Monday, October 23, 2006

A yummy new soup!

One thing I love about when the weather first starts to get cold in the fall is that it means I can start making soup! I'm not sure what happened to me, but last year I just started craving all kinds of soup...maybe it is because eating soup makes you feel so warm and full. ha! I found this recipe and had almost all of the ingredients laying around my kitchen, so I gave it a try. If I didn't have any will power, I promise I would've finished the entire pot in one sitting! It tastes almost as good as Cafe Rio's tortilla soup. And, even better, if you have cooked chicken, it only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish! Give it a shot, you won't be sorry!

Here's what you'll need:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
Few dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
1 lime
1 cup cooked white rice
Kosher salt
Sour cream, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and sweat until soft and translucent. Add spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant and aromatic. Add tomatoes, chicken, Worcestershire, and stock.
Bring to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.
Cut the lime in half, squeeze juice into the pot, and then add the juiced halves as well. (If you have some leftovers and want to reheat the soup for another day, take the limes out--they will get pretty bitter if you heat them up in the microwave.)
Add white rice and cook 5 minutes longer to warm rice through. Season, to taste, with salt.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream and cilantro. (Why stop there? Try adding tortilla chips or Fritos, shredded cheese, pico de gallo--whatever you would put in a taco!)


Monday, October 09, 2006

Our day with Dan

This past weekend, we had our first houseguest! One of Mike's friends, Dan, was on Fall Break at Duke Law School and decided to come up to DC for the weekend. He has been to DC a couple times in the last year, and has seen all the main museums and monuments, so he wanted to do some things that were not on the usual sightseeing tour. Mike took this opportunity to do some of the touristy things that he has been wanting to do for a while, but felt like no respectable "local" could actually get away with doing.

Dan arrived in Arlington at about 7pm on Friday night and we walked down the road to Clarendon to find a place for dinner. Much to my delight, Dan had never been to The Cheesecake Factory (my favorite restaurant in the whole world!), so we thought it our duty to take him there, so he can at least say he has been there once. One of my favorite things to do, now that we live in "the city" is to walk to and from our dates--whether they be out to dinner, or to the bookstore--there is something so great about being able to walk (especially with the great weather we've been having) and it sort of prolongs the event of the can walk as slowly or as quickly as you like, you can hold hands if you want to, and it gives you a lot more time to chat than you would have if you were to drive both ways. Anyway, when we got home from dinner, we watched a movie and then went to bed.

The next morning, the boys tried to fix our Tivo--something is amiss with our Internet connection, or something, so we haven't been able to get it working yet. This took a little longer than any of us planned on, and by the time that was done (still not fixed) and we were ready to face the day, it was noon! We didn't let this stop us from seeing and doing as much as we could--and we headed out and took the Metro down to Union Station in DC for lunch.

I LOVE Union Station--I don't know what it is about could be the amazing architecture, or the fun shops and yummy restaurants, but I could really stay there all day long and be totally content. But, I don't think our guest would've liked that, so we pressed on.

After lunch, we walked from Union Station up to the Capitol. Unfortunately, we weren't able to go inside, but it was still pretty cool to walk around the grounds and look out over the lawn to see the Washington Monument and the rest of DC. The Capitol actually looks MUCH bigger when you are on the front steps than it does when you see it even from a few blocks away. When we had enough at the Capitol, we walked up the hill to the Library of Congress. We walked in and found that the last tour of the day was going to start in just a few minutes; because it was only 35 minutes long, and it was free, we decided to do it. This place was UNBELIEVABLE! The architecture was phenomenal, the artwork and sculptures inside were fantastic, and there were mosaics on the ceilings that were absolutely amazing! We had no idea we were walking into such a find! The tour turned out to be a little longer than 30 minutes, so we ended up bailing and cruised the exhibits we wanted to see on our own.

My favorite exhibit was called "Enduring Outrage" and featured political cartoons by HERBLOCK. Some of them were pretty old, and I was too young to understand the political history of what was going on, but it was still really interesting. We spent a little over and hour inside and walked away totally impressed--I decided that this would be a must-see for future visitors.

