredients:  Onions, cheese, beans, eggs, tortillas, salsa, sausage. (not pictured: butter and milk. I must have forgotten them in the lineup)

Cracked eggs in the bowl before whisking

Sausage Sautéing away

Breakfast burritos pre-rolling
Burritos assembled before rolling.

Burritos are really easy to make- I'm not going to provide a recipe- just put in the stuff you like, roll, and freeze.  

Completed Burritos Ready for Freezin

Then, when you are ready for breakfast, pull one out, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave for two minutes. Ta-da! breakfast on the run.  I make all sorts of versions of these, and they usually average out to less than a dollar a burrito (depending on ingredients) which is much cheaper than getting breakfast out on your way to work. Plus, you know everything that goes in them. 

Chief Dishwasher

Most awesome kitchen assistant ever.  When I made these (and cooked for the whole weekend while I was home), and my Dad did all the dishes that I made. And I will tell you that I created a lot of dishes.  I only wish that he would come down to Baltimore and do my dishes all the time. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Val's guide for keeping your cat off your christmas tree.

Step one:  Set up your Christmas tree. Admire it! oooooh, aaaaaaaah, it is delightful! it is pre lit! it is sitting nicely on your little side table, and makes your apartment look nice and Christmas-y.

Step two: go through your Christmas ornaments, and bypass anything that is breakable. (You will be glad about this later)

Step three: Plug in tree, watch cat eyeing lights with glee.

Step four: Admire your decorated tree.

Step five: spray cat who is gnawing on the branches of the tree with water bottle. Cat runs away.

Step six: spray cat who is gnawing on the branches of the tree with water bottle. Cat runs away.
Step seven: spray cat who is gnawing on the branches of the tree with water bottle. Cat runs away.

Step eight: You are about to leave the house! Yay! there is life outside your apartment! (that, or you are going to work)  Unplug the tree, as you do not want to come home to electrocuted cat.

Step nine: Return home.  Find tree on floor, mangled.  Pick up tree, fluff branches, and put ornaments back on.  Repeat every time you return to the house.

Step ten: spray cat who is gnawing on the branches of the tree with water bottle. Cat runs away.

Repeat until insanity is firmly set in.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sometimes I do stupid things (Cinnamon Challenge Edition)

Many moons ago, I talked my cousin Potter into starting a blog. I had been blogging for awhile, and when he stared his, I was glad, because he's smart and funny, and talked about things that broadened my horizons. (We have very different tastes in music and movies) and when I was talking about doing Holidailies, I was telling him that he should do it, since he hadn't updated his blog in like a year (he corrected me, saying that it was six months).  I then gave him a (slightly adapted) pep talk from 30 Rock:
 Okay, here’s your pep talk. You’re not a blogger. You’re James Potter, all right? So quit whining, and NUT UP. You’re right. If you can’t do this, you ARE a failure.   This conversation was occurring through my cousin Kate (his wife) and she kept saying things like "you should tell him you won't cook him things unless he blogs every day!"  Which in turn, made Potter go into "You Can't Threaten Me Withholding Things, Make Me Something First and Then I'll Blog" mode.  Potter does not like to be threatened. So then I mentioned that I had cooked an entire dinner that he ate, including cocktails and appetizers, and ... lo! he updated his blog! *

So a thing that you may not know is that I am competitive.  I often do not win, but I like things that are a contest, and have a winner, and cheering for someone, and trash talking, and a general spirited competition. It's fun! I especially like the trash talking part. 

Before thanksgiving, Kate and Potter and I were talking about the Cinnamon Challenge, something that like the Saltine challenge, stupid people do. The basic premise of the challenge is that you put a teaspoon or a tablespoon of Cinnamon in your mouth at once, and try to swallow it. Somehow, through the trash talking (I... am pretty sure on Kate's part), there was a throwdown to do the cinnamon challenge.  And Kate "Volentold" Potter to do it to challenge me (not really, he wanted to do it anyway, he's just as competitive as I am). I made the caveat that I would do it, but not on Thanksgiving, because if I was going to do this, I did not want to get sick on Thanksgiving.

And so in the conversation about updating his blog, Potter mentioned that I hadn't done the cinnamon challenge.  So... here you go, Potter: 


* On the night I made dinner, the cocktails were Rum Punch, and I didn't get a chance to use my best threat: "update your blog or I'll Rum-Punch you in the face!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ten things Tuesday: Ten things that are making me happy right now

1) People who find my website by searching "something to make me happy right now"
I get some unusual search strings, and I've gotten some depressing search queries, but the ones that make me happiest are the ones that are people looking for something to make themselves happy. People! make a list of what makes you happy! You may be surprised at how many things are going your way. I know that the hardest lists that I make are when I'm feeling sad, or depressed, but it always makes me feel better to write out the things that are good that I have going on.

