Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Salvaging Wilted Lettuce

Salads are one of summer's perfect meals. You don't have to heat up the kitchen and there's an abundance of fresh vegetables. However, occasionally my lettuce will get a little wilted either because it's so hot out or it's sat in the fridge a little too long while I'm eating other veggies and fruit.

You don't have to toss wilted lettuce though. You can crisp it right back up again by submerging it in a bowl of cold water and a couple of spoonfuls of vinegar (I've had success with both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar) for five to fifteen minutes. Rinse and dry as you normally would and it's like you've got perfectly fresh lettuce again. You can't tell it was ever limp and it doesn't taste at all like vinegar.

It works for me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Siren Song of the Clearance Catalog

Sixty percent off? Free shipping? Oh baby, you know how I like it. I found at least half a dozen items I wanted. They were all on sale too!

Then I remembered that 100% off was a better deal than 60% off. I recycled the catalog without making a purchase.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unintended Beauty in the Laundry

While folding the laundry, I realized the stack of my husband's tee shirts made a rainbow. It was one of those happy little accidents that made a tedious task less so.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer in the City

You know how some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter? I think I get it in the summer. Summer is already my least favorite season, D.C. is the sixth hottest city in the country and we're been having a heat wave all week. Today is 108 degrees with a heat index of 123 degrees, and I've got the blues.

In an attempt to look on the bright side, here are some things I do like about summer:

1. Glasses of ice cold lemonade

2. Wearing flip flops

3. Ice cream

4. Camping

5. Cherries

6. It isn't dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.

7. Rootbeer floats

8. Fireflies

9. Hammocks

10. Swimming

Just because it isn't all bad (only mostly bad) doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to fall. Please, please come soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

We don't have an air popcorn popper because we have a teeny little kitchen so I always made us stovetop popcorn. It was sort of a hassle, mostly because I don't like washing pots, but we dealt with it because it was healthier and cheaper than microwave popcorn.

Recently, my husband has been trying to break his addiction to potato chips. They're unhealthy and expensive, but his mom always packed chips in his lunch when he was growing up and he just carried on the habit into adulthood. He likes salty and savory snacks. (I prefer sweets myself, though I do like Doritos every once in awhile.) I suggested he eat popcorn instead of chips because it's high in fiber and low in calories, but it wasn't really practical for him to make stovetop popcorn every morning before work.

Instead, I tried a little experiment to make our own microwave popcorn rather than buying the chemical-laden kind from the grocery store. I simply put 1/2 cup of popcorn (from the bulk section of my favorite natural food store) in a paper lunch bag, folded over the top, and microwaved it. It takes something like two and a half minutes; I just use my microwave's popcorn button. It cooks up perfectly and leaves very few unpopped kernels. We pour it into a bowl before adding toppings so that we can reuse the paper bag. We've been able to reuse our bags 10-20 times, so it's still cost-effective and relatively eco-friendly.

Even with toppings, a large serving of popcorn for my husband's lunch costs just pennies; it's cheaper and healthier than either potato chips or microwave popcorn, and is just as fast as the latter. It certainly works for us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Playing Hookie: One of Our Best Days

Yesterday, Chuk and I had an all day date. He had worked so many weekends that he was able to take a comp day and we decided to do a little tourism in our own city. We had a really fun time.

We started off by having lunch at Good Stuff Eatery. It is a burger joint owned by Spike Mendelsohn, a former Top Chef contestant. It was DELICIOUS. I had the farmhouse cheeseburger and Chuk had the Prez Obama burger and we both loved them. We shared a shake, herbed fries and a soda. I'm mango mayonnaise's newest convert and Chuk met and fell in love with sriracha chili sauce. If you're ever in DC, I would recommend eating here. I've already planned what I'm having the next time I go: the smokehouse burger and a d-lechable leche shake.

After lunch, we walked past the Capitol and headed to the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. It was a million degrees out, but I didn't even whine. Maybe I'm maturing?

At the museum, we saw dinosaurs.

We saw the Hope diamond.

We touched a piece of Mars and did and saw a lot of other interesting things. I'm always amazed that the Smithsonians are free. They are a national treasure.

After the museum, we headed across town to Georgetown where we had dinner at a little burrito place and then went here:

Where we bought these:

I've never seen the show DC Cupcakes, but even so I couldn't help hearing the hype all over town about how good Georgetown Cupcake is. I've wanted to try it for a long time. I'm probably going to get hate mail for this, but honestly, I thought they were good, but I think Hello Cupcake in Dupont Circle is better.

Then, we went home and watched TV and ate cupcakes (I had 2 and Chuk ate 3!) and then Chuk gave me a foot massage.

I love that man. I love spending time together. I love all that our city has to offer. It felt like a mini-vacation. I feel very lucky.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Simple Blackberry Pie

We have so many blackberries, I made TWO blackberry pies this week. (Yes, I do want you to be impressed.) The first, pictured above, was a little semi-homemade version I made up on the fly. It was sort of a cross between a pie and a cobbler, and though it wasn't the prettiest thing, it was good.

For the crust, I simply pressed refrigerated sugar cookie dough from the grocery store into the pie pan. I didn't even roll it out. Then I mixed about 5-6 cups of whole blackberries with 1 cup of sugar and 4 Tablespoons of cornstarch and dumped it into the bottom crust. For the top crust, I rolled the remaining sugar cookie dough into a thin circle and laid it on top. The top and bottom crust didn't meet, but as the berries cooked down in the oven, they made more of a connection. I baked it at 450F for 15 minutes and then reduced the heat to 350F and cooked it for another 20 minutes.

