Friday, October 31, 2014

book club

A few months ago, my friend Ashley came to me with a fun opportunity.  She and a small group of girls have a book club and they were looking for a new member!  Since I'm all English-teachery and everything, they thought I would be a good fit.  I was really excited to start this new activity and meet some new gal pals. 

Each month there is a "host" and she picks a book for everyone to read.  She also chooses a restaurant to have our meeting at and comes up with discussion questions to go along with the book.  Before you start calling me a total nerd though, let me clarify that we spend about 10-15 minutes talking about the book and the rest of the time sipping cocktails and catching up with each other.  It's nice because it's not a huge commitment (I can definitely swing once a month for a few hours) and it's lots of fun!

"What kind of books do we read?", you ask.  Read on, my friends!

Lunatics by Dave Berry & Alan Zweibel

The first book I read was Lunatics.  It was hilarious, so if you're looking for a good laugh, add this to your reading list.  The story is told in a back-and-forth format by the two main characters, Philip and Jeffrey.  The two meet randomly and then they just keep running into one another until things get seriously ridiculous.  I would definitely recommend this one!

For our meeting, we ate at Blind Butcher which I would also recommend.  The sausage and brussels sprouts combo is hard to beat!

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

Last month, we read The Hundred-Year House.  I was a bit of a slacker and waited until the last minute to start this one, so I read it very quickly.  The book is broken into parts- part one takes place right around Y2K (it was fun re-living all the craziness of that), the second part flashes back to a period from 1920-1950 when the house served as an artist colony, and the last bit happens during the early 1900's.  There is a lot of mystery surrounding the house and its inhabitants, so it was interesting to see how everything unfolded.  Again, this is a book I would recommend if you're looking for a good read.

Our host invited us to her house and made us dinner for this meeting, which was awesome considering she's a chef!  We had a lovely cheese board with one of the best appetizers I've ever tasted (grapes wrapped in goat cheese and rolled in crushed pistachios) to start, butternut squash tortellini in a brown butter sage sauce with sausage and a baby kale salad for the main course, and pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for dessert.  Let's just say Alyssia's hubby is a lucky, lucky guy.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

This month we are reading Bitter is the New Black.  This is an older book, but I had never heard of it or read it.  I finished 'er up this week, and I really enjoyed it!  The book is a memoir.  Jen tells us about her journey from a job that pays six figures to standing in line at the unemployment office.  It's a really clever, funny story, and I enjoyed reading it!  

I'm not sure where dinner will be this month, but I'm sure Ashley will pick somewhere delicious!

Happy Halloween, everybody!  I'm planning to post about our costume and plans next week, but for now I'll leave you with a clue about our garb: Party on!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

quick dinners

I wanted to write about some of the dinners we've been munching on lately, but I don't have a lot of free time these days.  So, the theme for today's post is the same for my life at the moment: fast and furious.

Pita Pizza

I think I've written about this dinner before.  It's simple, quick, and delicious.  Perfect for a busy weeknight meal.

Lettuce Wraps

These taste very similar to P.F. Chang-a-langs.  Perfect when paired with some crunchy snow peas.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi with Orzo

How pretty is this?  If you've never had orzo before, this is a good dish to start with.  It's also a winner if you're a fan of shrimp, lemon, and fresh herbs.

Mexican Pizzas

Another quick dish for busy week nights.  The perfect thing to satisfy Austin's "Mexican tooth"!

Crock Pot Maple Dijon Pork Chops

I think you are supposed to use bigger chops for this, but oh well.  It still turned out yummy.  Great flavor, and who doesn't love a good crockin' recipe?

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

The Pioneer Woman is such a gem.  This pasta she makes is di-vine.  I obviously added some chicken to the mix since I live with a man who needs his meat.

Orange Peel Shrimp

If I had to choose a least favorite from the bunch, this would be it.  The shrimp was good, but I think it would've been better if I worked in a Chinese restaurant.