Monday, May 1, 2017


April 25, 1992

How did we get so lucky?   I don't know why we're still ok.  It's really all a shocking mystery to me,  but all the love and congrats that have poured in this week have caused me to reflect. We are far from perfect, of course, but 25 is no guarantee and worth celebrating.  If this comes across as self-congratulatory, I apologize profusely.  Because who knows what allows a marriage to succeed, really.  But here are 25 theories on why Doug and I have been lucky enough to stay mostly happy in this marriage gig.

1. Luck.
2. Dumb luck.
3. Blind luck.
4. Great examples.  Our parents were both married in 1959.  My parents celebrated 51 years before my dad's sudden death.  Doug's parents just hit 58. Both are fantastic examples of partnership, loyalty, commitment.
5. Realistic expectations.  Neither of us relies on our marriage to answer all of our hopes and dreams.  It answers some.  Others it doesn't.
6. Humor. He still makes me laugh.   Doug busts out with horrible 1970's songs, with some regularity, at the most bizarre times.  Think "muskrat love" while rushing to make the train.
7. Adventure.  We take risks together.  Starting with moving to Mexico for six months before our first anniversary and right up to starting a band last year - we both like to scare ourselves a little bit.
8.  Music.  shared love, shared hobby.
9.  In the inimitable words of Rocky Balboa: gaps....we fill gaps.  He can't find anything.  I can find everything.  He's patient.  I'm impatient.
10. We have our own friends, in addition to shared friends.
11.   Faith.  It's not what brought us together, far from it, but it's been a mutual move toward it, and it's been a challenging, interesting, satisfying  journey to share.
12.  We're good at different things, parent-wise.  I'm better in the day to day. He's better in the big-picture/pulling-back-the-lens decisions and discussions.
13. I cook.  He stays out of my way.  He cleans.   I stay out of his way.
14. His family is fun.  We like to spend time with them.
15. My family is fun.  We like to spend time with them.
16.  I love that shorthand every couple and family develop over time.  Catchphrases, quoting things your kids said when they were 2, movie lines that have kept you laughing for 25 years.... 
17.  A similarly high need for exercise.  We're both a touch insane that way.
18.  We're both news junkies.
19.  Date night.  Even when we were broke, babysitter money was an essential budget item, not an optional one.
20. The same general attitude about money:  no debt except the mortgage, live within our means, save, but splurge sometimes.  Splurging is important.
21. He adheres to the "n-1" principal of number-of-bikes-I-must-own, "n" being the number of bikes  that would precipitate a divorce.  (See number 20.  And number 17.)
22.  We both love to eat.  And drink. And travel brings out the best in us.
23.  We both think our kids are, by far, the best thing our marriage has produced.
24.  Did I mention we're lucky?
25.   We're holding out for all the gold we'll get in 2042.

And speaking of movie lines that keep you laughing, 25 years later, I leave you with this.....

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove

tweasuwe youw wove indeed.     Thanks for indulging me.  Onward, to FOOD!

On the actual anniversary last week, I made a ton of chicken piccata.  We ate with the boys, then they drifted off and Doug and I sat at the table for hours, drinking wine, eating, drinking, then, of course, watching The Americans. ( OBSESSED -we just started season three.)

The above is Melissa D'Arabian's version, and it's killer, but I've never met a chicken piccata I didn't love.  All are variations on the following theme:
chicken cutlets or pounded breasts, rinse and dry.
dredge in flour, add salt & pepper.
cook in hot olive oil, about 6 minutes per side.  Remove chicken to tray.
To pan add  a package of sliced mushrooms and cook until soft, 5 min?
Add some white wine and lemon juice (1/4 cup each), stir up the yummy bits,
Add 2 tbsp capers and a couple tbsp butter, simmer a bit, pour over the chicken on a platter.  Voila. 

Breakfast Mini Quiche Muffins
I am also trying to get my son Noah to eat something before he leaves the house.  Noah is that rare and alien life form that forgets to eat.  I don't understand it at all, but it happens all the time.  So I decided to up my breakfast game and made some incredibly tasty heat-and-go-mini-breakfast-muffins:
Mix together 8 eggs, 1/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup milk (or 1/2 cup milk)
add some chopped up veggies (I shredded about a cup of spinach and chopped up 1/2 onion and 1/2 a red bell pepper.)  Add to the eggs with salt & pepper.  Mix in about 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar.
Cook up some bacon or sausage. I had some spicy jimmy deans and cooked it up and drained it. Then added to the egg mixture.
Grease up a muffin tin.  Add 1/4 cup of the mixture to each.

Top with a little more cheddar.
Cook at 350 for about 25 minutes, till eggs are set and cheese is melted.
Let cool.  Store in an  airtight container in fridge, then grab, heat and go!

