Flowers for the office

How was everyone’s Valentine’s Day?

Yesterday, it was flower central at work.  A lot of the women had flowers on their desks from their significant others.  At one point I was walking around the office and I thought, “man, I totally understand why single girls HATE this holiday.”

But I did love my flowers.  Ben didn’t go for roses.  Too cliché.  He always gets my favorite flowers, star-gazer lilies.

stargazer lillies

This beautiful arrangement arrives at my desk yesterday.  I really wasn’t expecting flowers.  No really, I wasn’t.  But I can’t say I wasn’t happy when they were dropped off at my desk! Right now, all the bulbs are closed, but my mid-week, this baby will be in full bloom.

Dinner

Dinner last night continued along my “must go from table to belly in 30 minutes” theme.

This was a super easy dinner.

Gnocchi and Veggies

1 package potato gnocchi from Trader Joes (it comes in a red package and doesn’t need to be refrigerated)

1 package Archer Farms Harvest Blend Vegetables (Broccoli, carrots, onions, baby cob corn, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, water chesnuts, & red peppers)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

  1. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water until it floats
  2. Steam the veggies in the bag per instructions (7.5-8.5 minutes)
  3. Saute veggies in garlic
  4. Combine everything in a large bowl, add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste and enjoy!

I sprinkled a bit of Trader Joe’s low fat cheese on it as well.  Fantastic topper.  Although, really, when isn’t cheese a fantastic topper.  This could easily be made a bit healthier by leaving out the olive oil, but we needed some healthy fats in our diet tonight.

Run

Yesterday was beautiful in D.C.  It even hit the high 60’s.  Perfect outdoor running weather, right? Well by the time I got home for work, there was so much wind it felt like a hurricane was traveling through our nation’s capital.  So up to the treadmill I went with my new shoes.

Verdict: overall, I like them.  I can feel how they help my stride a bit (I run on the insides of my feet), and they provide a lot of support on my arch.  The backs are a bit more snug then I’m used to, so I’ve got a tiny blister.  But I’m gonna just chalk that up to wearing in a new pair of shoes.  I’ve had work flats do more damage on the first day.

Valentine’s Day

Ben and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day over the weekend.  How did we do it?

Started off with a 4+ mile run around D.C.   We started down on Ohio Drive (near where we ran the 10K on my birthday), ran down Ohio Drive, by the Lincoln Memorial, over Memorial Drive bridge into Arlington, down onto the Mt. Vernon trail to Teddy Roosevelt Park.  I took a break while Ben ran the trails through the park.  Afterward, we reversed the route and went back to the car.

It was terrible.  Terrible.  I could never get into the groove.  It was my first run outside in a while.  I’ve gotten used to running on the treadmill – where you can’t really stop.  Running outside, you could stop whenever you want.  Also, the wind was so bad that it kept knocking my earphones out.  Also, I kinda need to sneakers, so there was that too…

After the run, we had our Valentine’s Day dinner.  We decided to make dinner instead of going out.  On our menu:

Soup

Butternut squash soup

Salad

Baby lettuce with candied pecans and cheese

Dinner

London broil

Roasted sweet potatoes

Sautéed asparagus

Italian bread

Dessert

Hand rolled truffle

chocolate peanutbutter “bomb”

Dinner worked out well; Ben handled the meat, asparagus and salad and I handled the soup and sweet potatoes. We cheated and bought the dessert at Harris Teeter.  They have a rather extensive fancy dessert section.  We always assumed it wasn’t that great.  But after 4+ miles, we decided to give it a shot opposed to making something from scratch. 

I was totally fine that we didn’t go out somewhere.  Sometimes, its nice to just have a big fancy dinner at home.

 

What did you do for Valentine’s Day?

Like a Chesapeak Bay Native

Tonight’s dinner consisted of crab cakes and sweet potato french fries.  I wish I could say I made any of it from scratch.  But alas, we’re having my good friend Trader Joe to dinner tonight.

Trader Joe’s pre-made frozen crab cakes come in vacuum sealed packs of two.  They are a little thin, but they were great for crab cake sandwiches.  It’s not lump crab meat, but it’s definitely more crab than “filler.”  Directions said to defrost the crab cakes before cooking, but I threw them right from the freezer into a pan on low.

As for a side, I had Trader Joe’s sweet potato fries.  By themselves, they are a little bland.  I spiced them up with a dash of salt and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.  The spice was an excellent addition to the fries.

All in all – it was dinner success.

Although, lately for me successful dinner is anything that can be passed off as an actual dinner (aka not handfuls of pita chips) and can be fridge to table in under 30 minutes.  I just don’t always have the time and energy to spend an hour making everything from scratch.

Now, Ben and I are enjoying a nice glass of wine, some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and some White Collar.

Picture of Neal Caffrey White Collar

Stew Time!

On Monday, Ben and I FINALLY got rid of our Christmas tree.  As sad as I am to see it go, it certainly makes our apartment feel a lot bigger without it!

