Friday, January 30

Death by Conversation

Last weekend, Husby and I hosted an impromptu dinner party. Pork roast for 4 turned into fondue for 6, which quickly became seating for 8.

Four trips to the grocery store later, our guests had arrived, and before you could even say, “Bordeaux,” the conversation turned deadly. Another minute longer and I would be stifling more than just a yawn.

The topic? Economics. Ba ba baaaaaaa….

Sure it’s smart in a room full of finance professionals, but at a casual dinner party with friends? No, thank you. Dialogues become heated and ultimately someone’s feelings are hurt. Besides, who wants to be known as the hostess with the argumentative dinner parties? Not I, said the fly.

To nip this snafu in the bud, I enlisted the help of Table Topics. This 5” cube contains 160 thought provoking conversation starters. Questions like, “Is intelligence or common sense more important?” and “What celebrity do you look like?” kept the party upbeat while also giving us the chance to discover more about one another.

Cheesy, yes, but also a lot of fun. It’s not every day you hear a Harvard graduate compare himself to Sylar from Heroes.

Tuesday, January 27

Wednesday with Tom

Husby is obsessed with Tom Colicchio, host of Bravo’s Top Chef. What started as a mild affinity of the famed kitchen guru is now a full-on man-crush.

A prime example? Tuesdays with Tom.

About once a month, I sit on the phone for over an hour, redialing the reservation number, in a vain attempt to obtain reservations for a table on one of the most sought after evenings in New York City.

Yes, me. Not Husby.

I have yet to reach anyone. Not a machine or a live person. Nothing but a constant busy signal.
Husby, desperation seeping in: You’re not calling enough. Last month, you began dialing 10 minutes late.

H.I.T., patience nearing wits end: Because you called me to make sure I had the phone number…

Husby, matter-of-factly: You should have called me half an hour earlier to synchronize phone numbers and calling time…

H.I.T., clearly exasperated: Husby, I’ve never even won BINGO. What makes you think I’m lucky enough to score us reservations?

Husby, pulling at strings: Why don’t you enlist my mom? I’m sure she’ll help…

H.I.T., tired talking about Tuesdays with Tom, again: How about we just have a Wednesday with Tom at our apartment?

Husby, like a 5-year old child who was just told he can eat ice cream for dinner: Really?!?!?!?!?!??! Can we afford that?!?!?!?!?!

H.I.T., smug: Sure. I’ll figure it out.

Husby, little birds singing over head: I love you.
So when I said, “Wednesday with Tom,” what I really meant was “Wednesday with one of Tom’s recipes.” He cooked Steak Au Poivre on the Today show this morning.

While it wasn’t what Husby had in mind, he appreciated the gesture and good food (although he thought I was a “sneaky son-of-a-bitch”).

Besides, we both know I’ll resume my position by the phone next month.

Thursday, January 22

Love Me Tender

My crock pot loves me tender. If I throw in a tough cut of meat, out comes a succulent dinner.

Even more delicious? This mean cooking machine saves time, energy and money. All my dreams fulfilled.

Oh my slow cooker, I will never let you go. I love you so.

H.I.T. Recession Recipe #2: Andrews Swiss Steak

1-1/2 lbs round steak (I used London Broil)
Salt
Pepper
1 TBS vegetable oil
Flour
1 can Italian stewed tomatoes
1. Cut meat into serving sizes and tenderize using a meat pounder. Salt and pepper both sides.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Dredge meat in flour and place in pan, searing both sides.
3. Add tomatoes and meat to crock pot*. Make sure meat is covered and sitting in sauce. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours (low 8-10 hours).
4. Serve over rice. Enjoy!

*If you don’t have a crock pot, this recipe can be cooked on the stove in a heavy duty frying pan or dutch oven. Just cover and simmer for 4-5 hours.

Tuesday, January 20

Inauguration Celebration

I will never forget my Great Grandmother recalling the first time she saw an airplane. She was lying in the field in front of her house (a field that is now O’Hare airport).

“The noise was deafening,” she said, “so I covered my ears and watched the contraption soar through the sky. It was amazing. I knew it was something I would never forget.”

As we complete another significant historic event today, I’d like to reflect on other moments that will never be forgotten.

1. Destruction of the Berlin Wall. My father bought each of his children a piece of the wall. Mine is tucked away in our safe.
2. First Gulf War. My best friend had a brother fighting for our country. We prayed for him and proudly wore yellow ribbons.
3. First World Trade Center bombing. A new school and new friends, specifically one, whose father worked in the WTC.
3. O.J. Simpson trial. Hearing his verdict announced on the loud speaker is something I will never forget.
4. Columbine. Feeling pity for those two shooters, their victims, and the number of other school shootings that eventually followed suit.
5. 9/11. I will never forget the sounds I heard walking on campus that day, nor the teacher who continued class despite the second tower falling. I walked out in defiance to honor those whose lives were lost.
6. Saddam Hussein’s death. Desperately hoping that the war was not in vain.

