Thursday, June 30, 2011

Roots Food Truck Love

I had a great mid-week lunch yesterday that I wanted to share.  Obviously Charlotte has some great food trucks, as you've seen.  My friends Diana, Kelly, Gibson, and I went to the Roots Farm food truck, which I'd say is among my favorites and luckily I work fairly close to where they usually set up.

The menu changes daily and they usually post it online a few hours ahead so you can see what they'll have.

I chose the veggie pita and the runner bean salad.

We were also offered a complimentary watermelon soda, perfect for a hot summer day.

My meal was delicious!  The warm pita with grilled veggies was a great summer lunch, and the runner bean salad was fantastic!  I need to learn how to make that...

The four of us found a nice shady spot to enjoy our lunch so we didn't die of heat exhaustion.  Temps around Charlotte have been in 90's this week...  kinda humid and gross!  The shade was nice though!  It was great to break up my work day and work week with some good company and delicious food.  Back to the grind!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Five Minute Spinach Sauce

Hey guys!  The week is already in full swing.  Work is running me ragged lately, and I come home without a ton of energy or motivation to do a lot, especially cook long elaborate meals.

Lately I'm all about quick meals and using up stuff in my fridge.  I made lasagna for my parents when they were visiting and I pretty much always make more noodles than I end up using, so I thought I'd get creative last night in using up the extra noodles.

I decided to make a simple sauce out of sauteed spinach, garlic, and tomato (in a little olive oil).

Mixed with some cottage cheese in the food processor to give it the creamy, cheesy factor.


Awwww yeah.

Then I cut up my cooked lasagna noodles into bite sized pieces, poured on my sauce, and added a little fresh Parmesan cheese.  I popped it in the microwave just to warm up the noodles and make sure the sauce was warm all the way through.

Easy, tasty, and healthy too.  A great use for leftover pasta!

I spent the rest of the evening chilling with Clyde playing about 2,000 rounds of fetch...

while watching this crazy movie...

In case you can't see my picture very well, I watched 127 Hours, which is the film about Aron Ralston, the guy who had to cut his arm off to free it from a boulder that fell on his arm while hiking in Utah.  The movie really made me think about whether I could do that or not and I definitely cringed during THE scene.

I also had a bowl of cookies and cream (Breyers) ice cream with some fresh cherries on top later as a movie snack.

Kind of like Cherry Garcia.  Yum!

Do you have any five minute go-to recipes? 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

French Themed Friday Night

Hey all!  I'm winding down from a weekend with my parents.  They came to town Thursday night and just left yesterday afternoon to head back to Hilton Head.  We crammed in a lot of the usual activities, mostly centered around eating and some shopping. 

When I asked my parents where they'd like to go to eat on Friday night, my mom promptly told me she'd been eyeing The Crepe Cellar, after seeing it mentioned on the blog a few times.  Done!  We spent the afternoon browsing at The South Park Mall and Trader Joes, then headed for an early dinner at The Crepe Cellar.  Just as we parked and headed in to the restaurant, the sky unloaded on us, and we were kind of wet for the first half of dinner!  Oops!

The good thing about getting there early was that it was pretty empty, so we were seated promptly.  On other visits, I've definitely waited a while for seating, since the Crepe Cellar is small inside.

I started with a side salad with red wine vinagrette.  My mom and I both commented on how good the selection of greens in this salad were.  Peppery and delicious.  Makes me want to try mixing up my lettuce choices more!

The best part about dining with my parents, is that my mom and I usually like the same things.  We opted to share two kinds of crepes, the spinach and wild mushroom and the Queen City, which has chicken, bacon, cheddar, and tomato.

Yum :)

My dad and Greg both had french bread pizzas.

They were also delcious!  It's all about the french bread :)

We were pretty stuffed from our meals, but I mentioned that we were actually close to a Charlotte institution: Amelie's French Bakery.  It didn't take much to convince everyone to stop in for some post dinner treats.

Truth?  I've never actually been to the REAL Amelie's!  I work right near their alternate location in Uptown Charlotte, but somehow, I've never actually made it into the real location in NoDa.  A travesty, I know.

My mom and I selected five items to try.  Armed with our box of treats, we headed home.

We chose a mini raspberry and lemon merigue pie.

