Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a NON bridezilla kind of day!!

We had a wonderful time in NYC (more to come on that). It was a nice break from DC and the constant reminder that my to-do list seems to be getting longer by the day.

Today, I got my rehearsal dinner dress in the mail at work. The dress gods, albeit missing last night in my quest to find a perfect shower dress for my DC shower on Sunday, were with me today. This baby is perfect and fits like a glove! I snuck into an empty office, had my girlfriends guard the door and did a little in office fashion show. Thankfully, my boss has the corner office, so no one could see me playing barbie doll dress up except for those who I called back to check me/the dress out! Sorry no pictures, you will have to wait and see :)

Tonight we are meeting with a potential DJ, with a bilingual MC. They are reasonably priced, and have fabulous reviews. Fingers crossed.

I need to remind myself of days like today when things are looking up on the days when Bridezilla sneaks up on me.

I am so excited for this weekend. My first bridal shower, my bridesmaid and adorable flower girl will be in town, and we are going to check out the venue as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

a bridezilla kind of day

I'm having a little bridezilla(ish) kind of day. Our room block rate of $149/night at the Westin is rapidly filling up, and I know that we will need more than the 10 rooms left. I gave them a call to let them know, and now they are saying they can only offer more rooms at the special rate for two night minimums. I know a lot of our guest will be coming from out of town, so they will probably stay both Friday and Saturday but I am literally pulling my hair out here trying to accomodate everyone. Now I am frantically searching through our guest list trying to figure out who needs only one night. Come on Westin.. work with me here.

Other items I have been working on:
  • Sunday (day after the wedding) Brunch
  • DC Shower outfit/dress- still nothing and it is next weekend!
  • Invitations
  • Decor Items
  • planning meetings
    • DJ/entertainment
    • Flowers
    • Hair
Let's just say I am looking forward to taking a little break this weekend from the planning!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Passato di Ceci- Pureed Chickpea soup


  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 lrg onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 lrg or 2 sm carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed & divided
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 bundle fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 quart water
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
  • 5-6 (1/2 inch) slice country style bread cut into cubes


  • Coat a large pot with olive oil, add the pancetta & bring to medium heat. When pancetta starts to become crispy, add the onion, carrots, celery, 3cloves of garlic, pinch of crushed red pepper & season lightly with salt. Sweat the veg. for 6 - 7 minutes or til they become very aromatic & start to soften.
  • Drain the water from the soaked chuickpeas, rinse & add to pot. Add the chicken stock, thyme bundle, bay leaves & 1 quart of water. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer til the chickpeas are very soft & falling apart, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Turnoff heat, season the water with salt and let it sit for 15 -20 minutes.
  • Fill a skillet with olive oil til it is about 1/2 inch deep & add the remaining 3 garlic cloves, the rosemary leaves & a pinch of crushed red pepper & bring it to a medium heat. Remove the garlic once it is golden . Add the bread cubes & cook til they start to become crispy & golden. Season with salt & remove the croutons from the oil to a bowl, reserving the rosemary oil.
  • Add the infused oil to the soup. Puree in a food processor. Season to taste. If too thick, cook more to reduce or thin it by adding water.
  • Serve with croutons & drizzle with infused oil.
My adaptations:
Our thyme plant was looking a little bleak, so I  chose to omit the fresh thyme bundle. I did not cook the bread cubes in the oil but added rosemary to soup mixture and drizzled olive oil on the finished soup. I also used more carrots. To puree I used my trustee imersion blender, and while I did miss a few chickpeas it was nice to have an occasional pea in the bowl. This soup is delicious and very filling!

Maybe next time I will add shrimp, like this person did:

Recipe Courtesy of Anne Burell-foodnetwork.com
picture courtesy of an Italian Food blog, as we were so hungry I forgot to snap a photo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sigh of Relief

The Mother of the Bride has a dress THE MOST PERFECT DRESS!

I am so happy that my mom found a dress that she loves for our big day!

Love you Mommy Dearest!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Adventures in Crockpotting

I have been quiet this week on the blog front, mainly because I have not been feeling my best. I just got back from the doctors (sinus infection- looks like my weekend will be on the couch!) and have some chicken noodle soup in the crockpot. I started it on the stove and put it in the crockpot so I could run out to my appointment and not have to worry about it boiling over as I rested.  As I was catching up on emails, facebook, pinterest and blogging I realized I never posted this picture from last week which believe it or not, was an epic FAIL. It was a beef, butternut squash, white bean soup that I tried to liven up with some mushrooms, mirepoix, fresh herbs, and other spices. I think I did not season the stew meat enough before I seared it in the morning. It was edible but not sensational.

