Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday 13: Thirteen most used items in my spice cupboard

I couldn't really put these in order, since they are mostly used "as needed." There are many more bottles and such hiding away in there, and I make all kinds of resolutions about throwing spices and dried herbs away when they may be older than desired. But do I? Not often...

These are my go-tos!

1. Balsamic vinegar. What did we do before this gem came into awareness in the '80s? Love it for dipping bread, for tossing with salad, for depth in pasta sauces... a multitude of uses!

2. Olive oil. EVOO makes me happy happy happy.

3. Cumin. I love the way this spice crosses cultural boundaries. (It should have a seat at the UN!) For Middle Eastern dishes (hummus, baba ghanouj), for Mexican dishes (black bean soup, guacamole) and for many Indian and Malaysian dishes as well. Toasted seeds or ground, it is one of my favorites... used sparingly. Too much and you'll really notice. Trust me.

4. Curry. Some cooks make their own curry blends. I have tried, and ended up with Bitter with a capital B. I leave the blending to others and just enjoy what curry does for a few veggies and some coconut milk simmering away.

5. Red pepper flakes. A great way to add a little (or a lot of) heat to any number of dishes. A shake of red pepper flakes into Thai peanut sauce... a double shake onto husband's pizza... you get the idea.

6. Cinnamon. Such a standby. Love a hint of cinnamon in many things, from crisps and crumbles to rice pud and oatmeal. Num.

7. Onion flakes. Husband loves these added to soup and ramen and that sort of thing. I used to kind of turn my nose up and make noises about only using fresh, but really, there are times when the flakes do just fine and you wouldn't know the dif.

8. Vanilla. Paste, bean and essence. I love me some vanilla bean flecks!

9. Nutmeg. The whole nut. Nothing like freshly ground... zested... grated... inhale!

10. Splenda. Yep, it's in there. I reach for it every morning for my coffee. I think of it as a "man made" spice!

11. Garlic salt. Something we use whenever we make garlic bread... uh-oh, I'm getting hungry.

12. Ginger. I like fresh and use it when called for. But sometimes it's not on hand, or the recipe actually called for ground ginger. Smells heavenly.

13. Chile powder. Great for chili, soups, fajitas. Great flavor and not nearly as full of fire as cayenne... it's in the cupboard too, but now I've run out of numbers...

Add a little spice to your week. Happy Thursday 13!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: I heart artichoke!

(OK, really, is Wordless Wednesday even possible for me? I highly doubt it. But maybe think of it as Fewer Words Wednesday, because, really, I just have to tell you that this artichoke tasted quite good at supper last night.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Future files: Lemon meringue cupcakes

In the not-so-distant future (that is, by next weekend when relatives are visiting!), these babies are coming out to play. Seth will be on cloud nine. I will post that happiness that will be mine.

I want Trader Joe's!

I found this on The Portland Pickle, a fun food blog that I browse regularly. Of course I instantly thought of my dear sister-in-law in Seattle. And Corinne in SLO, and any of the rest of you who get to ramble around Trader Joe's on occasion. And the great Aussie licorice... sniff. I need a fix. (Hint.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A-ha memory!

This video/song is a couple of years old, but I loved it then, and I love it now. I am sure I have inflicted it on plenty of you, plenty of times. But I'm sure you can deal with it, in spite of the high cuteness factor.

In looking online for the Taylor video, I discovered there is a "rebuttal" movement--quite a few videos of guys in Starbucks aprons singing a response. It's pretty funny too. Of the guys who have attempted this on YouTube, this one was the best (imho) in terms of video quality.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Sort of a quick week... sort of a long week. Glad to be here, at Friday night, ready for some relaxation this weekend. Well, relaxation and yard work.

This week I'm grateful for:
* The sunshine: warmth.

* The sunshine: light from 6 in the morning until 8 in the evening--very nice!

* The sunshine: did I mention the warmth? The green grass, the flowers blooming, trees budding. Even with crisp air at night and in the early mornings, life is just so much better with a little blue sky.

* Allergies still at bay! Acupuncturist thinks we may be at the "cumulative effect" part of the treatment, for which I'm stoked. Can't say I haven't sneezed AT ALL this year, but it's a far cry from the dripping, sneezing, stuffed up situation of years ago. Yeah! May it continue...

