Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Pretty Ooooops

Sometimes accidents happen. But they can be lovely. 

Just take this as a lovely warning to be careful when juggling too many things in life. 
Sometimes stuff just slips off your plate.

That or prepping your bangover relief omelet was incredibly rough.

Love to all,
~the, "this is really sappy, but all aspects of life have odd beauty" gal, Jess

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Project Tasteless: I'm not complaining about a night with many O's but, sweetheart I need a break... and an Omelet

How was your night, my lovelies? Mighty successful after that lovemaking inspired soup I'll bet. Maybe even mind blowing? tehehe. Well, before you send sexy neighborhood boy out his not-so-shameful trek back to the land of football and leftover turkey sandwiches, you both probably need some sustenance. You know, to ease that fabulous bangover you so rightly earned. 

Enter Project Tasteless 6: Easy Like Sunday Morning Bangover 911 Challenge

The best news about this bangover recovery plan is while you will need to peel yourself out of the tangled mess of sheets you and lover boy have created over the last 12, 14, oh what a wonderfully naughty girl you are, 16 hours, you won't have to hit up the grocery store. Oh no, my Night of Many O's Omelet can be whipped up with a few kitchen staples and last night's leftovers. 

So, drape said sheet over your satiated  (sore, whatever....same difference) limbs and get thee to the kitchen:

You will need:

2 eggs
onion, chopped
green pepper, chopped
mushrooms chopped
deli ham, chopped
Gruyere cheese
salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

french bread, for toast

You can adjust the portions on the filling items (onion, green peppers, mushrooms, ham) based on how hungry you and your "friend" are. And please don't skimp on the ham....the boy is likely in need after all, a night of nibbling on your flesh satisfies everyone but his stomach, unfortunately. But we can remedy that....so carry on.

Lazily toss your chopped items (for the omelet filling) into a hot pan and saute until the veggies are tender and the ham is lightly browned.

Whip the eggs with a splash of milk and the seasonings. Trade out the filling mixture in the skillet for the eggs. Once the egg mixture is set, add the cheese and then top with the filling.

Carefully flip the omelet to seal the deal.

Serve with toast and a side of ketchup. The melded flavors of the veggies and cheese will bring back pleasant memories of your successfully seductive meal of the previous evening, while the eggs and ham will put a little spring in your Sunday step...even if you haven't wandered too far from bed just yet.

Oh, why one plate you ask? Because what better place to enjoy your bangover breakfast than with your sweetie at the scene of the crime? And why not, if you are feeling a little, ahem, energized after the o-o-o-omelet you only have one plate to set aside.

Love to all,
~the "I love having multiple reasons to be lazy on a Sunday Morning" gal, Jess

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Project Tasteless: The French (Invented Lovemaking) Onion Soup

It's Thanksgiving Weekend and you know what that means...becoming slightly cooped up at the house, as we avoid the crazies at the mall and the psychos on the highway. So, what is a girl to do but lour the cutie-pie neighbor away from the football games and leftover turkey with trimmings over into your bed to your table for a light (sort of), healthy (kind of), vegetarian (nearly) seduction meal. I mean, that's what Rachel would do.

So, if you are ready to embrace Round Five of Project Tasteless: The I Am, in Fact, Trying to Seduce You Challenge just follow my lead and you will have that boy next door eating out of your hand....or which ever body part you prefer.  The French may have been credited with inventing lovemaking...however, this southern gal not only took a page out of their book, she modified it too!

Without further ado, I give you the tools for seduction, in the form of French Onion Soup.

Gather the arsenal:

2 large onions, sliced
0.5 lb mushrooms, sliced
0.25 cup butter (aka, 1/2 stick)
0.5 cup red wine (I used a French Bordeaux, but you should always cook with whatever wine you like to drink)
2, 10.5 oz cans condensed beef broth (or you could use fresh beef broth, of course)
2.5 cups water
1 teaspoon-ish sugar
1 tablespoon flour
black pepper to taste (you likely won't need salt, thanks to the beef broth)
French Bread, cut into thick slices and toasted
Smoked Gruyere Cheese, sliced

As you probably noticed, this isn't your average Frenchie's soup...I add mushrooms, and use smoked Gruyere instead of the classic Swiss/Parmesan mix.  But you don't want just an average night in, do you? That's what I thought....so enough balking at the ingredients...let's get cooking.

Saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter and sugar until the mushrooms are soft and the onions translucent. Add the flour to thicken up the juices that the onions released.

Once the flour is completely incorporated, add the wine, stock and water, plus pepper and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat and let all the flavors meld while you toast the bread.

Fill soup bowls (make sure they are oven proof, my darlings) nearly to the brim, top with toast and cheese and ladies...be generous with the cheese, because you want this boy to be generous with you later, if you know what I mean. (Also, I thought I took a picture before I popped the soup in the oven, but I guess I got distracted....hot boys soup will do that do you, sorry, I'm not sorry) Bake at 425 degrees F, for 10 minutes...or until the soup is hot, bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Oh.My.God. It is that good. (oh ps. these bad boys will be super hot, so handle with care....but then again what bad boy isn't super hot and should be handled with care?)

Now, I personally can make an entire meal out of this soup, but I know that those carrying a Y chromosome need a little more "fuel" before the big game night...and trust me ladies, after feeding him this meal, it will be a big night!

So, side up that sexy soup with some roasted zucchini and leftover cranberry sauce.

And a salad inspired by the latest issue of Cooking Light (I followed this pretty much to the T except I used a pink grapefruit instead of oranges).

You want him to be filled up and ready to go, but not too stuffed. This isn't Thanksgiving all over again ladies and you know as much as I love a good food baby, it has no place in bed.

Set the table and let the seduction begin. Have fun, and be safe. Oh and don't blame me if all the boys start requesting French Onion Soup for dinner. See you tomorrow for some bangover recovery time.

Love to all,
~the "I might not be French, but I have a few tricks up my lovemaking sleeve anyway" gal, Jess

PS. This recipe makes 4-6 servings...so, you will have plenty for a midnight snack before round two...or three, or....well, you get the point. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spinach and Artichoke Wontons

Phew. Now that we all survived Thanksgiving we can focus on two of my favorite holidays: Christmas and New Years. And contrary to popular belief I don't deem Christmas one of my favorite holidays (rivaled only by Halloween and my birthday) because of all the gift giving. (although I will admit, I love finding the "perfect" gift for my friends and family...and come on what girl doesn't like to receive some love from time to time? twss.)

No. I love the winter holiday season because of all the gatherings. I'm not sure why we wait until the month of December to cram all of our parties in, but I love getting together with my friends-that-are-so-close-they-are-family all season long. And let me tell you, as much as my friends love to drink, we love to eat equally. So it's always fun to see what classic munches, as well as new items for us to try, ponder and vote yay or nay upon for the next round of festivities arrive upon the table/bar/coffee table/floor/you get the point.

Without further ado here is one that has been a hit for me so far in this "pre-season" playtime: Spinach and Artichoke Wontons

Gather the goods:

For this very simple appetizer/party goodie you will need:

1 package (12oz, I think) frozen spinach, thawed and drained of extra water
1 jar (pick your size...I had this little one on hand, also, mine were marinated, but you could go either way) artichoke hearts, drained
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
~1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pack of wonton wraps

Mix the first 4 ingredients together with salt/pepper or hot sauce to taste. Lay out wrappers on a nonstick cookie sheet and add a heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture to each wrapper.

Brush a simple egg wash (one beaten egg with water) on the edges of the wrapper and then fold in half, creating a triangle, sealing the edges with your fingers.

Brush the top of the wontons with the egg wash and then bake for ~10-12 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.  Sprinkle more parma on the top the last 3 minutes of bake time if desired.

Enjoy hot out the oven. Dipping sauce ideas include: ranch, hoisen, or spicy raspberry.  These do transport well, but be careful reheating them, as the wraps get a little chewy if microwaved. I would suggest reheating in the oven/toaster oven if possible.

What are your favorite holiday party snacks? Are they classics or a new idea? I got this idea from the "Spinach Wraps" that my beloved Akins is serving as an app now. They are deep fried and really bad for you....my version is pretty good for you, cream cheese aside....which isn't a "bad fat" in my book :D

Love to all,
~the "let's party all holiday long" gal, Jess

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reluctantly Thankful....