2) Top Chef is back!
I may have had some issues with last season (wanting to punch Angelo in the face was one of them) and I wasn't thrilled with Just Desserts, but this All Star Season looks like it's going to be goooooood.  I have my favorites that I'm cheering for, and I hope the ones who I dislike will be dispatched with quickly.  Plus: the challenges in the first episode, especially the elimination challenge, was AWESOME.

3) Glee
The last new episode of the fall before the winter hiatus is tonight, and I am really, really looking forward to it.  I love Christmas Episodes of things (I am also really looking forward to the Community Claymation episode)  and despite that they are singing one of my least favorite Christmas songs, (Baby, It's Cold Outside) I think that the video of the two of them is super cute, and it's awesome that they have two boys singing to each other on primetime tv.

4) Cannoli Donuts
My friends Lisa and Katie were in Rochester for Thanksgiving, and while they were there, they procured a dozen donuts filled with Cannoli insides.  They gave one to me last night, and I feel that it is safe to say, I will never be the same again. it was EPIC.  I want one right now. It is probably a really, really good thing that they are all the way up in Rochester. 

5) I re-arraigned the furniture in my living room, and it is much more cosy.
Initially it started because I wanted to put my Christmas tree up, and just ballooned from there  the result:  Pictures were hung,  (Including a sign that I have been meaning to hang FOREVER) and I am much happier with how my living room looks.

6) My grandmother's coming to visit!
Every year for Christmas, she makes the trek up to New Jersey to spend it with the family, and this year, as part of her trip, she's spending a weekend hanging out with me (and my sister) in Baltimore.  I am so glad she's coming- We're going to cook from the cookbook, hang out, and generally have a good time.

7) All the recipes I've made for the project lately have turned out really well.
And now, just saying that, I'm sure I've jinxed myself.

8) Staged Reading of Steel Magnolias!
My theater company is doing a staged reading of Steel Magnolias in February, as a fundraiser, and I am really excited!  I'm going to be Annelle. I am also glad that my friends are having a viewing party of the movie... because I've never seen it.  I am excited nonetheless (plus, I'm going to make a red velvet armadillo cake for the occasion)

9) My tragic clumsiness turns out to be delicious
So... I was at the farmer's market, and I picked up a container of chevre with cranberries on the bottom, and fumbled, and dropped it on the floor, causing the container to crack. I resigned myself to buying it, and my jaw dropped to the floor when the woman told me that it cost 13 dollars.  (I am not so accustomed to buying thirteen dollars worth of cheese... ever)  but once the cracked part was dispatched with, it is actually REALLY tasty.  I don't know that I would buy it again, but it was definitely a happy accident.

10) Christmas is coming.
This year I'm making edible gifts for most of my family, and I can't wait for them to try them. I will be spending my three day weekend next week putting together the stuff that's going to be in them.  Can't Wait!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holidailies- Hello! I'm Val

I am going to try to push through the awkwardness that is an about me entry, and just hop in.
Hi! I'm Val. 
I am 29 years old, and I live in Baltimore, Maryland.  I love to cook, and am currently cooking my way through the Essential New York Times Cookbook, but that blog is seperate from this one, and you can find it here.  I am a member of the Iron Crow Theater company,  If you're in Baltimroe or the surrounding area (or like to travel!)  We have shows coming up in March and June of this year. I don't act very much (or very well) so I'm mostly behind the scenes, but it's a ton of fun. I like chiling out with my cat, hot chocolate on cold mornings, and listening to (roughly) the same 50 songs over and over again. 
I thought holidailies would be fun, because I'm not diciplined enough to do NaNoWriMo, I feel like I could definitely do this challenge.  Plus, I've never done it before, and I really liked reading the entrie II love my blog! It is awesome.  I feel like some of my real life blogging friends should do this too.   So: TimKatie, Brenda, Katie,.... who am I missing?  You guys should all do Holidailies with me.  Also: I need more friends in real life who blog. Friends: get on it.
Ok! I promise to try to be less boring than this entry would suggest.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nostalgia Tastes Delicious

