Thursday, December 29, 2011


For the last several years, I have been too poor to take any time off from whatever terrible job I happened to be working, so I would either bring my parents here or journey to the Poconos for less than 24 hours. Both of those scenarios were less than ideal and usually ended in tears. You see, for whatever reason, my family has desperately wanted to but has never been able to institute a successful Christmas tradition. We have tried and tried to develop a special Dilionian brand of Christmas and it has just never stuck. Our hearts were never in it. Or maybe our attention spans are just too short for us to remember what we wanted to canonize. 

This year, I took a different approach. Due to our impending trip to the Lesser Antilles (stay tuned!), we decided that Christmas apart was probably the best solution for everyone. So I offered to sing a few gigs, watch a few friends' pets, and piece together my own strange Christmas trifecta.

Part 1: I'm Dreaming of a Verde Christmas

Though we never need an excuse to prove how fabulous we are, K and AJ and I never pass up an opportunity to be amazing together. After a quick gift exchange which proved that my friends know absolutely everything about me (I got a magnetic spice rack! and a seasonal cookbook that literally says "SAVOR THE BOUNTY" which is now my new catch phrase!), we took our impeccably dressed selves to the newest addition to the Penn Avenue Corridor: Verde
I had visited Verde with KB and Sara during its soft opening. Though we were unable to order any food (wtf) we took full advantage of the margarita list. They were absolutely delicious, the bartenders were fabulous, and we witnessed a tableside guacamole assembly. I was very eager to return. 

We ordered a pitcher of margaritas and the guacamole, because what could be better than dinner AND a show? We followed it up with Pozole, Swordfish Tacos, Chiles Rellenos, and a Pear and Carnitas Tamale that still haunts my dreams to this day.
The food was as fresh and exciting as the company I was keeping.
We then all went back to my house (conveniently two blocks away) to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with Janna and discuss its potential as an allegory for a young man's coming out story (I'm looking at you, AJ). Rudolph the Red Nosed Gay-ndeer. 

 Part 2: Brucemas

At this point, I'd like to pause and say how touched I am by how many of my wonderful friends invited me into their homes and families to share Christmas morning with them once they found out I was to be here alone. I felt so loved and I appreciate the invitations with my whole heart. So please don't take this the wrong way, but I really wanted to spend Christmas with Bruce Bogtrotter.
I have this... habit? inclination? tragic flaw? of being in love with K's cat. When she goes out of town, I basically move into her apartment to be with him, and God bless her beautiful heart for not finding that as creepy as it probably is. 
Everyone else would probably find my Christmas morning to be completely unremarkable. I slept in a little. I went for a run in the beautiful clear crisp weather. I watched Nightmare Before Christmas. I opened my Christmas stocking. I smothered Bruce with my love. I made myself some of my favorite foods.
Eggs in a Basket with Roasted Red Peppers, Apple Chicken Sausage, and Pears.
Honestly, I don't think I could have been happier. What more does this girl need?
At least one more thing:

Part 3: Silent Night, Manoli Night

I have been told that my adopted family, the Manolis, are people that I am lucky to have in my life. 
True words have never been spoken. They are kind and gracious to me, and I think the world of them.  
Every holiday I spend Chez Manoli is the same: We talk a lot, we cook a lot, we swear a lot, we laugh a lot, and we eat a lot. Thanksgiving, Father's Day, Christmas... it doesn't matter. We know exactly how to celebrate.
Prime Rib, Sugar Glazed Ham, Mashed Potatoes and Stirfried Vegetables
This picture most certainly does not to this meal justice. Also, the rum brownies and bread pudding are (not pictured) were incredible.

I invite you now to Savor the Bounty.

Monday, December 26, 2011


 Red Lentil and Lamb Ragu with Pecorino Cheese
I made this for a dinner party Friday at which I massively overestimated my friends' appetites, leaving me with a fridge full of leftovers. I had had a whole jar of lentils in my cupboard that I finally decided to put to use, having never cooked with lentils before in my life. Some sauteed garlic, onion, carrots, diced tomatoes, and a boatload of dried herbs later, I ended up with a potful of this.

So, I ate this bowl as a recovery from a 7.5 mile run in 20 degree weather on my Monday off from work. Had you said to me a year ago "Bethy, you are going to use your Monday off from work to run 7.5 miles in 20 degree weather, and you are actually going to enjoy it" I would have told you to shut your filthy mouth. Then I probably would have taken a nap because the exertion would have tired me out. And yet, here we are.
This was just what I needed.

The Whirlwind

We're coming to the end of the year here. 
And it's been a gangbusters coupla weeks, DNY wise.