Just as my Great Grandmother had her airplane memory, I will have mine. I only hope my own great grandchildren will be curious enough to ask about the events that shaped history and how I remember them. Especially the inauguration of our nation's first African American President, Barack Obama.

Friday, January 16

Bubbly

Back when I was growing up, the law stated that you had to finish a glass of milk before being able to enjoy any other beverages – water included. At least, that’s what my mom said.

To avoid the frothy, white liquid, I learned to go hours without drinking anything. My resistance has since been perfected. I can go all day on less than 16 ounces of fluid.

That is until a glass of bubbly is placed in front of me.

Then, all bets are off. I’ll drink glass after glass of the sparkling effervescence, usually finishing a full bottle in a single sitting.

I know what you’re thinking – lush – but chill. I’m downing water, not the good stuff. But even those bottles add up. Luckily the good folks over at Williams Sonoma began selling the Penguin Sparkling Water Maker ($199).


This bad boy makes fresh sparkling water using the stuff from tap. What Perrier would call a knockoff, I call genius.

The price tag is a little hefty, but if you’re neurotic like me, it’s a small price to pay to keep from being dehydrated.

Wednesday, January 14

Sunshine State Staycation

I love Florida as much as the next person. What’s not to like? Beautiful weather almost all year round, Miami, West Palm Beach, Joe’s Stone Crab Key Lime Pie, heck, even Disney rocks. This list can go on and on…or so I thought.

Well, Husby and I just got back from a week long staycation in the Sunshine State that put my list (and limits) to the test. Turns out Florida can churn out more than just sour oranges. Here’s the top 3 on my list of things not to like about Florida:

1. Book Stores – you can never pack too many books. Don’t make the same mistake as me. There is only 1 book store within a 10 mile radius of South Beach and it basically contains artsy fartsy novels designed for enlightened reading. Cheap chic lit be damned. Your only other options are the profane romance paperbacks found in CVS. Slim pickings, let me tell you…

2. Hammocks – the allure of its relaxing design is meant to fool you. I warn you - beware of these fabric swings, especially if you opt for a romantic moment with your beau. He will undoubtedly move way to fast, as compared to your graceful movements, causing the hammock to overturn; leaving you covered in dirt and bruises while he is clean as a baby’s bottom. Figures.

3. Joe’s Stone Crab Key Lime pie – this obsessively delicious pie is addictive. There is no way the ingredient list is complete. I don’t know how they do it, but we managed to eat 3 whole pies in 1 week. By the end of our trip, it became a disgustingly satisfying crave that needed a daily fix. We are now suffering withdrawal and debating whether to begin purchasing weekly pies via FedEx.

Book with caution. Or, just avoid the above. Especially the pie. I hate to admit it, but I’m eating a slice now.

*Edit: The word "staycation" used in this post refers to the Florida marketing campaign over the summer aimed at getting citizens to stay in the states versus traveling to the nearby Caribbean.

Monday, January 12

Forecasting a Rainy/Snowy Mix with Soup

There is something idyllic about curling up with a good book, warm blanket and bowl of piping hot soup on a rainy/snowy/sleet-mix day.

This weekend, Husby and I ransacked my recipe books looking for the perfect corn chowder. After much debate, we settled on an easy recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal Edition). I had my reservations – I was still eyeing a version from the Barefoot Contessa – but the 20 minute cook time and simple prep work eventually won me over. Besides, what good is labor intensive soup? You totally miss the cozy couch portion of the day and I was really looking forward to diving back into my book.

Mission accomplished. Creamy corn with crunchy bacon bits slipped into every satisfying spoonful.

By the time we finished raving about our success, the snow/rain/sleet-mix stopped along with the romance of our bad weather day. We hopped a cab and went to see Quantum Solace instead. After all, there is something comforting about going to the movies on a dreary, gray afternoon.

H.I.T. Recession Recipe #1: Corn Chowder

½ lbs bacon, finely diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 TBS flour
4 cups milk
1/8 tsp pepper
1 can (14.75 oz) cream-style corn
1 can (15 oz) tiny whole potatoes, drained and diced
Parsley*
Paprika*


Directions:
1. In 3-quart saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Drain fat, reserving 3 TBS in saucepan. Drain bacon on paper towels; set aside.
2. Cook onion and celery in bacon fat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in flour. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until mixture is bubbly; remove from heat.
3. Gradually stir in milk, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Heat to boiling, stirring continuously. Boil and stir for 1 minute.
4. Stir in pepper, corn and potatoes. Heat until hot. Stir in bacon. Simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle each serving with parsley and paprika. Enjoy!
*Optional.

Friday, January 9

Still on vacation...

But returning on Monday with more H.I.T. goodness for the New Year.

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