...I have tons of things to be thankful for in my life, no doubt about that. (hello wonderful friends, immediate family, puppy dog, job, blog, sweet loft, health, food, wine, beer, did I mention my wonderful friends?) Regardless of that fact(s), I am NOT a fan of Thanksgiving. In terms of the "big holidays" it is my least favorite (hello extended family drama: every. single.year.) Actually, "least favorite" is pretty mild....but I'll leave it at that.

One thing I do love though, is to cook. So, even though the "classics" that define Thanksgiving pretty much bore me to tears, I do play my part. Just call me Pumpkin Pie Gal. 'Cause that is what I've been making for Turkey day since I was 9 years old. Yep....let's not talk about how many years that is now, umk?

But inspite of my distaste for Thanksgiving, I do make a mean Pumpkin Pie. And the key my friends? A real, 2 legit 2 quit, pie crust. None of that frozen stuff on the "big day"

So, put on your big girl panties and bust out the Joy of Cooking....dear Joy will not lead you astray when it comes to pastry crusts.

Once your crust is prepped and ready to go, (and yes, crimped edges are a must....I use a damp fork, fyi,) gather the filling ingredients. Again, I don't mess around with this tried and true tradition and follow the recipe on the back of the Libby's can. (Yes, I know, Jess the Mess following a recipe...don't fret people, only when I'm baking!)

This is the simplest pie ever, just mix all the ingredients together (including the 2 very camera shy eggs) and pour them in the crust. 

And bake the pie, obviously. I think I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Oh well. 

[Btw: the pie only requires a 15oz can (aka, 2 cups of pumpkin, give or take a tablespoon) so check out a fun pasta dish to use up the rest of that pumpkin puree. ]

I also wanted to try my hand at making real cranberry sauce after picking up two bags of the suckers at Publix this week (I just can't resist the power of BOGO sometimes). After perusing some recipes online I decided on an Orange and Grand Mariner route and started this adventure with the below ingredients:

First up make a "simple syrup" consisting of half a cup of water, half a cup of OJ, half a cup of white sugar and half a cup of brown sugar.

And produce something that looks like swamp water....bravely solider on.

Add the rinsed cranberries and bring the whole mess back up to a boil until the cranberries "pop"...it was awesome...try it! Once you've popped your cherry, err cranberries, lower the heat to a simmer and let the berry laden syrup reduce.

Lovely. Stir in a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier and enjoy. This sauce might just save Thanksgiving for me. But that is a big "might."

Now, what to do with that leftover pumpkin? Make some pumpkin pasta...I've been making this variation of one of Rachel Ray's recipes for a few years now and it never fails to satisfy me.

Check it:

The Stars of the Show:
       *Pumpkin Puree (about 2 cups)
       *1/4 of a large onion, rough chopped
       *1-2 cloves of garlic
       *Chicken Broth
       *Spices: nutmeg, cinnamon sugar, black pepper and hot sauce
       *Pasta of your choice
       *Optional: link sausage, chicken or pork. I used chicken apple sausage, cut into bite sized pieces

Once the aromatics/protein are lightly browned it's time to build the sauce:

Add the pumpkin, spices and about 2 cups of chicken broth then drizzle in the cream.

Toss with the pasta and enjoy!

I top off my portion with grated Parmesan cheese and more cinnamon sugar. And more burned garlic toast. Yum.

Love to all,
~the, even if I don't like Thanksgiving doesn't mean I'm not thankful gal, Jess

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lazy Woman's Eggplant Parma

This ain't your Italian Grandmother's Eggplant Paramsean....mostly because I don't have the time to make your grammie's labor of love...but I'll bet you love my quick and dirty version just as much.

Check it:

The goods:

1 garden fresh eggplant from the neighbor's yard (or your local friendly market)
1/2 a large white onion-thickly sliced
2/3 carton white mushrooms-quartered
1 medium tomato-rough chopped
fresh basil
8oz can of tomato sauce

plus some camera shy:
red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves of garlic
mozzarella cheese-shredded
Paramsean cheese-grated

Prep your eggplant by chopping it into bite sized pieces (I leave the skin on, but that is a personal preference-I like the extra "chew") and sprinkling generously with sea salt to draw out any bitterness.

