Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Month's Worth of Top 5 Tuesdays

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Way back when, on the last Tuesday for which I managed to produce a list, I hinted at my idea of having a whole month devoted to a wedding theme. Isn't June still quite the popular month for weddings? How appropriate, then, that on this Tuesday, the last day of June, I complete my lists for the past three Tuesdays, which I have shamefully missed.

I have separated my lists into three distinct categories: best weddings (movies and television), best wedding moments (movies) and best movie kisses. Obviously I'm the sappiest person you know. Hope you enjoy the lists, though! Perhaps I've missed something devastatingly romantic and important?

Top 5 Weddings

5. Shelby Eatenton and Jackson Latcherie, Steel Magnolias. "My colors are blush and bashful, Mama! They are two shades of pink, one is much deeper than the other." Despite the dark cloud that so obviously loomed over this pair, how can anyone not adore this wedding day? We meet Annelle! The groom's cake is a grey armadillo! It's the smaller, more poignant moments, however that really make it special: Jackson sneaking into Shelby's bath to convince her she should still marry him and M'Lynn sharing Shelby's bad news post-diabetic attack cause me to choke up every time.

4. Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility. It's not so much that I adore Marianne and the Colonel, more like I have always been so satisfied by what the wedding represents: a state of happiness for both lovelorn sisters. Elinor and Edward, my favorites, look on happily as the beaming couple stride out of the church, and everything seems right with the world.

3. David Silver and Donna Martin, Beverly Hills 90210. I know what you're thinking. How in the world can I rank TORI SPELLING so high in a Top 5 list? Say what you will about the remarkably resilient now-reality star, her character's wedding was one of the BEST ever. Loved it. Pretty sure I cried. I think I'm done with shameful confessions for the day!

2. Monica Gellar and Chandler Bing, Friends. You already know how I feel about Monica's dress, now you know how I feel about her wedding. Not an overly romantic wedding at all, but just right for those two.

1. Annie Banks and Brian Mackenzie, Father of the Bride. This, of course, is the quintessential wedding movie. More about the relationship between the father of the bride and his daughter than an over-the-top love story, I think what I love best about it is that it's the most real of all these films. You can actually imagine all of the events that occur happening to you, and you know that getting married caused your dad that same pain in the heart.

Top 5 Wedding Moments

5. Mark tells Juliet how he feels about her, Love Actually. I know this isn't technically a wedding moment, but since it comes on the heels of a wedding, I felt justified in including it. Mark has just helped arrange Juliet's wedding to his best friend, Peter, in spite of the fact that he's desperately in love with her. What I love about the scene when he comes to her door, placards and boombox in hand, is that he never intended to change anything or interfere in her life (this isn't a celebration of adultery, people!!). He just wanted her to know how he felt. There is something incredibly romantic and real about it. "To me, you are perfect."

4. Robbie serenades Julia on the plane, with the help of Billy Idol, The Wedding Singer. Adam Sandler and Drew Berrymore are a great match in romantic comedies, and I think this particular pairing might be my favorite-it's hilarious, there's an awesome 80's soundtrack, and the ending is perfect. Keep in mind, Julia and Robbie get married in the last moments of the movie, so even though this also isn't officially a wedding scene, it is a prelude of sorts!

3. Arwen and Aragorn reunite, The Return of the King. Even now, after having seen the movie time and time again, I always get a huge lump in my throat as I watch Aragorn's face when Arwen is revealed to him. The look on his face-it's the look of the truest, deepest love. I remember the very first time I watched the movie, which was when I was still dating my SH, I felt I recognized that look. Yes, I did just compare the way my husband looks at me to a movie star's gaze! You know, come to think of it, this isn't necessarily a wedding scene either, is it? Perhaps I should rename the list...

2. Gilbert's proposal, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. I hate writing out "The Sequel" there, but as that is actually the name of the movie, I can't help it. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of times I've watched the movie, or how many thousands of times I rewound this scene. Anne is my literary counterpart, the beloved character that truly influenced and shaped my childhood, and the one I always related to the most. While this movie deviates from the books to a degree, it's close enough for me to my favorite of them all, Anne of the Island, which chronicles the relationship between Anne and Gilbert. When Anne and Gilbert take that walk on the bridge, they already know what the future holds, which is why the certainty on Gilbert's face as he clasps her hands and confesses that he can't give her the Cordelia-like future she dreamed of in childhood is so unbearably sweet. And what does Anne say? "I don't want sunbursts, or marble halls. I just want you." Ahhhhh....maybe I'll put that movie on right now.

