Saturday, August 27, 2011

7 Quick Takes, Volume 7 (The Hurricane Irene Edition)


Right now it's raining slightly, and we're waiting for Hurricane Irene. She's just hit Eastern North Carolina and is heading North. I don't *think* it's going to be all that bad here; when Isabel hit us eight years ago, we lost power for a week. I'm counting on that not happening this time. Joe's parents live east of us and they'll likely get hit harder than we will; they've decided to hunker down in their house rather than coming to ours. Please keep them in your prayers, as we're keeping everyone in Irene's path in ours.

I'm glad we took our Ocean City vacation last weekend instead of this one.


I expect the Sparkses are getting pounded as I'm writing this. Judging from this photo Nicholas posted recently, they're right on the water. He had some things to say about Irene on his Twitter page yesterday:

#Irene is directly south and moving due north. Weather forecast predicts "wind and rain" tomorrow. Ya think?

With such high winds expected, "Irene" should really be called "I-lean" ...

If it rains cats and dogs this weekend, I'm going to be really upset at the pet owners who didn't keep their animals inside ...

#Irene expected to make landfall in North Carolina. Heavy wind and rain expected. Bad-hair day virtually guaranteed ...

#Irene is directly south of my house and moving due north. The weekend forecast for weather says to expect "wind and rain." No kidding.

As much as #Irene is making people worry, the sky isn't falling. It's called "wind-driven rain."

And this:

Weather joke: There was a communist named Rudolph. One day he looked out the window and said, “It looks like a storm is coming.” “No it isn t,” said his wife. “Besides, how would you know?” “Because,” he responded, “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”

Yeah, I've heard that one, Nick. Very cheesy. Stay safe.


If Joe's parents came and stayed with us, we'd have to leave their car outside in the elements. There's no room in our garage anymore after we moved all the deck furniture in.

I'm not sure yet if we'll move it back (except for my herbs, of course). Our days of enjoying meals outside may be over until spring.


Did you know there is a Gluten Free kiosk in Nationals Park in Washington, DC? I was quite excited to discover this when we attended a game this summer. The place was quite popular, too.

I had the loaded nachos and a Redbridge beer. (I enjoyed them very much, but I must say I tried not to look at the loaded nachos other people had gotten from other places; they looked yummier than these.)


Here's a re-broadcast of a Quick Take I posted on "Musings of a Catholic Mom" soon after we spent a weekend in Shenandoah National Park:

After the 5 pm Saturday Mass at Our Lady of the Valley, we decided to check out the town of Luray and find something to eat. When we saw a sign that read, "The Best Burger in Virginia" outside the Artisan Grill on East Main Street, we just had to try it. Larry, Curly, and Joe all got burgers (Larry had the barbecue burger and Joe and Curly had the bacon cheddar; they all loved them), and Moe and I, because of our food restrictions, each ordered a bowl of the buffalo chili. Other than the beans being slightly undercooked, it was delicious. I also decided to try the Caprese salad--sliced tomatoes sprinkled with goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. The tomatoes were obviously of the local, fresh variety--big, thick, slices with that unmistakable fresh tomato flavor. I wished there had been a little more cheese on them, but even though I was already full from the chili, I ate almost every bite.

We also checked out their daily dessert selections, and Larry and Joe decided to try the panna cotta. We had never heard of that--it's an Italian dessert made with cream, milk, sugar, and gelatin. It kind of reminded me of a cross between Jell-o and creme brulee. Larry got raspberry and Joe got amaretto. Of course I had to mooch a bite from each--both were amazing; although I liked the raspberry better. They also had small-dairy ice cream on the menu; Curly ordered chocolate and I ordered vanilla. This was definitely NOT factory-made ice cream, and the chocolate was even better than what we had made the previous weekend.

If you're ever in Luray, be sure to check out the Artisan Grill!

And there you have my first ever restaurant review.


I wonder what this tastes like?

If I weren't on a gluten-free diet I would want to try it just for fun. (I probably wouldn't like it anyway.)


Today I'm making peppermint ice cream and a gluten-free berry crisp. Tomorrow I'm planning to whip up my mother-in-law's spaghetti sauce, whether we have power or not. (Thank goodness for a gas stove!) Which reminds me, I need to thaw the meat in the microwave today, just in case. I can't wait to share those with you here.

For more Quick Takes, check out Jen's Conversion Diary blog!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

At First Sight: Spinach-stuffed chicken breast, wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon

Hello again!

