Tuesday, October 30, 2007

6 Month Anniversary!

6 months already?!?!?!

I feel like it was just yesterday that Eric & I packed our bags and flew to the Dominican Republic for our wedding. It was such an amazing time and I think back to it almost every day.

I just feel so thankful to have Eric in my life. I know that he is my soul mate. Without him I would not be the person I am today. I know that he loves me so much and each day is like a new adventure for us.

So with that...another excuse to post some wedding pictures!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things you MUST try.....

Toby and Fender Cuddling....
has nothing to do with this blog....just thought it was too cute not to share


So....I really try to keep cooking blogs to a minimum. I only want to share recipes/cooking things when I feel like I am doing a total disservice by not sharing.

Yesterday the show was canceled and everyone was urged to stay inside since the air quality was not that great outside. So...what do I do when I am chillin' inside? Cook!!

I had read a few recipes that I really wanted to try and this was the perfect opportunity.

First off...I love Indian Food. I really got turned onto in a few years ago when my boss at Chrysler was Indian. He told me and my friends about this place near my house and my life was never the same. When me and my friend Lorelei were first introduced to this place I think we literally went there a few times a week. It was a bit ridiculous.

In a friends blog entry the other day she posted a recipe for my favorite Indian dish...Chicken Tikka Masala. It looked delish and I knew I had to try and make it. I was a little intimidated...I mean how could anything come close to my favorite Inidan spot. I have to admit...I was very impressed with myself. It tasted just like it came from the restaurant. It is definietly going on the "cook again" list (see recipe below).

Next up ... dessert. As I have previously mentioned I love the food network. One of the people I always watch is Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa. On one of the message boards I visit some of the ladies had all been discussing how amazing one of her brownie recipes were. Several people noted that they were the best brownies they had ever had. I knew I had to give it a try.

Um...I cannot even describe these brownies in words to you. They are truely some of the best brownies I have ever had. They are super chocolately and a pure taste of chocolate heaven. If you like chocolate you must make these and make them soon! You will never be the same again.

Here are some pics and recipes for you....

Chicken Tikka Masala
from Good Eats n' Sweet Treats
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspon garam masala
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 long skewers

2 tablespoon butter
4 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (I used about 1/4)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
1.5 cups heavy cream (For a lighter option Jaime used: 12oz can fat free evaporated milk + 1/4 cup cream; or 2 cups fat free evaporated milk)
1 tomato, chopped, or 1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients: yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, salt and garam masala. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or longer...).

Preheat a grill for high heat.
Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with cumin, paprika, garam masala and salt. Stir in tomato sauce, diced/chopped tomatoes and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Outragous Brownies
from The Barefoot Contessa

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour, divided- 1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces (I deleted the walnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and bitter chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not overbake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stay Safe San Diego....

It is so weird being in this city right now. I guess the only "natural disasters" that I have ever dealt with were some small tornado's in Michigan.

As of last night in San Diego county 500 homes had been destroyed and 250 damaged; 100 commercial buildings destroyed and 75 damaged; at least 145,000 acres have burned; and over 250,000 people have been evacuated. They continue to say that it is just going to get worse before it gets better. The last I heard some areas are only 5% contained...some areas 0% contained. The more I listen to the news...the more evacuations they have.

We are in the city and the majority of the fire is happening North of us. Most of the news is urging people to stay off the roads, conserve energy, do not make calls on your cell phone, etc. It kind of makes you feel helpless. Everyone in San Diego is trying to help out in any way they can. Welcoming people into their homes...donating time...most of the evacuation centers have even announced on the news that they have way too many volunteers and to just stay home for now. It is very odd to just watch everything on the tv and not being able to do anything.

smoky views from our house

I have a few friends that have been evacuated and one that even saw her house burn down on the news. It is just so devastating and it really just seemed to come with no warning. I cannot imagine seeing photos of your home going down in flames. She mentioned that when they were told to evacuate she had no time to grab anything. There were literally flames on her street that she had to drive through to leave. I cannot even imagine.

The air quality is pretty bad. As you can see from the pictures above, the city is covered in a cloud of smoke and everything smells like a campfire. Even here in the city our balcony has a small layer of ash covering the ground.

