Monday, April 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I've tried making calzones before, and failed. I can't remember what went wrong the first time, but I do remember that neither Dave nor I was impressed. Tonight: redemption.

These were by no means perfect. Notice that the filling is starting to spill out? That's not really supposed to happen. Despite my best efforts to seal the calzones, the ricotta/ham/fresh herb/mozzarella goodness oozed out during baking.

But. Don't you think they look like cute little monsters? Just begging me, "Eat Me! EAT ME!!!" instead of "Feed me, FEED ME!" like the venus fly trap in Little Shop of Horrors?

Luckily, Dave and I ate the calzones before they ate us. Well, except for the one leftover calzone we're splitting in half for lunch tomorrow... hope it doesn't come to life overnight and eat what's left in our fridge... and then try to eat us...

Anyway. I wish I'd taken a picture of the homemade marinara sauce (something I also finally nailed, yay) that I served in my cute little red Emile Henry ramekins that tend to make me happy whenever I pull them out of the cabinet. Aren't they cute? And happy? I look for excuses to use them. Anyway. The marinara was tasty. To make it:

* sautee about half a large onion in some olive oil with salt and a little bit of pepper, about 10 minutes.
* right before the onion is done, throw in some chopped garlic. Couple of cloves will do the trick. Or more. Whatever you like.
* add about 1/2 cup white wine. Cook several minutes until the liquid has reduced by at least half. You may want to add about a tablespoon of sugar at this point... depends on what kind of wine you use, and how sweet it is. Or how acidic you expect your tomatoes are.
* throw in some tomatoes. I took one fresh tomato (all I had left of the fresh veggies this week) and a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes and gave them a whirl in my blender, then dumped in the onion/wine/garlic mix. Add some more salt and pepper.
* fresh oregano, basil, parsley, thyme... any sort of fresh herbage is excellent to throw in at this point. No fresh herbs? Use dried, but I cannot stress how delicious fresh herbs are in this recipe.
* simmer as long as you can, over low heat, uncovered. Stir often.
* taste it a couple of times and make sure it doesn't need more salt/sugar/pepper. Adjust accordingly.
* if you want a non-chunky sauce - give the whole thing a good mix in the blender or food processor. Personally? I like the rustic, chunky feel of the sauce, so I left it alone.
* freeze whatever is left over and use it on pizza, bruschetta, pasta, or more calzones.

I finally know my favorite pizza dough recipe by heart (use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt though). I generally make it and do a cold rise, just leaving it in the fridge until I need it (it's magic!). Today, however, I had just enough time to let it rise on the counter. Oh, and I added more fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme and oregano, from my garden and from the Farmer's Market Basket I picked up last week. I wish I could've captured the smell of my kitchen while they were baking.

For the stuffing, I loosely followed what my man Mario Batali suggested here, in his ricotta & ham calzone recipe. One of my favorite parts of the day this summer has been waking up and eating my cereal and drinking my coffee to Molto Mario. And every morning, I get new ideas for where and what I'll eat when I finally make it to Italy. I'm hoping 2011 is the year. And by hoping I mean, I'm going in May. This is a trick I call "speaking my world into existence."

Oh, and I added more fresh herbs to the filling- basil and parsley this time. And I put extra mozzarella in there before baking.

So that we'd have a little green on the side, I chopped up some romaine and lightly dressed it with my homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Washed the whole thing down with an icy cold SweetWater in a frosty mug.

Dave and I both had really long days today. Normal people would just want to go out instead of standing in the kitchen and cooking. But, it was one of those nights for me where making dinner - creating a tomato sauce, picking fresh herbs to use, playing with food, rolling out a dough that I made from scratch, tasting and retasting to make sure I liked how things were progressing, wondering if it would taste as delicious as it was smelling - was exceptionally therapeutic for me. Despite having stressful days, we got to enjoy a delicious, pretty cheap, easy and not completely unhealthy dinner. It was a good night at Casa Dawmilam.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tilapia with Shallot & Pinot Grigio Jam Sauce

Jayme, who's become the newest member in my arsenal of foodie friends (she's gotten several shout-outs here already), tipped me off to something amazing at the Marietta Farmer's Market that I'm glad I tried for myself: Emily G's Jams of Love. If you're in Marietta on a Saturday this summer, just stop by the farmer's market and sample them. I dare you to go home without a jar! I picked up the pinot grigio jam because it was tasty, really unsure what I'd do with it until the nice lady who sold it said it was good on fish.

