Three Blondes Make a Quorum, or, The Time We Found Religion at Happy Hour

Back in November (wow it has been a WHILE. Happy new year, everyone!), the blondes went to Bar Charley for happy hour. It’s been on our must-go list since it opened in the fall, plus we were looking for a fun place to entertain G’s friend from out of town. Although C was missing due to work travel (boo), we had 3 blondes out of the 4 – that’s a quorum, right?

Long story short, we LOVED Bar Charley. A few important highlights:

· Monday is all-night happy hour. Many places in DC do a deal like this on Mondays or Tuesdays (personally, I never understood this concept – I’m an equal opportunity happy-hour-er and all days of the week are acceptable to me, but if bars want to subsidize my Monday or Tuesday drinking that’s fine by me). Also, happy hour specials were available at the tables! That’s rare – usually you’ll find the specials are only available in the bar area.

· Happy hour specials include $5 mixed drinks on tap. We tried both offerings and they were amazing – nice and strong and not overly sweet (the Mai Tai in particular was fantastic).

· On Mondays, happy hour specials include half-priced sandwiches.** Yay! We tried the regular burger and the tuna burger. G and N debated the possibility that the regular burger was the best they’d ever had. I can’t vouch for that, but I will say that the tuna burger was very delicious and unique. I’ve had a salmon burger before, but this was my first time eating a tuna burger. It was made from ahi tuna and came with seaweed slaw, which made me think of sushi. Mmmm. I would definitely get it again. Plus, all the burgers came with salt and vinegar potato chips – homemade, paper-thin, and with just a hint of vinegar. They were perfection – and I’m not a big potato chip person.

· The server was very nice and they kept the water glasses full. Plus, there was a great and laid-back vibe in the entire place. Basically it was the perfect laid-back happy hour for a crowd – food options, drink options, seating options, and good service.

· And last but not least, last night marked the second time that we took the seat of an owner. At Bar Charley, we eyed the front corner window booth and waited until the owner finished up his (or her? Couldn’t see) drink and then snatched up the booth for ourselves. Recall that at a previous restaurant club, Mike Isabella offered C and I his barstool. The 4 blondes, man…we apparently scare the crap out of restaurant owners?

Oh, and I guess I should explain the “time we found religion” title. As we neared the end of the second round of drinks, we started discussing the influence of religion in our upbringings. G and I went to Catholic school growing up, and admittedly it had a big influence on us. One thing led to another, and at one point after finishing our food I recited a Hail Mary for N. G restrained from chiming in because, well, then it might have gotten a little creepy. I don’t know if it was the alcohol or the prayers, but we all had a spiritual experience at Bar Charley – we’re converts and we’ll be back.

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Looking Forward to Winter Recipes

It’s Sunday night and I’m looking forward to what I’m going to cook this week! Since the temperatures have dropped and look like they’re officially going to stay there, I’m looking forward to make some winter-y meals.

Photo Credit Shutterbean – Tuscan Ribollita

Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette: I made this for book club a few weeks ago, and although I generally feel that cold lettuce leaves do not make a meal, I really liked the rich flavors in this salad. It helped to make the dressing from scratch (although I eliminated the pomegranate) – can’t go wrong when you do that. And of course, I added plenty of extra blue cheese!

Quick and Easy Tofu with Ramen Noodles: I like this method of cooking tofu (searing it without the trouble of pressing and marinating it beforehand), and of course I’m going to love anything with noodles. Hey, my half-marathon might be over, but I’m still going to carb-load. How else will I stay warm in winter?!

Red Quinoa Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette: I love lime, I love spicy food, and I love quinoa. This salad looks like it has some great cold weather ingredients (pumpkin, etc.) and some unique flavor combinations.

