Monday, December 22, 2008

Wedding dress shopping

This past weekend I took Tomboy and went shopping for my wedding dress. I tried on lots of different styles - strapless, a-line, princess, mermaid, trumpet, lace, plain, embroidered, beaded, silk, satin, taffeta, blah blah blah. My favorite one was this very simple taffeta dress with tip-of-the-shoulder straps, some very flattering ruching along the bodice, a lace-up back, and a moderate train (yes, this is moderate!). Bear in mind that this dress, being the shop's sample, is two sizes too big for me, so mine will be significantly more snug. And the color is ivory, although the camera's flash makes it look like it's white in the picture.

Click the photo for more wedding dress pictures (this one and others I tried on).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foodie Hiatus


I've been taking a bit of a hiatus during these hectic months. Between getting engaged in October, visiting my sister in Portland after her new baby was born, and dealing with the holiday stuff, I haven't been good about getting my recipes up on the site, and for that, I'm very sorry.

My new year's resolution will be to foodblog more regularly. In the meantime, here's a few photos of some dishes I've made recently. In the upper right, you'll see our Thanksgiving spread: a NINE pound turkey breast (JUST the breast!) and all the trimmings, even though there were only five of us at dinner.

A couple more photos & quick recaps:

Tropical Chicken Stir-Fry

A quick and kid-friendly dinner made with peapods, carrots, bell peppers, chicken breast and a simple sauce made with pineapple juice concentrate!



Mac 'n' Cheese Florentine

A slightly more healthy version of the perennial favorite, macaroni and cheese. I used Gruyere for the cheese sauce, and added a package of thawed chopped spinach (one of those boxes from the frozen section).

Monday, December 15, 2008

White trash

I have a confession to make: I love super-tacky Christmas decor. I like colored lights instead of plain white (the blinkier the better), multicolored and multi-themed ornaments, gold instead of silver, Grinch dolls next to nutcrackers and fake poinsettias, Bass-Rankin and Peanuts Christmas specials, Bing Crosby on the radio, and I love, love, love that loose tinsel that they don't sell anymore (anyone know where I can find some?). My Christmas tree this year has three different multi-colored strands of lights on it, only one of which blinks (for extra tackiness!). There are homemade ornaments next to mirrored disco balls, resin cartoon characters next to plastic crystals, glittery snowflakes next to colored glass balls.

I wasn't always this way. I have a very traditional and classy gold & white angel at the top of the tree, because in my early adulthood I decided that I would only have gold and white ornaments on my tree and white lights. That lasted for one year. The following year I added red ornaments to the mix, and the year after THAT...well, the tacky urge came on strong, and I wound up with about three dozen more ornaments, all in different colors. Now I long for the glitter-bedecked homemade star we had on the tree when I was growing up. It was the star that topped my fairy princess wand one year at Halloween, and it had ribbon streamers and was super awesome. I wish I could find something that cool for the top of my tree, but I have been unable to find anything suitable in stores, and for some reason my attempts to make a replica have all fallen short of ideal.

So when I came home from my trip up to Portland earlier this month and saw that Mr Wonderful had decorated the entryway to the house with three different types of outdoor Christmas lights (blinky multi-color, white "icicle", and blue LED's) it was the just about coolest thing he could have possibly done.

Almost as cool as the porn-star mustache he's growing for me. Yes, apparently the fondness for super-tacky stuff has spilled over into my "real" life. I blame Swingtown. It was a television show that ran this past summer (and was sadly cancelled after just the one season), set in the 70s and glorfying that decade beyond all belief. Even if I wasn't born in the early 70s, I would have fond memories of that decade after watching this show. And one of the main characters, Tom (played by Grant Show, of Melrose Place fame), had a luxurious, incredible porn 'stache. Mr Wonderful and I looked forward to watching the show each week, so when I asked him to grow a mustache for me, he agreed.

This man must love me like crazy, because on Thanksgiving night, when I came downstairs after taking a shower and saw his new facial adornment, I just lost it. I laughed for about five solid minutes. He threatened to shave it off, so I pulled it together. And I'm so glad I did -- this porn 'stache is awesome. It makes people smile, if not outright laugh. It brightens my day every time I look at it. And once again, I am so grateful that I have a man in my life who doesn't take himself too seriously, and is willing to do crazy things for me just because I ask him to. I can't wait to marry this guy, y'all.

(All this and he does dishes too!)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sobbing

Stupid PMS. I get hit pretty hard with it about every three months or so. This was apparently my month to come up against it hard, and of course it hit just as I was coming home from visiting my sister and her brand new baby (born last Tuesday!). I was there Wednesday - Sunday, helping out while she was supposedly resting and recovering from pre-eclampsia and giving birth. I say supposedly, because she didn't do near enough resting. She took only one nap! Sheesh. Anyway, so I came home last night and when we went to bed, I completely melted down. Sobbing my eyes out over the baby. I miss him so much! But I don't WANT another baby! But it didn't stop me from crying like a brokenhearted teenage girl who just got dissed by her first major crush. I cried so hard I looked like a puffer fish, and I had to take Afrin so I could breathe through my nose again and go to sleep.

Mr Wonderful is a SAINT to put up with me, I swear.

But damn, that baby was cute. I got used to hearing his little mewling cries and changing his poopy diapers and having him fall asleep on my chest, feeling his little warm body snuggled up against my heart. Doesn't mean I want another baby, though, Mom. I just need to borrow other peoples' babies occasionally.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crazybusy

God, things have been so busy lately, I've barely had time to think. Quick recap here:
  • Attended & helped organize a protest against Prop 8 in WC on the 15th
  • Waged war on the pantry moths that had completely infested our dry goods cupboard; I think I've won but it may just be a lull in the battle
  • Semi-regular dinner out with supervisor
  • Fought off a cold
  • Attended big Adobe conference in SF, 17th-19th (which entailed unfortunate late nights coupled with even more unfortunate early mornings in which I had to ride stupid BART into the city. Hello, two-hour commute!)
  • Parent-teacher conference
  • Thanksgiving dinner planning, including ordering the organic free-range turkey breast (even though it's just the four of us, and possibly Babydaddy, we will still have the requisite big turkey feast)
  • Finished two sweaters (Sister's Christmas Present and my big green squishy Mmmmmalabrigo v-neck)
  • Started a baby sweater
  • Started and FINISHED a super-secret surprise Christmas present for someone (at least those long BART rides were good for something)
  • Successfully kept myself from killing the kids so far (they're home a lot this month thanks to Thanksgiving, Veteran's Day, staff in-service days and parent-teacher conferences)
  • Finished most of my Christmas shopping
  • Crazy busy with work stuff (being gone for three days at a conference does not help)
And this is just the last two weeks, mind you. AND, today is Mr Wonderful's birthday. Thankfully, he decided that what he really really wants for dinner is pizza and beer. I can totally deal with that. But what he wants for his present is to get his computer fixed. Ugh. The thing needs a new motherboard, if I remember correctly (it's been at least six months since it got fried), and probably a new processor and a couple of fans too. *sigh*

Things I still need to get done:
  • Family picture for Christmas cards
  • Order Christmas cards, and when they get here, address & send them out
  • Thanksgiving
  • Get paver stones to edge the patio (between cement patio & new sod)
  • Finish baby sweater
  • Sleep for fifteen years
On the plus side, I found out that you can order NyQuil-D through your neighborhood pharmacy. NyQuil-D is the original formulation of NyQuil, and contains the magical ingredients that knock you on your ass. I have ordered some and it should be ready to pick up along with my turkey tomorrow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Clarifying my position

I got a comment on my food blog about my position on Prop 8 the other day, trying to point out my hypocrisy by invoking the argument of polygamy.