I made a traditional blackberry pie with a real pie crust and a cooked center for my friend Rebecca's birthday brunch tomorrow. I hope it's tasty...and that she appreciates the monogram.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day

Chuk and I will seize any opportunity we can for a special dinner. We made a little date night at home to celebrate France's national holiday. French bread, French cheese, French sausage, sparkling French lemonade, and some French music made it easy to set the mood.

We chatted in French and giggled at how pretentious we were being. We also imitated Kenan Thompson's French SNL character a lot. That made us giggle too.

Then, we slow danced in the living room. I have such a good time with my husband. Hopefully, someday we'll go to France together. I've been twice, but Chuk's never been. On peut rĂªver.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quick Dishwasher Tip

Dishes are not my favorite chore. (In fact, chores in general are not really my favorite thing, but what can you do?) I came up with a little dishwasher loading trick that saves me time when I'm unloading the dishwasher though.

I categorize the utensils by type in their little holders: salad forks in one section, entree forks in another section, knives in another section, etc. That way, when I unload the dishwasher, I can just grab all the same type utensils and drop them in the drawer organizer without thinking about it or sorting. It doesn't add any time to loading, but it saves time when unloading.

Washing Pots?

Let's take a vote. Let's say you used your biggest pot to cook pasta. You didn't put salt or oil or anything into it, just water and dried pasta. Once you're finished, do you need to wash the pot? Keep in mind the pot won't fit in the dishwasher, the next thng you cook in the pot is likely going to be the exact same thing, it looks clean, and handwashing dishes is probably going to be the death of you.

I may or may not have just rinsed the pot out with hot water and called it a day. Is this disgusting or kind of genius?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blackberry Picking

We met some friends at a farm on Sunday to pick fruit. Turns out we were about a week too late for blueberries and a week too early for peaches. Fortunately, we were there at just the right time for blackberries. Chuk and I picked over eight pounds of the biggest blackberries I've ever seen. Yum.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm Still a Cheap Date

I always like spending time with my husband, but I like it even more when our dates are cheap. (Remember this and this?) Yesterday, I had a case of the blahs so I convinced Chuk we should celebrate 7/7/11 by going to 7-11. Cost of a shared slurpee was less than $3, but the experience was worth much more. And dang, I had forgotten how yummy slurpees are. Just the thing to beat the heat. I have a feeling we'll be back again. We're within walking distance of two 7-11s.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Band Meeting

This morning, over breakfast, Chuk and I hammered out band names. If he ever has a band, he's going to name it Waning Gibbous after one of the phases of the moon, you know, because he's a nerd. If I ever have a band, I'm going to name it Playlist, because I'm cool and it would be all ironic and stuff to have a Playlist playlist.

I'm really glad we got that all figured out since neither of us plays an instument or sings, so there's a super high probability that we'll need to have band names ready to go at a moment's notice. What do you talk about at breakfast? I hope you're as random as we are.

All this talk of awesome bands has me thinking of a particular awesome band that I miss.

Pasta Salad

Summer cooking, for me, is mostly about figuring out what we can eat that doesn't actually involve cooking. Virginia is hot as Hades in the summer and I do what I can to avoid turning on the stove, and especially the oven. Pasta salad is a frequent go-to meal for us during the hot months.

Pasta Salad

1 lb. short pasta, cooked and drained
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup of corn
1 can sliced olives, drained
2 6oz. cans of wild Alaskan salmon*
vinaigrette (bottled or homemade)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving, but it tastes better the longer it sits.

Other tasty additions to this salad are grated carrots, hearts of palm, tomatoes, raw baby spinach, and artichoke hearts.

*To make this salad vegan, substitute one can of drained and rinsed chick peas for the canned salmon. It's just as delicious, cheaper, and still a complete meal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Celebrating Independence Day

One of the great benefits of Chuk's job is that on the fourth of July we can go on his building's roof and watch the national fireworks show only two blocks from where they're set off. But because Chuk had to work both days this weekend and had to work again today, he didn't really want to fight the crowds on Metro and then hang around in the heat for hours. Plus, I think he was just getting sick of being in that building. So, at the last minute we sent out an email to five of our friends and neighbors asking if they'd be interested in doing a potluck.

To our surprise, nobody had plans and everybody was into the idea of a cookout. We set up our little charcoal grill in the parking lot of our building and stood around talking, drinking and cooking, like a trashy tailgating party.

We grilled corn on the cob, cheeseburgers, Copper River salmon, two kinds of German bratwursts, and chicken kabobs. We had tossed salad, watermelon and potato on the side and then brownies and berries with poundcake for dessert. All that food for only seven people! It was good.

So there were no fireworks for us, but there was lot of food and friends and laughs, so it was still a pretty great holiday. What did you do?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Perfect (and Less Than Perfect) Saturdays

Last Saturday was wonderful. Chuk made me brunch.

It was a beautiful day, a rarity during a Virginia summer.

Because it wasn't too hot or humid, Chuk suggested we go down to the river and feed the birds.

There were a lot of birds: geese, ducks, and songbirds.

It was a lovely, peaceful afternoon. Then, in the evening, we met a friend and his parents for dinner and a walk through Old Town, and we ended up, once again, down by the river. It was an idyllic Saturday.

This Saturday is less than perfect. My poor Chuk has to work today and tomorrow, so I'll be spending the day catching up with my DVR and the laundry that needs to be folded. If it can't be perfect, at least it can be productive.