Tuscan Ribollita: Shutterbean is one of my favorite food blogs. It’s the first one I started reading with any regularity, and the recipes that she posts are realistic yet comforting and gorgeous all at the same time. I think N and I made this Ribollita soup recipe a few years ago – when we didn’t have a big soup pot so we had to make the recipe in two small saucepans. I now have a huge soup pot and look forward to making this rich, almost stew-like soup again. Yummy Italian flavors, served warm, with a big hunk of bread and hearty, healthy ingredients? Can’t go wrong.

What are you making as the weather changes?

Recipe: Strawberry-Rhubarb-Lemon-Yogurt Muffins

This post is in honor of my dearest E, who is having fabulous adventures on the other side of the world right now! When she lived in DC, she was always conducting baking experiments and I miss eating the delicious results of those experiments. In the case of these muffins, I remember eating them in N’s old car (were we on our way to Old Rag? Or perhaps looking forward to a day of lounging at the pool chez moi?). Regardless, I distinctly remember just being so darn happy to be eating them! They were fluffy and gooey and tart. Mmmm.

E, thank you for introducing me to these delicious strawberry-rhubarb-lemon-yogurt muffins and for your idea to add the lemon and vanilla extract. I can always count on you to add lemon to things, but in this case, it was pure genius!

Arlington Darling | Strawberry Rhubarb Lemon Yogurt Muffins

Ingredients:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. sugar (or sub sugar in the raw)
1 egg
1 c. plain greek yogurt (note: I used 1 container which was 7 oz., and it turned out fine)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. chopped rhubarb (1 piece)
1 c. chopped strawberries
1 lemon
1/4 c. brown sugar

To Make:
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and oil in a large mixing bowl. This will be your wet ingredients bowl. You can use a hand mixer or kitchen aid if you have one.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. This is your dry ingredients bowl.
4. Add the egg, yogurt, and vanilla extract into your wet ingredients. Stir well.
5. Zest the lemon into the wet ingredients bowl. Stir.
5. Add the contents of the dry ingredients bowl into your wet ingredients bowl, adding a little at a time.
6. Once the ingredients are combined, add the chopped strawberries and rhubarb and gently stir (pro tip: toss your fruit with a little flour before adding so that they don’t sink to the bottom of your muffins – I don’t know why this works and never notice a difference if I don’t do it, but supposedly it works).
7. Spray your muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, grease with a little butter, or use liners. I personally like the crunchy outer layer that you get without liners but it’s your call.
8. Add the muffin mixture to the muffin tins, filling each tin about 3/4 of the way. Add a little brown sugar to the top of each muffin.
9. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden.

Adapted from A Spicy Perspective.

Enjoy! 🙂

P.S. E, can’t wait to make these with you again when you’re back stateside! Miss you <3.

Recipe: Quinoa Burgers, Tzatziki, and Lemon Asparagus

After a food-heavy holiday like Thanksgiving, the last thing any of us wants to do is eat unhealthy food or food that’ll make us feel bloated. Cue protein-rich, low-fat, and veggie-based meals like this one! My GENK girls and I made this after a long day of indulging our other senses…we went to see the latest Twilight movie and then rented The Lucky One (the Nicholas Sparks flick starring Zac Efron). Yea. It was a good day of indulgence :).

The food was indulgent, too, even though it was healthy! We made everything from scratch and enjoyed all the wonderful flavors of green onion, lemon, dill, and cumin. Delish. Oh, and then we made chocolate chip cookies. Kind of killed the health kick, but it was necessary!

So here we go with our recipes. The quinoa burgers needed no bun, we just ate them topped with heaping spoonfuls of the cool, creamy tzatziki. The combination really hit the spot. And the asparagus — so, so good! It’s my new favorite way to eat the vegetable. The recipes uses a unique cooking method that isn’t quite steaming, isn’t quite roasting, but an in-between approach. I’ve done lemon and parmesan with asparagus before but this recipe really took me by surprise.