Let me be perfectly clear. I have no moral issue with polygamy. I do take offense when old men try to marry off little girls to their friends. I do not approve of child endangerment and sexual abuse of minors (or anyone else for that matter). A thirteen year old, while physically mature enough to bear children, is NOT mentally ready to be a wife and mother. But I don't have any problem with consenting adults marrying each other. As long as everyone is mentally and emotionally mature enough to deal with their decision (and at 18, we are legally considered to be mentally and emotionally able to enter into legal contracts), then go for it. You're not hurting anyone else. Even if you have a bunch of kids, as long as you're a big happy family, then I'm fine with it. Multiple mommies? No problem. Duplicate dads? Just more love.

And this is essentially my problem with the Prop 8 proponents: why are you so sure that YOUR morals are the right morals for everyone else? Why are you so convinced that your way is the only way people should live? What gives you the right to arrogantly decide to strip away the rights of others just because you don't like their choices? I may think you're an idiot for believing that a cracker is the body of Jesus Christ, but do I try to outlaw communion wafers? No, I don't. Because it's none of my goddamn business what you do as long as it doesn't directly affect me.

And gay marriage does NOT DIRECTLY AFFECT YOU unless you are actually in a gay marriage.

So why? Why are you so afraid to let people who love each other get married? It doesn't have anything to do with what kids are taught in schools; California law specifically states that parents can opt-out of having their kids taught anything about health/sex education. That includes gay marriage and homosexuality.

It doesn't have anything to do with religious freedom, either. There has never been any case of a religious leader being sued for not performing a marriage ceremony. NEVER. There was a lawsuit against a justice of the peace in Massachusetts who refused to perform a marriage ceremony for a gay couple, but he was a government employee who was bound by the laws of his state. Let me state this perfectly clearly: there was NEVER a requirement for religious leaders to perform marriage ceremonies that go against their beliefs. When did you last hear of a Rabbi being sued for refusing to marry two Gentiles? When's the last time the Catholic church got sued for not recognizing a marriage between two atheists? Never? Oh, that's right. Because this argument is completely irrelevant.

And don't give me that crap about homosexuals having "equality" with the civil union laws. "Equal but separate" is not equal at all. In fact, it's a slap in the face. And if it's just a question of semantics, then why are you so rabid about keeping gay people from getting married? If it was just a word, you wouldn't care. By fighting against calling it marriage, you are proving that civil unions are NOT the same as marriage. And I'm sorry, but no, you can't own the word "marriage." Marriage is both a legal AND a religious term. Therefore religion alone does not get to dictate who gets to use that word. You are not that special.

Dictionary.com defines discrimination as "treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit". I can't think of anything that describes this hateful proposition better. They are seeking to remove the rights of a group of citizens, simply because they happen to love people with the same set of genitalia. And here's the thing: discrimination will not last. White men tried to keep women and blacks from being acknowledged as equals - TRUE equals, not that "equal but separate" crap - and it worked for a little while, sure. But to quote Martin Luther King, Jr, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." If you don't believe him, look at our new President-elect: for the first time in the long and bloody history of America, we have elected a black man as our President. It took years of fighting against hatred and intolerance, but we have achieved TRUE equality for African-Americans and women. We would have had a female Vice-President next year if we didn't elect a black President (and we came awfully darn close to having a female Presidential nominee). And you can be sure that the fight against intolerance towards homosexuality is not over, either. Already we have made enormous strides; in just a few years, California went from losing gay marriage rights by 22% to losing by only 4%. And the courts are with us; discrimination is NOT tolerated, and Proposition 8 will be defeated. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And someday we'll all look back and wonder why we got so torqued up about it.

So you might want to think about what you're really standing for, when you stand against gay marriage. Because the veils of education and religious freedom are thinner than the paper you used to write this hateful bill, and not as many people will believe the propaganda the next time around. Gays are not going to just fade into the background and agree to be marginalized and live as second-class citizens. Truly, you don't actually believe that will happen, do you? You don't believe that all the gays are going to up and decide to "go straight" just because you don't approve, do you? You don't believe that homosexuality will get shut back into the closet of our nation, do you? You can keep screaming that gay marriage is wrong, but all that's going to happen is you're going to lose your voice. Because the tide of righteousness is stronger than the ideology of hate.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, we did


Will post my disappointment about Prop 8 later, but for now...thank you, America. Thank you for voting for hope, instead of fear. Thank you for proving that we can move past our old sins and work for a brighter tomorrow. Thank you for coming out in droves, to put the most principled, intelligent man I've ever seen in the White House.

The people have spoken, and after eight long years, I feel like they're finally speaking my language again.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Off topic: Prop 8

I have temporarily disabled Google Adsense on my blogs because I learned that they are running "Yes on Prop 8" ads in California. I do not know if this ad displayed on my blog in the past weeks, but if it did, please let me assure you: I am NOT in favor of Prop 8. I do not support discrimination in any form.

Be sure to vote tomorrow!

One more day

One more day left for McCain to think he's got a chance at gaining the presidency. If you're an Obama supporter who's feeling just a bit antsy and scared about the possibility of losing again to the Repubs, check out FiveThirtyEight.com, which has the very latest polls and aggregate data, showing Obama with a 96.3% chance of winning tomorrow. Or check out this article on HuffPo, which shows all but one of the political pundits predicting an Obama win. That one dissenter is, of course, a Fox News pundit. (Big surprise.)

One more day left before the Dems rout the Repubs in Congress, too. Now, I'm not saying we're going to get the 60-seat majority in the Senate; that seems unlikely. But I think folks are pushing for a clear change this election season, and there's a lot of angry, bewildered people out there wondering why their 401Ks are essentially worthless scraps of paper now.

And one more day left, most likely, before the conservatives in California outlaw gay marriage. I'm heartbroken over this, truly. If Prop 8 passes, I cannot imagine a bigger blow to equality and basic human rights. If you haven't heard yet, Prop 8 is the gay marriage ban, and it's one of the most hotly-contested and expensive races this season, apart from the presidential race. Supporters of the bill are claiming it stands for religious freedom, the preservation of marriage (huh??), and the continued innocence of our Kindergarteners.

Now, let me just refute these points one by one.

First, religious freedom. The proponents of bill say that if gay marriage isn't outlawed, churches will be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples or risk losing their tax-exempt status. But don't churches already discriminate in who they will or will not marry? If you do not belong to their congregation, a church will often refuse to allow you to have your wedding there, or to have your wedding performed by their officiants. I don't think this argument holds much weight. In fact, I think the Mormon Church (LDS) may be in danger of losing its tax-exempt status for substantial political lobbying on this particular proposition. The IRS tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations (specifically including churches) from "[substantially] attempting to influence legislation." What legally constitutes "substantially"? I don't know, but I'm sure the LDS has their lawyers hard at work coming up with reasons why this doesn't apply to them.