Inspired to do something healthy for dinner last night to combat the effects of eating large spoonfuls of pre-chilled lemon curd before dinner (that recipe's coming later), I came up with this little gem I can't wait to make again. I'm usually not one to blog about recipes necessitating specialty ingredients, but this one's worth it!

Serves 2

3 filets tilapia (from frozen is fine, what I used)
salt, pepper, Italian seasoning
1 shallot, fine slices
some butter (about 3 tablespoons)
some olive oil
juice of half a lemon
about 1/4 cup Emily G's Pinot Grigio Jam

Thaw tilapia if starting from frozen (submerge, still in plastic, in cold water for about 45 minutes), rinse & pat dry, then sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Add about 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a nonstick pan, heat over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted and mixed with the oil, add tilapia, cooking about 3 minutes on each side, turning only once. Remove tilapia from pan, set aside, and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the pan and all remaining drippings to the heat, add shallot, salt, pepper, and sautee about 2 minutes, until shallots become translucent. Add in jam and lemon juice. Once jam has melted, stir in 2 tablespoons butter, one tablespoon at a time, to make the sauce velvety and creamy. Serve immediately over fish, and enjoy!

The lemon juice is key here, as it really balances the sweetness of the jam. Jam is an excellent sauce-maker here, as the pectin gives the sauce a heartier feel than just using plain wine. I imagine it would be just as tasty over some shrimp or other delicate whitefish.

I served the fish last night with plain jasmine rice and green beans. Paired with a little glass of white wine, it was a perfect summertime dinner!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flip Burger

It's a busy weekend for Team Dawmilam. Our adventures started yesterday with an outing to Flip Burger with Laura (ADPi sister who's known me since I was the quiet girl with bad bangs & scrunchies) and her husband, Heyward, who happen to live dangerously close to Flip. I've been to Flip twice before - once with Christy, once with Lindsey - and both times I was impressed. Dave was getting a little upset that I'd been without him; last night, halfway through what he thought was the best burger ever, he said, "I'm officially mad that you've eaten food this good twice without me." If you're ever in Atlanta, and wanting a burger, this is the place to go.

As my official review of the restaurant, I'd like to start out with the negative: the waitresses, waiters, and hostesses look like they need to eat a few cheeseburgers or drink a couple of the amazing milkshakes there. Really, I'd like to sit down with them and force them to partake of the greasy goodness they're serving up. Upon being seated by a size 00 bleach blonde young woman who didn't know how to smile or make eye contact, Heyward pondered aloud if it hurts to be that trendy all the time. I have to agree: the people who work there aren't so much welcoming or warm. They're pretty, but they don't look happy. My guess, again, is that if they'd just eat a cheeseburger, they'd feel better. But, that's coming from a non-size-00, so maybe I'm totally missing the point.

But, there really isn't anything else negative about this place. We started our meal with the "duck nuggets," ordered primarily because it's not often you can say the words "duck" and "nuggets" in the same sentence and be taken seriously. I'd never actually had duck before, and it's a shame, because there's no way the next time I eat duck it will be that delicious. Anything cooked in its own fat, fried, and topped with a spicy sauce is bound to be delicious. The outside was crispy; the inside was a nice, creamy texture contrast. And the blood orange chili sauce added a delicious sweet kick.

We got one of all the "fried" items last night. My parmesan zucchini fries were delicious, even without their special mayo. Laura's whole pod fried okra was yumtastic, especially with the Sriacha mayonnaise. Heyward got fries, and Dave got onion rings, which apparently were just "mediocre," but this place's mediocre is like everyone else's "good." Our burgers were to die for. I relished every greasy, delicious bite of my bacon cheddar burger that had some sort of special sauce on it. Lemme tell you: it was special. Dave was in burger heaven with his chosen creation, which had a red wine jam, caramelized onions, and blue cheese. And, for dessert, we all got milkshakes.

My favorite thing about Flip WAS the Nutella & burnt marshmallow milkshake - a sweet treat that cannot be missed. But, Dave and I split a different milkshake last night, and it's my new favorite. The turtle was divine. The ice cream was a perfect vanilla, and the caramel was delicious, especially when combined with the lightly salted, toasted pecans atop a cloud of whipped cream.

