Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Rough Night At The Theater

Mike and I went to see Marley and Me last night. Neither of us had read the book, but we both had a hunch we could relate to the story. The movie was cute, a bit cheesy at times, but we both enjoyed it. The one thing that really suuuucks about the movie is that, while watching, you know the story will inevitably end in Marley's passing. I spent the last 30 minutes crying because I knew what was coming. As soon as we got home we both grabbed our babies and held on to them as long as they would let us and then I cried a little more.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Peppermint Bark and Wine

Yum!! My post, however, is a recap of the dinner I made for the fam on XMAS eve. The peppermint bark and wine are just my treats tonight. This year I offered to make XMAS eve dinner to alleviate some of my mother's stress. She doesn't LOVE cooking and I really like experimenting so I thought, why not?

I did a little online research to determine my menu, mixed with a few tried and true recipes I made my decision.

The salad I decided on was swiped from

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

2/3 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews)
1 bunch watercress
1 bunch arugula
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Belgian endive
2 ripe pears, such as Anjou, Bartlett, or Comice
2 ounces mild blue cheese (about 1/2 cup loosely packed crumbles)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan in a single layer. Bake, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts are toasted and fragrant, about 7 to 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool, and then coarsely chop.

Trim the stems of the watercress and arugula. Wash and dry the leaves.

Meanwhile, whisk the vinegar and mustard together in a large salad bowl. Season with the 1/4 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream, to make a smooth, slightly thick dressing.

Halve the endive lengthwise, cut out core, then thinly slice crosswise and add all the lettuces to the bowl. Quarter and core the unpeeled pears and thinly slice; add to the salad. Scatter the cheese and nuts over the salad, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss the salad gently to evenly dress all the greens. Divide among 4 plates and serve immediately

I cheated a little bit and added a few personal touches to this recipe. First, I opted not to buy all the individual lettuce types and used about 10oz of an organic mixed green lettuce. It saved time and was excellent, plus I don't know that you can get all the lettuce types the recipe called for this time of year. I also doubled the nuts(pecans) and used used three pears since I wanted to make enough for about. To add a local flare I used Boetje's mustard. It's made right here in the QC and is a staple in my house. I think I tripled the dressing recipe. I made this for my Mom's day after Christmas party too, it was a hit both nights!

For an appetizer I chose Bruschetta with Tomato Basil Recipe. I've made this before and I found it on

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil Recipe
6 or 7 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Prepare the tomatoes first. Parboil the tomatoes for one minute in boiling water that has just been removed from the burner. Drain. Using a sharp small knife, remove the skins of the tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are too hot, you can protect your finger tips by rubbing them with an ice cube between tomatoes.) Once the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in halves or quarters and remove the seeds and juice from their centers. Also cut out and discard the stem area. Why use plum tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes? The skins are much thicker and there are fewer seeds and less juice.

2 Make sure there is a top rack in place in your oven. Turn on the oven to 450°F to preheat.

3 While the oven is heating, chop up the tomatoes finely. Put tomatoes, garlic, 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vinegar in a bowl and mix. Add the chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4 Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. You will want to toast them in the top rack in your oven, so you may need to do these in batches depending on the size of your oven. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.

Alternatively, you can toast the bread without coating it in olive oil first. Toast on a griddle for 1 minute on each side. Take a sharp knife and score each slice 3 times. Rub some garlic in the slices and drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil on each slice. This is the more traditional method of making bruschetta.

5 Align the bread on a serving platter, olive oil side up. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for people to serve themselves over the bread, or place some topping on each slice of bread and serve. If you top each slice with the tomatoes, do it right before serving or the bread may get soggy.

Makes 24 small slices. Serves 6-10 as an appetizer. Or 3-4 for lunch (delicious served with cottage cheese on the side.)

My twist here was that I used sour dough baguettes, YUM and mined garlic from the jar...rather than breaking my own cloves.

This turned out excellent!!

For the main course I selected a shrimp penne pasta from I had a few issues while making this. Mainly because the original recipe called for several spices. I rang my mom the day before to confirm that she had the ingredients since I cooked at her home. What she neglected to tell me was that some of the spices, such as the ground ginger, were probably 20 years old. Gross! When I got done making the sauce it tasted like 1970. So I tossed it and improvised!

I ended up using:

two can of crushed tomatos and about half the sauce from each can
1/4 a cup of olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic powder
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds of shrimp shelled
1 box of barilla penne pasta

I boiled the pasta for about 9 minutes then added the thawed shrimp and continued to boil for 2-3 minutes, drained and added the sauce already mixed with the ingredients above.

Luckily this turned out really good. Very fresh and light, which was nice since we snacked so much beforehand.