Secondly, the "preservation of marriage." This is a joke, right? How does banning marriage protect it? If they really wanted to protect marriage, they'd be better off trying to outlaw divorce. What they really mean, of course, is that the bill preserves the fiction that heterosexual couples are somehow extra-special and the only ones who should be allowed to be married. Why is it wrong for two consenting adults to profess their love and commitment to each other? Why should they be satisfied with only calling their relationship a "civil union" when heterosexual couples get to be "married"? If the only difference is semantics, then why should there be any difference at all? Religion does not have a lock on the English language, and doesn't get to dictate which words can be used for legal relationships. And if the basis of your argument is a religious one (i.e., "the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman") then your argument is irrelevant and unconstitutional, because there IS a lovely little part of our constitution that demands the separation of church and state. Marriage is both a religious AND a legal state, and therefore cannot be dictated by religion alone.

And finally, somehow, they've convinced people that passing Prop 8 is going to save our children from being taught about gay marriage in school. Look, people: if you're that worried about your kids learning something at school that you don't want them to know about, then you should really homeschool your children. Kids learn a LOT at school, and not all of it is in the classroom. What they hear from their peers is usually much more objectionable than what they hear from their teachers. And quite frankly, I don't recall my son ever learning about heterosexual marriage in school, much less homosexual marriage. The California Superintendent of Schools has definitively refuted this; children are not required to be taught about gay marriage, and whether or not Prop 8 passes will have absolutely no bearing on the fact. But honestly, people, are you really that concerned about your child learning about gay marriage? And if so, do you supervise every moment with their peers? Do you quiz their friends' parents to find out if they watch Will & Grace or Ellen before allowing your child to spend time with those friends?

Homosexuality is not hidden in the closet of our country anymore - it's out in the open, and I for one am glad. Secrets breed intolerance and bigotry. And "civil unions are legally just like marriage" is the same thing as "equal but separate" - you know, like when we had "equal but separate" schools for black kids and white kids. So please, think before you cast your ballot tomorrow - think about what's fair, and think about how you would feel if someone wanted to take away YOUR right to marry the person you love.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Contest closed

The free pasta dinner contest is now closed, and the winners (by random computer number-picking script) have been contacted. They are:

#2: Lisa
#8: Teri
#29: Carrie

Congratulations, winners! If you haven't received an email from me, please check your spam folder. (Except for Teri - I had to contact you via DeltaPOST because I couldn't find an email address for you.)

Congratulations to the winners, and enjoy your free dinner! Be sure to come back & post a comment letting us all know how you liked it. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best birthday present ever!

Last Wednesday, on my 35th birthday, Mr Wonderful proposed!

I had a feeling it was going to happen on my birthday, to be totally honest. I was about 90% sure that he had the ring already. The kids were making oblique references to my birthday, when normally they wouldn't even notice it was coming up (although to give them props, they really didn't breathe a WORD about the proposal). And Mr Wonderful had hinted that he wanted me all to himself on my birthday - he even took the day off of work! - so I switched nights with Babydaddy. It's not like this proposal was coming as a complete surprise anyway; we decided before he moved in last October that we were planning on getting married, and we wanted to get engaged this year.

So on my birthday, I woke up thinking: "This is the day!" Mr. Wonderful took Rugrat to school for me, which meant I could sleep in a bit. All morning I was trying to work and not be too distracted. I had lunch planned with my coworkers in WC, which meant I'd be gone for about 3 hours or so.

When I got home, Mr. Wonderful was relaxing on the couch, watching TV. There was a lovely white bouquet on the table that wasn't there when I left for lunch, so I said, "What's this?" and pulled out the envelope that was stuck in the bouquet. He said, "Oh, are we doing this now?" I kind of smiled and said, "Should we wait?" He replied, 'No, now's fine..." and he paused the TV and came over by me and put his hand in his pocket. I thought, "Oh my God, this is it!" So I opened the envelope, and inside was a little note. I sort of blanked for a second. It was just two words: "Double woobie." Now, Mr. Wonderful and I each have a down pillow that we sleep with, all curled up around it as if it was a stuffed animal. We call these our "woobies" because they're not used as pillows really - they're more like security blankets. Anyway...it was a clue! So I went upstairs to the bedroom, with Mr. Wonderful trailing me the whole way.

In the bedroom was a clue that led me to the fireplace...then another clue that led to the clothes dryer, then finally a clue that led to the oven.

Inside the oven was a letter rolled up and tied like a scroll, and big wrapped present behind it. He grabbed the scroll and said, "Open the present first, then you can read this." So I pulled out the box and thought, "Damn, that's WAY too heavy to be a ring!" Turns out it was an All Clad saucepan that I'd been drooling over for a while! I was both thrilled and disappointed - thrilled at the saucepan, because I really, really wanted it, and disappointed that he wasn't going to propose. But then he told me to read the letter, which was folded up at the very bottom, so you could read most of it but there was some that was hidden. And when I started reading, I knew that the proposal WAS going to happen, RIGHT THEN!

And so, of course, the phone rang.

First my cell phone, and then the house phone. Mr. Wonderful said, "Don't..." but I'd already decided to ignore the phone; this was way more important at the moment! Turns out it was my boss, who was in a meeting with a client and had come across an error on the website we're developing for them. *sigh*

Anyway, so I stood there, kind of shaking a little and trying to read the scroll , which was a beautiful letter about how as we grow older, our birthdays become more mundane, and the presents more practical, and we lose that sense of magical anticipation. But, it said, he wanted to start a new tradition, so every year on my birthday, he would ask me one question:

(and then I unfolded the bottom of the letter, which showed what was hidden...)

"Will you marry me?"

And I started crying a little bit, and then HE started getting all misty-eyed, and I said, "Yes! Yes!" and he asked me if I wanted to see the ring, so I said, "YEAH I want to see it!" and started laughing a little. And then he said the words I'd been waiting to hear: "Will you marry me?" and of course I said "Yes" again.

And the ring? The ring is beautiful and perfect and I couldn't be happier with it. It's a radiant-cut (rectangular but sparkly, not like an emerald-cut) diamond in a very delicate beautiful white-gold setting, with a filigree underneath the semi-cathedral setting and milgrain detail on the band. And of course pictures do not ever do it justice, but if you click on this one, you'll see the other two photos I've taken of it. :)

Is it kind of redundant to say that I'm blissfully happy and thrilled to be marrying this wonderful, amazing man? I cannot believe how lucky I am, to have found him again after so long, and to find out that this incredible man, who's been in my life since high school, has turned out to be the love of my life.

Free Dinner!

I am proud to be able to host my first blog contest: a free dinner giveaway! I have three gift certificates for a Tuscani Pasta dinner from Pizza Hut. The kids & I had the Chicken Alfredo version on Friday, and let me tell you, this is quite a bit of food. It's three pounds of pasta, plenty for four adults (the kids and I only ate about half the pan), plus five warm, soft breadsticks.

If you'd like a free pasta dinner, all you have to do is add a comment to this blog post. I'll pull three names at random tomorrow night (Tuesday) and contact the winners to arrange delivery of your gift certificate. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Stuffed Pasilla Peppers



I've been promising to make stuffed peppers for Mr Wonderful ever since he got transferred to the local hospital, in celebration of his massively reduced commute. But the thing is, I hate stuffed peppers. It's basically meatloaf in a green bell pepper. Ick. But the other day I saw a 30 Minute Meals episode where RR makes a poblano pepper stuffed with corn & topped with cheese, and I thought it sounded perfect. Mr Wonderful & I love Mexican food. I decided to change it up a little, though. I had leftover chipotle peppers in adobo and some enchilada sauce (after making Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada Casserole for a friend who just had a baby), and this is what I came up with. It may not be the most photogenic meal I've made, but it is one of the tastiest!