To add some excitement to the night, we were so happy to run into Frank, Steve and their friend who was visiting from out of town! Great minds definitely thought alike for dinner last night. They were on their way to the Liza Minnelli concert at Chastain. Expect a similar restaurant review after our meal together next weekend at Ballenger's in Rome... a place that Frank insists is one of the best places ever.

After we gorged ourselves, we went back to Laura & Heyward's and enjoyed a relaxing evening out on their screened in porch, chatting mostly about our animals, other funny animal stories and food (welcome to life as married-without-children!). We're definitely glad to have these guys close by and are already planning our next foodie adventure together.

As for the rest of the weekend? Today, I'm preparing for the Peachtree Road Race with Lindsey, who'll be running with me. This is our second year to run, but this year, neither of us is in really good condition to run 6.2 on a hot summer day. Our motivation for running sort of waned after the half marathon in March. It really took a lot out of us! I ran 5 yesterday, so I theoretically *should* be able to run 6 tomorrow. But, neither of us expect to run at our best pace, nor have we ruled out giving up about mile 4, taking one of the beers that so many spectators try to push on the runners, and just walking the remainder of the course. Maybe I should make sure to run with a koozie? Our preparations for today will include laying out by the pool, drinking lots of water, and eating a carbo-heavy dinner tonight. I'm rather excited about getting some relaxing pool time in this weekend!

The adventures will continue tomorrow, as after the Peachtree, we have a fun day at Lake Allatoona planned with the Changs, some of their friends, Genay, Amy & Lindsey. We'll be celebrating lots of things: the fact that Lindsey and I will have survived the race, Independence Day, and Genay's birthday. Pictures & stories will follow soon!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Third Tri's a Charm

I am spent. I did my third triathlon today, the Iron Girl Atlanta. It was my second Iron Girl event, and I'm glad I registered for it. I had a different experience than last year, when I was like a Muppet on crack - SUPER excited, all day, even after the race when I was really, really, really tired. Today, however, was a day of high's and low's. I still enjoyed the experience, but it was a completely different one than last year's.

Let's start at the beginning: yesterday. We attended a pool party, at which I (smartly) decided not to partake in any alcoholic beverages or food (burgers, hot dogs, the usual... although it looked super tasty), but Dave rather enjoyed himself. So much so, in fact, that he was awake all night dealing with "stomach issues." Thanks to his being awake at 3:40 am, he noticed that I wasn't up at 3:30, as he thought I was supposed to be, and he was able to wake me up in time to get on the road by 4 am. Didn't you set an alarm, you ask? Of course. But on the iPhone, you can set the DAY you want to wake up at particular times, not just the time. So, I made a huge error yesterday in setting my alarm for 3:45 am on SATURDAY instead of Sunday. How many PhD's does it take to set an alarm clock?

When things like this happen, it reminds me that everything always works out the exact way they're supposed to. High point!

Before jumping in the water, I was crazy nervous. Terrified. It was the same feeling I had at Iron Girl last year; oddly enough, I wasn't that nervous before the triathlon I did earlier in the month. Maybe it's because Karl was freaking me out yesterday with talk of crocodiles in Lake Lanier, or maybe it's just because I realized that I've trained for 2 years for triathlons, and the event day is the culmination of all the hard work I've done for the year, so I felt extra pressure to meet my goal of finishing in under 2 hours. It's also super easy to become insecure waiting around to jump in the lake, especially if you're like me and prone to social comparisons. There are people of all body types who compete in triathlons, and I think part of the process if you're an athlete of any kind is accepting the body that you have - the one that God has so graciously provided for you to use while you're here on this earth, the one you've spent countless hours training with in order to prepare you physically for the day, the one that you've hopefully fueled properly with good nutrition - and trusting it to do its job for you on race day, which is to finish strong, in the very best time that you possibly can. Still, it's sometimes difficult to accept that all the training in the world won't necessarily translate to a stereotypical, ripped physique. I'm looking at you, fellow 29-year-old who was about 6' and 115 pounds with incredible muscle tone... or 46-year-old who was closer to my height but had abs of steel... Here we have a "low point" as a result of nerves, self-doubt, insecurity and social comparison.

Related side note: I weighed myself on Friday for the first time since December 31. It was my new year's resolution to stop obsessing with how much I weighed, and start focusing instead on how I felt, listening to what my body told me it needed as far as food goes, and letting biology figure out the rest. I will say that I've gained weight (I'm now at 131) and lost body fat percentage (hanging in there at 22.2%). I have felt better, mentally and physically, the past 6 months than I've felt in a long time, I've had time to worry about more important things in life, and I've finally stopped trying to calculate how many calories I've burned versus how many calories I should consume every day. And, my husband thinks I'm hot. So, I'm happy with that.

