Funny stories... tales from the road... life with us.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Zucchini Bread

This is my all-time favorite recipe for zucchini bread. I got it a few years ago from a co-worker, and it's excellent. I don't know if it's the addition of the crushed pineapple, but it has a sweet and savory taste. Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans
3 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. coarsely shredded zucchini
1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nuts. Set aside. Beat eggs lightly in large mixing bowl. Add sugar, oil and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Stir in zucchini and pineapple. Add dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Spoon batter into two greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for one hour or until done. Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out on rack and cool completely.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hail to the Redskins!

It's Sunday night and we are watching the end of the Redskins vs. Cowboys game. Can't believe the 'Skins pulled out a victory!

Today has been pretty easy. We headed to the market before church to pick up what we need for the week (although we forgot two important items - oh, well), then headed to church. Our minister has been doing a series on Christian families, and we've enjoyed it.

After church, I headed out for a walk, and then started on five loads of laundry. Now it's all finished and put away. I also managed about an hour nap on our comfy couch! :)

We intended on grilling some bbq chicken and pork for later this week, but as Rob headed outside, he realized we were out of gas! So we improvised and used our inside grill pan. Turned out great!

Now we're getting ready to watch The Amazing Race (I think Rob and I should try to get on there and race!) and spend the rest of the evening relaxing. I'm thankful for a nice weekend, and hope you had one too!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Good Day

It's been a good day. I slept in and got some rest, then Rob and I walked over to Panera Bread (about 1.5 miles from our house) and enjoyed a quiet breakfast. I enjoyed the exercise and time with Rob. I spent the rest of the day running a few easy errands and watching some of the shows I'd DVRed this week.

Tonight, we decided to head to Reston Town Center and check out the new restaurant by the folks who brought us Sweetwater Tavern and Coastal Flats. The menu has some of the same goodies as their other restaurants, but some new choices too. I had the steak frites (grilled flank steak and delish fries, plus a salad), and Rob had the mahi mahi with three pepper polenta. Both were great and the place was hoppin'.

After dinner, we walked around RTC, checked out Williams Sonoma (my fave) and split a strawberry/chocolate swirl at Pinkberry. Mmmmmmmm.

Tonight's dinner and time spent with Rob definitely helped me move toward unwinding and stressing less. Tomorrow, let's hope for more of the same!

(P.S. - Bonus good news today? 30% off everything at Banana Republic for their anniversary sale. Go!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stress City

Welcome to Stress City! Mayor, me!

I'm stressed to the max - work is crazy (big conference in a few weeks), too many meetings of our HOA Board (I volunteered why?) and family stuff is a roller coaster (grandfather with Alzheimer's at the tip of that iceberg).

That means I work late, run home, scarf dinner and either head to a meeting or log back on the computer to do more work. I can't relax and I'm being a grouch to the one person who's been the nicest to me. Rob deserves a big shout out for keeping me around. :)

So, besides sleepless nights and a constant headache, what else has this nutso stress benefited me with? Shingles.

Yes, that's right. I have shingles. I thought only old people got shingles.

I noticed the breakout Monday morning while I was showering, and figured that I'd been repeatedly bitten by some creepy-crawly during our last lake weekend. But, it didn't itch and continued to get redder and more uncomfortable.

So yesterday, I went to the doctor to have it checked out, and I nearly fell off the little table when she pronounced that it was shingles. "Get out!" is what I'm pretty sure I hollered. You may know that it's the same virus that causes chicken pox, and it remains dormant in the body forever. Guess what's a main trigger? Severe emotional stress. Go figure.

I headed to Target after work with my prescription, only for the pharmacist to tell me my insurance won't cover it. Whatever. So, $250 later I left the pharmacy and have since followed up with my doc to have her convince the insurance company that I need this instead of the generic. I don't know how the uninsured do it. And, this is an issue I'll be looking in to as I'm researching our two options in November.

I need the weekend. I need to sleep and stay off of the computer and be nice to my husband. I'm ready... and only two hours until it begins.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Want some Fiber One Goodies?

I'm not usually one to pass these along, but since I'm a big fan of Fiber One products, I thought I would!

Free! Fiber One Samples and Coupons
Want some free Fiber One cereal and a Fiber One bar? Eat Better America is giving them away! Go here to sign up to get a few samples and a coupon booklet for $3 off Fiber One products.