Besides wine I surprised the family with another dinner drink. I bought fresh apple cider, also made locally. Heated it on the stovetop and added Bacardi Gold. Mike's cousin made this drink when we spent Thanksgiving out East and we both loved it. Although, I'm pretty sure I neglected to tell my family this and took full credit for the yummy concoction. I made this again at the Wilbricht after Christmas party and again, success!!

A Little Secret

Mike and I were able to experience one of the Quad Cities best kept secrets on Saturday night. We were invited to my friend Carly's 30th birthday party at La Flama in Moline. Carly told me that they would be eating dinner at La Flama, a restaurant that I reviewed a month or so back, and that the restaurant closes at10. Then at 10:30 La Flama opens back up for some serious salsa dancing.

Mike and I were super excited when we walked through the door! We heard the music and immediatly felt like we were back in Mexico. So what did we do? A shot of tequila! After a couple we were able to brave the dance floor. Carly's sister told us we were really good, I highly doubt it BUT it did give me the confidence I needed to keep going! I think we did ok for our first time!!

We definetely plan on going again! Maybe even this Saturday. It is a 3$ cover for guys, ladies are free ;)

Anyone up for some dancing? Let me know!

Wedding Books

Some of you may have seen the shutterfly books I made our parents for Christmas.

There are two versions, pretty much the same just a different picture here and there! Just copy and paste the link above in your browser.

It's hard to believe that we've been married almost 5 months now! Time sure flies when you're having a blast!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Disco Tree

Favorite Cookies

Mike and I both made a couple different kinds of cookies this year.

The black and white cheesecake bites were a crowd favorite. They are also one of mine. Really good, look great on a platter and fairly easy to make:

1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. butter
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese softened
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

To Prepare Crust:
In medium saucepan over low heat melt chocolate chips and butter. Stirring until smooth. Stir in graham cracker crumbs. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture for later use. Press remaining mixture in 9x13 inch baking pan.

To Prepare Filling:

In large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in condensed milk, then egg, and vanilla. Pour over prepared crust. Sprinkle with reserved crust. Bake until set, about 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool in refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours or longer. Makes 24 squares.

Another favorite was one of Mike's Creations. We'll call them Mike's White Chocolate Macadamia Cranberry Dreams

3 c. flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 c. white sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. butter softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 c. vanilla baking chips
1 c. chopped macadamia nuts
1 c. dried cranberries

In a medium bowl set aside flour, baking soda and salt.

Cream together white sugar, light brown sugar, and butter. Add slightly beaten eggs and vanilla.

Add flour mixture until just mixed. Stir in vanilla chips, nuts, and cranberries.

Preheat oven to 350. Place onto ungreased cookie sheet by small scoop pr rounded teaspoon. Bake for 10 minutes or just until set. Remove from oven and let cool. Cookies will sink slightly.

Variations: To make chocolate cookies omit 1/2 c. flour and replace with 1/2 c. cocoa. Drizzle melted white or dark chocolate on cookies.

I also made sugar cookies this year. I searched a long time for just the right recipe and I think I found it. The cookies were light and soft, the perfect base for a sweet frosting.

in case you noticed the fleur de lis and bats...just my own personal twist ;)

Happy Holidays!

I've been a little behind on my blogging this holiday season. I'll be catching up the next few days now that all the family events are winding down. I have a few new recipes to post and some pictures. To start things off here are some pictures of our babies celebrating in their christmas attire and opening gifts from Grandma Mashl!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


A hangover (veisalgia) describes the sum of unpleasant physiological effects following heavy consumption of drugs, particularly alcoholic beverages. The most commonly reported characteristics of a hangover include headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, lethargy, dysphoria, and thirst.

Hypoglycemia, dehydration, acetaldehyde intoxication, and vitamin B12 deficiency are all theorized causes of hangover symptoms. Hangovers may last up to two or three days after alcohol was last consumed.[1] Roughly 25-30% of drinkers may be resistant to hangover symptoms.[2] Some aspects of a hangover are viewed as symptoms of acute ethanol withdrawal, similar to the longer-duration effects of withdrawal from alcoholism, as determined by studying the increases in brain reward thresholds in rats (the amount of current required to receive to electrodes implanted in the lateral hypothalamus) following ethanol injection.[3]

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Breakfast, on sunday? at noon? Now That's Crazy!

A couple of you read my letter to the Editor of the QCTimes that came out the day after our wedding. You know, the one where I voiced my frustration about landlords not renting to tenants with animals? Well, I have a new MAJOR frustration. Now, maybe I lived in Chicago too long where you can pretty much find whatever it is you're looking for 24/7, but I don't think so. I am a fairly consistent person, work a 9 to 5, weekends off, go to bed at a decent hour, so what is my beef you ask?? Sunday, that's right, Sunday in the Quad Cities.

You might as well write Sunday off, a day to stay in and accomplish your tasks at home. It's certainly not a day to explore local shopping in the Quad Cities, nor to eat at the local restaurants, Why? They're not open!!

This has frustrated me for some time, but really hit me today. Julie is in town from Chicago and we are planning on brunch or breakfast at noon. I got online to look up some places I've been wanting to try to see if they're open since I am aware of the Sunday plague around here and only one of them was! I tried Atlante, Cafe Fresh, Mama Comptons, the Bread Basket(which was open till 2 but no real breakfast just yummy pasties and breads) and Cafe Indigo. Cafe Indigo is open until 2 today, but they STOP SERVING BREAKFAST AT 11????

I don't understand how a business owner can shut down their operation on a day when the majority of the population is not working? To me this is a huge opportunity to make $$.

Since moving to the QC I see so many opportunities to pump some life into this place EVERYDAY. From this experience my idea is to to open a restaurant called, "Just Breakfast, Anytime" how clever,right? No it's simple. My restauant would serve breakfast all the time. My hours would be Sunday - Thursday 6am-11pm and Fri-Sat 24/7. I would serve regular breakfast and have a section of my menu devoted to organic and vegan dishes.

Now, I'm off to get ready. I'll be meeting my freind at Johnny's Steakhouse for brunch. Great brunch, but not the quaint, local place I was hoping to spend my $$ at.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It was a Tofurky Thanksgiving at the Brown Casa

Before we left for Mexico, I decided to make my annual Tofurky. I look forward to having Tofurky at Thanksgiving all year, and usually can't resist and make a few during the year as well. This year I didn't go all out on the fixens since I knew we'd be eating a lot in Mexico. I kept it fairly simple, making a baste of soy sauce, sage and olive olive for the Tofurky along side of carrots and potatos lightly coated in butter. This made for a healthy, meat free, pre-Thanksgiving dinner. The leftovers came in handy since Mike loves Tofurky sandwhiches for lunch!

This weekend I am going to start some holiday baking, including fleur de lis sugar cookies ;) Should be fun decorating them. If anyone has an icing recipe you recommend, please send it my way!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Honeymoon Part Dos At The Posada Freud In Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Honeymoon Part Uno At The Valentin Imperial Maya In The RIviera Maya, Mexico

We're Back from Mexico

Stay tuned for a blog about our trip :) In the meantime. December first was a big night for the Illinois side of the Quad Cities. It was the "soft opening" for the long awaited Jumer's Rock Island Casino. The first "vegas style" casino in the QC. The GRAND opening is later in December.

Mike and I arrived around ten. We were amazed at the amount of people there. Where the heck did they all come from? Usually it's like a ghost town after 8pm, I guess we now know what gets Quad Citians out of their homes. While walking through security my first question was, "How late are you open?" 3am, sweet!

Mike and I walked around a bit to check out the casino. The decor is a little bit cheesy sort of 1990 Miami Vice... but it is a casino after all. The gaming area is just one floor, which is nice for the old people. There are 4 or 5 restaurants. One buffet, a diner, an upscale steakhouse, and a cafe is what I saw. There is a massive bar in the center of the casino, this is what you see in Vegas. They make it easy to find the booze, one of my biggest complaints about the riverboats. Speaking of rivers, you won't find this casino on one, it's built on a "riverside" structure aka land with a stream underneath, way to bend the rules! The casino is also smoke free, although they sell these vaporous nicotine sticks and cigars.

Our visit was pretty short. I lost $20 on Wheel of Fortune in a matter of minutes. I was pretty bummed that I never got a spin, the three machines next to me probably got about 20(no joke) while I played. After gaming we decided to go to the nightclub, Edge. Lots of red lights and glitter, two of my favorite things, made for a great atmosphere but the music was super lame. I'm all for 90's music, but a dorky white guy playing Sir Mix a Lot and Vanilla Ice come on! In my opinion, the music did not fit the classy club vibe the casino was going for. The drink menu was very impressive. A great martini list, several types of margaritas, rum drink, including a new favorite of mine the Cubre Libre(fancy name for rum and coke), popular in mexico. The drinks range from $6-8. Despite the fact that the drinks sounded good, we weren't actually able to try one. After two songs by our friend the dj and watching the 4 cocktail waitress's chat it up at the bar, we left after not being served. We headed to Mac's Tavern in Davenport for a couple of good night dirty martinis. Those were another story, let's just say we managed to get them down.