Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fun Friday Feast

I actually got to enjoy this edition of FFF the same night I made it!  Yeah for having Friday night off!  Boo for having to work on Saturday.

I was inspired to make this meal because of all of the cool weather we have had lately (I finally broke out the electric heaters!!).  When I hear the work pumpkin I automatically think of fall, so this recipe hit the nail on the head.  I found Pumpkin-Peanut Curry Noodles with Five-Spice Seared Scallops and Shrimp by Rachael Ray on www.FoodNetwork.com and it sounded amazing.  To be honest, I have never had any food item with pumpkin in it other than baked goods, so it this recipe really intrigued me.  And who doesn't love curry, shrimp and scallops?



Ingredients:
1 pound spaghetti
Salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inches ginger root, minced or grated
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup tamari dark soy sauce, eyeball it
1 (15-ounce) can cooked pumpkin
2 rounded tablespoonfuls mild or hot curry paste (recommended: Patak's) found on international foods aisle
3 tablespoons five-spice powder
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 diver scallops, trimmed and patted dry
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces, then thinly sliced lengthwise into matchsticks

Directions:

Heat a large pot of water for noodles. When water boils, salt it and add pasta to cook to al dente or with a bite to it.

While pasta cooks, heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil. Add garlic, ginger, red bell pepper, and pepper flakes to the pan and cook together a couple of minutes, then add peanut butter and melt it. Whisk soy into peanut butter, then stir in pumpkin and curry paste. The sauce will be very thick. Turn down the heat to low. Add a ladle or 2 of pasta cooking water to thin sauce a bit and simmer over low heat. Adjust salt, to taste.

Heat a small to medium skillet over high heat. Pour the five-spice powder onto a plate with some salt. Press both sides of the shrimp and scallops into the powder. Add 3 tablespoons of remaining oil to hot skillet. Place the shrimp in the pan and cook 1 minute, flip and sear the other side until just opaque. Remove shrimp to a plate and set aside. Add another 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and heat back up to smoking. Add the scallops and sear on both sides until opaque. Remove scallops and add to the plate of shrimp.

Drain pasta and return pasta to the pot. Add the curry-pumpkin sauce and toss thoroughly. Serve noodles on 4 plated and top with scallions and seafood.



It was really awesome!  I would change one little thing for next time, however.  I would add more water to thin the sauce out (use four ladles of pasta water) which in turn would make the dish less salty.  I don't tolerate heavily salted foods, and I think the soy sauce added a lot of salt.  Otherwise, this was an excellent meal, and I will definitley be making it again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Neighbor's Used Car Lot

Talladega - Part Two (The Race & The Motorsports Hall of Fame)

note: Talladega - Part One (Driving & Camping) is here.

The Motorsports Hall of Fame

I can't really say too much about the Motorsports Hall of Fame that wouldn't bore the living poop out of most of my friends. I will say however that a fan of either NASCAR, or racing in general, would have a good time. We saw some historic vehicles, some record setting vehicles, and some scary lumps of twisted metal.

Exhibit A: The 740 MPH Budweiser Rocket Car


Exhibit B: The worlds fastest stock car (before they started slowing them down for safety)


Exhibit C: Famous old stock car (when they were actually made from stock cars)


Exhibit D: Mangled wreck (driver somehow walked away unhurt)


The Talladega Amp Energy 500

Naturally we were really excited for the race. We had bought good tickets and packed our coolers with plenty of beer. If I may digress for a moment, a lot of tracks allow you to bring your own coolers (translation: beer) into the track- which translates into good times! Back on track: If I haven't mentioned it in the first blog post, the track is freakin' huge (2.66 miles to be exact)! The front grandstands are a mile long and you can walk for 15 minutes and not reach the end. The grandstands are pretty crappy in comparison to the much newer Kansas Speedway. The seats appear to be folding chairs that have been welded together:


More interesting that the seats were the people-watching opportunities:



The guy on the left was wearing these badass penny loafers. Early in the day he announced to me that Tony Stewart would crash and that Greg Biffle would win (his favorite driver). I reminded him that Biffle always crashes at Talladega. His reply: he calmly turned his head and didn't talk to me the rest of the race! Penny-loafer-man ending up departing early, shortly after Biffle crashed (so he never got to see Stewart win- insert evil laugh here). He did find time to eat some canned beanie weanies though. Another interesting character was the annoying lady standing up in the picture above. She would stand up every time Labonte drove by (yeah, that is like 266 times) and she was constantly crossing her fingers. Occasionally she would even throw her hands up in the air and bow when Labonte drove by. She was married to this rather distinguished looking fellow (with a very mature mullet):




Disclaimer: Before I get bashed for making fun of everyone from Alabama let me say there were plenty of polite normal looking fellows around us ... it's no fun to talk about those people though!


