Pepperoni and Pachelbel

Pepperoni and Pachelbel

When we left our home in 2010 to move in with my grandmother, I felt as though my childhood had officially died, and my family with it. I love my grandmother very much. Losing my home, though, was something that affected me greatly. Throughout those years, James was my rock. Spending time with him was my home. It gave me something to hope for.

Now I feel more like myself than I have in years. I made pumpkin bread on Saturday. On Sunday, I made homemade pizza while listening to Super Hits of 1720. James didn’t even know I had that CD, that’s how long it’s been. I had forgotten how happy I get while listening to Pachelbel and Bach. Harpsichords just do it for me. Go figure.

My life has changed so much. Every day I wake up and thank God that I am finally married to James. I still can’t believe that it actually happened!¬†I am¬†so overwhelmingly happy.

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work for good for those who love God,who are called according to his purpose.

 

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How to Know He’s Perfect For You, Part 23

This weekend I was in desperate need of some retail therapy. Engagement is an emotional adjustment because every single relationship in your life is changing. Even your relationship with yourself is changing as you take on a new identity.

Like most women, I tend to drown my sorrows at the mall. What’s better than new shoes and the choice between Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s,¬†Cinnabon, and Chick Fil A? Having just lost all my fun money (see my previous post), this isn’t an option anymore. And window shopping isn’t as much fun when you know you can’t buy the stuff. So, what is Nature’s remedy for an emotionally distressed engaged woman with no more spending money?

THE REGISTRY.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I lost my disposable income during my engagement. God’s timing is usually en pointe. Thursday evening we went to a “Sip and Scan” event at Macy’s, and registered for a few things, but it wasn’t so great, only because there wasn’t a lot of stuff that I wanted. I almost cried at one point, and James had to pull me back from the brink of a bridal meltdown (blame it on the sleep deprivation).¬†SATURDAY, though, I wised up and went to my favorite wish-I-could-buy-everything store: WILLIAMS-SONOMA.

James came with me, which was a very brave¬†move considering my¬†almost-tear fest 2¬†days before.¬†Poor guy, I don’t think he was expecting what was about to happen. I literally registered for almost everything. It was a frenzied display of “Ooo¬†click that one! Did you get this one? We need 6 of these! I want this pan! And this pan! And don’t forget the ocean blue Le Creuset¬†Dutch oven!” I was so excited. Sure, there were moments of stress: “Connie, why do we need a Paella pan?” “James, I’ve been dreaming of this day my whole life, and I¬†would love¬†a Paella pan.” But there were also moments of sheer glee, like when I found the French onion soup bowls. And the Ruffoni hammered copper au gratin pan.

At the end of a few hours, we handed the scanner back to the employee and ate a few samples of pumpkin thingies.¬†That was the moment James turned to me and asked if I would like to split an Auntie Anne’s pretzel on our way back to the car. I do. Happily Ever After, Amen.

Awesome Easy Portobello Panini

I was in the mood for a Portobello burger today around lunch time, so I came up with this amazing sandwich. It feels like you’re eating a ton of food because the mushroom is so big, but at the same time, it’s all veggies so it’s good for you and relatively low-cal depending on how you do it. Here’s what I used:

1 Portobello mushroom cap

1/2 small avocado, sliced

2 slices honey wheat bread

1 slice tomato

a little lettuce

salt/pepper

And for the chipotle mayo:

1 chipotle in adobo sauce

about 1/4 cup mayo

Here’s what you do:

1. Drizzle a little oil (i¬†prefer olive oil) in a grill pan on the stove, and turn it up to medium high heat. While that’s heating up, make the chipotle¬†mayo. Basically, slice open the chipotle¬†pepper, scrape out the seeds (this cuts down on some of the heat) and chop the pepper into tiny little pieces. Then add your chopped pepper to the mayo, and there you go, chipotle mayo (and enough for tomorrow, too). You can play around with the pepper to mayo ratio to suit your taste.

2. Grill the mushroom. You can scrape the gills out first, but it doesn’t matter too much. It also doesn’t matter which side you place on the grill pan first: I’ve tried it both ways. It needs to cook about 3-5 minutes each side.

