Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I Cooked....

Doug is still up at school working late on some stuff and I have finished my P90X for the day and ate homemade black bean soup for dinner...just kind of chillin...there's a tornado happening a few counties over so I am just absentmindedly listening to the weather on tv...

After recovering from working super late at homecoming/reunion Friday night, the rest of the weekend I took some time and tried some new recipes. I would be lying if I said I didn't pull out my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and just start reading it for fun. I remember seeing my grandma and my mom doing that. I used to think that was weird but now I totally understand! ALL the recipes were amazing and you should definitely try them out! Sorry I am feeling lazy so no pictures this time.

Here's what I made and I'll put the recipes below:
Pork Tenderloin Agrodolce
(this might be my favorite meal I've made. I served it with whole wheat gnocchi and pinot noir)
Black Bean Soup
Homemade salad dressing
Hippy oatmeal (makes enough for 4)

Pork Tenderloin Agrodolce from Cooking Light
3/4 cup basalmic vinegar
1/2 cup green olives (olives are gross, so I left these out)
1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
1/2 cup fat free, low sodium chicken broth
2 T sugar
6 garlic cloves
3 thyme sprigs (I used dried)
1 lb. cipollini onions, peeled
1 t. kosher salt, divided
2 T olive oil
2 -1 lb. pork tenderloin (I just cooked one pork tenderloin, and I cut the amount of onions in half)
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 500
2. Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium saucepan, stir in 1/2 t. salt, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 45 minutes or until onions are almost tender, stir occasionally. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook 7 minutes or until thick.
3. Heat oil in large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with remaining salt and pepper. Add pork to pan, cook 1 minute. Turn pork over. Place pan in oven and back at 500 for 12 minutes or until thermometer reads 155 (light pink.) Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Slick pork crosswise in 1/2 inch thick slices, serve with sauce. AMAZING!!!

Black Bean Soup from Cooking Light
Great for a cold day!

1 cup dried black beans
1 t. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove
2.5 cups water
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 ground red pepper (I didn't have this I used 1 t. chili powder)
1/4 t. cumin
1 (14 oz) can organic vegetable broth
1 (4 oz can chopped green chilis) (I forgot to buy this at the store, so I used half a fresh jalapeno-no seeds!)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 t salt
chopped fresh cilantro for topping (I used pepperjack cheese)

1. Sort and wash beans, place in large dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat. Cover, let sit for an hour. (I didn't do this, I soaked the beans overnight - no heat. Either way works the same.)
2. Heat the olive oil in pan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, sautee for 3 minutes or until tender. Add beans, 2.5 cups water, oregano, red pepper, cumin, broth and chilis, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1.5 hours, or until the beans are tender. At this point your kitchen will start smelling amazing.
3. Place half the bean mixture in the blender. Remove the center piece of the blender's lid so the steam can be released. Hold a paper towel over the hole as you blend, so that it doesn't fly out. Blend until smooth. Put the first half aside, and repeat with the rest of the beans. Return everything to the pan and add the tomato paste and salt (and any other seasoning to taste, if you want) Sprinkle with cheese, cilantro, serve with chips and salsa.
Serves 4

Hippy Oatmeal from Tasty Kitchen

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 cup half and half (I split half and half and 1% mile)
handful dried cherries
handful dried cranberries
handful raisins
handful sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, whatever you like
1/4 cup flax seeds

Toss all this into your crock pot. Turn it on low before bed and when you wake up you'll have amazing oatmeal. If you plan on sleeping in super late, it could burn. But if you're a 6-8 hour sleeper youll be fine. I added honey when I ate it, you could add brown sugar, butter, milk, whatever you like. It's delish!

Homemade Salad Dressing my friend Liz gave me this recipe. She's in the hospital today -- get well soon Liz!! It makes a ton, it's carb- and gluten-free and tastes great!

