Monday, April 30, 2012

Pasta, Shoes, and Shoe Beer

This evening I continued our efforts in saving for our children's college fund (even though I refuse to allow them to go to college -- don't tell Jen) by using up 100% freezer items and leftovers to create a tasty (and nutritious -- sort of) dinner!

Iceberg Salad with Red Onion, Crouton, Avocado, and Mustard Vinaigrette

I made a salad with some of the babies' leftover iceberg lettuce, avocado, red onion, croutons, and leftover mustard vinaigrette. Now the race is on to finish the remainder of the iceberg lettuce in the fridge before the babies grow to the size of the next inaccurately selected vegetable or fruit.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Sweet Italian Sausage, an Oven Roasted Tomatoes with Bella Lodi

For the main course I cleared some sweet Italian sausage from the freezer, browned it up in a pan, added leftover broccoli rabe with garlic from the other night, oven roasted tomatoes, and cooked orecchiette with a little chicken stock, olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and grated Bella Lodi.

PF Flyers 75th Anniversary American Farmhouse Ale

Jen got this beer at a work event for PF Flyers. For some reason they brewed beer and gave it to her! Of all the treats she's brought me home from work events this was one of my favorites. How many people can say that they've had a beer brewed by a shoe company? Also, how many people would want to say they've had a beer brewed by a shoe company? This was a very tasty beer which was actually very reminiscent of my first home brew I made last October. It was an American farmhouse ale and supposedly (according to information here) was one of only 75 bottles brewed. After reading that I felt a little guilty for just drinking it down with some pasta. I feel like I should have saved it as a collectible.

I guess I need to save some room in the fridge for the next shoe-themed beer Jen brings home: the Vans Hefeweizen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Nate & Jenny's Steakhouse

Tonight we practiced dinner preparations for our hot new restaurant! But first . . .

Jen (Week 26)

This week Jen officially entered week 26 of her pregnancy. It's to the point now where cashiers at stores feel compelled to ask her about being pregnant and when she's due. It's lucky for them that she is pregnant or else that would make the rest of the checkout process mighty awkward.

Iceberg Lettuce

According to one of the produce size charts I subscribe to that means she is housing two heads of iceberg lettuce. While I was happy to learn the progress of the babies I was a little disappointed in that iceberg lettuce is one of the more boring vegetables I've ever encountered.

However, when life give you boring lemons, you make boring lemonade!

Steakhouse Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

I picked up some blue cheese and made this classic wedge salad with a chunk of iceberg lettuce, bacon, red onion, more of mom's chives, and a creamy dressing made blue cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic powder, mustard powder, salt, pepper, and Worchestershire sauce.

Brand New Weber Grill

We recently purchased a new grill. It's a Weber, which I've always wanted. I assembled it this afternoon. Just look at that grill surface, so pristine, untouched by the endless years of meats and vegetables which will be charred on its surface.

Grilled Ribeye with Spicy Fried Onions and Mashed Potato

Even though it was in the 30's this evening I decided to give the grill its inaugural use with a nice big ribeye steak. This also kept nicely with the steakhouse theme set up in the previous course.

Garlic and Bacon Fat Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

As an accompaniment for the ribeye I made some mashed potatoes and also sauteed some broccoli rabe with garlic and olive oil.

Spicy Fried Onions

I also made these spicy fried onions. We used to make these at a restaurant I worked at years ago and I hadn't thought of them in a long time until I spent an unusual amount of time thinking about steakhouses this afternoon. What you do to make them is cut up some onion, cover them in an obscene amount of hot sauce to marinate them for at least a few hours, then drain them, toss them in flour, and fry them in oil.

Founders KBS

For beer tonight I decided to go big. Sure, I was grilling, but a lighty summery beer would not quite have worked tonight since it was freezing cold. That's why I went with this KBS from Founders Brewing Co.

This is widely considered to be one of the best beers made at the moment and it's extremely hard to get.

After having it I can understand the hype. This beer was phenomenal. It was sort of an accident but it accompanied the meal beautifully. It blended well with the creamy blue cheese, the bitter rabe, and the tender steak. Every sip was like pure joy. Jen had her obligatory sip and even admitted that it was tasty, though she wouldn't want to drink a whole glass.

