Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday night grateful moment

This week my grateful list is full:
* 40th birthday, in good health.
* Amazing family, near and far. Beyond generous and thoughtful, all.
* Husband home safe from business trip in time for my birthday.
* A wonderful son with plenty-o-affection for his mom.
* Good friends, especially a dear visiting one.
* Fall stayed warm-ish while the visiting friend was here from CA. We hate to freeze our visitors!
* Only a few more days til this blessed political season has some resolution. Ah.
* Health improving for Pa.
* I still have a Grandma to call me on my birthday. I cherish that.

Fun furniture, strange names

I love IKEA. There's nothing like that hazy, groggy feeling I get when I've wasted four hours wandering from table linens to futons to kitchen gadgets and around past the Scandanavian cafeteria to the as-is room and pick-up zone. I get tired just thinking of it. And yet, oddly energized...

But what's not to to like? IKEA has some very chic items and very happy prices. I have bought so many of the Billy bookcases over the years I should have a punch card! Buy 10, get one free, right?

But "Billy" is one of the more pronounceable (to my constrained English-speaking tongue) names that IKEA bestows on their furniture... there are many other gurgling, gutteral, vaguely Finnish-Swedish-sounding names that make me want to just point and say "that, I'll take that," except everything at IKEA is self-serve.

Imagine my delight in finding (well, actually, I was Stumbling around--see my website addictions in the right column) this little nugget online from Blogadilla, which turns your name into an IKEA product. Almost as good as that Sarah-Palin-child-naming trick that was getting posted all over the place last month.

Check it out and let me know what your namesake furniture is (not only do you get a name, you get to be an item). I am a bedside dresser called Sferylle (they don't give a pronunciation guide, but I'm thinking it's a bit like "feral" with an "s." Oh joy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #1: Favorite foods/ingredients

I have always liked the lists of questions, or "memes," that many bloggers utilize to help readers get to know them, facilitate discussion and elicit response, or just for kicks. So look for that kind of thing every now and again, mixed in with the food...

But a fun little exercise that has made its way around the blogosphere for some time is a concept called Thursday Thirteen. It's so fab, it has its own website; check it out.

Here's my first attempt, and of course, it's all about food.

My 13 favorite foods/ingredients (not in order of preference):
1. Figs. Fresh, please. Dried figs don't even really count as figs to me.
2. Hazelnuts. Toasted and included in, oh, just about anything from salads to ice cream. (Gianduja, the "official" term for the marriage of chocolate and hazelnut (Nutella!), is so close to paradise it's crazy.) I do love most nuts, but hazelnuts top them all.
3. Custard (bet you didn't see that one coming!) in just about any form.
4. Pesto (or just basil, but there is a certain harmony to pesto that is hard to beat).
5. Peanut sauce. Thai, generally, but recently had a Chinese version that was very yummy too. I can eat this on almost anything, but sobe noodles is probably my first choice.
6. Avocadoes. Either as is or as guacamole. Not picky. Just hand me a saltshaker and I'm good to go.
7. Eggs. Especially poached or deviled or as egg salad.
8. Arugula. My greens of choice every time. So fun and peppery!
9. Cheese. Wish I could pick one kind, but can't... everything from chevre to brie to parmigiano-reggiano to good old sharp cheddar and of course, blue cheese. And just about everything stinky inbetween!
10. Tzatziki, or raita, depending on which country you're talking about (Greece or India). But the cucumber-yogurt-with-a-bit-of-garlic combo hits the spot. It has to be done right. Sometimes it's too sour creamy, sometimes too garlicky, sometimes too watery. But there's a version at Trader Joe's that is very more-ish and inspires me when I make it at home.
11. Butternut squash. I used to hate this vegetable as a child, but something odd happened to my tastebuds in the last decade and now I love it. Roasted with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper, and I'm set.
12. Blueberries. Best berry, best fruit, even fun to pick. Big and blue and fresh, I've been known to plow my way through many a pound during the too-short blueberry season. Not a delicate image, I know, me plowing my way through blueberries... but this is how emphatic I am about them as a great fruit!
13. Last but not least, this isn't an actual food, but a food combination: salty and sweet. Popcorn and Junior Mints, salty peanuts on Frosted Flakes, sea salt on chocolate... always been a little too happy about that combination.