* Good week with Seth. Mr. Almost-13 is feeling his way through the independent world and there are the inevitable bumps and lumps. He's dealing pretty well with it all, mostly, and has a sense of humor to boot. Whew for the first year of middle school being almost over with only one meltdown so far (I know, that sentence is just begging for a meltdown asap!).

* Decent sleep. Not rock-star quality, but pretty good... just need to get going at it a little earlier in the evenings...

* Fun playing with the itouch. The Lose It! app is my friend. It suits the wee OCD part of me that likes to track things... thankful to the SIL and GF in Cali who like to keep in touch on such eeney details as what I ate today!! We will prevail, ladies!

* Better choices in the grocery store for fresh stuff... asparagus at every meal! Found some amazing artichokes today--biggest I've ever seen, I think... are you jealous yet, Pa? Bought my first tomato plants today, and I know a summer of fabulous produce awaits!

* Good friends. Always.

* Great family. Ditto.

* This Earth, our home. I enjoyed these pictures celebrating Earth Day, showing the great diversity of this wonderful world of ours.

* So proud of husband for the special alumnus award he received just tonight. So not his "thing" to get up and accept awards, but he did it well and now we can relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Not quite sure I'm "grateful" (just wait, you'll get it...) for these following items, but some fun new blogs and such to check out in your spare weekend moments...

* The Blog of Unnecessary Quotations. Hee hee. Jen, you'll love this one. It circulated among the wordy types at work quite quickly!

*Tremendous News! This one is pretty new but what I've read of it I've liked.

* Check out this new Top Chef blog: AllTopChef. Lots of fun contributors, can't wait until the next season heats up!

* And have you heard about the Top Chef Masters tournament? That will rock... well, for some of us... don't look down on food nerds, please.

Here's a new group I just discovered via YouTube. Very pretty voices... Very pretty girls. So guys, you can't say I don't post anything here for you, OK? Just saying. They are called All Angels, and there aren't very many videos that still have embedding available, AND they aren't on US itunes... Harumph. But enjoy, they ARE rather like angels with those voices...

Happy relaxing weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chinese cabbage salad

We have discovered this new kind of ramen noodle, the SmartChoice noodles from Nissin. The noodles themselves are much lower in fat than the ramen-of-college-days, and there are times when a good hot bowl of noodles (customized with your individual add-ons) just hits the spot.

So extrapolating from that discovery, I had this a-ha flash just last night that I needed (yes, needed!) to make an asian-style salad using the noodles and cabbage and various other veggies... I fell asleep last night just thinking about it!

Here's how it turned out:

I barely remembered to get a picture before sticking the leftovers in the fridge for a brown bag lunch tomorrow. It was quite yummy, though the noodles are a little crunchier than the other, fattier brands, and I couldn't really wait very long for them to soften in the dressing... But both husband and I really enjoyed the flavors, and I will throw chicken into the mix in the future for a little added protein.

Chinese Cabbage Salad
Makes 12 cups
1 package preshredded cabbage
2 packages of ramen noodles--no seasoning
2 cups of shredded carrots
1 cup green onions
1 cup radishes, chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
6 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
Salt, to taste
Mix all the vegetables together in a bowl, break up the noodles into small bits, toss with the dressing and let sit for a little while so the flavors meld well... or, as long as you can before you can't help yourself and you must take a bite! Or two.
If anyone cares, I ran the calories for the whole batch and divided by the 12 cups I ended up with and it's approximately 140 calories a cup. Not too bad, considering...

Thursday Thirteen: 13 favorite cookbooks!

I've been wanting to do this list for Thursday Thirteen for some time.... I have masses of cookbooks (as you saw last week!), and love them all in their own way (even though I am willing to part with a few to blog-following friends, yes indeed).

Here are my top 13 cookbooks in no particular order (kind of...):

1. Think Like a Chef, Tom Colicchio. When I found this book seven or eight years ago, it completely changed the way I saw cooking and recipes and experimentation. I love his approach and finally felt like I had "permission" to play in the kitchen--not that I'd been holding back from playing before! Here's a great review of the book... OK, so maybe there's a reason this one is mentioned first. It is one of my all-time faves.

2. Whole Grain Baking, King Arthur Flour Co. I love baking and desserts, but also like knowing I can make them a big healthier if I want, as well.

3. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Classic. Great for those old standbys/family favorites.

4. The New Best Recipe, The Best Light Recipe and Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook's Illustrated (I put these all together since they're very similar in bent/writing/style.) These guys know how to do it--they take the time to try out almost every conceiveable way to make something, and share how they arrived at the final recipe. Good reading to boot!

5. Brilliant, Food Tips and Cooking Tips. Technically not a cookbook per se, but a great reference. I turned to this book over and over again in my catering kitchen, and still do today. Conversions, substitutions, definitions, ratios... all there.

6. Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. Such a wonderful romp around the world. Many cookbooks by the Moosewood group are worth looking at; this one's my favorite. I have made the Pear-Almond Tart and the Cheeze Blintz Casserole (oh yum) many many times. And there's a very reliable pastry recipe too...

7. Barefoot Contessa Parties, Ina Garten. I have her whole series of cookbooks, but this is the one I use the most often. I'm not a fan of watching her on TV--too self-conscious for me, but I haven't watched her in a couple of years... maybe she's improved? Regardless, I very much enjoy her menu ideas and recipes. Yum.

8. The Dean and DeLuca Cookbook. This choice is a little sentimental, since I associate it completely with NYC and all that I love about visiting that city. And the food featured in the cookbook is exactly the kind of stuff I like to eat... simple, hearty salads, soups, sandwiches; not fussy but with great ingredients.

9. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman. I am a fan of Mark Bittman, very much. And thoroughly enjoyed his regular, meat-filled How to Cook Everything. But, since we are mostly meatless around here, this one gets more perusing and I love that he took the time to make an edition that skipped the meat. Kudos.

10. Happy in the Kitchen, Michel Richard. Who can't get behind a title like that? This is more of an inspirational, coffee-table book than a cook-from-it-daily kind of tome. But it's fresh and colorful and thoroughly enjoyable.

11. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. This one is a big favorite! My mom gave me her copy years ago, and it's old and tattered and the binding has broken and pages want to fall out. But I don't care and I turn to it probably more than any of the other cookbooks here for the things that are tried and true. Want a basic banana bread recipe? Got it. Custard, creme brulee? Absolutely. I will never part with this one!

12. Fields of Greens, Deborah Madison's cookbook from the much-celebrated vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco. Some really great ideas and combinations. Sometimes the recipes are a little more complicated than I'm in the mood for, flavor-wise, but I am usually able to adapt to meet my palate's needs! A really great resource.

13. Food and Wine, best of... Their yearly cookbook is a real go-to for me. Time and again, great recipes and food ideas.

I have plenty of other cookbooks that I enjoy, but these ones stand out.

Just noticed, but wasn't surprised, that there's not a Martha cookbook in the lot... true story, as a good friend of mine likes to say. Martha's just too complicated. "How many MORE steps can I put in this recipe," I imagine her saying to herself some days... "It makes me look very accomplished to have so many unnecessary steps."

Happy TT! Now I'm in the mood to go browse the cookbooks! And cook, and eat...

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

DeepLeap: New addiction

Sad but true, these little games get the best of me. First it was Tetris, way back when. Well, I guess if you want to really dig deep, it was Centipede before that, but compared to later addictions, that one hardly even scratches the surface of my neuroses (and was painful to reacquaint myself with on the Wii, too... someone's reflexes aren't quite as nimble as they once were...). Following Tetris there were some dry years in my gaming (let's call them the "responsible, trying to hold down a job and raise a child" years), but coming back to it, I had a bit of an issue with Bubbleshooter last year... HAD to get a high score. Alas, weeks of practice ensued. Finally did get one posted online, then the desire faded. Isn't that so often the case?

And now, here's another. And in a pragmatic sense, this one has some real value. Really. I'm posting this with an eye toward the Scrabble-hungry Aunties, but there are many wordy friends out there who will enjoy this, I think.

Take a look at DeepLeap. Boy howdy, this one could suck me in for awhile...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

This week I'm grateful for:

* My iPod touch, which, at the urging of young Seth, I finally use for more than just music. I downloaded a number of apps, but the ones I'm most excited about are the grattitude journal and the food calorie counter. Oh yeah. This train is turning around, choo-choo, baby.