A question that I've been asked a lot in the last week is "oooooh, what are you making for thanksgiving?"  I think most people are asking because I am doing The Project, and since there are a lot of thanksgiving-y recipes (they even have a whole list of them on their facebook page!)  they think I'll be cooking up a storm.  But alas, I am not. And I'm perfectly fine with that. 
If I lived closer to home, I would be helping my mom (and I'll do what I can once I get home to help) but I wouldn't be cooking my own stuff.  Because in my family, Thanksgiving is not about new recipes.  It's been the same dinner, almost exactly, for the last ten years. Ten years ago was the addition of Corn Pudding, which my mom got from a high school friend of mine's mother. Before that, though I imagine that it had been unchanged for a decade as well.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, regular bread stuffing, rice stuffing, sweet potatoes (mashed), green bean casserole, cauliflower with white sauce, creamed onions, gravy, turnips, corn pudding, pickle and olive tray, cranberry sauce and rolls.  Plus a slew of pies for dessert (in case you were wondering, a slew is the technical term for a lot of pies).
It's my favorite holiday for two reasons: the food, and my family. As far as the food goes, If I had to choose a last meal, it would be Thanksgiving dinner.  I love the fall flavors, the turkey, the sweet-tartness of the cranberry sauce against the savory mashed potatoes and gravy, the mellow buttery corn pudding, and the herbed breadiness of the stuffing. 
I have a great family and we are really close- we get together a bunch of times a year, and we vacation together too.  But this is one of those events that everyone is present (well, mostly, depending on the year- this year we have everyone!) , and there is lots of laughter, and joking, and silence at the dinner table until everyone has devoured their first plateful of food.
This year, I'm thankful for my family, my sister moving to Baltimore, my awesome friends, for a fun project to work on, and my bitey cat, who is right now, hissing at the furniture in my parents' house. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things I Need to Do Before I Leave Baltimore for Thanksgiving

Yes, I know I could have done this on a piece of paper, but I think having it out in the universe to hold me a little bit more accountable.

Clean My Apartment- it is kind of a mess right now, and I want to have it nice and clean and organized so that when I come back the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I can just relax.  Also part of clean my apartment but deserves a bullet:

Clean out my fridge. Seriously. It's gross in there.

Figure out what Project Recipes I'm cooking this weekend.  and cook them. (or bake them)  Right now it's looking like butternut squash cider soup, overnight madelines, baked mushrooms, Rice, maybe chocolate chip cookies? If any of you have suggestions, I'm open to them.

Make three batches of crunchies to take home to the Jerz. (if I do not do this I... fear for the reaction of several of my cousins)

Go to target and pick up the odds and ends I need.

Call the apartment complex and get them to replace the light bulb in my light fixtures It's been out for awhile, but sheer laziness has been preventing me from calling and just having them do it already.

Clean out my car

Update my ipod with most recent podcasts.  I am leaving at five in the morning and am willing to bet my sister will be sleeping for the majority of the trip up there. So, podcasts galore!

Get Earl's stuff ready. 

It looks like I've got my work cut out for me, I'll check back on Wednesday with a status update.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

29/29th #4

4) Enter a cooking contest. (a real one. not one at work. With real judges and everything) 

Done!  I entered the cookie contest that the Baltimore Sun is having.

Thanks to Julie to alerting me to the contest!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ten things that are making me happy right now

1) My new project is trucking along! 1,097 more recipes to go!
2) Thanksgiving countdown has begun. Sixteen Days!
3) Averted near panic today when I thought I was scheduled to work the saturday after Thanksgiving. That would have sucked mightily.
4) Hanging out with my sister and Lauren this weekend - Holy Frijoles for drinks and Rocket to Venus for drinks! (Rocket to Venus is my new favorite place. Try the deep fried pickles. And the Bahn Mi)
5) Sunday Night Dinner with Jackie on Monday
6) Having Wednesday off this week (awesome)
7)  Planning out the things I'm going to make for The Project while I'm at home.
8) Earl the cat surviving a second story jump off of my apartment balcony, completely unharmed.
9) The Weepies Concert is coming up!
10) 11 days until Harry Potter!

Monday, November 1, 2010


So I don't imagine that I have a whole lot of readers that don't overlap with those who A) follow me on twitter, or B) are friends with me on Facebook,  but for those golden few (and those who didn't see the announcment yesterday because they were being awesome and halloweening)  I wanted to tell you about my new project.

I am going to cook all the recipes in The Essential New York Times Cookbook.  (and blog about it!)

I'm not setting a timeline (I think it'll probably take me about three years) because the book has over 1,000 recipes. I'm really excited about the whole project!

So head on over and check it out!