Stuffed Pasilla Peppers
2 pasilla peppers (the store didn't have poblanos, but they would work just fine if you can find them)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 c frozen corn kernels, defrosted
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatos, drained well
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 chipotle peppers in adobo (from a can), minced
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 c shredded cheese (I used bagged Mexican mix, but you can use jack or cheddar or whatever floats your boat)
1 c enchilada sauce
salt & pepper

Preheat the broiler. Wash the peppers and put them (intact) on a baking sheet & pop them under the broiler. Broil for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even charring. You want them blistered and blackened just a little bit, but not completely deflated and turned to mush. (Leave the broiler on after taking out the peppers. You'll need it later.)

In a saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and corn. Season with salt & pepper, and allow to brown up just a little. Then add the black beans, tomatoes and cumin. When everything is warmed through, turn off the heat and add the fresh cilantro.

By this time your peppers should have cooled enough to handle. Make a slit from stem to tip (not cutting all the way in half, just slicing the pepper open), and remove the stem and seeds. You should have a kind of floppy pepper "cup". Fill the cup with the corn mixture - really load it in there. Top each pepper with about 3/4 cup cheese. Pop it under the broiler, keeping the door cracked open just a bit so you can keep a close eye on it. Don't let the cheese burn! You just want it to melt and get golden brown.

Heat the enchilada sauce in a pan or in the microwave. When the peppers are finished, plate them up and spoon about 1/2 cup of the warmed enchilada sauce over each one.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Smoky-Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The leaves change colors, the weather turns brisk and sweater-worthy, and everything returns to a regular schedule. The kids are back in school. Television stations stop showing reruns and cheap summer filler. What's not to love about autumn? So to celebrate the advent of autumn, I fixed my favorite soup, the one that most clearly evokes autumn for me: butternut squash soup.

Smoky-Sweet Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tbsp EVOO
3-4 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and diced
About 1 dozen fresh sage leaves
1 jar butternut squash puree (I get those big jars from Williams-Sonoma), or one large butternut squash, roasted & pureed (if you're not lazy like me)
2-4 cups chicken stock (one big box = 4 cups)
2 Tbsp butter
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels. Add the onions to the pot and saute in the olive oil and bacon grease for a few minutes, until translucent but not browned. Add the diced apple and saute for another couple of minutes. Chop up about half a dozen sage leaves and add them to the apples and onions, and season everything with salt & pepper. (Reserve another half dozen large, beautiful sage leaves for garnish.) When the apples are nice and soft, add the butternut squash puree and about two cups of chicken stock and raise the temperature to medium-high. When the soup starts to bubble a bit, lower the temperature back down to medium and break out your immersion blender and blend it up until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add more stock (final amount will depend on how much butternut squash puree you have and how thick you like your soup). When everything is heated back up again, taste the soup, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

To garnish, melt two tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is completely melted and done foaming, add the reserved whole sage leaves, making sure to keep them separated. Remove the sage leaves after about 30 seconds, and drain on a paper towel. The leaves should be crispy. Chop the cooked bacon and the fried sage leaves and top your bowl of soup with a little of each. Delicious!

My favorite thing today

(Click to view full size)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meltdown

WTF is going on with the country this week? Did somebody slip LSD into the coffee at the Capitol?

I am referring, of course, to the Wall Street bail-out, also known as: "OMFG, we gotta give $700B to the Treasury Secretary RIGHT NOW! And never, ever ask him what he does with it." What the hell? Has our president finally gone completely insane?

Look folks, first of all: why the hurry? What's going to happen on Monday that is so freaking dire that you have to clean up the financial devastation this week? What will happen if the deal doesn't get signed by Friday afternoon? Will Wall Street implode on Monday morning? Will all the banks refuse to open their doors? Is Manhattan going to fall into the East River? Seriously, WTF?

And who in their right mind (Paulson, I'm looking at you) would ever think that Congress would agree to hand over $700 BILLION without any accountability at all. No oversight and no investigation into his methods, now or in the future, by any court or group or committe or organization whatsoever. Really? So Paulson could actually just take the $700B and run off to the Bahamas and we'd have no recourse? It would actually be perfectly legal, under the terms of that original plan.

And now we have McCain wanting to postpone the first Presidential Debate. Ah yes, of course he had to finagle something out of this. What does he get? Well, his idea is to cancel Friday's debate, and have it next week, instead of the Vice Presidential debate. Will the Vice Presidential debate be rescheduled as well? Ah...no. He wants to cancel that one permanently.

A couple of things come to mind:
  • OMGWTFBBQ

  • McCain wants more time to prepare for his debate against Obama

  • McCain really really doesn't want Palin to speak any more than is absolutely necessary and most certainly doesn't want her matched up against Biden, who is articulate and intelligent.
I mean, holy crap, have y'all seen this??? (If you can put up with the 30 second ad at the beginning I promise you this is worth your time.)



This woman just scares the living daylights out of me. She's no more intelligent than Shrub is (and we are all seeing how well THAT's worked out for the past eight years, especially now). Do we really want this imbecile to be a 72-yr-old heartbeat away from being president of our country? God, people, wake up! How can you choose your president based on how much you want to hang out & drink beer with them (or their running mate)? I don't know about you, but I want a president that is really freaking smart. So smart it's scary. Someone who, if I was in their presence, I would feel completely inadequate. I want someone in the Oval Office that I can trust to make well-reasoned, logical decisions based on intellect, facts, and excellent foresight and judgment. Someone who doesn't just react to a crisis, but actually takes steps to avert crisis in the first place by having a PLAN for direction the country needs to go in.

Please, people. THINK. And register to vote, if you haven't done so already.

Friday, September 19, 2008

South Beach update

So I'm nearly three weeks into the South Beach diet and man, week two was a killer. I got progressively more pissed off as the second week went on (PMS doesn't help, y'all) and finally I just made an executive decision to end Phase 1 early. My weight loss had stalled and I was getting extremely frustrated with the lack of starchy foods. So I started small, with whole wheat english muffins, and it really saved things for me. I was ready to dump the diet altogether, I was just getting so angry. But now things have lightened up - we're eating whole grain breads (and whole wheat pasta once...more on that in a sec) and fruit now, and I've lost a total of nine pounds in nineteen days. Yay, me! Only nine more to go...well, fourteen if I really want to push it, but I'd be happy with just nine.

Anyway, the whole wheat pasta: eww. It was okay, I guess, but it was grainy and just not fabulous. I can't remember what brand it was but it was something I hadn't tried before. I'll stick with the Barilla "Plus" brand - that one's whole grain and they still managed to get the pasta smooth and tasty. So do yourself a favor, if you're looking at the whole wheat pasta option, stick with the Barilla brand. And no, they didn't pay me to say that.

I'm happy that the weather's turned cooler (although looking at the forecast, it seems like it may have been a fluke). I love cooking soup, and you just don't feel like eating soup when it's 90 degrees outside, yanno? So far I've made Black Bean Soup, Tom Yum (Thai shrimp soup), Roasted Tomato Soup and Smoky-Sweet Butternut Squash Soup. I'll get a recipe up for that last one in a few days; I just made it tonight and let me give you a little hint: Bacon. Apples. Sage. Yum! So far I'd have to say my favorite was the Roasted Tomato soup though; we got a bunch of tomatoes in our CSA box yesterday morning, and still had some vine-ripened ones too, so it was the perfect dinner last night. With a couple of pork chops topped with a little Dijon mustard pan sauce, it was just a little bit of heaven.