Well, we just got a call from stage management. The show for tonight is canceled. Apparently, the air quality is so bad in the theatre that they do not want people sitting there for 2 hours and 40 minutes. Obviously, I think this is the smart thing to do considering all the requests not to drive and not to overuse electricity. I just never thought they would cancel considering they really like to make dinero. Glad to know they are looking out for people.

My thoughts go out to everyone affected in and around the San Diego area. I just hope that they get this under control soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We Are Here! (a week in review)

Well....we have been in San Diego for about a week now and we are loving it!

Lets backtrack just a little...I know I have been a bad blogger lately. The week before we left Arizonia Eric was on as a lead for about a week. My dad had never seen the show, so when he heard Eric was going on he dropped everything bought a ticket for him and his fiance and hoped a plane to Arizonia.
My dad never really takes vacations (well except for my wedding) so this was a nice little break for them. My dad is not the hugest theatre person. When he came out to the lobby after intermission him and his fiance Cheri could not stop talking about how much they were enjoying it. It was very cute to see how proud they were of Eric. So...they loved the show (of course)...we got to spend some time with them...and then they were able to enjoy a beautiful day in Sedona. Thanks for coming out Dad & Cheri we really enjoyed having you here!!

So after 2 shows on saturday and 2 shows on sunday we packed up the car and headed out to our next city early Monday morning. It was a pretty uneventful drive...even Toby was bored:
We drove through a lot of random towns and ate some really bad Wendy's...and about 6 hours later we were at our new AMAZING home.

I do not know how we got so lucky with this place. I mean our jaws dropped when we walked in the door. We are on the 27th floor of a 30 floor building. We have 2 balconies that overlook the water. We have huge floor to ceiling windows. I could go on and on. Toby is loving the new digs. He sits on the couch in our bedroom and just looks outside all day. We are also living with Toby's new best friend. The guy that plays Frankie Valli in the show and his new wife our the new roommates. They also have an adorable boston terrier (Fender). Toby and Fender play constantly...it is fabulous...when they rest...they rest together and it is possible the cutest thing on the planet:

So lets talk views. We have the best views. We see the cruise ships pull in..there is a crazy aircraft carrier in the water...on nice days the bay is filled with sailboats...it is amazing. These were from this morning...

The week ended with the opening night party of the show. It was nothing to write home about. By the time we got there all the food was gone and it was a cash bar (well, minus the 1 drink ticket we each got). But at least we got a good self portrait! I mean...it would not be a party without one...
So we headed home and had a nice glass of wine overlooking the city.....ahhhh....not too shabby.

No more Red Lobster for me!

I really do not like eating at chain restaurants. You know…like the Applebee’s, Chili’s, TGI Fridays of the world? There are just way too many good restaurants in the world to waste my superior palette at the chains (please note the sarcasm here….). I could never understand why in places like New York or Los Angeles …. where there are some of the best restaurants in the world… there are lines out the door to a Red Lobster.

BUT…do you ever eat something at one of these places that you just fall in love with?

That is my relationship with Red Lobster. I hate their food. It is gross. Someone told me once that they use to work next to a Red Lobster and the staff (after closing) would actually race the lobsters across the dirty floors. EW!

If you have never been to a Red Lobster…you are not missing much. But one of the things you are missing is their amazing cheddar biscuits that they serve for their bread. These things are so good. I used to have an old roommate who worked at the ol’ Red Lobster and we would beg her to bring us cheddar biscuits. These delectable bread wonders are the only reason why I would step through the doors of a red lobster. Sad…that the “free” thing at the restaurant is the thing that I want the most.

The other day my friend gave me the recipe for the biscuits. I will never have to go to a red lobster again!!! They are so easy to make and I feel like they taste pretty darn similar.

Eric took one bite of the biscuit…some drool dropped out of the side of his mouth…and he proclaimed: This is the best biscuit I have ever had in my life. Its possible there were even swear words mixed in there.

So…I share this simple recipe with you in hopes that you too will never have to visit a Red Lobster again!!
Red Lobster Biscuits
from Good Eats & Sweet Treats

2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/4 cup butter - melted

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Combine first 3 ingredients until moist. Drop onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden.

While the biscuits are baking, mix melted butter, parsley and garlic.

Pour over hot biscuits and serve.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Super Secret Vacation!

I hate surprises. Well...let me rephrase that. I hate mystery.