Val cooks the NYT

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honeycomb/Crunchies Revisted

I wrote about crunchies (honeycomb, hokey pokey, whatever you call it) last week.  For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to perfect the recipe. I've made it and it was very close to the ideal,  I've made it and it has melted on my kitchen counter, I've made it and it was burnt (which my friend Julie referred to as "toasted" and thought it was just dandy, but I knew wasn't quite right)  I've had the bubbles be so big it caused the crunchies to shatter when I got near them  to cover with chocolate, but I am here to tell you, I've cracked the code. 

And it is delicious. 

Homemade crunchies
Completed crunchies

Naked crunchies

More gratuitous crunchie shots

Ingredients for crunchies
What's in them

Val's crunchie recipe

Fairly large saucepan
foil or parchment paper
candy thermometer

Software: See above
3/4 cup of Sugar
3 tbs Golden Syrup
1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
Chocolate chips  (milk chocolate is classic, semi-sweet is good, but makes a VERY rich sweet)

First, lay the foil/ parchment paper on a heatproof surface. Mix the syrup and the sugar with a fork in the saucepan. Turn the burner on to medium high heat, and cook the sugar until reaches 300 degrees. Do NOT STIR. Swirl the pot around if you feel like you need to mix it, but do not stir.  Unless you are really good at determining what 300 degrees is, (if you frequently make candy) Use a candy thermometer to check when the sugar mix is ready. When reaches temp, turn off the heat, put in the baking soda, and stir like crazy until soda is incorporated. Working as fast as you can (the sugar will be doubling or tripling in size, pour out onto your parchment paper or foil.  Now walk away from it for 20 minutes.   You can take this time to melt your chocolate, either in a double boiler, or in the microwave. 
once the honeycomb is cool,  break apart, and dip in chocolate to cover.  Return to foil, and stick into the fridge to set the chocolate for at least 10 minutes. 


*are you noticing my pictures are more awesome than usual? yes? they are.  I took all of these using my Dad's awesome Canon Rebel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


TEN THINGS THAT ARE MAKING ME HAPPY RIGHT NOW (caps lock makes it happier)

1. The McRib is coming back to McDonalds. Don't judge me. I love that barbeque sauce covered meat flavored hockey puck.  Can't wait to get one!
2. Glee Tuesday: Rocky Horror Edition!
3. Roasting a chicken this weekend, and making chicken stew with dumplings for dinner tonight. Comfort food, like woah.
4. Making my own homemade crunchies. I know I've posted about them before, and I've made them a bunch of times, but the novelty does not wear off. they are awesome. and tasty. and covered in ghiradelli milk chocolate.  I'm making some tonight for Glee tuesday, and then I'm bringing my show on the road to make them at home for my family there.
5. Deaching my friend Bianca to crochet tomorrow! I love teaching people to crochet. plus, I'll be able to get in the groove, and start working on some projects soon. (like the blanket I've been putting off working on for... six months.
6. Going home to the Jerz this weekend!
7. Iron Crow's new show is opening soon! Go get your tickets for Apartment 213! (p.s. it's going to be scary. Consider yourself warned)
8. Planning Christmas gift baskets full of deliciousness.
9. Less than a month until Harry Potter.
10. Hyperbole and a Half.

What is making you happy right now?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reasons I love the fall

As some people in my life will tell you, I love trees. I love them painted on things, I love them when the change colors, I love them when they are snow covered.  So I carved one into a pumpkin. This is not the first time I have carved a tree into a pumpkin, but I think it is the most successful one.  It's for a pumpkin decorating contest at work. 

I also decorated the back side with an owl. No particular reason. I just like owls..  And they are halloween-y. Although mine is a little cartoony and not scary.

And then there are wonderful things to bake, such as these:
They are a riff on a recipe from 101 cookbooks,  Butternut Squash Feta Muffins.  I swapped in some rosemary, and added some extra spinach, they are healthy, and delicious.  They smell amazing when they are baking, and they taste like fall.  Just perfect for the nip in the air (or, since it got down to 30 last night, a little more than a nip)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flashback to September! Wine Dinner

So back when I was doing my 28 in the 28th, I had 'have a multiple course dinner paired with wines'.  And back on the season premiere night of Glee, I made this dinner.  I found my camera cord (woo!)  So here is what we drank, and what I made.

Sparkling Chardonnay! I love sparkling white wines, and this one was really good. It was a good combo with the first course:

First course: Parmesan crisps two ways: cracked black pepper and smoked paprika  with melon wrapped prosciutto and balsamic vinegar reduction. 

With the second course, we had Portuguese Vinho De Mesa Branco, which was light, and nicely dry, and went excellently with the risotto. 

