Monday, July 7, 2014

L'Auberge Provencale

What a great 4th weekend - and hooey - what a hit to the ole paycheck! But, hey - that's my role in life, right? - to live it up so you can live vicariously through me? And I take that role very seriously! So, here we go, here's where a month's pay went this time:

We spent the weekend at L'Auberge Provencale in the Shenandoah region of VA, where we stayed in this room.
 At this Villa.
And ate dinner at their restaurant. We had the Chef's Tasting Menu with wine pairings. This was our Amuse Bouche.
From left to right, it's a carrot stuck in a pot of goat cheese and sprinkled with pumpernickel dust; smoked salmon between two croissant like pastries, and a poached egg with lemon dill froth.

Our first course was Gargouillou, which is like a veggie and fruit salad all in one, all ingredients of which was grown in their garden. It was served alongside a weensy little taste of gazpacho.
Next was mussels - but check these out:
Tres, tres nummy! Not like any mussel I've ever had.

Next came "Breaking Tradition" or "Two broths in one" which was comprised of Parmesan, vegetable, burnt onion, royal trumpets, and fried kale. First, they brewed the broth at the table using what others would use to make coffee (hence, the "breaking with tradition")
then they poured the broth over the onion, trumpets (which had a lovely bitter taste) and kale.
Next came "A Walk Through Hudson Valley" which was Foie Gras served with a pickling of old and new Shirtless grapes, hazelnuts, and a maceration of apricots. The Foie Gras was done in French fashion, which is my preference, as opposed to American. For the non-Foie Gras lovers - Americans like to cook it like a piece of liver, whereas the French like to make a pate out of it - which is smooth and rich and creamy.
As you can see, I was so excited, I dug in before I remembered to take a picture.

Next came the Barramundi - which I totally forgot to take a picture of. It was nice, but my least favorite - perhaps my subconscious knew that would be the case, leading me to not take a pic.

The fifth course was duck: "Foie and truffle sausage, honey and cracked pepper fig, caramel seared 
apricot, spring onion fondue, sour cherry and Madeira sauce." Need I say more?
And dessert was maybe the most unusual thing I've ever had for dessert, but still amazing: Cucumber and Pea Shoot Souffle with Greek Yogurt Sorbet.

In my defense, the waiter poured the sorbet into the souffle before I was able to take a picture, so it wasn't my fault this time. 

And, of course, they served us some extra sweets - that we can never eat, cuz we're always about to explode, but they looked really cute - served on the "zen sandbox" where the "sand" was made of chocolate shavings.
When we weren't lounging around in the pool at the villa, we were roaming Old Town Winchester, where we went to the Civil War museum.

Or drinking wine at our favorite wineries, where the view made it very difficult to leave.
So, we'll be eating Ramen for a few weeks to recover from the weekend, but you only live once, right? And on a really good note - there's no such thing as a debtors prison anymore.

is there? 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Shopping List for 50 Shades of Chicken

Roast Chicken with Brandy-Vanilla Butter

Brandy x 1 tbs
Whole Chicken

Roasted Chicken with Cherries and herbs*

Whole Chicken
Thyme, rosemary, or sage
pitted sweet cherries x 1 lb

Roasted Chicken with bacon and sweet paprika

Whole Chicken
Sweet Paprika
1 orange

Baked Chicken with apricot jam, sage, and lemon zest*

Whole Chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Apricot jam
Worcestershire Sauce

Jerk Chicken with spices, rum, chiles, and lime*

Whole allspice
whole cloves
soy sauce
serrano chile peppers x 2
dark rum x 2tbs
light brown sugar
Whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

Roasted Chicken with tangerine and sage

Whole Chicken

Roasted Chicken legs with mole sauce

3 Chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks separated (~3 lbs total)
Whole cloves
Chipotle in adobo sauce
2 plum tomatoes
white onion - small
¼ cup roasted, salted peanuts
bittersweet chocolate