So what about you? What are your 13 favorite foods? I am positive I've forgotten at least another 13, but there's always next Thursday!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My big fat Greek birthday (cake)!

So it has been noticed (you know who you are!) that cake isn't so much "done" around our house for birthdays... I'm not sure why that is, except to say that in my worldview, you should get to eat whatever you want on your birthday. If that's cake, great. If that's something else sweet, that's fine too. Not too complex in the logic department.

I actually had big plans toward real cake making--I even got a new cake pan that makes a cake in the shape of a giant cupcake; how cool is that? Unfortunately, I made and decorated two such cakes in two days, as soon as I got the pan, and subsequently got bored with that idea for my birthday. And no, I didn't take any pictures. I must get into that groove here, sooner rather than later. But so you can get the idea of what the cakes (sort of) looked like, click here: cupcake cake pan. Except I'm not a cake decorator, so not so pretty.

That left me with the "what to make for my birthday" quandary. For a couple of years I have had really sweet and beautiful Dean and DeLuca cakes ordered for me, and they are very fun, but really $$, and again, on the spectrum of yummy for the tummy, cake's not exactly IT for me.

But custard, oh my. Anything custard... creme brulee, puddings, technically ice cream and gelato are custards, right? And yes, oh yes, panna cotta. But one custardy treat stands out among the rest, and it's a whopper to pronounce: galaktoboureko. Say it slowly, phonetically, like you're 5 years old, and it gets easier. At least, that worked for me. Essentially it's a Greek custard pie. But those three little words do nothing to honor the glorious custard-'tween-phyllo that is galaktoboureko.

So today I thought it best to kick of the actual food portion of STAS (sweet tea and sunshine, don't you know?) with this rockstar dessert. On the ever-reliable epicurious, it is called simply "Phyllo-Custard Pie." Sounds a bit snoozey to me, but I'm betting the spelling issues surrounding the word galaktoboureko make listing it as such a mite unwise. But the reality of the dish is quite a bit more exotic than the recipe name in epicurious would have you believe--orange-flavored custard wrapped in phyllo, with an orange cinnamon syrup poured over after it's baked. Lovely indeed.

OK, so it's not frosting and sprinkles, but it's very me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And away we go!

I have had many thoughts these past few weeks, even months, about what would nicely kick-start my little blogging endeavor... A month or so ago I made a bold statement to a girlfriend, Jennifer, when she oh-so-sweetly suggested I get some of my creative energy out in such a fashion: OK, I'll start on my birthday.

Well, here we are. 40. A nice round number. I have always liked 4; it's been my favorite number since childhood. Although with a zero tacked on, it takes on a whole other quality! But, no worries. Onward to the 40s. Let's go. If you know me, and I can't imagine you'd be reading this if you didn't, you know that motion is big with me. Forwards, sideways, sometimes even backwards, it's all much better than standing still.

So, a little kudos to my inspirations. First, I have to say that Shelby's blog, while currently gathering cobwebs (no pressure or anything, Shelb), has been entertaining and inspiring to me. It's been fun to be kept current in the Goerlitz Jr. family doings, and gain thoughtful insight into that wild mind of his through movie reviews, etc. And, he's been very encouraging of my potential foray into words online.

My other big inspiration is the aforementioned Jennifer, the Jennifer of college days that I somehow lost touch with post college. Reuniting via facebook last spring solidified that website as gold, at least for the moment. Her blog is one of my daily visits, and I enjoy reading what she's up to, where she finds humor and pathos in the current political debate, and I am just a sucker for the memes.... always one for sharing.

And, in a general way, food blogs have always been such fodder for my natural curiosity toward all things edible. The pictures, the recipes, the notes, the personalities that shine through the food. And the whole subculture has evolved so much over the past five years that I've been paying attention, it's been such a joy to watch the burgeoning of the "everyman" approach to food. I hope blogging about cooking/food/eating turns out to be as much fun as I think it will be. I can't imagine it won't.

So with those muses duly noted, my goal with "sweet tea and sunshine" is to get some of my lost cooking creativity out and documented consistently, as well as to keep in touch with family and friends and share some of the many things that make me grateful, daily. Where it goes from here... I am excited to find out.

I will welcome comments, of course, and recipes, ideas, musings, all those good things, please!
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