Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shrimp With Cream Cheese, Angel Hair, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Spinach

Here's a little recipe I tried out today and loved!  It was quick, easy, and delicious.  Adapted by yours truly from the original (which is made with chicken and mascarpone instead of shrimp and cream cheese), found here.

 Yield: Serves 2-4
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
This pasta dish is a complete meal in a bowl!


1 Cup Light Cream Cheese At Room Temperature
Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
1/2lb of Medium Shrimp (raw, deveined and shelled)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
Salt & Pepper
1/3 Cup Chopped Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 (9 Ounce) Bag Baby Spinach
1/4 Box Angel Hair

To Serve:
Sauteed Garlic Breadcrumbs or
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano/ Pecorino Cheese


  1. Combine the zest, lemon juice, cream cheese, and pepper in a bowl, and whisk to combine.
  2. Bring a pasta pot of salted water to boil.
  3. While waiting on the water, heat the oil in a large skillet or saute pan, and cook the shrimp and garlic for 2-3 minutes or until just turned pink and opaque.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente, taking it off the heat about 1 to 2 minutes before you would
    normally remove it.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Pour the pasta into the shrimp skillet and set the shrimp to medium heat.
  7. Stir in the cream cheese and lemon mixture, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach.
  8. Loosen the sauce with about 1/4 cup of the water and toss all over the ingredients together until the spinach has wilted and everything is piping hot, adding a little additional pasta water if needed. Lightly salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve immediately, topped with grated cheese or sauteed breadcrumbs
I forgot to take a pic before I dug in, and my phone camera is kinda broken so the pictures aren't great quality. But here's what I got:


Monday, January 23, 2012

#57 - Attend a live opera performance

This goal is something I've been meaning to do for a long time.  I love music, I love live theater, and I love crazy costumes.  All of which are things I associate with opera!  Why, then, have I never attended a performance of one?  Well, the answer is simple.  The cheapest tickets (that you can actually see anything on stage from) are $88.  The good seats are anywhere between $200 and $400.  And having never been to one before, I didn't want to buy an expensive ticket to something that I might not even like.

As Richard Gere's character says in Pretty Woman, "People's reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul."

Luckily, The Metropolitan Opera has started to have certain performances of their operas shown live in HD at select movie theaters. So, LoveMuffins and some freinds and I decided to take advantage of a world premiere show, "The Enchanted Island" this past weekend.

This was an interesting choice to be my first opera experience.  The premise of the opera is that the- now married- lovers from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream are shipwrecked on the magical island from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  The description from The Met Opera's website: "In one extraordinary new work, lovers of Baroque opera have it all: the world’s best singers, glorious music of the Baroque masters, and a story drawn from Shakespeare. In The Enchanted Island, the lovers from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream are shipwrecked on his other-worldly island of The Tempest. Inspired by the musical pastiches and masques of the 18th century, the work showcases arias and ensembles by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, and others, and a new libretto by Jeremy Sams."

To begin with, the set was absolutely fabulous. Magical and fantastic, even.  It was a traditional proscenium combined with projections and 2D set pieces.  Completely unreal looking- which is perfect for an opera called "The Enchanted Island," and was so entrancing to watch.

The lovers' ship sinking:

Neptune's undersea home:

Ferdinand's Ship sailing to the island under Neptune's direction:

And I've decided that I need to get into performing in operas (ok... maybe just operettas, which are what I think of as opera "light," haha) so that I can wear costumes like this:

Sycorax (Caliban's mother and Prospero's spurned ex-lover): Yes, that is a full-length feather cloak.

Miranda (Prospero's daughter and the lovers' and Ferdinand's love interest):

While I was not completely pleased or impressed by the plot and the character development, this opera was fascinating to watch.  I can honestly say I've never seen anything like this onstage before.  It was sometimes beautiful, sometimes creepy, or sometimes magical- depending on the scene.  And the moods created by the combination of the music, set, costumes, and lighting was unbelievably good.  Check out some of the looks they created in this teaser video:

Have you ever seen anything onstage that looks like that monster's mouth at the 7 second mark?  It was amazing.  Our entire group that went kept saying "wow" and "that's so cool" and "amazing" throughout the performance.  We unanimously thought it looked fantastic.

