Treading water, cooking, Italian in NYC & SMOKE in LoCo

One month later, I am 2 houses under contract (sold & bought), working through a mounting list to include scheduling inspections and appraisals, painters, school registrations and wrapping up doctor visits.  And when your movers tells you you have 14,000 lbs of house goods, you purge; counter to closet, bureau to pantry.  In meantime, I am fully immersed in my new full time, day job.  Much to learn, strategy to map and success to be had; connecting people to people, region to region, vertical to vertical, opportunity to opportunity.  And then there are the kids, who have homework and sports and hangouts and need me, as mom.  To say I am treading water is an understatement; the good news is, I know how to swim. In fact, I know how to swim away from a capsized boat if need be.  I can see the beach.  I just need to float on my back for a minute, take a deep breath, take full strides and kick.

So when exactly do I find time to cook these days?  I don’t.  But I drummed up Sunday dinner last week that couldn’t have been easier:  flank steak, shrimp tossed in cilantro & lemon, mashed sweet potatoes and blanched green beans/spinach.  Everyone had veggie option or if you liked all 3 like me, then it was a full plate!

I was also up in NYC last month for a few days and discovered two new spots you must add to your list!  Nizza on 9th Avenue is a hoppin’ vibe on the west side.  For me, it was a romantic little dinner for one.  I sat at the cute little bar, dipped my bread into olive oil & ricotta, sipped a nice rose, savored the homemade pasta with Ramps sauce and then dove in the Tartufo: chocolate coated praline & vanilla ice cream “bomba” stuffed with almond brittle & cherries.  Great spot to catch dinner before the theatre, steps away from Times Square…

Next up, Morandi on Waverly Place; an elevated gathering space place.  Grab a drink and eat curbside, a-la Joe, the tenderist bar keep ever; ask for his suggestions, they won’t disappoint.  My advertising buddies and I enjoyed the panini, burrata and fried artichokes – delizioso!

Back in VA, we stopped by a family friendly BBQ joint out in Ashburn/Loudoun County; Smokehouse Live; you can’t go wrong with the Smoked Turkey or Pulled Pork sandwich, waffle fries, Texas cavier (black eye peas cold salad) or baked beans!  The sauces are scrump-dilly…

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Until we eat again…cheers!

 

April Showers…

Good golly, it’s been 17 days since my last post.  Let me catch you up…

The month of March was a whirlwind and April is bringing many showers.  We are officially relocating to Charlotte, NC!  New jobs, new adventures.  Upon getting organized, I dug up an old gem of my mother.  It’s crazy, I see so much of myself in this pic; her hands, her willingness to try any recipe and her staple necklace.  I LOVED that necklace.  With every day new, I remind myself to eat a good breakfast and keep gentle reminders around; how can you inspire others if you are not inspired?  And with yesterdays monsoon pseudo-tornado, complete with a middle school run for cover drill and my American flag being ripped out of the column on my front porch, the grass really is greener and my tulips are a ridiculously perfect rouge! A friend sent me this picture of her afternoon walk and I mean really, does it get any better than a bed of bluebonnets? Spring is the best time of year, so with the showers, come the May flowers – yippee!

But back to the food.  Since I work from home, I am booked on conference calls pretty much all day.  I need to squeeze in something quick, easy and healthy; otherwise I miss the boat and I am ravenous by dinner.  I have been playing around with bagels and pumpernickel bread, roasted turkey or salmon, avocados or tomatoes, goat or brie cheese, hard boiled or poached eggs, capers or onions and arugula or spinach.  And some pomegranates.  Run to the market and pick up a few of these things and then just play around with changing it up.  It can be fun and you don’t need to have the same thing every day, just have some fun with it.

With the house on the market, we have also been eating out, a bunch, too much. My waistline is not happy.  But we were all craving our favorite salads and something homemade, so I tried this recipe that a friend shared on Facebook; you never know with a video, meaning – it might be more complicated than you think but this was a goodie, a simple 1-2-3; I watched the video 3 times, ran up to the store and delish, this delivered! Give it a try Twisted: Lemon Chicken Pasta.