I always read tv show spoilers so I know what is going to happen. I always snoop around and ask for hints on birthday presents. I always like to know what is going on! So when I walked into our bedroom Sunday night and there was a suitcase on the bed with Eric standing next to it I was very confused. Eric told me what I had to pack but would give me no hints as to what we were going. All he told me was that he had planned a short little overnight "somewhere" surprise vacation and that I would get no more hints.

This all made me very anxious. I could not get to sleep that night. Had he properly researched the hotel on tripadvisor? Had he gone on yelp or citysearch and found one of the top rated restaurants to have dinner?? What kind of research had been done?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

A normal person would have just been excited......

So at 10am the next day we said goodbye to Toby the dog (it is nice to have a room mate that likes crazy puggles) and hopped in the car. I was still poking and prodding and begging for hints but none were given.

About an hour and 45 minutes outside of Phoenix is one of the most beautiful places in America...Sedona. Sedona's main attraction is its amazing array of red sandstone formations (or red rocks). The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.

As soon as I started to see the Red Rocks in the distance I knew where we were going. I really wanted to go to Sedona while in Arizona but we just did not seem to have enough time (being as we only have 1 day off a week). Eric was sweet enough to plan this secret trip and make time in our schedule so we could just ignore the errands that we had to run and just relax.

We drove up to a very cute boutique hotel that had the beautiful red rocks in the backround (The Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa)

Our room was not ready yet...so we decided to get out and enjoy the beautiful landscape. There are literally hundreds of hiking trails in and around Sedona. After studying the hiking map we decided on a trail and headed out.

Neither Eric or I had hiking shoes with us. So...we tried to choose a trail that was not too easy but not one of the crazy strenuous ones. We pulled up to the red rocks trail and it was amazing. It was so quiet and peaceful and I fully understood why Sedona was such a spiritual place.

We started our hike up the trail and were lucky enough to see 2 perfect hiking sticks sitting there right in front of us...it was fate!

The views from the trail we were on were amazing. We never passed another person on our hike. It was great just to be out in this amazing place with my new hubby. I just wish we would have had some hiking shoes as regular running shoes on red rock do not have the best traction!

And of course it would not be a Gutman vacation without a cheese ball picture......

After our hike we were starving and went to seek out someplace to grab something to eat. We had dinner reservations so we just wanted something small. We found the cutest little restaurant with an intimate little outside dining area (The Heartline Cafe).
I won't bore you with the details. All I have to mention is that they had the most amazing soup I have ever had. Roasted pear & butternut squash with toasted pecans on top. If you are ever in Sedona you must get this soup....and then order like 10 extra bowls...package them up...and overnight them to me. Don't worry I will pay you back!

After our small lunch we headed to the downtown. It was pretty touristy...cheesey shops with knick knacks. However there was one thing that caught my eye....this fudge place. You see..I am from Michigan and we have this place called Mackinaw Island. Mackinaw Island makes the best fudge ever. I cannot eat fudge from anywhere else because the fudge on Mackinaw Island is so good. I am walking past this store and they have a sign in the window saying "Our Fudge Recipe is from Mackinaw Island". Well....of course I had to go in and get some....and I have to admit..it was pretty damn good.

Moving on....Eric and I were pretty tired so we decided to go back to the hotel and check in. The room was very cute. The bed had a fabulous mattress and a great down comforter. I am such a sucker for hotels that have down comforters...it totally makes the room!
The bed was extremely comfortable...so comfy that I actually fell into a very deep sleep. Eric woke me up just in enough time to get all primped up for our romantic dinner.

Oh...yes....the obligatory self portrait....
We had a very nice dinner .... well minus the cheese ball waiter that seemed like he should be working at a T.G.I. Friday's. For instance ... he introduced himself by saying..."hey, I am nate...short for nathan". Um...ok...

When we returned to the room Eric had arranged for some chocolate covered strawberries and champagne to be waiting for us.

All in all it was an amazing (too short) vacation. I wish we could have stayed longer and gotten a spa treatment overlooking the landscape....but...I guess that gives me something to look forward to for next time.

I feel very lucky that I have a husband that loves me so much....one that will plans me surprise vacations (even though I can be hard to handle when the word surprise is mentioned).

If you ever get the opportunity I strongly suggest you visit Sedona. It certainly is one of the most beautiful places in America.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

On the road again (almost)....