My favorite is the new Oats and Strawberries bar. Mmmmm... enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Praline French Toast Casserole

This is a great breakfast recipe! It's another great "make-the-night-before" dish that's perfect when company visits. Probably not waistline-friendly, so enjoy with caution! :)

Praline French Toast Casserole
Serves 8

8 eggs
1-1/2 cups half and half
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
10 to 12 slices soft bread, 1 inch thick

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups chopped pecans

Generously butter a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Mix the eggs, half and half, maple syrup, and sugar in a large bowl. Place the bread slices in the prepared casserole dish and cover with the egg mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ degrees F.

Make the topping: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar and maple syrup and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the pecans. Pour the mixture over the bread and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Lake Weekend

This was our last weekend at the lake! We packed up our room this morning before heading home. It's been a great summer of lots of lake time. Let fall begin!

I was in Chicago last week for a work meeting, and we took in a Cubs game on Wednesday. Lots of fun! I don't know much about baseball, but it was an experience.

Not much to write... lots going on, just not much to say about it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Weekend Down

This weekend has been easy and relaxing. We haven't done much, which is a nice change.

Last night we had dinner at Eat Bar, the casual, "gastro pub" part of Tallulah in Arlington. Rob had been there before with a buddy, and I'd been wanting to go since Washingtonian magazine said they had one of the best burgers around.

The decor is cool - old lights from a church, cozy booths, chalkboards above the bar with specials and drinks. And the food was good too. The only really weird thing is the service and how they bring out the food. Basically, there's no rhyme or reason to it... my salad and onion rings came out together, my burger a few minutes later, and Rob's meal showed up 10 minutes after that. The waitress told us "as the food is ready, it comes out," but we thought our main meals would at least come together! Really not a big deal, since we'd already planned to split the burger and share Rob's hanger steak, but just a little odd. The onion rings were excellent!

We ended up running our errands on the way home from dinner, getting groceries for the week and picking up some stuff at Target. That meant that today, we only had church and time at home. I love lazy Sundays filled with Redskins football ... and the SNL premiere we Tevoed and are watching right now. Phelps didn't do too bad, and Tina Fey is always a hoot.

Hope you are having a great week!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pop-pop

Today, my Pop-pop is 93. He's lived a great life and has always been special to me. I have millions of memories of our time together... from visiting his office when I was little and sitting in his big chair, to riding on the cart at the golf course, to him showing up at Girl Scout camp with my Mom to pick me up one summer... in his coat and tie. I can still picture it.

Pop-pop has Alzheimer's now and life isn't so easy, but he does okay. My grandmother is a saint to take such good care of him. We all know it isn't simple.

So, join with me in wishing him a wonderful day.

The Pledge of Allegiance

I heard this on the radio yesterday and thought it was great for September 11, so I'm sharing it with you.

When the popular American comedian Red Skelton was a young man, he learned the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance from one of his teachers. The lesson became so meaningful he remembered the explanation of his teacher, Mr. Laswell, throughout his lifetime. In 1969 (when there were only 48 states), Red Skelton made a recording of an explanation of the Pledge Of Allegiance. It goes like this:

I: Me; an individual; a committee of one.

Pledge: Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.

Allegiance: My love and my devotion.

To the Flag: Our standard; Old Glory ; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.

United: That means that we have all come together.

States: Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the Republic: Republic--a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands,One Nation: One Nation--meaning, so blessed by God.

Indivisible: Incapable of being divided.

With Liberty: Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.

And Justice: The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.

For All: For All--which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

It's amazing the meaning you can derive when you think about the depth of the words, huh? You can read more about it here and here, and listen to it here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's Been a Long Week

I can't believe it's only Wednesday! This week has definitely seemed longer than normal. How long until the weekend?!?

Not much to report... life just keeps moving on! We had been thinking about going to the lake this weekend, but we enjoyed last weekend at home that we might just do that again. Hopefully we'll enjoy a nice dinner together at Eat Bar in Arlington. Rob went there with a friend recently and has been promising to take me!

I am excited that fall is staring to make an impression here and there. It's cool outside today. Fall is my favorite season, so I'm in a hurry for it to get here and stay as long as possible before winter takes over.

My big news today is that I bought two pair of pants on clearance at the Gap during lunch - $14 each. Can't beat it. Kind of sad that it's my big news of the day. :)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Breakfast Casserole

Many friends have asked for this recipe, so I'm sharing it here! I'm planning to make it tonight for a staff breakfast tomorrow, so I thought it was a good time to finally drag it out and type it up.

I like this recipe when we have house guests or during the holidays because it can be fixed in advance, refrigerated overnight and ready to pop in the oven the next day. For a work breakfast, it serves a lot of people, especially when paired with fruit or bagels. It's a basic variation on many similar recipes that are out there, so it's nothing unique. Just delicious!