1. Julianne gives Michael and Kimmy their song, My Best Friend's Wedding. By far my favorite of all wedding movies, and one of my favorite movies in general, my favorite part of the whole thing is the scene at the end when Julianne is trying to make her way through the crowd of well-wishers, hoping for the chance to tell Michael goodbye. (Did I just write "favorite" three times in the same sentence? Oh well, it's late, and I can't be held accountable for a lack of originality at this point in the night) Just when she thinks she's truly lost him forever, in more ways than one, he appears, hugging her close for a minute, letting her know in that brief moment that he loves her, in all the right ways, but she just wasn't the one for him. He has undoubtedly been inspired by her emotional speech in which Julianne bequeathed their song, "The Way You Look Tonight" as a wedding gift, and apology for her wretched behavior. Both Michael and Kimmy recognize the significance as they hit the dance floor.

Best Movie Kisses

5. Leia and Han, The Empire Strikes Back. Yet another of the movies that I've watched a 100 times over, this particular kiss marked the beginning of my passion for Harrison Ford. Whilst other young girls my age had crushes on Mark-Paul Gosselaar or NKOTB, I felt that no one could be as appealing as Han Solo. No one. I distinctly remember, in fact, back in 1992, when I realized that my beloved Han was, at that time, 50 years old! The horror! Totally out of my 12-year old reach!

4. Arwen and Aragorn, The Return of the King. Please refer to the previous list.

3. Noah and Allie, The Notebook. This movie is undoubtedly one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen, and it stars two of my faves, Rach and Ryan. It was only made better by the knowledge that the two fell in love IRL (in real life), which is what everyone wants for their favorite movie lovers. It didn't last, but at least we'll always have Noah and Allie's reunion in the rain.

2. Josie and Sam, Never Been Kissed. It was a difficult decision to place this kiss at number 2, because for me, this scene was PERFECT. Down to Josie's little gold shoes, visible as she drops the microphone, the audible sighs of disappointment and then eager rumblings in the crowd, the PERFECTLY chosen, wonderful "Don't Worry Baby", and Josie's response when Sam tells her that it took him forever to get here. "I know what you mean," she says. I could, and have, watch the scene on repeat, probably for days, and not get tired of it.

1. Edward and Bella, Twilight. I'm not sure I even need to write about this-was there a doubt in your mind that this kiss to end all kisses would snag the top spot? And don't think that I won't revise this list for the future-they might take over the whole thing!

Hopefully, things will return to normal here in my little, humble blog, and I won't have to complete another gigantic list.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cologne, Day 3

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For my first day in Germany, I opted to venture out from the bustling streets of modern Dusseldorf and hop on a train for the quick ride to Cologne, a much more aesthetically pleasing city (so I had been told by the experts at Lonely Planet). Besides being known as the birthplace of Eau de Cologne, it's also the fourth largest German city, and boasts both Roman ruins and the extremely impressive Kolner Dom (Cologne Cathedral). Construction began on the immense cathedral in the 1200's, and it was completed sometime in the late 19th century. It apparently survived World War II against all odds, only sustaining a minor amount of damage from the air raids.

I determined that the Dom and a bit of walking through the Alstadt (Old Town) would be on my simple agenda for the day. I'm not really an art museum type, and I would much prefer exploring the homes that used to belong to favorite authors or parks with aged memorial statues where those famous authors once strolled or Gothic churches where my favorite authors were buried...you get the picture. I'm a literature girl! Needless to say, what I was most intrigued to see in Cologne was the cathedral, and I find the cobblestoned streets and outdoor cafes of the old towns to be absolutely perfect for mid-afternoon cups of cappuccino (somehow, so much better in Europe!) and a good book.