Now, about the plot.  There were holes to say the least.  And I have to say that I was a bit disappointed by the lack of emotional depth in much of the acting and libretto.  The lovers, for instance, were completely shallow.  While they were the comedic relief, I still expected them to be at least a bit convincingly in love. 

Then there was Prospero, the tyrant magician of the island.  He was the lead male in the opera and supposed to be very domineering and threatening.  When he opened his mouth to sing the opening number in the show, I was completely shocked to hear a woman's voice coming out.  He is a countertenor, which I now understand is a characteristic of baroque style opera.  However, it didn't work for me.  Maybe I'm just uncultured, but I find it hard to accept that a man singing in a female style voice is scary, sad, or anything serious, in fact.   Plus he wasn't even a good actor aside from that.  Here is a video of him singing an aria not from this opera, to demonstrate my point:

I believe the most frustrating plot point was the ridiculous deus ex machina moment.  The god Neptune, who had a good reason to be in the first act of the show, randomly shows up and resolves the primary conflict of the show for no apparent reason. Sycorax, the classic "woman scorned," has been plotting vengeance on Prospero for all the wrongs he has committed against her for the entire opera.  Then finally when she is about to get it, Prospero begs for forgiveness and Neptune pops up out of nowhere to tell Sycorax that mercy is godly.  And so she forgives him.  Just like that.  It was weird... and I didn't like it.  We think it happened because the singer playing Neptune is famous, and so they wanted to give him another aria.  That's the only thing that made sense to us.

However, several of actors and characters were fantastically developed and acted.  Sycorax, for example, was unbelievable. I was happy when the bows at the end showed her to have top billing for the opera.  And her son, Caliban, was also fantastic.  But my favorite by far was the actress who played Ariel, the enslaved spirit of the island.  She was interviewed at intermission, and she said she drew part of her inspiration from Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I had been thinking the same thing myself, and I think it worked wonderfully for her character.  Plus, she was a wonderful singer and stunningly gorgeous.  I would love to see her again in something.  Here is a recording of one of her arias:

All in all, I enjoyed my first opera experience very much.  But I will be going to a more traditional and less "cutting edge" opera the next time I do this, in April, La Traviata.  I'm excited to continue to broaden my cultural horizons!

Friday, January 6, 2012

December - A month of doing! #20, #21, #27

Thanks to the craziness of the holidays- throwing parties, traveling, time with family, and rehearsing for the musical that I'm in- I fell way behind in my blogging about my accomplishments.  That doesn't mean I wasn't achieving goals, though!

#20 - Host a theme party

My mother and I absolutely love to go to high tea.  So we decided to host a Christmas Tea party!

We told everyone to dress cute and wear a funny hat if they'd like to. Every lady had her own special place setting with her own party favor.  Everyone got a different fancy tea cup to drink out of and take home with them. We served a savory and then a sweet course with all kinds of tea. Including, of course, a Christmas tea blend.  We also gave out a door prize to the lady who wrote the best poem about what she loved about Christmas.  It was a wonderful time with great food (if I do say so myself!), yummy tea, and beautiful company.

#20 - Host a potluck dinner

I love the idea of a potluck dinner.  The host doesn't kill his or herself by cooking a full meal for all their family and friends, and you get an awesome variety of food to eat!  We hosted a Christmas Eve Eve potluck dinner this year, and I hope that it becomes a tradition.

Our table was packed with food and we got to dress up all fun and festive. We sang carols around my piano and smoked cigars on the balcony.  We laughed, hugged, and enjoyed the hell out of each other.  All in all, it was a comfortable and lovely evening spent with the people I love most in the world.  I look forward to hosting it again next year!

#27 - Visit a state or country that I've never been to

For New Year's Eve this year, I took a trip to Canada!

I've always thought it was a bit ridiculous that I've been to all kinds of exotic destinations but never visited my country's closest neighbors.  I visited friends who live north of Toronto, and I had a wonderful time.  I learned several valuable lessons when I was in Canada, like the fact that you should always ALWAYS bring your coat, even if it doesn't feel that cold when you go outside.  Also, I learned the definition of the word "snowsquall." Google it.