* Sunshine. We saw a bit more of it this week, enough to tease me into thinking spring just might be here. More bulbs blooming! Grass tufts sprouting! Time to weed! (That last one I just threw in there to cheerlead myself toward actually wanting to weed...)

* The beauty of lists. Love them. Need them. While I didn't actually invent them (!), I do want to pass this gift on to my son, and he's receptive... sort of. We're working on it. But lists make the world go 'round. I do love them so. But you already knew that, didn't you?

* The power of laughter. Every time I have a real gut-bust, it reminds me I need to do that more often. Should I schedule my laughter? Maybe... a half-hour session, morning and evening!

* Granola. I love this stuff, and yet this little recipe eludes me. I experiment, and keep trying to make small batches so I don't have to eat something I don't like for weeks on end... this week's batch was good in that I learned a little more. Notice I haven't posted on it... it's not good enough to share (yet). But eating some of Corinne's amazing granola when I was in California inspired me to keep going.

* Motivators. I am amazed by drive, the desire to pursue and push and move and grow. I admire it too. Some days I want more of it, other days not so much. But mostly I am just intrigued by what specific thing drives me, you and everyone we know. Aside from Mr. Maslow's insights, there are a wide variety of motivating factors out there, and understanding what makes another person tick is just fascinating to me. (I might not always "get it," and it might even mightily annoy me at times, but when I stop to think about it, I'm always intrigued, regardless...)

* Hope. Had a good friend confide some hope in me this week. I was surprised to find myself hopeful as well, for her. Yeah for hope!

* Good dentists. I think I found one! How great is that? A really good crown experience Monday morning. Other than the fact that I get weirdly loopy with the numbing stuff, I was good to go.

* Just the best husband ever. Period.

* Twitter. Twitter got a ton of press this week when Ashton Kutcher woke up and realized he had more than 800,000 followers, and CNN had maybe 50,000 more. He decided to try and race CNN to a million followers... turned out a little wild and crazy, and then AK went on Oprah to discuss the whole thing. Regardless of what you think about Twitter (or Ashton, for that matter), it is a simply amazing tool for sharing information. Where it goes from here and how it drives information remains to be seen. But the studies that came out this week with the thought that Twitter will stunt our moral growth. Um. I suppose that might depend on who you follow... nothing new about that concept.

Anyway, and now you can turn your favorite tweets into Tshirts. That would have to be SOME special somethin'.

* I'm very grateful as well for our ability to be surprised by each other, and moved by music. It's one of the things I like best about being human. By now I am sure everyone has seen that Britain's Got Talent YouTube video of Susan Boyle. You can check it out on Jen's blog if you haven't already seen it. Susan Boyle reminds me of Paul Potts, who shocked them all with his Nessun Dorma a few years back. When will these judges realize that the most amazing voices can come in unlikely packages? I did like how Simon couched it this year with, "I just knew when you walked out here we were going to hear something amazing." Right, Simon. But it was also kind of refreshing to see Simon's face when she's singing--he actually looks like a "real person" who has been moved by her singing. Pretty touching.

Here's a little Paul Potts for your weekend, to go along with your Susan Boyle:

How beautiful is this room? Completely inspires me from an organizational standpoint, as well as a visual and colorful perspective as well. How fun. Check out this really cool website.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen things I have too much of in my kitchen

I was cleaning and organizing the kitchen this weekend, and re-realized that there are a number of items that I have a plethora of. Plethora. Don't get to use that word nearly enough. Anyway, I thought I'd list them. If you ask really nicely, I just might send you any number of the items below. Maybe not the spices... but definitely whisks or spatulas. Or hole-y tea towels (what do you normal people call them? Dish cloths? Drying towels? You know what I mean.)

So, in no particular order, getting back into the Thursday Thirteen groove, here are 13 items I have too many of in my kitchen:

1. Spatulas. I've got green, white, clear, wooden handles, you name it. Overflowing the utensil pot.

2. Measuring spoons.

3. Muffin tins. 6 muffins at a time, 12 muffins at a time, we've got both. Times 2 or 3.

4. Cookbooks. See the picture above. Need I say more? I've got Nigella, Jamie, the whole Cook's Illustrated experience, Martha, Whole Foods, Dean & DeLuca, New Basics x 2, French Laundry, the list goes on. And the kicker? When I want to look up a recipe, where do I go. Yep. My friend the internet.

