Happy Birthday Coco Maria de las Galletas!

Last week was Coco’s first birthday, yay!!  Last year Coco was born during one of our monumental blizzards, and this year wasn’t much different.  Charlie and I both worked from home that day, because of a snow storm that had hit the night before.   So, we celebrated by showering her with treats and socks.

I like socks!

I like socks!

Then went to the dog park, but I guess because of the snow storm, no one was there. She didn’t seem to notice that no one came to party for her birthday. She was happy to play catch the snowball.





Good Girl!

Good Girl!

Got it!

Got it!

Coco on the rocks

Coco on the rocks

¡Que Viva España!

When we were in Miami for Christmas Charlie picked up a 2 lbs chorizo.  At first I was all, “yess!” But then I realized I had to do something with all of that chorizo because if we just ate it all with the wheel of manchego cheese he picked up, we would never poop again it wouldn’t be that healthy.  So I decided to make two spanish-style tortas (omelets) with it.

The first one would be a tasty one, with chorizo and potatoes.

Prep included cutting two red potatoes and about 1/2 cup of chorizo into cubes.  I also whisked 7 eggs with a couple pinches of paprika, salt and freshly ground pepper.  First, on the stove-top I simmered (on medium heat) the potato cubes in olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of cumin, and garlic powder until they were about half-cooked.  Then I added the chorizo to the simmering taters and watched the chorizo cubes ooze grease.  Looked gross, but the ambrosial smell tickled all the cave-person parts of my brain that detect calorie-rich foods that are perfect for storing fat for the winter, also known as “the french fries spot.”  Anywho, after the chorizo simmered for a couple minutes I added the whisked eggs on top of the already simmering chorizo/potato mix.

Chorizo-grease ambrosia

I stirred it a bit, and then set the oven’s broiler, so that once the bottom side of the torta cooked, I could pop the pan in the oven to cook the top of it for a few minutes until it turned golden brown.  So easy, so delish!

Coco is totally down to try some!

Overcome by guilt, I wanted to try the recipe again, but try to make it at least a little healthier.  So I took a chance and used just egg whites and chorizo (we ran out of potato, so I didn’t include any).  I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.  Chorizo is tasty, but tasty enough to just hang out with egg whites… we’ll see.  I cooked it the same way.  I’m not going to lie, it didn’t smell that good, and I contemplated just eating the simmered chorizo, but it ended up working out in the end, and was pretty good.

Egg-white Torta

Consumption Reports: Northern Virginia Grocery Stores

I found another excuse to put together a spreadsheet! We just moved to a new area, and there are several grocery stores within 5 miles of the house.  In an effort to decide which grocery store to go to, I started keeping track of different basic items we were buying (spreadsheet below).  This is hard to keep track of because sometimes the grocery stores had specials on particular items, which made comparing more difficult.  I’ll keep adding to this list as I go, but I figured this may help all three of you anyone who may be reading this who lives nearby.

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies and Donuts

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what to do with the gallons of leftover eggnog you purchased before the grocery store took the heavenly manna off the shelves.  This weekend I made eggnog cookies that came out ridiculously good.   The recipe came from combining the sugar cookie recipe from here and the eggnog cookie recipe from here.  As far as the spices, I included ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a tea bag of black chai tea leaves.  The dough was very thick, so I filled up one cookie sheet, and put the leftover dough in a donut mold pan.  The donuts came out better than the cookies!  Sounds good right?  Do it!

Here Comes the Hotstepper

In emailing with an old friend from high school, I found out that Signature Gardens closed its doors forever in December.  Here is the story I found about it in the Miami Herald.  For those of you who don’t know, Signature Gardens was the banquet hall in what was referred to as “West Kendall” (which these days probably referred to as midtown Kendall), that housed most of the area  high school dances, birthday parties, bat mitzvahs, and bar mitzvahs, and most notably, in my friend Jen’s case, weddings.  For the RHoNJ fans, Signature Gardens was the Brownstone of South Florida.