With some spare time the past few weekends, I’ve been hitting a few of my favorite spots and saying my own personal au revoir.  Let’s face it, everything at Hunters Head Tavern in Upperville is always amazing, but they served up some yumma-yum on the sweet potato biscuits with honey butter. Whatever, I can’t even.  The Blushing Bubbly hit the spot, and I am gonna miss this place…head here on a Sunday for brunch, it’s the bomb.

I also did some retail therapy a few weeks ago in good old Georgetown.  I happened to stop into Urban Outfitters and it was Save the Music day with beer and DJ’s, repping all genders.  For those of you who know me, it was like the universe sent me there.  They had me at VH-1.  I don’t really drink beer but the concession was cool and I scooped up some t-shirts.  I was craving a crisp libation and a salad, so I dipped down to one of my all time favorite places, the Waterfront; um, on any given day, I’ll take lunch and a side of the best people watching around at Nicks Riverside Grille. It just never disappoints. Hard to get a seat at the covered bar overlooking the Potomac but wait it out, it’s worth it.  I wedged myself in next to the receipt ringer and that alone was bliss.

Also on a new fun stop on my list is Mt. Defiance Distillery for spirits and ciders; I must say, I can’t stomach a shot of anything, but served over ice is the way to go…cool vibe, small, do not bring your kids…the Absinthe was cool to see how it is fresh brewed…this is a quick stop, you can get in/out pretty quickly – I loved the Ginger Cider, like ginger ale, but after it’s set over ice & water for a bit…

Instagram is much easier to pic and post, but my passion is trying recipes and writing about it.  For the next while, I need to get life under wraps, maybe taper down to weekly or monthly posts until I come up for water, but stay tuned.  I am gonna miss this little perch I have called home for eight years; the perfect spot for an afternoon visit in the sun.  Remember, it’s that time of year that calls for Rose or Chardonnay, so cheers to my next adventure, CLT and Cackalacky!

 

 

 

Sunday Seder Supper…sort of.

Disclaimer:  this blog is not meant to open up a can of worms on marriage or a faith; it’s purely intended to explain perspective and inspire authentic and meaningful meals.  

When I was a kid, my favorite times were at the dinner table.  It’s really what I remember the most.  You see, I was raised in a divorced, half Protestant half Christian Scientist split household.  Until the 9th grade, I lived with my mom, in a predominately conservative Irish-Catholic neighborhood, the only Swede for miles, wearing big pink glasses and argyle sweaters and penny loafers.  At mom’s, there was always an interesting meal whipped up, lots of noise and laughter and a game.  Dad lived a few states south, in a more flashy, affluent area, where Sassoon jeans, lip gloss and jetting off to Aspen for the weekend was no big thang. At dad’s, it was a big meal, followed by conversation, and some ice cream.  In high school, we relocated to be closer to dad, and with the bigger town, exposed diversity and a mix of cultures.  I learned that jews, catholics, protestants, christian scientists, born again and latter-day saints and even atheists could all pretty much hang out together.  In fact, I always wanted to go to someone else’s house for dinner to see what it was like – no matter what faith they were or what heritage they came from.

Fast forward, I married an Italian Catholic and so you can imagine what our present day dinner table looks like; it’s loud, we are spirited, we play games, we laugh, we cry and we argue but…we always eat dinner together every night, try to squeeze in a family game and express our daily gratitude. Occasionally teeth clenched, arms flailing and food flying…but onto the Sunday Seder…

For some time now, I have admired the Jewish faith.  I even sent my Catholic baptized kids to Jewish preschool when we lived in Pennsylvania.  I know that sounds kind of funny but truthfully, it just felt like home.  Everyone cared about my kids and it felt like the right place, right time.  Plus, sometimes I feel like a Jewish grandmother (see source), especially when I over think, mastermind matchmaking, feel constant guilt, turn up my TV because I can’t hear.  I also love the #13 and words like putz, schlep and schtick.  Gilda Radner. Fiddler on the Roof. A strong self of identity.  Community.  And then there are bagels, cream cheese & lox.  Bar Mitzvah’s.  And Matzoh Ball Soup.

