Monday, February 23, 2009

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Well Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday) isnt technically until tomorrow. But I dont have parties on weeknights, so we threw the first annual (hopefully) Smith-Gallagher Mardi Gras party Saturday. It was a success I would have to say and not nearly as stressful as my holiday party. It was still stressful, but for different reasons. We took this party over from my parents who had like a decade worth of highly popular and successful 80-100 people parties. So I had a lot to live up to. Especially since they and some of their friends came down to attend. It was much smaller (only 20 people) but I had never made the vast majority of the recipes before, and I didnt use my mom's recipes either since they had a lot more seafood than I was going to serve. Also, I usually do either cookouts (easy), brunch (relatively easy) and appetizer-based parties (not easy, but lots of variety to appease any food pickiness and restrictions). But this was large quantities of a few things so I was pretty concerned. But as I said it all went well I think. Thursday night we made the crab cheesecake and king cake. The cheesecake is a variation on a combination of Emeril's Lobster Cheesecake (I used this crust) and Hanson's Landing Lobster Cheesecake (I use this filling) but then I switched out the lobster for crab (my mom used crawfish). Everyone seems to have loved the cheescake. It is very rich and a bit unexpected, but supposedly delicious. I didnt try it since I dont eat crab. The king cake was also an Emeril creation. We got the recipe from Everyday's a Party. My parents always ordered their and had it delivered since my mom is not a baker. It is a double rise yeast dough that is supposed to double in size during the first 2 hour rise (it didnt rise at all). Then you roll it out, fill it, form a cylinder and then a ring and rise it a second time (double in size it 45 minutes). It didnt rise at all again. So we did not have high hopes. At all. In fact I was pretty sure it would be disgusting. But you have to have a king cake. We couldn't find a baby to put inside so we used a walnut and hoped for the best. It turned out fantastic. It really did. Not too heavy (shockingly), not too dry (again a surprise). Matty thinks the filling needs more sugar as it was a bit cheesy, but I liked it. We couldnt get purple sprinkles so we made the glaze purple and then used yellow and green sprinkles. And Karla found the
walnut, so she was queen of the party. She is also supposed to make the cake next year. But that never worked for my parents, and I doubt it will work for us either. But c'est la vie :-).

Friday afternoon I left work early and made the 2 gumbos. One was a vegan okra gumbo. And the other was a chicken and andouille gumbo. They both turned out fantastic. But started out as disasters. Now a gumbo requires a dark roux (the color of a dirty penny) and mine would NOT darken. Even after an hour! My dad swears by doing it in the microwave. I was adamant about making my roux on the stove. Well after an hour and then throwing away both roux, I tried the micorwave method. They each took 8 minutes. It was a miracle and he told me so and seriously, I would definitely recommend the microwave method to anyone and everyone. So I made the roux then got everything cooked and to the point of simmering to hours and then stopped them. Friday evening the RIers all arrived. My parents were coming from a weeklong trip down to NC via Annapolis and Virginia to look at some boats, some condos, some houses and to see some friends. Bob, Edie and Sue were coming from RI. They all stayed at La Reserve B&B at 18th and Pine. It was perfect. The closest you can stay to us and relatively cheap considering the prettiness and comfort and amenities. So once they arrived and Matty got out of work we met them there, then walked to Rittenhouse and DiBruno's and then went to Continental for martinis before dinner. Everyone loved the back room upstairs. They also loved the pomegranate daiquiri martinis and the Buzz Aldrins. Then we went to Devil's Alley for dinner. Everyone loved that too. I love Devil's Alley. Then we went to the new Naked Chocolate on 18th St for dessert. All in all a lovely, decadent and delicious evening that everyone seemed to enjoy.

Saturday morning we got up around 8:30-9 (late for us for a party day) and started cooking. My mom came over around 10 to help. My dad and the other RIers spent the day exploring Philly. My mom was a huge help. With three people everything was done without a problem. Then the party. So for beverages we had a Mardi Gras Madness punch (layered purple, yellow and green + vodka), Hurricanes and Cyclones from Pat O'Brien's, purple, green and yellow jello shots and of course lager.

For food we had a variety of dips: (Kickin' Cajun (vegan from a mix), trinity bean (Matty's creation, also vegan), remoulade sauce (veganized from the Gumbo Shop's recipe), Sue's famous ham and cheese bread dip, and a slightly cajun-ized version of buffalo chicken dip. And dippers: smoked andouille sausage, shrimp, tempeh, crackers, chips and crudite. We also had cajun hot sticks and peanuts. Then we had crabbies (Matty's mom's recipe fro Shrimpies, but with crab instead of shrimp) that everyone seems to remember from when they were a kid.

