Happy Coco-versary!

This week we celebrated the Coco-versary.  A year ago, the Coco-bomb dropped and we had no idea what we were in for.

So happy. So naive.

So happy. So naive.

Even better than the Coco-versary, the weather was suddenly above 70 degrees!  There really is only one way to celebrate temperatures so high: BBQ and beer.  So that’s exactly what we did on the day before the first day of spring.

Smiling on Charlie's shoulder.

My tulips are coming up (roses) tulips!

There's something about going from 40 to 80 degrees overnight that calls for the smell of charred protein.

My feelings on spring being here can best be described by the following pictures:


It is nor hand, nor foot

Today I write you in reference to the ugly shoes sweeping the nation gym.  I’m talking about these “shoes”:

size 13 shoes/feet/socks/gloves/fingers/toes

Charlie purchased those “shoes” two years ago.  At first I was horrified.  My brain was saying shoes, but my eyes were saying fingers, feet, does not compute. So I did what everyone does with things they don’t understand, I made fun of them.  Secretly though, I was jealous that Charlie could pull those “shoes” off.

Toe shoes make an appearance at the opening morning of lobster mini-season

Pulling cool or trendy items of clothing “off” has never been my forte.  Also, having spent the greater part of 2009 running many miles around an outdoor track, I had a deep appreciation for a “shoe” that alleged to take away shin and foot pain caused by running.

Did someone say "Charlie"?

Did someone say "shoe"?

All your shoes are belong to me.

That which we call a shoe, by any other name would smell as sweet, to Coco.

Lately, though, I’ve seen these shoes EVERYWHERE, and really want some! especially at the gym.  And every time I see someone with them on, I double-take thinking they’re pulling a prom-girl-barefoot-on-the-dance-floor walking on gross gym carpeting, flesh-to-floor.  Is this just a northern-virginia-DC-triathlete-outdoorsy-trend, or are these shoes officially “happening”?

California Dreaming

This weekend we flew to Los Angeles to visit Charlie’s brother, Chris, and his girlfriend Tanya.  Every year Tanya’s family has a huge Superbowl party, so this year we were really excited to go… and defrost. The true winter wonderland is a place that doesn’t involve butt-clenching ice patches and has an extended forecast that looks like this:


True Story

As the trip approached Coco definitely knew something was up.  She started to follow us everywhere in the house.  And the morning of the trip, she plopped herself down by the front door and pulled out all the stops.

Daddy don't leave

Pre-Trip Depression Obsession

Mascot Melodrama

You would think that we were leaving all weekend to play at the grandest dog park in all the land and swim in pools of milk-bones and chicken stock.

So, we headed off to the airport and left Coco under the watchful eye of my cousin Mary who did great as Coco’s substitute mommy.  We flew Virgin America, which felt like more spaceship than airplane with its fancy TVs and European discoteque feel.  I was expecting something like the JetBlue experience with the TVs, but it was better.  Much better.  Virgin is like JetBlue’s hot older brother who is in high school already and tall, and dreamy, but you’re hoping he’ll notice you anyway even though you’re an awkward pubescent 8th grader with braces who uses a Clinique bag to hide your super sized maxi pads because you haven’t discovered tampons yet.

You're welcome Mr Branson

You're welcome, Mr. Branson

Next Stop, Geostationary Orbit

Next Stop, Geostationary Orbit

But I digress… we were going to Los Angeles, the land of respectable temperatures and good times. We landed late, but the view from Tanya’s parent’s house, where we were staying, in the morning was phenomenal. As was the view from Chris and Tanya’s apartment.  Prepare to relinquish your breath:





Charlie, Chris, Pop

Charlie and Chris Kayaking

And that's just the beer.

The refrigerator was ready for some football

It was exactly what we needed after a few weeks of weather-report guided living and shivering our timbers.

Dinner With Our Gracious Hosts

Dinner With Our Gracious Hosts

A Dream Within a Dream

A Dream Within a Dream

At In-N-Out Burger

At In-N-Out Burger



Chris and Tanya

Chris and Tanya

Happy Pale Northerners

Happy Pale Northerners

Bangs a-la Bieber

Bangs a-la Bieber

American cars for the win?

Last week DC had a snow storm that was minimal when you compare it to the blizzards we had last year. The fact that this storm came right at rush hour, though, made the DC metro area crumble to its knees with traffic and furious drivers (who failed to top off their gas tanks before the storm hit) ditching their cars on the sides of roads, playing the blame game. Some people sat in traffic for up to 12 hours. Streets were completely gridlocked as the ice fell followed by inches of snow with thunder and lightning all over town. Google maps at 4pm looked like this.

Ay Dios Mio!

Ay Dios Mio!

Google maps at 11pm looked like this.



It was all sorts of no-bueno for many DCists.  But, while the city collectively pounded on their steering wheel, Coco and I played “catch the snow ball” because I had worked from home.

I've got this.

I've got this.

And while the city groaned, and Coco loved life, Charlie was stuck at work, because the city was completely gridlocked. He and a coworker (with an AWD Explorer) found ways to keep entertained, though. Consumer Reports may have rated Charlie’s Jeep one of the worst vehicles, but on snow-storm day, it’s Charlie’s time to shine. Notice the traffic not moving an inch in the background:

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.

Consumption Reports: Stone Crab Claws!

