Category Archives: Date Night

Butter is Better

Butter sit down for this one (pun intended). Until I turned the ripe old age of 30, I had never in my life cooked with butter.

Yep! You heard me.

Now that your shock and horror has ceased and you can stand again, let me explain.

My mother (a former dancer and therefore a former health nut) was so anti-butter that it did not even have a presence in our kitchen when I was growing up in the 80s/90s. I Can’t Believe it’s NOT Butter sat decidedly on the refrigerator shelf, pronouncing proudly from it’s little yellow package: Butter is Bad! I am Better than Butter!

Sometimes we had Country Crock, or Smart Balance, or some sort of margarine. Globs of buttery imitation substances glimmered on top our slices of ancient grain 7-seed wheat toast. Then I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter was released as a SPRAY. In college, I recall, in an attempt to cut calories, my girlfriends and I would squirt this substance on toast and top it with a Splenda. Ew.

Hellooooo chemicals! Welcome to my body!

I assume I’d probably tasted butter millions of times in restaurants on pasta, fish, and meat. But because it was banned in our house I automatically assumed it was a wicked log of heart-clogging material, so I rarely attempted to spread it on bread in a restaurant. Despite it’s universal presence outside of my childhood home, I never realized one could cook with it and STILL be healthy…until the girls in my dressing room at Avenue Q one night peered into my insanely-boring, nightly scramble. Either from the smell or simply the look of it, they wrinkled their noses at my broccoli/tofu/quinoa jumble I had sautéed in Olive Oil Spray. Then someone said, “You know, Lex, that would probably be so much better if you cooked it with butter.”

I replied that I’d never owned, never bought, and never cooked with butter. I was met with wide eyes and stunned silence. Then gasps pervaded the room! “Lexy OMG everything’s better with BUTTER!” “You don’t even put it in your EGGS?!”

I was ordered to go to Trader Joes immediately (well, after the show), buy a stick of butter and start cooking with it. Then I was to report back.

For my first experiment, I made some gluten-free pasta and melted butter on top, with a little parmesan, salt pepper, and lemon. OKAY. YUP! I could immediately taste the difference. This is what I’d been missing my whole life! Who needed a boyfriend when there was BUTTER?!? The rich, creamy, delicious butter won over my heart (in it’s potentially heart-clogging way). I began adding butter to my eggs, pasta, even gluten-free English Muffins! I then discovered Ghee (clarified butter) from my Godmother, and that also has become a condiment staple.

As I make my way through the world (and current food/gut-related issues) I have come to believe in balance (and NOT Smart Balance). I believe in making things taste delicious. I believe in whole and wholesome foods. I also believe in moderation. And butter in moderation can elevate a dish into something much more special. (And I am happy to report there is now a stick of butter in my parents refrigerator, too!)

Here’s one of my favorite (and easy!) recipes that pairs perfectly with a (NON!) buttery Chardonnay from GlenLyon Winery. ENJOY!

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Shrimp over Pasta with Parsley, Lemon, and Garlic (for two!) 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp (fresh if possible, we like 26/30 size)
  • 2 cups dried fusilli pasta (gluten-free for us!)
  • 1 cup of Italian parsley when stripped off stems
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp BUTTER (REAL!)
  • Shredded Parmesan (Lexy says: as much as you WANT!)

Directions (to multitask!):

  • Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay
  • Fill a stock pot with water a bring to a boil
  • While the water boils…
    • Strip the parsley from the stems and finely chop
    • Press half the garlic through a press
    • Zest and juice the lemon
    • Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pressed garlic, chopped parsley in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper
    • Slice the other half of the garlic into thin slices; reserve for shrimp
    • Start to heat skillet over medium-high heat
    • Add the butter to the skillet, allow to melt
  • Once the water boils…
    • Salt the water, add the pasta, and start the clock (about 7 minutes for our glut)
  • Once the butter is melted and starting to sizzle…
    • Add sliced garlic to skillet, cook 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant
    • Add shrimp to skillet then leave them alone
    • Give the pasta a swirl
    • Have a sip (or two) of Chardonnay
  • After 3 minutes
    • Turn the shrimp
    • Give the pasta a swirl
    • Have a another sip (or two) of Chardonnay
  • After another 2 minutes (the shrimp should almost be done)…
    • Sprinkle as much crushed red pepper over shrimp as you want
    • Deglaze the pan by throwing in the Chardonnay with the shrimp, allow it to bubble and reduce by half for the next minute
  • While the Chardonnay is cooking down and the shrimp finishes…
    • Check the pasta (it should be done after 7 minutes)
    • Drain the pasta and return it to the stock pot
  • Now bring it all together…
    • Add the olive oil/lemon/parsley mixture to the pot
    • Add the shrimp and wine sauce from the skillet to the pot
    • Toss it all together
  • Serve with heaps of grated Parmesan cheese and a glass (or two) of Chardonnay
  • Enjoy!

When The World Gets Your Goat…

Well, here we are. This month has been a blur of Election-fatigue and Turkey-fatigue. I think my husband and I have gone through the five stages of Election results grief multiple times by now, and have just entered mild acceptance/recovery mode. This means a lot of bubble baths, long hugs, comfort food (our version: slow-cooker tortilla soup, abundant gluten-free/sugar-free zucchini muffins, olive oil popcorn, cheese) and WINE.