Let's hope the chicken noodle soup turns out better!

What is your favorite crockpot recipe?

We have bridesmaid dresses!

Last weekend I went up to Betsy Robinson Bridal with my mom and bridal party (sister Jennifer, pseudo-sister Jenna, Kaitlin and Ashley) for my first dress try on. That's right folks my actual dress is in and I got to go and try it on! It was very exciting, but also embarrassing for me to be in this beautiful gown and to have five of the women that I love most in the world look at me with big cheesy smiles and tears in their eyes.  GET A HOLD OF YOURSELVES LADIES! Anyways, I love my dress (top secret obviously) but it was also the first time everyone was all together to look for bridesmaid dresses. We thought we found a dress a few months ago, but after a few Internet searches i nixed it because it was not very flattering in pictures. So we were behind on the game because dresses take about 4 months to come in,and even though we all agreed on a dress, we were on the cusp of delivery in time for the wedding. We got the final confirmation that Amsale can rush order the girls dresses.. and HERE THEY ARE!!!!
This Style Dress
In This Gorgeous Color

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

sugar pie HONEYBELL

Sugar Pie Honey Bell....... You know that I Love YOU!!

Just when you think the "holiday's are over" blues is in full effect, the most amazing thing happens: Nannie and Poopa (my grandparents) send you a case of honeybells! This remarkable, and sweet fruit is so juicy it comes with a bib!
Honeybells are even that much more special to me this year.  Last year, around this time, Poopa suffered a stroke and had to undergo surgery. I left work early, went to church and cried the entire walk back to my apartment. When I reached my front door step my honeybells arrived with a note  " We miss you- Love Nannie and Poopa." I took it as a sign and you know what??? Poopa came through the operation with flying colors!

This year, not only am I thankful for this January's pick me up of a delicious snack, but also I am so so lucky to have such amazing grandparents in my life to send me such a nice treat.

It is funny how life progresses: growing up Jennifer, Dennis, my parents and I would fight over the box, rationing them out daily. I have since learner how to share (sort of) and now am packing a honeybell in Luis and my lunches every day.

Honeybells are only available in January So Hurry up and get your own today!

Did you know: Honeybells are a hybrid fruit consisting of a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. The Duncan grapefruit and the Dancy tangerine are both known for their sweet taste and juiciness. Their natural hybrid cross has created the Honeybell. Both the tangerine and grapefruit have seeds, but the Honeybell is seedless. The official name of the Honeybell is Minneola Tangelo

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wish Me Luck

Lots of big things going on this weekend:
1. Trying on MY DRESS for the first time
2. Hopefully finding some hot dresses for my bridesmaids
3. Engagement pictures.

And lots of fun things in between: soccer tonight, nails/eyebrows, dinner, comedy club, brunch,  covering an event for capital cooking, Giants in the playoffs.

Good thing it is a long weekend, I am going to need every second of it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pecorino Romano

I cannot say enough about freshly grated cheese. Does everyone have a microplane? If not, get your butt over to triple B (bed bath and beyond), spend 15 bucks, and buy one. Right now. It is the best tool ever.Freshly grated cheese turns everything (pasta, chicken, salad, you name it) a little better with a few waves of the hand. It is a lot better than dumping salt and butter (which undoubtedly makes everything the best ever) all over your food, and a little bit goes a long way

The inspiration for this post: I just knocked a $15 hunk of Pecorinio Romano in the sink with a soapy cookie sheet. Aka I just threw away $15 bucks of cheese. womp womp womp
Don't worry, I still have some fresh Parmesan to grate.

Heyyaa Neyla

My team decided to celebrate an successful 2011 with a (rainy) night out in Georgetown. First we stopped by Cafe Milano for a cocktail.  Jim & Cristina opted for dirty martini's, whereas Chrissy and myself went out on a very delicious limb and ordered a "Red Earl." This drink was an inspired martini (vodka, lemoncello and raspberry puree) that went down a little too easily. It was strong, and reminded me of summer, but was not overly sweet. We had reservations at Neyla and had a great meal. Although it was restaurant week, we were also able to order from the regular menu as well.

We started off with Hummus & Baba Ghannoug. They were both beyond fresh and served as bowls filled with high quality olive oil  in the actual ceramic bowls they came out in. The girls were very impressed by the light and fluffy pitas, and I enjoyed some fresh cucumber & tomato slices with freshly squeezed lemon.