A coworker asked about the market price for stone crab claws and I was embarrassed to realize that I didn’t have the slightest idea.  I didn’t even know whether they would be cheaper in South Florida or Northern Virginia… the assumption, of course, being that they’d be cheaper in FL.  Having participated (twice) in pulling stone-crab traps with my step-dad, I felt this was something I should know.  I went straight to the source of all knowledge, Google, but couldn’t find a viable answer.  So, after work, I started calling around the different fish markets in South Florida and Washington, DC.

The first place (Garcia’s) had a Spanish speaker answering the phone, which made me realize, once again, that I don’t practice my Spanish enough because I didn’t know how to say “Stone Crab” in Spanish.  So I went to the source of all Spanish knowledge who I knew would answer her phone, my Grandmother.  Luckily, she was at, what sounded like, a Cuban-older-lady Convention, which turned out just ended up being a lunch in Pinecrest.  She didn’t immediately know the answer because “we didn’t have stone crabs (pronounced: eh-ston-cra’) in Cuba,” so she proposed the question to the group. “(Upside down question mark) Como se dice eston cra‘ en espanol? (How do you say eston cra’ in Spanish?) And then the group began to debate it, everyone speaking at the same time, loudly.  It sounded something like this (All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, is purely coincidental.):

Abuela: Como se dice eston cra’ en Espanol? (How do you say eston cra’ in Spanish?)

Maria Mercedes de la Portilla Balart: Ya tu sabes! (Oh boy!)

La Bacardi: Imaginate tu, eso no existia en Cuba. (Imagine that, we didn’t have those in Cuba.)

Dulce de Leches: Ang-ha, no lo teniamos en Cuba. (Yep, we didn’t have those in Cuba.)

Luz del Marisol: En Cuba teniamos cangrejo de tierra (In Cuba we had land crabs.)

Abuela: Yennie, es que no teniamos eston cra’ en Cuba. (Jennie, everyone agrees we didn’t have those in Cuba)

Turns out, my Grandmother was right, the answer was simple: “We didn’t have those in Cuba.” Unsatisfied, I asked her if they could come up with a guess as to what it would be.  More debating in the background… then they reached a consensus: cangrejo de piedra (crab of stone).  Thanks, I could have come up with that.

So I proceeded to call almost every fish market in South Florida, and two in Northern Virginia.  Here is what I found.  I figured this would be helpful for someone planning on bringing crab claws to their noche buena dinner. Turns out there isn’t a substantial price difference between FL and VA.

And many more…

We will be celebrating Charlie’s birthday this weekend!Chachi

Mini Carlos

Happy San’geebing!

If you’re Hispanic, or know someone who is, you’re familiar with the patron saint of Thanksgiving, San Geebing.  This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with some of my family, and it was my job to bring salad (easy enough) and appetizers for 20 people.  I got the recipe ideas from this food blog, and then kind of made it work with what I had.

First, I made a leek and gruyere quiche, which I like to think of as Don Quichote, because there is so much cream in the recipe it will turn you into Sancho Panza if you eat half of the thing in one sitting (trust me).  You can get the recipe here.  I substituted smashed salad croutons for the breadcrumbs and substituted plain old from-the-lunchmeat-section bacon for the peppercorn bacon.  Also, I didn’t make the crust from scratch, I used pre-made pastry crust.  The only thing I would have done differently would have been to make tiny mini quiches instead of big ol’ pie-sized ones, so I don’t eat half of it in one sitting since their purpose was to be an appetizer.

I also made rosemary dates wrapped in bacon.  I got the recipe from here.  I substituted a pinch of dried rosemary for the fresh stuff (should have used two pinches).  I’m not such a fan of dates but the recipe came out okay.  If I could have done something different it would have been to use the bacon to wrap mini hot dogs (pigs in a leather jacket?).  I’m not such a fan of dates, but my mom loves them.  When I tried to figure out the nutritional value for these San’geebing snacks I found out that prunes only have .6 grams of fiber, where dates have 1.6 grams of fiber.  So, there you go! (Literally)

Consumption Reports: CPK Crispy Thin Crust

If you’re like me, you’ve caught yourself trying to come up with new ideas to nourish your strapping handsome bridegroom.  If you know us well, you know that Charlie cooks (better) more than I do, so you won’t be surprised to know that when presented with the opportunity to cook dinner, I defaulted to picadillo? beef bourguignon? blinking like I Dream of Jeannie hoping real food will appear? a pizza from my grocer’s freezer.  Not just any pizza, a California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust Spinach & Artichoke pizza (I’ve seen fatter Cuban crackers).  The website refers to the pizza as “thin and beautiful.”  Labeling something, “thin and beautiful,” despite its having more fat than a vending machine cinnamon sticky bun (I know those things well) explains everything that is wrong with our society, and this pizza is no exception.  “Thin and beautiful” is okay for Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but just like a model in [insert magazine that doesn’t pay me to mention them] looks okay on the cover, in real life… SIMPLY STARVING.  Take a look at how the cardboard upon which the pizza sat was almost thicker than the food item itself.  How can any respectable woman feed this to her Brawny man?  And then what am I supposed to eat?  A frozen pie crust full of shame?

So whatever you do, don’t let the cheesy spinachy-ness fool you!  Don’t pay $7 thinking this pizza will do anything other than make you think, “gahhh, I’m still hungry.”  Unless you want to follow that up with a hot dog I threw in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Oh, Caaanadaaa…eh?

For Valentine’s Day, we enjoyed some Olympic eating with homemade donuts… and then went running.  Here’s to hoping this isn’t a violation of copywright laws, since one of the donuts is brown.