The first real "high point" of the day was the swim. I swam hard today. I courageously stayed in the middle of the pack as much as possible, swimming over and around people. I was winded within about 4 minutes, but eventually found my pace and finished the 1/3 mile swim in 11 minutes - exactly on target! I ran, ran, ran to the bike transition, feeling great.

Then, there was a "low point" on the bike. Actually, the whole bike ride was a big downer. The front part of my shin started hurting. I was going at a slow pace. I wasn't passing as many people as I hoped. 52 year olds were zooming past me. My gears weren't shifting smoothly. I was wishing I'd been courageous enough to get clips before the race (everyone I know who uses clips has one major, epic fall, usually resulting in some sort of serious injury requiring an ER visit and stitches, and I wasn't prepared to handle that before this race). I dropped, and lost, my water bottle at about mile 3 of 17. It was hot. There were near vertical hills to conquer. I was getting tired, and focusing too much on the fact that I wasn't pedaling fast enough and was worried I wouldn't have any energy left for the run. It was just a downer, all around. In hindsight: I should've corrected my thinking. I should've stopped beating myself up and fretting, and instead should have focused on smiling more, having a positive attitude, enjoying the course, and having fun. Lesson learned, because today's bike was no fun at all.

Finally, I made it to the run transition. I threw off my helmet, took a few swigs of water from my emergency reserve bottle at the transition station, and went for it. For those of you who have never experienced running after riding a bike for an hour and 11 minutes and swimming 1/3 of a mile before that, lemme just tell you: it's weird. Your body says something like "under no circumstances are you going to run right now," but your mind says something like "RUN! GO! FASTER!" The run, I will say, felt like another low point, but ended up being the best part of the day. First of all, when you start running in the tri, you feel like you're crawling. Or, at least I do. Low point. My pacing is completely screwed up. I feel like I'm barely jogging, but I'm always going faster than I expect. Today we had a definite "mind over matter" situation. I would not let myself walk until at least mile 1, where I knew I'd have the chance to drink some water and walk for a little while. Sure enough, the mile 1 water/Gatorade station came, and I took one of both. I sipped the Gatorade, which was risky since I never drink Gatorade during a workout, and dumped the water all over my head. Heavenly! I told myself that if I could run the first mile, I could definitely run until mile 2, and I nearly made it. My body shut down going up a hill, and I had to walk up to the top. On the walk, I turned the "low" into a "high," promising myself that I was going to run the remainder of the course after I got to the top of the hill, and I did!

During the run, when I usually focus on something like staying healthy, or motivated, or rainbows and kittens, I told myself something kind of shocking: it's time for a break. I have the Peacthree Road Race next weekend, and I think I'm taking a serious break after that. I'll still be working out, but probably not as much for a while. I get the sense that I need some recovery, and that thought actually motivated me more. So, sort of a "low point" was realizing that I needed to rest for a while. I made up my mind that I probably shouldn't add on to my swim, or run, and probably shouldn't sign up for an Olympic distance tri next spring.

But then, after the race was over, I noticed a man who'd had his legs amputated, above the knees. When he turned around, I noticed that on his prosthetic leg, right where the back of his knee would have been was a bumper sticker that said "Iron Man Finisher." And I thought, well, crap. If he can do an Iron Man, with no legs, who am I to say that I can't do more than I just accomplished? High point: inspiration to do more. Eventually.

I felt the greatest when I realized that my pace on the run was 8:07, which is crazy fast for me. Yay, endurance! And I also felt pretty great when the race was finished.

Other assorted high points for the day: that ice cold Aflac sponge you get as you walk through the finish chute; the week of June 23, 1973 was an incredible week for music, as I found out on a rerun of Kasey Kasem's American Top 40 on XM 70s on 7, during the drive back; La Parilla with the Baesmans for lunch; 2 1/2 hour nap; dinner with the Changs at Taco Mac.

Low point: soreness and exhaustion. Lots of it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Things that Actually Happened Yesterday

Two non-food-related stories.

