Celebrating Life

This past weekend I took a much enjoyed and very quick trip to Washington DC to visit my childhood friend, Amy, and her really great hubby, Rodrigo.  The reason for the trip was to catch up, relax and meet this little guy, who was just welcomed into the world 6 weeks ago. 
I had a very informative weekend learning all about babies.  I now realize that they really do cry, eat, sleep... and repeat.  The new parents were doing a fantastic job of keeping up with that seemingly never-ending cycle, while also keeping their spirits/energy levels up.  You must get some sort of super powers as soon as you become parents...
Anyway, I wanted to help out somehow, but since every time I tried to hold the little guy, he would wrinkle up his face and commence a loud and long-lasting wale, I decided I would take on something much easier.  I decided upon cooking dinner.  After a long day of walking around the shops and restaurants of Alexandria, we decided on a simple and fun meal of paninis.
With a quick trip to the grocery store,
we came back with a few great ingredients.  Since we had a handful of vegetarians to feed, the first panini filler was curried roasted sweet potatoes and apples, with caramelized onions.  I thinly sliced the potatoes and apples, and tossed them in a good amount of curry powder, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  I laid them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then stuck them in the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They came out soft and a nice golden brown.  In the meantime for the onions, I caramelized them slowly in a saute pan, on top of the stove, in olive oil, just a tad bit of brown sugar and salt and pepper.  I learned to never rush caramelizing the onions.  If you try to rush them by turning up the heat, you will only burn them and have to start over... 
Another filling that we did for the prosciutto panini was roasted zucchini, red pepper and onion.  We topped that with a little olive tapenade and some nice creamy Havarti. 

 Sorry there are no pictures of the actual paninis. We were all enjoying the wine and a bit too hungry by then, especially the little guy (hungry, not enjoying wine), so we all got a little distracted.  We then had two easy soups (pumpkin and roasted tomato).  Even though the kitchen was a mess, everything was so delicious that I could have repeatedly eaten that meal for the remainder of my stay.  

However, the next day being an absolutely beautiful fall day, (even if Rodrigo was feeling a little guilty about seeing the neighbors leaves all bagged up while ours were still all over the front lawn)

...it was time for more explorations.  We bundled up the little guy and headed out to the farmers market, and of course, the chocolate shop. 

We bought some chicken and cheese empanadas and admired the apples and the squash, before heading off to the chocolate shop.  The Fleur de Sel was a dark chocolate filled with a perfectly creamy salty caramel. 
 This one below is the Spicy Hot Chocolate which was a smooth dark chocolate filled with a perfectly smooth dark chocolate ganache filling....not actually spicy enough for me, but very smooth.

While this posting is only meant to sum up a small whiff of the great time that we had together. As we walked back home that day, in the crisp fall air, we talked about how nice it was that we could all be together on this week before Thanksgiving, celebrating the birth of the little guy and all that we have in our crazy lives.
Happy Thanksgiving!   


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