Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Contest closed

The free pasta dinner contest is now closed, and the winners (by random computer number-picking script) have been contacted. They are:

#2: Lisa
#8: Teri
#29: Carrie

Congratulations, winners! If you haven't received an email from me, please check your spam folder. (Except for Teri - I had to contact you via DeltaPOST because I couldn't find an email address for you.)

Congratulations to the winners, and enjoy your free dinner! Be sure to come back & post a comment letting us all know how you liked it. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best birthday present ever!

Last Wednesday, on my 35th birthday, Mr Wonderful proposed!

I had a feeling it was going to happen on my birthday, to be totally honest. I was about 90% sure that he had the ring already. The kids were making oblique references to my birthday, when normally they wouldn't even notice it was coming up (although to give them props, they really didn't breathe a WORD about the proposal). And Mr Wonderful had hinted that he wanted me all to himself on my birthday - he even took the day off of work! - so I switched nights with Babydaddy. It's not like this proposal was coming as a complete surprise anyway; we decided before he moved in last October that we were planning on getting married, and we wanted to get engaged this year.

So on my birthday, I woke up thinking: "This is the day!" Mr. Wonderful took Rugrat to school for me, which meant I could sleep in a bit. All morning I was trying to work and not be too distracted. I had lunch planned with my coworkers in WC, which meant I'd be gone for about 3 hours or so.

When I got home, Mr. Wonderful was relaxing on the couch, watching TV. There was a lovely white bouquet on the table that wasn't there when I left for lunch, so I said, "What's this?" and pulled out the envelope that was stuck in the bouquet. He said, "Oh, are we doing this now?" I kind of smiled and said, "Should we wait?" He replied, 'No, now's fine..." and he paused the TV and came over by me and put his hand in his pocket. I thought, "Oh my God, this is it!" So I opened the envelope, and inside was a little note. I sort of blanked for a second. It was just two words: "Double woobie." Now, Mr. Wonderful and I each have a down pillow that we sleep with, all curled up around it as if it was a stuffed animal. We call these our "woobies" because they're not used as pillows really - they're more like security blankets. Anyway...it was a clue! So I went upstairs to the bedroom, with Mr. Wonderful trailing me the whole way.

In the bedroom was a clue that led me to the fireplace...then another clue that led to the clothes dryer, then finally a clue that led to the oven.

Inside the oven was a letter rolled up and tied like a scroll, and big wrapped present behind it. He grabbed the scroll and said, "Open the present first, then you can read this." So I pulled out the box and thought, "Damn, that's WAY too heavy to be a ring!" Turns out it was an All Clad saucepan that I'd been drooling over for a while! I was both thrilled and disappointed - thrilled at the saucepan, because I really, really wanted it, and disappointed that he wasn't going to propose. But then he told me to read the letter, which was folded up at the very bottom, so you could read most of it but there was some that was hidden. And when I started reading, I knew that the proposal WAS going to happen, RIGHT THEN!

And so, of course, the phone rang.

First my cell phone, and then the house phone. Mr. Wonderful said, "Don't..." but I'd already decided to ignore the phone; this was way more important at the moment! Turns out it was my boss, who was in a meeting with a client and had come across an error on the website we're developing for them. *sigh*

Anyway, so I stood there, kind of shaking a little and trying to read the scroll , which was a beautiful letter about how as we grow older, our birthdays become more mundane, and the presents more practical, and we lose that sense of magical anticipation. But, it said, he wanted to start a new tradition, so every year on my birthday, he would ask me one question:

(and then I unfolded the bottom of the letter, which showed what was hidden...)

"Will you marry me?"

And I started crying a little bit, and then HE started getting all misty-eyed, and I said, "Yes! Yes!" and he asked me if I wanted to see the ring, so I said, "YEAH I want to see it!" and started laughing a little. And then he said the words I'd been waiting to hear: "Will you marry me?" and of course I said "Yes" again.

And the ring? The ring is beautiful and perfect and I couldn't be happier with it. It's a radiant-cut (rectangular but sparkly, not like an emerald-cut) diamond in a very delicate beautiful white-gold setting, with a filigree underneath the semi-cathedral setting and milgrain detail on the band. And of course pictures do not ever do it justice, but if you click on this one, you'll see the other two photos I've taken of it. :)

Is it kind of redundant to say that I'm blissfully happy and thrilled to be marrying this wonderful, amazing man? I cannot believe how lucky I am, to have found him again after so long, and to find out that this incredible man, who's been in my life since high school, has turned out to be the love of my life.