 I ordered the shrimp appetizer, which came out super fresh with a tomato and garlic concasse. The shrimp was actually hand delivered by Executive Chef Abdul (pictured below) as the first batch that came out had pita already in the dish. The server was very apologetic, and Chef Abdul assured us that there was no gluten in the second appetizer.

Chef Abdul

 The Mouhammara available on the restaurant week and regular menu was an interesting red pepper puree with loads of texture from the walnuts and radish

Our Entrees:
- I had the Grilled Lamb Chops marinated in lemon, harissa, mint, olive oil  which were perfectly cooked and came with a bed of arugula and garlic whip to lighten up the dish. (Regular Menu)
-Cristina and Jim both ordered the roasted lamb shank with smoked eggplant puree, baby carrots, burgundy lamb jus . The notes of cardamom that popped through were amazing. The dish was served in the copper pot/tangine the lamb was braised in, it could have been accompanied with some greens to cut through the richness. (Restaurant Week)
- Chrissy ordered coriander almond crust, wild mushroom risotto, meyer lemon vinaigrette. The salmon was a little dry, but the risotto was excellent. (Restaurant Week)
The ambiance is very unique and made me feel as if I were in a chic Arabic tent. We ordered a very nice Lebanese wine that had quite the decanting. The servers were really moving the decanter as the wine tightens up from the hot dry desert of Lebanon in transit to humid DC. The wine was very nice, especially with the lamb.

All and all we had a great night. I would definitely return to Neyla, especially on their outside patio with the space heaters. The only true complaint was the weather, who wants to walk around Georgetown in the rain!

Photo Credit: Neyla.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Oval Room- January 2012 Restaurant Week.

Monday was a day of mixed emotions: it was a long day at work, Uncle Sam decided he wanted a hefty sum back from my 2008 tax refund, and I got reamed out by a priest. Yep, a priest. After some tears, and a few walks around K Street, my day was salvaged by a long overdue date with Sumita & Kathleen. Sumita was my savior and whisked me off to the Bottom Line (affectionately known as the BL) for a few glasses of pinot grigio before our 7:30 reservations. Kathleen joined us, and two women and a little baby (me) went to the Oval Room for dinner. It's restaurant week, so you know what the means: smaller portions, crowds and a limited menu. It does give you the excuse to try a nicer restaurant, but the "deal" at $35.20 for three courses quickly becomes $65 after some wine and a tip. So is it really a deal, when Monday nights usually consist of soccer and whatever I can whip together quickly for dinner? Don't get me wrong, I had a great time and it is always fun to go out to dinner, I'm just counting pennies here.

My three courses:
Appetizer: Goat cheese Custard, Cherry Marmalade, cracked pepper, arugula
I wanted to love this. I love goat cheese and pretty much anything custard, but I thought it was going to be over a bed of arugula, when I may have had one leaf. The sweetness of the cherry marmalade cut through the richness of the custard, but I still felt like I was eating spoonfuls of an alfredo sauce. I  barely ate during the day, so though I did not love it, I definitely ate it all.

Entree: Sea Scallops, Orange Puree, and potato crisp
I love scallops, and did enjoy this course. One of my scallops was a little gritty, but they were cooked pretty well with a nice sear and not overdone. The orange puree was a nice way to lighten up the dish ( do I see a trend, my Rockfish from Smith Commons this week had orange accents as well!). I had to substitute the accompaniment (vegetable couscous) and so I got a potato crisps which basically tasted like waffle house hash browns. There is a time and place for this, and next to my scallops is not that time/place. I think the waiter should have suggested something else? I was excepting more of a skillet potato.
Sumita had the Rockfish, with spaghetti squash and chili oil. The fish was cooked perfectly and there was a wonderful harmony between the sweetness of the squash and the chili oil.
Kathleen had the flat iron steak which was perfectly cooked, tender and seasoned very well.

Desert:Coconut Custard with some citrus highlights
The exact description is not up on the Oval Room's website, but it was a nice light way to end the meal.

The atmosphere is quiet and intimate, although a little dark for my liking. The service was attentive, although our waiter did not have much knowledge with respect to gluten free issues. He did check in with the chef, but I believe he was misinformed. We had a nice bottle of pinot grigio, but it was nothing to write home about.