1/2 cup honey
1 cup olive oil
1/4 apple cider vinegar
1 t. celery salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. dried onion
1 t. mustard powder
1 t. salt

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homecoming/Reunion Weekend

This weekend is Vandy's homecoming. They are playing South Carolina, and they are going to get killed. That's okay though, I don't know many who really attribute much football prowess to the ol Vanderbilt Commodores. Doug and I went to a game against Eastern Michigan (and Vandy happened to win!) but it was more like a high school football game than anything else. I am from West TX okay, I would know!

Anyway, Vanderbilt schedules the class reunions the same weekend as homecoming, probably to sort of hide the fact that they are going to lose the big game. What they lack in athleticism they make up for in school pride, really! Tons of events are happening all weekend. Tonight, I am working the Class of 2005 Reunion party under a tent on the lawn on campus. I will just sort of take their tickets or money and point them to the food and margarita machines. Not a bad deal.

Every year at homecoming the student organizations on campus host a big concert called Commodore Quake. They bring in all kinds of big name pop or r&b stars. This year? None other than Snoop Dogg - lol. Is that not hilarious?

Tomorrow Doug and I are going to the Owen Business School tailgate (it's always a great party - let's be honest we are probably skipping the game.) I am looking forward to this weekend - it will make for some good people watching and hopefully a good story or two! Happy weekend, everyone!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend Happenings: Outdoor-style!!

This weekend we turned off the a/c and opened was just so gorgeous outside. Autumn in Tennessee continues to amaze me! It's wonderful. :) A friend told me people here celebrate autumn like a holiday, and I think she's pretty much right.

Friday night, Doug and I got together with some Texan friends to watch the Rangers lose Friday night (boo), but they are doing so well now! Yay!

Saturday, we headed out to Cheekwood, the Nashville botanical garden. My sweet husband suggested we get a year-long family membership. We scored a reduced student rate, and if we go at least twice we have pretty much paid for the family pass. PLUS, we can bring guests with us all year long! Not a bad deal if you ask me. The special exhibit right now is called Chihuly at Cheekwood. It ends next week so we were hurrying to catch it before its gone. Chihuly is a famous glass blower - if you've ever been to the Bellagio in Vegas he did the crazy stuff that hangs from the ceiling. Now...if you'll allow me, here's an explosion of pictures from that trip. I could not help myself, it was awesome.

Ok, this first one isn't actually at Cheekwood, Doug and I had lunch at the Farmer's Market and this the view of the state capitol from where we had lunch.

This was the start of our day at Cheekwood. There was random crazy colored glass just placed around the gardens.

Isn't he cute?!

Japanese gardens!

This was my favorite one.

Might sound weird but this one totally inspired me and gave me ideas for our Christmas tree this year!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Super Lame!

So the perfect Christmas gift was delivered to my inbox this morning, sort of. I got an e-mail about Williams-Sonoma’s wine of the month club, which my parents have signed Doug and I up for before. We loved it! It was a good way to try new wine without the pressure of choosing one at the store, it just arrives at your doorstep.

I was definitely considering asking for this for my birthday. Keeping bottles of wine in our home right now is one of those luxuries that has gone by the wayside since we’ve been on an one-income budget in grad school. Not to mention, if you sign up right now they’re running a special where you get two extra bottles of pinot noir FREE! I was definitely jazzed until I learned that they don’t deliver wine in Tennessee. Something about the laws makes it impossible. Seriously, lame Tennessee, lame!! Someone sign up and let me know how it is!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My friend...

(left to right: Debbie, Rita, me)

This is my friend Debbie. I worked with her for 3 years, she was more than a co-worker, but also a friend. One part co-worker, one part mom, and like 10 parts friend (You too, Rita!)

Debbie is a breast cancer survivor, a champion story teller and and of the most faithful people I know. To know Debbie is to love her. Debbie is now very, very sick. Sunday she was taken to the hospital with stomach pains, they thought it was pancreatitis, but soon became sepsis and organ failure.

