August 12, 2017

Since the loss of my mom just shy of two years ago, I have learned that losing a parent is a wound that never heals. Still raw from that void in our hearts, we now know that the most painful goodbyes are those that are unexplained. Dad, you will be missed more than you could know. I love you. I'm grateful for our time shared and memories made, and I will hold those over the past couple years most dear.

Sunbasket: Italian Sausage, Red Pepper, Broccoli and Celery Root Mash

August 3, 2017

I was really excited to try this Sunbasket meal. To cut back on carbs it called for Celery Root. I was intrigued. First of all, I've never even tried celery root let alone prepared it. Second, I'm always looking for new ways to reduce carbs. While I love them truly. madly. deeply. I simply cannot carb load like I could in my younger years. I try to practice restraint, tasty alternatives help the cause.

Furthermore, this recipe also included a note from Sunbasket, it stated they had to substitute the Italian sausage links for ground sausage per quality control and they provided alternate cooking instructions. Fortunately, Italian sausage is a staple in our house. So, I instead defrosted a couple links from the freezer and opted to use the provided sausage at a later date (which ultimately was used for meat sauce over rigatoni - proving it's hard for me to resist carbs).

I placed the sausages, bell pepper and broccoli onto a sheet pan and roasted them in the oven until the sausage was cooked through and the veggies were tender (and later tossed them with sherry vinegar). Meanwhile, I prepared the celery root mash. It was easier to work with than I imagined, had I seen it in the grocery store I'd be intimidated. I trimmed the skin and cut the flesh into quarters and then 1/4" thick slices. I heated butter in a sauce pan and then added thinly sliced shallots and the sliced celery root, cooking it until tender. Once softened, I added vegetable broth and brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer until I was able to use the masher. It came together very much like mashed potatoes. The depth and richness was a pleasant surprise. Frank and I both liked the mash and combined with the peppers and broccoli was a fun twist on the sausage and peppers we typically enjoy. I could make this again and again, I don't think I'd hear any complaints.

Wordless Wednesday: Wheeler's Pass

August 2, 2017

Breaking 30 Badly

August 1, 2017
Amy and I threw, our brother Mike, a surprise 30th birthday party with a Breaking Bad theme. The cake was killer, it was a definite center piece. It came out even better than we expected, complete with Los Pollos Hermanos chickens, a bacon 30, Heisenberg, and a cartoon Jesse and Walt in hazmat suits, and, of course, blue meth. The theme was carried throughout our menu, we served roof pizza, Los Pollos Hermanos Chicken Wings, Heisenbergers (cheeseburger sliders), madrigal sauces, awkward guacamole, funyuns and blue rock candy. You could wash it down with Shraderbrau or blue barrel juice for the kids.

Decorations were a bit sparse, we were smack dab in the middle of our painting project. Time already wasn't on my side, I was further delayed when the guest of honor showed up unannounced about two hours before his party. I scrambled to keep him out of the fridge and party details out of sight while I came up with an excuse to send him to my sisters until the big reveal. We had nods to the show scattered inside and out. In hindsight, I could've done a better job capturing the details. However, we pulled off the surprise and had a fun celebration. I can't ask for better than that.

Wordless Wednesday: 4th of July

July 26, 2017

Summer Madness

July 24, 2017
I didn't plan on taking a hiatus in July, but here we are three weeks into July. It's not like there were trips that occupied the gap. I haven't traveled a bit since April - I'm suffering from wanderlust, BIG time! We have a weekend planned in San Diego next month, but that's all that's on my calendar. Frank, on the other hand, just returned from Laughlin, Tahoe and Reno. His travels were for work so it wasn't all fun & games. He's been swamped. He could use a breather. We plan to cross over to Tijuana on our San Diego trip. I'm super excited to see what it's like just over the border. I hear the food scene is amazing! I have no doubt we'll be in for a treat.

I've kept busy with projects around the house. We've added shutters, painted several rooms and we've been shopping for floors. Even when it's not fully DIY it's still rather time consuming researching options, setting appointments, and scheduling work to be done. I think we've chosen our floors. We've gone round and round, but I'm pretty certain we will go with wood like tile planks. It is going to be a huge project, there is over 1100 sq ft of tile on the lower level alone. I'm ready to pull the trigger, but scheduling it will be tricky. Here's hoping we can sort it out sooner than later. I'll be sharing before and afters so stay tuned for those.

When I haven't been searching home improvement stuff, I've been shopping for a new car. Ugh, is there anything worse?! My Elantra is only a 2013, I had plans of keeping it for the long haul, but its turned out to be a bit of a lemon. The engine was replaced at 24,000 miles and it seems I'm well on my way to my third as I approach 48,000. I've gotten mailers for extended warranties on airbags, etc for parts that are faulty. No recall, just extended warranties. I'm so cheap, I have complete sticker shock going to the dealer. Frank is a master negotiator - I'm so grateful - still, we haven't found a dealer motivated enough to sell me a car. With any luck, as 2017 ticks by, I'll finally be able to snag a deal that I can live with. The prices I've seen so far are simply ridiculous, it's a pill I just can't swallow. I feel alone in this, though; as I drive around town I see nothing, but new rides that cost $40k+. I cringe when thinking of spending half that. I cannot even imagine. I suspect a car bubble is coming soon.