As you can see, I'm definitely not eating the carbs at every meal. I'm trying to eat my starchy foods early in the day and then have a dinner without any bread or pasta. It keeps me full in the evening and I'm not snacking as much in front of the TV. Knitting helps with that too...you should see the progress I'm making on projects these days! I designed a baby sweater for a friend's baby shower and knitted it up in less than a week, and I've got all but one sleeve done now on my cushy green Mmmmmmalabrigo v-neck sweater. I've got lots of projects to get moving on though, starting with Dad's socks (about 2/3 of a sock to go!) and Sister's sweater (a gift that I'm hoping will be nursing-friendly, since she's due in early December).

And finally, in apparently unrelated (but not really) news, I've found quite a few old friends on Facebook. I was even contacted by an old high school boyfriend (one that I certainly never thought I'd speak to again...he went a little wackadoo there for a while). And this old HS boyfriend? Just had a quadruple bypass 2 weeks ago! OMFG!! How does a guy in his mid-thirties gets QUADRUPLE fucking BYPASS surgery??? That is some scary shit right there. Makes me even more thankful that I'm doing something good for my body now - losing weight, eating healthier, exercising a bit.

Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel

Mr Wonderful likes fennel, but I haaaaaate black licorice, so I was a little leery of cooking with it. I figured if I mixed in some orange juice, and cooked the fennel down a bit, it wouldn't be so strong. It ended up being delicious, with just a little hint of heat from some cayenne pepper. Plus it gave me a chance to put my new All Clad pan through its paces!

Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel
2 Tbsp EVOO
2 boneless pork rib chops
1 small onion, cut in half and then sliced radially to make thin wedges
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
juice and zest from one orange
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt & pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the pork chops with salt & pepper, and when the oil is hot, add them to the pan, and then don't move them for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, flip the chops over and brown the other side for another 3 minutes. Remove the chops to a plate and cover with foil.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, and then throw in the onions and fennel. Let them cook for about 5-6 minutes, until they get soft and begin to caramelize. Add in cider vinegar and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Then add in the chicken stock, orange juice and orange zest. Let the veggies cook for another minute or two, then add in the nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Add the pork chops back into the pan and cook until the interior temperature of the chops reaches 145.

I served these garnished with supremed orange wedges. I'd show you a picture of it all plated up beautifully, but I had to pack it up into tupperware and take it over to the hospital because Mr Wonderful was working the swing shift. He started working at the local hospital a few weeks ago, and I've taken dinner to him a couple of times now. It's nice to share dinner together, even if it is in the less-than-romantic atmosphere of the laboratory break room.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tom Yum Soup

I was craving some spicy Thai soup but needed something low-cal (and low-carb!) so I picked up some lemongrass and threw together some Tom Yum. It turned out to be really quick and easy to make, not to mention absolutely delicious.

South Beach Tom Yum Soup
5-6 c chicken stock
1 stalk lemongrass
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
2-3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c sliced mushrooms (I used cremini)
1 red bell pepper, sliced (slices cut in half so they're not too long)
1/4 c thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts divided
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp Sriracha
2 cans light coconut milk
1 lb cleaned, shelled shrimp
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

First, prepare the lemongrass: remove the tough outer leaves, trim off the root end, and then thinly slice just the ivory-colored part. Take the thin slices and either pulse them in a blender or food processor, or do what I did, and have your Rugrat mash them well in a molcajete. The lemongrass should end up looking like little bitty threads.

When the lemongrass is prepared, put the chicken stock into a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. I used about a box and a half of chicken stock (about 6 cups). To the chicken stock, add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers, and the white parts of the green onions. Add the fish sauce and Sriracha, and then let it simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until the veggies are tender and the flavors have had a good chance to combine. Add in one can of coconut milk and taste the soup. Mine was very strong at this point, so I added another can of coconut milk to mellow out the flavor a little bit. If you need a bit more salt, add another shake or two of fish sauce. Bring the soup back up to a simmer and add in the shrimp. Let the shrimp cook about 2-3 minutes (if your shrimp are on the small side; 4-5 minutes if you've got bigger ones), until they're opaque, pink, and curled up. Take the soup off the heat, stir in the green parts of the green onions and the chopped cilantro, and serve.

Note: You could add some fresh shredded basil to this and it would be wonderful; I just didn't happen to have any and it wasn't looking all that hot in the grocery store.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Black Bean Soup

This soup is based on the recipe in the South Beach Diet: Super Charged book, but I made a few changes.

Black Bean Soup
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced (or one small diced onion)
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 wax peppers, chopped (I had these in my CSA box last week)
1 serrano pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
1 large tomato, chopped
2 c chicken stock
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp Sriracha
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a fairly large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the celery, onions, bell peppers and wax peppers. Season with salt & pepper. Saute until the veggies begin to soften, maybe 4-5 minutes. Add in the serrano pepper, garlic, and the white parts of the green onion, and saute for another minute or two. Add in the black beans, tomato, chicken stock, cumin and Sriracha, and stir well to combine. Let the soup come up to a simmer and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Then, using an immersion blender, blend up the soup until it's only a little bit chunky (you can transfer about half of the soup to a blender and puree, then return the blended soup to the pot, if you don't have an immersion blender).

Serve hot with low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, some plain low-fat yogurt, and the reserved sliced green parts of the green onion.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Slow Food Nation

In my big recap last week I forgot to mention my trip to San Francisco for the Slow Food Nation expo! Read all about it and check out my sad iPhone camera skilz here.

I gotta say, the South Beach thing isn't as bad as I thought it would be. We're on day eight now, and while I definitely have moments where I'm craving carbs in a big way, for the most part, it's not a big deal. You don't ever have to be hungry on this diet; you can eat pretty much all you want, as long as it's on the "approved" list. I have eggs just about every morning for breakfast and it keeps me full for several hours.

One thing I was really worried about was beverages. Missing out on my Dr Pepper is tough, but it's not as bad as I thought because of two glorious products on your local grocery store's shelves. First: Crystal Light. I hadn't tried it in several years, and vaguely remembered a very saccharine-tasting faux-fruity Koolaid substitute. But it's really improved a lot; I've found four flavors that I really enjoy - Sunrise Orange, Cherry-Pomegranate, "Hydration" Mixed Berry, and the White Tea-Blueberry. And at only 10 calories each, that cuts a lot of calories out of my daily intake. Don't get me wrong, I don't drink these all day long. I drink a lot of water, too, and I have a cup of green tea in the mornings when I get up (no sugar, no milk). But the Crystal Light really helps when I'm craving a glass of juice or just something sweet to drink.

The other thing that's helped a lot is Coke Zero. I HATE HATE HATE Diet Coke. I know it's got its devotees, but I cannot stand the aftertaste and how it tastes all sickly-sweet. Coke Zero is made with a different sugar substitute, though, and if you drink it ice cold, it has NO aftertaste (somehow it gets a bit weird when it warms up a little). Love this stuff. And it works quite well for the daily afternoon caffeine boost. It's no Dr Pepper, for sure, but I think I can live with it.

Spicy Seafood Stir-Fry

This is a great refrigerator-clean-out meal that you can throw all kinds of veggies into. It could easily be a vegetarian meal, if you omit the shrimp. And it is perfect for South Beach: for Phase 1, leave out the rice; for Phase 2, use brown rice instead of white.