Roasted Chicken with harissa, preserved lemons, chickpeas and mint*

Whole Chicken
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
Lg red onion
Harissa (or other hot sauce)
preserved lemon
Mint leaves

Roasted Chicken with mustard, fresh basil and garlic*

Whole Chicken

Crispy Fried Chicken*

Chicken, cut into 10 pieces
peanut oil

Crisp Baked Chicken with honey mustard and lime

Chicken cut into 8 pieces
honey mustard

Coq Au Vin

Chicken cut into 8 pieces
Pearl onions
red wine

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with garlic, olives and wine

Boneless, skinless Chicken breasts x 2lbs
white wine
parsley (flat)
kalamata olives
Crusty Bread

Jalapeno Chicken wings with avocado*

Chicken wings x 3 lbs
hot sauce
tomato paste
2 jalapenos
avocados x 2

Chicken with horseradish and herbs*

Chicken cut into 8 pieces
flat parsley

White wine-steamed Chicken breasts with sesame oil and scallions

Chicken breasts - boneless, skinless x 4 (2.5 lbs)
white wine
peanut oil
sesame oil
chile oil

Maple-glazed wings with bacon*

15 Chicken wings (~ 3 lbs)
Maple syrup
soy sauce

Roasted chicken thighs with sweet and sour onions

Boneless, skinless Chicken thighs
onion (sweet)
white wine

chicken  fingers with brown   sugar and bourbon

Boneless, skinless Chicken breasts
brown sugar
bourbon lemon

Stir Fried chicken with spinach and peanuts

boneless skinless chicken thighs
soy sauce
peanut oil
sesame oil

sauteed chicken breasts with aromatic brown butter and hazelnuts*

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
hazelnuts or almonds

roasted chicken thighs with apples and cinnamon

2 small red apples
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

cranberry baked chicken with apple cider

1 cup apple cider
½ cup dried cranberries
3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken parts

butterflied roasted chicken with herb and almond pesto*

Whole chicken
dill, basil, cilantro & flat leaf parsley

roasted chicken with tomatoes , garlic and tarragon

Whole chicken
tomato x 1
white wine

trussed roasted chicken with chorizo stuffing

chorizo (fresh)
day-old bread
whole chicken

beer can chicken

whole chicken
1 can beer
cajun spices

tandoori chicken

chicken cut into 8 pieces
red onion

roast chicken with hearts of palm, avocado, and orange salsa*

oranges x 4
whole chicken
avocadoes x 2
7.8oz can hearts of palm
red onion
2 jalapenos

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Birthday Ravioli

I found this recipe digging around for the perfect thing to make for my 50th Birthday dinner, but when I tried to post it to Pinterest, it wouldn't post. So, here it is on my blog so I can post it!

mushroom and veal filling for ravioli    

Here is a gentle meat filling for your jewels of Italian dining. This is adapted from Marcella's latest book: "Marcella Says". If you love making ravioli, you owe it to yourself to get this book and read Marcella on the subject. Your ravioli will be best ever.