Every single dance I went to between the years of 1995-1999 was held either at a hotel ballroom or Signature Gardens.   I can’t remember the décor, but two things are for sure: the air was full of pheromones mixed with Cool Water for Women and the walls had been witness to many-a-first kiss and first slow-dance.  This was the place where we thought we invented “Did you see what she was wearing?” and “I just want to dance in a circle with my friends.” High school was horrible with all of the “Who is that girl he’s talking to?” and “Why won’t my mom let me pluck my eyebrows?”, but Signature Gardens was great.

So tonight I tip my hat to you Signature Gardens, “heroes get remembered but legends never die.” Good bye old friend.  143-123

Arroz con Pollo by Charlie

mmmmmArroz con pollo is one of my favorite things to cook. This is a variation of my Abuela’s pressure cooker recipe. You get a whole meal in one pot and it’s one of those magic dishes that’s even better the next day (like lasagna). It’s ok if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just increase the rice cooking time appropriately. Thighs and drumsticks are more typical but I use a whole chicken because I like the contrast. If you’re trying to impress your new girlfriend, get some multicolored bell peppers, add diced pimientos and tell her that you used saffron.

1 4-6 lb whole chicken (or thighs and drumsticks)
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
5 oz can of tomato paste
2 bay leaves
small jar of pimiento stuffed olives
1 lb yellow rice
16 oz beer
16 oz water

Break down the chicken into drumsticks, thighs and breasts (discard the wings and carcass or save for stock). Remove the skin from the thighs and breasts (else it becomes soggy) and cut the breasts into 3-4 smaller chunks. Brown the chicken with some olive oil in the pressure cooker over medium-high heat and set aside in a bowl (don’t cook fully). Add more oil if necessary and cook the onions in the chicken juice over medium heat until translucent (5 min). Add the green pepper and cook for few more minutes. Push the pepper and onions to the side of the pot, add the garlic to the exposed bottom and cook another minute until it smells great. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for a couple of minutes to cook out the raw tomato flavor. Add the water, beer, bay leaves, olives & olive juice, salt and pepper, and stir. Submerge the chicken in the pot along with any collected juice and add the rice to the spaces between the chicken. Raise the heat to high and close the lid tightly. Once the pressure cooker starts making noise, reduce the heat to med-low and set a timer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, wait for the pressure cooker to calm down, open the lid carefully and stir. The rice should be slightly wet, if it’s very wet cook uncovered for another few minutes on low, stirring regularly so the rice on the bottom doesn’t burn. Make sure you don’t drool into the pot. Enjoy!

If you’re having guests over you can do most of the cooking before they arrive and take a short break between adding the chicken and adding the rice. Go entertain your guests, just make sure you leave the pot covered on a low simmer to keep the chicken in the safe zone.

Rex Fabrics is “Lit’rally Buh-nanas”

One of the missions while in Miami was to find THE wedding dress.  In true Jennie-fashion, I printed up about 20 dresses that I had found in magazines and online, totally prepared.  I went to almost every store in Miracle Mile with my very patient cheering squad.   I would walk in, show the bridal salon sales person the print-outs, and they would inevitably say, “oh those are pretty, but we don’t have anything like that.”  With the exception of a handful of dresses almost everything looked the same: strapless on top with a duvet cover garnish on the bottom and tons of “ruching” (I had to google how to spell that).

Don’t get me wrong, most of these dresses were beautiful but they were all the same, and not “me.”  I don’t want a dress that would detract from the purpose of the event, and I don’t want something that looks like something you’d throw on your bed in the winter:

Coco lays upon my duvet

So I would ask the woman helping me, “do you have something maybe with straps or something? And less ruching?  And less poofy.”  So the bridal staff person would bring something like this:

So I would say something like “do you have something a little less Miss Venezuela?” “maybe a little more simple” and then my grandmother would say something in agreement like, “jes, somsing wis less bling bling” (yes, something with less bling bling).  You know there is a communication failure when “bling bling” is used by someone who has learned English as a second language.  Speaking of bling, there was even one dress that had an ARROW made of bling pointing towards the procreation zone.  Is this necessary?

Downward pointing arrow atop the uterus

The women that work at the stores, for the most part, know absolutely nothing about dress making.  They didn’t know what the fabric would look like if you chose it in an alternate shade of white, they didn’t know which fabrics photographed well, they didn’t know what shades would look good on ones skin tone, and they definitely didn’t make any fabulous suggestions on what would look good, a-la Randy on Say Yes To The Dress.  I personally think that individuals selling garments for $3000+, that one will wear for maybe 7 hours, should know a little something about the product. *(See Disclaimer)

I tried on approximately 187 dresses in varying shades of ivory before I decided to check out Rex Fabrics (hereinafter Rex).  I have a friend that works there, and had heard they employ a team of seamstresses that can make you a dress that is limited only by your imagination’s ability to dream it up.  I walked into Rex and was instantly blown away.  The amount of fabrics they have will blow your mind.  The place is literally floor-to-ceiling fabrics.  And not just any fabrics, beautiful fabrics you just HAVE to touch to believe.  **(See Disclaimer)  And not only can they can make you anything you want, the staff knows everything there is to know about fabric.  Next time I’m in Miami I’m going to spend an entire day at this place just looking at what they have.  Here are some pictures I took while inside.

* They weren’t all abysmal idiots.  The women at Chic Parisien, J del Olmo and Miami Couture Bridal were more helpful than the individuals at the other bridal salons I went to.

** Rex Fabrics didn’t pay me to say these things. You really must see it to believe it.

Everybody’s Got a Cousin in Miami

For Christmas we went down to Miami for a week to celebrate the holidays and get some wedding-related things done.  We had to drive because we were bringing Princess Coco Puffs, and it was too cold to fly with her.

Since we were going to hit the road at 4am, we loaded everything that needed to go in the car into the living room.  This is when Coco figured out something was happening.  She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she was sure that she was ready to go “outside.”  Outside means walks, outside means rides in the car, and best of all, outside means the d-o-g-p-a-r-k.   We can’t even say that word now or Coco will look at us with a face that could only mean she’s thinking: “I know those words. YES the dog park! Bananas! Yesssss, we’re going? If we don’t go to the dog park I’m going to keep staring at you with these guilt-tripping-eyes.  Maintain. Eye. Contact. With. Owner. Until. She. Puts. You. In. Car”  In this case, outside meant a whole day in the car, but on the other side would be the bestest d-o-g-p-a-r-k in the world.  Miami.

Not sure why all this crap is in the living room, but you guys aren't leaving me in that crate.

So we got in the car and drove, and drove, and drove.  This is what we saw in the rear view mirror:

And when I reclined the seat to take a nap:

heh heh heh heh heh

The wait was worth it though, because once in Miami she got to play with her new boyfriend Wilson.  Miami was awesome for Coco.  There was Wilson, and sprinklers!  All Coco needed in life was Wilson and sprinklers.

Dog Blur

Miami was Coco’s new favorite place.   She even learned to return footballs!

When in Rome...

She got to play with her cousins Barkley and Wally in Pinecrest.  Barkley even let Coco try out her bed.

Have you eaten pork and yuca?

Madam Barkley

I fit!

The highlight of the trip was going to the beach with her cousins Emma and Mollie.

Wait, let me check if Emma ate pork and yuca!

Water dog

Mother-Daughter photo shoot

Coco even got to put the “nut” back in Coconut at the King Mango Strut Parade.  Her favorite part was sitting on Charlie’s lap the whole time.

Miami also had little tiny humans to play with.

And beds that allowed dogs.

When it was time to jump back in to the car and go back to Virginia Coco was sad to go.

Nothing that a rolled-down window couldn’t fix.

And when we got back to Virginia, Coco was all sorts of depressed for two days.  I’ll guess we’ll have to go back soon.