It also means a lot of DIY projects, including:

  1. Learning to play LET IT GO on my Uke (fitting, eh?)
  2. Distressing my jeans (voila! trendy new jeans!)
  3. Making bath bombs (pretty crumbly and not very fizzy at the moment)
  4. Building terrariums (reading directions AFTER making them is not exactly useful)
  5. Cleaning like Marie Kondo (which I tend to do incessantly in times of stress or overwhelm)

 

On the Friday of election week, I moped about the apartment, between bouts of anxiety and sniffles, wondering what to do. Besides what I had been doing. First I posted articles incessantly on Facebook (only to denounce the platform moments later). Then I called our congress people and the DOJ (yes, you can do that). And then donated (more) to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. And posted more on Facebook. But it still felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

To channel my frustrations, I started researching things to physically do in our (new-ish) community in the Bay Area. Small actions that I could take to direct my angst somewhere besides Facebook. After much internet searching, I found a great website called Hands On Bay Area that provides a calendar of volunteer opportunities, with multiple activities ranging from meal prep for the homeless, to gardening, to sorting clothes to help low-income people find jobs.

My husband got home from work, and over our dinner prep, he mentioned (completely independently and in the midst of his own frustration that day) he had also been looking for local volunteer opportunities (and had found an awesome program to help African-American girls ages 7-17 learn to code*!)

Heart=melt.

We ended up finding a night that week we were both free and signed up to volunteer at the SF AIDS Society. DATE NIGHT! Woo! We weren’t exactly sure what we’d be doing, but we were happy to help in whatever way was deemed useful. We ended up packing containers of clean needles while learning about the people that might need them. We then rolled balls of copper Brillo Pads that looked a bit like Christmas ornaments, which help filter crack cocaine. (Also-new DIY rose-gold tree adornment ideas? DONE.)

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Our fearless leader, Kristin, hair full of the most awesome range of aqua colors I’ve ever seen, filled us in on stories of people she’s helped, and her day picking up dirty needles around the city dressed as a Hazardous Waste Bin (can I have that job, please?). She informed us her mom had been a drug abuser during her youth, leading to her involvement in helping other addicts after college. We met an inspiring young gal from Indiana who was taking a gap year before college, traveling with a group of students who are volunteering daily all over the US and India, who wants to join the Peace Corps.

That’s what hope looks like.

We came home with a new perspective on drug addiction, grateful to know that the containers we packed could potentially save a life. Or help prevent the spread of HIV or Hepatitis C.

Small actions. And Empathy. Which is really the word of the hour.

The night ended in takeout Thai and my husband staying up till 1am coding (it’s all Greek to me!), but we still managed to enjoy a bottle of our favorite “cheap” wine which we fondly call “Goat Wine,” delightfully priced at $4.99. We are big-time supporters of many local wine clubs, but we are also young and attempting to save money (and want to go on a Honeymoon before we’re 60). So sometimes a $4.99 bottle from Trader Joes wins! We’ve tried and failed to find another bottle as decent for the price. Read about Goat Wine here.

Our “Goat Wine” was a perfect way to end the evening. I fell asleep feeling utterly grateful next to my (already snoozing) husband. Small actions and Empathy. That’s all we can do, for now. And to look forward to the next opportunity to do something for small for others, again, together. Cumulating in Goat Wine.

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*my husband codes for a living. (And also for fun.)

Date Night Proposition

The eve of “Date Night” was upon us. My husband and I decided to open a bottle of bubbly and get down to it.

Now, hang on…I know where your mind is going…SO DON’T GO THERE! Let’s be clear: this date wasn’t about anything untoward, so get your mind out of the gutter! It was actually a date to read through California’s 17 Propositions and discuss them.

Sexy, right?

Spread out before us on our kitchen table were our ballot tools: black Stabilo pens (husband’s favorite), our California Election Guide (slightly wrinkled from the rain last week), and my computer open to two websites. His choice: an NPR Station with brief snippets of information on each prop, and my choice: an emoji filled easy-to-understand-for-the-masses voter guide. Last but not least, some homemade crock-pot chicken noodle* soup (truly for our election-weary souls) and a bottle of Bubbly (of course). Which paired awfully well with the Proposition-studying if I might add (but maybe not so much with the chicken soup.)

I said it was sexy, yes?

We decided on an Iron Horse Russian Cuveé from 2007, which seemed fitting in that it has a long history with the White House, being served there through five consecutive  Presidential administrations (and was originally made for the meetings that ended the Cold War.) It was a rich and yeasty bubbly, with a nose veering on slightly stinky Red Hawk cheese, and I think in it’s age it lost some of it’s fizz. But it was a welcome and complimentary supplement to the night’s ballot activities.

Studiously, we went through each Prop, listening intently to the radio snippets, discussing and debating them, chuckling at the emoji’s (and the Porn Proposition…how is this even a thing we are voting on?), flipping between multiple sources of information to eventually arrive at our own conclusions. We stayed up past our adult bedtimes, laughing, talking, bellies full of the historically-styled Russian Cuveé…and all because we decided to make something pleasurable and fun out of what could have been just another ordinary evening.

And now here we are tonight, on the precipice of the election day that will surely change history. I’ll beg my husband one last time to whisper in my ear his nightly sweet nothings about how a certain slightly orange-hued man will not possibly be named President. Ask him to tell me we’ll go to bed Tuesday night with hope of inclusion and forward motion for this country.

That’s pretty sexy, too.

And lastly, she may not be perfect, but what an enormous thrill to fill in a certain Nasty Woman’s name on that Presidential ballot.

Let’s make history tomorrow. I’ll toast to that.

*Not noodles, quinoa. It’s a no-wheat thing. 

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