Monday, August 31, 2009

Sniff, Sniff, Sob, Sob

Today I dropped my camera off at the post office to go to the Canon repair facility in Virginia. I took some pictures of some more food that I made last night - it took me 6 years, but I finally made a dinner my husband just would not eat, recipe coming soon. I downloaded the images to my computer, removed the batteries and the memory card, wrapped my camera in a pound of bubble wrap and packed it tightly into a box. It was the saddest moment ever. I went to the post office to buy the stamp that would be needed to send my precious cargo across the country and spent $13. My box barely weighed a pound, but after the insurance and delivery confirmation, it cost me $13. I just hope it makes it there ok. I haven't had anything I needed to take pictures of just yet, but I miss it. It's like I left my cellphone at home or something. John laughed at me last night as I wrapped up my camera and said, "Now you know how I felt when my Xbox got the Red Ring of Death and I had to ship it off for repair." I'm already thinking of the pictures I'll miss with it, like my upcoming canning adventures. My crappy little Nikon point and shoot will have to suffice I guess...

Recipe Catch Up Part 3

When we moved into our house my mom identified one of our trees in the front yard as a pear tree. We all thought it was ornamental and then actual pears grew on it. I know absolutely nothing about pear trees. Two years later, I still know absolutely nothing about pear trees. The first year I gave most the pears away. Well, they all went to my coworker, because she buys organic and is not scared of my imperfect pears. This year I gave some away to my MIL and then brought a bunch to bunco, only the girls that wanted them forgot all about them and the poor girl that hosted is now the proud owner of 20 something pears. This year I was determined to make something with these dang pears. They've shown up in a lot of my Green Monster Smoothies (those are actually my favorite ones - pear and mixed berry) and I decided this year, I'd make a pie from them.

Now this was my very first attempt at making a pie. I can do pumpkin (store bought frozen pie crust) and white trash pie. Anything else, it's from the bakery or from the freezer. So I pulled out my red Betty recipe book and off I went!

Pie Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
2 to 3 tbsp cold water

Since I don't own a pastry cutter (I just killed Julie and her mom) I used the food processor. I think this is probably only the third time I've used it in 3 years because I always forget I own one.

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Combine flour and salt in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add shortening and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of shortening. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together and come away from the sides.

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I don't have this next part of the recipe handy - it's about how you take the dough out and shape it into a disc and then wrap in plastic wrap for an hour or so until it's nice and cold. Then you're supposed to lightly flour the table, cutting board or whatever you're going to roll the dough out on. I floured and refloured that stinkin' table I don't know how many times and could never get my stupid pie crust off the table. After 3 attempts I gave up and just pressed it into the pie pan. Take that stupid pie crust!

On to the filling - the good stuff.

Pear and Custard Pie
(adapted from All Recipes)

INGREDIENTS
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
4 pears - peeled, cored and cut in half
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Press the pie pastry into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Flute the edges.

Peel, core and slice your pears and place the pear halves cut side down in the pie crust with the small ends toward the center. (Mine could have benefited from a bit of lemon juice)

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In a medium bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until smooth, then beat in the eggs one at a time until light and fluffy. Stir in flour and vanilla. Pour over the top of the pears.

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Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, until pears are soft and custard is set in the center. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

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Mine kind of developed this crust type layer on top and I also added some extra brown sugar while it was baking. The review? Well not the greatest pie ever, but not the worst either. The recipe got great reviews online so who knows what happened. John thought the pears were too crunchy (he really is biased towards our homegrown pears) while I kind of liked the bit of crunch. Oh well. I give myself mad props for finally trying to make a pie from scratch.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Recipe Catch Up Part 2

Do you watch Man vs Food on the Travel Channel? You really should! I love this show. He was even in San Antonio recently. While I haven't eaten at any of the places he went to, and hadn't even heard of one of them, I have taken on a 4 1/2 lb burger so Adam and I couldn't totally be BFFs!

Well the other night we were watching the show and Adam was in South Carolina and stopped by this place that had the most amazing looking shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits you say? Gross you might say? Eww or Disgusting you might say? While I've heard of this southern combo, I've never had it, but I definitely won't turn down shrimp or grits so why not throw them together!?

Off to All Recipes I went to find my perfect sounding shrimp and grits recipe!