I have dined at the Oval Room before and I have always been satisfied, but not blown away. I'm sure I will return due to the close proximity of my office, however, I may not for restaurant week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'mouse in a pot'

Oh the adventures of owning a home....
Photo Credit: Stephanie Wright
On Sunday, my friend Stephanie was over and we were mulling over pinterest when she noticed a mouse trap. "Do you guys have mice?" she asked. Obviously she is not an avid reader of this blog, so I explained to her about the mouse in our Christmas tree and how we caught him. I said  that we thought we were all done (jinxed ourselves of course), when all of a sudden, Gus from Cinderella strolls across the living room, in the middle of the afternoon! I ran to the kitchen and actually caught him in a pot flipped upside down. Luis was out at the hardware store, so I called him home to deal with it. We obviously threw out the pot.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Joyce
This morning, we called an exterminator who reported that it looks like we got 'em all, and to not worry there were no signs of anything serious. Luis told him how I caught the mouse, and he said that it probably had eaten the poison (he called in bait, but let's be real here) so he was probably moving slow. I assured him that I am extremely quick, so it could just be my lightening speed.

1. I am so proud of myself: not only for catching the mouse, but not freaking out like a little baby as I do with  pretty mych anything (bugs etc)
2. This is gross. I do not know why I am sharing as I don't want people  to judge/think I have a dirty home... but the more I talked about it with friends, the more common I found out it is. We never had mice grwoing up, so this was apalling to me.  My house is not dirty by the way!
3. The mice were kind of cute.

Pizza Night- Paniagua Style

Pizza night is a favorite of ours. There is nothing like homemade pizza on the couch with a glass of wine.

One of the things that I miss the most about my pre-celiac days is the ability to go out and grab a pizza (late night, and during the day). Pity me no more. Not only are there tons of restaurants with delicious GF crusts, thanks to Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza mix, I can whip up a pizza in no time. One mix actually yields two pizzas, so you can pop one of them in the freezer. Saturday night, I defrosted a dough mix in the microwave, let it rise and played my own version of chopped and assembled a delicious veggie pizza with leftover veggies from the week ( I usually grocery shop on Sunday's with the rest of the world).

Paniagua's Personal Pan Pizza 1-7-12:
I normally make my own sauce (usually meat) from scratch. This time, I used a jar of Rao's Arrabbiata Sauce. Although Rao's is more expensive then your standard jarred sauces, it is well worth it.
-roasted garlic in the oven w. some kosher salt and olive oil
- caramelized one onion
- 1.5 green peppers
- thinly sliced up some portabella mushrooms
- sliced olives
- dollops of part-skim ricotta
- fresh Basil
- Good Mozzarella- This is Key.  You can get the fresh balls in the food store, believe me it is worth the extra money than the shredded bags. You can get really great prices of mozz at Costco!
- Freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Assembly: Follow the instructions on Bob's packaging to make the dough. Once the dough is partially cooked, layer your toppings: First the sauce and spread around with the back of a spoon, small dollops of ricotta, then put the thinly slice fresh mozzarella down. Then you can sprinkle the veggies throughout. Rip up some fresh basil and sprinkle some freshly grated pecorino roman  (or parmesan) on top.

Monday, January 9, 2012


On Saturday we had errands to run over in Annapolis. We stopped by Rental to Remember and visited with Roberto & Chrissy. Then we went  to my bosses' beautiful house in Sherwood Forest, which he is graciously letting my family use for the wedding weekend. We also went all around downtown Annapolis looking for rehearsal dinner venues.
We ate lunch outside at Harry Browne's right on state circle, the weather was gorgeous there was some rouge on my cheeks post lunch!

Did you know:  The Maryland State House (pictured above behind Luis) is the oldest state capitol still in continuous legislative use and is the only state house to have ever served as the nation's capitol. The Continental Congress met in the Old Senate Chamber from November 26, 1783, to August 13, 1784. During that time, George Washington came before Congress to resign his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the Treaty of Paris was ratified, marking the official end of the Revolutionary War.

Then we shared a mint chocolate chip ice cream down by Ego Alley.

Luis loves ducks. He was like a kid laughing and smiling as they caught bread right in their beaks from the actual children who were feeding the ducks. Note to self: next time bring Luis some bread to Annapolis

Man & Wife

Date night- H Street Style

Luis and I try to save "Date nights" for special occasions. Well you know what? This past Friday it was time for a night out on the town to relax and treat ourselves. Our original (and cheaper) plan of sharing a pot of mussels was squashed when we went to Granville Moores and they told us that there was a 2.5 hour wait! The bad news: I was craving mussels. The good news: our house is right in the heart of H street, and long waits mean popularity and further development, which is great for our property value.