Well....one more week in Arizona and then we are off to San Diego. These tour stops just go so quick. The minute we find a good dog park or a place to get good frozen yogurt it is time to pack up and leave.

It's a very weird way of life. I think I will always appreciate and value the time we got to go on this crazy tour. I mean...it certainly is a once in a lifetime opportunity...but I cannot imagine doing this for your whole life. There are a couple people on the tour that have been "on the road" in different productions for like 10 years. That is crazy!! No real place to call home? Well, at least they have a lot of hotel and airline miles!

We are pretty excited about our next tour stop. We found a FABULOUS penthouse in San Diego about 5 blocks from the theatre. Yes...I said penthouse. Apparently, we are on the 28th floor of a 30 floor building...with 180 degree views (3 balcony's)..full huge kitchen...etc etc etc. It is pretty much...well the only way to describe it would be "pimpy". These pictures were taken on a cloudy day....but I think you get the drift...

Not too shabby eh?


On a totally different subject...I promise not to make this a cooking blog but my friend gave me a fabulous recipe the other day and I would be a very rude person if I did not share it with you.

So, when I get bored I want to cook/bake things. My boss gave me the day off and Eric had 2 shows that day so I decided that I wanted to make some kind of sweet thing for the cast since they have all been pretty tired lately.

My friend Stacy sent me this amazing no-bake recipe. I kid you not I had at least 5 people in the cast ask me for the recipe. They are super yummy and so easy to make.

Like last time...the messiest cook alive returned in full force..

But this time Eric was at the show so I had to do my own dishes...well almost all of them..I left some soaking in the sink as a gift to my dear husband.

So anyways...these bars. You must make them. You will be the hit of any party...gathering...office event...anything!

Yummy No-Bake Bars
(or as Eric likes to call them Super Fantastic Multi-Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bars)

1c sugar
1c light-color corn syrup
2c peanut butter
3c cornflakes
3c rice crispies
3/4c butter
4c powdered sugar
2 4-serving-size packages of white chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
1/4c milk
1 12 oz. package of semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2c butter
1. Line a 15x10x1 baking pan with foil
2. In a large saucepan, combine granulated sugar and corn syrup; heat and stir just until mixture boils around edges. Heat and stir for 1 minute more. remove from heat. stir in peanut butter until melted. stir in rice cereal and cornflakes until coated. Press mixture into the bottom of the pan
3. for pudding layer, in a medium saucepan, melt the 3/4 cup butter. stir in powdered sugar, pudding mixes and milk. Sread pudding mixture over cereal layer and set aside.
4. for frosting, in a small saucepan, combine choc. pieces and the 1/2 cup butter; heat and stir over low heat until melted. spread frosting over pudding layer. cover and chill about 1 hour or until set. to serve, remove set mixture from pan by lifting foil. remove foil. place mixture on cutting board; cut into bars. Makes 64 bars.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fall in the desert...

Fall in Arizona is funny. Right now in Michigan I am sure the leaves are changing and happy families are making weekend trips to the cider mills for fresh pressed apple cider and doughnuts. The weather is changing and people are getting their nice warm fuzzy sweaters out of storage.

Here in the dessert....well....it is how you would expect it to be. Hot.

The other day we visited a pumpkin patch (we read in this magazine that this was the "best pumpkin patch in Arizona"). When we got there...well we were a little disappointed. So, being that arizona is hot...what do you think happens to pumpkins when they are left out in the sun? Yeah...they kinda cook. So, all the pumpkins were pretty smushy or brown and dieing. Poor pumpkins!

To celebrate fall...I deceided to make some pumpkin cheesecake brownies that I read about on Caras Cravings. Now I really like to bake and cook but being a messy cooker runs in my family!

I really need to work on my cleaning WHILE cooking. Good thing I have a husband that likes to do dishes. For real...I am not kidding. He likes to do dishes...its kinda like a zen thing for him...which is a HUGE bonus for me!!

These are great for fall. They have just the right mix of pumpkin and chocolate. The colors are very rich and fall-y and of course they taste great!

Pumpkin-Spice Cheesecake Brownies
from Cara's Cravings

Brownie Batter
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground ginger and ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8" square metal baking pan.

Beat together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon. In separate bowl, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients.

Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving.