#lobsterbake2011

Last weekend was the annual lobster bake at the mountain house, a tradition started years ago by a group of work friends, which we were not, that grew to include families of those friends, which we are, and for which we are now tremendously grateful to be a part of.

The weather was practically perfect, unlike past years when the event was held later in the fall – yielding gorgeous photos of snow dusted foliage,

almost the same view of the woods from yesterday, with snow

but shivering lobster eaters huddled inside. (That photo is from #lobsterbake2009)

Avi is a big lobster fan, and much like we’ve had to start getting him his own mussels at restaurants (or be very careful with the rationing lest he eat our entire order), he had his own lobster this year.

He did a pretty solid number on the thing, gamely cracking and twisting to get to the meat and asking for help with the really tricky parts.

He almost gave away his entire tail, deeming the meat “too tough”, but we realized he had some thicker bits from the edge of the body in his mouth and convinced him to give the lusciously sweet tail a second try. Remind me again why we did that?

One of the best things about the lobster bake is the rest of the non-lobster food, a delicious smorgasbord of homemade delights and awesome store-bought crap food (Doritos!) that I don’t normally get to eat. In case I didn’t make it abundantly clear, lobster bakes are solidly in the cheat day category, i.e. 100% NOT x diet friendly!

But x diet influenced our day regardless, as I discovered that it’s difficult to go from one extreme to another, though maybe not how you’re thinking. I made chocolate chip cookies to add to the supplemental food extravaganza. Unfortunately, the thing about baking for real after baking like this is that you may not have all the ingredients in the house that ordinarily you’d take for granted. Like, uh, flour. And sugar. Oops.

My adaptation was a roaring success, however. Enough that I promised the recipe (!) to not one but three different people. Here goes nothing.

(Sort of) Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups coconut flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups dark brown sugar (I may have had to stop midway through mixing to acquire this.)
1 cup sugar (This one, too.)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs vanilla extract
4 large (good) eggs
1 bar of decent semisweet baking chocolate
oil, spray or butter for coating the glassware

Right off the bat I should note that this makes a lot of cookies. A LOT. But they are done blondie style, so you can control the size of your cuts. They also freeze beautifully.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. I was able to do all three of my dishes of cookies together (more on that in a bit), but you may have to stagger your baking depending on your oven.

Mix dry ingredients (not sugars) really well  in one bowl and set aside. Melt butter then coconut oil into the butter (it helps them combine) and set aside to cool. Stir in brown sugar, sugar, vanilla to the  butter/oil combo. While it continues to cool (seriously, you don’t want your eggs to get funky, do you?) chip apart the chocolate bar. Add the eggs to the wet ingredients, then the dry to the wet. It’s going to be crumblier than your typical cookie dough, but that’s why we do them as blondies. Stir in the chocolate shavings/chips/whatever you managed to do with the bar.

For baking, I used 2 9 inch Pyrex pie plates and 2 small 5×5 glass dishes from Ikea. I baked one of the Ikea dishes at home, then chilled the rest of the dough and took it up to the mountains for the lobster bake. I could have easily fit all four dishes on two racks in my oven, though. There seemed to be no major baking-uniformity issue, either.

Spray or coat the glass dishes with whatever stick-free method you prefer. Press the dough in until the bottom is completely covered – I think most of my cookies were about 1 inch thick.

The coconut taste is so subtle that several coconut-haters were fooled. And the fine texture of the dough due to the coconut flour goes nicely with the irregular chocolate chunky slivers. Seriously, it does!

I recommend East End Fat Gary as the perfect accompaniment to these cookies, but then again, I recommend Fat Gary to go along with pretty much anything. I do not, however, recommend anyone try this at home:

Or else you will be mocked. And subject to inside jokes on The Internet.

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The Big Tap In Giveaway Winner!

I survived my first Spring Carnival & Reunion Weekend as a staff member with only minimal damage: a messy house and a nasty cold. I’ve spent most of the day lounging in bed, ostensibly recovering, and reveling in the fact that the only real thing I have to accomplish this afternoon before taking Avi to hockey practice is posting the results of my VIP ticket giveaway.

I used RANDOM.ORG and input numbers 1 to 57 for all the comments, eliminating a ping-back link from another of my posts.

Congratulations, Leah. You have 24 hours to email me to claim your tickets.

Thanks for playing, everyone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a day drink in honor of #cmucarnival.

Open letter

I’m a little busy. Okay, a lot. I’m sorry. In a little over a week I’ll be done with our biggest event of the year and maybe we can hang out then? But then I go to LA, then it’s commencement, then I go to NYC…so I’ll catch you sometime in June? But not July, because then I’m going to Baltimore…

Whew.

It’s really not that bad. I wouldn’t be writing this if I couldn’t spare five minutes (Although I am doing so at work. On Saturday. At 7pm. So there you go.) and for the most part things are under control. Wonderfully awesome people (and lots of regular people too!) will be visiting in fewer days than I can count on one hand, and events we’ve been working on for months will be in full swing by Friday. It’s an exciting kind of exhaustion, but I definitely had a holy-moly-how-is-this-going-to-come-together moment earlier this morning. And yesterday. And probably tomorrow, too.

#ITSFINE

So in the meantime, text me if you need anything, come visit me at Spring Carnival & Reunion Weekend if you’re in town and don’t forget to tell me your favorite beer to win VIP tickets to The Big Tap In.

Oh, and cross your fingers for some sunshine next weekend, okay?

The Big Tap In VIP Ticket Giveaway

I’m going back to LA at the end of the month for work. This is a super exciting thing, since I’m going for Showcase and I’ll get to see a lot of friends. But I fly out on Saturday, April 30, which previously was circled on my calendar for something else entirely.

So my loss is your gain, potentially.