It was so good that after dinner I just sat there and drank the rest in silence, while Jen read her book. I just drank it and thought about it and I was sad when it was gone. Sure, one one hand I have seven more bottles but on the other hand I only have seven more bottles! What am I going to do?

Jen at Longford's

After dinner we drove to Longford's (because it was too cold to walk) and got ourselves some ice cream cones. It was an enjoyable evening. While the babies are kicking so much that we can actually watch Jen's belly move, they are still inside which means we are milking the last moments of our childless life for everything they are worth. Tomorrow we'll probably sleep until 9:00 AM.

It's only a matter of time before I am writing a blog entry about having boxed macaroni and cheese, Coors Light, and a Jell-O Pudding Pop before falling asleep on the couch and waking up at 4:00 AM to change diapers.

And you thought the blog was boring now!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fettunta, Orecchiette, Dopplebock, and Other Words To Stump Your Spellchecker

Tonight I unexpectedly beat Jen home after a drive through the rain which slowed everyone down to such a point that it lead me to believe it wasn't water falling from the heavens but rather glue. Being that it was raining I found this a great opportunity to grill! I never miss an opportunity to grill in the rain.

Asapargus and Manchego Fettunta

I grilled up the leftover Jersey asparagus as well as some stale bread drizzled with olive oil. I rubbed the bread with a garlic clove, topped with the grilled asparagus, and crumbled some Manchego over the top. A chef friend recently reminded me of the brilliance of the fettunta so I did this in her honor. Also, I did it because it was delicious and it bought me some time to feed my hungry, tired, pregnant wife while I prepared the main course. Jen is now so tired by Thursday night it's all she can do to stay awake for dinner. I prefer this has to do with her pregnancy and not the lack of excitement in my cooking.

Orecchiette with Creamy Tomato Meat Sauce and Bella Lodi

For dinner I heated up the leftover beef tomato sauce and cream sauce from last week's moussaka, cooked some orecchiette, and tossed them both together, topping with Bella Lodi. This was incredibly quick, easy, and delicious.

Troegs Troegenator Doublebock

I'm never quite sure what to pair with tomato sauce heavy meals so tonight I opted to take the malty route and opened this Troegenator Doublebock from Troegs Brewing Company. This went surprisingly well with the pasta. I think malty dopplebock is the perfect accompaniment to tomato and even creamy tomato sauce. I think I finally solved the puzzle of what beer goes well with tomato sauce. I stupidly did this by trying a dozen different beers with tomato sauce. I could probably have achieved the same results by actually doing some research.

Now I just need to figure out something to go with soup!

Financier Marcarons

For dessert Jen picked up some more marcarons from Financier. We debated a while over the layout in the package. I felt that the color break left a little to be desired. The three beige-colored ones in the middle are different flavors. I felt they could have spaced them out with the more vibrantly colored ones. Jen felt that it was a spectrum but this is where her argument falls apart. What kind of spectrum begins with brown and green, has beige in the middle, and ends with purple and red?

No kind of spectrum that I've ever heard of. Nice try, Jen. Nice try.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Indian Food, India Pale Ale, and Indian Hockey

It's often hard to get good dinner suggestions from Jen, apart from "something yummy." She hasn't had much in the way of pregnancy cravings so far but every so often she has had them and it has made it a little easier to get some suggestions from her.

Tonight she decided she wanted Indian food. She wasn't very specific about what she wanted other than that she wanted the vegetables to be cut up "VERY SMALL." I suggested dime-sized and she suggested nickel-sized would be more appropriate. While I don't often consider that to be "VERY SMALL" I obeyed the request and put something together.

Vegetable Rogan Josh

I quickly cooked some onion, red pepper, zucchini, potato, and carrots in a little butter and oil. I don't believe in ghee. I added a sauce of tomato, coconut milk, tomato, salt, garlic, ginger, sugar, and turmeric. I simmered this until the vegetables were tender and at the end I added some Jersey asparagus.