Last week a Jewish friend of mine had made Matzo Ball Chicken Noodle Soup and I had not one, but two bowls.  I know I know…and I regretted it later, but I got caught up in the moment.  It was so good that I decided I’d take a swat at it putting together my own Sunday Family Seder (abbreviated, Simple Table Style, Seder).  I researched  this and that, I even called a second Jewish source, consulted the meal and then simplified/condensed it into what my version might be:

Matzo Ball Soup (with chicken and noodles)
Everything Bagels
Arugula, Iceburg & Basil Salad with pomegranates, beets & goat cheese with Dijon Dressing
Concord Grape (for the kids)
Chardonnay for the adults (ok, just me)I put a little video together to get you in the mood…

This was surprisingly easy; I saved beaucoup steps by buying Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix, Bear Creek Chicken Noodle Soup Mix and a roasted chicken from the local market.IMG_4708

INGREDIENTS & STEPS

Matzo Ball Mix; just add eggs & oil, mix up, put in fridge for 15.

In meantime, heat up the soup mix with 4-6 cups of water; add in some celery & carrots (for additional flavor), stir in your roasted chicken and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove matzo ball mix from fridge and make meatball size (or smaller) matzo balls, then layer those into the soup and simmer for a good 30-40 minutes.

That’s literally it.  I toasted up some Everything Bagels (the salt just oozes when you dip it into the soup) and served a nice salad of mixed Basil, Arugula & Iceburg topped with Pomegranates, diced Beets and Goat Cheese; I made a fresh batch of Dijon dressing to pour over top (dijon, water, olive oil, white vinegar, salt & pepper and whisk).

Set your table nice, pour some white wine for yourself and some concord grape juice for the kids, and make sure to go around the table, giving thanks for anything under the sun you can think of.  No matter what faith, culture, race, color, gender, relationship or marital status or type A/B, alpha dog or quiet personality you are, you got this.  To be blessed with a meaningful meal and some goodness is everything, wrapped up in a Sunday Supper.


ENJOY!

Meatballs and a video!

People have been giving me great feedback (suggestions, tips, etc.) on what they’d like to see more of, less of, and how I can improve my photography shots and recipes.  Without an audience, you kind of have nothing, so I much appreciate the notes.  I also consider the blog sort of like a column, something I would read myself; trying to keep it mainstream for people like me, who just like something really good.  The pictures are intended to draw you in, the recipes are supposed to be easy to follow and the #1 goal is to have you try a recipe or hit a spot I recommend!  That’s the ultimate.

My friend got me a tripod this week (ok, last night) and despite the 30 second tutorial and lack of experience (or inch of perfectionism), I did it!  I even figured out how to set it to music.  I will say – it’s way easier to just cook, take a picture and blog about; hard (but still fun), to shoot video, edit, upload and publish!  Check out my YouTube Channel, My Simple Table, featuring Meatloaf Meatballs and let me know what you think!  More to come on these…how to’s, interviews and more!

But back to dinner.  Meatloaf has been staring at me all week in the fridge.  I didn’t really want the ‘loaf this week, so I avoided it daily.  I googled around a little to see what other alternatives there might be to make with this and I just couldn’t get into sweet meatloaf, barbecue meatloaf or even buffalo meatloaf sliders.  So I just figured, let’s do a simple meatball and simmer in some sauce.