5. Spices. Oh my. The list goes on and on. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, cloves (whole and ground), dried thyme, dried basil, dried rosemary, ground sage, cumin (whole and ground), curry powder, chile powder, cayenne pepper, dried red chile seeds, poultry seasoning... and more!

6. Cupcake papers. You name the occasion, somehow I have the cupcake papers for it. Wilton loves me.

7. Cereal. I don't know how this has happened, but I think Costco is to blame. We are powerless against the pull of the super-sized box of Cheerios.

8. Cutting boards. I have the colored ones for meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. A couple of white ones, a number of wooden ones and some new really pretty green ones my husband got for me recently. Very sweet.

9. Ramekins. Between my love of creme brulee and my need (once upon a time) to have butter dishes on many tables at one time (catering), I am ramekin heavy.

10. Plastic tumblers. Short ones, tall ones, colored ones, clear ones.

11. Whisks. Small, tall, colored (green, aren't you surprised?), metal, rubber...

12. Placemats. Who knows when we might need to set the full dining room table for dinner? Must have full sets for all colors, of course. Yikes.

13. Tea towels. Again, a left over from the catering days when I could go through a couple dozen a day... don't they ever wear out?

But now that I'm better organized, I don't mind having too many of most of these things... though I could definitely put a few of those spatulas away for awhile!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chickpea salad

This one is an old favorite from way back when. Well, a favorite from maybe 5 or so years ago... that's way back when, right? Anyway, I used to make it for husband during the early romance days (ah, sweet), and he always gave me high praise for it. Shucks.

I'm surprised I haven't made it and posted about it before, but I just haven't made it in eons. I can't actually remember where the recipe came from. I think a girlfriend made something similar at a book club meeting years ago, and I tried to recreate from memory and this is what I came up with. I poked around epicurious for awhile (5 years ago that's where I turned 9 times out of 10 for a recipe) but didn't see anything too close, so I'm pretty sure I'm not ripping someone off here!
Chickpea salad
3 cups chickpeas, cooked
1 8 oz. can diced green chiles
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
2 roma tomatos, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use a light version, horrors!)
Salt to taste

Very complicated: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. I add them in the order I've listed, with mayo last. I stir in just enough to coat the other ingredients, so you can go a little lighter on the mayo if you like, adding as you go until you have the desired amount of creaminess.
Yummy and healthy(ish)!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Power to the Peeps!

Most adults I know have an "issue" with Peeps. That makes sense... Peeps are, like any other candy, just spun sugar confections. But Peeps seem to come with the added downside of too many stabilizers and additives to really reassure you that this is "food," in any sense of the word (think: Twinkies!). But over the years I have been pulled down the path toward Peeps by Seth, who is a big fan. He likes the instant sugar rush, the strange discoloring-his-tongue dyes, and the idea of eating little bunnies and chicks? No worries. All good.

So I shared the Washington Post Peep contest on Friday night, and then promptly remembered some other Peep information I thought you'd either find curious or be grossed out by. Take your pick.

Peep lip balm. As someone who used to think the Orange Crush Bonne Belle Lipsmacker was cool, I can't very well throw too many stones at this product. But in the review on Serious Eats, they talked about it actually tasting good... Now that's just going too far. But, $3.99 will put either the strawberry marshmallow or the grape in your pocket.

Deep fried Peeps. This one I really couldn't bring myself to share a picture of. Just can't. You can click over and take a peep (couldn't resist) if you like, but don't say I didn't warn you. Ooozy drippy marshmallow with a crust? Hmmm. I suppose I could describe it more alluringly, but why? I know the craze to deep fry just about anything has been rampant for a few years, but this one is just a little out there. I can only imagine how many burnt mouths would take place biting into a molten Peep! Yikes.

Peep vidoes. Peeps have even inspired a wide variety of stop action videos on YouTube, with themes around everything from Project Peepway to Peep Floyd: The Wall, to Peep Jaws Shark Attack. I thought I'd spare you the drama (especially of the "how many Peeps can you flush down the toilet" video) and post a little dance of Peeps. Colorful, you know, the way I like it.