3. While that’s happening, spread margarine (or butter) on one side of each slice. Place the slices butter-side down in the grill pan. They’ll get really soft right away. After about a minute, when the cooking side is getting nice grill marks, flip the bread to toast the un-buttered side. This will just make the bread a little stiffer and stronger so it can hold the sandwich. This only takes about a minute so be careful not to burn it.

4. One the mushroom is just about done, place a piece of cheese on it while it’s on the grill pan so¬†the cheese¬†has time to melt.

5. Build¬†your sandwich. Spread chipotle¬†mayo on the bread. The stack the mushroom, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato slices, a little pepper and salt, then the second slice of bread. Cut it in half so you can admire the amazing looking cross-section and Bon Appetit ūüôā

American Cooks may be the Ones to Beat, Finally.

Tonight I just made Giada’s Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce. It was delicious. A pound of penne and a pound of shrimp–what could be better? The sauce involved cream, white wine, clam juice, tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley. My family fell in love with it too. “Dinner was Dynamite,” I believe is what my father said. “Connie Ann, anytime you want to cook, it will be fully funded” – my mom’s words.

I saw the picture on foodnetwork.com and decided to make it. I’ve been wanting to do something special with penne lately, and in today’s 100 degree heat, seafood sounded fantastic. So, off I went to Harris Teeter. I love H.T., really. I fell in love the moment I stepped in the door. The selection there is amazing.¬†It’s catnip¬†for foodies like myself.

I was thinking today, and really it’s true that the Food Network has really done an amazing job of elevating the quality of food in American home kitchens today. While it might have been Julia Child who started the movement, the Food Network has become the primary¬†light-bearer in a dark world of boring processed food. The real¬†exciting part is this: ¬†

The Food Network is creating a definable American cuisine.

Not that we didn’t have American cuisine before the Food Network, but it was hard to define (or else the box was too small?).¬†Yes, there was apple pie and regionally-influenced hot dogs, but (while those are still delicious) that was the America of the past. Today’s American food is the fulfillment of the “melting pot” metaphor. The Food Network has created awareness among every-day cooks about ingredients and dishes from across the country. Thanks to new ingredients,¬†whimsical combinations, and good ol’ American ingenuity, modern American cuisine is the world’s most exciting culinary frontier (however unexpected and unorthodox that statement might be).

So to all you American cooks out there, in the words of Jaques, ” ‘Appy Cooking!” and may the force be with you.

Following Jaques…

I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately. When I was supposed to be working on a writing assignment, I ended up making salad dressing instead. Strange, I know, but it was really fun.

Inspired by my new idol, Jaques Pepin, I pulled out all my spices and base ingredients and began work on creating 3 salad dressings: Creamy Southwestern, Honey-Dijon, and Honey Sesame Vinegarette.

For the Creamy Southwestern, I had vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro,¬†onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and a little¬†sugar. I can’t tell you the exact measurements because I kept adding a little of this and little of that until it tasted PERFECT.

My Honey-Dijon began with olive oil, vegetable oil, and a touch of apple cider vinegar. Then I added a big squirt of dijon mustard, some honey, black pepper, and (here’s the most important part) Oregano and Garlic. At the end I added a little more oil and sugar to cut down on the bite of the mustard, and then at the very end, a tiny tiny bit of mayo for texture. It was perfect.

Honey Sesame Vinegarette was the easiest – Vegetable oil base, tiny bit of sesame oil (a little goes a LONG way), a small amount of apple cider vinegar, a squirt of honey, black pepper,¬†and a bit of hoisin sauce and sugar. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, but i would have added them as well, mostly for cosmetic reasons. Anyways it tasted perfect.

Salad dressing took up my morning, so I didn’t really get any work done.¬†Hours later, I’m¬†just now¬†settling down by my computer with beautiful looking cup of coffee. Being a rainy day, I decided to get fancy¬†with my drink, just to have a little fun.¬†I actually used white chocolate mocha flavored creamer and a squirt of chocolate syrup, and topped the whole thing off with whipped cream and red sprinkles – smells like Christmas.¬†Sometimes a girl’s gotta do little things like this.