Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Binge Post

Why did I title this entry, “A Binge Post”?  While I did not officially “binge” last weekend, there was much eating and cooking going on, and I felt a succinct title would be better than one that was a run-on sentence.  This is basically four posts mashed into one, and probably should have been four posts, but I had a busy week, so I’m taking the cluttered way out.  However, I’ve subtitled each one so you can pick and choose to read only the ones that interest you!

That said, on to the food…

Running for Chocolate
Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early… well, dark and early… 6am to be exact… earlier than I wake up for work… to run the Hot Chocolate 15K at National Harbor.  (That’s 9.3 miles for all you non-math/physics majors out there.)  I was super excited because what could be better than two things I love, running and chocolate, combined into one!

Since I don’t want this post to be a complaint of how poorly this race was organized, if you haven’t heard about it already, you can read about what a disaster the Washington, DC Hot Chocolate 5K/15K was here.  I’ll just say that after picking up two friends, Sarah and Tarcy, we were on our way out of the city on 295 by 6:55 am and we didn’t get to the start line until about 7:45 am due to the traffic and parking issues.  To find out that the 8 am start time was delayed.  Cut to 9:15 am… the race finally starts!  Again, I don’t want to complain about the course/corrals/walkers, so I’ll just say that I spent most of the race zigzagging around the thousands of people and still never achieved my optimal pace, so I was not super happy with my time.  At least I had the chocolate to look forward to!

Good news about the chocolate:  It was Ghirardelli, so it was great!  We got fondue in a little nacho-type tray with half a banana, half an apple, a few marshmallows, a few pretzel stick and a rice krispie treat.  And hot chocolate!  (Sorry for the lack of pictures… my brain usually only has food and sitting on its mind after a run.)

Bad news about the chocolate:  They rationed it:(

So basically, food is what saved the day.

Restaurant Review:  Cuba Libre
Saturday night, Jarrett’s old boss, Dave, was in town (old as in former), so I had made reservations at a place that I thought he would enjoy.  Cuba Libre!  Due to the fact that I didn’t take pictures (I didn’t want Dave to think I was weirder than he already thinks I am), this will be a super quickie review of what we got and whether or not you should ever get it:)  Though I have eaten here before, it was awhile back so I’ll only focus on what we got this time.  And since we decided to just do appetizers/tapas all family-style on our table, I can’t comment on any of the entrees.

Cuba Libre
801 9th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Tropical Red Sangria
Very average for sangria, but we got a pitcher so it definitely made sense if you know you’re all gonna want more than one drink.

Cuban bread and butter (on the house)
AMAZING!  I *may* have enjoyed this more than some of the dishes we ordered.  And since it’s their bread basket, you can eat as much as you want… for FREE! 

Tostones (Twice-fried crisp green plantains.  Garlic-mojo dipping sauce.)
Personally, I love tostones.  I have a Puerto-Rican Uncle Julio and growing up, my Auntie Sandy also made tostones for his birthday.  Maybe I only love hers…  I found Cuba Libre’s tostones to be too big (so they weren’t crispy enough) and the dipping sauce was not chock full of flavor.  I’d try something new next time.

Pato Ahumado (House-cured smoked duck, roasted corn salsa.  Huitlacoche vinaigrette.)
The boys wanted this to satisfy their meat cravings.  Personally, I could take it or leave it and I didn’t think the amount you got was worth the price.

El Chinito Cubano (Crispy “Cuban sandwich” spring rolls.  Pickled carrots, cabbage, and cilantro salad.  Chinese mustard sauce.)
Excluding the empanadas, this was my favorite item.  I like the concept as well as the execution.  We almost placed a second order; it tasted great!

Coctel de Camarones (Cuban style shrimp cocktail.  Latino coctel and avocado salsa.)
Also very tasty.  The accompaniments to the shrimpies were wonderful and you got 6 not-large-but-not-too-small shrimp.