Story 1. Yesterday, I went into Office Max to pick up a case of printer paper. I walked right past the post-it notes, the ink pens, the Sharpies, the calendars, the colored notepads, and all the other office supplies I hold dear, and picked up a 20 pound box of copier paper, placed it in my cart, and wheeled on up to the cashier to check out and go on my way. The following conversation ensued between me and a male employee. We'll call him "Max."

Max: (looks in my cart, with disbelief, and looks at me) You mean you lifted that box ALL BY YOURSELF?
Me: (thinking to myself... oh Lord... here we go.) Yep. I sure did.
Max: (staring in disbelief, still) Well, you don't have to worry about picking that up again; I'll bring it right out to your car for you!
Me: Ok. Thank you.
Max: I mean, *laughing & grabbing my arm* look at that, you've got such little arms!
Me: (infuriated and offended) Hey. I might be little. But I'm strong. I swim. I've got muscles. I can handle it. But since you offered so nicely, I'll LET you bring this box out to my car.
Max: So do you have a rewards card with us?
Me: No. Is it free?
Max: Heck yeah it's free! Here, sign up for it.
Me: Ok. (note: not even creepy Office Max employees can stop me from the potential for office supply discounts.)
Max: (observing me as I fill out my Office Max rewards program form, where I'd just written my name) Laura, how are the kids?
Me: (thinking: is he talking to me? I'm going to ignore him.)
Max: Laura, how are the kids?
Me: (continuing "ignore" phase, failing to look up.)
Max: LAURA! How are those kids?
Me: Are you talking to me?
Max: *dumbfounded look*
Me: First of all, I don't have any kids. I have a cat. And second of all, I don't even go by Laura. Anybody who knows me, knows that.
Max: (nervous laugh and sorry excuse about how he thought he knew me)
Me: That's ok.
Max: That actually worked on a girl one time.

Story 2. Last night, Dave and I went to SweetWater for Jack's birthday party. It's the first time we'd been back to the brewery since our wedding day. Lots of nostalgia ensued.

We retrieved our first beers, and walked outside. I put on my sunglasses, reached into my purse and whipped out a beer koozie for my beer glass. Here's interesting conversation of the day #2.

Dave: (shaking his head, like "NO") Really? You can't be serious.
Me: Of course I'm serious.
Dave: (hanging head and shaking it in disbelief)
Me: Why else would I carry around an emergency koozie, in my purse, if I wasn't going to use it at opportune times? It is hot out here. And my beer will get warm if I don't use the koozie. And my hands will get cold. Besides, I guarantee you I won't be the only person here tonight who uses a koozie for their beer glass.
Dave: Alright. I bet you WILL be the only person here who has one.
Me: Fine. Bet on.
Dave: Awesome.

(we go back to drinking and eating our pizza, never actually determining what I'd win, or he'd win, if either of us won the bet.)

2 hours later...
Me: OH MY GOD can I just tell you how excited I am to see that you have a koozie on your beer glass like I do?
Random Stranger Woman that I Do Not Know: (odd look) Well. Thank you.
Me: I mean, really. That's awesome.
Random Stranger: Cheers to that! (cling glasses)
Me: Can I just point you out to my husband? We have a bet going.
Random Stranger: Well...
Me: DAVE! DAVE! LOOK!! (pointed at Random Stranger's koozie-covered beer glass as she holds it up)
Dave: Oh. Wow. Guess you won!
Me; Thank you. That's all. Rock on.
Random Stranger: You're welcome.

Dave offered to take me out to La Parilla for margaritas and drive us home afterwards... but he does that anyway on a regular basis. I'm still trying to figure out what he owes me for his disbelief.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Best Little Marinade Ever

Dang. Thought I had come up with this delicious little marinade on my own, but as it turns out, I've made it before.

Here is Giada's roasted chicken with balsamic vinaigrette recipe. Anyone else wish Everyday Italian would come back? Anyway. I somehow did this one from memory, almost exactly, when I was getting ready to grill some chicken tonight that would adorn the top of a big plate of angel hair dressed in my makeshift pesto.

My marinade (which I think would make a dang fine salad dressing) was to squeeze into a bowl the juice of half a lemon, about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, good pinch of salt, pepper, some honey, and some dijon mustard, whisking in some extra virgin olive oil at the end (yielded about 2/3 cup of marinade/dressing... adjust ingredients to your liking).

Pour over some chicken breasts (may want to save some of the marinade to dress chicken with post-grilling), marinate in fridge for 30 minutes. Grill. Enjoy.