26 March 2009


Spinach with bell peppers, black beans, pineapple and feta

I don't have a real affinity for feta cheese - I'm just now discovering that it is actually quite good. This salad came from Clean Eating magazine, which I would highly recommend if you're looking for healthy food ideas that think outside the box. Whole wheat? Check. Flaxseed, millet, and quinoa? Check. Agave nectar, honey, and natural sugar cane the only sugars allowed? Check.
It's a little green (I know, I know, I'm sick of that term by now too, sorry!), but I like it. And the salad? I wouldn't cross the street in front of a New York cabbie for it, but it was flavorful, quick, and healthy. Just what I was looking for (and light enough that I don't mind following it up with a piece of cherry pie for dessert *ahem*).

21 March 2009

Consider it done.

So here's a little advice for those of you ladies out there who might live in the Boise area and who might be looking for a swimsuit. If you want anything other than 1) a swimsuit made of string, 2) a swimsuit that calls itself a two-piece but is really a one-and-a-half, or 3) a swimsuit that calls itself a one-piece but is really just masquerading as a two-piece, connected with string, please do yourself a favor and don't bother going to the following places:

*The Nike outlet store
*The sports store between Marshall's and ShopKo
*Ross on Eagle & Fairview
*Old Navy
*Joe's Sports
*Big 5 Sporting Goods
*Ross on Milwaukee
*Sports Authority
*Sears (including Land's End stock)

I did the legwork for you today. You can thank me later.

Why didn't I trust my gut (yes, the one with expensive taste but spot-on accuracy) and just go to the Swim and Run Shop in the first place?? Their website leaves something to be desired, but the store is great. Even better than the store itself is the staff. You can walk in to the Swim and Run Shop, head straight to the dressing room, and let the staff take it from there. In fact, that's what I would recommend, considering the huge amount of stock they have squished into about 1000 square feet. If you consider your bathing suit an "investment" piece that you're going to keep for several years, it's worth it to spend a little extra. And... it gives you extra incentive to keep up with the swimming. :-)

20 March 2009

Read it and weep!

Moose Chili and Cornbread

I originally thought I had ground beef in the freezer, but when I pulled out the package the other day to thaw, I realized it was moose that my co-worker Angee had given me. Last year, her hunting-obsessed husband convinced her to go for a moose tag. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the civic laws of hunting, there are only a certain number of tags available each year, and they are awarded on a lottery basis. You are only allowed to draw one moose tag in your lifetime, so if you get one, you better hope your hunting trip goes well or else... too bad. So Frank (Angee's husband) told Angee, a stoic non-hunter, "Just go for it honey - what are the odds? You probably won't get it... but it would be really cool if you did." Angee was not thrilled about it, but thought if she at least tried to go for the tag, it would satisfy Frank and she wouldn't have to go hunting for another year. Well... Angee got a tag. And Angee went hunting. And Angee shot her own moose.

So, back to the package in my freezer. The stamp on it said "__ound Steak Moose". I assumed it was "Ground Steak Moose". Don't ask me why I thought it would be a ground steak, since they are literal opposites of each other (and I should know better, having grown up with home-raised beef). I think my brain played a trick on me because I was looking for ground beef, but this was actually "Round Steak Moose". Anyway, after a bit of thawing and sawing (sorry! moose can be a bit tough), it became perfect chili meat.

This was my first attempt at chili, and it turned out pretty well, other than the hot factor. I let the meat sear a little too long and I ended up burning a little bit on the bottom of the pot. I also added too many spicy ingredients - 1) diced pepper, 2) chili beans with -duh- chili in them, 3) diced "chili cuts" tomatoes, also with chilies in them, not to mention 4) the actual chili powder itself (I used straight cayenne, although only half as much as the recipe stated). Add these to the diced green chilies in the cornbread, and I had one hot kitchen! I cobbled together bits and pieces of 3 different chili recipes, so no wonder I ended up doubling (tripling? quadrupling?) the spice factor in tonight's dinner!

I'm wondering if I should even try bringing this to work next week. Everyone will think I have a really frustrating assignment given the amount of tears rolling down my cheeks. But wait - doesn't capsaicin cause endorphin release? I think I've heard that before. In that case I should be happy as a clam by now. A very hot, spicy clam.

Summer is coming!

Back door this evening... wide open for the last few hours, with flipflops waiting.

19 March 2009

Hodgson Mill whole-wheat fettuccini is...

amazingly disgusting. Pleasepleaseplease do yourself a favor and don't even try it. Don't even look its way in the grocery store and think "but maybe it will be different for me". Don't look longingly at the bright red box and think how great a dinner it will make and how *healthy* it must be! It can't be that bad...