And then for main dishes we had: red beans (I left out the sausage so it was vegan and used canned beans, so I didnt have to cook them so long though I didn cook them in a bit of vegie broth so the softened. I used Tony Chachere's seasoning which has salt so I left out the salt but I think they were too salty, so I need to find a salt-free cajun seasoning.); jambalaya (my favorite recipe from New Orleans with ham, bacon, chicken and smoked andouille so definitely not vegan but awesome. I will share if anyone is interested, as with all these recipes, just let me know); white rice for the beans and the gumbos; shrimp, andouille and tempeh to add to the gumbos and jambalaya since I did not make them with shrimp; the crab cheesecake; the vegan okra gumbo and the chicken and andouille gumbo. For dessert we had the king cake, a fantastic chocolate bread pudding (totally using this recipe again!!!) with bourbon sauce, vegan cupcakes, and a vegan rum cake with bananas foster topping that Tara brought. And of course purple, green and yellow M&Ms :-). The food was all really good in my opinion. And people seemed to enjoy themselves. Though people left early. Almost everyone was gone before midnight. But then Matty and Dan stayed up for awhile playing Guitar Hero while I cleaned up and then then Matty did all the dishes.

Sunday we went to Cuba Libre for brunch with my parents which was fabulous as always. And then they headed back to RI and we took a nap and then watched the Oscars and ate leftovers. Well there ya go'. Let me know if anyone wants any recipes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy National Battery Day!

I am glad this is a day to celebrate those little powerhouses that keep our electronics working, as opposed to beating someone up.

This will be short because I need to do something work related. But I figured I would do a quick one.

1) I added a new link to the sidebar to our friend Drew's blog, The Daily Drew. It is significantly more organized and well though out than this here. He reviews TV and movies. So check that out.

2) I am adding labels to blog posts. Hopefully that will be worth the effort.

3) Saturday is our Mardi Gras party. We have done the major shopping and are starting the cooking tomorrow. This is big. We inferited this party from my parents who had like 10 years to make it awesome. And they and 3 of their friends from RI are coming in for it. This will be my first event with them here. And it is almost all food we have never made before. And much larger quantities of food than I have ever made before. So fewer things, but more of each. So we will see. I am excited. I think it will be fun. I hope it is anyway :-).

Ok, well that is all for now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Get off the Fucking Sidewalk!

I am gonna rant here for a bit. About something I have mentioned previously and am going to mention again. Bikes on sidewalks. It is pretty much my number 1 pet peeve. It drives me to the point of wanting to actually stop them and yell at them. And frequently I do say, out loud, as they ride past me and give me that "could you please get out of my way, I am so much more important than you" look, "Get off the goddamn fucking sidewalk!" It is a sideWALK. There are bike lanes. In the road. Where bikes belong. In the ROAD. I know they aren't on all streets. I know that it is dangerous to ride you bike in this city. I know that there are many one way streets in this city. I DONT CARE - GET OFF THE FUCKING SIDEWALK! If you need a bike lane, find a street with one. I know it is dangerous in this city, buses trying to run you down, people opening doors without looking first. I DONT CARE - GET OFF THE FUCKING SIDEWALK! That is why I dont ride a bike. It isnt just because I am just lazy. It is because I am afraid of getting hit by a car. Or a bus. So I walk my ass where I need to go. And yeah, it takes longer. But that is the price I pay for not riding my bike. And yeah, one way streets. Ok, well if you go up, or down, one street, you are going to find a street going the other way. And since you are saving so much ever-loving time on your bike, I think you can take the extra minute to go on a street that is going your way. Or go against traffic. I dont fucking care. Just get off the goddamn sideWALK. ESPECIALLY those of you 1) going the same direction as traffic on a street with bike lanes (I am talking to all of your who pass me going west on Walnut). 2) Those of you with fucking saddlebags. There is not enough room for your big ass bags and me on the sidewalk and since you are bigger, that means I either have to stop and move out of your way, or step into traffic that you think is too dangerous to ride your fucking bike in. You want to walk your bike on the sideWALK? Whatever, but just like I get out of people's way when I am carrying 30 lbs of groceries and my bags might hit them, get out of my way with you bike so that it does not inconvenience me that you are WALKING a faster more efficient mode of transportation. As far as the new controversy in PHilly about whether it should be legal for you to run red lights in the city when there is no traffic coming - I DONT GIVE A SHIT. GET OFF THE FUCKING SIDEWALK. Seriously. One of these days I am going to push one of you into traffic and I will feel bad, but also a little vidicated. And if I see someone else do it first, I am going to clap. Fair warning. It is a sideWALK. It is for pedestrians. For people WALKing. I would get just as angry if I was a biker or a driver and there was someone walking down the street instead of the sidewalk. Vehicles (including bikes) stay on the road and walkers (and babies [babies, not 4 year olds - dont even get me started about strollers] in strollers or people in wheelchairs) stay on the sidewalk. K? The sidewalks in this city aren't kept up, are frequently closed due to construction and arent big enough for all of us. But they dont have to be, because they are only supposed to be for pedestrians. So stop giving me that look because you have to slow down because I am WALKing on the sideWALK and get off it!

