Weekend of Food

We had a lovely weekend of stuffing our faces at various locations.

Saturday morning I took the girls to Starbucks for breakfast. I always give Elena the choice of bagels, Starbucks, or ACTUAL PANCAKES AT A RESTAURANT and she inevitably chooses Starbucks, which is not particularly exciting for me since there’s a Starbucks in my building at work. Oh well, at least I know what to order.

Breakfast at Starbucks for a change

Breakfast at Starbucks for a change

After Starbucks, we went to the community center and played with the toys there, which have the benefit of not being the toys that are also at our house. I felt like I spent the majority of the time there trying to get Zoe to take a damn nap already, so I didn’t feel like cooking afterward and we just went to Noodles for lunch. Also not a huge novelty, but whatever, at least Elena eats broccoli that I don’t have to prepare and pretend to enjoy.

Lunch at Noodles for a change

Lunch at Noodles for a change

THEN Mollie and Mara came over to make PINK CUPCAKES THAT ARE PINK.

this will certainly go well

this will certainly go well

haute cuisine for a four year old girl

haute cuisine for a four year old girl

Saturday evening, Ben and I had our date at cure.

cure

cure

Cure has a local menu that changes with the seasons. My list of “restaurants I want to try” is fairly long, but Cure had recently made it up to the top, so off we went.

menu

menu

my dining companion

my dining companion

I just love this new trend of fancy cocktails. This is a vodka-based cocktail that had a bit of a peachy flavor, and I don’t remember what all was in it but it was very smooth and lovely.

vodka cocktail

vodka cocktail

We ordered the salumi and chorizo to start, and both were interesting to look at and try. It wasn’t anything completely weird – rather it was things we were somewhat familiar with, prepared in an interesting way. This was the sort of thing I imagined we’d be served here. My favorite was a cured meat with a lavender flavor. So interesting.

salumi

salumi

chorizo

chorizo

We ate everything.

despite all appearances, we do eat regularly

despite all appearances, we do eat regularly

I ordered the bronzino, which I sort of vaguely remembered having heard of. It was fish!

bronzino

bronzino

Ben got gnocchi. It was very bacony.

gnocchi

gnocchi

We decided to skip the dessert afterward. Are we feeling ok? But Ben really wanted a coffee, so we got him a coffee.

coffee afterward

coffee afterward

Sunday morning, Elena offered to feed Zoe, and I said sure, why not, what could possibly go wrong. Generally it went well, except for the whole “baby now needs a bath” thing.

Elena's new job (as long as the food does not smell bad)

Elena’s new job (as long as the food does not smell bad)


(For those of you keeping score at home, yes I’m aware that there’s a recall on these things and they shouldn’t be left on counters with children in them unattended. I would also point out that I was taking this picture at the time and therefore not leaving my child unattended. Please do not call Child Protective Services. And/or, you can buy us a highchair if you want.)

We went to the Science Center, where the lunch was generally overpriced and unremarkable, save my fruit selection.

"red" grapes

“red” grapes

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Lunch

I’ve posted about how much I like Bluebird Kitchen before. It’s a cute little cafe in Market Square that has yummy local food. Their macaron flavors make me want to punch someone in the throat they’re so awesome. They’re a little on the pricy side, and I’m happy to pay more money for good food (see: my bank account, our grocery receipts). Unfortunately, what with the cold weather and trying to maintain an exercise regime and nursing, I basically eat my face off every day these days. Today I just kept ordering things.

lunch

lunch

I ended up with the pain bagnat, chickpea salad, blueberry iced tea and a peppermint macaron (BAM). My favorite sandwich there is the chicken salad croissant, which has approximately 4,500 calories in it (EVERY SINGLE ONE IS WORTH IT), but I needed more food today, so I went this route.

Everything has been consumed. Yum.

Cooking

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a little time to do some cooking during my maternity leave*. I wanted to try and re-try a few new make-ahead recipes in particular since once I go back to work it will be beneficial to have a few things to make ahead of time. Here are a few of the things I’ve tried.