Much to my disappointment, I emerged from the train to a grey sky that was misting rain. Yes, I know that pouring rain is so much worse, but it was still discouraging, particularly when one is attempting to navigate in a new and unknown place. I needn't have worried about the Dom, however. It loomed beautifully right next to the train station. A few steps outside and I would find myself in its dark, shadowed, and yes, CROWDED recesses.

The cathedral itself is massive, a colossal giant of a church, and certainly much larger than any I've ever visited, including Westminster Abbey and the Notre-Dame in Paris. I quietly made my way all around it, carefully observing the Shrine of the Three Kings (believed to hold the remains of the three magi) and the magi-inspired art. I even sat for a few minutes to hear the beginnings of a mass, drinking in the rich, glorious sound emerging from the organs.

In preparation for my visit to the Dom, I read about the South Tower, which can be ascended, revealing incredible views of the Rhine River and the city of Cologne itself. There are approximately 540 steps to the top, but I quickly scoffed at the warning from Lonely Planet hinting at the climb's strenuous nature. "Please! 540 steps? That's nothing! The reward will be so worth it!," I thought, making a note to be sure to stop by the bells on my way to the top. The world's largest free-swinging bell hangs in the Dom.

Let's just put it this way: One should HEED the warnings one encounters in travel guides. It was no light and easy trek. I. Thought. I. Might. Die. And yes, I'm a bit out of shape, BUT STILL! Even the group of young teenage boys that I could hear cackling and making obscene jokes (yes, I ran into a few Americans in Cologne) could barely stand up by the time we finally reached the bells, which wasn't even at the top!

Despite my near death by cardiac arrest, I have to admit that I'm thrilled I endured. The view was incredible, even through the rain. One can only imagine how splendid it would be on a nice day!

I didn't spend too long up on the top of the South Tower, partially because I was, unfortunately, getting rather soaked, and also because it was crowded and I wanted to get down to see the bells in peace. I managed to take a video for my SH while one of them actually rang!

I miraculously arrived at the bottom of the tower with no injuries, a miracle considering my tendency to falling down stairs and the fact that said stairs were damp from the rain. The rain persisted outside, so I headed to a cafe in the Alstadt and ordered a delicious Belgian waffle with a steaming, creamy cappuccino. I spent an hour or two there, reading my fascinating book (Drood) before heading back to the train station. In spite of the poor weather, it was a great first full day in Germany.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Yes, I know I've just returned from Europe, which by all accounts, should count as a vacation trip. And I know that my hiatus from teaching this past year might also constitute a vacation of sorts. I suppose I just can't get enough of vacation-ing, which would be why I'm going to be terribly behind on all the many things I plan to post about. My husband's best friend is visiting, so we'll both be happily occupied for the next few days. I thought I might just share a few highlights from the past few days, though...you know, for the approximately three people that peruse my blog!

My apricots are finally ripe enough to eat! As you can see, they're quite small, but they are OH SO GOOD.

Our lavender looked so beautiful I simply had to take a photo. Its fresh scent, particularly in the evenings, is something I look forward to when I have to come home late from class.

My arugula is flourishing! It's actually kind of out of control.

AGH! The daughter of a couple who are neighbors to my in-laws won some sort of contest in order to receive an early copy of the sequel to The Hunger Games, and I am currently on the list of people who'll get to borrow it! I am counting the seconds. Literally.

You should know that it's currently 3:33 a.m. and I've stayed up until now playing Nazi Zombies on Call of Duty: World at War. I'm pathetic when it comes to video games, but that doesn't make them less addictive!

I'll be back with my regularly scheduled blogging next week...for now, I'm just enjoying all of this great time with friends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Buffalo Club Sandwiches

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the days leading up to our trip to Europe, I whipped through my last issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray in hopes of finding a few simple, new recipes that wouldn't take all of my precious packing time but would also satisfy my SH as he worked feverishly to prepare. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but I'm kind of obsessed with the buffalo wing flavors combo: smokin' hot sauce, the sharp tang of blue cheese, cool chunks of carrot and celery...HEAVEN. Rach, thankfully, is also a big fan, and has devoted a great amount of time to creating recipes that revolve around that particular combination, even a Buffalo Chicken Pizza that I have made time and time again and devoured every bite. You can imagine my delight when my latest mag contained a most delicious-looking recipe for Buffalo Club Sandwiches. The only possible way to improve upon the Buffalo combo? That beloved critical ingredient of a club sandwich, BACON! I decided that I must make them immediately, and that they would particularly serve my purposes well as a good choice for the busy days before we left.