Indian Dinner

I served it all with some rice topped with more of my mother's chives, samosas, naan, and mango chutney. The last three ingredients were all store bought but what do you want from me? I only had about twenty minutes to put this together. Cut me some slack! Geez!

Green Flash Brewing Company West Coast IPA

I didn't have any terrible Indian lager around so I opted to have this India Pale Ale from Green Flash Brewing Company. I felt it was thematically appropriate but also the bitterness complemented the surprisingly hot samosas quite nicely.

Also, Jen approved of the size of the vegetable cuts. I get to keep my job another day.

The NHL is a soulless, negligent, and corrupt organization that clearly shows nothing but contempt for its own fans. Therefore we had no options to watch tonight's game seven between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. I tried to give the NHL hundreds of dollars for their ripoff GameCenter to watch on the internet, however, they don't offer any nationally televised games on this service. Just in case you didn't know all the playoff games are nationally televised. That means if you were fool enough to order this service you get to watch nothing for the rest of the season.

caps bruins 1

We were left only with the option of watching the game at the local bar. Jen, being tired and pregnant, was not really a big fan of going out after a long day at work to sit on an uncomfortable chair in a bar to watch the hockey game. I'm not pregnant but I do have natural hermit tendencies so our only option was to do a Google search for "NHL" and continually refresh the page.

caps bruins 2

Oh no! Washington scored first!

caps bruins 3

We could also go the NHL website and look at a stupid graphic which shows you where all the shots and hits are happening on the ice. This was somehow even less stimulating that refreshing the Google search.

So we wound up the evening, our pockets full of money that we would gladly give in exchange to watch some hockey games, unable to do anything else but wait. This must have been what it was like to receive work about baseball games via telegraph in the 1880's.

Is it any wonder why no one watches hockey?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Culinary Fact

Today I had exactly 15 minutes between getting home and having to pick up Jen at the train station.  This gave me just enough time to get rocking on a few things, dash out the door, and return home to serve up dinner.

Spring Vegetable and Ricotta Tart

With 15 minutes I didn't have enough time to bother with recipes or measurements.  I made a quick tart dough out of butter, flour, salt, sugar, and a little milk.  I was pretty sure I'd ruined it by adding too much milk but I threw it in the oven and headed out the door.  I turned the oven off before heading out because I'm too scared to leave the oven running while I'm out of the house.  When I returned home I was shocked to find that it had browned up quite nicely.  I added some of the ricotta mixture that was leftover from the rollatinis the other night and topped it with leftover chopped asparagus and baby squash.

This turned out way better than I'd expected.

Potato Leek Soup

I chopped a leek and tossed it in a pan with some crushed garlic and butter and cooked it as long as I could before adding some chicken stock, leftover mashed potato, milk, salt, and pepper.  I pureed it all with the new immersion blender my boss had gotten my for Christmas.  I topped it with yet more of my mother's chives.

Dogfish Head Noble Rot

For beer I opened this Noble Rot from Dogfish Head.  I've had this in the fridge for a few weeks just waiting for the right opportunity.

This beer was very tasty though I hesitate to call it beer.  If you had poured this for me and told me it was sparkling wine I wouldn't have given it a second thought.  It was very interesting and had a very heavy flavor of white wine, grapes, and apple.

I have often lamented on the difficulty of pairing beer or wine with soup but I believe I've found a good match in sparkling wine (or in this case, Noble Rot) with potato leek soup.  I am winding down my cellar and I felt this would be a better match than one of the many barleywines or stouts that have accumulated in my fridge.

This was an important discovery for me.  Rich, creamy, pureed soups actually match very nicely with white sparkling wine.  Or beers that taste exactly like white sparkling wine.

And that, my friends, is a culinary fact!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Today was a miserable, cold, rainy, day followed by a dark and stormy night.  You're welcome for that intro.

The misery started early as Jen reminded me I had made the promise of going to Crate & Barrel today.  I had almost forgotten or at least pretended to forget in hopes that by some off chance Jen would forget and I would be off the hook.

No such luck.