We stayed in Niagara Falls over New Year's Eve, and this is what we saw from our hotel room:

It was an awesome time.  I can't wait to go back.

December was so productive for my day zero list!  I have crossed 8 things off within 7 weeks, with 6 other goals currently in progress.  I look forward to continuing to get exciting things done in January!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

#94- Keep a “my day in 6 words” blog every day for a month

I figured this one would be on the easy side of my goals. But surprisingly, condensing an entire day's worth of feelings, activities and accomplishments into 6 words is not as easy as it sounds.  Often as I sat down to post my 6 words blog entry at the end of the day, I discovered that I had either too little or too much to say.  How can I fit a wonderful Thanksgiving into 6 words?  And conversely, what do I really have to say about a day spent being totally lazy?

Looking back over my entire month's worth of blog entries, I notice several themes.  The first one I noticed is that I'm a positive person. There are very few entries in the entire blog that are sad, depressing, or negative.  I am very proud to think that I'm a glass-half-full type of person, and seeing documented proof is encouraging.

Another theme of the blog is that I am so overwhelmingly blessed by the people in my life.  My family and friends are mentioned many times and always in the most positive light.  Clearly I got incredibly lucky with the ones I didn't pick (aka family).  And I chose rather well the ones that I did pick (friends).

Since this is a project based on words and numbers, I thought it would be cool to look at the final result in terms of frequency of word use. Here are some of my most frequently used words in the blog and how many times I used them:

Great/good/best/awesome/wonderful/delightful - 8
Friends - 7
Love (d) - 5
Laughter / laughing / smile - 3
Feel (s) - 3
Family - 2
Exciting / excited - 2

To sum up this goal achievement in 6 words:

If you're interested, the link to my entire 6 Words blog is here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#3 - Get a massage

Completing this goal felt soooooooo good. Yesterday, my wonderful mother took me to get a massage while she got a facial at Massage Envy, where she's a member.

I have this goal listed under "health" on my goal list because of the many physical and mental health benefits associated with massage therapy:
  • Increases circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs. 
  • Stimulates the flow of lymph, the body's natural defense system, against toxic invaders. For example, in breast cancer patients, massage has been shown to increase the cells that fight cancer.
  • Increased circulation of blood and lymph systems improves the condition of the body's largest organ - the skin. 
  • Relaxes and softens injured and overused muscles
  • Reduces spasms and cramping
  • Increases joint flexibility. 
  • Releases endorphins - the body's natural painkiller - and is being used in chronic illness, injury and recovery from surgery to control and relieve pain. 
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Enhanced sleep quality
  • Greater energy
  • Improved concentration
  • Reduced fatigue
I can safely say that I went into this appointment needing some of the benefits above.  I love Christmas, but no one can deny that it is a stressful time of year.  Plus, I decided to complete two of my goals to host events within a week of each other. (What kind of crazy person does that?!)  So clearly I was in need of some stress relief.

This massage definitely did the trick. My masseuse was AMAZING.  I've had massages before, and they're always good.  I think this one was the best yet. I left the appointment feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to take on the Christmas season once more!

Monday, December 5, 2011

#93 - 15 new restaurants- Jaleo

This is going to be such a fun goal to complete!  I love food, going out, and trying out new places.  I've been looking forward to getting a start on this one and my husband and I kicked it off with Jaleo, a spanish tapas restaurant in Bethesda, MD.

About Jaleo:
Under the direction of famed chef José Andrés, Jaleo offers an impressive assortment of tapas, the traditional small dishes of Spain, as well as savory paellas, superb sangrias and a fine selection of Spanish wines and sherries in a festive, casual atmosphere. Created in 1993 by Rob Wilder, Roberto Alvarez, and José Andrés, Jaleo has become a DC institution.

What we ordered:
Cava sangria- Sparkling wine sangria with Cava, Liquor 43, strawberries and mint
$18 for a half carafe
This was delicious and VERY strong.  We got about 3 drinks total out of the half carafe size which makes it $6/glass.  Pretty normal price for Bethesda.  This drink was worth the price and I would order it again.

We decided to split the $20 for three tapas lunch deal, and I think it was a great value for what we got.

"Gambas al ajillo- The very, very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic"
About $6.50 for 7 small shrimp
Wow these were good.  They were moist, garlic-y, buttery, and so very tasty- pretty much like a shrimp scampi.

