One month down

Is it January 31st already? Did I really just post my last webpage update of the month a few minutes ago? I think so. How about that? I had the best of intentions when I signed up for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) on January 1st, but I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to see it through. It wasn’t easy, but I did it, and thirty-one posts later I’m glad I did. And based on January’s success, I just signed up for another round. Is that crazy? Maybe. At least February is only twenty-eight days. If the past month’s experiment taught me anything it’s that I am capable of writing something worth reading (if only by me) every day and now I am driven to try and do better. Wish me luck and come back tomorrow for a new post!

Fifth new recipe (My birthday cake)

To Dan’s credit he filled just about every minute of my birthday weekend with activity so I didn’t have a chance to make myself a cake then (but we ate so much other delicious food I didn’t miss it!). And the next two weekends after that were dominated by work so cooking was pretty much out of the question. So when I found myself with a free hour last night after I finished packing my suitcase, I decided to take advantage of it and finally make a belated birthday cake. I’ve been wanting to make an authentic red velvet cake (i.e., one that does not include a red velvet cake mix) of some kind for a while now and when I saw this recipe for Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies I knew I had to try it. I was suprised at how easily it came together (less than forty-five minutes to get it into the oven) and that made me skeptical of the end result. Tasty homemade desserts rarely come without difficulty. Fortunately the brownies were delicious! Not only did I like them, but Dan asked for seconds so he definitely enjoyed them too. Next time I think I’ll bake the brownie batter by itself (OK, maybe 50% more to make them a bit thicker) and then top it with some cream cheese frosting. That’s going to make a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert, come to think of it! It’s not too early to plan for that, is it?

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c butter
2 oz dark chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips)
1 1/3 c sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 tsp red food coloring
2/3 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz cream cheese, softened

DIRECTIONS:
In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together (1 minute on HIGH worked for me). Stir with a fork until very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 c sugar, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 tsp red food coloring. Add in the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Add the flour and salt into the bowl and stir until everything is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Pour into a lightly greased 8″ or 9″ square, lightly greased baking pan and spread into an even layer.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, remaining sugar (1/3 c), remaining egg, and remaining vanilla extract (1 tsp) until smooth. Drop in dollops onto prepared brownie batter (the cheesecake mixture pretty much completely covered the brownie mixture in my 8″ pan). Gently swirl two batters with a butter knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned. Cool in the pan completely before slicing and serving, either at room temperature or chilled.

Based on Baking Bites’ Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies.

Perfect Sunday afternoon

I had to go to work this morning (no surprise), but fortunately I got out of there in less than three hours, which I didn’t expect, so that made me happy. (I finished everything that absolutely had to be done before I get on the plane to DC in the morning, but there’s another mountain I have to tackle when I arrive. But in the famous words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”) I got home just after tipoff of the Los Angeles vs. Boston basketball game so Dan and I sat down in front of the TV with a delicious meal of Domino’s pizza to root for the Lakers. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon. Too bad they lost. That was a disappointment, especially since it was such a close game at times. As a palate cleanser, as soon as the game was over we put on our current Netflix DVD, “How to Train Your Dragon.” While I was watching the Golden Globes ceremony a couple of weeks ago I added a bunch of movies to our Netflix queue and “How to Train Your Dragon” was the first one to arrive. It was a pretty good movie. Too bad it doesn’t have a chance in the Best Animated Feature category because it’s up again the juggernaut that is Pixar. Not that I didn’t like “Toy Story 3” (and I never did get to see “Tangled”), but it would be nice to see another studio beat them some time. But I digress. Right now I’m putting off packing my suitcase for my trip. I had to wash three loads of clothes today so that I would have everything I need to pack and now the thought of folding all of it and putting it in a suitcase is daunting. I wish I could just go to sleep early and wake up refreshed tomorrow morning (which hasn’t happened in weeks), but that’s not going to happen. The airport shuttle will be picking me up really early in the morning and I have barely started getting ready to go. So I guess I need to get up off the couch and get started. OK, here I go…