Pork Tenderloin on Baguette with Avocado, Tomato, and Smooth Sweet Hot Mustard

We were able to return home just in time to watch the first puck drop and witness the Flyers beating the Penguins while I made lunch.  I used last night's leftover pork tenderloin with lettuce, avocado, tomato, and SchoolHouse kitchen Sweet Smooth Hot mustard on a baguette with potato chips and pickles.

After the game we rolled right into the Bruins/Capitals game.  This may sound boring to you but this was pretty much one of the best days off I can remember in recent memory.

Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals in OT

As the game went into overtime it became evident that we weren't going to make it until dinner without eating.

Fried Potatoes with Seared Bacon, Melted Mahon, and Chives

I took the leftovers from the last few days and made this little treat to tide us over until the main course.  I took the rest of the sliced potatoes from the moussaka, browned it in a pan with some butter and olive oil, topped it with seared bacon, and sliced Mahon.  After putting it under the broiler for a minute I topped it with sliced chives from my mother's garden which, after two weeks, were still in perfect shape in our crisper.

Avocado Salad  with Tomato, Herbs, and Bacon Fat

Immediately after serving the snack the Bruins scored so I quickly made up this salad with green leaf lettuce, avocado, sliced tomato, olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs.  It was the perfect vegan start to the meal until I drizzled the rendered pork fat from the pan over the top.  That may have spoiled its veganness but it sure made it delicious.

Eggplant Rollatini with Spaghetti

For the main course I took some of the leftover eggplant and rolled them in a mixture of ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs.  I baked them in the oven in leftover tomato sauce then served them over some spaghetti.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the remaining five pounds of leftover eggplant that I have in the fridge.

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask

I'm never really sure what to drink as an accompaniment to anything containing heavy tomato sauces so I opted to have my beer after dinner.

Since I'd had a somewhat disappointing experience with an oaked beer last night I decided to try to redeem myself tonight with this Irish Whiskey Cask from Innis & Gunn.  This was their latest limited edition release.

I'd heard that this beer had some issues with being affected by light so I grabbed this one out of a sealed case from my local beer distributor to be guaranteed it had not seen any light.  The British love nothing more than to put beer in clear bottles.  It's like it comforts them to know they are spoiling their own product.

I've liked previous Innis & Gunn beers so I figured I'd give this one a try.  According to their website it was aged in whiskey casks "from a famous distillery in Ireland" which had been "previously used to mature one of the great distilled Irish whiskeys."  I'm not really sure why they're being so cagey about the details.

It was certainly easy to drink, a nice way to celebrate watching my Boston Bruins stay alive and force a game seven.

Now I just need to figure out what to drink to drown my sorrows when they inevitably disappoint me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Non Starter

As I got up this morning to leave for work I ran into a little trouble. My car would not open. It's got one of those fancy keys that's not a key at all but a little key chain with buttons on it. I pressed the buttons as hard as I could but nothing happened. After checking the Ford website I found that there is a weird manual key hidden inside the key chain, you just have to bust it open like one of those plastic Easter eggs to get at the special prize.

This allowed me access to the car but did not allow me to start the car. So, instead of going to work, I got to spend the morning getting AAA to come get the car started and taking it to the Ford dealership where they informed me that there was nothing wrong with the car. Fantastic. Way better than getting paid.

Mahon with Baguette Slices and Sour Cherry Spread

This also allowed me to watch the Boston Bruins lose a playoff game. Afterwards we snacked on some Mahon cheese and slices of baguette.

Roast Pork Tenderloin, Spring Squash, and Mashed Potato

We picked up some spring baby patty pan and zucchini from the market earlier. I blanched them and hen threw into a hot pan with some garlic, butter, and herbs including chives from mom's garden. I also made some mashed potatoes and cooked up this pork tenderloin from duBreton in Canada which was marinated with sun dried tomatoes.

21st Amendment Monk's Blood

For a drink I poured this Monk's Blood from 21st Amendment Brewery This style would have gone well with a plain pork loin but probably wasn't best suited to a pork loin marinated with sun dried tomato.

