Monday, April 30, 2012

Television Series

A few weeks ago, we finished The Wire, the 2002-2008 HBO Series, courtesy of our wonderful library. And today, I finished the 2011 ABC Family show, Switched at Birth, courtesy of Netflix. Both television series are starkly different, but both excite me in similar ways. It dawned on me afterward that the reason I prefer these types of dramas over the conventional House, Grey's Anatomy, or The Office tv drama -- which, by the way, I love these and watch them on Hulu each week -- is because it provides a perspective into worlds that I would not ordinarily experience.

In The Wire, you enter Baltimore and dually see it from the perspectives of police officers and gang members. It's amazing to me that this sub-culture can actually exist in America but feel so non-relevant to my life. This television drama is wonderfully written, acted and directed beautifully, and makes you feel a part of their world. I hurt when they hurt, and afterward, I feel dirty for being part of a population that has created the chasms in our society to allow disparity and violence to occur. The Wire pushes every issue -- "race," equality, politics, poverty -- and pushes them well.

I happened upon Switched at Birth twice in one week and though of it as an omen after the second time to finally sit down and watch it. First, Netflix recommended it to me, and then a few days later I watched the most recent episode of Grey's Anatomy and Vanessa Marano was guest-starring on the show (you might know her from Gilmore Girls or Dexter)...and I realized she was also one of the main characters on Switched at Birth! For those, like me, not up to date on these cable-network television shows, the premise of this one is that two girls were, dun dun dun, switched at birth, grew up in different families, and then at age 15-16 realized the truth after some quick DNA testing. The writing/direction/acting isn't even comparable to HBO or Showtime series that steal my heart, but there is a reason why Netflix thought I would rate it a 4.2/5 stars. In the very first episode you find out that one of the SAB (switched-at-birth) girls is part of the deaf community after becoming deaf at age three due to strong antibiotics to treat bacterial meningitis. I actually think this aspect of the show, not the whole SAB plot, is most interesting. The deaf community is yet another sub-culture existing in this country (and around the world) that I am not a part of of and feels non-relevant to my life because other than knowing about deaf persons, I don't really know deaf persons. Daphne, played by Katie Leclerc, ends up affecting the entire family and everyone is eventually encouraged to learn American Sign Language (ASL). You see the failures and triumphs of a few characters that are deaf and how they deal with "hearing people," (sometimes a negative stereotype). Like The Wire, I feel both excited and empathetic learning about this culture of people and how they have adjusted (very well) to their "disability." On top of that, I have learned a bit of ASL through the show! J. did some reading at work today, and it turns out that the episodes that appear on Netflix (currently through E22) aren't even the completion of Season 1 (I think this is very strange), so I am thrilled to soon watch more of the Kinnish/Vasquez family drama unfold. More importantly, I am thrilled about more exposure to this culture that exists outside of "my world," albeit I will have to see some terrible acting/writing too.

More than anything, I have realized there has been some personal growth in entertainment preferences. The conclusion I have come to is that I love these television series that really invite me in, help me understand things I didn't know anything about -- no matter how different it is. Dexter and Weeds are also entertaining, but it's so far "out there" that it becomes unreachable and unrelateable (and that's why I can go a year without seeing either and wait patiently for them on Netflix or from our library). Other favorites? Sopranos, MadMen, and Boardwalk Empire to name a few. What do you think?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Food: White Bean and Avocado Enchiladas

On Sunday evening we had White Bean and Avocado Enchiladas. I'd love to link to the original recipe, but it appears the link is no longer working! Good thing I have a great memory. (:

These enchiladas are simple to make and leave you feeling satisfied but not overly stuffed (something I can appreciate). Also, they reheat wonderfully, something we both can attest to as we had them for lunch today!

One thing I will have to say about this recipe is that it makes a lot of servings -- estimated around 12 servings based on the original recipe, but probably about 6-8 with the way I made them. The original recipe didn't specify what size tortillas, so I think we 8" taco flour shells, it makes about 12-servings, but with the 10" ones I used, makes the 6- or 8-servings. Decide based on what you need! Or cut the recipe in half if you don't want a lot of leftovers.

White Bean and Avocado Enchiladas

  • 2 14.5oz cans of Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 16oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 avocado, ripened
  • 3 4oz cans of green chilis
  • 1/4 C Parsley
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbs Chili powder
  • two bundles of green onions
  • twelve 8" or eight 10" flour tortillas
  • Pre-heat oven to 375F
  • Heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook about 7-minutes, until translucent but not browned
  • In a food processor, blend avocado, cans of green chili, and green onions; set aside
  • In the saucepan, add beans, tomatoes, Parsley, salt & pepper, and chili powder; heat for about 10-minutes
  • Spread avocado sauce at the bottom of a 13x9 pan
  • Begin making enchiladas by placing a spoonful of the bean mixture and a small handful of shredded cheese in the center of tortilla and wrap up burrito-style; place in pan
  • After all enchiladas are wrapped, spread rest of avocado sauce over enchiladas, and sprinkle cheese on top
  • Bake approximately 20-minutes. Enjoy!

Food: Fancy Grilled Cheese II

Last week we happily enjoyed our Fancy Grilled Cheese dinner with our friends, J. & D. Little did we know before planning the dinner that the day we would consume these delicacies would also be National Grilled Cheese Day! Boy did we celebrate (and so did Louise the next day, apparently).