Pasty, grainy, flavorless, like eating dried pie dough. Ugh. *shudder*

Although it takes a nice picture.

16 March 2009

How To Not Bake Cookies

Step 1: Spend an hour totally engrossed in (and grossed out by) Cake Wrecks.

Step 2: Finally haul your new-to-you toy out of the closet to finally mend those tank tops and pillow cases (which you've been using all along anyway), only to discover that you don't have an owner's manual. And getting one off Ebay will cost you $5 and 2 weeks. Sewing machines take skillz, people.

Step 3: Call your mom and whine about doctors, feet, and shoes for an hour. Receive picture from mom of homemade tortilla chips to accompany homemade tortilla soup and wish you were there. Start sorting through your own recipes lying on the top of the microwave out of jealousy.

Step 4: Review your grocery list (parchment paper? check. bananas? check. flour? oh no!) and suddenly remember that you were planning on bringing cookies to your friend's St. Patrick's Day party. Realize you do not have green dye, scheme up ways to create green dye from vegetables currently in refrigerator, and soon thereafter trash the whole green dye idea. Feel relieved that you don't have to use green dye because you are highly uncomfortable with the idea of food dye in the first place. Who ever thought up neon green mashed potatoes?

Step 5: Reminisce about the cookies you made on Friday and start searching through cupboards to check on ingredients. AHA!

Homemade Oreos
from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. Dutch cocoa
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar (can be decreased to 1/2 c., which I would recommend)
1/2 c. + 2 Tb. unsalted butter, room temp.
1 egg

1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 c. shortening
2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

1. Stir together flour, cocoa, soda, powder, salt, and sugar.
2. Add butter and mix thoroughly, then add egg and mix until dough comes together.
3. Spoon small teaspoons of dough onto parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand or the bottom of a cup.

4. Bake at 375* for 7-9 minutes. Watch them because cookies this small can burn quickly. Stand back and admire the neat little rows of chocolate goodness.
5. For filling, blend butter and shortening, then add powdered sugar and mix until crumbly. Add vanilla and mix until smooth.
6. I transfer my filling to a large ziploc bag and cut the corner off as a makeshift piping bag. Make that my usual piping bag. Pipe about a tablespoon of filling into the middle of a cookie and top with another cookie. Press together gently until filling reaches the edges. Pinkie lift optional.
7. Store between layers of parchment or wax paper in an airtight container. If there is anything to store...

Upon moving upstairs last May...

Piano dearest
I love you still
But if you follow where I'm going
I'm afraid you'll take a spill...

Stairs have never been your forte.

15 March 2009

I found the pot of gold!

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow really does exist. In 5+ years of trying to achieve the perfect "warm" milk temperature, buying new packets of yeast to make sure it's fresh instead of using the one I already had in my drawer, and constantly trying to find just the right warm spot for the dough to rest and rise, I finally found a bread recipe that doesn't flop because of some unidentifiable problem with the yeast. That doesn't turn out hard as a rock. That doesn't sit in the bowl like a lump of clay. You want to know the secret? It doesn't use yeast at all!

Granted, this is not sandwich bread, and it turns out pretty crumbly and fragile. It does, however, taste amazing. It goes really well with soups, salads, and what else - corned beef and cabbage! I have heard of Irish soda bread many times before, but I never really knew what type of bread it was, what texture it had, or how it would taste. I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart (good ol' Martha Steward, prison time notwithstanding...) that looked pretty easy, so I decided to conduct an experiment in conjunction with our monthly book club/international cuisine dinner party. This being March, I suggested we do an Irish dinner - corned beef and cabbage, mashed potatoes, salad, Irish soda bread, and Irish cream ice cream for dessert. I volunteered to make the bread and the dessert, knowing that the bread may be a disaster at the very last minute and I may have to substitute some other bread to go with our dinner, but it was worth a shot. Little did I know that there would only be 2 pieces left by the time everone left for the night!

I declared the bread a success, which in my house means the recipe goes into my book of personal recipes. I had leftover Irish butter (swoon!), so I had to make another loaf today to eat for lunch... and dinner... and share tomorrow with coworkers.

The leavening agent in this recipe is mainly baking soda (hence the name of the bread), but it also contains baking powder and soured milk. which help it rise.

Irish Soda Bread
from Martha Stewart Living, March 2009
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/3 c. whole milk
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. coarse salt (I substituted 2 tsp. table salt)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 Tb. cold unsalted butter, diced
1 c. unprocessed wheat bran
1/4 c. caraway seeds (I omitted this)
1 c. raisins

Irish butter, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Prepare a baking sheet (line with parchment or spray with Pam). Mix milk and vinegar in a small bowl and let set. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in butter.