This was not my favorite 21st Amendment beer.  I think it was largely due to the oak used in the process of making it.  I'm not really a fan of oaked things.  I've had some really nice barrel aged beers (and wines) but there's something about a general oakiness that displeases me.  It's the reason I really can't stand Chardonnay.

Tomorrow is exciting because we get to watch the Boston Bruins again.  If they lose it will be of extra comfort to me as that is what I have grown up with and it will give me a calm homey feeling.  Tomorrow is <i>not</i> exciting because Jen has talked me into going to Crate & Barrel to get some stuff for the babies.

I must really love these babies if I've agreed to this.  Crate & Barrel would be way better if it had more crates and/or barrels.  There are hardly any.  If there were some I would bust them all open with the butt end of my gun and collect ammo and health.

Now that would be a store worth going to!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watching Our Carbs Instead of Hockey

Tonight I was tasked with making a low carb dinner since Jen is going in for the standard pregnancy glucose test tomorrow to see if she is developing gestational diabetes. It's actually called the "Glucose Challenge" to make it sound like it's just a fun game. I was up for this challenge. After racing home and firing up the grill I set out to make something that would be sure not to spike Jen's glucose levels prior to her test tomorrow morning.

That's not cheating, right?

Grilled Skirt Steak and Shrimp Salad with Asparagus, Radish, Red Onion, Tomato, and Feta

I grilled up some skirt steak, shrimp, and asparagus and made this salad with red leaf lettuce, sliced radish, red onion, tomato, feta cheese and chopped chives, rosemary, and parsley. I topped it all with some of Jen's mysteriously jarred salad dressing that I found in the fridge. She was a little annoyed that I hadn't read her mind and brought home blue cheese for this salad. She claims she emailed me to ask me to bring some home but I think she is mistaken.

At any rate, the feta worked fine as a proxy.

He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.

The beer I selected was probably not the best pick to accompany such a deal. It was this He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. from Shmaltz Brewing Company. I didn't realize until drinking it that this was a beer tribute to Lenny Bruce. It was exceptionally malty and fairly hoppy. Just like Bruce himself!

Financier Marcarons

Jen surprised me by bringing home these marcarons from Financier Patisserie. We had a coconut passionfruit and a pistachio and both were quite good. I could have used two or three more but I imagine we would have needed another type of financier to make this possible.

So much for low carb.

Our Roku box came in today and I was excited to get it up and running so that we could watch the NHL playoffs. The signup process for the NHL GameCenter app was so stupid and convoluted that this sadly did not happen. Hopefully we will get it up and running at some point so that we can watch some hockey. It looks like the absurd rules of local blackouts may work against us but I am hopeful that soon we will be able to watch the Flyers and Penguins pretend that they are interested in the game at hand rather than at beating the pulp out of each other and likely affecting the rules of hockey fighting for future generations with their unrestrained savagery.

Until then there is always No Reservations.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Moussaka it to Me

One of Jen's greatest laments in life is that when I make something she really likes for dinner that there is very little chance I will ever make it again. I admit that I am normally reluctant to do this because if I did this there'd be too many repeat entries on the blog. That would force me to one of two options: either I could make a new post about the same old meal or I could just not blog about dinner.

But let's face it, what's the point of making dinner if you can't write a rambling and pointless blog entry about it?

Jen (Last Day of Week 24)

Jen hit the 25 week mark today in her pregnancy. Using the current produce-to-fetus guide we're using that mean's she's currently the home to . . .

Twin Eggplants

. . . two eggplants! That got me to thinking what I could do with this. I've made moussaka (or variations of moussaka) a couple of times on the blog but it seemed like I could give it a new spin and make a sort of spring moussaka.

Spring Asaparagus and Eggplant Moussaka

In addition to thinly sliced eggplant which I pan fried I added grass fed ground beef from New Jersey, tomato sauce, bechamel, sliced potato, and local asparagus.

Spring Asaparagus and Eggplant Moussaka

It was like a spring version of moussaka which was nice considering that chillier temperatures have returned to the region.

Dogfish Head Red & White

I'm on an impromptu wine boycott as I wait for Jen to rejoin the drinking community. Therefore I decided to pour this Red & White beer from Dogfish Head. I've had this beer lying around for a while but I've never really been tempted to drink it. It's a Belgian-style witbier fermented with pinot noir juice. I like both of those things so I figured it might be a nice match to tonight's dinner.

