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Bertolli Four Cheese Rosa

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, a heavy box holding two new sauces from Bertolli arrived at our house: Four Cheese Rosa and Arrabbiata. It arrived at a very fortuitous time, as I hadn’t gone grocery shopping in weeks and we were running out of easy-to-prepare meats from the freezer. I pulled out a dozen shrimp, set them to defrost, and then started rummaging through the fridge for some veggie nutrition (because while you can just eat pasta and cheesy sauce, it’s probably not very healthy). I found a zucchini, an onion, and leftover mushrooms/spinach/bok choy from a previous shabu shabu at home meal.

Travis picked the Four Cheese sauce as the one to try, even though I am very wary of jarred cheese sauces. However, looking at the ingredients, it’s really an impressive list. No preservatives (at least, none that aren’t pronounceable), real cream, tomatoes, and cheese, and it all sounded quite wholesome. I actually had to re-read the label to see if I was trying out some new organic version or something (nope – just plain Bertolli getting all tasty).

A pot of water was set out to boil, the veggies got chopped and sautéed with olive oil and garlic, and the shrimp got dusted with cornstarch (I’ve abandoned using flour unless we’re doing the flour-egg-flour breading). Once I had a large pan nice and hot with olive oil, the shrimp were added for a few minutes then flipped. I’ve learned to remove the shrimp from the pan when the very middle of the deveined area looks translucent. They usually continue to cook as I plate our dinner and by the time we’re eating them they’re just right. I say usually, because sometimes we have really jumbo shrimp and those are too large to cook all the way with residual heat. And eating half-cooked shrimp is not pleasant. The cornstarch makes the outsides really light and crisp and they don’t get as gummy as just using flour would.

Once the pasta was cooked, I drained it, tossed it with the veggies, and mixed in half the bottle of Four Cheese Rosa. On top of the pasta, I placed six shrimp, all golden brown and crispy, and then we sat down to eat. In front of the tv, which is how we manage to actually watch any of the shows on the DVR.

I have to admit, I was pretty wary of this sauce, but it was really good! Nice and cheesy, but not too rich with the hint of tomatoes, and it tasted like real food. No funny textures or plastic flavors or anything! I’m really glad I got to try it, because now I’m not so scared of jarred sauce (at least, this one from Bertolli).

This one meal left us with enough leftovers for lunch a couple days later, plus the other half of the jar was mixed into cooked ground turkey and onions (and another zucchini) and scooped over quinoa for dinner the next week. I think that’s a pretty good value for a jar of sauce! I’m looking forward to trying the Arrabbiata sauce… maybe over some chicken.

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just let me get through February

Travis and I are members of ASCE and are quite involved with the local Younger Member chapter here (we actually met at a meeting years ago and somebody used it as a way to finagle a date/not-date later). Being Younger Members (under 35… uh oh, someone has gotten too old!) has been fun, since our group tends to do more social activities instead of just long, tedious meetings. Every year there is a regional conference that rotates through host chapters. This year, San Diego will be hosting and we’ve been doing a lot of work to get ready. Between Board meeting, regular meetings, conference planning meetings, and then the rest of our lives, February has been crazy. I’m very much looking forward to the end of the conference (I’m looking forward to the conference itself and all the people we’ll get to see again) and a little down time.

Did I mention we went to Denver a couple weekends ago? Despite running all over town to see all the various friends, we managed to squeeze in some pretty good meals. We hit Bones the night we landed (after some frenetic driving to get there before they closed) and the pork belly buns and lobster ramen did not disappoint. Travis had the pork udon, which was good, but nowhere near the buttery savoriness of the lobster ramen. The pork buns, while different from Momofuko’s, where delicious in their own right. The buns had a little more chew and the pork belly had a nice crackly layer on top. We also managed lunch at SALT (great meal, and I’m sad we didn’t get to stay for a bite of dessert) and then an early dinner at Osteria Marco, where we got to try the roast suckling pig and a deconstructed tiramisu (essentially ladyfingers and a cup of various tasty mousses). I also had the best Salted Caramel cupcake from this place called Tee and Cupcakes in the Pearl Street Mall. The cupcake was moist and light, the frosting was caramel (maybe caramel buttercream?) but not too sweet, and there was a light sprinkling of sea salt that just balanced everything out. If I could recreate that cupcake, I would be a happy camper.

Travis just celebrated his birthday, which was marked by a trip to Encinitas Ale House. The burgers are good, the beer list is exciting (if not a bit pricey), but I found the place to be a bit too loud for conversation.

Then, we managed to throw a working party over the weekend to stuff registration bags, but together speaker gifts, and assemble over a hundred name badges. I thought it would be a lot of work, but we managed to get it all done in less than an hour. Which left more time for partying and eating! I’d asked everyone to bring a side dish or appetizer, thinking it would make things easier on us. But then I discovered the garden jalapenos I’d stashed in the freezer with the intention of making jalapeno poppers. And I’d found a recipe for apricot glazed chicken wings that sounded good (they were outstanding!) And, for some reason, I really wanted baked brie with roasted garlic and pesto. So I made all those and we had way too much food before we even got to the dinner part. For dinner, we just grilled up flap steaks and made a taco bar, alongside grilled sausages and brats with caramelized onions. We never got to dessert, which was a sponsored cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory and grilled poundcake. The pound cake was going to be topped with blueberry sauce, whipped cream, and peanut butter powder (you blend 60% peanut butter with 40% tapioca maltodextrin, by weight, and the tapioca bonds with the fats in the peanut butter and powederizes it). I ate some after everyone left and the pb powder is a tasty, tasty, trick.