The risotto was one of one of the best I've made so far (... if I do say so myself, heh)  it was roasted butternut squash risotto with chicken apple sausage and rosemary, and had plenty of cheesy creamy goodness. This time of year, I'm obsessed with butternut squash. I like it even better than pumpkin in savory dishes, it's just slightly sweet, and when it is roasted, the salty, carmelized squash is heavenly. 

With dessert, we had this Cabernet Sauvignion which I will admit, I don't remember much about. I had had... quite a bit of wine by this point. It was red, and it was good!

And for dessert, it was a sugary bomb of delicousness. Baked apples, with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. YUM. 

All in all, I think that it was a pretty successful dinner. Thanks to Julie for picking out the wines so awesomely, and for Paul, for coming over and eating it all. Glee Tuesdays for the win! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making My Own Honeycomb

One of my favorite candies is the Crunchie. You can only get it in the UK and Europe (and some specialty stores here) so I usually only get them when I am traveling, or when Irish relatives come to visit here.  But recently, I've seen recipes for Honeycomb, which is what the inside of a Crunchie is. One was in Oprah Magazine, and then I watched an episode of Nigella where she made it.  It was obviously fate.  The recipes, they were calling to me. They were saying "Val... you must make our sugary goodness!" 

So made sugary goodness I did. 

It is only three ingredients. Sugar, Golden syrup, and baking soda.  You cook the sugar and syrup in the pot, and then once it gets to the right point, you cut the heat, and whisk in the baking soda like crazy. It gets huge, and you pour it out onto a parchement lined baking sheet. 

And it looks like this! 

Then you wait the longest fifteen minutes of your life, until it cools, so you can break it apart. 

And then you eat! 

I dipped some of them in dark chocolate, and some of them in milk, and left some of them plain. 

Now I don't have to wait for the Irish to come! 

Monday, October 11, 2010


1) Shortbread cookies, with the tops dipped in chocolate
also they are in acorn shapes, and i dipped the top part in chocolate so it looks like the little acorn hat, and it's very Martha and cute and I am kind of proud of how cute they look.  And they taste pretty good, but not as good as the ones at Panera.
2) Coffee.
I realize that coffee makes me happy on a lot of these lists, but it isn't ever any less true. Coffee. Is. Awesome.
3) Planning all of the things I am going to cook this week:
Right now on the list: Navy bean soup,  Honeycomb,  and penne alla vodka for Glee Tuesday
4) Although it is hot today, Fall weather is coming.
I already have my sweaters out for this week. GET COLDER.
5)  I like my new hair color (added bonus: no more terrible roots!)
6) I am thinking up ideas for the baking contest at work (this does not count for my 29/29th list) 
There are two categories: best theme (Halloween) and best tasting. Last year I did the white cupcakes, filled with raspberry jam, and they looked like mummies on the outside for the best theme category, and for best tasting, I did my banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting center, and chocolate ganache on top. (for best tasting)  I also piped on things that are scary: "the dentist"  "the IRS"  "spiders" .
7) Today is National Coming Out Day!  Happy day!
8) Am making positive, forward moving choices.
I think for a long time I've been stuck in a rut, and I am now beginning to get out of it.  Sometimes the first thing to do is the hardest, and once you do it, it makes everything more manageable.  So woo!
9) Glee Tuesday tomorrow!
10) Am going to re-arrange my bedroom tonight. I am feeling the need for change.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Birthday at the Beach

Portrait of the birthday girl on her 29th birthday

So my original plan for my birthday this year, was to be hanging out with my cousins Kelly and Eric, and their awesome kid Evan, but they couldn't come down to Baltimore, and have re-scheduled their trip for November (which is going to be awesome)  So I was somewhat at a loose end, trying to figure out something to do for my birthday, when my mom suggested that I come down to Chincoteague, because she, my Auntie Ange, and cousin Pauline had rented a house for the weekend.  Far be it for me to turn down a weekend at the beach, (one of the best beaches ever)  So I packed my things and drove down to the beach on Saturday morning, making the best time I've ever made- I was there in less than three hours!