Faith's Spicy Shrimp and Grits
(adapted from All Recipes)

INGREDIENTS
4 cups chicken broth - I've started using bouillon cubes, so much cheaper and with less calories and no fat!
1 cup quick-cooking grits - Find 'em by the oatmeal
2 tablespoons margarine
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled and deveined small shrimp
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies


DIRECTIONS
Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir in the grits, return to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, melt the margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion, green pepper, and garlic; cook until the peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp, and cook until they begin to firm.

Stir the Cheese and canned tomatoes into the grits; Pour onto a serving plate and top with shrimp mixture.

The finished product!

Shrimp and Grits

Review: John and I could have eaten our weight in this. It was A-MAZ-ING! The only thing I would do differently is take the tails off the shrimp and roughly chop them. This way you get a little shrimp in every bite of grits. Tail on makes for a pretty presentation, but difficulty in eating. This might become a staple in our house.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seth Meyer's Stand Up

One of the few perks of working for a university is that when school starts there's always a ton of programming open to the entire university community. Last night, as part of the week-long festivities, the school brought in Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live.

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We were a little unsure about going because we didn't know if he'd be funny on his own. I also find SNL a little hit or miss (I'm picky about my comedy, what can I say?) I'm glad we went because he was hilarious! Here are a few videos I took during his set.

Talking about taking pictures on vacation:



Taking pictures of groups of girls (reminded me of my DC trip) and cellphone use and texting:



Talking about Ashlee Simpson's visit to SNL as well as Sarah Palin's:



Several Weekend Update jokes that were deemed too inappropriate for TV:

Recipe Catch Up

I've actually been doing a lot of cooking lately and wanted to get the DC wrap up out of the way before I posted any of them. I was very tempted to post them anyways, but the OCD part of me just wouldn't allow it. Each will get it's own post so that they're easier to find.

This one was actually from awhile ago. I hinted about it, but never posted. Yes, I suck.

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Greek Bulgur Salad With Chicken
(taken from Stephanie)
*makes 10 servings at 1 2/3 cup a piece

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups water
3 cups uncooked bulgur
3/4 fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons), divided - I may have used lime because that's what I had on hand
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 1/2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken (I used 2 baked chicken breasts)
2 1/2 cups chopped, peeled cucumber
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped - I couldn't bring myself to pay for fancy olives (I don't really like them anyways) and just used black.

Preparation
Combine water, bulgar, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt in saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Uncover and cool to room temperature.

Combine remaining 1/4 juice, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Add cooled bulgur mixture; toss well to combine. Cover and chill.

Review: John and I REALLY liked this. It just makes a TON. I meant to bring it to work to share, but kept forgetting so we had to throw a lot out. It would be great for a gathering of some type though.

I couldn't find the bulgur where I usually do (still learning my new, way too gearded towards children, grocery store) so I bought some in the bulk food aisle. The only difference was that it was a little more fine grained that the usual stuff. If you've never had bulgur you should try it. I substitute it for rice sometimes (a little healthier), it's a great side in general, and good for breakfast too!

I also think that I might make this again, but skip the bulgur. Doesn't this look like a great salad?

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Conversations with John - Back to School Edition

All said by my husband last night:

Dear blog,

Today was the 2nd day back at school. Little Johnny looked at me across the hallway today. He is so dreamy.

Dear Diary,

I don't know how to say this, but I think my math teacher is giving me weird looks. I think he is looking at the new boobs I grew over the summer.

Dear Diary,

These classes are so hard. I don't know if I can handle the pressure of all this new Calculus and English.

P.S. Johnny is so dreamy!

Dear Diary,

Some day I dream of being first clarinet. The girl Clarissa that is first clarinet is a stinky whore.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Final 2 Days in DC

So the big election day rolled around on Saturday. Remember I mentioned a speech the day before I left? Well it was for the caucus that was on Friday which led to the elections on Saturday, which I lost. :( Oh well! Not a big deal because I'm still going to be doing what I've been doing, only now I don't have to do it on a bigger scale! Plus it also meant that Peter, who I've never seen drink in the 4+ years that I've known him, got to not only buy me a shot, but to take one with me!

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That is called proof and it has now been spread all over the internets. I could also post the picture of him, the OU boy, wearing a UT shirt but I might save that for another day. We'll see.