Quinoa Burgers (Adapted from Eating Well, Living ThinEating Well Living Thin | Quinoa Burgers

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (cook in 2 cups of salted water, makes about 2 cups of cooked quinoa)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 carrot, finely grated
3 eggs
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 green onions (or scallions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of salt
olive oil for frying

To Make:
1. While you are cooking the quinoa, combine the cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, garlic, and spices.
2. After the cooked quinoa has cooled for a few minutes, add that to the bowl and mix.
3. Preheat a large saucepan on medium-low heat and add a thin coating of olive oil (
4. Using a large spoon, gently scoop the mixture and place it into the pan, then use a spatula to gently press them into a “patty” shape about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Pan-fry until golden brown, flipping every 3-4 minutes until the patty holds together.

Tzatziki Sauce (Adapted from Eating Well, Living Thin)Arlington Darling | Tzatziki

Ingredients:
3/4 cup thick plain Greek yogurt (we used Fage)
3 tbsp low-fat sour cream
1/2 cucumber, sliced very thinly (note: you could also seed and then grate it, but I pride myself on my paper-thin slicing abilities so we opted for that route)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp fresh dill (note: we used fresh dill, so if you use dried make sure you taste along the way)
salt and pepper to taste

To Make:
1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Note: in our case, we added a little more dill and garlic powder. If making it again, I might also add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). Ideally, let it sit for a few hours in the refrigerator so the flavors can combine.

Lemon Asparagus (Adapted from About)Arlington Darling | Lemon Asparagus

Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh asparagus (about 1 lb.), bottoms trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 lemon
parmesan cheese, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

To Make:
1. Add asparagus, olive oil, water, and garlic to a large saute pan with a lid.
2. Cook uncovered on high heat for two minutes, or until the water has almost evaporated.
3. Toss asparagus with tongs. Cover the pan and continue to cook for 1 minute.
4. Remove the lid and toss the asparagus. Then cover the pan again and cook for 1 minute.
5. Repeat (note: we did about 5-6 total minutes with the lid on) until the asparagus are crisp-tender and may be slightly browned in spots.
6. Add lemon juice, remove the garlic cloves, and add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Garnish with lots of shaved parmesan cheese.

Enjoy :).

Taste of DC – Get Excited!

Continuing this week’s roundup of events (man, DC is a busy city in the fall!), I want to tell you about Taste of DC.

I went last year, frankly expecting to be disappointed. And boy was I not. I actually ended up going twice throughout the weekend. Or was it three times? The weather was perfect (okay, I can’t exactly give props to the Taste of DC organizers for that one, but still), the food was insanely delicious, and the atmosphere was happy and upbeat. Plus, it was people-watching galore. If you’re into that. Which I obviously am.

The food was the focus of the day though, and even though E, N, and I waited on some long-ish lines, we were greatly rewarded. I am going to list the dishes we tried last year without using any adjectives, because the number of adjectives would start to get a little ridiculous. I mean, how many different ways can I say the word “delicious?” Here we go. We had: Mexican corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, fried oysters, fish tacos, sushi, sea salt caramels, chocolate mousse, and countless other dishes that I can’t remember. I think it’s indicative of the food’s quality and deliciousness that I could remember all of those dishes from over a year ago.

Another great thing about this event is since the food is from local DC restaurants, you get the chance to try them without paying $$$ to eat a full meal. Last year, GENK discovered Lincoln (too many meat dishes for my taste but E and N were in love) and a couple of food trucks. On the event website, it says that an updated list of restaurants and menus will be posted on September 15th — that’s tomorrow, people! Get excited. Restaurants already lined up include: Co Co Sala, Dickson, Mai Thai, Marvin, Cedar, Sushi Rock, and Ulah Bistro.

So if you’re around on Columbus Day weekend, check out the event – Saturday, Sunday, or Monday (or all three days). They have a Living Social deal (what good event doesn’t, nowadays?) where you can get the $10 ticket for the discounted price of $7. Woot! I already bought mine and I cannot wait.