Both of us found the sandwiches to be utterly satisfying. Pan-grilled chicken cutlets doused in hot sauce (I used Cholula, my fave, which is actually hard to find out in Cali!) were planted firmly between two pieces of still-warm, golden crusted slices of toast, which was then slathered with a delectable mixture of creme fraiche, chunks of blue cheese, and scallions. I laid generous slices of peppered bacon, thick juicy hunks of heirloom tomatoes, and a bit of fresh spinach atop the creamy sauce, and then one more slice of toast. One careful slice with my knife, cutting the sandwiches diagonally, restaurant-style, and they were ready for eating.

I should tell you that buffalo wings and all their divine accoutrements are yet another thing to add to the list of "things I never tried until I met my SH." We joke about it now, when he unfailingly asks, every time we eat out, if I've had it before, full well knowing that I am no longer the girl who only ate pepperoni pizza or hamburgers "plain and dry." "Have you ever had pad thai?" "Have you ever tried rogan josh?" "I'll bet you've never tasted grilled sausage like that!" It's funny, because it's not that he ever pressured me to expand my palate a bit more, or teased me for my preferences. It was just being around him, seeing that he was always willing to try anything, and that he liked SO much. Clearly, I was missing out. Not anymore!

Buffalo Club Sandwiches, adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, June 2009

8 slices bacon, preferably peppered
1 cup creme fraiche (I'm SURE you could easily substitute sour cream)
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 small glove garlic, grated or finely chopped (I excluded this ingredient, purely because I occasionally find raw garlic a bit too strong for my mood that day)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon EVOO
4 turkey or chicken cutlets, 5-6 ounces each (I used chicken)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup hot pepper sauce, preferably Frank's Red Hot (I used Cholula)
12 slices sandwich bread, toasted
8 leaves bibb or green-leaf lettuce (I had fresh spinach on hand)
4 thick slices tomato, preferably heirloom
Carrot and celery sticks, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Arrange the bacon on a broiler pan and bake until crisp, 15 to 18 minutes.
2. While the bacon is cooking, in a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche, blue cheese crumbles, garlic, mustard, parsley, and chives.
3. In a large skillet, heat the EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. Season the turkey/chicken cutlets with salt and pepper, add to the skillet, and cook until golden, about 4 minutes on each side. Scoot the cutlets to the side of the pan, add butter and heat until melted. Stir in the hot sauce and coat the cutlets; turn off the heat. Layer each of 4 toast slices with a sauced turkey/chicken cutlet, another toast slice, a mound of the blue cheese spread, 2 criss crossed slices of bacon, 2 lettuce leaves, 1 tomato slice, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a third toast slice. Serve the clubs with the carrot and celery sticks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Amsterdam, Days 1 and 2

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here I am, on the fourth day of my European adventure, and I am just now beginning to write about it. There is really no excuse for this delay, as I am a veritable Charlotte in the evenings (Scarlett Johannsen's character in Lost in Translation, minus the Bill Murray figure of course!) when my SH is out and about with the company men and women, probably being treated to fabulous dinners while I dine alone on wiener schnitzel and water. Don't pity me, though! I really am having a wonderful time. Exploring a city alone is an invigorating experience, and it is nothing short of luxurious to be able to sit at an outdoor cafe and quietly read through lunch or dinner, after having seen unusual and beautiful sights.

Oh my, I've gotten terribly off track. This post is meant to be about our brief whirlwind time in the absolutely lovely city of Amsterdam. By the way, I've noticed that I use the word "lovely" QUITE frequently. There's nothing to be done about it, I'm inextricably attached to the word. And it is a perfect word to use when describing Amsterdam, so I won't apologize any longer!