To the next 25.....

Thursday, April 13, 2017

winter's last gasp/spring is a-springing

I have been terribly remiss.   Not cooking, not blogging, not much of anything-ing, really, but spring she is a-coming and we here in Chicago are ready to toss the winter gear and the winter attitude back into the attic where they belong.  It was 70 and sunny this weekend and, as I do every year, I marvel at how much more I like my life, my city, my kids, my job, my everything when the sun is shining and the windows are open.

Of course, two days later it was freezing and rainy but that gave me an excuse to make one more round of comfort food.  Here goes.

Baked Ziti
Make some sauce.  Or buy it.  But, really, make it if you can 'cause it's soooo much better.

Cook up a package of ziti or mostaccioli.

 Add the following to a large bowl:
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 small container cottage cheese (below is large size - I doubled recipe)
1 small container low fat ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten

  Add to the pasta and stir well.
 I know, it looks disgusting, but looks, my friend, can be deceiving.
 Add 2-3 cups sauce and mix well.
 Coat the bottom of a 9x13 with sauce, toss the whole mixture in, add another cup or so of sauce
Sprinkle parmesan generously on top.
Cover with foil.
Bake for about 30 min at 350, remove foil and go for another few minutes
Serve with extra sauce and parmesan and crushed red pepper.

And this week I made a roast chicken.  I rarely make a roast chicken, but every time I do I wish I did it more, because a)it's easy, b)it's cheap and c)your whole house will smell amazing.  

Part of why I never make it, though, is that I find handling raw chicken to be, well, disgusting.  
First world problems.
Rinse and pat dry a roast chicken.  Don't forget to remove the gizzards.
 Chop up some fresh rosemary.  And thyme, too, if you've got it.  I didn't.  Add it to about 4 Tbsp softened butter and lots of salt and pepper.  Mix into a paste.
 Slather the boid with the paste.  Slide some under the skin, too, if you can stand it. 
 Tie up the legs with twine, and cook that sucker in a roasting pan for about an hour, depending on the bird's size, until the juices behind the drumstick run clear or a meat thermometer reads 165.
 Take it out and let it rest a good five or ten minutes, then slice up and serve. 

Bon appetit and happy spring!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

'Hoos turning 50?

It has begun. Those dominoes are falling.  The half century marked is being conquered, starting with childhood friends, now college friends and, later this year, me.  This weekend some college friends and I celebrated this milestone by convening in our nation's capital.  The indomitable Laura Reiley has recently discovered and taken up distance running, so she and her husband proposed a trip around the DC Rock n Roll half marathon, and her recent birthday,  this weekend.  And 5 of us jumped right on that bandwagon. What.  A.  Blast.

Laura and I grabbed a quick dinner Friday night, then Laura and Jon and I got the race out of the way enjoyed the race first thing Saturday morning.  It was freezing out there, but sunny, and well organized and supported, and the DC peeps were out cheering in droves.  I was underprepared but we did it, we felt pretty good doing it, and it was a fabulous way to kick things off.

We froze our way back to the hotel,  got warmed up and cleaned up then slayed a huge, juicy recovery burger.  Then, the festivities began!  We met the crew at Jackpot in late afternoon.  Rebecca was our trip planner and she did a KICK ASS job of planning the evening.

Next, we walked toward our dinner spot, Oyamel.  Great vibe, good food, killer margaritas.  We chose ones with a serrano chili syrup and they were incredible.   Long dinner catching up, lots and lots and lots of laughs.  We may have had a few pitchers of those serrano margaritas.

Last stop of the night?  Why, karaoke, of course!

This pretty much sums it up.  

It was a TINY chinese restaurant with a tiny upstairs karaoke lounge, filled with drunk millenials in St Patty's day gear.  And us.  Joe, pictured above, became best friends with every person in the bar.  We laughed, we sang, we drank, we danced.   

Barb's text the next morning read:  "BEST NIGHT EVER."  Truly.  I love these people.

We met for brunch the next morning in Capital Hill, and had spicy bloody marys and delicious food. 

 This was Joe's brunch.  Hmmmm...

Later that day we got to visit the Museum of African American History and Culture, thanks to the lovely Kellie Robertson, who scored us tickets.  It was incredible.  I only wish we'd had three more hours - it's overwhelming but super powerful. Then, sadly, it was time to go.   What a weekend.  

Meanwhile, Doug was holding down the fort at home.  
I laughed out loud at this text from Dylan on saturday afternoon.

Hey, he could have bought them gravel for all I cared, he gave me the gift of a weekend away, but I did have to dash to the store today to replenish the snacks and cereal.  

I got home from work and decided to use what was in the fridge and cobble something together.  The goods?  Brussells sprouts, pasta, leftover chicken and parmesan.   