Spicy Seafood Stir-Fry
1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2" wide half moons
1 chopped bell pepper (I used red)
1 cup chopped mushrooms (I used cremini, but any would work)
3 baby bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 container of tofu, diced (I used silken but I think firm tofu would hold up much better)
1/2 lb cleaned & shelled raw shrimp

First make the sauce: in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Sriracha, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Add the tofu and set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is rippling slightly, carefully throw in the zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms. After the veggies have started to soften and brown slightly (just a couple of minutes), throw in the bok choy, the tofu and sauce, and the shrimp. Cook just until the bok choy is wilted and the shrimp is done (opaque, curled up, and pink). Serve over rice (or not, if you're on Phase 1 of South Beach).

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Caribbean Dinner

I was having a craving for coconut rice a few weeks ago, before I started the South Beach diet, and came up with this easy, quick dinner.

I roasted the chicken bone-in, skin-on, as usual at 400 for about 40 minutes, but with a Jamaican Jerk seasoning on the skin rather than the standard salt & pepper.

The long grain white rice was cooked per package instruction, but instead of water, I used one can coconut milk and enough chicken stock to bring the liquids up to 3 cups. After cooking, I fluffed up the rice and tossed with some fresh cilantro and green onions.

But the black beans were my favorite part...

Caribbean Black Beans
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 small chopped onion,
1 chopped bell pepper (I used orange, but red or yellow would be fine)
1 minced (seeded) jalepeno pepper
1 minced clove of garlic
1 can beans
1 large tomato
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onion, sliced thinly
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Throw in the onion, bell pepper and jalepeno, and saute until the vegetables are softened. Add the minced garlic and saute for one more minute. Then add one can of rinsed & drained black beans and a large chopped tomato (I used an heirloom from our CSA box) and just let the beans warm up. Take the beans off the heat and toss in some chopped cilantro and green onion. Serve with the chicken and rice.

The beans are vegetarian, so I've tagged this post as vegetarian. You could easily omit the chicken and still have a filling, delicious meal.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Greetings from low-carb land

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of back-to-school prep, board meetings, PTA volunteer duties and all kinds of things. Rugrat started back to school last week, and he's already had a clash with his new teacher. Big surprise. The kid is nothing if not strong-willed, and when the teacher asked the class to lay out their math homework a certain way, he decided that HIS way was better because it used less paper. And proceeded to argue the point with the teacher. So we had a little phone conference yesterday, and of course Babydaddy and I hammered the point home that following instructions is just as important as getting the correct answers. I love my son like crazy, but honestly that kid is not an easy one to live with sometimes.

I'm editing the monthly PTA newsletter this year, as a way to stay more in touch with what's going on at Rugrat's school, and because it was something I could do from the couch. You know how I am about my couch. LOVE it. Anyway, this is a bit of an adventure; there's lots of people involved in submitting articles, reviewing the draft of the newsletter, and sending me changes. There are a few people who (I have been warned) are consistently difficult to deal with: late submitting articles, etc. I've laid down the line in the sand though; I have said that I can work on this on weekends only since I have a full-time job, and if the principal of the school doesn't get me her article on time, oh well. The world won't stop turning.

I am also on the board of a new project that my supervisor at work is starting up: Classes for Causes. The basic premise is that people will teach classes, and the proceeds from those classes will be donated to the charity of the teacher's choice. The site is currently in development but we will be rolling out the beta version very soon, because we're planning to have our pilot class at the end of October. Supervisor is holding the first class: Search Engine Optimization and Internet Marketing. I am considering teaching classes in knitting and creating your own cell phone ringtones. Mr Wonderful is even getting in on the act; he'll be teaching a course in self-defense. Anyway, we've had two board meetings so far, and as the Board Secretary, I am responsible for typing up the minutes. Which took like an hour and a half last night, because we had a three-hour Strategic Planning meeting on Tuesday. My eyes were BURNING by the time I shut down the computer.

And things have been crazy busy at work. I'm desperately trying to get on top of things, but there is just SO much right now. So I'm working like a demon, trying to get done by the end of the day, so I can pick up Rugrat or go to the gym and fix dinner.

Speaking of dinner, Mr Wonderful and I have started the South Beach diet. Essentially it's a low carb diet for the first two weeks (meat, veggies and lowfat dairy only), then you add in complex carbs (whole grains, fruit) for the second phase. We started the diet on Monday, which was interesting because we were gone all day - since it was Labor Day and we both had the day off (joy!) we took a day trip to the coast. A nice drive through Sebastopol and Guerneville, out to where the Russian River dumps out. We saw a bunch of seals frolicking in the water, skipped rocks in the river, watched the pelicans dive for fish, saw a paraglider (is that a word?) jump off a cliff and float down to the beach, and ate crunchy veggies with a vegetable/ricotta dip.

Phase one hasn't been that bad, actually, although I do miss Dr Pepper and chips. Crunchy salty things are my downfall, and I've been missing the faux-cheese flavored snacky foods. But we've stuck to the plan (on day five now!) and have each lost five pounds already. We took measurements (waist, chest, hips & thighs) at the beginning and will compare when we take measurements again at the end of phase one. I'm pretty excited about this; I didn't think I'd lose weight this fast, and it's a great incentive to keep going. I doubt it will continue falling off at this rate (it must be mostly water weight, right?), but it's great to have some validation.

But man, I would LOVE to have a piece of fruit right now. I can't believe how much I am craving fruit these days, now that I know I can't have it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Slow Food!

Saturday I went to the Slow Food Nation expo in San Francisco, courtesy of Foodbuzz, the food blogger portal that I am affiliated with. I had a fantastic time, eating lots of great food and meeting the swell folks from Foodbuzz (why did I never put it together that "RyanTheGirl" is actually Ryan, the Managing Editor?), as well as some other food bloggers. In fact, the highlight of my trip was, of course, a visit to the CHEEEEEEESE pavilion, where I met Stephanie of The Grub Report. In my little Internet-centric corner of the world, that's like meeting a celebrity - she wrote recaps for TWOP once upon a time. She's got my dream life: a freelance writer, trained at culinary school, and she works in the best CHEEEEEEEESE shop in the world. Where, presumably, she gets to sample the wares all day long. Lucky, lucky woman. How she stays so thin, I have no idea.

Here's my quick recap of the Food Pavilions at the Slow Food Nation event (please excuse my sad iPhone camera skilz):

First up - cheese!
Of course, the cheese was glorious. That yellow cheese was STRONG - I can't remember what it was (and they didn't have a sticker), but it wouldn't be first on my list of cheeses to take to a desert island. The Northern Lights Blue was fantastic though, as was the fresh goat cheese crottin from Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery.

Next, I went to the wine pavilion. I don't have any pictures of the wine, but I had a lovely Stag's Leap Petite Syrah. Yum! I then headed for the fish pavilion, where they were serving (from bottom to top) calamari in a lemony vinaigrette, a sardine on a toasted baguette with sauteed onions and lemon, and albacore tuna with baby greens (I *think* it was arugula). Delish!

Then I went over to the charcuterie pavilion, where I had some amazing jerky made in Berkeley, a slice of salami, cotta, and a little bit of toast with "cured" lard with rosemary and garlic.

Next I wandered over to the pickles & chutney pavilion, but didn't stay for a taste of everything because me + pickles = ewww.

I decided instead to mosey on over to the beer pavilion, where I tried a Jamaican Red brew that was a bit hoppy for my tastes, but still quite yummy.

Then it was off to try some bread! Yummy, warm naan from the Indian side of the bread pavilion (there was also an Italian side, with brick-fired slices of pizza, but I was all about the naan on Saturday).