We arrived around 8:30 am, but by the time we had taken the train into the city, purchased our train tickets to Germany for the next day, and ridden our tram to the hotel, it was much closer to 11. We quickly tossed our bags into our tiny but perfectly sufficient, room and headed out to explore.

I've decided not to give a play by play of every day of our trip, but instead just include a few of my favorite pictures in every post, with a line or two about what I have seen and done. It would take me forever to write a proper travel diary! My opening picture is a simple view of the canals near the Waterlooplein area. It was an extremely short walk form our hotel, even though we weren't centrally located. One of the best things about Amsterdam is its sheer accessibility-we walked virtually everywhere, and only took the trams a few times, and they probably weren't necessary. Speaking of the trams though, they were clean, fast, and very regular. All in all, a great transportation experience.

We sat outside and relaxed a bit in Rembrandtplein, Rembrandt square. My SH cutely referred to it as Remembrandt square. Not a big art fan, that guy. You can see the back of the statue erected in honor of the painter in the center of the picture.

I loved the fresh flowers on our table. Not tulips, you'll notice, but still, a very nice touch.

After traipsing about the city for the afternoon and attempting to explore a good bit of each canal "ring", we stopped at this cafe for coffee. You'll note, this was NOT a "coffee shop"! I have not the foggiest idea what the majority of that sign says, except for the coffee and apple tart bit at the bottom. For some reason I'm quite attached to this picture-it is evidence of our straying from the "beaten path."

We ate dinner in a great little cafe overlooking the canal in the Prinsengracht area. The food was delicious, and we were surrounded by locals, which I felt was a big plus. The waitress immediately began speaking to us in Dutch, so we obviously looked like we belonged!

Alas, we were unable to visit either the Anne Frank Haus or the Van Gogh museum. There were approximately 1,000,000 people waiting in line at both locations. I really hope that I'm able to go back someday, preferably not at the absolute height of tourist season, because I know they would be very worthwhile.

In case you're wondering, we did stroll through some of the, ahem, less savory parts of the city. We stumbled down a random path, I promise!

Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Bonn are up next!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"I was a big event."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It would appear that I have developed a habit of posting movie trailers. Sometimes, I post about them when there is a movie I'm dying to see. Every so often, I post about critically-acclaimed or award-winning films, in the hopes of encouraging others and myself to broaden our interests. However, once in a while there are trailers that I have been waiting to appear FOREVER. The Time Traveler's Wife and Shutter Island are two of these. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I was unable to commit to reading the first of these two books. Those of you who have read Time-Traveler's Wife should let me know if you think I should give it another try. I was psyched about the movie because it stars one of my "I'll see them in anything" actors, the lovely Rachel McAdams AND the increasingly appealing Eric Bana. The trailer DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. I was practically in tears by the time it was over, which could be one of two things: (1) I'm a hopeless romantic, to the point that a two-minute preview could make me cry! or (2) The use of a slow, devastating Lifehouse song pushed me over the edge. Who can be sure? Needless to say, it looks to be an entertaining film.

Now, I did read Shutter Island, which was penned by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River. It's a very unusual and highly entertaining read, though completely in a different vein than Mystic River. It's not necessarily a book that I would have been desperate to see adapted, but when I heard that Leo DiCaprio was selected as the star, following the direction of Martin Scorsese, I was SOLD. Leonardo was a shocking omission from me "I'll see them in anything" post. I plan to write a future Top 5 specifically addressing his performances, actually. The rest of the cast is of the highest caliber: Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams...quite hard to beat such an assembly, don't you think? I'm impressed that Scorsese is willing to take this story on, because it really seems to be out of his proverbial "comfort zone." You'll see what I mean if the movie is true to the book. The ending is shocking, but that's all I'll admit.

Just a bonus here, another highly anticipated film! Is there anyone out there that doesn't positively adore Robert Downey Jr.? There is something so very appealing about him...

I am now off to determine a spot for my SH and I to eat dinner. We arrived in Dusseldorf this evening, and I took advantage of the wireless (NOT free, I might add! My SH's work will be covering the 17 euros per day fee!) to write a quick post. I have been taking loads of pictures, despite having only been here for just under two days, and am looking forward to creating somewhat witty posts about our journey.