I'm pretty over the Peeps, as anything other than great fodder for a creative diorama or YouTube video. There are still a couple of packages hanging out in the kitchen for Seth, but he can rest assured that they will be there, waiting for him... after school, next weekend, whenever. There may be some candies (most?!) I will help myself to in his absence, but those little fluffoids are in no danger. Whatsoever.


Anticipating a busy Sunday (yard! house! work!), we moved our Easter brunchiness one day earlier this year. I made the family favorite baked eggs, with hash browns and a fruit salad. There were the assorted breakfast "meats" as well, and french toast. I also wanted to bring in some rhubarb--it's such a lovely seasonal fruit, and a big favorite of the husband. So I went browsing for some sort of cake/bread recipe and ended up on a buckle coffeecake... I adapted it to suit my whims of the day, and it was quite yummy. Still is. Might need to dish some of that up with my morning coffee...

When I was in catering mode, this baked eggs dish was one that I could pull out very easily for a crowd--a hotel pan of this goodness would feed between 25-30 people. The pharma reps would send me in to a number of different local medical establishments, and when they'd see me pull up with the eggs, the nurses would come running. I never really had the heart to tell them what is in it... this is one of those special occasion dishes! Your jeans will thank me if you don't make this every weekend.

Baked eggs to die for
Feeds 8
Mix together:
10 eggs
1 16 oz. container cottage cheese
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, mild

Mix together:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Now mix them all together. Pour into a 9-inch glass pie pan, or equivalent baking dish. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until puffed and golden, and try not to eat it all in one sitting. This will be difficult.
Rhubarb buckle coffeecake

Adapted from Whole Grain Baking by King Arthur Flour Co.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and non-stick spray a 9-inch baking dish

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup oats
1 tsp cinnamon
3 T unsalted butter, softened

Mix together all ingredients except butter. Cut butter in and mix to make medium-size crumbs.
Set aside.

2.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
5 cups rhubarb, tossed with 3/4 cup sugar (This is the main deviation, as the original recipe called for 2 cups of fruit. That seemed to paltry to me, and I wanted to proportion of fruit to batter to be MORE in the fruit department.)

Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. Stir in half the dry ingredients, then the milk and vanilla, scraping down the sides. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, then gently fold in the rhubarb. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top.

Bake the buckle until a cake tested inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool, in the pan, on a rack.

I was a bit worried when I had ALL the fruit folded in, that it would spill over the sides of the pan I used (an old quiche dish from Mom, about 12 inces across but only an inch deep), so I baked it over a cookie sheet to save my oven from yet another layer of baked who-knows-what. The good news is that it rose nicely but didn't spill over. You can't see the pretty pink rhubarb in this picture, but it was quite yummy and the whole grains didn't ruin the sweet-baked-goods aspect of it, either!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Alinea restaurant review

No, we didn't jet over to Chicago for dinner tonight. But made you look, didn't I?

For kicks, I follow Grant Achatz on Twitter. He's the chef/owner at Alinea in Chicago, was a judge on Top Chef this most recent season, got his start at The French Laundry under Thomas Keller... anyway, if you are even reading this far you probably know all that.

So Grant tweeted tonight about a review of his restaurant from an "average joe" (he likes to dispel the notion that only rich people eat at his restaurant!) and I went on over to take a look. I couldn't figure out how to embed the video, just click on the link to go over to Average Jyo's blog. It's a bit long, but fairly interesting to those who might care about an extensive tasting menu that costs more than $200 per person and involves flavors such as "lilac" (yes, very few people). And because I like to give fair warning, it's clean all the way up to the last minute when for some reason he feels the need to drop a few f-bombs. Not sure why. Just did.

Happy viewing. If any of this falls into your interest area, browse around Alinea's images on their web site (the image above is "beef shortribs" in the menu section). Sets a new bar for food photography. Just beautiful.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Short week! Good week! Spring is here!

Here's what I'm grateful for this week:

* Seth is home from his field trip, safe and sound. There was a temporary hiccup (lost wallet, then found) but overall a very fun and educational trip. His FPS team came in 9th out of 45 teams competing in his age-range, which he was very happy about. I'm more happy about the wallet, frankly. Well, kind of. Just glad he's home.

* The weather is headed the right direction. Two weeks since the last snow fall, and I don't want to speak too soon, but maybe we're actually done with snow this year?

