Monday, December 21, 2009

Cracker-and-Parmesan-Crusted Fish Fillets

This is a recipe I found in the Rachael Ray Magazine.  It is an excellent way to eat fish, especially if you are a picky fish eater.  The cook time for the fish is dead-on if you use tilapia fillets.  I am always either over cooking or under cooking my fish, but this came out perfect!

Cracker-and-Parmesan-Crusted Fish Fillets

1 cup oyster crackers
1/3 cup Ritz crackers
3/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Flour, for coating
2 large eggs, beaten
Splash heavy cream or half-and-half
EVOO, for frying
4 sole or tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

1.  Using a food processor, grind the oyster crackers, Ritz crackers, parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, chives, thyme, Old Bay seasoning and garlic powder.  Transfer to a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and cream.
2.  Fill a large skillet with enough EVOO to reach a depth of 1/4 inch and heat over medium-high heat.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.  Coat the fish with the flour, shaking off any excess; coat with the egg mixture, then with the cracker crumbs.  Working with 2 fillets at a time, fry the fish in the skillet, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes.  Transfer each batch to the oven to keep warm  Serve with the lemon wedges.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 7th Dinner Party

Last weekend Brian and I cooked up a great dinner for some of our great friends.  The feast was delicious and so was the company.  We had a great time chatting, watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, rocking out to The Beatles: Rockband (thanks Frank and Lynn!), and tackling Drunken Jenga.

The Feast:

Appetizer: Pomegranate Arils (thanks to my co-worker for introducing me to the deliciousness that is pomegranate "seeds")

Main Dish: Anderson's Smoked Chicken
Inject chicken with a marinade of one cup water, one stick of butter, 2 T Tony Chachere's seasoning, and one T black pepper.  Cook in a smoker for 4 to 5 hours or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees.


Macaroni and Cheese

Dilly's Baked Beans
6 pieces of bacon,  sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 sweet onion, choppped
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup catsup
1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/4 black strap molasses
2 large cans baked beans
shot of Worchestersire sauce
shot of BBQ sauce

Cook bacon in a large pot on medium heat until crispy.  Remove bacon and drain the grease, leaving a small amount behind for the onions.  Cook onions until yellow.  Put all other ingredients into the pot with the onions.  Add in bacon and stir well.  Cook on medium to low for 15-20 minutes.  Pour into casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Stuffed Mushrooms (I used low fat cream cheese and turkey sausage- still excellent)

Spinach, Bacon and Apple Salad
5 slices bacon
1/4 cup sliced almonds
8 cups spinach
1 Red Delicious apple, unpeeled, cored and chopped
3 green onions, sliced

1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 T red wine vinegar
1 t sugar
1/2 t prepared mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In lidded jar, combine all dressing ingredients.  Shake well and refrigerate.

In skillet, cook bacon unil crisp.  Drain on paper towel; crumble.  In same skillet, cook almonds in 1 T bacon grease.  Shake over high heat until almonds are browned.  In large salad bowl, combine spinach with bacon, almonds, apple and onions.  Toss with dressing.


Apple Dumplings

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Windy City

Last weekend Courtney and I headed back to Chicago for a fun filled weekend of eating, drinking, and general touristy stuff. Originally we were going to watch Matt run in the Chicago marathon, but Matt got a stress fracture so we had no choice but to turn the weekend into something even more relaxing and fun! We ended up doing a lot of walking and eating. Here are the high points:

The Architecture River Cruise

Chicago has a large amount of beautiful architecture (makes KC look like a shanty town) and Matt had been told that there was no better way to see it than a boat tour by these folks. Although it was a bit cold (a lot of folks ultimately went downstairs to get out of the wind) I really enjoyed hearing about each building and it's history. Some of my favorites:

You can see the whole bunch of pictures here.