Maybe I'll read The Time Traveler's Wife after all...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm off!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

To these most lovely destinations...

Amsterdam-Yes, our first stop will be here, the city of tulips, canals, Van Gogh, and of course, the red light district. Don't think I'll be making THAT a priority for our 1.5 day express trip.

Dusseldorf-My SH will be working through the first part of the week in this German city, which boasts a few interesting attractions for me during the day, and is conveniently located a short distance from both Cologne and Bonn.

Paris-Last, but certainly not least! I am overwhelmingly excited that we were able to tack on three days to the end of the business trip to spend in Paris.

So much more to write about, but so little time before my European adventure! I have made several new recipes that turned out fabulously, a super-sized Top 5 Tuesday planned, and TOP CHEF MASTERS to recap...alas, it will have to wait until I return.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

By the time I got my books, and I give myself a look....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wow. I've got to say, I'm pretty impressed with Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Maybe I should check out Raising the Bar.

P.S. For some reason, I have a hard time loading NBC videos when they're embedded on other sites. If this happens here, check the video out at nbc.com. It's totally worth it!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Salmon Grill Packets (aka THE BEST DINNER YOU WILL EVER EAT)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Long, long ago, in the days when my SH and I dwelled in that little spot of heaven otherwise known as Austin, Texas, we treated ourselves to that friendly device, ever appropriate for evening gatherings under a sweltering moon, the grill. Many a night or weekend afternoon we could be found preparing a whole host of delicious foodstuffs for the grill: the old classic: big, juicy steaks, hamburgers thoroughly seasoned with salt and course black pepper, thick, glistening chunks of salmon or tuna, chicken breasts and thighs doused in my favorite barbecue sauce, the peach-habanero variety from HEB... We loved our grill-nary a weekend went by that it wasn't fired up. Alas, when the time came for us to pack up our belongings and move to California, we discovered, upon close examination, that a large portion of the wiring system had been destroyed by some woodland creature. I choose to believe that it was a squirrel, NOT another member of the rodent family, which I shall not name. Needless to say, our beloved grill was beyond repair, and found itself haphazardly tossed near the dumpster in a local apartment complex (What can one do when moving in the middle of the week with multiple bags or items for the trash? You must resort to illegal activity, as we did!)

We lived with my dear in-laws for several months, and were fortunately able to enjoy a California summer full of grilling opportunities. Once we moved into our house, I immediately began to dream of burgers, kebabs, and shrimp, fully anticipating that we'd rush out and purchase a grill right away. Months passed, however, and we found ourselves fully overwhelmed with other household concerns. We did lots of painting, laid sod down to create a gorgeous backyard, and became enraptured with all of our natural bounty (oranges, avocados, etc.). Finally, just a few weeks ago, PRACTICALLY INTO JUNE, I put my foot down, and emphatically told my SH that we just had to go out and get a grill. No more dilly-dallying!

While this dinner, the most divine salmon grill packets, is not the first meal that we prepared on our new grill, it is undoubtedly one of the best that will ever be produced by any grill!

I came across the recipe in one of my Everyday with Rachael Ray magazines, which I save and peruse frequently. Not all recipes in the magazine are written by Rachael, obviously, and this particular one came from an article about grilling. How convenient.

The dish is quite simple to prepare-basically just whisking together the ingredients for the sauce and mixing the tasty couscous ingredients. The couscous mixture, a toss of scallions, orange zest, and chopped roasted cashews is divided into each foil rectangle, then topped with a healthy helping of spinach leaves. Salmon fillets are laid gracefully atop the couscous, and a sheen of bright sauce is brushed over them. The foil is then folded across the top and rolled in on the sides to create a packet. My SH was particularly proud of his careful folding of the packet before I poured on the sauce, making a sort of "box" out of his foil. I have to admit, some of the sauce dripped out of my packet-he is clearly the champion of packet-making.

The salmon is then trotted right outside to the grill, where it sits for approximately 25 minutes. You can use this time to clean the kitchen and grab two plates (or however many you need). Because of the packet, cleanup is a cinch!