The race itself was very entertaining (the flyover was great too). There were two big crashes, a record amount of leaders, and my favorite driver won. Talladega is far more entertaining than our home track of Kansas Speedway. During the race at Kansas we usually walk the merchandise trailers just to pass the time. At Talladega I found myself running to the pisser so that I wouldn't miss anything! Oh, I almost forget to mention something: three wide baby!




Well that is it, that's Talladega. We had a great time and we are going back. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fun Friday Feast

It's getting to be that time of year again.  Time for soup, chili, fires, electric blankets, afternoon movies, and cold weather.  Today's feast is perfect for the fall- Brian's Famous Chili. So as not to give away all of his secrets, I am actually posting the recipe for Paula Deen's Taco Soup.  I have made this soup before, and it is very good and very hearty.   It reminds more of chili than soup, and Brian's recipe contains many of the same ingredients and is prepared in the same manner.

This is a crock pot recipe, so you can throw it together before work and enjoy the evening without having to worry about cooking up a big meal.



Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
2 cups diced onions
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pinto beans
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pink kidney beans
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles
2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans diced green chiles
1 (4.6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced, optional
1/2 cup green olives, sliced, optional
1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix

Corn chips, for serving
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated cheese, for garnish
Chopped green onions, for garnish
Pickled jalapenos, for garnish

Directions:
Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet; drain the excess fat, then transfer the browned beef and onions to a large slow cooker or a stockpot.



Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix, and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours or simmer over low heat for about 1 hour in a pot on the stove.



To serve, place a few corn chips in each bowl and ladle soup over them. Top with sour cream, cheese, green onions and jalapenos.



For you really observant readers, you can look at the first picture and figure out the ingredients I used to make Brian's Famous Chili.  I do, however, heavily encourage you to make Paula Deen's Taco Soup- it's a delicious meal to be enojyed on a cold Sunday watching a great game of football.  Add in some jalapeno cornbread and you've got an awesome meal.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mega Pallet Fire On Your Face

Get that thing out of my house!!!

Look what I found in the basement before going to work Tuesday!!!



I HATE snakes.  Okay, the snake we have in a cage is fine (I know he won't try to attack me), and really big, docile boas, such as Hersh's old snake are fine too.  It's just the "intruders" that scare me.  I think it's more of the element of surprise and not knowing if it is poisonous.

Anyways, I come down into the basement right before I am to get ready to go to work.  I see Stu sitting in the middle of the room playing with something that looks like cat barf.  I get closer to inspect and I see that is most certainly not cat barf, but a freakin' snake.  It's not moving even though Stu is batting at it, so I think it might be dead.  I poke it with a piece of newspaper laying near by and it moves a little bit.  At this point I decide to run upstairs to grab a bucket to put on top of it and leave it for Brian to come home and deal with.  Of course, dumb me, I leave Stu down there to play with it, and by the time I get back, I see it slither under one of the recliners.



I then call Brian, freaking out, and he at first thinks I am being attacked, this is how bad I am freaking out (sorry Brian, I promise to warn you that I am not hurt next time I call in hysterics).  There really is nothing he can do since he is at work, so I get a flashlight, gloves, and shoes and look, from a distance, under the chairs, and I don't see the snake.  At this point it is getting really late and I have to get ready for work.  So I leave the snake where he is, take the cat box and food upstairs, close the door and stuff a blanket in the door crack, essentially locking the snake in the basement.



I go ahead and go to work hoping that Brian will come home and find the snake, because I swore that I would never go back down in the basement again for fear that I would be sitting there watching TV and all of a sudden the snake crawls into my lap.

Luckily, when Brian got home, he tipped the recliner over, and out falls the snake.  He used hot dog pokers to push it into a bucket and then he took it over the fence.  THANK GOODNESS Brian isn't afraid of snakes!