Saturday Morning Buttermilk Pancakes with Homemade Blueberry Marmalade
Something about the simplicity of pancakes is fascinating and comforting to me. They aren't terribly difficult to make, they're quite common and in this case not very fancy. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's the fact that you need to invest some time in them, maybe it's the fact that you can trick yourself into thinking you're baking, maybe it's the carbo-load, but something about making pancakes is special. No matter what the rest of the day holds, no matter how difficult the week behind you was, a quiet Saturday morning becomes remarkable when you have a good friend, a good cup of coffee and a little time to spend together over breakfast.

Ground Beef and Zucchini in Tomato Sauce over Bulgar Rice, Yogurt and Roasted Cauliflower Salad, Salad with Hot Sauce and Oregano from Istanbul 
This was my temporary cure for the post partum performance depression that Messiah has left me with.  In a whirlwind lunch with Tim Marquette, during which we had to cram 3 days worth of talking into 15 minutes, I found myself staring at this beauty, which lasted me for the rest of the day due to its sheer volume. I dream of being able to cook this well. Spicy but balanced, full and bold but not overwhelming, simple but interesting.

Radioactive-looking Buffalo Cheese Fries
 Blue Burger
When Liz lived in Pittsburgh, we made Silky's in Bloomfield our second home. Liz and I lived together for a much too short period of time. I love her because she makes me laugh harder than is physically possible. She's my ray of sunshine.
Now, she lives in Delaware now and I miss her every day. Luckily she stopped in Pittsburgh on her way home, and we were able to grab dinner at our old place. It's still good. And the waitress was really interested when she heard us reading excerpts from "What Your Birthday Reveals About Your Sex  Life"

Shrimp Grits from NOLA
Every time I go to Nola (which, admittedly, is a lot) my order usually comes down to a choice between Shrimp Grits and whatever else it is that I end up ordering. The last day of work before Christmas, I went to lunch with Jess and Aidan, and finally didn't hold myself back. The sauce is very spicy and flavorful, the shrimp tender, the grits creamy. I kind of want some right now. 

Carrot Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Icing
Another baking frenzy, while playing a game of "Drink the Eggnog" with my friend Gordon (it's a pretty great game). This time, I made cupcakes for my two bosses who both happen to love carrot cake and happen to have birthdays 4 days apart. The cakes were much less sweet than other carrot cakes I've made, but the richness of the icing balanced their spice. They aren't much to look at, but they were a big hit!

Not Pictured:
Family brunch at my house, Buffalo Chicken Dip at Mario's Eastside with Liz and her friends, the crazy soup making spree I went on the other night with Michael Painter resulting in Avgolemono and Spicy Red Lentil soup

As they say, Sharing is Caring. 

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is the most scrumptious and least stressful Thanksgiving that I can remember. K, her sister, Katie and I all pitched in and made ourselves a complete feast. I wrestled the turkey, K schooled us in Phase 10, Bruce gazed wistfully at the food, and Katie wore a Tim the Enchanter cap with as much finesse as is humanly possible.

Spice brined turkey with cider gravy, pear and sausage stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes with goat cheese and fall salsa, garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes, southern style greens, braised brussel sprouts with bacon and shallots, personal ginger pumpkin pies with toasted coconut, and some lovely white wine.

I have so much to be thankful for this year.

Post Pearlfishers Pizza Pandemonium

Hooray for alliteration.

I was in need of some serious fun after Pearl Fishers, so K masterminded a plan for her friends to get together, make pizza, and play games after the Sunday matinee. She gathered some good friends (myself, AJ, Camilo, Lauren and Joe) who hadn't had a chance to all meet together, and we pulled out all the stops.

K made a simple dough, Camilo proved himself to be a master sauce distributor, and we all piled on the toppings with aplomb.
We had a little bit of everything: Spinach Sausage and Ricotta White Pizza, Pineapple with Red Sauce, Sausage Pepper and Onion with Red Sauce. My favorite, with Bacon and Mushroom, was eaten too quickly to be pictured. 
The only food I had in my house was a dozen eggs and a boatload of condiments, so my contribution to the festivities was deviled eggs
And yet another permutation of Bethday cakes, this time in cookie form
I like that the white chocolate chips make them look like big delicious buttons.

We played a game called Wise and Otherwise, in which everyone tries to complete a not-very-well-known quippy saying from another country and vote on the best answer, Balderdash style. Either because we are all hyper-uncompetitive people (unlikely) or because none of us could be bothered to decipher what the rules were, we ended up just completing the phrases and reading them out loud. We came up with some gems:
In Egypt: "Live in a place, pull your brain through your face"
In Mexico: "A good cock will crow, a bad one will too, it just takes a little longer, meng"
In Sweden: "Whoever has the longest fingers bork bork bork bork"
In Greece: "A child is like a camel's neck: something something Penn State"
In Jamaica: "When crab no have hole, bobsled bobsled bobsled"

It was a great way to wind down after a successful yet stressful performance: playing games with funny and charming people, making and consuming a ridiculous amount of homemade pizza.