So I got to the house, which was right on main street. put down my stuff, and just relaxed- I think it happens somewhere around Salisbury, on my way down to Chinc, I begin to  get happy  and then once I'm over the bridge, and onto the Island, it's just... peaceful.   We hung out for a while at the house, and then packed up and when to the beach- which was a little windy, but nice.  I re-read the end of Mockingjay, because I read it really fast the first time, and drank tea on the beach (which is a very my mom thing to do)  and read, and dozed  a little, and then, because I am somewhat crazy, went into the ocean with my Auntie Ange.  the water wasn't that cold, actually, but it was really rough, so we were just in for a couple of minutes.  I was about 2 seconds from getting OWNED by a wave as I was getting out of the water, but managed to stay upright and get out of the water relatively unscathed.  Auntie Ange was not so lucky- she took a little tumble and ended up with sand... all over. heh
We went back to the house and changed, and went for a walk downtown, where I managed to procure two blue Ball Jars, which are amazing!  I love ball jars, and any kind of canning jars, really- I love the way the look- they are all my drinking and juice glasses, they are my favorite system for storing leftovers, and keeping excess dry goods in.  I really like the way that candy looks in a ball jar,  or a bunch of nails and screws, or buttons.  So. Anyway. the blue ones are pretty rare, and I snagged two of them for three bucks.  If i can remember, I'll take a picture of them with my phone to put on here.  We hit the bookstore, where I got one of my favorite Babysitter's club books (I sadly, and stupidly, donated all of my BSC collection to the library when I was about 18)  and have slowly been re-collecting my favorites.  (oddly, most of my favorites are Claudia centric. I think I liked her arty style. And her junk food hidden in her room)

 We got back from our walk, hungry, and had guacamole that I made (see bottom of post for recipe)-  Guacamole is one of those things that just speaks "chincoteague"  to me-  I've made it tons of times, Year after year in Chincoteague- whenever I make it and it's not there, it just doesn't seem quite right. So we had the guac, with my aunt's nachos, and the enchiladas that my mom made.  It was quite an excellent birthday dinner,  and was topped off with some Irish Candy that Pauline brought.
Then on Sunday, we woke up and it was raining, and gross, so we bumbled around the house, and watched a lot of Say Yes to the Dress, which I may or may not have developed a bit of an addiction to. (don't judge. it's good) 
We hit a couple of stores, and then went to one of my favorite places on the Island: Woody's Beach BBQ

Auntie ange  at woody's

I love this place because it's great bbq, and it's fun.  Even though it was cold and rainy out, It was still delicious.

Mom and Pauline ordering
I got the pulled pork sandwich with the onion ring on it, and coleslaw and a side of fries. mmmmm. I wish I could be eating that right now.
And then I had banana pudding with Nilla wafers in it, and all was right with the world.

I had a really good time at the beach- It has been one of my best birthdays- relaxed, and fun.  I think it is really a great thing that as I get older, I really have realized that I have a great family- that I enjoy as people, and friends, besides the fact that fate has thrown us together. My mom and Auntie Ange and Pauline are hilarious, and awesome.

Guac Recipe (shamelessly stolen from the ingredients inside a Trader joe's Guac Kit)
Two avocados (make sure they are ripe)
two plum tomatoes seeded and diced
one small onion diced fine
two cloves of garlic diced fine
one jalapeno (seeded and diced fine- if you like things spicier, leave the seeds and ribs in- I prefer my guac to have just a little bite)
1/2 a lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions: in a medium sized bowl, put diced onion, Garlic, and jalapeno and mix with a fork.  ad avocado and mash in with fork, but leaving some chunks- you don't want the avocado to be totally smooth.  mix in the tomatoes, lime juice, and stir.
Eat with chips.
(this recipe can be very easily doubled or tripled. I would suggest if you have any more than four people eating it, you make a double batch. otherwise people get a little sad at you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

29/29th # 21

21) Set one weekly excersise goal every week and then meet it. (even if it's small: i.e. 3 days of wii fit a week, two long walks around the ten hills neighborhood,  walking up the giant hill in front of my house)

So I'm reviving the Val Gets Fit blog, where I will blog about various fitness things.  If you feel so inclined, go ahead and read it, but be advised: it will be me talking about excersise, and possibly eating healthier. Read at your own risk of boredom.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

29 in the 29th

Okay.  So I have been thinking a lot, and I think next year, I'm going to transition into a Mighty Life List, as opposed to yearly lists, in an effort to think a little bit longer term about where I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  But I couldn't resist coming up with one last yearly list, because this is the big one. The last year before I'm thirty. The last year of my mid to late twenties. Oh, all right, my late twenties. I have purposely made this list a lot more accessible, I want to complete EVERYTHING on it this year.

1) Go see a taping of Wait Wait Don't tell me. 

2) Take advantage of a Southwest sale and go somewhere with Julie that we've both never been.

3) Redesign my website. Buy a domain name and move the blog there.

4) Enter a cooking contest. (a real one. not one at work. With real judges and everything) 

5) Buy a video camera and make and edit more videos (even if it's just a flipcam)

6) Update my blog at least once a week

7) Plan fun things to do to show Jackie Baltimore, now that she is living here.