So it's gone.  And it hasn't come back.  Nor have any of his friends.  I know I shouldn't be afraid of snakes, and they are actually good to have around (they eat rodents, insects, other snakes, etc.), I just don't want them coming to share my basement with me.  It must be the right time of year for snakes to look for warm places, because my friend Shanon happened to find one in her garage over the weekend, and I coworker of mine found one in her basement rafters about a month ago.  So people- be on the lookout!  Or don't, because you will probably never see them.

One last thing- anyone know what kind of snake this is?  I have a guess, but I want to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy One Year Anniversary to Us!



One year ago, Brian and I were in Hawaii having one of the best vacations we've ever had celebrating our  marriage.



This year we celebrated by going to Talladega last weekend; we got each other "tickets" to the race since according to some sort of anniversary rules, the first year is to be celebrated with paper (tickets=paper).



On the actual day this year we didn't do much, or the whole weekend for that matter.

Friday I had to work, so Brian went to Lowe's to buy supplies for the garage reorganization project.  Brian wants to get as much stuff (wood, tools, buckets, etc.) off the floor as possible since our garage is so small, so he built shelves out of steel that hang from the ceiling to hold the wood, pipes, etc. 



He also put up a lot of individual shelves around the walls of the garage to hold numerous other items.



Brian spent a good portion of the day Saturday building these shelves, while I was inside baking one of the best carrot cakes ever.  This recipe is courtesy of Martha Stewart.  Carrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.



This is the first time that I have ever made a cake from scratch, and I thought it turned out awesome.  I did learn that baking takes a lot longer than you would expect.  It pretty much took me the entire day to bake the cake and make the cream cheese frosting (which was awesome!).



The reason I made the cake was because we were meeting my parents at J. Gilberts for dinner and then heading over to my grandma's to celebrate my mom's birthday and Brian and my one year anniversary.  I thought J. Gilberts was just okay.  The restaurant has a really nice atmosphere- upscale, dark, excellent service- but the food was nothing to write home about.  My dad's steak wasn't cooked properly and had to be sent back (and this place specializes in steak) and Brian's Chilean sea bass (the special) was very, very dry.  I had the scallops which I thought were excellent (but I only got 5 for $27).  For the price, this place wasn't worth it, but maybe Brian and I are just really picky people.  Luckily my parents paid for the meal so we couldn't complain.

After the celebration we went over to Niki and Dusty's to hang out, talk and watch the NASCAR race.  It had been a while since we've gotten to hang out with them even though we live so close to each other.

Sunday we blew off our projects early in the day to take Taigan down to the dog park in Shawnee Mission.



It was a blast!  It is so much fun to see Taigain run around with all of the other dogs and finally get the hang of swimming.



At first Taigain would follow dogs out into the water just until he could barely stand, and then he would turn around.  Finally we got him coaxed out far enough by throwing the ball into the water and he started paddling.  We threw the stick out as far as we could about 15 times and he retrieved it every time.  It kind of reminded us of that other dog we used to have...



I wish the park was closer to us because Taigan had such a great time and did so well with all of the other dogs.



Upon returning home we got right into finishing our projects.  I mowed while Brian removed everything from the garage.  After I got done mowing I helped clean, organize and put everything back in.  I think Brian is happier with all the new room and the new organization.



We finished up the weekend with dinner, TV, and the movie Super High Me starring Doug Benson (a comedian we had seen on Last Comic Standing).



He pretty much followed the formula for Super Size Me, but instead of eating McDonald's for 30 days it was marijuana he smoked non-stop for 30 days.  We thought it was okay.

On Monday, our actual anniversary, we made a really nice dinner of bacon-wrapped filet mignon, crispy portobella mushrooms, garlic breadsticks, ceaser salad, and a very nice bottle of red wine. 



For dessert, as tradition dictates, we ate the top layer of our wedding cake that we had saved for this special occasion.  It was still pretty tasty after a whole year in the freezer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fun Friday Feasts

We're back!  It's been a while since I've posted a FFF due to all the recent trips and busy weekends, but I'm finally back.  Unfortunately the recipe this week isn't too exciting or extravagant,  which is probably what you think about these meals anyways...

I wanted to put something together that was quick and simple and will make leftovers for next week.  I was busy this morning prepping some ingredients for the dessert I am going to be making for my mom's birthday Saturday evening- Carrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, so I didn't want to have to deal with a complicated dinner.