for the filling:
  • one half pound ground veal
  • six ounces shitake mushrooms
  • six ounces crimini (brown) mushrooms
  • three tablespoons olive oil
  • one clove garlic, finely diced
  • one cup onion, finely diced
  • three tablespoons unsalted butter
  • one half cup dry white wine
  • one tablespoon tomato paste
  • two tablespoons ricotta
  • one egg
  • one-half teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • one half cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
>>We find this filling makes about 72 agnolotti -- with the agnolotti being three inches in diameter.
Trim the stems off the mushrooms. Then chop them into small squares. In a non-stick pan, add one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Over a high heat, add the mushrooms and mix them in the oil/butter with a slotted spoon. The turn down the heat to medium, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and cook them, turning them regularly. Continue cooking until all the moisture that they release has evaporated and the mushrooms are very soft. This might take fifteen minutes.
In a saute pan, add the two additional tablespoons of olive oil and butter, and add the garlic. Cook for a minute. Add the onion and cook for two minutes. Add the ground veal and cook over a medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to break up the meat into tiny pieces, until the veal is no longer pink, about five minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add more oil and butter. Keep mit moist.
Add the wine, a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper, and cook for four minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for three minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another three minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
After the meat cools, add the ricotta, the egg, and the nutmeg  and mix thoroughly. Taste for salt and pepper. Then add the parmesan, and stir some more, until you get a paste-like mixture, solid enough to hold a shape when dropped on the pasta sheets.
You are ready to fill the agnolotti, putting about a shy teaspoon of filling in the center of the three-inch diameter circle. Wet around the edges, fold over, and seal tightly with your fingertips.
See how to make ravioli for the basic recipe and more complete instructions; this is your filling.
We find that a very simple sauce, which can be just butter; or butter and sage, is ideal for this pasta.
For the butter sauce: use a stick and a half of butter (three-eights of a pound). Put in a saute pan over low heat; do not let the butter brown. When the ravioli are ready, put them on the individual serving dishes. Add the melted butter on top. Also add a tablespoon or so of freshly grated parmesan.
For the butter and sage sauce: melt one quarter pound of butter over low heat. Do not brown. Add two tablespoons of freshly chopped sage. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add a touch of salt and pepper. Place the ravioli on the individual serving dishes. Pour the butter and sage sauce over them. Add a tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan. Add a sage leaf or two for decoration.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Where My Walk Took Me on 28 April 2014

A while ago I planned on doing this type of blog on a somewhat regular basis, but things just got too busy. I'm not promising a regular post now either, but when I can, I'll show you some pics of my lunch-time perambulations here in your Nation's Capitol.

The weather has been a touch cold this week,so I didn't want to spend a lot of time outdoors. I'm sure when it gets too hot, the same will apply. Yesterday, to stay warm, I headed over to the National Botanical Gardens, which is right across the street from the Capitol Building.

The gardens outside are starting to show some interesting blooms. Check this one out and tell me it doesn't make you think of Body Snatchers!
I liked this one because of a recent personality test that said my inner color is yellow. Like my friend Anya, I'm not overly fond of the color yellow - it's typically such a weak color - again, stealing the words out of Anya's mouth, but I agree with the analogy. But I do like this sunny shade of yellow, and that's the shade I'm going with when it is used to describe my "inner self." 
They've had this orchid show going on for a while, and this one was just spectacular (note the brilliant shade of yellow again - could be my inner self calling out to these things).  
This cactus made me think of all my family in Texas. It's such an ugly cactus, and then it shoots out these gorgeous little flowers. I thought that was pretty awesome.
Here are some tulips growing side-ways. Seriously, I don't know what the problem is with this blog site - it keeps turning my pics on their side! Really makes me crazy, because I adore white tulips - which is why I took this pic!
This one is for the Domster unit - star jasmine - just like she grows it at home. 
I almost didn't recognize this one - it looked so different from any fuscia I've ever seen. And I love fuscia. Because it's one of the few flowering plants that grows in shade - of which my back yard has plenty.
The Botanical Gardens had this one room dedicated to a bunch of these metal sculptures, each of which had an herb or spice in the center, and the cover on the center is perforated so you could smell said herb/spice. It was very cool.
 This shot is for my poor sunburned SigO. Slather, slather, slather goober boy.
And, last, but definitely not least, here's one for my big brudder - the coffee addict. This is a coffee bush - full of coffee beans. If only he could grow one of these in his yard - how much money would he save on coffee every month? What am I saying? He'd pick it dry in the first week!
Rainy days today and tomorrow. Maybe that will give me time to post the blog from this past weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


We don't need no stinkin' art museum? Not when it's this gorgeous outside the art museum!