But the most exciting part was my first attempt at home-made stew!  Somehow, I am 25 years old, and I had never made stew from scratch.

Beef Stew adopted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.  AKA my cooking bible

makes 4-6 servings

  • slightly more than one pound of stew meat (I just put the whole package in.  It’s not an exact science)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups carrots, chopped
  • two stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 small-to-medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped/minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • basil
  • one can of 99 percent fat-free beef broth
  1. In a medium size stew pot (I used my new cherry red Le Cruset), add enough vegetable oil to clearly cover the bottom of the pan.  Bring the oil to a simmer.
  2. Brown all of the meat in the oil (if you need to add more oil as you work, that’s fine.  I just kept it so there was constantly oil covered the bottom of the pan).  Depending how wide your pan is, you may not be able to brown all of your meat at once, that’s fine as well.
  3. Remove all the meat once browned and put aside.  In the oil, add the garlic and onions and allow them to cook in the oil.  Cook until the onions are translucent – I think it took about 10 minutes for mine to cook.
  4. Add flour to mixture.
  5. Add the meat back into the pot, as well as the can of beef broth and 1/2 cup of water.  Add salt, pepper and basil per your liking.  (sorry, I didn’t measure).  Bring the mixture to a boil, then bring it down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours.
  6. Taste broth, consider adding any more seasoning as necessary.
  7. Add potatoes, celery, carrots.  Bring mixture to a boil, then bring it back down to a “high simmer”.  Cover and let it cook for another 30 minutes.

ENJOY!  Sorry I was a bit of a failure and didn’t take any pictures, but trust me it was great.  And it was just as good the next day!  The stew was very hearty – if you prefer to have your stew last more than 4-6 servings or like more gravy in your stew, I would recommend adding two cans of beef brother and a cup of water.

 

I’m debating taking a bath right now while Benjamin watches the Duke game.  Last night at the gym, I was having such a great run that I decided it would be a wonderful idea to push my limits.  Lately, I’ve been sticking with 25-30 minute runs, which usually come out to be somewhere in the 2.5 mile range.  Last night, I pushed myself on distance (3.3 miles), time  (35 minutes), and speed (I actually had a 9:35 mile in there.  That’s fast for me).  Not so smart, and my legs are a bit tight now.  Considering I pushed all three, I guess I shouldn’t complain that I’m only a little sore.  Note to self: pushing all three limits is how people get hurt.  Chillax.  Although secretly I just want to go back to the gym and see if I can do it again!

Five goals for 2011

2011.  Its a big year.  I’ll be a quarter century years old.  I’ll change last names.  And as expected, I’m working on a list of goals for 2011.  Here is what I have so far. 

 

1. Maintain a workout regimen: get at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week.  Since most of my exercise tends to be on the active opposed to moderate style, that puts me above what the government recommends for a healthy lifestyle
 
2. Cook more: Cook at least one new meal per week, and to have a dinner that does not focus around pasta at least 2 other days of the week. I can not eat pasta forever.  Ok, I probably can, but it wouldn’t be a good idea.  Maybe I’ll find a cook book to cook my way through (a la Julie and Julia!)

3.  Get married with as little stress as possible:  I try and make my goals measurable and concrete.  Not sure stress level is really measurable.  But I think this is an important one. I will do as much planning and organizing up to the wedding as possible to make things move smoothly during the weekend’s festivities.  Any idea how I can make this goal more measurble?

4. Blog Blog Blog: Keep on blogging.  Every day isn’t realistic right now for me.  But I will find a schedule that works for me and stick to it. 

5. Excel at work: Again, I don’t get too specific about work things on here, so lets just leave this here and ya’ll can trust me that I have a plan.  Cool?

Are you developing a list of goals for 2011?  What goals have you set for yourself?  Any ideas how I can make my stress free wedding goal measurable?

Political Dinner

I was reading The Washingtonian and I got inspired to write a posting/series: For Dinner – a roundup of people that I’d like to have over for dinner/drinks.  Being a D.C. based poli-sci dork, the theme of this roundup will be political/election based.

First Lady Michelle Obama
While President Obama would be an obvious choice for some, I think it would be more interesting to hear what Mrs. Obama has to say.  She is an intelligent woman and I’d love to hear what she has to say, without all the politics.

Karl Rove
Clearly, this man knows political strategy.  What does he think of the upcoming election?  How are Republicans framing the issue?  Is it too late for the Dems?  What does he see being the next big issues.


Tony Snow
I would just love to pick this guy’s brain and hear about his career experiences.  This one isn’t as election focused and general political communications.

Steven Colbert
Comedic relief anyone?

Charlie Cook
When it comes to analyzing elections, Charlie is your man.  I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a work function, and he is just really tuned in.  I heard what he thought 2-3 months ago, I want to know what he thinks now that we are a week out.

Whose election analysis would you like to hear?