Elizabeth made sweet potato, apple and carrot kugel for us last year when we were on a gluten-free diet (you have to scroll down to the gluten free one). It was really good. This was the second time I made it. There are very specific instructions about how to get it to be crispy that I have not been able to replicate yet. I’ll keep trying. It’s still good. The first time I made it I didn’t cook it long enough. This time I cooked it long enough at least.

French onion soup is actually fairly ridiculously easy to make. You just need a chunk of time to let it cook, but basically the only thing you have to do preparation wise is slicing the onions.

This sweet potato hash with sausage and eggs was probably my favorite of everything I tried, fairly easy to accomplish and super-conducive to being made ahead. I made it for brinner with homemade pancakes. Ben found it to be very filling. We tried it both with and without the eggs. Like the French onion soup, it involves carmelizing onions, which I seem to be acquiring a taste for.

The crustless mini-quiches were less of a success in my opinion (although Ben said he liked them a lot – but Ben likes most things a lot). We didn’t have a mini cupcake tin, maybe that made a difference. Or alternately I prefer my quiche (which admittedly I don’t eat very often and have never made) with, rather than without, crust. The flavors were good here, but the end product ended up being a bit on the soggy side. Also the prep time was on the high side.

I made chocolate pie** for Erin’s pie party. This is a recipe I got from my friend Laura, who lives an awesome and fantastic life that included a few years in Pittsburgh, where I met her and learned about her pie. Which, since Laura is from North Carolina, is pronounced PIAH. It’s super easy (even though I was sleep deprived when I made it and forgot the eggs the first time around). I wish we could eat chocolate PIAH for dinner once I go back to work.

I tried this pumpkin steel cut oatmeal in the crock pot and it got burned. So now our crock pot has a pumpkin steel cut oatmeal crust at the bottom.

We’ve done this parmesan dijon chicken before, and I made it in nugget form last night to trick Elena into eating it. It didn’t really work that well but I’ll try again. I don’t really understand how she can tell the difference between freezer nuggets and homemade nuggets what with all the ketchup. In any event, WE liked it and it’s also very easy.

So overall my experimentations were successful, in that they were generally edible and tasty, but I’m not sure that I’ve added many new recipes to our standard list. I’ve also done easier and more basic make-ahead recipes like mac and cheese with broccoli, and vegetable soup, during my leave, and I suspect I’ll be working with those recipes a little more than some of these new ones.

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*It should be noted that today is not one of those days since it’s taken me approximately two hours to write this post. I’ve already asked Elena to ask Ben to get Chipotle for dinner.

**Recipe: melt one stick butter and 1 square unsweetened baker’s chocolate together; mix 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, dash of sale and 1 tsp vanilla in a bowl; add melted mixture to bowl and mix together; pour into unbaked pie crust; bake at 350 for about 30 minutes

Vacation Food!

I wanted to do a separate post about all the food we ate while we were on vacation because it was generally pretty awesome.

The first day we ate at the hotel. Breakfast buffets are nice, but not exactly the best thing for a picky 3-year-old. For the rest of the trip, we went to a place across the street (a local chain) called Duck Donuts. They make their donuts fresh and put the toppings on for you per your request. They were REALLY GOOD. Warm, fresh donuts for breakfast every day? Yes please!

I have no pictures of the donuts for obvious, hunger-related reasons.

Two days we ate lunch at another place across the street (why drive far?) called Pizza Stop.

Pizza Stop

Pizza Stop

Their pizza was just divine.

The first night there, on a recommendation from a friend we went to the Black Pelican. Now, here’s a thing about me. I love crab. I lived in Maryland for a few years, which, I mean, everyone lives in the DC area for a few years but I was lucky enough to hook up with two native Marylanders who invited me to family crab bakes and OMG WHY DID I MOVE. I love crab so much. Usually I don’t get it at restaurants though because they can NEVER SUPPLY ME WITH ENOUGH CRAB. But I decided, what the heck, I’ll get me some crab legs here. They did not disappoint. But why would they.