Let the salted eggplant chill for 10-20 minutes and then blot gently with a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth.

Meanwhile grate your parma....I'd say that is about 1.5 cups? Ya'll know my measuring issues by now. It's all part of the charm, friends....just go with your gut.

And seriously people....get real cheese please, not that stuff in the plastic shaker....you know what I'm taking about and you know who you are. Ahem.... yes, you.

Once you are prepped and ready to go, saute the onions, garlic, mushrooms and eggplant until all are tender.

Now, let's get saucy by adding the chopped tomato, red pepper to your taste and most of the parma (I reserve about a 1/2 handful to top everything with....you'll see in a minute) and some julianed basil. Once the cheese is incorporated add the tomato sauce and a splash of red wine.

Throw the whole mess in a baking dish and top with a few generous handfuls of mozzarella, the last few shreds of paramsean, plus more basil.

Move the veggie/cheese party into a 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (I cranked on the broiler for the last 2 minutes just to brown it up a little bit)

Oh, hello sexy.....

Plated up with a heap of Cesar salad, some ziti ala vodka and a piece of rather charred garlic toast.

Amen. You know my very own Italian grandmother may be rolling in her own grave right now (What? No breading? No frying?) but if she could taste this I bet even Grams would be pleased.

Love to all,
~the "so what if I'm an Italian in a hurry?" gal, Jess

Friday, November 19, 2010

60 is Sexy!

Meet Mrs. Susan. And her daughter, Ashley.  She is 60 years old. (Susan. Not Ashley.) No really...she is. And therefore, 60 is sexy.

I can only hope to look as half beautiful and vibrant when I hit the big 6-0.  Obviously, such a wonderful woman, deserves a big birthday celebration. And celebrate we did!

The location:

Bedner's Tiki Hut, obvs.

In case you were wondering Bedner's is a farm fresh market that is literally farm fresh. Because Bedner's is a farm. And a market. So you know I had to go drool over the produce, since I'm a little obsessed with groceries, etc.

I love peppers.

Fruit is pretty, but I'm a veggie girl at heart.

As in eggplants as big as your head. 


Pickles! holy yum.

How the heck do you roast these, besides over an open fire? 
Chestnuts are rocks from as far as I can tell.

As if the market wasn't lovely enough, we went on a farm tour. On a tractor. Sort of.

We went behind the tractor.  :D

Bees to help with pollination.

The girls were laughing at how many pictures I took, considering I live in an agricultural community surrounded by farmland. Bedner's is true agroscience, which is another world compared to the vast, but simple corn, watermelon and tobacco fields I grew up next to. I was enamored by the neat rows of visqueen wrapped soil, producing beautiful tomato, pepper and strawberry plants. I also admired the maze of aquaducts for keeping all those lovely plants well hydrated and happy. 

Ash and Marianne

The birthday girl with "her girls." Mrs. Susan spoiled us all while we were in college. She did our hair, had us over for dinner, traded shoes, jewelry and magazines with us in exchange for the promise we would keep her hair colored no matter what happens when she "gets old." Looks like that is going to be an easy promise to keep, Mrs. Susan!

After a few more photo ops, it was time for dinner, also catered by Bedner's

I loaded up my plate with huge helpings of the sides, and nibbled on the smoked chicken and brisket, only to abandon the meat in search of more slaw, greens and mac. Oh my goodness, nothing beats southern classics out on a farm (which is next to US 441 ironically) on a beautiful night.

If you don't want to take my word for it, just ask Petey-Pie. He likes to sit at the table, just like a person.

After a round of "Happy Birthday" led by Laura, Susan's other daughter, and a few more photo ops, it was time for the dance party! Whoot. Enjoy the ruckus we kicked up!

Happy Birthday to one of the most beautiful, caring, passionate women I know.

Love to all,
~the "I'm so honored to be one of Mrs. Susan's 'girls'" gal, Jess