Sunday, June 07, 2009

I love to cook, but it is never more fun then when my husband and I are cooking together.  One of the best meals for dual cooks is any meal that includes risotto.  You say you've cooked risotto and it's not big deal?  Oh my friend, I'm guessing you've made risotto out of the box.  

My love for risotto really became an obsession when I had the best meal of my life, hands down, at a little tiny hotel in England.  Have you ever had one of those meals?  One that was so magical that you measure all other meals against it, and you always tell people, "I once had this risotto....  You just don't know!".  I've been striving to make risotto to rival that one ever since.  I was by myself for 3 months in England, and for a week of that time I was booted out of my normal hotel and was staying by myself in a little tiny hotel in a little tiny town about 10 miles away.  I didn't want to venture out, so I thought I'd brave the hotel restaurant. 

One thing you have to know about England that is a super secret among those who know and love England.... they have really, REALLY good food.  The best place to have an amazing, life-changing meal is a little tiny hotel in the middle of the country.  Everything is fresh, and local.  I sat in the outside courtyard because it was an unusually gorgeous day.  I was the only one there, so I brought a book for company.  I paired my book with a Guinness (which I followed with another shortly thereafter, but I swear that didn't have any baring on my memory of this meal).

All I ordered was a mushroom risotto.  That's all it said.  No fancy words to make it sound fancier then it was.  Just a bowl of the most amazing risotto I've had, even to today.  Now whenever I go out and see risotto I order it hoping to be transported to that night in England.  But it never lives up, so I decided to try it on my own.  I've made risotto many times, and the more I make it, the more I appreciate what an art this particular food is.  

For risotto, you have to first brown the arborio rice, then slowly add your broth a fraction at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed into the rice, then adding more, stirring, adding...  Until you are out of liquid and the rice has become mushy and creamy.  This takes about a half hour of constant stirring (don't dare walk away!), so the rule is you must always hold your spoon in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.  

This particular risotto I made was pretty amazing.  It was Asian Risotto to pair with Ryan's Mongolian Lamb Shoulder Chop.  As you can see, the glass of wine is ever present.  Although not a traditional Italian risotto with its ginger, cilantro, and soy sauce, it was pretty exciting.  But still, it just can't compare to my mushroom risotto in England.  My culinary unicorn I guess.  Ah well, I'm sure having a delicious adventure trying to find its match!

(btw, that right there is a brand new, never been used before now, stainless steel pot from my hubby.  who loves me.... and my food .  And also, before you judge, the stove was burned before I got here.  I would never mis-treat it that way!)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Camping in Style

Have I said lately how much I love living in Arizona?  I know I'm slightly broken-recordish, but I tell ya, this was one of those weekends when I stopped and marveled at how lucky I am in my life.

We packed up the the tent trailer on Thursday and drove up to the Mogollon Rim to a spot that I have been camping in for my whole life.  It's in the middle of the forest, no electricity, no water hook-ups... just us and a gorgeous view of the valley below.  

One of my favorite things to do when we're camping is to plop myself in a hammock with a book I can't put down.  I drag my pillow out with me, and it was cold enough this weekend that even in the middle of the day I was wearing a thick sweatshirt.  But for the first time, I have a very special hammock to look over the rim from.  This canvas hammock was given by my mother's brother to her when I was a baby.  He passed away when I was about 3, but this hammock grew up with my brother and me.  We used to take turns wrapping ourselves in it while the other one of us flipped us around and around in it.  I'm too big to wrap up inside it now, but it's still the most comfy hammock I've ever taken an afternoon nap in.   

This weekend we also had a brand new (OK, old from an antique store) dutch oven, and we were so brave with it.  We sorta planned almost all our meals in it, so it was bound to go either stellarly, or we were going to starve.  Thankfully, it was a success!  We made chili one night, and I made a cherry cobbler and a peach cake.  Oh, and our friends who have a toy hauler brought ice cream for the top of them!  Mmmm...

On Saturday we took a hike around Woods Canyon Lake.  There were 8 people and 4 dogs in our group, including a Chihuahua!  We were quite the troop on our 5 mile hike.  On the far side of the lake we got a great view of a bald eagle nest.  You can JUST see a fuzzy baby head in this picture.

And of course, the puppies got to play around in the lake.  

It was so cold up there compared to the 105 degrees we left in Phoenix.  It rained every day for about an hour and when the rain cleared away it was gorgeous.  And the afternoon rain was the perfect time for hiding inside and taking a nap.  

And thank goodness for the tent trailer.  I'm camping in luxury with a SHOWER and enough electricity to have a light on at night.  Heaven I tell ya.  I'm living a charmed life.  

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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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