After the Library of Congress, we got back on the Metro and headed to Georgetown. We walked down M Street--another hot spot near DC that has every store you could ever want to go to! Boutiques, Bistros, Cafes, Antique Stores, Mainstream Shops--you name it, M Street's got it! Unfortunately, we were on a time crunch to make our next activity, so we didn't have time to go into these amazing stores. We walked down to the docks, where we boarded a water taxi that took us down the Potomac River from Georgetown to Old Towne Alexandria. This was what Michael had been looking forward to ALL DAY! The taxi took about 45 minutes and it really did offer spectacular views of the city--a much different perspective than you normally get. There was an automated tour guide who would give us snip-its of info as we passed by certain landmarks. However, we found that the better way to do the water taxi is to take it from Alexandria to Georgetown because as we passed by the monuments and landmarks that we wanted to learn about most, the tour guide would say, "I will have much more to say about this on the return trip." (We were only one-way passengers.) Boo.

When we got to Alexandria, the sun was just starting to set and we decided to have a quick dinner before we headed home, so that Dan could get on the road at a reasonable hour. We found a little Italian bistro and had some yummy pizza and then got back on the Metro and headed home. By the time we made it back to our apartment, we were completely exhausted! I pretty much hit the couch and didn't move again (until Mike woke me up to tell me it was time for bed).

So, guys, all this to say, if you come to visit, we will do our best to show you a good time!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sunday Brunch

What could be better than a brunch on Sunday? And what more perfect day to have a Sunday Brunch than Conference Sunday? This was my first Conference on the east coast, which means the morning session started at noon and the afternoon session started at four. So, Sunday Brunch with nothing to do and nowhere to be until noon was a no-brainer! While the boys were at Priesthood session on Saturday night, I planned the menu and went to the Mecca of all Grocery stores--Wegmans--to get the best ingredients for the feast. On the menu was Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes, Breakfast Pizza and Breakfast sandwiches. I tried to pick my favorite dish, but they were all so good! These are some great recipes to add to your breakfast repitoire, so give them a try the next time you feel like having more than just cereal in the morning!

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces, 1/4 cup, chopped walnuts, optional
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 really ripe bananas, mashed up
3/4 cup raisins, optional
1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup, melted, plus additional for buttering skillet
Maple syrup or honey, for drizzling

I think the fastest way to ruin oatmeal cookies is to put raisins in them, so I opted for chocolate chips instead. A much better idea, in my opinion.

Here’s a great tip: if you cannot find really ripe bananas, just place them in the microwave for about 15 seconds and they will become soft enough for mashing.

Mix dry ingredients, the first 7, in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients, the next 4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, then fold in the mashed up bananas and the raisins (or chocolate chips). Stir in the melted butter.

Heat a griddle over medium heat and brush with additional melted butter (or Pam, if you are feeling healthy). Cook pancakes, each about 1/3 cup, until bubbles form on the top, then turn. Cakes will cook in about 2 minutes on each side. Keep pancakes tented with foil as they come off the griddle to keep them hot. Serve with drizzled honey or maple syrup over the top. (Seriously, these are yummy and sweet enough without anything on top!)

Breakfast Pizza

Here's what you'll need:

1 storebought pizza dough
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons Cinnamon-Sugar, divided, recipe follows
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
2 cups mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the pizza dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Transfer the pizza dough to the lined baking sheet and brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Cinnamon-Sugar and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the pizza crust on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the cheese, cream, lemon juice, and zest.

Spread the cheese mixture over the cooled crust. Top with mixed berries and sprinkle with the remaining Cinnamon-Sugar. Slice like a pizza and serve.

1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Cut the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise. Using the back of a knife, scrape along the inside of the vanilla bean to collect the seeds. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into a small bowl. Add sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside in a small serving bowl.

Breakfast Sandwiches

Here's what you'll need:

1 Italian baguette (the bread needs to be dense)
Unsalted butter, softened
Thin chocolate squares, unwrapped (recommended: Ghiradelli Chocolate Squares)
Sliced banana
Sliced strawberries
Sliced blackberries*

Heat a griddle or a small skillet over medium heat.

Slice the bread into 1/4-inch thick slices. Take 2 slices and butter 1 side of each slice. Put the bread, buttered side down, onto the griddle. Place a square of chocolate on top of 1 slice and top it with some sliced fruit. Cover with the other slice of bread, buttered side up, and grill on both sides until the chocolate is melted. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

*Cook's Note: Experiment with other fruits, chopped nuts, or different kinds of chocolate.