Breakfast Casserole

1 lb of pork sausage
4 1/2 cups bread, cubed
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
10 eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups milk (recipe calls for whole milk, but I always use 2%)
1 tsp dry mustard or 1 squirt of yellow mustard
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp onion powder
Optional ingredients: sliced mushrooms and diced tomatoes

Chop and brown bulk sausage until cooked. Drain to remove fat, and crumble more if needed.

Spray 9x13 baking dish with PAM, and put cubed bread in the bottom. Sprinkle with some of the shredded cheddar.

Mix together the slightly beaten eggs with the milk, green onion, mustard, onion powder, salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the bread and cheese. Sprinkle sausage, remaining cheese and optional ingredients on top of the egg mixture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. (If you don't do this in advance, let it sit at least 15 minutes before baking.) Preheat oven to 325 and bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes. Tent with foil if top begins to brown too quickly.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Home for the Weekend

This has been a relaxing weekend! It's the first one that we've actually been home in a month, so that makes it especially nice. Plus, I had the bonus flex day on Friday so it's been like a three-day weekend for me.

Friday was a great day for running errands and getting the house ready for our guests Friday evening. Tortilla soup, a Mexican salad and homemade guacamole were on the menu. Mmmmmm. We played spades and talked and had a great time.

The rain from Hurricane Hannah started last night and continued through this evening. It finally tapered off around 6 p.m., and Rob ventured out to pick us up some dinner. He's been wanting to try the McDonald's southern chicken sammy for weeks, but I've been resisting out of my loyalty to Chick-Fil-A. A BOGO coupon came yesterday in the mail, so I caved. Verdict? Not as good as CFA, but okay.

Now we are watching some more college football (what's wrong with WVU?) and just hanging out. I managed to do five loads of laundry today-whew.

Oh, and I'm writing this blog on my new laptop! Since I've been doing a lot of work from home, we decided to get a laptop that I can load up with graphics programs and other work-related loot. Plus, Rob and I can surf the Web in the same room (as we are doing now). Bonus- it's green!

Tomorrow is church and the market and a nap! Hope you have a great weekend -

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mmmmm..... Edible Computers

Love, love, love this commercial that aired tonight during the Redskins vs. Giants game.

The only thing better than a football game is a football game with funny commercials. Kind of like the Super Bowl, only five months earlier!

A Case of the Blahs

I'm not sure why, but this week I've just felt pretty crummy. Maybe work is stressing me out, or maybe it's something else, but I haven't felt myself and I don't like it. I can't blame it purely on exhaustion since we did just come off of a three-day weekend!

Luckily, I have tomorrow off too, since it's my first flex day. Hopefully I'll enjoy the day at home, making chicken tortilla soup and getting ready to have some friends over Friday evening. The weather-nuts are going crazy with expectation that we might get heavy rains from one of the incoming hurricanes. I ain't skeered.


Has anyone else been watching the convention this week? I watched Sarah Palin last night, and I'm still not sure what to think. She's a captivating speaker for sure, and seems fun and approachable on some levels. But I'm not convinced she's presidential material, and unfortunately, she only has about 60 days to prove that she really is.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Italian Mac-n-Cheese

I'm not sure where this recipe came from (maybe Rachel Ray?), but it's delicious. Enjoy!

Italian Mac-n-Cheese
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 pound ziti rigate, penne rigate or cavatappi
1 pound Italian bulk sweet sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 (10-ounce) sack (2 1/2 cups) shredded Italian 4 cheese blend
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente, about 8 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, garlic and mushrooms. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, until mushrooms are lightly golden.

Preheat broiler to high.

To mushrooms, add flour and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in cream. Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.

Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish, casserole or oven safe serving platter. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of 4 cheese blend and the grated Parmesan over the top and brown under hot broiler.

Is Summer Really Over?

Can't believe Labor Day is behind us and we are heading full-force into fall. Summer went too fast!

We headed up to the lake (of course) for the long weekend, since we know our days there are numbered for this year. Hopefully we'll sneak in one last visit before it gets too cold and the docks and boats are all pulled out of the water. We spent Friday night with my parents and had a great meal at Giuseppe's, a local favorite.

For the rest of the weekend, we just hung out, ate too much good food and relaxed. I managed to have a couple of nice naps that I thoroughly enjoyed! We headed out yesterday and stopped to visit my grandparents on the way back. That leads to a blog post all unto its own, but I would ask that you keep my sweet grandfather in your thoughts. Alzheimer's stinks.

So now we are back to work. Lucky for me, this is a three day work week! We had Monday off, and Friday is my first "flex work" reward day. I'm planning to spend it cleaning the house and making dinner for a Spades card tourney we are hosting this weekend.

Hope you have a great week!