Just too tired

It’s Saturday, and Saturdays are meant for relaxing, right? Well, then this Saturday has failed me. I woke up earlier than I would have liked to, went to work for a full eight hours, and then came home to spend what remained of the day with my husband. We went to dinner at a restaurant we’d never been to before, which is usually a great experience, but I didn’t like this one very much. I think my meal choices could have been better. Now I’m struggling to stay awake long enough to write this meager post before I crash. I’m so tired that I even brought my laptop to bed with me so that I could go right to sleep when I’m done. (Plus, it’s warmer here than in our chilly living room.) I know I’ve written more than anyone could possibly ever want to read about my work this week so I’ll spare you more of that today. I do have to go back in the morning, though, at least for a few hours. I hate it, but at least I’m getting paid for working overtime. I absolutely have to be home in time to watch the Lakers vs. Celtics game at 12:30 tomorrow so at least I have a definite stop time. My goals for tomorrow are to get ready for my trip and spend some quality time with Dan. Sitting on the couch watching a basketball game with him and not worrying about anything else sounds wonderful right now.

Thoughts on a Friday

What a crazy week! This morning when my alarm went off I was barely able to stay awake long enough to hit the snooze button. There was no way I was getting up then. I slept in until 7:30 AM which helped a little, but I still looked like death warmed over (a couple of people commented on that). And of course there was some sort of important meeting at work and I kept running into executives in ties and sports jackets. It made me wish I hadn’t worn a hoodie, baggy jeans (one size too big), and Converse to work today. I figure on the days where I spend 8+ hours just staring at four different computer screens I might has well be comfortable, but there is a such thing as too casual on casual Friday. I spent elevn hours trying to get as much work done as possible, and then I left just in time to meet Dan at Arthur Murray for our ballroom dance lesson. Unfortunately I’m going to have to go in to work this weekend to tie up some loose ends before I leave for DC and I’m really dreading it. I put in way too many hours at work this week and I desperately need a break. Trying to think creatively today after such a long week was very difficult and the only thing keeping me from falling asleep on my keyboard was lots and lots of caffeine. Unwinding after work today has been fantastic, though. Not only did I get to dance with Dan, but now we’re eating Carl’s Jr. burgers for dinner and watching the Laker game that we recorded earlier tonight. A very relaxing end to the week. And now I’d better go so I can give the last quarter of the basketball game my full attention. Go Lakers!

Even more work

So apparently yesterday was an anomaly. Today was only a twelve hour workday, but I still didn’t get home until 8:30 PM. I’m completely exhausted and I don’t know how long I can keep this up. Even though we met our “deadline” yesterday there is still a mountain of work that has to get done before next week and it feels like most of it is on my plate. I don’t know how much free time I’m going to have this weekend and I have no idea when I’ll be able to pack for DC. The Washington area had a big snowstorm last night so I’m really not looking forward to this trip. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad. I can handle the cold (meaning, I have a very heavy coat that will keep me warm), but snow and ice aren’t my friends. Especially when driving. I would really like to spend some time with Dan this weekend since I’ll be in DC for ten days starting Monday. Too bad he’s been getting home from work even later than I have every day this week. I need to add a resolution to this year’s list – “Make more time to enjoy life.” I keep remembering the old saying – “No one ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ” I want to spend more time with my husband! So why can’t I manage to get out of my cubicle with enough time to enjoy life after work? Sometimes being a dedicated employee can really cramp your style. It’s probably one of the reasons I’m still employed, though, so it’s not like I can slack off. Sorry for another post full of complaints. I have quite a few topics that I want to write about if only I had the time and I’m keeping a list of them in my notebook/planner. I’m seriously considering signing up for NaBloPoMo again next month because even on days like this when I can’t wait to get in my pajamas and go to bed, writing a little paragraph about my day and posting it is very therapeutic. Good night.

Fourth new recipe

Guess what? When I left work today the Sun was still out! I still spent ten hours at work, but at least I was able to come home at a reasonable hour. I even had time to cook dinner! Doesn’t that plate of pasta look good? In case you were wondering, yes, I ate my dinner off of a paper plate left over from our Halloween party. It was still delicious!

