Hibernation Penne alla Vodka


I'm really great at hibernating.

Hibernating means sweatpants, giant pots of coffee, and eating all day long. With Hurricane Sandy visiting us for a few days this week, I was given the opportunity to practice my hibernation skills.

Since we knew about this weather event for nearly a week before it showed up, I got to watch people panicking as they bought cases of water, cans of beans, and endless amounts of batteries. I accidentally went to Whole Foods on Sunday and let me tell you ... in a hurricane people need their hummus and designer yogurt. Concerns for a power outage did not seem to make it to the Whole Foods patrons.

When Hurricane Irene visited in 2011, I prepared by buying pancetta and collecting all of my Friends DVDs. We subsequently lost power for nearly a week. It was terrible. This time around I shockingly didn't prepare much differently. Here is what I considered my supplies:
  • prosciutto
  • nutella
  • rice cakes
  • coffee
Also, I had 3 types of cheese obviously. Mozzarella, feta, and parmesan. In an emergency, I obviously need cheese.

I survive by eating. I love to cook. So this is what I cooked and ate for two days:
  • Spinach and Lentil Soup
  • emergency Peanut Butter Molasses cookies
  • French Toast
  • grilled cheese with a side of macaroni and cheese
  • Penne alla vodka
  • Chocolate Fudge Brownies
oh and wine. We had wine.

In between answering work emails and playing with powerpoint, we watched many hours of DVDs. Having been a business major in college, Baby Sister had to "translate" while we watched Persuasion, a British Romantic Drama. 

But, here is how you make a quick Penne alla vodka.

(Step 1) In your dutch oven or big pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add prosciutto. Cook until crisp, which will be about 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

(Step 2) Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stirring to combine, and sauté for 2 more minutes.

(Step 3) Stir the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, sugar, and salt into the onion mixure. Stir in the vodka and increase heat back to medium-high. Briskly simmer for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the alcohol flavor has cooked off.
(Step 4) Reduce heat to low and whisk in heavy cream. I opted for milk instead of cream, because I didn't have cream ... and given the menu for the previous 3 days could use a "healthier" option. You can do what you want.

(Step 5) At this point, I was really excited to eat ... since it had obviously been 2 hours since my last meal. But, I  wanted the sauce to be more "liquid" and less "chunky"... so I just whipped out my immersion blender and got it to a consistency that matched my expectations.

The recipe that I followed was for about 4 people, which meant .... LEFTOVERS! So, I just whipped out one of my friendly mason jars and threw the rest of the sauce in the fridge for another rainy day. One point for me.

(Step 6) Toss the cooked pasta (yep, do this while you make the sauce) in the sauce and add in the crispy prosciutto you made earlier. Serve with grated or shaved parmesan.

Shopping List
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used milk)
Parmesan cheese, for serving

just a little update


flashbacks to summer.... and neon tanks.

It feels like it's been awhile since I actually wrote something.

Something of value and meaning.

I have a lot of thoughts spinning in my head and heart but no real direction for writing them down. Maybe that'll come to me this weekend.

Until then, feel free to noodle on these things:

  • Two weeks ago, I saw this guy on the street that I went on three dates with. My first reaction was quite literally to turn and run. The only problem is that he was just across the street ... and may have seen me. Additionally, it did not help that Baby Sister kept calling my name since I didn't exactly explain myself before I ran away. Also, there was zero reason to run. When Baby Sister asked me why I was running, I said ... in a crouched position on the sidewalk ... that I didn't want him to ask me out again. She responded that there was minimal risk. She was right. I haven't heard from him. Shocking.
  • I belong to this great gym that has amazing lotion from Kiehls. I joined this gym in July which should be known as "can't apply lotion season". If you apply Kiehls lotion during warm weather, you will be slick like a baby seal if you move even the slightest bit. At one point, I applied lotion to one leg and not the other just to test this theory. Well, since it's October I figured it might be lotion season finally. And, well it seemed like it was. I worked out on Thursday night, showered at the gym, lathered up. Win. But, when I ran today during lunch .... I unknowingly made my legs so slick that I almost knocked myself unconscious. The Ab Plank exercise was seriously hazardous. Not quite lotion season.
  • Tonight, I made Cauliflower soup for dinner... on a Friday night. By myself. Cauliflower soup requires shaved parmesan... at least in my book. I had to run out to my favorite market in order to get the parmesan to shave it. While I was there I ran into this guy I went out with three times. I liked to call him Proper Ben. When I reported this incident back to my friend Asti, she asked how it was on the awkward/fine scale. Unsurprisingly .... Proper Ben was proper and friendly and nice and cute. Then I remembered that he kissed like half baby snake chicken. Go ahead and figure that out.

And yesterday, I saw this pattern on a DIY website and honestly felt like I could make the dress. Let it be known that in my life I've made two items of clothing:

  • madras drawstring pants ... that were so large and terrible I could have landed my own E! / TLC / Lifetime Fashion Nightmare segment
  • a blue floral backless halter. I don't even need to describe that.

Happy Friday.

That's be to the baby jesus that it's the weekend.

Roasting in Vermont


I'm a fan of doing things myself. It might not always be less expensive, but it's always a learning experience. Last year at Pheasant Fest in Vermont, two nice portly gentllemen showed up and slow roasted a pig. While they did that, I picked some apples, drank a few beers, and in general... wore stripes.

This year, the hosts of the Fest said... "Roasting is dumb. Let's just bury that sucker."

I think what actually happened was someone saw this NYTimes article about a pig "roast" and the rest was history. These are the same siblings that elected to have a clam bake one Labor Day having never done this before.

I could wax on about all the steps of the pig roast but I'll let you read the article for the nitty gritty, since honestly we didn't do anything significantly different. But, the project did lead me to do a few things that I might never have done. Here are two good examples:

Example 1: Show up at my favorite local spice place and give them a list of ingredients for the rub. 
Guy: "How much do you want?" 
Me: "I'm honestly not sure. How about you just give me enough?"
Guy: "What's enough?"
Me: "Enough is when you think I have enough of it."
Truth be told... I had been talking to this guy for a few weeks about the roast and he knew what I was up to ... that being said, neither of us had any idea how much cinnamon I needed to rub down a 100 pound pig.

Example 2: Include the NY Times link in my email vacation memo

The basics of the roast are as follows:

Step 1. Get your friend's parents to permit a big ole hole to be dug in the ground. The hole is pretty much a pit and is big enough that you really need a tractor to do it ... and you are also pumped that it was done before you got there. Oh, and in the pit make a bed of field stones. CHECK.

Step 2. Get like a whole lot of wood and make a giant bonfire in the pit. This will take 6 hours. How much wood? Approximately 5+ tractor loads. During this process, you will need to avoid the spiders that inevitably love to live in wood piles. 
Step 3. Procure a pig from someone. I have no idea where the pig came from. It did come in a giant bucket ... and it did come clean as a whistle.

Step 4. Put the pig on the parents' kitchen island.... this is the same place where you'll put the bowl of Snickers two days later... or the breakfast sandwiches the next morning.

Step 4b. Remove the pig from the counter when you realize you need to put it on a bed of banana leaves ... that is on a bed of burlap.

Step 5. Rub the pig down with a healthy mix of olive oil and rub ingredients. Given my affinity for bacon, you'd think I was right in there... I opted to take pictures and video. Be sure to flip that little piggy over and get the other side as well. For good measure, put an apple in his mouth. It'd be weird if you didn't.
Wrap that sucker in the banana leaves, then the burlap, then the chicken wire. THEN, you'll want to use some even bigger gauge wire to hold the whole thing together. Just pretend they are like the little plastic twisty ties you get on bread at the grocery store. It all makes sense.

Oh, and you stuff the pig with an amazing assortment of fresh fruit. Your grocery cart will look a bit like you are hosting a summer luau ... but in actuality you are stuffing a pig. I wish I had kept track of how much exactly it took to fill a 100 pound piggy... but the best scale of measurement would just be to get a catering style tray like the one I used and just cut up fruit until you've filled it.

My rough estimate is: 4 pineapples, 5 mangos, 6 apples, 6 red onions, 2 giant heads of garlic, and 5 limes. Also, my iphone got all sorts of sticky because I had to google "how to cut up a pineapple". After I was done with that, I googled "how to cut up a mango". Needless to say, now I'm a professional.

Step 6. Back out at the fire pit... you need to move the coals and rocks around a bit to make a hole / bed for the piggy. Essentially. You need to toss that sucker in there and cover it with all the coals and rocks. That is how its going to cook. That 1000 degree rock is really fahking hot too... so it may seem obvious but be careful.
After you've covered the pig with coals, then cover the pit with a wet piece of canvas. Then cover it all in dirt. 

Step 7. Put on your patience pants.... because you now need to wait 20 hours.

During this span of time, as a group you'll probably do two things. One is to totally forget that the pig even exists and is buried in the backyard. Two is to think about what you'll do when you unbury it and it isn't cooked a lick. 

Step 8. After you've all played a competitive game of capture the keg (use your imagination here), the whole group should head to the pit area and just start digging. I personally thought it would take an hour to dig up the pig and get started on dinner. Spoiler alert? It took 5 minutes. I'm not even kidding. Maybe 10 minutes.

Step 9. After pulling the chicken wire sack from the ground, it was hoisted over to a picnic table near the barn. Upon opening up the layers of chicken wire and burlap, it was pretty much just a giant pile of pulled pork.
The pig went in the ground at about 9pm on Friday and was pulled at about 6pm on Saturday. So 22 hours later.... a pile of pork.... that tasted amazing.

Step 10. Enjoy the feast .... for days.
I'm honestly a little embarrassed that I don't have a picture of the meal from that night. But it was great. The pork was accompanied by some great side dishes that include mac and cheese for sure. And, then we proceeded to eat pork at every meal for the next 2 days.

I most certainly still had the pork sweats at work on Tuesday.

This is what breakfast looked like the next day ... yep, there were some talented chefs at Fest this year. Including this hilarious girl named Phoebe who made this breakfast. Not pictured here? Some sort of lime crema sauce that I pretty much put all over this plate.

And, that's pretty much how you do a pig roast.

Here's a video of how it all went down.

100+ pound pig
25+ hilarious people
1 tractor
lots of wood
several shovels (one will for sure break)

pig stuffing
4 pineapples
5 mangos
6 apples
6 red onions
2 giant heads of garlic
5 limes
additional garlic to rub on the skin of the pig

pig rub
kosher salt
brown sugar
all spice
cracked black peppercorn
I don't have the specifics on the ratios for the rub. But you need about 1.5 quarts for a 100 lb pig ... and heavy on the salt and sugar... the rest of it is just gravy. You really can't screw this up. Seriously.

Resting in Vermont


The weather is getting a bit cooler in Boston and that pretty much means fleece is acceptable for so many more activities. I can now wear it to work, on my couch, on errands, and even to bed. What? I like my bedroom chilly. Time for some snuggs.

Fleece was also a million times appropriate during my recent trip to Vermont. So was wearing blaze orange paraphernalia ... all wins in my book.

Like any good long weekend, this was the perfect balance of planning and winging it. And plenty of driving. Lots of driving.

I spent much of the 4 days in Vermont doing one of the following activities:
- sitting on the porch staring at the trees
- sitting on the porch drinking coffee
- sitting on the porch drinking hot cider
- sitting on a bale of hay in the barn
- eating pork
- eating more pork
- wearing wool socks and fleece
- listening to the rain

oh, and when I wasn't doing any of those things... I stood in the front yard and stared at the stars. And, they were amazing. I fahking love looking at the stars. 

Here are some snaps...


Trips to Vermont consist of being very active for short periods of time followed by excessive amounts of "recovery" time in front of a fire or wood stove. It does not matter who I am with, the cycle is the same. This trip was no different - except the activities were limited to a highly competitive game of capture the flag (except with kegs) and a short hike to a pretty little lake.

I also got a fair amount of time with my little lover Dixie. We both share a fondness for bacon, the outdoors, and skipping showers in favor of running around Vermont. As a testament to my love for her, I even gave her some of my bacon while we got cozy on the porch one morning.

Oh, and on my way to the Pig Roast... I swung by and visited a friend / neighbor / coworker at her parent's dairy farm in Pownal. When Asti told me to "save my cardigans for Middlebury", I laughed ... but the minute I got out of the car I was lovingly covered in mud by 4 friendly golden labs. In addition to the 4 labs, the family also has two cats (Jamal and Copenhagen), 3 horses, and 10 (?) cows.

Adorable right?

Answer = yes.

off to see the pig


I'm off to Vermont for this long weekend.

If you are looking for five keywords as to why this will be amazing, I'll give them to you:
pig roast
barn party

And that's pretty much just the start of it.

This is the second year that I'll be spending Columbus Day in Vermont... and it's in honor of pheasants and fun. Last year was the inaugural year of "Pheasant Phamily Phun Phest" ... otherwise known as P4. The occasion comes with blaze orange paraphernalia.... of which I have minimal so instead I'll be rocking stripes. A little part of me wishes I hadn't donated the Syracuse sweatshirt a boy gave me several years ago.... but not really. Stripes will do just fine.

I never did a summary post of the trip last year so here are a few pictures of what I'll be doing ... and what you'll wish you were doing.

transitioning to fall


It's Fall.

And I'm adjusting to it.

I always get sad when Summer ends. I remember all the fun adventures. Walks outside. Roofdeck beverages. Endless ice coffees. But then, I remember the Fall means I can wear sweatpants and fleece. And it means brewing an entire pot of coffee on a weekend .... for myself. 

I've been doing all these things and it's been amazing.

I'd love to get caught up documenting my cooking but until then here are some pictures of what's been happening since the Earth rotated a bit and it became Fall.

sunday flowers from Twig. not a hydrangea in site.

the return of my crockpot.

trying new ways to cook bacon.... in water. success.

taking in a boston college football game.

early birthday cake for baby sister.

sunday morning breakfast at my neighborhood diner.

rocking a killer outfit and eating a grilled cheese while I watch the boats.

one of my favorite views in the city. north end harborwalk.

sunny mornings. but wearing a down vest on my walk to work.

taking the long way home from work.
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