Frontera Grill

Rick Bayless (the guy who won Top Chef Masters) has a gourmet Mexican restaurant called Frontera Grill that we really wanted to try out. At first we were not even sure we would get to go. They were not accepting anymore reservations, but they did tell us we could show up at 5 PM and put our name down. This place is so popular that when we showed up at 4:50 PM there was already a line around the building. After waiting in line for 20 minutes we were able to put our name down and they instructed us to show back up a mere 3 1/2 hours later (I'm not kidding). When we did arrive at 8:30 PM they seated us promptly and the fun began. For an appetizer we had this wonderful tray of Ceviche:

Followed by wonderful cuisine like Falda Asada "Brava", Enchilada de Chivo, Enchiladas de Mole Poblano, and Tacos al Carbon.

I had the Enchiladas de Mole Poblano and the sauce was truly incredible. Throw in some homemade guacamole and a Michelada Moderna (that drink I am in love with below) and I was in heaven!

In closing, I would highly recommend jumping through the hoops to eat there, it was well worth it.

The A-Team

We met quite a few of Matt's friends from Emory University. We call these folks "The A-Team" because they all seem to be lawyers, doctors, or business professionals. Most of them either come from money or have money- and they are all purty to look at. Don't get me wrong, they were all very nice people. It's just hard not to feel like a western hick around so many beautiful, rich, intelligent, and successful people. For this reason Courtney and I jokingly referred to ourselves as "The B-Team" whenever "The A-Team" was out of hearing range. Some high points of our time with "The A-Team":

  • At one bar I was put at the front of our group before entering the club because there were concerns I might not get let in. Their concern was due to the fact that I was wearing sneakers! Luckily they were letting scum in that night and I was able to penetrate the cool people's club for a fleeting moment. We ended leaving that bar anyways because the only seats available were down in some mysterious room in the basement where we would have to buy full bottles of liquor just to sit down (we're taking hundreds of dollars just to stay- a concept I'm still not sure I understand).

  • These folks have nice apartments. At first we visited Jenny, a friend of Matts who had a beautiful wrap around view of Chicago. I was completely impressed until she took us to visit her fellow facial plastics intern (co-worker) who owns a Lambo and lives on the 86th floor of the Hancock building. This guy had marble floors and furniture that probably cost more than my truck. I've never seen anything like it.

  • Here is his view:

  • Matt's friend Leigh is head of marketing for the ESPN Sports Zone in Baltimore. At one point I was sitting next to her while she was on the phone with Michael Phelps (yeah, that guy). I couldn't help but be a little awe struck. Leigh also took us to the ESPN Sports Zone in Chicago and set us up with unlimited game cards. I ran around like a kid in a candy store having a blast. Thanks Leigh!

Second City

For Sunday night we bought tickets to an improv show on the main stage at Second City. For those of you who don't know, Second City is a legendary comedy troupe that has launched careers for Eugen Levy, Rick Moranis, John Belushi, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Fred Willard, Alan Arkin, Chris Farley, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Tim Meadows, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey ... well, you get the point. As a big fan of SNL I was pretty excited. We ended up having a good time and I would definitely go back. You can go here for more info about the show we saw (including a small trailer).

Batting Clean-up

  • We went to the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. for this wild thing called a Pizza Pot Pie. It was OK, but the salad and bread was magnificent.

  • We ate at an Italian restaurant called Carmine's that was really good. I had an excellent piece of flattened veal topped with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese (nom nom nom).

  • We also ate at Gino's East where we had some good old fashioned deep dish pizza. The pizza takes 45 minutes to cook, so make sure you order some appetizers (we loved the spinach sticks).

  • And finally, thanks to Matt and Leigh for spending the weekend with us in Chicago, we had a great time!

P.S. Here is the full gallery for anyone interested in even more pictures.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nine Inch Nails in Chicago- 8/29/09

On Saturday we headed up to Chicago to see the last Nine Inch Nails concert we will ever see (supposedly Trent is never going on tour again as NIN, we'll see about that).  We left at 6:30 A.M. so that we would be able to make to Aragon Ballroom in time to stand in line and still get a good spot for the concert (it was all GA).

The drive is only supposed to take 8 hours, but we didn't get to the venue until 4 P.M. because of the horrendous traffic in Chicago.  I have never seen traffic this bad- ever, and we've driven in NYC.  I'll take NYC traffic over this any day.  It took us an hour to drive 4 miles at one point.