When I saw this recipe for Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage I had to try it. Not only did it look mouthwatering and sophisticated, but it looked easy too. What’s not to like? In the Feller house one of our favorite weeknight meals is garlic and basil pasta (I really need to update this recipe because I’ve made some improvements since I first posted it) and this new recipe is very similar, but the phrase “brown butter” made it irresistable. Just in case it didn’t turn out well, I used some leftover farfalle pasta instead of the tortellini I had in the fridge, but the proportions of the other ingredients in the original turned out just about right for 8 ounces of plain pasta. Along with the sliced shallots I added some diced garlic, but I think I cooked the sauce either a little too long or a little too hot because the shallots and garlic got a bit crispy. I actually liked the addition of some crunch to the pasta, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Next time I will use lower heat. The brown butter sauce sure did smell wonderful while it was cooking, though, and I could hardly wait to try the finished dish. This pasta was incredibly flavorful and I’ll definitely be making it again.

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz pasta, cooked and drained
8 Tbsp (1/2 c) unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, diced
30 fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper
1/3 c shredded Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Heat butter in a skillet over medium low heat until it foams. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. The butter will start to get brown around this time. Add the sage and cook until leaves turn slightly crisp, about another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the butter and sage sauce over the pasta, stirring gently. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Enjoy!

Based on Framed Cooks’ Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage.

More work

No, today wasn’t another thirteen hour day to work – it was a fourteen hour day! There was a deadline of sorts today and there were a lot of things that were supposed to get done before 5 pm. Needless to say, some of the work will have to wait until tomorrow. I managed to escape during a break in the action, but I have to go back early in the morning to get everything closed out. I’m exhausted. Forgive me for this brief update. I’m embarrassed by the shortness of my recent posts and I will do my best to write something more substantial by the end of the week. Hang in there, my faithful readers!

Work

I’m going to apologize in advance for this post, but work has been killing me lately. After a thirteen hour day today I barely made a dent in all of the work I had to get done. The weather in Los Angeles is rumored to be beautiful lately, but I wouldn’t know because I spent every moment of daylight starling at a computer screen. It’s depressing when you arrive at work in the morning in the dark and then leave at night in the dark too. I want to see some sunshine! It’s not looking good for this week, though. I have to go to DC next Monday and there is a mountain of work that has to get done before I get on the plane. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to make me feel comfortable, but I’ll do what I can and hope for the best. I need to go to bed soon so I won’t be dead tired at work tomorrow.

Dan and I are watching the episode of “Top Gear” where they make a reliant Robin into a space shuttle right now. “One small stepladder for mankind.” Hilarious. It’s definitely one of my top five episodes of the show. I think maybe the one where they make stretch limos out of regular cars is my favorite episode so far, but I love their road trip across the American South too. If you haven’t ever seen “Top Gear” I highly recommend tuning in to it on BBC America. In my opinion it’s the best show on television these days. And I’m not a big fan of cars, but I absolutely love this show. There’s no better way to unwind after a frustrating day of work than laughing hysterically at Jeremy, James, and Richard. “And on that bombshell it’s time to end. Goodnight!”

Third new recipe revisited

After Dan and I got home from our ballroom dance lesson on Friday night I made us both bowls of leftover Maramalade Curry Chicken (my third new recipe of the year) and rice because there weren’t any other good options for a late night dinner. I wasn’t really excited about eating it because I didn’t think the chicken was very good, but I was hungry and I hate to see food go to waste. Since Dan suggested adding salt the night before, we both used the salt grinder to generously season our dinners and it made a HUGE difference. The sweet and sour combination that was accentuated by the salt was actually really tasty. I enjoyed the chicken the second time around and I have high hopes for future incarnations of this recipe now. What a turnaround! I just need to figure out a way to balance the sweetness with a layer of saltiness flavor when the chicken is cooking rather than after it’s on the table. I have some ideas, but I’m planning to try some other recipes before working on the Marmalade Curry Chicken. There are just so many delicious options out there!

P.S. I know this is a lame post, but work has been relentless since I got back from DC last Saturday. I can’t promise much of an improvement this week, but I’ll do my best to write something more interesting and meaningful tomorrow.