Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dancing in the Dark

Here I am, the naysayer, about to eat my words.

On Saturday night, Ashley and I went out to one of my new favorite places: El Camino Real in the Northern Liberties section of the city (oh my God - best pulled pork sandwich, salsa, guacamole, fries, margaritas...I could go on). I didn't bring my phone inside because of the torrential downpour we had to run through to get from the parking lot down the block to the restaurant doors, so I missed a call from my neighbor telling me the power went out in our apartment building. Damn.

A ridiculously large portion of a ridiculously large tree in front of the neighbor's house broke in the wind (landing on one of their cars...ouch) and ripping down the electrical line that connects to our building. It came to a crashing halt in our driveway. Double damn...not only did I lose my ever-so-carefully chosen parking space (one that seemed to be clear of all potential falling branches) and have to find an alternative on the street, but the darkness came too early.

Thank goodness I picked up the last couple packages of tea light candles I could find and an extra package of AAA batteries for my camping headlamp. When it's dark, it's...dark.

Without the usual hum of the fans, we heard every. little. noise. there was to hear, and of course popped up to look out the window any time something that sounded like a large truck drove by. Despite all the wishing and watching, no PECO truck for us. Sunday morning brought the neighborhood out to clean up. Some helped cut and move the tree, I babysat my landlord's dog...a great figure in the neighborhood...and we all chatted, thankful that people were safe and the damage wasn't much worse.

Luckily we have gas stoves/ovens and a gas water heater, so we weren't at our worst. I went to a few stores to look for a large cooler and ice so I could empty the contents of my fridge and pack my freezer. By yesterday afternoon, the freezer didn't seem to be faring so well, so I packed everything up and took it to the office to load in our freezer so I didn't lose everything. Thankfully I hadn't done a major grocery shopping trip recently.

After coming back from delivering my freezer contents to the office last night, my neighbor and I smelled something burning. We walked all around the outside of the house, and eventually around the block, but couldn't find a source. Twice we were passed by a fire truck and heard sirens in the distance - I guess they were having a bit of trouble, too. Maybe it was the paranoid state my mind was in, but around midnight I shot out of bed, unable to remember if I'd locked the office door on my way out. I could visualize when I set the alarm, but the door wasn't in my memory. Back to the office I went to check the door (locked, of course), and just a minute after getting home, a PECO truck drove around the corner and slowed in front of the house. YES! They were here to replace the electrical line!

About an hour-and-a-half later, we were back in business. I was giggling at all of the people who would be woken up when their lights, fans, TVs, etc. came back on in the middle of their slumber.

So, we survived.

Beer by candle light.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene, who?

Yes...the whole east coast is talking about this Irene chick. Weird, huh?

I never like to believe the hype, and certainly don't want to be seen as one of those gullible fools clearing the store shelves of water, non-perishable foods and batteries (I even saw people stocking on up on a lot of paper goods like TP and napkins...weird). I especially don't want to believe the hype for a hurricane...hitting Philadelphia. We don't even have a coastline for cryin' out loud. But, we do have two large rivers and a creek that serves as a significant tributary to the Delaware, and with the wettest month on record, suppose there are a few things to worry about.

This post doesn't have much to do with food...except maybe I took stock of my "storm food" which consisted of half a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, a few bananas, a peach, a few avocados and kiwi, some carrots, saltine crackers, cans of tuna, a few extra pitchers I filled with water...and a case of Leinenkugel's Autumn Sampler beer. Luckily, I have a gas range/oven so even if we lose power, I'll be able to cook "real" food.

I went to the barn this morning and we stocked up on hay and filled water troughs in the indoor riding arena, and secured the door open so the horses could come in to shelter if they need it. Good luck, boys!

There's a parks and recreation curfew going into effect at 6 p.m. and all of the city's public transportation is stopping at 12:30 in the morning. We're supposed to get the worst of the storm (up to 70 mph winds) after midnight. Perhaps we'll all be sleeping with one eye open tonight.

A tasty treat

One of my all-time summer favorites - Caprese salad. The tomatoes are from my garden!

Tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recap: Smokey South African Lime Chicken

I previewed this recipe in my last entry, and I'm finally getting around to writing the final review of the recipe. 

I bought a package of two full boneless, skinless chicken breasts and ended up just using one, which was plenty of chicken for the both of us - there was enough left over for me to have as a lunch-sized portion the next day. 

To start, I trimmed the chicken breast and separated the two breast pieces. I adapted this recipe from a pepper-lime chicken recipe, so I juiced two small limes for the marinade (use more or less depending on how tangy you want the flavor). To replace the pepper, I used a new seasoning mix:

It is called South African Smoke Seasoning Blend and Ashley found it at Trader Joe's. If you want to season meat to achieve a deep smokey flavor, this is your stuff! It's really good. 

In a Pyrex dish about 2 inches deep, I poured the lime juice and placed the trimmed chicken breast. I sprinkled one side with the seasoning, let it sit for a few minutes, then flipped and sprinkled the other. Surprisingly, all of the seasoning stayed on the chicken. I put the lid on the Pyrex dish and put it in the fridge until I was ready to start cooking.

These chicken breasts can be grilled, broiled or baked. We got a little rained out, so I baked mine at 375 for about 30 minutes and flipped halfway through. The end result was great, and I'll definitely try this recipe again, hopefully grilling next time. 

The side dish was scalloped mashed potatoes baked in a cheese sauce, but I wasn't very pleased with the recipe. I think it calls for too much butter and the cheese (sharp white cheddar) was too bland. I may try that again as well, but definitely reducing the amount of butter and using a more flavorful cheese like a smoked gouda. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Smokey South African seasoned & lime chicken and cheesy scalloped potatoes

Hi friends! It's been awhile again. I swear there's a backlog on photos on my camera waiting to be downloaded for blog posting. What can I say - life is sort of busy.

Anyway, I'm really excited to try two new recipes for dinner tonight! A couple of weeks ago when we were in the grocery store, Ashley saw boxed cheesy scalloped potatoes and said "...that would be really good if it was real." And so came the inspiration for tonight's dinner. I'e been in kind of a food rut lately...we both have...so coming up with dinner ideas has been difficult. I decided to turn to one of my trusty old cookbooks and look for a chicken recipe that would go well with the potatoes. That's when I found the pepper-lime chicken recipe. But of course I can't just take a recipe and prepare it as-is. The last time we were at Trader Joe's, Ashley found a South African smoke seasoning blend (he loves BBQ and spicy flavors), so I'm subbing that seasoning mix (it comes in its own grinder/mill) for the pepper in the recipe.

Hopefully all comes out well and I'll have pictures and a great review after dinner tonight!