I wasn't too enamored of the potato-stuffed naan (it was actually too spicy for me, which is really saying something), but the other two were amazing. And the green dipping sauce was wonderful - verdant and spicy and fresh tasting all at once.

It was getting pretty late, so I decided to have a bit of dessert and tea, and head out. I stopped off at the honey & preserves pavilion and got this little bite of deliciousness: a honey mini-cupcake with rose-scented royal icing, topped with a half a pistachio. I'm sorry, but this is the best photo I got with my phone. You'll just have to trust me that it was beautiful and luscious.

And then it was over to the ice cream pavilion for one of the highlights of my day. I got to try salted caramel ice cream! And it was unbelievably good. It wasn't salty, but the salt brought out a kind of tang or something in the caramel that made it richer and fuller, somehow. I'm not even sure how to describe it, other than by saying that it was damn good, and if you ever get a chance to try salted caramel ice cream from BiRite Creamery, you should NOT pass it up. The other two ice cream flavors in my bowl were "Mr Espresso" and something called "Foresta Noci" or something like that. The coffee ice cream was good, but nothing earth-shattering, and the other one was just kind of odd, with these little crunchy bits of *something* in them. (Again, horrible photo, I apologize...)

Lastly, I visited the tea pavilion, which was lovely, but took a crazy-long time to go through, because each "tasting" is actually a 15-minute tea ceremony with a tea guide. The tea was good, but not something I'd probably drink on a regular basis, as it had very strong tannins. However, I did learn that your cup of tea is only as good as the water you use, and that mineral water is best to bring out all the flavor elements in your tea.

And that wraps it up! I headed for home full of new ideas and flavors, and happy to have been a part of this amazing food movement.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Easy Asian Sole

I do not like fish. I will go out of my way to eat anything other than fish, unless it is deep-fried or comes inside its own shell. But I am trying to eat healthier these days - I consider myself kind of "in training" before starting the South Beach diet in earnest - and I've been inspired by watching reruns of the BBCAmerica show You Are What You Eat. So with that in mind, I picked up two petrale sole filets at the grocery store and whipped up this quick and easy meal. And here's another first: with all the delicious green onions, cilantro and ginger, I'm submitting this as my first entry to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Cooking 4 All Seasons this weekend.

Easy Asian Sole
2 filets sole
1 cup milk (approx)
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp chile paste (sambal oelek)
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 green onions, sliced (green & light green parts only)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Put the sole in a wide dish and pour the milk over it - the milk should just barely cover the fish.

In the meantime, mix up all the rest of the ingredients (except green onions and cilantro) in a bowl. Mix in about half of the green onions. After the fish has soaked in the milk for 20 minutes, pat it dry, season with salt & pepper, and put it in a shallow oven-safe dish. Pour the dressing over it. Bake for 10 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. Serve over brown rice (they have frozen brown rice at Trader Joe's - cooks in 3 mins in micro!) and spoon a little of the marinade over the top - the rice tastes great with the dressing. Sprinkle with the reserved green onion & the cilantro.

This really turned out well, and soaking the fish in milk first removes a lot of the "fishy" taste that I hate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Paraphrased from Chocolate and Zucchini:

The Omnivore's Hundred is a list of 100 foods that Andrew Wheeler, British food blogger, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
  1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
  2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
  3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
  4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

My list is below. I've had exactly half -- I guess I have a ways to go before considering myself a true "foodie!"

Please feel free to repost on your blog, and if you don't have a blog, share your personal list in the comments. :)

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I've had turtle soup though!)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Phở
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (mmm...unpasteurized cheeeeese)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (one of my very favorite foods)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (oh, hell no!)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (I've had mango, but not salted)
34. Sauerkraut (ew ew ew!)
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I've had cognac, and I've had cigars, but not both together)
37. Clotted cream tea (yum!)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo (eaten in New Orleans)
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (Absolutely NOT!)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more
46. Fugu (I don't think I could bring myself to try it. Too chicken.)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I've obviously had McD's before, but never a Big Mac)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (I hate gin. But I've had a dirty vodka martini & loved it)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (no thanks)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs (recipe here)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (This is another one of those "not just no, but HELL NO")
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (no no no! Runny eggs! Ewwww!)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (what does it say about me that I would eat a rabbit but not a horse?)
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympics

Am I the only person in the world who really doesn't give a rat's ripe ass about the Olympics? Seriously, I could care less, but it seems like every blogger I follow must make some mention of the swimming or the diving or the gymnastics, and how it goes on and on until 2 AM, and yet they can't tear themselves away.

Why?

Anyhoo, I made it through the first week back at work post-vacation, and I'm barely hanging in there. It's been a crazy busy week, with Boss & Boss's Wife gone (Boss's Wife is our receptionist/designer/HR guru/fill-in-the-cracks person). Of COURSE the servers had to go down. Multiple times. Multiple servers, including our mail server, which went down twice. Le *sigh*. Not to mention the backlog of emails and work that piled up while I was gone. Why is it that you go away for only a week, and yet you have something like three weeks' worth of work backlogged when you return? It's like some weird axiom of vacation.

The vacation itself was lovely, quite relaxing except for the nine-hour drives that bookended it and the hellacious heat. I got a bit of a sunburn when we went to the waterpark one day (for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS OMG I thought I was gonna die it was about 1000 degrees y'all!), despite spraying on the SPF multiple times. My side-boobs are peeling now. (Lovely. And probably TMI, huh?) That'll teach me to wear a bikini to a waterpark in Palm Springs.

I also got a Baby Surprise Jacket (tm Elizabeth Zimmermann) done while on vacation, from cast-on to buttons. An old friend of mine is having a baby shower this weekend. I've known her since Jr High, so I wanted to give her something a little more special than just a store-bought package of onesies. This is the fastest I think I've ever done a project (except maybe for the Easy Flame Lace Hankie, which is normally a shawl, but I just made a little square out of the lace Malabrigo sample I got at Stitches West). I'm very proud of it and can't wait to give it to her tomorrow. :) This is also the first non-family gift I've knitted.

Hmmm...let's see, what else. Oh yeah, Rugrat has anosmia, which is the clinical name for not being able to smell a damn thing. FMIL did a little research when I told her about it, and sent me an email with her findings. Turns out that it can be caused by all kinds of scary things, like a tumor (eek!) and some weird disease that would mean he wouldn't go through puberty (double eek!). So I took him to the doctor post-haste, in an effort to get a referral to an ENT. His regular doc was on vacation, and the substitute doc did not want to do the referral (WTF? It's all Kaiser, I don't see what difference it really makes) but she did send him for an x-ray and gave him allergy medication because she thinks it might be due to "inflammation." Which, no. Because it doesn't come & go with the seasons, y'all. And lest you think I'm overreacting and that he really can smell, I tested him (with his eyes closed) on: coffee beans, ground cinnamon, and white vinegar. Not a damn thing. He said they all smelled like "air."

