0220 Wedding Update & Lunch at Mia + Grace

We’ve waffled a great deal about wedding plans – in part because our living and working situations have changed dramatically since we first got engaged, in part because our families are in different cities and have very different life situations, and in part because we just couldn’t come up with a plan that worked for everyone while still making US happy.  We toyed with eloping, and it was that line of brainstorming that led to Lake Michigan beach towns, which led to Muskegon.  Why would we decide to get married in a town that we’d never visited?  Because of views like this:

To the Lighthouse

SO that’s what we’re going to do.  Lake Michigan and gorgeous lighthouses in the background.  No backup plan.  No changing plans again, because if we do, we’re going to the courthouse, and no one’s allowed to get mad at us.  It’s going to be incredibly small and relaxed, and then over the summer we’re hoping to have receptions in Illinois and Ohio so that our many loved ones can celebrate with us.

We took a much-needed and belated daytrip to Muskegon today to scout out wedding locations and test-eat the restaurant where we’d like to have dinner that night.  We tromped around in the snow on the beach, took a lot of photos, and sort of squinted our eyes to imagine what it’ll be like in two months.  We walked on the icy sea wall all the way out to the lighthouse, where I freaked Shane out a bit by clambering around to investigate a giant ice formation.  All that walking and wintery lake air fanned the flames of our peckishness, so we were both pleased to find Mia + Grace quickly and to almost as quickly have beverages in front of us and delicious smells wafting towards the table.

The owners and chefs of Mia + Grace espouse a farm-to-table orientation, which is demonstrated in the list of farm friends on the butcher paper menus on the walls.  This orientation towards supporting local agriculture was one of the things that really drew us to the restaurant – and also made us wish that Mia + Grace were in OUR neighborhood rather than several hours away.  I had the butcher’s plate, which today featured house-made mortadella, salami, a spicy sausage, and duck rillettes with delicious toast points, a ridiculously large and peppery cracker, and onion jam.  I’m not a big fan of mortadella – meat with things in it has always struck me as weird – but the duck rillettes in particular blew me away – savory, creamy, sweet, and impossibly rich.  Shane had the spaghetti and meatballs, with hand-rolled pasta and pork and beef meatballs cooked slowly in a sweet tomato sauce.   I regret not being hungry enough to try any of the amazing desserts – but look forward to being able to do so on a special occasion coming soon.

For Keeps

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0219 Your Breakfast Suggestions!

So all this week, I’ve been trying out some of your breakfast suggestions.  I wish I could say I’m applying some level of scientific rigor to the process of determining what will keep me full between the hours of 7:30am and noon, but really, I’m just eating whatever sounds appealing from your suggestions, drinking my coffee, and then trying not to snack.  So far I have tried:

  • Multigrain Cheerios with blueberries that we picked and froze in the fall.  The prescribed serving size for Cheerios is one cup at 110 calories – not enough, so I had 1.5 cups with milk and the berries, and felt full until late morning.
  • Peanut butter toast and strawberry yogurt.  Too many calories for not enough full.
  • Steel-cut oats, soaked overnight, with dried cranberries and brown sugar.  It’s been brought to my attention that perhaps I don’t know what steel-cut oats are supposed to be like when cooked – my friend Erin followed my preparation method and said her oats were gross and uncooked.  I think next week I’m going to have to try a longer preparation so that I can see what I’ve been missing.

Stay tuned for more breakfast updates – and I gotta say, I’m jealous of how well many of you eat in the mornings.

0218 Pasta, Pesto, Salad

I thought it might be a good idea to go running Wednesday night since the temperature appeared to be above freezing.  And by ‘above freezing’, what I mean is that it was 33.  And oh, did my lungs and knees pay the price!  I spent all of today on the couch or in bed sleeping and generally feeling really uncomfortable.  All of this is just my way of telling you that we had no dinner plan – and definitely not one that I was in any shape to execute.