8) Go to a resturant for resturant week.

9) Go tubing down the river (I don't know which river. Any river. Preferably with Paul, who suggested this list item)

10) Take more pictures, post more pictures

11) Taste 20 types of beer.

12) Continue my tradition of Top Chef Wednesdays and Glee Tuesdays.

13) Donate money to causes I believe in.

14) Go to NYC for a weekend

15) Go somewhere where there is not much ambient light, and look at the stars.

16) Learn how to identify more constellations than just Orion.

17) Master bread baking (this guy is also going to be baking bread this year, and I want to bake some with him!)

18) Help somone else complete a List item on their list that isn't on my list.

19)  Go on a picnic.

20)  Figure out what I'm doing with my life professionally.

21) Set one weekly excersise goal every week and then meet it. (even if it's small: i.e. 3 days of wii fit a week, two long walks around the ten hills neighborhood,  walking up the giant hill in front of my house)

22) Move to a new apartment when my lease is up, with the following requirements: decent size kitchen. hardwood floors, fun area of Baltimore. (optional but would be nice: washer/dryer combo)

23) Go to one of the City Year Events in DCn (or philly, or NYC, or RI- Just do one event with them)

24) Decorate a cake with fondant.

25)  Learn how to can things.  Seriously. Making this happen. For real this time.

26)  Go to see a drive in movie.

27) Do one social activity that is outside my comfort zone per month

28) Go down to Florida to visit G; make it home to visit my Grandad more often.

29) Go to some kind of food festival. Whether it is barbeuce, or Garlic, or a Pickle festival.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ten things Tuesday!

1) It is GLEE Tuesday! Pumpkin chili is made (though it is spicy, for real- I'm glad I bought sour cream). It is now resting in my fridge, waiting for Julie to come over and eat it up.

2) I am knocking off what I think will probably be the last of the 28 in the 28th list that I'll get done this year- Watching Amelie with Julie before GLEE

3)  Had a great weekend with Kate and Potter and Jack! There was some good and tasty food made, There was lots of Community watched, and there was quite a bit had to drink. It was great.

4)  My car is fixed!  I had been driving around with my car being loud for.... awhile, and I think I just kind of kept thinking that it wasn't that bad, and then it also developed a rattle. So I brought it into the shop, and they fixed it, And now it's a completely different car. So awesome. I hadn't realized how terrible it was- now that it is fixed, I feel so much better.  Which leads to my next ten thing:

5) Found a great mechanic down the road from me!  Friends of mine have a mechanic, Mike Tyre, who is really good, but is all the way up in Timonium, which is a 35 minute drive for me. I looked up mechanics on the Car Talk website, and they had good ratings for the one down the street from me, and the guys treated me really well, and fixed my car super fast.  It was great!  The guys really remind me of the mechanics at home, at Dom's Getty and Paul's.  Sense of humor, give good advice, and are honest.

6) Good new music!  Go check out Florence and the Machine. Do it.

7)  I had time to read! And I read!  Kate lent me Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and after they left on Sunday, I read straight through from 3 until 11, pausing only for dinner and a leftover brownie. it was great- both books, and if you're in the market for something good and engaging to read, I really recommend all of the books in the Hunger Games Trilogy.  (I would advise having Mockingjay when you read Catching Fire, because you are going to want to start it right away.) I think I am going to spend some time this weekend re-reading them, because i was reading so fast to find out what happened, I may have missed things.

8) Finalizing my 29/29th list!  This is the last one for my 20's, so I want to make sure it is awesome. I also want to accomplish everything on the list this year, so I am going to make it more manageable.

9) Good things are just happening in general.  The fog and funk that I've been in lately seem to have lifted, somewhat.

10) I have an awesome family.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Family Weekend!

So I am still without my camera cord, (and also I didn't take any pictures this weekend) but I'm just going to write about what I cooked this weekend, when my cousins Kate and Potter were visiting, and my sister was hanging out too. The purpose of the weekend was to watch copious hours of the TV show Community, which just came out on DVD, and we all love. (Well, Kate and Potter and I loved it. Jackie hadn't watched it at all. But that would all change....)  So I made a weekend's worth of College- themed things.  (well, and also tasty things- i don't know if corn chowder and pumpkin pancakes are college themed)

Dinner on Friday Night: (pizza and beer night!)
Roasted butternut squash and chicken apple sausage Pizza.  with mozzarella, tomatoes, and chopped rosemary.  After it was out of the oven, I drizzled it with some balsamic vinegar reduction.

