Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Super Belated Birthday Post

So, I had a really awesome birthday, which I meant to blog about. Leon and and I somewhat spontaneously went to Atlanta for the weekend and it was a very welcome change of scenery. I'll let the pictures do the talking. Our main activities were the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Georgia Aquarium, both of which were amazing. I took a ridiculous amount of photos, so trimming it down to the favorites is difficult. I took 500 pictures at the botanical garden alone, which filled up my memory card and meant going back and selectively deleting quite a few pictures to take more. Being away from my family on holidays and my birthday is especially difficult, but getting out of town and having some alone time with Leon made for a very special day.
I have, in the past, claimed that Tallahassee is basically
southern Georgia. Fairly quickly into our expedition,
I realized that this isn't true. There was a very southern feel,
and tons of cotton, which was really cool!

These vibrant jellyfish were almost too amazing for words.
The whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium -
these things are absolutely huge. So cool.

Sea dragons - a relative of the sea horse. Leon and I are still
trying to decide whether these were real or not.

Another shot of the whale shark
The longest escalator EVER. Probably only
interesting to me.
Hilarious sign at the Atlanta lightrail. We really appreciated that
vandalizing and assaulting the employees had to be
specifically forbidden.
The amazing water plants at the botanical garden.
I can't wait to go again when more things are in bloom.

I believe this qualifies as an orchid.
I was especially obsessed with the pitcher plants -
seriously, these things look like something out of Alice in Wonderland
or any other host of psychedelic children's programming.
More amazing orchids.
The bees were crazy - I don't think I've seen bumble bees before, they're huge!
They were so fat that sometimes the plants there were resting on would start tipping!
Me, in front of the fountain with a Dale Chihuly sculpture on top. We match!
Like nothing I've ever seen.
The lone ladybug.

Ok, my intention was to pick like five of my favorite photos, but the fifteen or so here are still the
product of major self restraint.

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

I'm very much in love with this recipe - mostly for the apples and onions. The combined flavors of the pork, apples and onions are amazing. Best of all, this is really quick and easy! I've also made this with pork tenderloin, which I prefer, but that's a rare delicacy around here. I adapted this from Marta Stewart.
The original recipe calls for maple syrup in the balsamic glaze, which is delicious, but I prefer honey. I have this great whipped cinnamon honey, which is perfect for this. But regular honey and a few sprinkles of cinnamon also works nicely.

That's a salad plate, folks - NOT the world's biggest pork chop.

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions


For the glaze:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsps honey (or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

4 pork chops (or one pork tenderloin)
3 red apples (cored and sliced, wish skin)
1 medium red onion (cut in large slices)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Bubbly balsam


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle pork chops or pork tenderloin with some salt and pepper.
2. On a large baking sheet toss the apples and onions with enough olive oil to coat. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and add a sprinkle of cinnamon. When oven is preheated, put the apples and onions in.
3. Meanwhile, put the honey and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan on medium-high heat, stirring frequently until reduced and syrupy. Be careful to not let the reduction get too syrupy and sticky or it won't spread evenly - it shouldn't need to reduce for more than five minutes.
4. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the balsamic syrup for drizzling. Brush pork chops with balsamic syrup and put in the oven, about ten minutes after you put in the apples and onions. Re-toss apples and onions to keep them from getting crispy.
5. The apples and onions should need a total of 15-20 minutes, until onions are tender and apples are at a lovely level of mushiness. The pork chops should need no more than 10 minutes. Monitor the apples and onions closely, it's easy for them to get overly crispy in the high temperature oven.
6. Let the pork chops rest for a few minutes, drizzle with the reserved balsamic syrup and serve.

Seriously, make this.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

[Squashed] Roasted Butternut Squash

Tallahassee has finally been overcome by some bone-chilling, fall appropriate temperatures. And by that I mean that it has finally gotten down to 60 degrees. I've definitely acclimated, because the other day it was around 60 degrees and raining and I was whining and proclaiming that I was going to freeze to death. The Coloradan in me is disgusted - when it's 60 degrees in Colorado people sometimes get excited that it's finally/still appropriate to wear flip flops and mini skirts. But I am excited to feel less fraudulent about making fall food.
Some of the best cold weather food is of the high calorie, comfort variety. But this is a great dish for fall that packs only 40 calories per half cup and packed with vitamins A and C. Tonight I made butternut squash for the first time, and it was super easy and delicious.