Like last time, we simply used chunks of mozzarella, caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, and bacon for these sandwiches. Note to self: use thinly sliced, non-mapley bacon for future sandwiches.


For sides, we had a mix of fruit and pre-made waffle cut sweet potato fries. I wanted to make a dipping sauce for them and found a simple recipe online somewhere (forgot to bookmark it). It consisted of three ingredients: fat-free sour cream, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. I kind of estimated the amounts, but probably used 1C sour cream, 1/4C brown sugar, and 2 tsp vanilla extract.

I'd say our First Annual National Grilled Cheese Day Celebration was a success!

Weekly Yums | 16-22 April 2012

Moe's Monday

Tuesday Night Group, hosted by J. and K.  

Fancy Grilled Cheese and Fresh Fruit  
with leftover ingredients  

Pasta with Red Sauce, Garlic Bread, Salad
using pantry remnants  

Herbed Pasta with Corn & Goat Cheese and Fresh Fruit  
never got around to making this last week  

Picnic at the Park with our Sunday School Group  
late lunch/early dinner

Herb and Goat Cheese Frittata and Fresh Fruit

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Travel: Maine, New Hampshire, Montreal

In one of my least productive days of this week, I decided to "organize" our digital photo files while eating leftovers and watching House and SVU. Really, I was searching for this one particular album from last summer where some of my girlfriends and I went on an awesome adventure in the Pacific Northwest. The photos have been missing for a while, so in this massive search, I ended up finding more gems than I expected! Here are some random ones from our trip last September to the Atlantic Northeast. (:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Food: Sage-Walnut Pesto Pasta with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Unexpectedly, I was able to leave work a few hours early today, so after finishing some homework, I started on dinner. We deviated a little bit this week from our original menu plan due to some slow-to-ripen avocados, but really it all worked out great! I prepared this meal while JP installed new brakes on my car. I don't care how chauvinist the image may seem, but nothing is sexier than seeing your husband with grease on his hands, sweat on his brow, laboring to serve you. He didn't know it, but I kept peeking outside to see how he was trucking along. {-:

This dinner was exceptionally fun to make! I had never really cooked with such a great quantity of herbs, and it really enjoyable to see what natural greens can become. I left the door open while in the kitchen -- it's so breezy out with the incoming cool front -- and Gilly happily went in and out, seeing what everybody was up to. We decided to eat outside, just can't get over this wonderful weather!

While J. finished with the brakes, I walked to the back of our yard to examine the newly-blooming bushes/trees. Please tell me you know the name of these flowers! I found several that might meet the description, but I am just not certain. Help?!

Breathtaking, right?

The Gilly Monster scampering away

Unintentionally, we ate this when it was more on the cool side and it still tasted delicious. As some of my friends know, I am not a ricotta fan and was tempted to substitute it with goat cheese, but in a last-minute decision, stayed as true to the recipe as I could, plus we already had the ricotta from a previous dinner. There's such a small amount used, and the pesto is the more dominant flavor, so I really didn't mind it at all. Plus, it all mixes together rather nicely. And those tomatoes? To die for. I can see this becoming a classic in our household.

Also served with the pasta, we have toasted Parmesan Ciabatta bread -- which is exactly as it sounds -- and a mix of fruit: strawberry, kiwi, clementine, black grape, and plum. We opened a bottle of Biltmore Estate Riesling (from our first wedding anniversary trip) and enjoyed a small glass with dinner. What a great evening together!

Sage-Walnut Pesto Pasta with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs thyme
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 C parsley
  • 1/2 C sage
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 oz Parmesan cheese, broken into a few pieces
  • 3/4 C walnuts, toasted and cooled
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 16 oz linguine
  • 1/2 C ricotta
  • Preheat oven to 400F. In small 8x8 baking dish, place tomatoes, olive oil, thyme, and salt/pepper. Roast 30-minutes until skins are wrinkled.
  • Begin boiling a pot of water for pasta noodles
  • In a food processor, combine parsley, sage, garlic and Parmesan. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the toasted walnuts and pulse until combined. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until desired consistency. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Prepare pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving 1 C of pasta cooking water. Return pasta to pot and mix in ricotta. Add 1/2 of pesto and stir to combine. Add the pasta water as needed to loosen sauce until desired consistency. Taste and add more pesto. Serve with roasted tomatoes on top.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weekly Yums | 9-15 April 2012

Moe's Monday

Tuesday Night Group, hosted by us!
vegetarian hash-brown casserole, cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit

Fancy Grilled Cheese and Spring Spinach Salad

Herbed Pasta with Corn & Goat Cheese and Fresh Fruit

White Bean and Avocado Enchiladas with Fresh Fruit

Sage Walnut Pesto Pasta with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes with Spring Spinach Salad

Smoky Corn and Black Bean Pizza with Bobbye Sue's Frito Salad (corn, black beans, avocado, Fritos/tortilla chips, and cheddar cheese with French dressing)

We are still taking a blogging break, but honestly, I needed to make this update for my own organizational sanity. Thanks to my husband (of two years, today!) for contributing this entire menu for the week. I have a stack of Vegetarian Times I cannot wait to indulge in once graduation has come and gone. This is going to be a busy summer of home renovations, DIY projects, travel, and cooking!