So once the elections were over and everyone was sworn in, we headed to lunch and then to the room to get gussied up for our big formal banquet.

Aren't we a good lookin' group?

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These are all the people that went back and forth between the apartment and the hotel.

Most of us changed and then some late night antics occurred

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At one point, maybe around 3 am, I fell asleep having a conversation with someone. Oops! It was a great conference and a great time with some great people.

The next morning was departure day for many, but I scheduled a late departure so I could get in some additional sightseeing. I got packed up and headed to Arlington Cemetery with another friend.

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Joggers beware!

We took a tram that took us to the Kennedy grave sites:

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The markers are for a son, JFK, Jackie O, and an unnamed daughter.

Robert Kennedy was buried nearby

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Then we stopped at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and saw the changing of the guard.

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Finally it was a quick stop at the Lee Mansion before heading off.

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From Arlington I hopped on the metro to swing by the American History and Natural History museums. Want to know how you give an 80 year old Smithsonian employee a heart attack? You politely walk up and ask for the "Quick and Dirty Museum Tour."

At the American History Museum I saw:

Julia Child's Kitchen

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A fallout shelter

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Learned the history of The Pill

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Which was the best part of the trip. While standing there this little 8 year old girl turns to her mother and loudly asks, "Mom, what's the pill?" The room goes silent as all the women turn to look at the mom (whose standing next to me) and hear her answer. She looks to me and I laugh and tell her, "good luck with that one!" So she starts to explain to her daughter, "Well the pill is something that women take," she is then cut off by here daughter who says, "Ew! Gross! I don't want to know!" and runs from the room. Everyone laughs and the mom looks over at me again, I reply, "honey, the lack of the pill is how we got you."

After a good laughed I checked out some inaugural gowns from the former First Ladies:

Helen Taft

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Mamie Eisenhower and Martha Washington

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Mary Todd Lincoln and Florence Harding (her's wasn't an inaugural)

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Rosalynn Carter (whose dress caused quite a fuss because she had worn it 2 times before!) and Laura Bush

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I also went through the exhibit (no cameras allowed) and saw the flag that inspired the national anthem.

Then I headed over to the Natural History Museum to see some dinosaur bones

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The Hope Diamond and some other jewels

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and before I knew it my alarm was going off on my phone telling me to hightail it to the metro so I could make it to the Amtrak on time. I missed my train - oops! but made it to Baltimore with plenty of time for my flight. I packed my bags the exact same way I had when I left San Antonio and yet this time, it was 15 pounds more! I think Continental needs to have their scales checked! So I had to find a spot to open my luggage and shove as much as I could into my carry-on. Total PITA! I made it home just fine and my wonderful husband bought me flowers (since I lost my race) and baked me cake. Isn't he sweet?

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I then had to wash about 400 pounds of clothes! Don't you love coming home from vacation?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Days 4 - 6 in DC

Days 4 and 5 were uneventful conference days.

We went to a red, white and blue dance.

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Passed out some awards.

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We also did the typical conference session type things and since this is a fraternity event, we had some business sessions and I started campaigning for a national office. See my super cool campaign sticker?

Sticker

(For some reason, the colors didn't load right when I uploaded it, but the Gotta Have is purple and the RVP is more of an orange)

Friday night rolled around and Alex and I headed to the Washington Monument to do our tour. We got a really cool view of the city:

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When we finished we headed off to meet everyone for dinner before our entire fraternity headed over to the Air and Space Museum. Caught some pictures along the way:

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The coolest thing at the Air and Space Museum (at least I thought so) were the simulators. Brandi and I did two fo them. Our recommendation is to go in order. We didn't and were let down with the first one (after we had done the 3rd one). The 3rd one is awesome! You spend most of your time hanging upside down trying to shoot stuff. We however, shot nothing. Very sad.

Here are some random highlights from the Air and Space Museum.

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After we finished at the museum we did a night tour of all the monuments.

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The World War II is one of my favorites I think. They have some awesome quotes throughout the memorial that you can find on my Flickr page.

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The Korean War Memorial was awesome at night, but I wish I could have seen it during the day too. The etchings of all the soldier in the wall were really cool.

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After this it was a cab ride to find some food and to pass out for the night. My feet were absolutely killing me all week from all the walking I did!
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