Monday, February 16, 2009

I got a snuggie!

Yes I am happy about this.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what a Snuggie is. It is a blanket. With arms. Or a shapeless robe you wear backwards. It is similar to, but far less expensive than, a Slanket. It also has a better name. The first time I saw the Snuggie commercial:

my first response was: Wow, that is ridiculous. My second thought was: I totally want one. Now some caveats. 1) I would never wear a Snuggie out of my own home. 2) We do not turn on our heat very often. Unless it is a special occasion or one of us is sick, or we have company the heat is not turned on in the apartment unless it is below 55. Inside. And even then, the max we turn it to is 65. Maybe 70 if we are feeling decadent. We often wear our hats inside. As well as sweaters, blankets, slippers and sometimes gloves. We are cheap people. We also grew up in households that were always cold. Many of you can attest to this. So it makes sense to me to be able to be wrapped up in a blanket but still able to eat dinner. Or change the channel on the TV. Or type. (I have special fingerless gloves for this. Thanks Beth!)

So when I found out that Matty's father had asked him if he should buy me a Snuggie for Christmas and Matty said No, I was a little upset. I mean, I wanted a Snuggie. I put it on my Amazon wish list! This has come up in conversation several times recently and so, because my friend Dan thinks I am awesome (and it makes for an easy birthday present), he bought me a Snuggie this weekend. So I am now the owner and wearer of a Snuggie. It is warm. It should not be worn while walking around unless you are 7 feet tall, otherwise you will probably trip over it. Especially on stairs. I am fine though. So thank you Dan for buying me a ridiculous As Seen on TV item that I will happily use in our frigid apartment.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Swish swish swish

We went skiing this weekend! Yay! We had a really good time. Friday after work, Matty went to the airport to pick up a rental car (a lovely Chevy Malibu) and I stopped at Wawa and picked up dinner. Then off to the Great White North . . . well, north anyway. We drove up to Scranton to the Days Inn Scranton (actually in Dickson City). It was a Days Inn. No better or no worse than any other Days Inn, especially for less than $60 a night.

Saturday we got up early and drove about 20 miles to Elk Mountain. An adorable PA ski resort in Union Dale, PA. 1000' vertical drop, 27 trails, 6 lifts. Cheap rentals ($52 for 2 days) and decent weekend tickets (all day and night both days for $95). Oh and really cheap food! We skied the entire thing by early afternoon. I would say it is a solid Intermediate mountain. Nice wide trails, great snowmaking. There were a few true blacks due to moguls and maybe steepness. But nothing terribly difficult. I mean this was Matty's 4th day skiing. Ever. And he had no problem with anything at all. It got pretty warm by late afternoon but the conditions actually held up pretty well overall, I was surprised. More snow than I am used to actually. And they have night skiing (6 trails, 3 lifts) til 10! Who needs to be able to ski from 8:30 am til 10 pm? Who can ski that long? We made it til 7ish and then called it a night. Luckily for us, they had overnight ski locks. For .50 apiece! Nice! So we didnt have to put out the skis in the Malibu. A wonderful thing about these new (to me) shaped skis. They are so short! I was skiing on 150s! Had some trouble finding dinner but ended up at an Uno's. Because honestly, I love me an Uno's every once in awhile.

Sunday we got up a bit less early though feeling remarkably good conisdering our overall out-of-shapeness. We were a bit concerned that it was already 45! At 8:30! And then it started to rain on the way to the Mountain. We stopped at a Krispy Kreme to console ourselves (the light way on!) But it was MUCH colder on the mountain, thanks in large part to a considerable wind. But again, the conditions held up fantastically. I brought my camera to take some pics since I wasnt as worried about falling since the trails simply werent that difficult. But it was too cold to take many pictures. I got a few nice ones. The views were really awesome. I dont think they look as good in the pics but it really was pretty. (More pics here) There were many fewer people on Sunday, probably because of the forecast. But it seems like most people there were locals. And rich. They all had their own equipment, and really nice equipment at that. And mostly all newer stuff, only saw a half dozen to a dozen people with straight skis. They all had really nice gear. And all the kids were on race teams it seemed. Must be nice. We skied until 5ish and then called it a day and headed back to Philly.

Overall a delightful (though not cheap) weekend.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hey, so guess what?

Yeah yeah, I have been sick for a few days . . . yes we went to RI for the weekend for a funeral . . . yes Matty's mom threw down at said funeral and was all awesome and shit and like totally stood up to the Eye-talian bullshit . . . yes the Steelers won the Superbowl (yay!) . . . But you know what I really wanted to tell you?!?!

I just filed my fucking taxes!


In February! Early February! As opposed to mid-April like I usually do. So yeah. Ha!