This beer came out of a wine and beer dinner with Michael Jackson who is one of my favorite guys. This is the beer Michael Jackson, not the Pepsi-drinking guy. At this beer Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head got his "peanut butter" in their "chocolate" and despite having used that despicable phrase a very interesting beer was born.

So, after tonight, maybe I will revisit some of Jen's favorites as we gear up into her third trimester. Since I'm unable to do much other than try to make her life as easy as possible it's probably the right thing to do.

Soon the blog may be overrun with posts about babies. Since this is such an uninteresting subject matter there just aren't many blogs about babies at all. Indeed it will be pretty boring reading about our babies on the blog.

Unless we cook them!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Summer Preview: Now with Actual Grilling!

I haven't really had a chance to get any summer beers yet this season, mostly because there aren't that many that have been released yet. With temperatures in the 90s today we felt the need to take full advantage of our new outdoor dining situation. However, I had food projects lined up and they weren't going to wait for any temperatures.

Chicken Stock wtih Spring Onions

I have a desperate, compulsive, and some say unhealthy need to constantly cull through our freezer. Making stock isn't a great warm weather activity but it needed to be done. My desire to cycle through our freezer inventory is even stronger than my desire to have the house be at a reasonable temperature.

I also made brownies, another activity I wouldn't recommend for a hot day. More on that later.

BBQ grillware

We got a grill donated by a friend but the condition didn't really allow me to use it tonight. After getting some propane and burning it off for an hour the grates were still a little too chipped and rusty for me to be thrilled about grilling on it. Luckily our super has allowed us unlimited access to his grill so I just wheeled that out again while I decide if I'm going to spend the money to fix up our grill.

Cool Ranch Salad

For salad I tossed some red leaf lettuce with some of the leftover Cool Ranch® dressing that I made. I just call it Cool Ranch® because it seems to really bother Jen when I do that. There's nothing particularly Cool® about it but I like to use the term to lessen the perceived quality of what I have made.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, and Olive Oil

I also reluctantly purchased an heirloom tomato at the market. Good heirloom tomatoes and April are two things that don't often go together but these looked pretty nice so I figured it would be nice to give it a try. I sliced it up and served it with some salt, pepper, and fresh chopped basil. It was a pretty good tomato considering it's still April.

Spring Grilled Vegetable Conchiglie with Bella Lodi

Jen had put in a formal request for grilled vegetable pasta so I obliged by grilling some asparagus, fennel, green and yellow squash, and green and yellow bell peppers. I also grilled some eggplant that purported to be from Holland even though it looked exactly like Japanese eggplant. We'll just call it Globetrotting Eggplant.

I browned some garlic in a pan on the grill, chopped up the vegetables and tossed them together along with some conchiglie, fresh parsley, chives from my mom's garden that she brought us last week, and rosemary.

Dogfish Head Saison du Buff (Collaboration with Vicotry and Stone)

To go along with this I served up this Saison Du BUFF, a collaboration by Dogfish Head, Victory Brewing Company, and Stone Brewing Co.

Simon and Garfunkel

This is an ale brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This is a beer designed to simultaneously delight Art Garfunkel and enrage my father-in-law. If it weren't for the writing on the label I would have assumed the bitterness was from the hops and not from the rosemary. It was a very tasty and refreshing beer perfect for an unseasonally warm night in April.

Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies

We got a ton of Cadbury Creme Eggs for Easter so I figured I should do something with them. I estimated it would take us 18 months to consume them all so I sliced some of them up and made these brownies.

You may be thinking that brownies are normally sweet enough to not necessitate the addition of halved Cadbury Creme Eggs as a topping. If you are thinking that then you are right, however, they were still pretty tasty.

Tomorrow we will likely retreat back indoors as somewhat normal temperatures will be returning. It might be handy that we got this outdoor eating out of our system. After the babies arrive we may be reduced to blubbering catatonic balls of sweat.

It's gonna be a great summer!