animals, baking, butter, chicken, chocolate, cooking, dessert, recipes, road trippin'

Le Week-end

09.18.08 | 1 Comment

It’s a pretty dull life out here, being an unemployed college graduate shacking up with the parents. Sure, I’m catching up on reruns of shows like Home Improvement and Reba, but it’s getting harder to find quality television to suit my needs. Thankfully I’ll be out of here in a few weeks.

When I’m home alone, which is a fair portion of the day, I like to keep the TV on mostly for the background noise and rarely give it more than half my attention. Really, I hate TV. But I dislike the silence more. Oh sure, I could put on music, but there’s something I like about having human voices speaking, even if they aren’t saying anything particularly amusing or profound.

Luckily, this past weekend gave me a change of scenery AND the opportunity to listen to conversation from people NOT in a tiny light box. Oh, the simple joys in life.

My grandparents own a second house in Flagstaff, a short two and a half hour excursion from our house in Phoenix, and most every year, my mom stages a coup declaring the house hers for a ‘girls’ weekend.’ She invites some of her friends, orders them to bring lots and lots of wine, and leaves my dad behind to enjoy two things he loves: cycling and tofu.

In a show of nepotism, my mom extended a coveted girls’ weekend invitation to me, and left me in charge of all food, both the preparation and delegation of. She kept worrying that we would have too much food, which she claims usually happens, but I reminded her that this was physically impossible.

In preparation, I made cookies. I decided to be evil and make them chocolate, both to entice the ladies and to ensure that I myself would not put myself in a cookie-induced coma. Oh, it’s happened. Check my medical history.

For chocolate cookies, I turned to one of my all-time favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. Her recipes ALWAYS taste good, so I pilfered her recipe for Homemade Oreos. Muahahaha.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Not to mention free of hydrogenated oils. And therefore, completely good for you and utterly guilt-free.

Friday night after work (or in my time, after Reba.), we rounded up the troops and caravanned up to Flagstaff, WITHOUT eating dinner. We did not arrive at the house until 9, and as some may know, I have a tendency to get slightly crabby when my blood sugar dips and there’s no meal around. So I fortified myself with a Luna bar and an apple. I certainly know how to handle adversity.

Once we turned unloaded everything and turned on the water, it was first things first: open the wine!

We then indulged in a cohesive dinner of hummus, crackers, veggies, four cheeses, artichokes, and, of course, cookies. We stayed at the table until about 11:30, which, in the realm of those four awesome ladies, is anywhere from one to three hours past their bedtimes.

Everyone was up by 8 the next morning. After all, we had lots of eating, drinking, lounging and testosterone-free gabbing to squeeze in. Robin, whose husband is foodie extraordinaire Dave, was generous enough to make us French toast for breakfast.

This is Robin later in the day, focused intensely on the conversation.

I don’t remember what it was about, but most conversations circled around Sarah Palin is evil, people are stupid (for reasons rich and varied), my husband is/did_____, or my kid is/was____ and these other parents are___ and school is ___. Now it may look like a weekend of Mad Libs, but actually, the conversations were fabulous. It was so nice to have conversations with intelligent, knowledgeable, opinionated women. Especially ones who aren’t in the TV.

But back to the French toast! Robin did a lovely job—eggy and light, not soggy, and finely dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

The rest of the morning was dedicated to staying in pajamas and sitting on the porch and enjoying the view.

Below are my mom, on the left, and Karen, on the right, probably chatting about one of the aforementioned topics.

Then my mom and I took my shiny new Nikon D40 out for a walk down the driveway and around the field in front of the house.

There were thistles growing everywhere, and bees buzzing merrily about.

As you can see, the thistles were as big, or bigger, than my mother, who, though she is the shortest one in the family, is still on the taller side.

I don’t know what those thistles have been eating. My best guess is cookies.

Since there was no one else around, I shoved the camera in my mom’s face and clicked away.

She found this amusing and slightly embarrassing.

Apparently I reminded her of my dad, who was a professional photographer and took her picture a lot. Hey, there were no other humans around, and thistles only have so many facial expressions, you know?

Then we traipsed around the field in front of the house.

There’s an old chicken house, too. It’s very rustic and such.

After lunch, the ladies, my camera, and I went for a walk to make up for all the sitting around, and to justify the copious amounts of cheese, crackers, and cookies that had been ingested. Here are some lovely snapshots.

As we returned from the walk, we were greeted by two of the barking canines from next door. They turned out to be quite friendly and attention-seeking. They even followed us into the house. Observe their cuteness and antics:

The ladies then promptly set the timer for 5 o’clock, which signaled the opening bell for wine consumption. While the ladies imbibed, I started dinner, a lovely Moroccan spiced chicken with apricots, which I love because of the mix of sweet and savory, as well as the tender, rich chicken (due to both oil and butter) and the cinnamon and honey.

The next morning, Robin made us muesli for breakfast, but I forgot to take pictures so you’ll just have to take my word for it. She soaked some grains (though she usually uses oats) in milk overnight, then added brown sugar, sliced grapes, grated Granny Smith apples, and chopped pecans.

Following more lazing, eating, and walking, we finally realized that the weekend is indeed only two days long no matter how long you stay in your pajamas. Monday loomed, so we packed up and shipped out back to the real world, or, in my case, reruns.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Apricots

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon tumeric
½ teaspoon black pepper
1¼ teasponn salt
1 ½ pounds chicken (I use boneless skinless chicken breasts, you can use whatever you want)
olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved then sliced into ¼ -inch thick slices
4 garlic cloves
5 sprigs of fresh parsley
5 sprigs of fresh cilantro
1 ½ C water, divided
2 tablespoon mild honey
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
½ cup dried Turkish apricots

Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, tumeric, pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. You could add oil to the mix and coat that way, too.

Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until it’s hot but not smoking. (You can use whatever amound of fats you want, but DON’T SKIP THE BUTTER. Even if you add less that a tablespoon, which is what I do, it gives the dish a real richness when it combines with the oil.) Brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, turning over once, about 8-12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add onion and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Tie together the parsley and cilantro and add it to the skillet along with ½ cup of water, the chicken, and the juices on the plate. Reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, bring honey, 1 cup of water, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the apricots are tender and the liquid has reduced to a glaze, 10-15 minutes.

Ten minutes before the chicken is done, add the apricot honey mix to the skillet with the chicken. When the chicken is done, discard the herbs and cinnamon stick and serve.

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