 I shredded up a bunch of brussells sprouts, then tossed them with a little olive oil and some s & p. Then sauteed them in olive oil for about five minutes. 

 I chopped up some leftover chicken and some salami.  I was hoping to use some sausage but it smelled sketchy so improvised.  
 I tossed it all in the skillet, then added some crushed red pepper and tossed it with the pasta and added a ton of shredded parmesan.  YUM
 It was, actually, quite delicious.  

Happy birthday friends!  Three cheers for 1967, and UVA class of '89.
What are we doing next year?

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Last weekend was our neighborhood's 21st annual progressive dinner.  21 years!  Progressive dinners are such a great idea.  If you're not familiar with the concept, here's how it works.  An invitation goes out to the group,  and if people rsvp yes, they must also choose their role:  cooking (either a main dish, salad/bread, an appetizer or a dessert) or hosting (in which case you offer your house and serve the wine for your dinner.)  Two brave families each year are convinced volunteer  to host either the cocktails or the dessert portion of the night.  The organizers then meet to parcel out the roles.   Three women in the 'hood, Sarah, Jane and Bridget, have run this thing for 20 years and it is a well oiled machine.  They have a master spreadsheet which shows who has done what role over the many years, which is factored into the assignments.  If you made a main dish last year, this year you'll probably get appetizers, etc.   After this pow-wow they drop off a sheet giving you your assignment and instructions for the evening (below).  It's a giant puzzle which they've elegantly coordinated for twenty years. 

On the appointed night, we all convene at the cocktails house, where there are a million appetizers and an open bar.  We all grab our name tag, which includes a picture of your house!  After 90 minutes, we all leave and report to our designated dinner locale.  After two hours, we all then re-convene as a group at the final stop, where there are a million desserts, coffee, and the bar, which  the bartender has packed up and moved from the first venue to the last.

It's a blast. There are many generations represented and year after year, in the dog days of February, 60 or so people show up.    The price tag for the whole shebang is $25 - which basically covers the bar.    It's a lovely tradition and we feel so lucky to be a part of it!

This year I offered to cook and was assigned a main dish.  I made Ina's Jambalaya. (from Foolproof)
Heat 2 TBSP oil in a dutch oven and sautee 1-1/2 lb kielbasa or andouille sausage over medium heat until browned.  Remove and place in a large bowl.
Add 7-8 chicken thighs to same pot and cook about five minutes per side, until browned.

Remove chicken and place in bowl with sausage.
Add 2 Tbsp butter
1 large chopped onion
2 cups diced celery
and 2 red peppers, cored and diced, to pot.

Sautee about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent.

 28 oz can tomatoes, drained and diced
3 cloves minced garlic, 
 1 diced jalapeno
2 teaspoons diced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon diced fresh thyme
 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 
2 TBSP tomato paste 
and cook another 2 minutes.  
Add 1 cup white wine and scrape off the brown bits at bottom of pan.

Add 5 cups chicken stock and bring to a rolling boil. 
Stir in 3 cups extra long grain rice and add the sausage, chicken,  and 3 bay leaves.  
Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. 
Add 1 pound medium shrimp and cover for another 5 minutes. 
Add ¼ cup of the scallions, ¼ cup of the parsley, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice  and stir well. 
Cover the pot, remove it from the heat and allow the jambalaya steam, for 10- 15 minutes, before serving.Garnish with the remaining ¼ cup scallions and ½ cup parsley, and a dash of Tabasco.
It's even better leftover.  

Barefoot Contessa's Jambalaya
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pound sausage, such as kielbasa or Andouille, sliced(we used turkey kielbasa)
  • 7-8 chicken thighs (we used boneless skinless)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and diced
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained & medium diced (I forgot to drain them)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced OR ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons diced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon diced fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional for us)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken stock,
  • 3 cups extra long grain rice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 dashes Tabasco (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped scallions green and white parts
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, deveined (20-24 count)
  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or black iron pot over medium heat, add the kielbasa and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove the kielbasa to a bowl, and set aside. Add the chicken thighs to the same pot and cook 5 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Remove to the bowl with the kielbasa, and set aside.
  2. Add the butter, onion, celery and peppers to the same pot and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, garlic, jalapeno or cayenne, oregano, thyme, 1 1/2 tsp of salt and tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes.  Add the white wine and scrape off the brown bits at bottom of pan. ( you can stop here and continue 40 minutes b/f serving. 
  3. Add the stock and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the rice, and add the sausage, chicken, bay leaves.  Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the shrimp and cover for another 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the scallions, ¼ cup of the parsley, the lemon juice and the shrimp, and stir well. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat and allow the jambalaya steam, for 10- 15 minutes, before serving.Garnish with the remaining ¼ cup scallions and ½ cup parsley, and a dash of Tabasco, if desired.