Mama Amelia’s Empanadas (I got the Shrimp, creamy spinach, and pine nuts and the Hand-chopped chicken, corn, sweet peppers, and Jack cheese.)
These we all just ordered on our own, whatever we wanted.  Fantastic.  I ate my shrimp one first, so I only had a few bits of the chicken, but they were both great.  The dough was definitely what makes it.  The boys both also got the chicken, as well as the Pulled pork, roasted poblano, and charred tomatoes, and they raved about theirs, too:)

No dessert for us that night as the boys just finished my empanada and I was still on sugar-overload from all of the chocolate in the morning.

I’d eat here again… there’s still so much on the menu I need to try!

Sunday Night Supper:  Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup and Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Finally, a section where I’ll have pictures because I planned ahead/didn’t have post-run brain/wasn’t self-conscious!

Jarrett loves this tomato soup and since it’s starting to get cold outside, I thought it was a great idea.  It’s definitely a simple dinner… the grilled cheese takes no time to make at all, but the soup takes awhile and makes 8 cups so there’s plenty to eat throughout the week.  And you can easily whip up some more grilled cheese as needed or pair the soup with something else!

Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup
1 head garlic
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling garlic
Salt and pepper
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
8 cups stewed tomatoes, including juice
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove loose papery skins from garlic, leaving head intact.  Cut half an inch off the top of the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake on center rack for 40 minutes until garlic has softened.  Allow to cool.
2.      In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat ½ teaspoon olive oil.  Add onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

3.      Stir in tomatoes, water, and all seasonings.  Bring to a boil.

4.      Reduce heat and squeeze in roasted garlic.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

5.      Puree with a hand blender until mostly smooth.

*Original recipe may be found in The Eat-Clean Diet, by Tosca Reno.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Bread (for as many sandwiches as you want)
Shredded cheese (as much and whatever kind you like, my sous chef (Jarrett) and I used a mixture of Grafton Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere, and Emmenthaler)

1.      Over medium heat, prepare a grill pan placed over two burners (or just a skillet) with Pam.
2.      Butter both sides of all of the bread you intend to use and place in heated, prepared pan.
3.      When nice and brown and crispy, flip the half of the pieces of bread over, and put as much shredded cheese as you would like in each sandwich on each of the flipped pieces of bread.
4.      Take the unflipped pieces of bread and placed them, ungrilled side up, on the pieces of bread with cheese.
5.      When the bread touching the grill pan is nice and brown and crispy, flip the entire sandwich one last time, until the last side of bread is nice and brown and crispy.
6.      Serve with tomato soup:)
Note:  I like my sandwiches cut into triangles, but Jarrett did  the majority of the grilled cheese while I was making the soup... including the cutting...

Book Club Goodies:  White Chocolate Chip Dried Cherry Cookies

I am in two book clubs.  Yes, two.  If you combine both clubs’ books into one, I probably read them about 50% of the time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love reading… it mostly just depends on if my reading schedule lines up with the book clubs’ schedules.  I won’t read more than one book at a time, I won’t partially read a book, stop, read a second book, then go back to the first book, and when I finish a book, I need another one in queue to start reading right away.  I always purchase the book club books and there have been multiple occasions where I’ll read it like a year after we’ve discussed it.

But it’s all good because book club is about more than just reading books… it’s also about wine and female camaraderie and wine.  So this month, one of my book clubs had a cookie exchange!  It’s where you make/bring cookies, and so does everyone else and you take a few from everyone, so you all leave with multiple kinds of cookies!  The recipe below always makes me think of Christmas for some reason, and since this was December book club, it’s what I decided to make.

White Chocolate Chip Dried Cherry Cookies


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries


1.      Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2.      In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and liqueur. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cherries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.  (You should get about 24 cookies… I think this is the first time I actually correctly made the amount the original recipe called for!  But feel free to make them larger or smaller as you desire.)
Please excuse my messy kitchen:)

3.      Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

*Original recipe can be located here.

I swear I'll try to make my next few posts shorter!

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