[Squashed] Roasted Butternut Squash

Ok, maybe I could have called this "mashed" butternut squash, but that just didn't seem as fun.


1 butternut squash
2 tbsps butter or substitute (I used low fat Fleischmans)
1.5 tbsps brown sugar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

The squash, post butter and brown sugar rub down.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Wash the squash and cut it in half. I had to use my santoku knife, but a cleaver or something similar would be good.
2. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff - I used a fork, but I bet a grapefruit knife would really do it.
3. If the squash won't sit evenly, cut a piece off of the bottom and it will be stable.
4. Spread softened butter or substitute on each half. Liberally add salt and pepper, then rub 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
5. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until slightly browned and fork tender.
6. Scoop out the flesh into a medium sized bowl. Use a potato masher to get rid of any chunks and flavor with salt, pepper and cinnamon to taste.

Post-roasing, slightly browned a tender. Yum, yum.

The final product. Verdict: healthy and delicious

Time flies by

Time goes by so fast that I can hardly reconcile it. I remember summer vacations that lasted an eternity, but now the days seem to pass more quickly than I can keep track of. I don't know if it's the nature of law school or my old age, but I never think "It's only Wednesday?" anymore. Anyhow, I wish I could update more, but I thought a quick capsule of the last week with highlights could be interesting - though maybe just to me.

Last Friday: Went to a Halloween Party. I had the idea of going as Don and Betty Draper of "Mad Men," but it was very last minute and Leon wasn't feeling it. I didn't put up a fight, but then I was curling my hair and saw the pearls I was planning to wear and got kind of bummed out. Leon reluctantly agreed, and I fashioned him a "Don after work" look that only required slacks, an white dress shirt with the top couple buttons undone and an undershirt with lipstick marks that certainly didn't match my shade - very scandalous, very Don Draper. I even brought cupcakes and my apron - a very '60s homemaker move.

We went to a fun Halloween party thrown by one of Leon's old roomies then came home with hopes of catching "The Soup." But the long day caught up with me and I quickly passed out on the couch. I woke up hours later and found that Leon had taken up residence in the living room as well. Apparently he couldn't wake me up and didn't want to ditch me on the couch in case I was disoriented when I woke up. Very sweet, Don definitely wouldn't do that for Betty. I was super disappointed the next day when I realized that we never got a picture of our costumes, but I may go for it again next year and put more effort into the look.

Saturday: Caught up on the Halloween episode of "The Office." Pam comes dressed as Popeye's Olive Oil, but Jim didn't dress up and no one knows who she is supposed to be. I express excitement and understanding, because I had the same conversation with Leon about why I couldn't go as Betty alone.

Sunday: I realize that it's actually Halloween, but I feel Halloween-d out and spend the afternoon doing homework in the library.

Tuesday: I experience a little bit of expected depression after spending a great deal of the day keeping up with the Midterm elections.

Wednesday: I decide to be an upstanding law student and spend the late afternoon and early evening in the library with the promise of America's Next Top Model and a glass of wine for my efforts. I felt energized as a left the library, felt a little of that rare Fall spirit as the brisk outside air hit my face, and then felt really annoyed when I realized that the really loud music I was hearing was coming from a concert at the bar behind my apartment. Sigh. Thankfully a little bit of rain got them to wrap up early and I didn't feel overly accosted.

Today: Leon is taking the MPRE tomorrow (the ethics exam you have to complete along with the bar exam to become an attorney) so I have been doing my part by watching "Say Yes to the Dress" and lots of HGTV to keep him from getting distracted :). I also made butternut squash for the first time - recipe to follow.

Days and other items not accounted for were comprised of lots of school stuff so boring that it would make the rest of this look downright interesting.