So, I imagine this week is going to be a whirlwind of activity. Luckily, we have plenty of leftover sausages and taco meat to get us through some meals. And pound cake. One can never have too much pound cake.

Oh! We have also accumulated one dozen chicken eggs! I’ve still been buying eggs, but only because our eggs vary too much for baking. So, I bake with the store eggs and we’ve been eating our eggs. Yay!

uh… yeah

As usual, life gets in the way of “blogging”. Not that anything in particular is happening, just a general life-is-busy period. Long days at work, throwing together dinners, trying to plan enough so there are leftovers for lunch, and then the ever-elusive time for exercising. I’ve actually done a pretty good job of that last one, which is encouraging and enough to keep me motivated, but it’s been a lot of work. Maybe other people can say they stay in shape with minimal effort, but I’ve been working my butt off.

We’ve got one more weekend at home, but then we’re off to Denver and then getting ready for the regional conference our local engineering group is hosting this year. At some point this month, I’d like to get the garden in shape and maybe start some seedlings inside.

We haven’t really been going out all that much, or at least not for fancy meals. Mr Hummus in Poway has closed but I don’t think we’ll really miss it. Pho Joy is scheduled to take it’s place… I hope it’s good. We recently tried to make mozzarella, but it never got springy and we just ended up with a pile of ricotta. Which is good, but not what we were aiming for.

In a nutshell, it may get kind of quiet around here for a while. February is going to be a crazy month for us.

Moochers

do not be fooled!

I’m on a roll with posting, but it may not last.  So I’m buying some time with more dogs.

We rented Twilight the other night… yes, I just admitted to the Internet that we watched it of our own volition.  And it wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be.  Also, if you want a review of New Moon and want to laugh, read this one.

Anyway, we made popcorn to go with our cheesy movie and all the dogs immediately became cuddly and affectionate.  Oh, how they loved me… and the morsels of popcorn I held in my hand.  Sadie was especially pathetic with her sad eyes and leaning her head on my arm.

Silly dogs.

Knife Giveaway

Steamy Kitchen is doing a giveaway for New West Knifeworks!  Go pick out a knife and comment on her site for a chance to win one of these beautiful knives.  If you do win, please don’t tell me, because I’ll become totally jealous and then I might just get really, really sad. 

iPhone, uPhone, we all Phone?

I broke down and bought an iPhone.  Hmm… maybe “broke down” isn’t the right phrase.  I’ve been wanting one since the 3G came out.  I’ve been wanting one ever since I played with the Touch my dad has.  I spent months telling myself that it wouldn’t cost me any more money because I was already paying for a data plan on a phone that wasn’t as cool (or as good at browsing).  I found myself doing that whole, “If only I had an iPhone right now…” game.  So, really, you could say that I just gave in, splurged, and bought myself and iPhone.  I should probably note that this was right after I also bought myself the brand new Nano.  In blue.

But, now I can check e-mail anywhere!  My contacts list is full of all sorts of information – birthdays, addresses, random notes.  Now you’re totally curious what I’ve noted about you in my phone.  I’ve been downloading free applications like crazy.  It’s almost an addiction.  I have lots of games – some good, some lame – but also some pretty useful applications.

I’ve been using the ToDo app to keep track of things that I think I need to do but inevitably forget about by the time I get to a pen and paper.  So, as I think of them, I write them in my to do list and my screen tells me exactly how many things I think I have to do.  I also have a shopping list app that’s pretty handy.

There’s the typical Facebook (ha! I’m never on Facebook!) and Twitterific and Google apps.  I can get to the NY Times Dining articles pretty quickly.  And Urbanspoon has become practically indispensible.  I can look up restaurants that are around me (yay GPS!) or in neighborhoods I’m going to.  This came in handy in Denver when we almost didn’t get breakfast (but then T came through, somehow, and we ended up with a really tasty free breakfast).

The other thing I’m loving the iPhone for is making OpenTable reservations.  I can make dinner reservations at a moment’s notice without ever having to talk to a person and bargain over dinner times!  Awesome.  That’s how we ended up at Osteria Marco for dinner after the beer tasting at GABF.

One of my favorite things about my old phone was that it had a program that would listen to songs playing and it would tell you the title and artist.  Except, then the program became subscription only and I didn’t want to pay for it.  But, now I have an iPhone app that does the same thing, for free!  I also started using the Pandora application to listen to music instead of the radio.  One, it comes through better than the radio I have in my office.  And Two, I can listen to music that I don’t have loaded on my iPod.

Yes, I’m pretty happy with my frivolous purchase.  The only problem I have right now is when I’m doing something on the phone while in the car.  My car is set up to connect with phones via Bluetooth, but for some reason I can’t hear phone audio through the car if I answer a call in the middle of something else.  If my phone is just hanging out doing nothing and I get a call, it works just fine.  I’m sure there’s a forum that could answer this for me, but I haven’t gotten desperate enough to go look for it yet.

Ahh… the country is in economic turmoil, the DOW doesn’t know which way to go, and our presidential candidates spend hours debating and talking about blah, blah, blah and all I can do is wax poetic about my cell phone.  Hee.