These were all taken right outside the National Gallery of Art during my walk yesterday. Thank you Mother Earth for the best art. How wise of you t present it to me so soon after Earth Day to remind me to love and care for you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Harrisonburg Wind-Sucking Weekend

Another Living Social Escape took us to Harrisonburg, VA this weekend. We upgraded our voucher to stay in the Quill Cottage.

It was worth the extra money, if for no other reason than this was the best picture they could give us for our bathroom in the room we were originally scheduled to stay in.

oooohhhh.....a sink!
And this is the bathroom of the cottage we did stay in.

Yes - that's a huge (biggest I've seen) Jacuzzi tub right next to a fireplace. The fireplace split the cottage - on the other side was the bedroom. You might not think upgrading for a bathroom is worth the $$, but I knew going in I was going to need a really long soak in a hot Jacuzzi bath after our bike ride Saturday, so I felt it was definitely worth the moola.
One thing I loved about this place - they delivered our breakfast to the room each morning. That was nice, as we never had to get dressed and walk to the main house. We just grabbed the picnic basket off the patio, ate in a sleepy stupor, and then went back to bed. Or at least, that's what the SigO did. I read. A silly book. Great for those of you who are Star Trek fans. Oh, wait - I just remembered - none of my five readers read Star Trek. Well, just take my word for it then.

Saturday we went for our ride. Here's the ride I planned for us:

Here's the elevation gain and loss - doesn't look so bad, does it?


Those hills were a hell of a lot tougher than they look on that graph! They were! Really!! And if you don't believe me, then how did we get such great views? Huh? Huh??

And no - it's not because we started up high. In fact, when we arrived, our innkeeper said "Welcome to the valley." So there!

Doms - this valley is a tad bit different than the one you grew up in. For starters, there are actual mountains around it. Which brings me to a question I've never can Pharr, TX be called "The Valley" when there's not a mountain in sight? What is it? The valley of the shadow of death? That I could believe.

So, we didn't make the entire ride. Here's what we actually did.

I've inserted a little stick figure everywhere I had to get off and walk my bike.My bike that weighs all of 12lbs - so, let me tell you - it was all my tonnage being pushed up those hills - or more frequently walked up those hills. Won't it be lovely when I have considerably less tonnage to haul around?

In the end, what should have been a 27 mile ride was more like 17. Still, at least we were out there riding our bikes, instead of winery hopping, which is what we've done for most of our weekend excursions lately. Which, I suspect, is why there are so many little stick figures on that map.

Sunday we went for a hike. I picked up a leaflet at the visitor center giving us directions to Hone Quarry Recreation Area for a 5.3 mile hike. The directions were hideous! We ended up at Todd Lake on a hike up Trimble Mountain. Here's my fitbit dashboard for that day.

First, don't believe the part about it being over eight miles. I haven't put my stride length in fitbit yet, so, it thinks 17,000 steps is roughly 8 miles for me. But, with a 34" inseam, I gotta doubt the veracity of that. The map said it was a four mile loop. But then, this is the same map that had us absolutely nowhere near Hone Quarry, so I'm going to compromise between Fitbit and the map and go for somewhere in the neighborhood of six miles. That's assuming roughly a 15 minute mile, which is about right for a walk with a climb like this. And speaking of climbs, do you see how high we climbed? The equivalent of 134 flights! I will admit that three of those flights were at home - and by that time, I was crawling up the stairs more than walking. Still - I'm impressed with our accomplishment. Apparently the fitbit device wasn't though. I got a message at 125 flights that said: "Do your legs hurt? You should go for 150 flights!" Really? I mean, really??

And what really hurts - all that way up, and this is the best view we could get.

//sigh//. Too many dead trees and brown leaves blocking the view. These pretty little violets were struggling to make themselves seen though.

And this lake was at the very beginning of the hike and looks like it would be a great place for a swim - when it's warmer.

Of course, by then, the unwashed masses will be there too and we won't have it all to ourselves like we did this weekend. So, really, I can't complain. It was a good weekend.