2. Stir in wheat bran, caraway seeds (if using), and raisins. Stir in milk & vinegar until dough starts to form a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a round (don't knead). Transfer to the baking sheet and cut a large X in the top. Bake for 60-70 minutes.

Serve with generous amounts of room-temperature Irish butter.

12-year-old Makes Impact with Pro-Life Speech

This is worth reading, or watching the video if you have time (follow the link in the Boundless post).

"Despite facing threats of disqualification, a 12-year-old girl took first place in a speech contest when she eloquently argued for the rights of unborn children – after an offended judge quit.

'What if I told you that right now, someone was choosing if you were going to live or die?' the seventh-grader begins in a video recording of her speech on YouTube. 'What if I told you that this choice wasn't based on what you could or couldn't do, what you'd done in the past or what you would do in the future? And what if I told you, you could do nothing about it?'

The girl, a student at a Toronto school identified only as 'Lia,' continued:
'Fellow students and teachers, thousands of children are right now in that very situation. Someone is choosing without even knowing them whether they are going to live or die.
That someone is their mother. And that choice is abortion.' "

09 March 2009


Is summer here yet?

I'm obviously unloading old pictures from last summer, to get them off my computer. This is malted ice cream, with chopped malt balls mixed in. If the malt balls weren't in there, this would actually pass as a very rich vanilla... but what fun would there be in that? None, I tell you, none...

Guests are coming over this Friday and I can't wait to get out the ice cream maker. Totally justified to whip up a batch of ice cream now... it's going to be an Irish-themed dinner, so I was thinking Irish Cream Ice Cream. How appropriate. Mmm...

Peanut Butter rice krispie bars

This is not an original recipe of mine, of course, but I did wing it by looking at several other recipes online. I'm not a big fan of rice krispie bars, but these are really great. I like them with chunky peanut butter, and you can also add roughly chopped unsalted peanuts to the mix.

Finally got the gooey, marshmallowy mix in the pan. That's an arm workout, man!

Finished product!
I would post a recipe, but this (or a variation of it) can be found in almost any cookbook. I simply posted the pictures to inspire you and make your mouth water. Nah-nah-naaa! :-)



08 March 2009



In every instant, two gates.
One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.

Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.

But the faint cries—ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?

"Bees" by Jane Hirshfield from The Lives of the Heart. © Harper Perennial, 1997.
HT: The Writer's Almanac


Yes and that is hello as in "hello-ooooo....", not as in "he-LLOO". I've been gone quite a while, but I hope I still have one reader! Even if I don't, I will still write, because this blog is mostly for the preservation of my quickly fading memory.
Where have I been the last few months? California, Illinois, Mexico, Nevada, you name it. I've also embarked on several new time-gulping endeavors, one of which involves a membership at the Y, and even though you can't see the evidence yet, I can feel the evidence, so that is encouraging. My friend Kim got me interested in swimming and amazingly, the very next week, Jenny suggested the idea of swimming every Saturday and setting some goals to motivate ourselves. She and I have been swimming every Saturday morning for several weeks now, and I've also been doing some evenings during the week. I did half a mile this last Saturday, which means I'm halfway to my goal. This all has gone just... swimmingly! Come on, you knew that was coming.
I've been cooking/baking up a storm lately - Thai coconut curry noodle, cinnamon bread, turkey soup, cornbread muffins (the best I've had yet), cherry-walnut cookies, dark chocolate freezer cookies (for Valentine's day, of course), cinnamon rolls (that turned out hard as a rock, will be trying those again), my favorite almond biscotti... This Friday is book club and it will be at my house - we'll be having an Irish theme dinner, including irish soda bread, corned beef, red cabbage & apples, potatoes, and a special surprise dessert that I'm still finalizing. I love to work in the kitchen. Lately it's been nearing obsession. I get home from work in the evening and my first thought is whether I have time to squeeze in a little baking before or after the other activities I have going on. Crazy!
Speaking of crazy, work has reached a near-frenetic pace (read: overtime every week since Thanksgiving) and while I love being this busy (boredom? what's that?), everyone in our office will be relieved when it's over... in June. Yes, 3 more months to go. We're in the middle of budget development, which means our tiny short-staffed group of 4 gets to tackle the entire biennial budget that normally should be handled by a staff of about 7. Throw in meetings with senior managers, elected officials, and department staff who are not necessarily "numbers" people, and you have a full day. Never mind the reports you have to write and the research you have to do while you're actually at your desk. However, I am not complaining... I am very grateful to have a job right now, when I know at least 3 of my friends who have been directly impacted by the economy by being laid off themselves or having their spouse laid off.
Ooh! "From the Top" is on... gotta go. I listen to this every Sunday afternoon.
Hope everyone out there is doing well and enjoying the time change (ha! ask me later).