* With the weather, we get the blooms. Every daffodil in the yard is blooming, the primroses have recovered from the sad ice storm beating, and if Ruby doesn't eat every iris in the yard, we might have some of those this spring as well!

* Easter candy abounds. Now that Seth's home we'll at least get a little help with eating it up... Starburst jellybeans, Sweet Tart jellybeans, Easter Junior Mints, peanut butter eggs, caramel-filled eggs... you name it, we've got it. Come over and help us eat it all, really. Oh and Peeps. Can't forget the Peeps. Seth's favorite. Check out this really cool Peeps contest the Washington Post holds every year. We do so enjoy the Peeporamas!

* I'm very grateful for the weekend, for family brunches and Easter egg hunts and maybe even a little yardwork.

* I'm grateful for my coffee. This week more than ever, it got me started in the morning. This was a tough sleep week for some reason, and I am hopeful I'll get caught up over the weekend.

* I'm grateful for friends, near and far. For encouragement and chit chat, and idea sharing too. (Remember, when you're marketing to women, it's best to be optimistic! And green is the new pink... Now there's an idea I can get behind!)

* I am grateful for that phenomenon called social networking. Just when I think everyone who could possibly be found has been found, nope, here pops up another one on Facebook! Crazy fun. And I've been getting extra value from Linkedin lately, with work projects. So much easier to find people and information than ever before. And then there's Twitter... there are waves of info flowing there that are hard to keep up with! I just stick my toe in the lake every once in awhile and am amazed.

* I'm grateful that my allergies still seem to be at bay. I know the minute I write this I should expect a sneezing fit followed up with snuffles times 10. (Please, no!) It's green and blooming and all things seasonal-allergy-inducing, but I'm OK. Wow. (Neti pot and Claritin are at the ready, just in case things change...).

* Backing up to last weekend, I am so grateful for family and lots of good time together, visiting, eating and playing games (that was quite the round of Password, ladies! We all had our quick wits firing at about 80%!). For fun mall wandering with Mom and the Aunties (I'm still thinking about that brown leather jacket!), and a great Indian dinner to end the weekend. And, of course, for Grandma, who gave us an excuse to celebrate.

* Grateful for this life (abundant), this setting (peaceful), these guys (thoughtful, loving). Going to go make haystacks for the men, hope you all have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Springtime supper

Spring has sprung, and it is well and truly asparagus season here. I just love it. For at least two months I will be eating asparagus in every form imaginable... in pasta, as soup, tempura, just roasted, steamed, you name it. Yum.

Most nights I am lazy and do it really quick style in the microwave. I wash the asparagus, snap off the bottoms, put them in a ziploc bag and microwave at 30-second intervals. Easy peasy.

OK, so if you're not a runny, or soft, egg fan, this would not be the supper for you... But I have been getting these amazing farm-fresh eggs lately and the yolks are to die for! You can see in the picture above how orange the one yolk is--just gorgeous!
Sher's asparagus and poached egg salad
2 eggs
1 cup spinach leaves
12 spears asparagus, steamed and chopped into 1-inch bites
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded
Olive oil
Poach the eggs to your desired doneness. I use these fabulous egg poaching pods that my sister in law got me a couple of years ago--you float them in boiling water and they work just great!

Place the spinach in the bottom of a bowl, put warm steamed asparagus on top. Sprinkle with parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. Gently place poached eggs on top and have at it! Truly yummy and a great celebration of spring!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

I started my list early, while stranded in the Sea-Tac airport. Don't you like that word, "stranded?" Makes it sound like I was on a desert island a la Tom Hanks. Well, not quite. I believe I fell victim to the "2 half-filled planes equals 1 full plane" syndrome that can occasionally strike a small town such as ours. So I'm here, ensconced in the Alaska Boardroom with my wireless, eating them out of all animal crackers in sight, and what better way to remind myself of all my blessings in the midst of 7 long hours, than to start on my gratitude list!?

On balance, though, this week still comes out wildly on the grateful side. Of course.

I'm grateful for:
* A friendship that began 24 years ago and still goes strong. Probably stronger through the years, somewhat because of the years, somewhat in spite of them... and then too, we're just wise women. Ha. Thank you for a lovely visit, Corinne, Brian and Adrienne.