Crab legs

Crab legs

Notice that they came with butter, which I find unnecessary. You can’t taste the crab as much if you dip it in butter.

Ben decided to get an appetizer called “tuna bites” which sounds like it could be something sketchy that you found in the back of your freezer, but ended up being an interesting and spicy dish. He also got some meat-based meal I can’t remember and he liked it. I think Elena just got chicken and fries. But at least she was exposed to seafood at her table? I don’t know. We didn’t try too hard to expand her food horizons on this trip.

Tuna bites

Tuna bites

Chipface

Chipface

Tuesday we went to The Good Life for dinner. I didn’t take any pictures here either, but the food was really lovely. I had a chicken curry salad sandwich, Elena had macaroni & cheese, and Ben had some sort of meat-based sandwich. Since we were eating out every meal was nice to find an alternative where we weren’t getting piles and piles of food.

Wednesday we drove through Duck, NC in the afternoon and decided to come back for dinner. We had no specific plans for dinner and I happened to notice the Red Sky Cafe and decided we should give it a try. It was one of those small places that as soon as you go in you’re like, ooh, we’re IN THE KNOW because we chose to eat at this place. It was so small, in fact, that you had to go out the door and across the walkway to use the bathroom.

I actually paid attention to the meat-based meal that Ben got this night – it was ribs.

Ribs

Ribs

Elena got pasta. She likes sauce (I HATED sauce when I was a kid, so I feel like this is very advanced of her). She was just sort of OK with this pasta though. I haven’t quite figured out what the sauce needs to taste like for her to like it.

Pasta with red sauce

Pasta with red sauce

Since we were in North Carolina I decided to go with shrimp and grits. My friend Rachel makes really good shrimp and grits from a recipe she got while at grad school at UNC and from Rachel, I was smart enough (for a northerner) to understand that shrimp and grits includes cheese, bacon, and other tasty things such that you don’t really notice the “grits” part of the dish.

Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and grits


This dish did not disappoint. I couldn’t stop eating it. They tried to take my dish before I was done and normally when that happens I’m like, whatever, I should stop eating anyway, but this time I asked for it back.

So due primarily to luck, we had a wonderful eating vacation. Hooray for food!

Brunch Menu for Elena’s Brunch Party

I LOVE BRUNCH SO MUCH.  I like the idea of having a brunch party because you don’t have to work around naps and all the kids are well-rested. 

Here’s what we’re serving.

Bacon

Sausage

Mini-quiche (don’t be impressed – it’s the ones from target)

Doughnuts

Bagels

Salad

Fruit

Assorted juices

Mimosas

Coffee

Regular and raspberry ginger ale for people who maybe don’t want mimosas but still want a fancy and/or sparkling drink

Cake with pink and purple and blue flowers and balloons

Cookie dough ice cream

 

Four recipes that everyone always asks me for

(1) Vegetarian chili from Joy of Cooking. I’ve made this so many times I don’t actually need to look at the recipe any more. It’s a lovely, easy chili to make.

(2) Roasted Cumin and Chickpea Salad. This is now my go-to for when we have food parties at work. There’s always plenty of cookies and cakes and chicken and chili. This is a nice easy side dish that is healthy, gluten free if you care about that sort of thing, and a tasty alternative to the standard potluck fare.

(3) Vegetable pot pie with cheddar biscuit crust, also from Joy of Cooking . I found this blog post with the recipe when someone asked me for it, and I love sending people this because it is completely accurate. You MUST be prepared for some serious chopping if you do this recipe, but it’s really worth it. Maybe not when you’re eating dinner at 10pm on a Tuesday, but if you have some time, or a helper, it’s definitely worthwhile.

(4) Martha Stewart Rocky Ledge Bars . Basically just candy stuck together with butter and sugar. Do NOT skip the parchment paper if you make these, or you’ll need to buy a new pan. Martha is not just being fancy with this step.