And, in the box:

We got a classic eclair, a carmel salted brownie, a chocolate raspberry petit four, and an orange macaroon.  My dad wanted the chocolate crossaint for the next day's breakfast.

We split everything but the crossaint four ways.
Here's my portion of the goods.

Mmmmmm!  French dessert goodness!  My favorite is still the caramel salted brownie. 
Even if I did fail at creating my own version.  Some things are better left to the experts...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Roasted Beet Success

Remember how I picked up some golden beets at the Farmer's Market the other day?  Well this was my first attempt at making anything with beets at home, and I will have to call this a smashing success.  Here's what I did.

I preheated the oven.

I washed the beets and took the tops off, also washing them and saving them for later.  I had one smaller beet, and one larger one, so I actually cut the big one in half so that all the beet "pieces" were the same size.  I then drizzled them with olive oil (skin on) and a little salt and pepper, then placed them in a foil packet to roast in the oven. 

I roasted them for about 40 minutes, or long enough that I could easily sink a knife in and out of them.  I then slipped the outter skin off and chopped them into bite-sized pieces.

I decided to have them on a salad.  I used my two kinds of lettuce, also from the Farmer's Market, plus some spinach, toasted walnuts, feta cheese, and grapefruit slices.  I used Newman's Own Olive Oil dressing combined with a little grapefruit juice to bring out the flavor, then tossed my beets with all the ingredients. 

The result?  EXCELLENT!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Let's Talk About High School

So I recently missed my 15th high school reunion (yes, I'm old).  I considered trying to go, but in the end, it just wasn't that feasible for me to travel all the way to New England for the weekend.  Work is really busy, Greg's schedule is busy, I have Clyde to think about...  I just couldn't figure out the logistics.  I actually haven't been to any of my reunions since I graduated from high school. 

I was graduating from the police academy around the time of my 5th reunion...

getting married around the time of my 10th...

 and this year, like I said, I just plain had too much going on and it didn't make sense to go up there for it.

High school was an interesting experience for me.  You may or may not know that I went to a private boarding school.  I was a day student, so I didn't live in a dorm like the majority of the student body, I just came to campus each day for classes and extra curricular activities (I lived about 20 minutes from campus). 

I grew up in a VERY small town, and if I'd gone to my local high school, I would have had 40 people in my graduating class.  Yes, you read that right, I said 40.  In the whole class!  Instead I went to a HUGE boarding school with about 400 kids in my class.  That included a lot of people I never even met while I was there.  To say I experienced some culture shock my first year or two there would be an understatement.  I actually had a pretty hard time adjusting.  I missed my close-knit group of friends from elementary school and junior high, and on more than one occasion, I wished I were back in public school with them.

Still, I did realize that I was experiencing things I never would have experienced if I'd gone to public school.  We had hundreds of international students and kids from all over the US too. 

I participated in concert choir where we got to travel each year to perform and even had CD's created of our performances.

I took a lot of interesting classes that I wouldn't have taken in public school, like Middle Eastern Religion and History, Gender Roles, and creative writing.  It was really like an intro to college. 

We had to participate in a sport each term, be it team or rec, so I played field hockey as a team sport in the fall, did rec downhill skiing in the winter, and did a bunch of different rec sports in the spring, like tennis, weight lifting, and running. 

My high school also had a unique "work program" in which each student has to do a "job" each term to help out at the school.  I had many different jobs, like working in the cafeteria prepping and serving food, vacuuming a dorm, and even helping administratively in the Dean's Office.  It's a cool program because it levels the field for all students, including those coming from wealthy backgrounds and those on full financial aid.  Everyone had to do a work job, no matter their background.

My high school dynamic was very different than most.  We didn't really have the traditional heirarchy of popular students.  It's funny, because I totally love movies like The Breakfast Club, but my high school experience was really nothing like that.

The cliques we had were more based on which dorm you were in, sports you played, or clubs you were in, if anything, so there weren't really popular or unpopular students just people you spent more time with due to what you were involved in. 

We didn't do the whole prom court thing either.  Our prom wasn't a big "date" event, people went alone, with friends, or with a date, it didn't really matter.  Junior year, I went with my friend Katie, and senior year, I went with my boyfriend (seen below in the PSU hat), but we hung out with a bunch of friends.