I am not sure that there are words enough to convey the utter delicious-ness of this dish. The packet opens to reveal what looks like a delicately poached, pale pink salmon. The ginger, soy, and orange in the sauce meld beautifully with the fish, and seep gently into the couscous, which retains a bit of crunch, especially with the chunks of cashew. The spinach, which has steamed perfectly in its coveted spot under the salmon, picks up hints of scallions and sesame. The whole thing, in a word? Delectable. Literally, I cannot say enough. I devoured a huge packet last night and another at lunch, and I wish there was more for dinner.

Thank you, grill, for giving me this dinner.

Salmon Grill Packets
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2007

(serves 4)

1 cup couscous
1/3 cup roasted cashews, chopped
5 scallions-3 chopped, 2 cut into matchsticks for garnish
Grated peel and juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin (sweetened rice wine-I can usually find it in the Asian food section of the grocery store)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, plus more for brushing (again, the Asian food aisle)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cups baby spinach
Four 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Salt and pepper

1. Build a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. In a small bowl, combine the couscous, cashews, chopped scallions and orange peel; set aside.
2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, sherry, soy sauce, mirin, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and the ginger; set aside.
3. Tear off four 2-foot long sheets of heavy-duty foil and fold each in half to form a rectangle; brush the center of each lightly with sesame oil. Divide the couscous mixture evenly among the 4 rectangles and top each pile with 1 cup baby spinach and a fish fillet; season with salt and pepper. Fold the edges of the foil up and inward to start forming a packet. Whisk the grilling sauce and pour about 1/4 cup into each packet. Roll up the edges of the foil together to seal.
4. Grill the packets over indirect medium heat, with the lid down, for 25 minutes. Let the fish rest for 3 minutes before opening the packets. Garnish with the remaining scallion match sticks.

P.S. How awesome is my new moonstone ring? I love it!

I can move a little.

I've heard that Ben Stiller isn't exactly the nicest celebrity around, but you have to admit, he can be hilarious.

P.S. I heart Jack Johnson.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Please pack your knives and go...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

to LAS VEGAS!!! That's right, the next batch of crazy chefs who attempt to win the Top Chef crown will be heading to Sin City for the 6th season. I can't WAIT. I'll have to tide myself over with Top Chef: Masters, which premieres June 10.

Top 5 Tuesday (yes, I know it's THURSDAY)

I have decided that for the month of June, I shall have a most stereotypical, "love is in the air", wedding-themed series of Top 5 lists. Being that it's my blog, after all, I am allowed to wallow in cheesiness whenever I feel the inclination. I have opted to begin with a most girly choice: my favorite wedding dresses from the movies and television.

This was NOT an easy list to make, as I scoured my mind for those dresses that were firmly implanted in my mind as the most breathtaking, most enviable, and most appropriate for the occasion. Keep in mind that they don't all represent my favorite weddings, merely dresses that I would not have minded trying on myself during that desperately exciting time otherwise known as a short engagement.

5. Maria von Trapp, The Sound of Music. While I prefer a dress that is slightly less modest, I think that this dress is still quite incredible, particularly with the addition of that cathedral-length train and the distinctive collar. It's like something English royalty would have worn in the 40's or 50's. "Somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must have done something good..."

4. Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City. Ok, let's get past the ridiculous hair ensemble right now-if you remove it from the whole look, you are left with the fabulous Vivienne Westwood creation that sold out probably from the moment a movie still was leaked. If I could sum up accurately in one word why I love this dress so much, it's SATIN. I've always been something of a tactile person (my mother has had to yell at me throughout my life for touching my clothing), so I love the way that satin feels, so smooth and heavy. There is something so appealing about pure, unadorned satin, too, sort of old-world and classic. Carrie's wedding was a bust, and I cringed when I saw her force those gorgeous folds of satin into a box for storage.

3. Amber Brkich, Survivor/Amazing Race. Yes, I'm perfectly aware that Amber is a real person, not a fictitious character. However, I felt that I would receive less flak for admiring her dress as a television personality, rather than a celebrity. I loved that it was designed by a woman in Amber's hometown of Beaver, PA, when Amber could easily have taken advantage of her pseudo-celebrity status and worn a fancy Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier.