I also made garlic cheesy bread, in the style like you would get from a Papa John's or Domino's,   We washed that down with the beer that Kate and Potter brought.

Saturday Morning:
Pumpkin Pancakes!  These were dense and moist pancakes that were pretty good- with lots of nutmeg and cinnamon.  (Woo, Fall flavors!)

Saturday Lunch: Corn chowder
My standard corn chowder recipe, this time supplemented with the Prosciutto that I had left over from Glee Tuesday, for some extra porky goodness.

Saturday Dinner: 
Sweet potato oven fries- which, got a little on the mush side, but were still very tasty.
Panko and Parmesan chicken fingers, with a variety of dipping sauces- curry ketchup,  Siracha, honey mustard, homemade barbecue sauce,  and regular ketchup.
Spinach- you know, for being nominally healthy and to cut the protein and carbs that were entering our system.

This was washed down with PAN, an invention of Kate and Potter's college friends, which includes mixing vodka with lemons and sugar, and letting it sit in a pan for a while with ice.  mmmmmm, college-y.

Saturday Dessert:
Salted Caramel Brownies with ice cream and Salted Caramel Sauce.  I made brownies, and there was a layer of salted caramel sauce in the center.   Right before serving, I heated them up, put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and poured some hot caramel sauce over the whole thing.  It was the most delicious sugar bomb ever.

Sunday breakfast:
Scrambled eggs with parmesan cheese,  and potato hash.  salty potatoes,  creamy cheesy eggs,  some siracha on top. I could have that breakfast every morning.

After that, we headed down to the Baltimore Book Festival, and meandered around for awhile. When we came back to my apartment, Kate and Potter peaced out to drive home, and  Jack left too, with the vegetarian chilli I made for her for Sunday dinner, and the breakfast burritos that I had frozen for her.

It was an awesome weekend! I can't wait until they all come back again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Find your spot

So there's this website called find your spot that you plug in a ton of different variables for places you could live, and they spit out your top areas to live.  My friend Katie did it on her blog, so I'm copycatting and doing mine.

Not a huge suprise, seeing as I love the Northeast, and I've already lived in Rhode Island, but it obviously knows me a little, seeing as it didn't pick anyplace dumb for me to live. (like it picked for Katie to live in Utah. On purpose)

Meanwhile, I have three posts on deck, but I can't find my dag camera cord! this is annoying. Hopefully i'll find it soon and be able to get those up.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Awesome Cobbler of awesomeness.


There is a new favorite dessert in my life. It's The Pioneer Woman's Cobbler, and I can't stop making it. My friend Bryan first brought it into my life when he came over to my house for pizza and wii night, and it was so good, and simple. After he made it,  Tim came over for Lilith fair, and we made it as part of our dinner of awesomeness (also included: roast chicken, and sangria and potatoes) I have made this cobbler a bunch of times since then. I've made it with just blackberries, I've made it with blackberries and raspberries, I've made it with peaches, and I've made it with peaches and blackberries, and it has been awesome every time.

But that's not the best part of this dessert:  the best part of this dessert is how stupidly simple it is. It is crazy easy. (as do most things with five ingredients)  Five. Ingredients.  Even if you add some ice cream on top, that's still the easiest dessert I make.  Everyone I've made it for has really liked it, and I can't wait to make it some more. This dessert will probably make an appearance in the cooking I'm doing for my family when they visit over the next two weeks

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Coconut Pudding

I had not planned anything for dessert last Sunday night, and when Jackie and I were finished with our soup, we both kind of wanted something sweet. I didn't have time to bake cookies, or do anything intense- We were going to work the box office for Hedwig and the Angry Inch that night.  So I rummaged around in my cabinets, and found a box of Trader Joe's Instant Vanilla Pudding, a can of light coconut milk, and some dark chocolate.

I have made the coconut pudding before, in Chincoteague,  where I served it with toasted coconut (OMG DELICIOUS)  but it is also good in this version, with some chopped dark chocolate sprinkled on top.  It is also good with banana. The best thing about this recipe? I almost always have all the ingredients for it- these are all staple items for me.

I've also made this recipe swapping out all of the milk for coconut milk- and I find it doesn't set up as well.

Coconut Pudding

1pkg trader Joe's Instant Vanilla Pudding
1 cup milk
1 cup light coconut milk

some chopped dark chocolate, banana, or toasted coconut for garnish.

Directions: make pudding according to directions in package. After it has the rest in the fridge for five minutes, stir, and pour into individual containers.  garnish, and serve.  (Try not to eat all of them in one sitting)