I don't know that I fully appreciated my high school experience until my junior or senior year.  It took a while to really get used to that kind of environment.  It also took me a while to appreciate the opportunity I was given to get that kind of education, meet people from all over the world, and particpate in things I wouldn't have if I hadn't been a student there.

I really do appreciate that I had that experience now and I think it really shaped the person I am.  Even so, the thing about boarding school is that no one is FROM there, so it's been hard to feel a big connection since I left.  At least when you go to public school, a lot of the class comes back there as "home base", and that's not the case with boarding school.  I'm friends with many of my classmates on Facebook, but I wouldn't say I am that close with them anymore.  There's only been a handful of people from high school that I've seen since I left, so I feel kind of disconnected from my friends from high school.  It is what it is.

I'm actually probably closer with some of the friends I grew up with than my high school friends. 

Going away party my childhood friends had for me when I went to private school.
How was your high school experience?  Did you go to your reunions?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cooking Class At The Liberty

Hi all!  It's been a busy little weekend here, and I'm hoping to have a bunch of down time today and relish in it :)

I have done some fun things this weekend!  First off, yesterday I took a cooking class with my friend Sarah at The Liberty

This was the third class like this (Upstream in Charlotte and Michael Anthony's in Hilton Head)  I've taken and I really enjoy learning the techiniques and of course eating the delicious food the restuarant chefs prepare!

The class was held in the bar area at the Liberty.  The seat configuration was slightly awkward, but they made it work.

Our class theme was French Country Cooking, a Taste of Provence.  French cooking class?  Yes please!

The first course prepared was a wild salmon salad with beets, avocado, potatoes, egg, and mustard dressing.
The chef was knowledgeable and personable.

Working the huge slab of salmon...

I've mentioned before that cooking fish at home intimidates me, but the chef made this dish seem pretty easy and accessible.  I feel like I could successfully make this.  The chef grilled the salmon with the skin on, but when he flipped it, the skin peeled right off.  Neat!

The finished product...

The tangy mustard/dill dressing was so good. 
The recipe for the dressing:

1 small garlic clove
1 TB Dijon mustard
2 TB olive oil
1 TB fresh dill
2 TB lemon juice
1 TB capers
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper

I also learned a good beet roasting techinique I want to try: roasting the beets, skin on, with herbs and olive oil on 375 for an hour and 10 minutes.  I'm really into beets right now, especially the golden ones.

Sarah and I really liked this dish.

Next up, was the Bouef a' la Nicoise, or country beef stew with red wine, tomatoes, olives, and buttered noodles.

I'll admit, and you've probably noticed, I'm a little lazy as a cook.  I don't like horribly labor-intensive recipes (that means yours Martha Stewart!), and this one was kind of complex, so I'm not sure there's much chance I'll ever make this at home, but it was FANTASTIC, so maybe I should!  You're supposed to cook the meat in this dish three different ways- braise it, slow cook it, then carmelize it.  That's probably just too much work for me...hehe.  Also, the tomatoes in this dish were fantastic, but they were also slow roasted in an oven for like 3 hours. 

Anyway, it was off-the-chain good.

The meat was so tender and flavorful, and it was served over pappardelle noodles (I love those!).  So, so good.

The dessert course was a Country French Blackberry Galette.  This was kind of like a lazy man's pie.
As we know, I do make a mean pie, but this was actually an easier version of pie, yet still beautiful and tasty.  My mom makes a similar version of this with apples and pre-made pie crust when she's in a hurry.

The most interesting thing I learned on this dish, was that you can use your hands to blend the butter and flour mixture into dough instead of a food processor or pastry cutter, like I usually do.  It actually seemed to work pretty well for the chef, so I may give that a try sometime.

Anyway, it was delcious and very filling!  This easily could have fed two or three (or four) people.  I got about 2/3 of the way through mine and was stuffed!

Following our awesome class, Sarah and I wandered over to nearby Atherton Mills, for their Saturday Farmer's Market.

I really wanted some greens, and also some beets after being inspired to try roasting them by cooking class.

I got both from this stand, which is local to Charlotte.

I also picked up a grass-fed filet mignon for my dad as a father's day present, and we explored the other booths, before heading out.

It was a wonderful Saturday morning and early afternoon in Charlotte.  Hope yours was just as fun!

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