I have two VIP tickets that I’m giving away to one lucky reader who promises to enjoy all the amazing craft beer in my absence. These tickets are valued at $65 a piece, but since VIP tickets are actually sold out one could argue they’re even more valuable. If you don’t like your odds, you can always buy regular tickets for $40 each here, but I have it on the highest authority that the VIP tickets – and the special tastings they allow access to – are totally worth it.

Leave a comment telling me your favorite beer before noon on Sunday, April 17, 2011. (I’m keeping the contest open for that long since I have this little event next week that’s going to be pulling my attention just a bit.) I’ll pick the winner using a random number generator and he or she will have 24 hours to respond. Assuming all goes well on that end, tickets will go into the mail on Monday, April 18.

You must be 21 to enter. Since you can’t even get into The Big Tap In if you’re under 21, there’s no point in winning a pair of tickets you can’t use. Just saying.

The Big Tap In benefits HandsOn Volunteer Network of the Valley. You can also donate here if you’re so inclined.

Fine print: I purchased these VIP tickets on my own. I’m not receiving anything from The Big Tap In or sponsor Vintage Estate Wine and Beer. I sincerely just want these tickets that I cannot use to go to a good home!

Park Bruges (and a status report)

We went out for brunch on Sunday morning. Like out. To a restaurant.  It was delightful. And we walked! From our house!! Clearly I am so excited by this potential that I’m speaking writing in clipped non-sentences.

But I do long for a more walkable neighborhood, even though we have vastly more accessible by foot than any other place I’ve lived since college. Maybe then I long for more taking advantage of the walkability? In either case, on Sunday when we decided to check out Park Bruges and I spontaneously suggested we walk (apparently the veritable 40 degree heat wave inspired me), I was totally tickled when the boys agreed.

The short version: Amazing food, delicious cocktails, lovely design, pricey menu, no line.

Totally recommend it, especially because I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There is no wait at the Highland Park location (so far). While people line up around the block at Point Brugge for Sunday brunch, we walked right in to Park Bruges at 11:30am. Awesomesauce.

And the food. Oh my, the food! Maybe I should just show you.

The mussels. Of course we had the mussels. We all had the same number to be completely fair; Avi would have eaten more if we had let him.

Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and field greens on challah.

Liege waffles with apples, cranberries and blueberries.

Steak and eggs with frites.

Not convincing enough for you? We tried several cocktails as well, two of which were completely new to us.

Bloody Mary and Prosecco.

Pim’s Cup – Pimm’s #1, ginger ale, soda, lemon & cucumber garnish.

Rte. 8 Mule – Boyd and Blair vodka, ginger beer, fresh lime juice. Incredible.

Such a fun family morning. I am seriously looking forward to more little walking excursions as the weather gets warmer and we emerge from our sickly winter cocoon.

Oh, and lest you think this was a brunch of ridiculous excess not in keeping with my avowed moderation, I can assure you that we *all* took a good amount of food home. I haven’t lost 25 pounds since January 3 by breaking the rules, but I still get to live a little, too ;)

Resolve.

So here we go.

I am *exactly* the same weight as I was this time last year. Down to the pound. But what does that really mean? Well, not only did I lose 53 pounds last spring, winning the Loser Mom contest, even, but I also gained back 53 pounds over the summer and fall. I’m nothing if not consistent.

I started writing again so I had a way to keep recipes and nutritional information in one place, and to brag a little when I hit major goals. I’ve gotten away from that, and tracking nutritional information in general, and the results are, well…pretty spectacular. In a bad way. I started out tracking everything – food intake, serving size, exercise – on a daily basis. I was going to the gym at least four times a week, doing yoga, running. When I failed, because that’s what we’re talking about here, I failed at every one of those things.

This is hard.

I’m doing a detox this week to kickstart some changes to the way I approach food at home. Again. And I have a lot of events and responsibilities at work coming to head over the next two months, so this is really the perfect time to introduce and enforce something I’ve struggled with for a long time: discipline. No surprises there.

Unfortunately, that also means giving up (temporarily) one of my favorite things: good, delicious beer. We have tickets to The Big Tap In at the end of April, which will be an awesome reward when I get that far. I’m not putting a number on that here, despite my continued interest in numbers, but I’m confident I can be two marshmallow about it.

So no big resolution lists, no specific numbers, no public goals. Just resolve. To get through this detox, exercise daily and eat smarter.

(And to eventually drink beer again.)

Best Chicken Salad with Toasted Garlic Cheddar Beer Bread

Ah, Thanksgiving break. A time for food, family, friends. And for finally finishing the posts that have been sitting in draft-limbo. Riiiight.

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been doing a Saturday or Sunday crock pot thing, mostly inspired by how useful my #fishtacos leftovers proved to be. Now that rugby is over for the season (and the crowd cheers), we’ll probably do more cooking throughout the week, but those easily accessible briskets and pulled chickens were sure nice to have on nights that Avi and I were home alone.

One of our favorite leftover meals was mostly accidental, as usual. I decided to make chicken salad but we had no mayonnaise or celery – two relatively traditional chicken salad ingredients. I didn’t even have Greek yogurt, which is a great alternative. Instead, I had mustard,CSA radishes, beet horseradish, CSA pea shoots, CSA parsley, kosher salt and onions. Turns out, that’s a pretty awesomely delicious combination for chicken salad.

It had a kick to it, obviously. But that was the point. It wasn’t heavy and creamy and mouth-smacky like store-bought chicken salad. The perfect complement to – wait for it – more beer bread. #predictable

Next verse, same as the first. Except with toasted garlic in place of jalapeno. Amazing when toasted.

For Thanksgiving, I made a triple batch in the large cast iron skillet with cheddar, cayenne pepper and the last of the fresh parsley. So. Much. Beer. Bread.