I think the problem with Chicago is that it is a densely populated city, that everyone still wants to drive in.  But anyways...

We finally arrived at Aragon and went to stand in the NIN pre-sale line (we got our tickets early, and get to go into the venue before everyone else), only to see that it wasn't that long and we still had 2 1/2 hours before the doors were to open, so we decided to grab some dinner.  We walked down the street and ate at a mexican restaurant that was pretty crappy.  We should have known better when we saw the Asain woman doing the bills at the mexican joint.  Oh well, it was cheap and we filled our bellies.

So back in line we went at 4:30 P.M.  Two hours to go.  Luckily there's plenty of people watching to do at a Nine Inch Nails concert.  I think Brian was trying to take a picture of the houses behind this lovely girl.

They finally let us in at 6:15 and Brian and I raced up to the balcony to get good seats.  There was no way we were going to be on the floor at a sold out NIN concert.  We ended up getting great seats- we were two of about 200 total seats in the entire ballroom- very lucky. The crowd down on the floor ended up being pretty nuts, but it was enjoyable to watch from up top!

And this is where I will mention that Aragon Ballroom is a horrible venue- they have one bathroom for 5,000 people and only one exit down one set of stairs.  We didn't even drink for fear of missing an hour of the concert trying to urinate.  It also took us over 30 minutes to get out of the place- avoid this venue at all costs! Let me restate for Google: THE ARAGON BALLROOM IN CHICAGO IS THE WORST VENUE ON THE PLANET.

Other than that, the concert was awesome!  The opening act was Mew.  They were okay, but way too loud and we couldn't understand a word they were singing.

Nine Inch Nails came on at 8:30 P.M. and played for 2 1/2 hours.  Probably the best Nine Inch Nails concert we've seen (Brian says definitely).

It was amazing to hear an audience of 5000 people singing along to all 29 songs.

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus was the special guest of the evening.  He came out and sang Reptile with NIN, sang a couple of his own Bauhaus tunes, and then reunited with Trent to sing a cover of Final Solution.  Let's just say Peter Murphy has an interesting stage presence.

Here's the setlist from the evening:

  1. Home

  2. The Beginning Of The End

  3. Survivalism

  4. Heresy

  5. March Of The Pigs

  6. Piggy

  7. Metal

  8. Ruiner

  9. I'm Afraid Of Americans

  10. Burn

  11. Gave Up

  12. La Mer

  13. The Frail

  14. I Do Not Want This

  15. Gone, Still

  16. Right Where It Belongs v2.0

  17. The Way Out Is Through

  18. Wish

  19. Mr Self Destruct

  20. Suck

  21. Echoplex

  22. The Good Soldier

  23. Dead Souls

  24. Reptile (with Peter Murphy)

  25. Strange Kind Of Love / Bela Lugosi's Dead - Bauhaus covers with Peter Murphy

  26. Final Solution - Pere Ubu cover with Peter Murphy

  27. The Hand That Feeds

  28. Head Like A Hole

  29. Hurt

When the concert sadly ended at 11 P.M. we headed downtown so Brian could reunite with and old highschool friend, Ryan, at a bar called Matildas.  It was a nice place that wasn't too crowded and we ended up staying there until 3 A.M. (bars close in Chicago at 5 A.M.!) just talking, drinking, and having a great time.  Unfortunately it took us over an hour to get back to Ryan's house in the burbs so we didn't get to bed until around 5 A.M.  But oh well, it was fun.

So we slept in Sunday, but woke up to gorgeous weather (and a really nice house- go Ryan).  We debated whether or not to drive back into the city (since it's over an hour away without traffic) but we decided we would probably regret it if we didn't see at least a few of the sites in the city.

So we headed back downtown and ate lunch at a bar the Ryan used to work.

After lunch we headed down to Millineum Park, Grant Park and Lake Michigan.  We didn't have a whole lot of time, but we wanted to see this area.  Of course we had to ride the L.

Millinneum Park and Grant Park were nice to see.  The coolest thing, by far, is "the bean".

This outdoor theater is pretty cool too.