2. Maggie Carpenter, Runaway Bride. When I was spending hours online looking for the perfect wedding dress, I often found myself drawn to Amsale gowns, partially for their frequent usage of heavy satin, but also for a markedly romantic tendency in design. The final dress Maggie wore as she strode across a field to marry Ike Graham, no longer a commitment-phobe, was an Amsale creation. I think it's lovely.

1. Monica Gellar, Friends. This particular image isn't the best representation of Monica's dress-I searched and searched!-but most of my readers probably remember it. Fitted, v-neck white satin, with a fluted, mermaid-like skirt, reminiscent of an inverted calla lily. I always loved how elegant it was, managing to sustain Chandler's crazy dance moves and Rachel's shocking news. Before I went dress shopping myself, I determined that I wanted to find something alone the lines of Monica's dress.

As you can see, I definitely went in a different direction! I never would have pulled my own wedding dress off the rack-in fact, it was a last minute try-on, handed to me by the assistant at the wedding shop-but when I walked out of the dressing room to a collective sigh from the female members of my family, I knew I had found the proverbial "one." It suited me perfectly, and, as they say, I felt "like a princess."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Chili-Rubbed Roast Pork Tenderloins with Crunchy, Chunky Black Bean and Jicama Salad

Monday, June 1, 2009

I thought it might be a good idea to throw in a non-Twilight related post-wouldn't want any of you to think my obsession has gotten out of hand! Yes, in the midst of all my web-trolling, I have managed to find time to attend a wedding in Maine, go camping for the first time (will definitely be posting about that later!), brave a meeting with my professor, sift through the thoughts of Sigmund Freud and Richard Rorty, enjoy a weekend jaunt up to Napa and Sonoma, and pick up a pair of reading glasses. It's been a busy time. At some point, during these hectic days, I prepared this old favorite, a delicious pork tenderloin and salad combination.

I really can't say enough about my love for roasted pork tenderloins. If you can get past the unpleasant task of trimming the silver skin/connective tissue, the preparation is quite simple. A mere smattering of salt and pepper and generous glaze of olive oil will give you a heavenly final product, and your whole kitchen will be infused with the lovely scent of roasting pork. Of course, there are an infinite number of other flavor combinations, such as the one in this recipe, a rub of chili powder and cumin.

The accompanying salad feels like a summery dish, especially with the creamy chunks of avocado intermingling with the crunchy jicama sticks. Granted, if you should choose to make the menu, you will have to turn on your oven, which may negate the seasonal feeling! I don't think you'll regret it, though! Throw open a window or two and get a nice breeze going in the kitchen-it will cool off in no time.

Chili-Rubbed Roast Pork Tenderloins with Crunchy, Chunky Black Bean and Jicama Salad, adapted from 30-Minute Get Real Meals, by Rachael Ray

2 pork tenderloins (2-2 1/4 pounds), trimmed of silver skin and connective tissue
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 jicama (1 pound)
1 ripe Haas avocado
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 English (seedless) cucumber (the one wrapped in plastic), cut into 1/4 inch thick disks
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Place the tenderloins on a nonstick baking sheet with a rim. Combine the chili powder and cumin in a small bowl. Rub the seasoning mixture into the tenderloins, coating them completely. Season with some salt and pepper and drizzle the tenderloins with EVOO, just enough to coat. Roast for 25 minutes (I always use my meat thermometer when preparing pork, just to be absolutely sure). Allow the meat to rest. While the pork is roasting, prepare the black bean and jicama salad.
3. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in about 4 tablespoons EVOO. With a paring knife, peel the light brown skin from the jicama (This is not exactly a quick process, but it's not too terrible). Slice it into 1/4 inch thick disks, stack the disks up, then cut into 1/4 inch wide strips and reserve. Cut all around the circumference of the ripe avocado, lengthwise and down to the pit. Twist and separate the halved fruit. Remove the pit with a spoon, then scoop the flesh out in one piece from both halves. Chop the avocado into bite-size pieces. In a salad bowl combine the jicama, avocado chunks, red onion, cucumber, black beans, cilantro, and parsley. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
4. Slice the pork on an angle into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve the sliced pork with the salad piled up on top (or on the side!)