I made Chicken Pot Pie, which I know is a meal a lot of people don't like, but I do.  I think it is more of a love for pie crust, and you could probably put just about anything between 2 pie crusts and I would eat it.  So here you go.



Ingredients:
2 deep dish pie crusts (I used frozen, pre-made), thawed
3 boneless chicken breasts
2 cans of cream of potato soup
one medium yellow onion
1 1/2 cups frozen peas and carrots mix
2 T olive oil for cooking chicken and onion
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1.  Cut up chicken into 1/2 inch bites, and dice medium onion.
2.  Heat 2 T olive oil in large skillet on medium high heat.
3.  Once oil is hot, throw in chicken and cook for 2 minutes, then add onion and cook approximately 5 more minutes until chicken is done.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  While chicken and onion are cooking, rinse peas and carrots and mix with 2 cans of cream of potato soup in a medium bowl.
5.  When chicken and onion are cooked through, mix with the veggie/soup mixture.


6.  Pour whole mixture into one pie crust.


7.  Loosen edges of second pie crust and lay on top of the filled pie crust.  Seal edges well.
8.  Wrap foil around crust of pie so that they don't get burned while cooking.


9.  Cook in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, until crust is golden brown.



This is comfort food at it's finest!

Or not.  But still good, simple and cheap.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Talladega - Part One (Driving & Camping)

Our super fun trip to Talladega can be broken into four parts:

  • The Long Drive

  • The Camping

  • The Motorsports Hall of Fame

  • The Race


The Long Drive


The long drive was 1600 miles round trip (~13 hours each way if you don't encounter traffic/problems). We saw beautiful scenery, tons of McCain supporters, and a lot of church signs. Once I hit Tennessee I couldn't find NPR on the radio to save my life, so I began my own research project by listening to religious radio stations. I had to do this while Courtney was sleeping because she couldn't stand the crazy talk! I could write volumes about what I heard, but I'll just mention two points they kept making:

  • Obama is the Anti-Christ. I kind of thought this was a joke when I read this on the internet, but they are not kidding. Preachers would say things like, "My 35 years studying the Bible gives me absolute confidence that Obama is the Anti-Christ and, if elected, will bring upon us the end of days." Once again, I'm not kidding.

  • Palin is an incredibly smart and talented women who will faithfully represent conservative Christians in office (they don't say much about McCain). They love the fact that she had a baby with Downs (note: I'm not implying this is a bad thing).


The Camping


Courtney and I were pretty damn excited about the camping and we were not disappointed.  Camping is a huge part of the Talladega experience, and there is no shortage of camping spots. In just our area alone (called "family reserved") there are ~2400 camp sites, along with a huge free section. You can literally walk for miles through the campgrounds.


Our campsite (video here):




Most campers had RV's, but there were still a lot of people with tents like us. Everyone was extremely nice and some of our neighbors offered to help setup when we arrived (they also offered food on one occasion). During the day we would walk through the campgrounds just to absorb the spectacle of it all. At night was when the real fun happens though. Multiple groups of people setup stages and perform music for free (well, maybe for boobies too). Most campers pack up small coolers, or make large mixed drinks, and walk to one of the nearby free concerts.


One interesting thing about the camp sites are the complete lack of rule enforcement. No dogs allowed you say? There were dogs everywhere ... too bad we didn't know this beforehand (poor Monkey). No flag poles you say? Everyone had flags. Quiet time at midnight you say? I guess it was quiet if you don't count the fireworks, music, people, generators, and ambulances.

The only things that bothered us were the loud-ass generators and the occasional high concentration of smoke. All of the RV's run generators and the sounds of demented growling weed-eaters fill the air night and day. As for the smoke, everyone has a camp fire and the air can get pretty nasty when the wind dies down at night.

Can you see the smoke?


The free camping areas actually had less people so I think we are going to show up a day early next year and setup there. Less people means less smoke and generator noise. Of course the free area has no quiet time rules, but I think we can survive that!


Yeah you heard me right, we are going back next year. This time however we are going to recruit friends to go with us ... who is in?


You can check out all of our Talladega photos here.


UPDATE: Part Two  of this blog post is here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Talladega!


We're ready for it ... it's unavoidable ... somewhat undesirable ... and completely unavoidable ... wait a minute, I just said that.



Pictures are coming...