Free Dinner!

I am proud to be able to host my first blog contest: a free dinner giveaway! I have three gift certificates for a Tuscani Pasta dinner from Pizza Hut. The kids & I had the Chicken Alfredo version on Friday, and let me tell you, this is quite a bit of food. It's three pounds of pasta, plenty for four adults (the kids and I only ate about half the pan), plus five warm, soft breadsticks.

If you'd like a free pasta dinner, all you have to do is add a comment to this blog post. I'll pull three names at random tomorrow night (Tuesday) and contact the winners to arrange delivery of your gift certificate. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Stuffed Pasilla Peppers

I've been promising to make stuffed peppers for Mr Wonderful ever since he got transferred to the local hospital, in celebration of his massively reduced commute. But the thing is, I hate stuffed peppers. It's basically meatloaf in a green bell pepper. Ick. But the other day I saw a 30 Minute Meals episode where RR makes a poblano pepper stuffed with corn & topped with cheese, and I thought it sounded perfect. Mr Wonderful & I love Mexican food. I decided to change it up a little, though. I had leftover chipotle peppers in adobo and some enchilada sauce (after making Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada Casserole for a friend who just had a baby), and this is what I came up with. It may not be the most photogenic meal I've made, but it is one of the tastiest!

Stuffed Pasilla Peppers
2 pasilla peppers (the store didn't have poblanos, but they would work just fine if you can find them)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 c frozen corn kernels, defrosted
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatos, drained well
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 chipotle peppers in adobo (from a can), minced
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 c shredded cheese (I used bagged Mexican mix, but you can use jack or cheddar or whatever floats your boat)
1 c enchilada sauce
salt & pepper

Preheat the broiler. Wash the peppers and put them (intact) on a baking sheet & pop them under the broiler. Broil for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even charring. You want them blistered and blackened just a little bit, but not completely deflated and turned to mush. (Leave the broiler on after taking out the peppers. You'll need it later.)

In a saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and corn. Season with salt & pepper, and allow to brown up just a little. Then add the black beans, tomatoes and cumin. When everything is warmed through, turn off the heat and add the fresh cilantro.

By this time your peppers should have cooled enough to handle. Make a slit from stem to tip (not cutting all the way in half, just slicing the pepper open), and remove the stem and seeds. You should have a kind of floppy pepper "cup". Fill the cup with the corn mixture - really load it in there. Top each pepper with about 3/4 cup cheese. Pop it under the broiler, keeping the door cracked open just a bit so you can keep a close eye on it. Don't let the cheese burn! You just want it to melt and get golden brown.

Heat the enchilada sauce in a pan or in the microwave. When the peppers are finished, plate them up and spoon about 1/2 cup of the warmed enchilada sauce over each one.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Smoky-Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The leaves change colors, the weather turns brisk and sweater-worthy, and everything returns to a regular schedule. The kids are back in school. Television stations stop showing reruns and cheap summer filler. What's not to love about autumn? So to celebrate the advent of autumn, I fixed my favorite soup, the one that most clearly evokes autumn for me: butternut squash soup.

Smoky-Sweet Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tbsp EVOO
3-4 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and diced
About 1 dozen fresh sage leaves
1 jar butternut squash puree (I get those big jars from Williams-Sonoma), or one large butternut squash, roasted & pureed (if you're not lazy like me)
2-4 cups chicken stock (one big box = 4 cups)
2 Tbsp butter
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels. Add the onions to the pot and saute in the olive oil and bacon grease for a few minutes, until translucent but not browned. Add the diced apple and saute for another couple of minutes. Chop up about half a dozen sage leaves and add them to the apples and onions, and season everything with salt & pepper. (Reserve another half dozen large, beautiful sage leaves for garnish.) When the apples are nice and soft, add the butternut squash puree and about two cups of chicken stock and raise the temperature to medium-high. When the soup starts to bubble a bit, lower the temperature back down to medium and break out your immersion blender and blend it up until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add more stock (final amount will depend on how much butternut squash puree you have and how thick you like your soup). When everything is heated back up again, taste the soup, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

To garnish, melt two tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is completely melted and done foaming, add the reserved whole sage leaves, making sure to keep them separated. Remove the sage leaves after about 30 seconds, and drain on a paper towel. The leaves should be crispy. Chop the cooked bacon and the fried sage leaves and top your bowl of soup with a little of each. Delicious!

My favorite thing today

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