"Cordero a la brasa con salsa de romero- Grilled lamb T-bones with rosemary sauce"
About $6.50 for two 1 oz steaks
We ordered these medium and they came out well done.  Still, they were tender and had the most delicious light barbeque and rosemary sauce.  Despite not being prepared to order, they were very yummy.

"Croquetas de pollo- Traditional chicken fritters"
About $6.50 for 5 croquettes
These were little croquettes filled with what tasted like Thanksgiving-style chicken stuffing.  They were frickin amazing, like Thanksgiving just exploded in my mouth.

Final bill:
$40 not including tip

Very good.  When we walked in, we were seated almost immediately. Water glasses were always full, our sangria and food arrived promptly, and he asked us how the food was. When we asked for the check we got it quickly and were able to get in and out of there in less than 45 minutes.  Which probably could have been even less if we had been trying to have a quick lunch.

Overall impression:
I loved everything about eating here.  The decor was pretty and fun, the service was great, the food was amazing, and value for our money was decent.  I will most definitely be going back. Though next time I think I'll get a group together and try out their paella. They are served in a traditional paella pan, and take over 30 minutes to cook. Maybe I'll go for my birthday dinner and sit at this cute private curtained-in table... buen provecho indeed!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

#54- “Best Picture” Oscar winners- "All About Eve" (1950)

My fellow Day Zero goal achieving hero LoveMuffins and I set out to watch some movies that we have in common for our goals.  [My goal #54 (see every movie that's won a “Best Picture” Oscar 2/85) and her goal #70 (watch all movies on the AFI 100 Years Movie List).]

The first two that we had in common and were also readily available to us were All About Eve (1950) and On The Waterfront (1954).  Since LoveMuffins already wrote a review that nearly mirrors my thoughts about the movie, I will not bore our shared readers by writing one of my own. I will simply direct you to hers here.

All About Eve (1950)
Now, I hadn't looked up anything about this movie before seeing it. And looking at the poster for it, you would think it was another histrionic drama (like, ahem, On The Waterfront).  But this movie turned out to be hilarious!

The basic plot is that a seemingly naive young girl wants to become her just like her actress idol.  Having the background in theatre that I do, I greatly enjoyed all of the poking fun that it does at the theatre world.

However, I found it troubling that women seem to be consistently cast in a bad light in these older movies.  Margo, the big time actress, is portrayed as having low self esteem, and she's often crazy, jealous, weak, manipulative, dependent on men, vain, rude, and paranoid.  Not a very pretty picture.

Meanwhile the aspiring actress, Eve, is portrayed as young, naïve, and stupid until ultimately proved grasping, scheming, and manipulative. Even the women with smaller parts are portrayed as stupid, manipulative, greedy, and vain.  Here are a few quotes that stuck out to me as particularly offensive:

   Miss Caswell (played by Marilyn Monroe): “Now there's something a girl could make sacrifices for: sable.”
   Max: “Sable? Did she say sable or Gable?
   Miss Caswell: “Either one.”


The only things she can make sacrifices for are expensive possessions or handsome men?

   Margot: “That's one career all females have in common - whether we like it or not - being a woman. Sooner or later we've all got to work at it, no matter what other careers we've had or wanted. And, in the last analysis, nothing is any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed - and there he is. Without that, you're not woman. You're something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings- but you're not a woman... slow curtain. The end.”

Double ugh!

Careers are pointless because without a man, you're not a woman and life is meaningless?! I couldn't believe that that monologue was for real.  But not only was it for real, it was one of the most serious parts of the entire movie.

Aside from all this, there were great parts of the movie as well.  Margo's boyfriend is the perfect balance to her craziness.  He is kind and understanding, but he doesn't put up with her nonsense.  He tells her how he feels and listen to her when she rants.  Yet he doesn't hesitate to tell her to stop when she has crossed the line.  And when the beautiful young Eve tries to seduce him, he tells her off in no uncertain terms.

And, the scheming and grasping Eve does get what's coming to her in the end.  That part was very satisfying.

All in all, a hilarious movie- especially for theatre people. Despite its downfalls, I think I will probably watch it again sometime!