Did you think I'd dropped off the face of the earth? Actually, if you follow my other blog, "Musings of a Catholic Mom," you'll see I've been plenty busy. I have a new job as a teaching assistant that starts this week, in a new Montessori preschool that just opened up at an Episcopal church in my town. What's really great about it is that the school's director and head teacher is a friend who taught both Curly and Moe when they were preschool/Kindergarten age, AND for two years I was her teaching assistant. It was great working with her; I'm psyched! I've also been trying to help the boys get ready for the new school year; Curly and Moe have summer homework which they (of course) have waited until the last minute to finish. We've also been stocking up on school supplies and buying shoes and getting their school uniforms together. Larry is starting at the public high school in a couple of weeks, and last Monday he took his Virginia Standards of Learning test for Algebra I--and passed with flying colors! There is no doubt that Larry is entering a new phase in his life; he finally asked for his own room, and we spent a weekend moving his stuff and re-organizing Curly and Moe's stuff too. I took no less than five ginormous garbage bags of clothes to Goodwill. And last weekend Larry got a phone. A year from now he'll be old enough for a learner's permit--Heaven forbid. And we just spent a fun but too-short weekend in Ocean City, Maryland; I took almost 200 photos in four days. Stay tuned to "Musings of a Catholic Mom" for highlights from that trip (I'll try not to post too many vacation pictures and bore you to death), a little bit about the church where we went to Mass on Sunday, and a few thoughts about beaches in general and crowded places and beach bungalows and a condo on the twenty-first floor. Here's a preview:

Okay, now for the real purpose of this blog post; to FINALLY share the amazing bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken I made nearly a month ago.

Remember the little spat Lexie and Jeremy had in At First Sight when they went to a fancy restaurant together? Jeremy wanted to get a big ol' porterhouse steak but ended up ordering tuna (to see the delicious tuna we grilled, click here) because Lexie didn't approve. Lexie, being pregnant and all, wanted to eat something healthy, so she ordered stuffed chicken and steamed vegetables. Of course, the stuffed chicken we had probably wasn't nearly as healthy as Lexie's; and I'm sure Lexie didn't order hers wrapped in bacon and stuffed with, among other things, full-fat sour cream. (At least mine had spinach.)

I found this recipe online:



· 1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach leaves

· 1/2 cup sour cream

· 1/2 cup shredded pepperjack cheese

· 4 cloves garlic, minced

· 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded to 1/2 inch thickness

· 1 pinch ground black pepper

· 8 slices bacon

Most everything is the cheap grocery-store brand--except the meat, which I bought at my local butcher shop. Once I tasted their applewood-smoked bacon, I found no need to ever buy bacon anywhere else.


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2. Place spinach in a large glass bowl, and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so, or until wilted. Stir in sour cream, pepperjack cheese, and garlic.

3. Lay the chicken breasts out on a clean surface, and spoon some of the spinach mixture onto each one. Roll up chicken to enclose the spinach, then wrap each chicken breast with two slices of bacon. Secure with toothpicks, and arrange in a shallow baking dish.

4. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, then increase heat to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C), or use the oven's broiler to cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to brown the bacon.


I think it's cool how spinach suddenly gets smaller when it's heated up.

I like to butterfly my chicken breasts before pounding them.

Ready to go in the oven...

You have no idea how delicious these smelled.

Taking a cue from Lexie, I steamed some carrots and rice to go with it.

(I read recently that when you're taking pictures of food, you should never shoot your plate from above like this. I'll keep that in mind next time.)

Sometime I'll make the steak and garlic mashed potatoes that Jeremy wanted to get, but for now we'll leave Lexie and Jeremy alone to enjoy their romantic evening.

There is also one more food project from the epilogue of At First Sight that I'm going to save for later. When I finally get back to that one, I'll have no choice but to reveal the ending of the book, and I at least want to give you a chance to read it first. (Did I ever tell you that Message in a Bottle was one of my least favorite Nicholas Sparks books when I first read it? Not because it wasn't good--it is--but because I already knew the ending. Many years ago I was up for a late-night feeding with one of the boys--Moe, probably--and I started flipping channels and heard dramatic music, and saw ocean waves, and Kevin Costner and a sailboat and Robin Wright Penn on the beach and...anyway, I didn't know what I was watching and suddenly the credits started rolling. "Message in a Bottle," they said. Never heard of it. That was a long time ago.) So of COURSE I wouldn't want to ruin At First Sight for you--Oh, but guess what? A while back on his Twitter page, Nick was going on about which books were the most fun to write and which ones were the most challenging and which ones made him cry--and At First Sight fell into the third category. Hope that didn't spoil it too much for ya.

After I share the wonderful peach ice cream I made and probably post another 7 Quick Takes, (and can you believe it's almost been a year since I started this little journey?) we'll move on to Dear John. And with Dear John comes spaghetti, and do you know what that means? Grandma B's totally authentic and deliciously Italian sauce, complete with meatballs and sausage. You won't want to miss that!