Friday, April 27, 2012

Coffee Musings

I'm sitting and enjoying a great cup of coffee while I work today.
My favorite coffee is Community coffee. This particular steamy cup is their coffee with chicory, a nice smooth blend. Ever since we tried this at Harry Bisset's in Athens (my fav restaurant) we've been using this at home. Its really tasty out of a french press or even from a traditional coffee maker. Harry Bisset's is now closed, but at least I got their recipe for sauteed asparagus and found out what kind of coffee they made. I still miss them...:(

get a $3 off coupon for Community coffee if you like them on Facebook.
Community Coffee Coupons

Sauteed Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus
garlic cloves minced or garlic powder
olive oil

Rinse fresh asparagus and trim white off of stalk ends.
Add olive oil and butter and minced garlic to a hot skillet. Saute until butter melts and add asparagus. Saute until aparagus turns bright green and gets slightly tender. Cover and take off of heat. Set aside for 5 minutes, Asparagus will continue to steam and cook. Should be soft but firm. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To Groupon or not to Groupon

I know some people simply HATE Groupons, Dealmobs or any of those online deal places, but I am a huge fan and have saved BIG bucks using these things. I get daily emails from Dealmobs, Groupon and Online Athens Daily Deals and I buy 3 or 4 a month. I just LOVE saving money--who doesn't??
We have gotten deals on just about everything from furniture, food, pet vaccinations and handyman services at deeply discounted rates. One or more of them will usually have a restaurant coupon once a week. If its somewhere new we are interested in or somewhere we usually eat I may buy one or two vouchers. There's this nice little place that serves tapas in town and I have used these deal coupons there several times. This week was a good week for me and my coupons. I got $200 worth of handyman services for $96 and a trip to the vet including heart worm test, exam, parvo/distemper and 3 year rabies for $59. Both have fairly long expiration dates, so sometime this summer my porch will get repainted and my dog will get her shots. I have heard from friends that they don't like them because they forget to use them or felt ripped off because of something in the fine print. I hear ya! I know our first coupon for a restaurant had some odd inclusion in it about when you could eat, so now we read the fine print on every deal very carefully before we buy. I also keep a running tab of what deals we have bought on a folder on both our phones and desktop. This way I know whats expiring and what we have available for the week. I also print out the vouchers for dining and keep them in the car in case we are out shopping and get peckish. Also, having these coupon vouchers for dinner makes it easier to decide where to go to eat if we can't agree on a restaurant. Sometimes I just can't make up my mind and hubby will get anxious if we've spent the afternoon shopping and I start waffling about where I want to go to eat. We let the coupon decide.
The thing to remember though is to read the fine print! Most of them are pretty straight forward, but if you aren't sure about something, they list the business name and address on the deal page, so call and ask. Also, keep track of expiration dates and keep them somewhere where you remember to use them! Though a few of these sites will refund what you've paid if you don't use them before they expire, not all of them do, so its best to read their terms of service. So when I put my feet up on our leather storage ottoman or the mahogany end table we got new for $25 a piece I smile and remember to check my email for new coupons.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It will eat your face...

So my husband and I like to eat out. We eat out on the weekends usually Saturday (since we don't eat carbs during the week, this is considered our cheat day) and we like to try new places. I like to go to restaurants that have something deliciously carb-y and my husband loves spicy, so anytime we come across a South American or Mexican restaurant that we haven't tried before, we put it at the top of the list. A few months ago we saw this Latin restaurant El Real had been getting good reviews and since its not far from us, we decided to try it out. Its your typical Tex Mex style  looking restaurant, nothing fancy, but they did have some interesting things on the menu and of course Margaritas of all flavors and sizes. Mmm margaritas...
I was hoping to get some pasta that night, but when my husband mentioned margaritas I was on board.
So, like I said, typical mexican/latin looking place, stone floors, wood tables, not bad looking. They also had the outdoor tables too, which I love, when its cool outside and not to hot, its my preferred seating. So every time my husband and I eat at a new Mexican place we always order the same thing. Its the dishes we judge all Mexican restaurants by. My husband orders the chimichangas and I order chicken enchiladas. I was tempted by this one dish they had, (Molcajetes) the pictures of it looked...interesting. The first time I saw the dish, it made me think of the movie "Beetlejuice". You know the scene where the people are having a dinner party and the food jumps out and grabs them by the face and pulls them into the dish? Yeah.
So I was tempted.
But I was also starving and I hate being experimental and then have it blow up in my face (or grab my face) so I went with a selection of enchiladas and a side of re-fried beans and Spanish rice. Pretty humdrum, but I was starving.
The first thing I noticed is that the service wasn't exactly stellar. We waited a long time for our food and had difficulty catching our waiters attention. It wasn't busy either. We were also eating at the time of day favored by seniors and people who go to bed by 8, so I wasn't pleased with having to wave at the staff with my napkin like some lunatic just to get a refill on my diet coke. We ordered some appetizer, I can't remember what it was, but it came out with our dinner, so I don't know if we even ate it. I like to drink my alcohol with food, not so I don't get tipsy (that's kind of the point of the booze isn't it?) but so that I don't have to take a million Tums when I get home. However, I literally could not get my waiter to bring me one. I asked for a drink menu and asked what kind of margaritas they served, but he never came back. Halfway through dinner someone else refilled our drinks and that was probably the end of the table service. My husband likes to get me drunk at dinner, after a margarita or two I giggle like an idiot schoolgirl at absolutely nothing and this entertains him to no end.
He is easily amused.
But I didn't get my margarita and my arm got tired of waving a napkin. (could have used more of those too) And I got tired of knocking silverware off of the table in hopes someone would swing by and pick it up and I could then physically grab them and beg for tequila, but no luck. I noticed another couple also having difficulty getting the attention of the waitstaff, so I guess they like to make ALL their guests feel special and ignored. At some point some guy from the kitchen, brought our food out. My enchilada plate was mediocre at best, bland and not very spicy, the edges of the tortillas were dry and hard, like they had been microwaved for ten minutes. After a few bites I started regretting I didn't order the thing that looked like it could eat your face. At least my food would have been entertaining and maybe if the wait staff had seen me rolling around on the floor with a thing stuck to my face like in the movie Alien, I would have been able to get a drink refill. But alas I had gone the safe route and had no hopes of attracting a waiter. Somehow we got the hostess to take our bill, we paid, my husband grumbled that there would be no drunk girl to entertain him on the ride home and we left. I wasn't crazy about their re-fried beans, or rice, neither had any flavor or salt and my beans had the consistency of warm paste. I was sad that this wasn't going to be our "go to" Mexican place, we had been looking for a new Mexican place since Mexicalis, a long standing fixture in Athens, had gotten bad and closed down. We will continue our search for good Mexican food and even though it looks like it would eat your face, I may go back to try the "Molcajetes". I realize I may not get a second Diet Coke and there's a good chance the wait staff would let it devour my face, but I might be tempted...

Spicy Black beans

2 cans black beans
1/4 cup Parmesan
3 tablespoons shredded cheddar
jar of sliced jalapenos
1/3 cup sauteed onion
1/3 cup sauteed red pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
garlic powder
salt and pepper
sour cream

Open and pour the cans of black beans into a small pot with lid. Add eight or so jalapenos to the beans and about 1/4 cup of the brine. Add a dash or two of garlic powder and salt and pepper. Cover and turn the heat on low. Saute the onions and peppers in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook until tender and add to the pot. When the beans are nice and bubbly add the grated Parmesan. Simmer for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle the cheddar on top. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

My husbands favorite side dish when we make Mexican food.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My dinner with Martha

So my husband is always teasing me about my ongoing secret love for Martha Stewart and anything Martha-like. If I ask him about anything pertaining to cooking or decor he responds with "WWMD?" (What Would Martha Do?) He makes jokes about my M.O. (martha obsession) and always teases me that the sign above my kitchen door that says "Live Love Laugh" should be replaced with one that reads: "WWMD?"
Its not that I'm obsessed.
I don't want to marry Martha or spend 24/7 cooking and creating.
I just want to BE Martha.
Not the Martha who went to jail for illegal trading.
No, no, no. 
The Martha who can take toilet paper rolls, pine-cones and a gallon of antique varnish and make an exquisite centerpiece.That's the Martha I want to be.
Or at least aspire to be. 
So I read all of her magazines. I make many of her recipes. I try being crafty, creative and make things from scratch. I'm successful about 50% of the time.
Its gotten so bad, I find myself really asking "WWMD?" when I'm in a store trying to decide between canned artichokes or using fresh and spending hours, cooking cleaning and cutting the damn things. Martha doesn't always win out, but I do ask. Sometimes I even daydream about meeting her. Not living anywhere near her, mind you, more of a long distance, seeing each other once in a while bestie. Living near here means she could drop by anytime and that would just be too much pressure. Can you imagine M.S. coming to your house any old time? I'd be so paranoid that my house wasn't clean enough or didn't smell like fresh baked cinnamon rolls (which I imagine Martha Stewart's does). No my little life or home is in no way prepared for daily visits from Miss Stewart. She'd see the dust bunnies in the corners of the rooms that the Roomba missed, she'd smell the lingering garlic smell from last nights dinner, she'd see the mess on the dining room table, in short, she'd be appalled.
So in my little fantasy about M.S. being my bestie and coming over for Sunday dinner: my home is immaculately clean. My two dogs are on their best behavior, dressed in hand knitted alpaca wool sweaters, (that I carded, dyed and knitted myself) my three cats are all wearing hand tooled leather collars that I made and beaded in an ancient celtic design (this is all fantasy mind you). My husband is splendidly dressed in his nicest Brooks Brothers suit, with a crisp dress shirt with french cuffs (he owns this suit, but would never wear this for Sunday dinner with Martha). I imagine my little troupe lined up like the children from "Sound of Music" behaving perfectly like little angels...this is where even with the most creative mind I can't imagine my husband not ruining this moment with a sarcastic comment. So in my fantasy I replace hubby with a cardboard cutout of him in his nice suit and tie. So the cats, dogs and cardboard husband are lined up neatly, dressed impeccably, no snarky remarks about insider trading, no drooling, scratching or (gasp) sniffing of ones hindquarters (the dogs not the husband) and Martha steps in and makes a witty remark about how elegant my home is, how lovely dinner smells and my what a lovely toilet paper roll, pine-cone and antique varnish centerpiece I've made.
I'm in heaven at this point.
Martha and I chat about hand blown glass ornaments and hand painted rugs for ones potting shed, we'd laugh and share wine and I'd bend cardboard hubby into his dining chair and we'd enjoy a wonderful four course meal I prepared in high heels and a dress. Over dessert (fresh baked blueberry scones and sweet cream) she tells me how lovely our visit was and invites me and cardboard hubby to the "vineyard" for the fourth. At the end of our visit, while cardboard hubby is in the kitchen cleaning up dinner (fantasy in overdrive) I walk M.S. to the door and before we exchange an air kiss on either cheek, I slip a small hand made gift bag filled with exquisite treasures I made into her hand to thank her for being a guest in my home.
Watching her car drive away I wipe a tear of joy from my eyes. Cardboard hubby has cleaned the kitchen, put away the toilet paper roll, pine-cone and antique varnish centerpiece and we enjoy a glass of sherry before I fold him up and put him away in the linen closet in case Rachal Ray drops by next week.

Blueberry Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, frozen
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 cup raisins, dried blueberries or any dried fruit or chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or white chocolate chunks (don't use fresh fruit)

you can also grate in 1 tsp fresh lemon zest and two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for lemon scones, dried blueberries are good in these.


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.

4. Cut  butter into chunks and put in food processor and process intermittantly until in small pieces, slowly add dry ingredients and process until combined. Slowly pour in egg and sour cream mixture and process until mixed. Dough usually forms up in a ball. Transfer dough to a bowl and mix in your dried fruit by hand. Flour your hands if the dough seems sticky.

5. Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar or a dollop of sweet cream and serve warm.

American sweet cream

1 cup cool whip
1 package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
dash salt

I make these sometimes on the weekend, I love them with sweet cream and they go so well with hot coffee or tea.

Crustless Quiche

Today has been a busy day, painted most of the morning, cleaned my master bath, started a blog and partly cleaned out my refrigerator. We seem to have a lot of leftovers. We don't have kids to pawn them off on and a lot of times neither of us wants to eat the leftover spoonful of Brussel sprouts or asparagus or whatever vegetable I made that day. So they accumulate in various bags, bowls and tiny tupperware containers in my fridge until they become unrecognizable and we throw them out.
So today I decided to be creative (and frugal) and make an entirely new dinner out of my leftovers. I found a container of sauteed spinach and a seasoned chicken breast along with a half of a red pepper and a half of an onion that needed to be used up. Since we are on a low carb diet, I decided to make a crustless quiche.The cottage cheese makes the egg beaters fluffier in my opinion. My mother in law told me about that trick, especially if you are one who uses egg beaters and likes to microwave them. Keeps them from being dry. Tonight we will be having this crustless quiche and I will be making a salad of greens, lettuce and the rest of that red pepper that is starting to become questionable...

2 cups egg beaters
1/2 cup parmesan
3 heaping tablespoons cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup sauteed spinach
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup red bell pepper
1 skinless boneless chicken breast cooked and diced

I sauteed the red bell pepper and onion until soft. I sprayed a large corning ware casserole dish with cooking spray. I mixed the eggbeaters and cottage cheese in a bowl and added the parmesan, spinach, red bell pepper and onion and salt & pepper and a pinch of garlic powder. I lightly stirred, then poured into casserole dish. Sprinkled on some shredded cheddar and baked at 350 F for almost an hour with the lid on until it puffed up and the egg was set.

Garlic Peeler

My latest and greatest (for the moment) find is a silicone garlic peel remover. Such a time saver! I absolutely hate peeling the husk off of garlic (am so lazy) and don't like crushing the garlic then pulling off the skin because sometimes I like to slice it, so this gadget is my new fav thing to use in the kitchen. They only cost a few dollars and if you use a lot of garlic like we do, then its a great time saver. All you do is stick in a clove or two of garlic, and press your palm on it and roll a bit on a hard surface, garlic pops up out sans skin and you're ready to go. I'm sure this can't be a new gadget, but its new to me and I love it.