The last thing we saw was Lake Michigan (which looks more like an ocean) before we had to head home.

It was a great weekend overall.  We will be going back to Chicago in October to do more of the touristy things.  And next time we will be flying so we don't have to worry about the horrendous traffic.

If you would like to see more pics head over here.

Oh, and a huge thanks to Ryan for his very gracious and generous hospitality!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Camping at Watkins Mill

We enjoyed beautiful weather while camping at Watkins Mill, a Missouri State Park near Kearney, MO (about 30 minutes north of our house), this past weekend.  We had made reservations on-line earlier in the week, and we were glad we did because a majority, if not all, of the electric sites were full.  There were some unimproved (tent) sites still available, but that wouldn't have worked for us.

The campsites were great.  They were very wooded which makes them feel a little more private and secluded.

Brian actually headed out Friday night after work to get things set up and relax before I showed up at 10:30 P.M.  Brian had built a fire so we stayed up and chatted for a while, and then we ventured into the camper to eat a late night hummus snack and watch an episode of Dexter before going to bed.

On Saturday we got up around 8:30 (the shade really helped us to sleep in a little) and made an awesome breakfast of pancakes and bacon.

Once we had sufficiently stuffed ourselves I wanted to explore the grounds a bit.  There are a few trails throughout the campsite to take you to different areas, as well as a trail that heads to an outdoor amphitheater that they play movies at on Friday and Saturday nights.

There is also a small lake at Watkins Mill that has a 3.6 mile paved walking/biking trail around it, so we headed for that, after the walk, with our bikes (Monkey stays behind in his cage inside the camper with A.C. if  needed).  The lake would be nice to use if we had a small boat or canoe because they only allow up to a 10 H.P. motor on it, so you are not competing with speed boats like at Smithville lake.

After our bike ride, we went back to the camper and took an awesome two-hour nap before our friends Frank and Lynn showed up to hang out, eat dinner, and enjoy the fire.

For dinner Brian and I made pork tenderloins wrapped in bacon and smothered in rub, cajun corn packets and baked potatoes.  I have to say, I think it was the best dinner we've made so far out camping, and we will definitely be making it again.

We took Frank and Lynn part way around the trail after dinner so the dogs could get some exercise and so we wouldn't fall asleep after all that food.  It was an absolutely gorgeous night.

After the walk, we stoked up the fire and made a dutch oven dump cake with cherries and chocolate cake (instead of the white cake we've done in the past).  Then we just hung out and talked and enjoyed the fire until Frank and Lynn left around midnight.  Brian and I headed in shortly after to watch one more episode of Dexter before turning in.

We woke up Sunday morning, ate breakfast burritos, packed up and headed home, disappointed the weekend went by so quickly.  We think Watkins Mill is our favorite campsite so far, and we will definitely be going back.  There is actually a mill and mansion tour that we want to go on, but we are waiting for another couple to come so we can all go do that together.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bullets (Episode #427)

  • TV sucks right now. I've been real busy and I have still managed to watch everything on my DVR ... what do you do when that happens, watch live TV?
    Update: I opted for the radio.

  • Monkey now lifts his leg to pee on occasion- I am sooo proud.

  • We're going camping this weekend, I can't fucking wait!

  • We just bought a 4000 watt generator. I'm going to use it to power the house during outages and for camping at NASCAR events. Now I just have to figure out how to setup my house electrical for a generator connection.

  • While I was mowing the lawn today I accidentally killed two snakes and almost stepped on another (he was a big mofo too). WTF?

  • I recently built a fence for some good friends of mine. It pisses me off that I can't walk out my back door and admire the handy work.

  • We have a ton of projects in the queue right now:

    • Build a massive spice rack that hangs on the back of the cupboard door.

    • Add casing to two door openings inside our house.

    • Setup and calibrate our new projector (it already looks great by the way).

    • Build a bike rack for our camper.

    • Landscaping around our pond.

    • Crown molding on the first floor.

    • Redo some of landscape edging.

    • Tune my chainsaw (it won't idle for shit).

    • Buy and rebuild a used canoe.

    • Install a radio into our camper.