I've been thoroughly enjoying summer thus far - the recent humidity from the monsoonal moisture, less so. I've lost count of how many times I've been in the pool this year. The sunny days and warm temps have allowed the water to hang right around 90 degrees which is just right, if you ask me. Frank has been killing it as pool boy, the water has been crystal clear and there hasn't been a single algae bloom which is pretty remarkable given the high temps. The kids love the pool. Addy's confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. She can hold her breath under water like a pro and she's learning motions to swim. Lex is a wild child. Completely fearless. She had tubes put in her ears this spring and that is the only thing holding her back. She insists she's the next Michael Phelps. She thinks she can swim and jump in with no supervision necessary. When you hover, she just pushes away and snaps "stop it!" She can teeter on every last nerve, but I adore that sassy pants wild child. We had a great low-key 4th of July with just the family. Frank, Jeff and Mike recruited Nick to assist with this year's firework show. It went off without a hitch, a few neighbors had quite the spread too, so it was a nice display. Addy cheered for more, and preferred the purple ones. Meanwhile, Lex was downright scared of the booms and wanted no part of earplugs so she stayed inside (Amy and I rotated between the girls).

We celebrated my brother's 30th birthday with a surprise party. Our theme was Breaking 30 Badly, he's the biggest fan of the show so it seemed like a natural fit. It's always fun to get an idea and run with it. I really enjoy themed parties (at any age). I can't believe my little brother is 30, though. There is only a couple more years until my sister crosses that milestone. Then, I'll really be in denial. Old age is one sneaky SOB.

My dad visited for a couple months so he was able to join us for our summer adventures. He was a big help to Frank and I during our painting project. The doggy door repair took much longer than expected so he spent a week by our place watching paint dry. He kept an eye on the painters so Frank and I didn't miss any work. He returned home last week. Addy desperately wanted to go on the airplane with him. No matter how much I explained we didn't have tickets she insisted we follow him. Amy and Jeff booked a trip back to Chicago with the kids in January (the first since they moved two years ago). Addy will be thrilled to finally fly in the airplane and visit "her family". It's all she talks about since she learned of the news.

That's the gist of happenings lately. I hope summer is treating you well in your neck of the woods.

Restaurant Week: Sugarcane

June 30, 2017
Honestly, I had not even heard of Sugarcane until we walked passed it on our way to Chica. Apparently, it's been open since November. I completely glossed over the menu on Three Square's page too. Had I seen it, I definitely would've been intrigued. It turns out, Sugarcane is a miami-based restaurant by the same group that runs SushiSamba at the Grand Canal Shoppes. Menu items come from the raw bar, the grill or the kitchen. We received a sampling with the $40 Restaurant Week Menu. When our group of six arrived after having just walked out of Chica, Sugarcane's hostesses were friendly and accommodating despite having no reservations. We were seated at large table just off the grill. Our server was fantastic, she catered to our every need.

We began with dishes from the raw bar. First was the Snapper Ceviche. The flavors were clean and fresh, the sweet potato provided a bit of sweetness and the crispy maiz gave the dish a crunchy bite. Second was the Salmon Poke which was my favorite. It was light, citrusy and just the right amount of salty. I loved the texture of the puffed rice. The Hokkaido Scallop Crudo was a tasty bite with apple and hint of black truffle.

The kitchen prepared Brussels Sprouts that were positively addictive. So, much so we ordered an extra for the table to share. The Bacon Wrapped Date with linguca sausage was also a crowd pleaser. We enjoyed the meaty bite with the hint of sweetness. The Goat Cheese Croquettes were fried with a crispy exterior and a smooth creamy center. I have an aversion to goat cheese, but it looked so good I dug in to give it a try. However, I do no like goat cheese; no matter how well it's prepared or how often I try.

Next up were items from the grill. We sampled the Korean Short Ribs, Spanish Octopus and Chicken Breast with Yakitori sauce. I love octopus when it's done well. Unfortunately, the sauce was too assertive for such a delicate protein. The short ribs had good flavor, but it made me miss neighborhood Korean eateries. The chicken breast was the highlight. Great flavor, juicy and nice grill marks. It's quite rare when chicken is my favorite. They nailed it, though.

We had quite the spread already and dessert was yet to come. I was most excited for the Nutella Sundae, but it was the Torrejas that won me over. It is dulce de leche soaked french toast with carmelized apples and cinnamon ice cream. The french toast is truly outstanding. It's buttery rich and perfectly toasted with a soft center. It was a brioche to top all brioches. They soak it overnight and creme brulee the slices. A definite labor of love.

Sugarcane was such a delightful surprise. I'm happy we stumbled upon it. Restaurant Week ends today, but Sugarcane and a select Venetian restaurants will be honoring the menu until July 7, there's still time to check out this amazing deal.

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