Mr Wonderful and I are planning on doing the South Beach Diet once the kids get back in school. It's time to lose the thirty pounds I've packed on in the past year or so. Not a moment too soon. Mr Wonderful got food poisoning yesterday, and was up half the night, throwing up. And they wouldn't let him leave work early - they told him to "sip water every fifteen minutes and if you need to, get an anti-nausea shot. Then you can work through your shift." WTF?? He works in a hospital. Does it not occur to these folks that perhaps it would be good to keep the vomiting person away from patients? He might actually be contagious; they don't know. Of course, I think he was being a dumbass for not just calling in sick to begin with. When you hurl half a dozen times before your shift even starts, it might be time to call in sick. And to top it off, he's going to the Aikido class tonight. He says he has to, because it's so-n-so's last day, and so-n-so's parents are coming and everything. Whatever, dude. You can take a night off and let the other black belt guy take over, when you're busy vomiting your guts out all damn day and getting no fucking sleep the night before. I do NOT understand that man sometimes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

CSA

If you haven't heard about them before, CSAs are Community Supported Agriculture. Basically it's a system for buying produce directly from local farms. Often the farms grow organically, and the produce is always seasonal and super-fresh. I've been thinking about signing up with a CSA for a while now, and since Mr Wonderful and I are planning on starting the South Beach diet soon, this seemed like a great time to do it. So today I signed up with Farm Fresh to You, a CSA north of Vacaville, east of Lake Berryessa. It's extremely flexible - they do deliveries every week, every 2 weeks, or every 4 weeks, and there are several different options to choose from (fruit only, veggies only, mixed, small box, regular-size box, etc). And they deliver right to your home or office! Considering food prices these days, it seems very reasonable, too.

I'm excited to start eating more locally & seasonally, and Mr Wonderful & I are both looking forward to losing some of our extra "fluff."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best new food blog

Naked Mohawk-Baby Carrot Jockeys

And also:

I'll Take My Chances

I can't stop laughing...

A summer cold

Last week Mr Wonderful came down with a nasty summer cold. I thought I'd escaped it, but apparently I wasn't so lucky...I started feeling it while I was driving home on Sunday, after dropping Rugrat off at summer camp. I just hope that he doesn't come down with it - what a disappointment it would be (not to mention a waste of money) if he had to come home early from camp!

As much as I hate being sick, at least I'm getting this cold thing out of the way while the kids are both gone (Tomboy's at her mom's this week) and before we head down for our vacation in Palm Springs next week. And I'm feeling much better today; yesterday was miserable but I got 10 hours of sleep the last two nights (thank you, NyQuil!) and have been drinking lots of liquids, so I'm feeling a bit better today. We'll see...it does tend to get worse as the day goes on, so I may be prematurely optimistic here, but I'm not as "out of it" today.

I know I've been lagging on posting here. That happens when I feel like I need to do a recap of something, and then I keep putting it off, and thinking that I can't blog about anything else until that is done. I'm talking about the camping trip we went on at the end of June, of course.

It was really very nice, and would have been ideal if it weren't for the damn mosquitoes. Rugrat got bitten so many times on his face that he looked like a boxer who'd just done ten rounds; his eye was swollen almost shut on the ride home. But other than the bugs, it was great. We spent a lot of time at the river nearby; I'd brought a huge inner tube (meant for pulling along behind a boat, so it was very sturdy) and we spent some lovely hours just floating in the water. Niece, of course, was absolutely ecstatic to be in the water - she's always been drawn to water, and would live her entire life in the water if she could. Mr Wonderful took Rugrat fishing for a little while, and I sat on the beach chatting with Sister and Brother-In-Law, knitting my cushy green v-neck sweater. You may think that wool and knitting needles are not appropriate for the beach, but hey, it's my vacation. I get to relax however I want. :)

And the food was glorious. I'd pre-made some Ribollita and some Mexican Chicken Chili before we left, and we also had hot dogs, eggs and bacon, biscuits, tacos, sandwich fixin's and snacks, plus lots of beer and soft drinks and water. Sister brought deviled eggs...mmmm....and they made us chicken-pineapple kabobs one night that were fantastic! Sister & BIL had gotten a really cool new camp stove; one side is a grill, the other is a regular burner, and it was very handy.

The best of the pictures of the camping trip are up on Flickr, if you're interested.

Oh, and let me leave you with this little snippet of conversation, overheard about 10 minutes after Sister & her family showed up:

Cousin: You suck!
Rugrat: No, you suck!
Cousin: We both suck!
Rugrat: Yeah, we both suck!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lemony Chicken & Peas

This was a quick dinner I pulled together that had a light, lemony sauce and healthy brown rice. How did I manage a quick dinner with brown rice, you ask? Trader Joe's frozen organic brown rice -- it cooks in three minutes in the microwave!

Lemony Chicken & Peas
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
zest and juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1 - 1 1/2 c chicken stock (I used turkey because that's what I had on hand)
2 roasted chicken breasts, shredded into bite-size pieces (I roast several chicken breasts at once and use them for the next few days for quick & easy dinners)
1 1/2 c frozen peas
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
3-4 c cooked brown rice (I used two packages of Trader Joe's frozen organic brown rice)
salt & pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saute pan. When the butter is totally melted, add the olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest and minced garlic. Season well with salt & pepper. After a minute or so, add the flour and stir. Cook the flour for a minute, and then add the stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the lemon juice and then throw in the chicken, frozen peas and parsley. Once everything is heated through, it's ready to go. Serve over the brown rice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Whole wheat goodness

Over the past few days I've made a couple of loaves of bread from scratch. The first loaf I tried was a white bread, no-knead recipe that I followed to the letter. The second time I decided to get a little creative. The bread turned out fairly dense, with a fine crumb and a fantastic crispy, crunchy crust. With the antioxidants in the flaxseed, this will be my submission to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Wheat & Flaxseed No-Knead Bread
1 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour, plus a little more for working the dough later
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 heaping Tbsp honey (I used a nice local wildflower honey)
1 3/4 c water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the honey and the water, and mix just until the dough comes together in a big ball. Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel and leave alone for 12 hours. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with a little flour to keep it from sticking to your hands. Pull the blob of dough from one end into the center, turn and repeat. Do this until all four edges have been folded into the center. Turn it over so that the "seam" is on the bottom and pat the dough into a circle shape. Cover it again with the dishtowel and let it rise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500 with a 5 1/2 qt round covered dutch oven inside the oven while it heats. When the oven is preheated and the dough disk has risen for another hour, put the dough in the dutch oven and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 10 minutes. Immediately remove the bread from the dutch oven and put it on a rack to cool. Leave it alone until it is completely cooled or you just can't stand it anymore and have to try it (it will cut much better when it's cooled).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sorta off-topic

So I'm sitting here browsing my Tivo "suggestions" and decide to watch an episode of 30 Minute Meals. And OMG, I love love love Rachael Ray's new haircut! I am so distracted by the retro gorgeousness of her hair that I don't even care what she's cooking.

Must. Get. Haircut.

Spicy Spaghetti

I popped in to Kinder's (a local butcher) the other day for some chicken breasts and peppered bacon, and the sausages caught my eye. I asked for two mild links, thinking I'd make some spaghetti for an easy weeknight dinner. Turns out, the butcher gave me the wrong ones and our spaghetti turned out much spicier than I planned. It was way too much kick for Tomboy, but Mr Wonderful loved it and said it reminded him of when he lived in New Orleans.

Spicy Spaghetti
1/2 lb angel hair pasta (I used the Barilla Plus kind, which is a healthier multigrain pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 hot Italian links (any spicy sausage would be good here), cut in half lengthwise and then into thin half-rounds
1 large can (28 oz) petite diced tomatoes
1/4 c fresh basil, torn or sliced into thin strips
salt & pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds or so. Throw in the sausage and cook for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes. Wait for the sauce to start bubbling a little, and then turn down the heat to low. You can simmer this for a loooong time; I did for about half an hour, waiting for Mr Wonderful to come home. The flavors just all mix together and get better and better. Just before serving, add the basil and adjust the seasoning (the sausage probably added plenty of heat and salt, but check just in case).