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  • Stephanie 4:05 pm on April 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    Adventure #13 – Push up Contest 

    March 6, 2010

    My last gift to Lydia and Chris before they headed out west was to throw them a going away party.  The theme – “Winter Wine Festival”.  As with all wine festivals, the idea was to feature a selection of food and wine pairings.  Each guest brought a dish and a complementary wine.   We had a variety of cheeses, an Antipasto tray, dips, and even a fondue platter for dessert!  Needless to say, this party was intended to be a classy affair…

    Somehow the kitchen turned into a dance floor and I heard a rumor that someone was actually performing “the worm” at one point, and another person was giving lessons on “the superman”.  We clearly underestimated the food to wine ratio!

    Just when things to started to mellow out, Lydia decided it was time to challenge me to a push up contest.  I have been known to throw down in push up contests, even beating men twice my size.  I look small, but I pack a powerful punch, and am freakishly good at push ups.  Lydia has never been able to beat me at push ups and I felt bad making her look like a chump in front of all of her friends, so I tried to find a more suitable (i.e. weaker) competitor.  Our friend Mali decided she’s up for the challenge, but then my wine muscles kicked in and I decided I can’t resist the chance to take on two competitors at once!  We adjusted our party clothes into push up ready position, and then it was GAME ON!  Lydia was out by push up #3 and I was doing two for every one push up that Mali was able to crank out, so the official judge determined that I was the winner.  Although I dared to put my title on the line, I am still the reigning champion of  push up competitions… (More …)

    • eatveggiesdrinkwine 8:26 pm on April 12, 2010 Permalink

      This is seriously fantastic — I clearly need to get invited to better parties … or throw one myself.

  • Stephanie 3:23 pm on April 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    Adventure #12 – Culinary Conundrum: A “Light” Cassoulet? 

    February 27-28, 2010

    There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter day than a warm bowl of cassoulet and a glass of red wine.  Cassoulet is a French casserole, usually made with white beans, duck, pork sausage, and various types of animal fat, cooked in a stew, topped with crusty bread crumbs, and then baked.  I tried making one last year during a snow storm and the results were OK, but I wasn’t blown away.  It had a good flavor, but I thought it was a bit dry.  This year, I wanted to one-up myself (perfectionism at its finest!) and make a PERFECT moist, flavorful cassoulet.  My other challenge was to lighten the fat and calorie counts by not using duck or pork fat in the cooking process, and using lighter cuts of meat (i.e. pork tenderloin, boneless/skinless chicken thighs, and turkey smoked sausage).   I also added a whole lot of veggies to up the nutrition factor.  A classically-trained French chef would shake their head in disgust, but it’s not feasible for most of us to confit a duck in our home kitchens!  I found three different recipes for Cassoulet from Cooking Light, which I used as a guide to put my own twist on this classic French comfort food.  It took two labor intensive days in the kitchen, but the results were so worth it!  Stay tuned, recipe coming soon for the Perfect “Light” Cassoulet….

  • Stephanie 2:38 pm on April 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    Adventure #11 – Heavy Metal Show at Club Whiplash 

    February 21, 2010

    Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a standard girly girl.  In fact, my friend Matt has been calling me “Pretty, Pretty Princess” since high school.  I like my high-heeled shoes (especially patent leather), expensive handbags, little blue boxes with white ribbons, mani/pedi’s, and my ridiculously overpriced and inconvenient salon on Newbury St.!  I love shopping and am very excited when my friends at Banana Republic send me weekly coupons.  When I cook, I wear a retro Jessie Steel apron with pink cupcakes all over it!   So how did this cupcake baking, shopaholic in Banana Republic adorned with Tiffany’s in her black patent high-heeled boots end up at a Heavy Metal Show in Stoughton, MA?  She was DUPED!

    My friend Lydia was moving to California in a few weeks, so I pledged to spend as much time as I could with her before she left.  When she invited me to a “rock show” with her and her husband, Chris, I jumped at the chance.  One of her former co-workers was in a band and they were going to go see him play.  They worked at an architecture firm, so I figured the band would be a bunch of geeky architects with their T-squares doing Billy Joel and Elton John covers all night.  When we walked in and the warm-up band was covering Metallica (and not a T-square in sight!),  I realized just how severely I misjudged the situation.  This was heavy metal at its finest, and I was in for a long (and loud) night!  I swear I saw Brett Michael’s and Big John milling around, along with biker dudes and a lot of women who clearly hadn’t seen a stylist since the eighties!  Perhaps Lydia and I were out of our league?

