Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trip to Alexandria, VA (part deux)

For dinner, we originally were going out for happy hour oysters, but the restaurant was closed for a wedding rehearsal (with very little signage, so it took us a minute to figure out what was up), and so we decided to go back to Cafe Salsa for some happy hour munchies instead. Appetizers were half off, and drinks were cheap. I had a glass (okay, two glasses) of their Red Sangria, which was very good - not too sweet and with a good amount of fruit tossed in. Mr Llama had a mojito, obviously the overindulgance from the night before had little effect on him! We ordered their ceviche (raw seafood marinated in citrus juice), Papitas Rellanas (mashed potatoes around cuban meat and deep fried), and the Arepitas (cornmeal cakes topped with shredded pork). The ceviche was by far the best, tangy and a bit spicy, with noticible cumin and cilantro flavors. The seafood was firm and moist and very tasty. The cornmeal cakes with shredded pork were good but not outstanding, and I liked the papitas mostly because fried mashed potatoes are good in any form.

It was still early, so we decided to walk up and down King Street, where we spotted a sign for a wine and coffee bar called Grape + Bean. We sat down at the bar, I had a glass of Sauv Blanc, and Mr Llama tried a wine flight. Unfortunately, after mojitos and some wine, I forgot to write down any of the wines we tried. However, we did try a fabulous Muscatel paired with some artisanal chocolate. . . . While we were there, I pulled out my Pomatomus sock to work on, and ended up in a number of conversations with nearby patrons, two of which knit as well! We talked about the pattern, knitting while drinking, it was fabulous! We probably spent two hours in the wine bar, since it was dark by the time we left.

After more wandering, we finished the night at Mai Thai, where we shared an order of Scallion Rice Cakes, sticky rice shaped into patties, wrapped in scallions, and fried, served with a sweet Hoisin-based dipping sauce, and and order of vegetarian spring rolls, crunchy vegetables wrapped in rice paper. Neither dish was spicy, so we asked for hot sauce and got a tray of four different chili sauces - peppers in vinegar, a dry spice mix, a sambal-esque sauce, and a darker, milder combination that tasted almost like XO sauce. Full and happy, we headed back to the hotel.

Stopped at Candi's Candies and bought a big bag of taffy - they have more flavors than I've ever seen in one place! Even things like molasses and honey, which, although they're two of my favorites, could not be considered to be the most popular of flavors.

(I am posting this even though I didn't finish it because it needed to be done! --Llama 3-28-12)

Restarting the blog and cleaning out the freezer!

So, yeah, life happens and the first thing to go is the blog, of course. That and writing a dissertation for 10-12 hours a day makes writing in the down time exceptionally hard, but that's been over for more than a year, so I have no excuse not to start up again!

I've started to focus on cleaning out my freezers. They've now been reorganized and inventoried, and I've noticed two things:
1) I have WAY too much tomatillo sauce. As good as it is, there is no way I'm going to eat all that anytime soon, so there will be NO tomatillos in the garden this year!
2) I apparently buy frozen Brussels sprouts and spinach every time I go to the store. This is getting a bit silly.

So, tonight was getting rid of an (unlabeled, of course) Rubbermaid container of some-kind-of-pureed-winter-squash. Winter squashes go well with butter, bacon, onions, and sage. I had lasagna noodles in the pantry, bacon fat on the counter (in my bacon fat mug- doesn't everyone have one of those?!), half an onion in the fridge, and sage in the garden. And before you say it, yeah, I know, I was totally lazy and Sandra Lee'd it up with the "pre-grated cheese", but that's what I get for picking up cheese at Target. That was the only thing I needed to complete...

Some-kind-of-squash Lasagna
Serves 4-6; one 11"X7" pyrex dish

1.5 cups of some kind of roasted squash puree (butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc)
12 lasagna noodles
2 Tbsp bacon fat (sub butter or oil if you need)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
8 oz grated Italian blend cheese 
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil water in a large pan. Add salt until the water tastes like sea water, then add the lasagna noodles and cook as indicated on whatever package you have. You could probably use the no-cook noodles but I would add extra water to the squash or make extra bechamel sauce. While the water boils/noodles cook, melt the bacon fat and butter together, then add the onions and saute until they start to brown. Add the chopped sage and saute until it turns bright green. Whisk in the flour to make a roux; cook for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Whisk in the milk, turn down the heat, and stir regularly until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the squash is unseasoned, you'll want to make the bechamel almost too salty to make the final lasagna palatable. Drain the pasta (I gave it a little rinse in cold water just so I could touch the noodles). Put a thin layer of bechamel on the bottom of your pan, cover with 4 noodles. Spread with half the squash, a fourth of the grated cheese, and a third of the bechamel. Repeat with noodles, squash, cheese, bechamel, noodles, bechamel, and the last half the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cheese on top is browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes so it doesn't fall apart on you.

I had a salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on it on the side.

Approximate nutrition information for 6 servings:  One serving has approximately 500 calories, 56g carbs, 22g fat, 26g protein.  (From's recipe calculator)