INGREDIENTS:

2 carrots (peeled)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 onion
bunch of parsley
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesean Cheese
salt & pepper
1 egg
Meatloaf Mix

Take your carrots, onion, parsley and garlic and toss in a food processor/blender and mix.
Remove and put in a bowl, add breadcrumbs and cheese and mix together.  I like to fold in my ingredients instead of using my hands in general, so typically, I just beat up the egg separately, and then mix that into the chopped veggies and fold into the meatloaf mix.  The less you touch the mix, the better/easier it will be to work with.

Make 1-1.5 inch meatballs and lay into a cast iron (best for browning & baking, collecting cooking greases) and pop in oven at 400 degree’s for about 20-30 minutes; you want them to be browned on the outside but not overcooked, so turn them halfway through.

Sometimes I make Simple Sunday Sauce, and sometimes – like today – I just buy a ready made sauce, add some water and a few things like; olive oil, onion, dried oregano, dried basil, salt & pepper and some red wine and parmesan cheese, just to thicken up the sauce.

When the meatballs are done, just drop them into your sauce and let set for a few hours. Sometimes I drizzle in the grease from the cast iron into the sauce for extra flavor (especially if nobody is looking)

I’m serving this tonight with whole wheat pasta, toasted bread and a caesar salad; my stomach is grumbling as we speak…

ENJOY!

Naples…why, yes please!

I have been heading south to the left coast of Florida for nearly twenty years, and Naples is by far one of my most favorite spots to visit.  A few days here and you never want to leave!  From the perfectly perfect weather (when it’s blue it’s legit blue, when it rains and quickly clears out, and the clouds roll in to cover you at just the right time), the beaches (I’m a sucker for a low beach chair, nothing on the horizon, aqua clear water and some good old fashioned people watching), shopping (I’m a creature of habit and only go to my favorite places) and restaurants (tried and true, and a few new).  100%, this is a great choice for a long weekend visit or a spring break destination.

I haven’t really cooked much lately, but while I was there, my auntie showed me how a simple broccolini saute and pine nuts can turn into a spoonful of crunch!

STAY: If possible, rent something in Pelican Bay; you have access to the amazing North & South beaches via complimentary golf carts, umbrellas & cabanas and waterfront dining/drinks.  The water is perfect for kids (no giant waves), the view is unreal (nothing for days) and the sunset, oh the sunset.  Read the paper or a book in peace, walk up & down the beach, wade in the water, spot a few dolphins and relax with a Rum Punch or a Pina Colada.  Send the littles up to the sundries station and grab an ice cream.  Great spot for families!

SHOP: Waterside shops or Third Street South are  worthwhile shopping spots, but my standby will always be, The Best of Everything, right on 41.  I have to go, almost immediately after landing.  They have every kind of jewelry and accessory you could want; silver, pearls, faux diamonds, watches, toe rings, earrings, necklaces, shawls, wraps, beach hats and beach bags and funny little cocktail napkins for every person that loves a good laugh under their drink.  All sales are final and I have never ever, not once, wanted to return anything anyways.  This year I walked away with an overflowing bagful of goodies for $40.  Fresh Market for groceries, and they sell chilled Whispering Angel Rose, Saint Andre Cheese and water crackers, so, there’s that…

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EAT: There are umpteen places to head out for dinner; up and down 41, downtown and around town, but my top pick will always be Bleu Provence (now open for brunch, no lunches, dinners only and make a reservation).  A little secret spot, culinary happiness all wrapped up in “blues”.  My mom and I enjoyed the Croque Madame and Salmon and Creme Fraiche Crepes.  C’était délicieux!

We tried a new spot named Agave that was a nice treat; a flight of Margaritas and table made, home-spun and slung Guacamole, OLE!  I’m kidding, that’s what my mom called it. The carne asada and the chicken quesadillas – – delisioso!  They had live music on a saturday night and even better, they had a video in the back dining room to watch it. Hilarious and fun, lots of laughs.  Book a booth in the back, the view of the kitchen is cool!

I’m in charge of dinner tonight, but with all these splurge reminders on vacation last weekend, I just want to get back on a plane and head back down this afternoon!

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