If you read this, please pray for her NOW. She is in critical condition at the ICU in Mesquite, TX. She needs a miracle, which the Lord can and does provide. We are asking Him for a miracle for Debbie. Also, please pray for June, (Debbie's husband) Amanda, (Debbie's daughter who is my age). They are a precious family.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Quote of the Day: October

Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter. ~Carol Bishop Hipps
Have a wonderful, fancy free weekend, everyone! We've got a great one planned, this week Doug finished his first round of finals and he gets a short break! He's taking a mini-mester course but will have plenty of time to relax before gearing up for round two! We're getting together with friends and taking plenty advantage of the awesome should do the same!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't Start What You Can't Finish... obviously not my motto! Because I start books like crazy and I have trouble finishing all of them. Go figure.

Over the summer, I started reading Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream

Then from the office library at work I checked out The Tipping Point:

This book fascinates me because it says everyone falls into one of three categories: connector, maven or salesman. (Me): Connector: a person who who "links us up with the world ... people with a special gift for bringing the world together." They are "a handful of people with a knack for making friends and acquaintances ... individuals having social networks of over one hundred people. (Doug): Maven: information specialist, a person we rely upon to connect us with new information. They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.

That really describes us both to a T. Sounds interesting, huh?! Well, I haven't read it. I pulled that info off Wikipedia. I have the best of intentions to read it though!!!

Then someone from work gave me this because she said it's hilarious. She's right, the first 25 pages had me lol'ing on the floor. But I can't say anything about the next 175 pages, because I wouldn't know.
And finally, a friend loaned me this on tape. And I am feeling pretty good about it, because I can listen to it when I work out and when I'm at my desk at work. I am feeling GREAT about finishing this one, because it doesn't involve sitting down to read. I can listen and accomplish other stuff at he same time. BTW: The first two chapters are FABULOUS! I hope I can vouch for the rest of the book soon! It's about women who worked as hired help in the South in the 60s. Everyone I've talked to has said it's wonderful.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Simple Gourmet

A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner.
-Samuel Johnson

Friday night we called it a night in and made a major trip to the grocery store. I have strayed from my commitment to cooking mostly organic and was feeling the aftermath of that decision. Food just tastes better when it's whole and pesticide-free, not out of the freezer. This is what I made from dinner, the recipe is from smitten kitchen. I can't emphasize how simple this recipe was and Doug and I both loved it. It presents well on the plate and looks very gourmet-ish. All in all it was a win. We had to get rid of our grill when we moved here (sad face) so we cooked the steak in a cast-iron skillet, the trick is not to overdo it. I served the whole thing with crusty bread and a Spanish tempranillo wine. The best part is the homemade dressing so don't skip that part!

Skirt Steak Salad with Blue Cheese
Serves 4

1 pound skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat if necessary, halved crosswise, at room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1/2 pound baby arugula
Vinaigrette (below)
3 tablespoons minced chives, 2 thinly sliced scallions or 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion, for garnish

Pat steak dry and season on both sides 1/2 teaspoon salt and many grinds of black pepper.

In a cast-iron skillet: Heat skillet on medium-high to high and add olive oil. When oil begins to shimmer, place steak in skillet and do not move it for 5 minutes. Turn it once, and cook for another 3 minutes for medium-rare. You may need to cook your steak halves separately, depending on the size of your pan.

On a grill: Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal or high heat for gas. Oil grill rack, then grill steak, covered only if using a gas grill, turning once, 4 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare.

Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest, loosely covered with foil, for five minutes. Arrange arugula on a large platter. Thinly slice steak on the diagonal, across the grain. Arrange over arugula, then toss halved cherry tomatoes and blue cheese over platter. Add vinaigrette to taste, then sprinkle with chives, scallions or red onion. Serve with additional vinaigrette on the side.

Steakhouse Mustard Vinaigrette (whisk all ingredients together)
1 tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil