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Friday, August 31, 2012

Cedar Plank Salmon

I'm one of those women who happily leaves the grilling territory to her darling husband. I don't do it because I feel it's not my place, or because I adhere to the ancient sexist roles of cook vs. griller. I do it because A: I don't know how to grill well, B: I don't WANT to know how to grill and C: it's nice to get the cooking out of my kitchen, which is basically the same as reason D: I don't want to have to cook every goddamn meal. There is also the most important, even though it's last, E: Todd is an absolute whiz at grilling. Perfect food, every time.

But this recipe seriously undermines the life choice that is B. It is SO good, and SO easy, sometimes I have half a mind to just go out there, turn on the propane and blow us all to smithereens, all in the name of Cedar Plank Salmon.

I'm sure plenty of people are already ~in the know~ about using planks for grilling, but I'm not sure how many people know about this super simple recipe. In fact, it only requires a few ingredients.

Cedar Plank Salmon
serves two

1 cedar plank, pre-soaked at least one hour
1 salmon fillet, 12 - 16oz
6 tbsp +/- Dijon mustard
6 tbsp +/- brown sugar

UM THAT IS IT. Here are the players:

And since the plank doesn't take up much space, there's plenty of room on the grill for some yummy veggies:

Here are the planks we use. I get them at Fry's, and I think it's less than $6 for two planks.

Here is a little behind-the-scenes action.

After an hour, heat up your grill to whatever, I don't grill. But if you're reading this recipe, YOU know how to grill, or you know someone who does. Oh hell, hang on, let me google this shit. Bobby Flay, who told me personally about this recipe in a friendly email about gardening and indie movies, says: Heat to medium high, set to indirect grilling. I don't even know if Todd does the last part. ANYWAYS. At this point, slather on your mustard. If you recall, I said you could do more or less of the 6 tbsp. The only key is, however much mustard you use, the brown sugar amount should be the same.

Oooooh, now for the sugar.

When the grill is heated, throw on your cedar plank for about two or three minutes a side. This photo was taken after Todd flipped it because when he first put it on I was transfixed by the TV and only realized I had missed a photo opportunity when he came back in. I pleaded and begged but he just said "wait til I flip it" so I watched more TV.

When it's done, bring the plank in, put the salmon on and return to the grill.

Hey, look at those yummy kabobs!

The kabobs were done first...

And here comes the salmon! Judging by the condition of the plank, I'd say that perhaps the heating was a little more forward... A little more... direct, shall we say? Hurrrr hurrr.

Add some legumes (tossed with sun-dried tomatoes) for a healthy carb and some additional protein and fiber and presto!

The salmon is absolutely tender, with the sweet and savory all carmelized on top. And the juices... Oh my. It's a winner and considering how low maintenance this recipe is, it remains, to this day, the top temptation to learn how to master the grill.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Swim School!!

My baby girl is in swim lessons and let me just stop you RIGHT HERE to let you know that the other two kiddos in the class are 3 and 4. My baby is 2 and 4 months (and as tall as the 4 year old) and has already graduated to POLLYWOG class okay? So there! 

I mean, you can see why, what with this laid back chill out attitude in the water, and this was back when she was a flounder:

Ready for a starfish? Cause Alex is:

And here is a popcorn! Underwater for a moment, then POP up you go.

Three little flounders on a pool step:

"Mooom, stop it, I am trying to focus"

Underwater picture! This will show up on her certificate of completion.

Get that kick-board, girl!

While she can definitely blow some bubbles...

And definitely do some super-rad kicking...

It's not a combination she can handle right now. She looks so tired, my poor little flounder.

But after a rest and some bubble blowing in the water sitting safely on the stairs...

We're all grins again!

Ooh, time for the monkey walk, along the pool's edge, down the length of the pool. This is a moment for fleeting concern.

But she sticks with it. WHICH IS WHY SHE IS NOW A POLLYWOG.

Just a little boost from teacher and my baby is out of the pool (mostly) on her own like a boss!

"You did it!"

"I DID IT!!!!"

Time to dive!


And now a swim to the stairs.

"Well? Was that it? What's next you guys, maybe the POLLYWOG level?!"

(These photos all look a little misty due to, well, all the misters that were lined around the seating areas)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rosemary Chicken Casserole

I'm in a real shitty mood today because sometimes people just suck. So I'm going to get right to the good stuff. 

I used broth and a bunch of corn startch for my sauce to be all ~low calorie~ but it irritated me so I'm going to write this as if I used my head and made an actual roux. I don't know why I let my calorie fears to overcome my righteous awesome French self. Cornstarch? Screw you! Butter, flour, flavor, come back into my life

Rosemary Chicken Casserole
serves 2

2 tbsp butter 
2 tbsp flour (if you want a thicker sauce add more flour but also add the same amount of butter)

1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup white wine (straight from the box, bitches!)
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

1/4 cup milk, cream, etc

6-8oz broccoli, cut into medium sized florets
2 medium potatoes, cut into small, very bite size pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
12 oz chicken breast, cubed

Set your oven to that magical, mystical setting: 375. 

Ok, so you heat up your butter in a medium sauce pan. Once it's melted add your flour and stir to combine. It'll get gummed up quick so have your broth at the ready. Slowly add your chicken broth, stirring all the while to combine. This mix will be pretty thickened up. If you want, add a bit of the white wine to loosen up the roux mix. You want the flour to cook though.  Anyways, once you add your rosemary it will look like this, except yummier because we're using a roux and not cornstarch:

Towards the end of the cooking time, add your cream or milk. Assemble your casserole. Pour the sauce over the meat and veggies, tossing a bit to make sure saturation is in full and holy effect. Pop that bad boy in the oven for about 30, 35 minutes. Voila!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finger Painting.

A couple of Sundays ago, while Todd napped, I decided to throw down a sheet on the kitchen floor, strip my baby down to her diaper and let her go nuts in her first foray into finger painting. Now, I wasn't sure how this would go. Like a lot of little kids and, hey, adults as well, Alex can have texture issues. At the beach, having sand touch her was just the worst thing. Until Todd todd her how to play in it, then it was a blast.

So I wasn't sure how the cool goopy goodness would appeal to her. I guess I'll just let you see for yourself.

So cute here, squatted down and so into painting that she never once hammed it up for the camera.

I know it's blurry but I love the sense of action it provides. Also a wee bit of zaniness.

Look at that hair!

This picture below is one of my favorites. The tilt of her head, the sunshine in her hair, the focus and determination in her play.

Cherub. My heart.

Then she figured out how to get her own paint out...

"Did any come out? I'mma check."

"Let me stand up and really work on this."


"Is this edible?"

"Ohhh! Point it down and then squeeze!"

Overall it was an exercise in play, creativity and learning new skills. And it was so much fun, I can't wait to do it again. There was nothing like sitting there with her in my lap, both of her hands wet and cold from the gobs of paint. Looking over her shoulder, watching her fingers smear into the thick globs of paint, drawing abstract designs into it. Watching which color she liked most (can you guess from the photos?) Using her left to paint on her paper, the right would list and bob a bit on my right leg, leaving pale, multi-colored streaks everywhere on my skin. I felt like an Easter egg, I was so painted up.

The luckiest Easter egg in the whole world.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall Feeling

It happened on Friday as I walked to my car after work, and it happened yesterday, too: a feeling of fall. It's a little early to be getting that vibe, but I definitely felt it. It's a subtle change to the light and the intensity of the sun, and it's something about breezes that aren't just gusts of hot air, that actually behave how a breeze should.

Usually these moments strike me sometime in September. The sun's rays aren't as potent and there's... there's a quality to it that has changed. It's settling down, relaxing into autumn. It's a fun and exciting sensation, too. A promise of respite from the heat. A promise that the humidity will die down as the monsoon season dies with it. And we have had one HELL of a monsoon this season. Finally!

It's not a lot to talk about today but I wanted to make note of it. I don't know if other people pick up on that subtle feeling of things slowly shifting gears into another season, but I like that I do. I feel connected to things, and it's nice to realize that I'm not so caught up in myself and my little world that I can't realize the bigger, the enormous things that are going on around me.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bloppity Bloopity Randoms

I haven't been blogging lately because the past two days have been seriously chaotic. Wednesday morning the sink resurfacing guy woke us all up by knocking loudly on the door. Todd had him down for Thursday morning but voila, there he was. He took most of the day, our kitchen was completely taped up and blocked off and this was all going on while it rained cats and dogs for four hours straight (unimaginable shit here in Tucson; morning rain? Rain lasting more than 40 minutes? WHAT), and while I tried to clean the house around him.

Thursday we went to swim lessons (I will be talking about this in more detail when I upload the photos I took), then raced back home to change and get ready for our lunch date downtown with my friend Amber and her darling boy James. Alexandra looked positively fried during lunch and at one point I thought she would literally just plunk her head down in her plate of food, fast asleep. But no! Girlfriend was ready for the musuem!

We spent well over an hour there in the little jungle themed romp room. At one point a horrible little boy bullied Alexandra twice sending her into tears but did the boy's mom come and remove him from play to teach him not to be a bully? Of course not! Why discipline children! Just feed them more Lunchables! Anyways, after that we went home, Alex napped and boom, Todd's dad had to come over to watch Alex real fast while Todd and I went to go sign some documents and then it's work out time and then explosions happen, etc.

Did I mention that since we got our sink resurfaced and repainted that we can't use it until tomorrow? Do you know how annoying it is to prepare a dish that contains raw chicken without a sink nearby in which to constantly wash your hands? Do you know how annoying it is to have to walk to the bathroom, hands held out in front of you like a biohazard, to wash chicken juice off of them before walking back to the dining room to remove your child from her booster seat before she falls and lands face first on a concrete floor?

It is seriously annoying, like totally!

It's funny how just one little home improvement thing like that can throw a wrench in everyday living. We've done stuff to our house before. Todd re-did all three bathrooms in the downtown house, one at a time so we wouldn't have to deal with it for long. But when you're heavily pregnant and you have to walk around a cast iron claw foot tub, on its side like that ship I talked about before right beside your bed, for six and a half weeks, it is super annoying. So I guess I just schooled myself in regards to bitching about dealing with no kitchen sink for more than two days.

Aaaaanyways. It has just seemed a little wackadoo around the house lately.  Last week was insane too. Lots of meetings and dentist appointments and HEY GUYS did I mention I will likely require a crown in my mouth? My first one! Pour me a drink, ugh. Also using unwaxed dental floss sucks but is actually pretty effective.

But some good news is that we totally took advantage of a local furniture store's 50% off sale and got three wonderful pieces of furniture for, yep, half the price. Our coffee table is built like a brick shithouse and is beautiful; we replaced Todd's funky old nasty metal filing cabinet with a gorgeous wood filing cabinet that is much larger and gives him room to grow; our crappy Target sofa table (Todd never met a sofa table before he met me) has now been replaced by a large and gorgeous media cabinet, whose identity we have changed to fit our needs. Now our TV room/Todd's office looks neat as a pin (when Alex hasn't done her little shredder routine) and classy to boot. No offense to Target furniture but when you have owned a piece of build-it-yourself furniture, that uses wood glue and voodoo to put together, for over seven years, it starts to look a little chintzy.

Another purchase I've recently made is my first ever pair of skinny jeans and I LOVE THEM. They are so flattering! H&M is my new favorite. I have tried stuff on there twice before and nothing looked right, maybe because I was trying to keep to a size. But I let go and let God, and just went with much larger sizes and boom, nice fits! Plus they are SO inexpensive. H&M and Pier 1 are slowly becoming my new Targets.

I'm dying inside, slowly, waiting for True Blood's season finale on Sunday. Thank God Todd and I got into Boardwalk Empire recently. Although the serious lack of strong female characters is disheartening. But then again I loved Sex and the City and I am sure a lot of people would want to take my Strong Woman membership card and rip it up so there you go.

True Blood! EEEEEE. Pam better not die or I will hit someone.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: DOWNTOWN restaurant

No, I don't mean downtown restaurant as in a restaurant that's downtown, although DOWNTOWN actually is a restaurant downtown.

DOWNTOWN is actually the name of the restaurant and two sentences in, I'm already sick and tired of the word "downtown."

Do you know people will get into arguments about whether or not the punctuation should go inside the quotes if the puncuation is not actually part of the quoted piece of text? So like, what do I do with this situation? The period is part of the sentence, but not part of the word that is annoying me (downtown). But to me, a period just hanging out all by itself on the outer edge of those quote marks is just so sad and it also looks sloppy. Oh, hell, now I just want to shut down my computer and go to bed.

Anyways, this restaurant! It was delicious and if you ever find yourself in downtown (sigh) Tucson, I think you should give this place a try.

The first time I went, I ordered the black mussels for an appetizer. You know, the food we eat before we eat food. They were heavenly. Usually mussels, or moules as I like to call them in a little mini shout out to my late aunt Jessica, are steamed in a mix of broth and white wine, with shallots, garlic and minced parsley, give or take an ingredient or two. They are DELICIOUS and I love them.

But Janos, the chef and owner of DOWNTOWN (sigh), did a twist and added slices of chorizo sausage to the broth. The result is a spicy, rich broth you can dip your bread into--- OH BUT WAIT, Janos already did that for you by added a toasted piece of bread in your bowl! Half submerged, the exposed part is crispy and hot but the portion that is in the broth is soft, completely saturated with so much flavor. Heaven!

For my entree I had the duck with BBQ rice and Szechuan eggplant. Holy shit. That's just it. The duck was perfectly cooked, succulent, and surprisingly low in fatty content. The rice and eggplant were absolutely delicious as well. You know that part in the movie Elf, when Buddy the Elf puts all the candy and broken up pop tarts on his pasta, drowns it in syrup and stuffs his face? And as he's eating it he sort of bounces in his seat, eyes rolled back, hands flapping? That was basically me every time I took a bite of the duck. SO GOOD.

In fact, this past weekend when we went again, I was sorely tempted to get it again. But I'm really glad I didn't because, while I still had to satisfy my craving for the moules, I also had to satisfy my curiosity. I ordered the red curry catfish. They were succulent, tender, lightly floured and, from what I can tell, baked fillets, on top of rice that had this creamy thing going on from a mixture of basil, ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk. So the bowl  had a base of rice, topped with the catfish, which was in turn topped with a spicy lemon cucumber salad.

The salad on top was definitely the spiciest thing but since nothing else had that heat, it wasn't overpowering. Instead it served as a kicked up garnish of sorts, and all of it, ALL OF IT, just mingled so well together in that bowl that I was half tempted to just pick it up and fling it against the distressed brick wall behind me because my God, Janos had created perfection and if perfection is created, all else pales in comparison and I figured I would just save the world from that horrible sinking feeling of not being able to stand up to the red curry catfish.

Todd, the first go round, had the pork belly appetizer and the grilled salmon with bacon orzo. They were both delicious but the whole foodgasm situation I was in kept me from fully enjoying and envying his dishes. THAT IS HOW GOOD MY FOOD WAS. I'm not as bad as my mother in law, but sampling other people's dishes is a favorite of mine. It helps diminish the remorse you often feel when you are so utterly torn between two or more choices. God my life is full of first world problems, isn't it?

The second go-round he got the ahi ceviche and THAT my friends was absolutely delicious. It was served with a seaweed salad that was actually really delicious. It reminded me of our delicious sea greens and how I should take them up on their offer of awesomeness. For his entree he had the orechiette pasta with mushrooms and braised duck and THAT my friends was also outstanding. I kept sneaking those little pastas out of his bowl with my fork.

Something else I want to talk about that absolutely blows my mind regarding this restaurant is their attention to the personal details you offer up when making your reservation. Normally I enjoy speaking with a human being but in the case of making reservations online, I am a new and fervent convert. Both times we went, the requests I made (booth, cozy, romantic) were not only heeded but were also brought up in casual, cheerful conversation with either the host or the server. The first time was awesome because I had written something to the effect of "We're parents to a toddler and rarely get out so the more cozy and romantic the table, the better. Thank you!" and my God, on our way to our fabulous, super comfortable horseshoe booth, the host chatted about how as a fellow parent himself, he completely understands and how he hoped our booth would meet our expectations. And we chatted about being parents very briefly.

The second time the same host, though not referencing anything in my reservation requests, charmed me again by overhearing my wanting to sit on Todd's left since I'm a leftie, and then commiserating with me on the joys and hassles of being left-handed. Little things like that are just so touching in a world where we are increasingly distancing ourselves from the public through iPods, iPads, headphones, cell phones, dvd players, etc. It's nice to be noticed, it's nice to be considered and it's nice to be thought of. I get all of these things out of interactions with the staff of DOWNTOWN (sigh).

So, there you have it. I have nothing horrible to say about this restaurant at all. Well, I will say that this past Saturday we went rather earlier than our normal time, getting reservations at 6pm. I figured the most popular dining hour would be 7pm but boy I was wrong. That place was jumping and it did take several minutes for our cocktails to find us. But that's it. After that, it was smooth sailing with the delivery of wine, appetizers and entrees. And our server was absolutely attentive, charming and helpful. It was just lovely.

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails
135 S. 6th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85701

Grade: A++

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tequila Lime Shrimp

Todd and I wanted to try something a little different for dinner a few Sundays ago. In fact, it was the Sunday with the beautiful complete double rainbow, and overall, that afternoon was pretty blissed out. The tasty shrimp didn't hurt, either.

Todd got this recipe from this blog, which is fun because the dude on that blog is also named Todd. We didn't do much different. It's extremely easy, very low maintenance and extremely delicious.

Tequila Lime Shrimp
serves 2 - 4

1lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tequila
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp fresh lime juice

Mix all the ingredients together and add your shrimp. Marinate for about 20 minutes, no longer. Any longer and the shrimp will start to get funky.

At this point we went outside to stare at a rainbow. Then Todd heated the grill. After your 20 minutes are up, go ahead and skewer your shrimpies. The original recipe called for bamboo skewers, soaked in water, but we just used our metal ones. I know it's not as boho-chic, but WHATEVER

Did I just throw shade at that other blog? I'll never tell, but a site that uses sensual imagery to describe food in an unironic way... Meh.

Grill the shrimp until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side, maybe longer depending on their size.

So tasty! Sex on a stick! Meat popsicle! Dirty raunchy drunk ass ho shrimp! DIVINE! or shall I say, de-vein?

Anyways, enjoy! Sprinkle with some extra lime juice if you want. Todd and I devoured these bad boys before our actual meal, standing in the kitchen right in front of this plate. When Alex refused to eat any, I cannot lie, Todd and I were happy about it. I'd like to try this marinade for some grilled chicken too.