* A wonderful husband to come home to and who gives me tech support and moral support and all other kinds of support from afar.

* For an incredibly sunny week. I have been to SLO many times in the past, and at what might be thought of as more "summery" times as well. But it's never ever been so beautiful and cloudless and sunny, ever.

* A peaceful place to chill this week. The canyon where the Smiths reside is amazingly peaceful and remote, while still being close to town (sort of). It's the kind of place that makes you happy to relax and stay put and not go anywhere, all day. Trust me, I did that, more or less, one of my days there, and it was heaven on earth.

* My Kindle. Still love it, maybe even more than before. Love being able to download samples while on the road, read newspapers and blogs and just generally keep the info flowing!

* My family, who I am very much looking forward to seeing this weekend.

* My brother, who celebrated a birthday this week, and whom I admire very much. I couldn't be more grateful in the sibling department. He's a rock star dad, husband, brother, brother-in-law, son... (no pressure, Shelb!)

* My grandma, who turns 90 on Sunday. This grateful item may look like it's down on the list, but it shines brighter than all the rest! I am so glad to still have a grandma, and glad she's in pretty good health and that most of her girls will be with her this weekend. We will all be thinking of Aunty Sheila in Roseburg and wishing she was with the rest of the sisters, but glad she's out of the hospital and hopefully staying there (home!).

* It wouldn't be a new week without a new music obsession! Corinne picked up a nu-jazz CD from her local public radio station. I latched onto the very first song on the CD and was addicted: Cellophane by Ashley Slater. It was tough to find a video to share, but I did... it's live, not the best quality, but still gives you an idea what's so addictive... to me, anyway. If you can listen and not at least want to get up and dance (sashay!), I feel sad for you...

Good weekend to all!

Adventures in Japanese cuisine

One of Corinne's favorite cuisines is Japanese. It's not something I have a ton of experience with, but I'm game for new stuff, right? I do frequent WW's local sushi joint, Aloha Sushi, which gets quizzical eyebrows from my oceanside friends--sushi in a land-locked town, really? I try to impress upon them the speed with which FedEx can arrive with the ice chest of fish, but I still get the quizzical eyebrows!

On C's birthday, she wanted to go to a local Japanese grill for lunch. Her sister-in-law and mother-in-law joined us and we got to perch up next to the grill and watch our meal (meat, in my case!) sizzle away. Corinne got sushi but the rest of us went with the fry-up. It was really good!

The sizzling grill!

The Oh So Delicious tempura. (No, this isn't on the nutritional plan, Kim. But it was Oh So Delicious!)

Our chef, working the fried rice.

C's tuna sushi. Num num.

When we took our day trip up to San Fran, our first stop was the Ferry Building, which houses all manner of edible delights, from crepes to chocolate to cheese to gelato. We settled on a Japanese eatery there as well, and the bento box lunch was beyond yummy. I am a new fan of all things (well, maybe not ALL things, but many more things than a week ago!) Japanese.

C's bento box: Wasabi potato salad, asparagus salad, rice and chicken dumplings.

My bento box: Rice, chicken dumplings, mushroom salad and asparagus salad.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy birthday, brother!

Happy birthday to a wonderful brother! Hope your day is extra special and the coming year even more so. I am sure your day started out with lots of hugs and kisses from your girls, and I bet it ends the same way. You're a lucky guy!
Looking forward to a wonderful weekend in Canada with the family!

Fun days in the sun

The sunshine in San Luis Obispo was terrific. I enjoyed it, sun up to sun down! While Corinne had a marketing meeting one morning, I took a lovely walk alongside a golf course down to the ocean... mighty fine. Thought I'd share a peek, as I know many are still stuck in the waning days of winter.

They don't show up so well in the picture, but there are three white cranes hanging out in the creek. White cranes are a sign of good luck, so that was my triple dose, theoretically! As I'm currently hanging out at Sea-Tac with yet another travel "situation," it appears I should have gotten a little closer to the cranes to get the actual luck to transfer from them to me...

I just had to take a picture of these African daisies, as they are a flower available to purchase in my garden zone as an annual... in SLO, they pretty much run rampant through the ditches as a perennial. Dagnabit. Lucky them.

These succulent flowers were just so sunny and cheerful. I'm not even sure I can grow these as annuals in Walla Walla...

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