We started off the night at Fruit Bat. I had a "groupon" ( I call all deal sites groupons). So while we had to wait over an hour for our table at Smith Commons, we popped across the street for a few cocktails. I had two ginger Caiprowska. They were delicious, just the perfect amount of sweetness, and went down a little too easy.  Luis had some Jamison on the rocks. It seems as though the H Street restaurants are pretty tolerant with you leaving while you are waiting for your table, because they ask you for your cell phone numbers instead of those restaurant pagers. Normally, I would stay for drinks at Smith Commons, because they are devine, but we had this voucher that was expiring shortly, so we checked out Fruit Bat and I am glad that we did.
Photo Credit: We love DC
For dinner, I had the Chesapeake Rock fish served with a Crab Risotto. The dish was flawless. It was the perfect portion of fish with crispy skin, rich crab risotto and some burst of flavor with the orange chutney. I was in heaven. Luis had the braised short ribs, which were very tender and accompanied by a pickled relish. He had the green beans as well, which I couldn't taste as they contained soy sauce. For desert with split a flourless chocolate cake with jalapeno ice cream. It was the perfect balance and reminded me of dark chocolate bars with chili flakes in them.

After the crazy week we had between work and wedding planning, it was really nice to have a good meal and spend some qt together.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Gus!

This past week, a very special friend of mine had his 4th birthday. You all know him well, Mr. Goose!

Shoutout to Sir Mickey, who is a lively young pup who turned 15 this week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and get them sit ups right and

Tuck your tummy tight and do your crunches like this.......
That's right folks... Kanye's (or my boot camp instructor Corey's) workout plan. I am starting off the New Year- and the wedding countdown 115 days!- on the right foot. I have started doing boot camp again. I signed up for 3 days a week (6-7 pm) and hope to sneak in some cardio as well. My strategy is to start off slow, and work up to the bride psycho diet/gym routine. Don't get me wrong, I have that dream bride body in my mind, but I also want to enjoy the wedding planning and time with my fiance (that word is so pretentious), so I am trying to find a balance. Let me tell you... the holiday's aka binge fest 2011 have come, lingered on my thighs and now its time for them to move on. I have boot camp tonight and I am looking forward to it as my performance the at the first two sessions this week, has been less than stellar. The only way to get any better is to keep at it!

Luis took this amazing shot when we were in Bolivia. Although I look relaxed and pensive, I should have been thinking about kicking my butt into gear and running up that Volcano!

Happy Friday

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We've got the whole world...

In Our Hands.. I am feeling guilty this morning....Last night as we played "let's rethink our original honeymoon", we were literally considering the entire world. Our dream was to Safari in Kenya and then enjoy the beach in Zanzibar, but with the rainy season falling in late April, early May we cannot take the chance of spending all the time and money to be cooped up inside. Not only are we fortunate enough to be able to realistically pick anywhere that we want to go, as we looked at websites " best places in the world, top honeymoon destinations, NY Times places to see this year, etc" we realized that we have already been to so many of these dream destinations. We are so fortunate for the opportunities laid before us, and I am so excited for our honeymoon and life together. I just cannot help but to feel a twinge of guilt, that not everyone is in our shoes. Yes, we will be repaying our honeymoon for who knows how long, but there are people who cannot afford their rent, or even a sandwich. We are truly blessed and this should serve as a reminder.

NYE - Long Hair Don't Care

I have to admit, I am anti big holiday's out at the bars. Nothing gives me more anxiety than an  paying money to be in an overcrowded bar with poor service and no way home. This Year NYE was a little different...

Ashley, Merideth and Gus came over to our house for a sleepover. Thank goodness Gus came along to provide some male companionship for big Lu. Chrissy & Roberto came over after they had dinner in the neighborhood to bid farewell to 2011 and toast 2012. IT was the perfect blend of amazing food, wine, and company in the comfort of our own home.

See, he thinks we are crazy

We consumed an absurd amount of food:
  • Ashley & Mer brought over a ridiculous amount of appetizers: seriously any type of cheese that you could buy at TJ's and WF = crackers (of course some gluten free ones for me), spicy jams, chips, artichoke dip
  • I made some spicy sausage balls, that went excellent with the jams- DUNK
  • For dinner- We roasted a leg of lamb that we had marinated for over a day, mushroom risotto, and roasted asparagus
  • Desert was the crown jewel and my new go to- Flourless Chocolate & Cream Cheese Cake! It was delicious and I will definitely be making it again.
Long Hair, Don't Care.
Thank you for my jammies Ashley!