In Jamie’s Dinners, Jamie Oliver presents a set of foundational recipes that can then be used in a variety of meals – pesto is one of these dishes, and it has served us well.  When I picked up basil for Sunday’s polenta, the options were .4 ounces for $2.99 or 5 ounces for $4.99, so I bought the larger package and made up a bunch of pesto with the leftovers earlier in the week.  That pesto made for a quick and delicious pasta dinner accompanied by a salad with sun-dried tomatoes.  Sometimes simple and easy is also just right.

Recipe:
Pesto from Jamie’s Dinners

0217 Pan-to-Oven Pork Chops and Amazing Broccoli Rabe

Pan-to-Oven Pork Chops + Broccoli Rabe with Goat Cheese, Onions, and Pine Nuts

I’m fixating on broccoli rabe these days.  I don’t know why – other than that it is delicious and lends itself to nice friendships with garlic, goat cheese, and savory soft onions.  This recipe came from Urban Italian, which has moved to the top of my wishlist after producing two show-stopping dishes.  This rabe was blanched, then sauteed together with garlic, a Vidalia onion, and sun-dried tomatoes, then topped with toasted pine nuts and soft goat cheese right before serving.  Each bite was savory and sweet, with a really lovely mouthfeel.  I can’t wait to make this again, though maybe I won’t sweat making a fancy protein to go along with it since really, we just wanted the rabe.

On the side, then, we had pork chops prepared using a technique from The River Cottage Meat Book – the chops were seared a bit on the stove, then roasted in the oven with a head of garlic.  Our oven runs hot and the chops were on the thin side, so they made it to the table a little dry and tough – which made me doubly glad that we had a savory and amazing bit of veg to compensate.  Better luck next time!

Recipe:
Pan to Oven Baked Pork Chops from The River Cottage Meat Book
Broccoli Rabe with Goat Cheese, Onions & Pine Nuts from Urban Italian

Lent

For Lent this year, I’ve decided to not buy any craft supplies. I actually implemented this ban a couple of weeks ago, but it is intended as my Lenten sacrifice. This should serve a couple of purposes:

  1. Saving money
  2. Encouraging stash-down
  3. Knocking out projects I’ve been meaning to get to but somehow don’t because new ideas are more exciting

The only acceptable exceptions to this rule are supplies needed for wedding stuff.  We’re getting married two weeks after Easter, so for my sanity and Shane’s, if we decide to DIY anything for the wedding, those purchases are allowed.  My friend spark has signed on for this challenge as well, and she agreed this is an acceptable cheat.

In the spirit of stash down, my first project was eliminating my Sugar n Cream yarn by making burp cloths for two of my pregnant friendos.  There’s a freaking huge baby boom going on amongst our friends and relations, so there may be many of baby projects coming in the next six months.  These were super easy and went very quickly, and I’m generally quite pleased with the results!

Ravelympics project: 8 burp cloths

Up next?  Either much belated birthday x-stitch projects, a birthday hat or two, or baby sweaters.  Or maybe all of the above.

0216 Pasta Puttanesca

Several years ago, I started marking the pages of my cookbooks so that I could easily find recipes that I wanted to try. This one, from Jamie’s Dinners, wasn’t marked, and I suspect it was because of the high proportion of seriously funky ingredients.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the funk. I love olives, capers, and tuna. I can be persuaded with anchovies. I love tomatoes and lemon zest and pasta. But Shane put it best when he came up from the basement into the kitchen – “Wow, there’s some serious smells in here”.

0216 Pasta Puttanesca

The brilliant thing about this, though, is its simplicity.  The sauce starts by adding anchovies to hot oil right after you’ve started the pasta water. When the anchovies melt away, toss in the olives, capers, garlic, and chilies and saute a bit.  By this time, the water should be boiling, so in goes the pasta (we used Barilla plus spaghetti).  Up next, the tuna and tomatoes are added – I also added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to extend and thicken the sauce a bit.  By the time your pasta is al dente, you should also have a skillet full of savory, spicy, funky sauce.  Drain the pasta, toss it with the sauce, and serve with a green salad and a bit of vinaigrette.  So good, even if you don’t normally get down with the funk.

0216 Pasta Puttanesca

Recipe:
Working Girl’s Pasta from Jamie’s Dinners