    All in all, the night turned out to be great fun!  We moshed with the bikers, screamed with the crowd, and listened to some pretty decent music, as far as heavy metal goes (Steel Assassins is definitely a band worth checking out if you are into Heavy Metal).  Chris taught me how to make my hands into devil horns, which I showed off to my friends the next day while sporting a Steel Assassins T-shirt.

  • Stephanie 1:55 pm on April 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    Adventure #10 – Strawberry and Champagne Cupcakes 

    February 14, 2010

    In honor of Valentine’s Day I decided to transform my favorite wine and food pairing into a delicious dessert!  My love of champagne and strawberries began with “Pretty Woman” (who doesn’t love the scene where Richard Gere takes prostitute Julie Roberts up to the hotel room and “takes the liberty” of ordering this classy treat??), but has since grown into my go-to choice to end a fabulous dinner.  I figured I wasn’t the first person to think of champagne cupcakes, so I did a google search to get me started.  I found a great recipe for Champagne Cupcakes with Sweet Champagne Buttercream from gimmesomeoven.com.  I added my own little twist by filling the cupcakes with strawberry jam.  The results?  A light, sweet cake with a creamy, buttery frosting and a fruity, tart center that brought the whole package together.  The champagne wasn’t overpowering, but it gave the cakes a lighter consistency and slightly sweet taste.  I wish I had pictures of the look of sheer delight on people’s faces when they found the surprise in the middle!

    Below is the cake and frosting recipe from gimmesomeoven.com.  To fill the cupcakes, I used store bought strawberry jam.  I transfered the jam into a plastic bottle with a pointy tip and a hole large enough to squeeze out the jam.  When the cupcakes are cool (and before they are frosted), I poke a hole in the center of each cupcake with the plastic tip and then squeeze about a tablespoon of jam into the center.  Cover with the frosting and red sugar crystals and voila!

    Champagne Cupcake Ingredients:

    • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 2/3 cup butter
    • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
    • 3/4 cup champagne (the sweeter the better – even strawberry would be great!!)
    • 6 egg whites

    Sweet Champagne Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

    • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature


    To Make The Cupcakes:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Prepare a cupcake pan with liners.  (This recipe yielded about 20 for me.)

    In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.

    In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

    Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

    To Make The Frosting:

    With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.  Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.

    • Kelly Smith 2:49 pm on April 10, 2010 Permalink

      if you want to try something different with this I suggest:
      leaving off the buttercream frosting. When cupcakes cool slice the top off to make a “sandwich” make some homemade whip cream and mix in fresh strawberries. layer the whip cream on top of bottom half of cupcake and sandiwch with the top half.

      I do this with vanilla cupcakes and raspberry whipped cream or blueberries.

      (I accidentally replied to the wrong one the first time so I thought I’d repost)

  • Stephanie 8:22 pm on April 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    Adventure #9 – Forgiveness (a love story) 

    February 13, 2010

    I started off 2010 with an email from an ex-boyfriend I hadn’t spoken to in 7 years – not since he married some chick while we were in (what I thought) was a long distance relationship.  The marriage was bad enough, but to make matters worse he neglected to ever inform me of the event (or break up with me), so I had to find out from my best friend who had heard it through the grapevine.  During our tumultuous 4-year on and off again relationship, I lovingly nicknamed him my “Krytonite” because I knew he would eventually destroy me but I couldn’t stay away from him.   Fitting, wouldn’t you agree?

    Needless to say, his New Year’s email caught me off guard, and then of course, brought back a maelstrom of emotions.   I was angry yet intrigued.  What could he possibly want after all this time?  I was in turmoil for weeks trying to figure out what he wanted from me.

    What he wanted was to meet up with me next time I visited home and have dinner.  I was torn between shutting him out forever (you had your chance loser!) or taking the opportunity to get closure and possibly get some of my questions answered.  For instance, why was I out of the loop about your wedding?  I probably should have been the first to know, don’t you think?  Do you realize you never broke up with me, so does that technically mean we’re still together?

    I decided to go ahead with the dinner, and I have to say it’s a night I’ll never forget.  My beloved Kryptonite allowed me to look him in the eye to tell him how much pain he had caused me and how my life had never been the same since.   He apologized and accepted responsibility, but explained his side of the story.  I actually walked away feeling like he did me a favor by marrying that other girl.  What I viewed as the most disrespectful and hurtful thing that someone had ever done to me was actually him having so much respect for me and my dreams to not drag me into a life he knew I would hate.  He said that the driving force behind why he didn’t choose me was that he truly believed I didn’t need him and that I would be better off without him.  I told him he probably could have told me that 7 years ago, so I didn’t waste so much energy despising him!  He seemed proud of the person I became and I felt he had a lot of respect for what I’ve done with my life.

    Thank you, Kryptonite, for seeing the possibilities of what my life could become without you in it, even when I couldn’t see that for myself.   Thank you for empowering me with independence and courage to journey through life solo, making my own choices and forging my own way.  Maybe  I should change your nickname to Red Bull, since you gave me wings!  😉

    • Kelly Smith 2:31 pm on April 10, 2010 Permalink

      if you want to try something different with this I suggest:
      leaving off the buttercream frosting. When cupcakes cool slice the top off to make a “sandwich” make some homemade whip cream and mix in fresh strawberries. layer the whip cream on top of bottom half of cupcake and sandiwch with the top half.

      I do this with vanilla cupcakes and raspberry whipped cream or blueberries.

    • yearof52adventures 10:05 pm on April 12, 2010 Permalink

      this is beautifully touching. I want what you’re drinking (Red Bull). What a great story of flight!

    • goldtang 1:57 pm on April 19, 2010 Permalink

      This has so inspired me, as my boyfriend left me two weeks ago, saying I was better off without him (which meant he wanted someone else and got her that night!) He wanted “more experiences” in life but has actualy taught me that even a good thing that has been useful to us becomes an unnecessary burden when we no longer need it to.

  • Stephanie 8:42 am on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bartending, grape martini   

    Adventure #8 – Mastering the Grape Excess Martini 

    February 5, 2010

    The Grape Excess Martini was a drink I discovered about 4 years ago at a former Boston hot spot – Excelsior. It’s the most refreshing drink and it packs a powerful punch! It’s light, fizzy, sweet but not syrupy, and has a special treat of frozen grapes threaded on toothpicks, so it’s sorta like having a snack with your alcohol!

    Regretfully, Excelsior shut its doors January 2009 and my life hasn’t been the same since. However towards the end of 2009, a new restaurant – Post 390 – opened up on Stuart St. with some of the same management and staff from Excelsior. I was thrilled when I saw the Grape Excess return to a Boston menu! However, disappointment struck hard when I went to Post and realized that this wasn’t the same drink as my beloved Excelsior. It was way too sweet, cloudy not clear, and just tasted off.  It was a devastating evening until I spoke to Mike, my favorite bartender at Post (and former Excelsior superstar), and asked him if he could make the martini the “Excelsior way”.  It was a huge success! (More …)

    • Mike 2:33 pm on April 19, 2010 Permalink

      Stephanie, I am inspired. Years ago I had a drink in Milwaukee that was called “The Baron” It used Asbach Uralt, Tia Maria, and Galliano. Unfortunately I never got the ratios. For the last few nights I have been experimenting trying to find the right amounts of each ingredient. Unfortunately I have not yet found the magical combination that produces this little piece of heaven. But I am not giving up. On the upside I have been sleeping very well at night.

      The problem is you can only try so many till you kind of have to stop for the night. The first night I failed to write down what I tried, which has probably lead to some repeat failures. This weeks adventure may take more than a week.

    • faolan01 1:22 pm on April 20, 2010 Permalink

      love it! there are too many great drinks that just sort of disappear when bars close or bartenders leave. Somewhere I should still have the recipe for one called Mother’s Milk that I discovered in the now long-gone ManRay. I think one of my adventures may end up being finding that recipe and figuring out how to re-create that drink

  • Stephanie 8:38 am on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Landmark Forum   

    Adventure #7 – Landmark Forum 

    January 29-31

    As part of my professional development, my manger suggested I attend a transformational education course called The Landmark Forum.  Go ahead and Google it.  You’ll think it’s a cult!  It’s not, but the recruitment process and the drastic change that some people experience when they go through it is probably why it appears cultish.

    After three intense 12-hour days of rackets, vicious circles, completing my past, exploring possibilities, and committing to having an extraordinary life, I do feel transformed.  I feel as though my perspective has shifted.  My view of life is that the things that used to stress me out day in and day out are not that big of a deal.  And when I encounter new problems, because I’m not bogged down with anxiety, I can clearly see the problem and solve it quickly and painlessly.

    • sassy 5:37 pm on April 16, 2010 Permalink

      totally a cult

  • Stephanie 8:37 am on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , leggings   

    Adventure #6 – Leggings as Pants 

    January 22

    The challenge: create a costume for a night on the town at two very different venues (aka “Rockstar Chic”)

    1. alternative rock scene at the Middle East in Cambridge
    2. swanky hipster scene at the Foundation Lounge in Boston

    I know many folks have strong opinions about wearing leggings as pants, but I decided to take a chance on virgin territory.  I paired my black leggings with a short-sleeved black v-neck sweater and knee-high black boots.  I wish I had been brave enough to take pictures, because I was rocking those leggings!

    Meghan, Spencer, AJ, and I went to see AJ’s brother’s band Muy Cansado at the Middle East.  Although I wasn’t a fan of the bar (or being in grungy, hippie-filled Cambridge), the band was awesome!  I get “itchy” if I spend too much time in Cambridge, so the highlight of the night, for me, was crossing the river into Boston to see DJ Matty D spinning at Foundation Lounge.

    Botton Line:  if you are looking for an ensemble that transcends opposite ends of the party spectrum, opt for leggings as pants!  🙂

    • Mike 2:27 pm on April 19, 2010 Permalink

      I had a hard time visualizing what the deal was. Really needed pictures. I have been staring at anyone I see with leggings to figure out if I know what leggings really are.

  • Stephanie 8:32 am on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ice wine, Ontario   

    Adventure #5 – Ice Wine Festival, Niagara Falls, Ontario 

    January 15-17

    Unlike other wine regions, the Niagara Peninsula in Canada consistently undergoes freezing in winter, making it the world’s largest producer of Ice Wine.  Every January, the region is transformed into a winter wonderland, and it celebrates one of Canada’s most cherished products in the Ice Wine Festival.  Each winery features an ice wine and food pairing.  Some of my favorites were the ice wine and cheese fondue, ice wine cupcakes, and Eskimo kisses (chocolate shells filled with Cabernet Franc Ice Wine).

    My roommate Meghann’s sister, Elizabeth, planned our wine adventure and managed to keep 10 twenty-somethings on track to visit 6 wineries in 5 hours.  Even though the festival featured ice wine, each winery still had traditional tastings available for those who didn’t want to just drink the sweet ice wine.  Elizabeth’s boyfriend Ben was knowledgeable about the region and made helpful recommendations for wines to purchase.  Konzelman’s Winery was a great  recommendation for reds and Jackson-Triggs had great whites.

    We finished off our night at the Casino, where I doubled my money on video blackjack.  Too bad I only put in $10!

  • Stephanie 8:19 am on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Quebec   

    Adventure #4 – Montreal, Quebec 

    January 13-14

    In 2009, the company I work for aquired a biotech company in Montreal.  The scientists were developing drugs that were complimentary to some of the drugs in our pipeline.  As part of the integration process, my manager and I were sent to the site to present Orientation and Ethics and Code of Conduct training to the new employees.

    We were only there for one night, and had only a few short hours for sightseeing.  The temperature was in the single digits, so walking around outside was uncomfortable for any length of time.  I was briefly able to explore Old Montreal and the Old Port.

    My favorite part was the Basilique de Notre Dame in Old Montreal.  I loved the gothic style church.  It reminded me of the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris.

    The architectural influence in Montreal is clearly French, but it’s a more modern city than Paris.  Montreal reminds me of Boston in the way that the old is mixed with the new.  I’d love to get back during warmer weather to have more time to explore.

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