Doug is the cook at our house, and he's a fantastic cook. But when he's gone (and he's often traveling for a week at a time), it falls back to me. I'm a decent cook, though not a great one. One of the qualities of good cooks that I just don't have is the creativity it takes to invent dishes. Doug has this in spades, but I really need a recipe to cook something. He could do one of those Top Chef challenges where you are given a twinkie, a tomato, and some cheese and have to make a gourmet appetizer from them. I would just sit there and stare blankly at the ingredients, you know?

But I decided a couple of years ago that I needed to start challenging myself to broaden my repertoire, and I started by mastering some classic Italian dishes that I love. One of them was risotto, and I quickly learned that I could be creative within the boundaries of a structured basic recipe. I can make risotto with whatever we have on hand, and it always turns out well. I need to find another basic recipe like that. (I'm open to suggestions!)

Another thing we did about a year ago to try to eat healthier was subscribe to Greenling, a service that delivers fresh produce from local farms (among other things). We get a "local box" every week of whatever is in season. It's been interesting to see what we get every week, and to challenge ourselves to cook with what we get.

It's zucchini season now, and we got two huge zucchinis in our box on Friday. I shredded both of them and used them to make two loaves of zucchini bread (I use Paula Deen's recipe, yum!), a batch of salmon-zucchini fritters for dinner (I combined a can of salmon and about a cup of shredded zucchini with bread crumbs and an egg, then formed patties and fried them), which were surprising good.

That still left me a cup of shredded zucchini, so this morning we had a zucchini frittata for breakfast. Frittatas are basically thick omelets, and you make them out of leftovers, traditionally. You saute your ingredients (in this case onions, zucchini, and some bits of deli sliced chicken I found in the fridge), then add 3 or 4 beaten eggs, let it cook until those are almost set, then top with some shredded cheese and pop the whole thing into a 425 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until it's done and the cheese is bubbly.

Carter LOVED the frittata, and gobbled up a lot of it. He wasn't as impressed with the zucchini bread, though. He tasted a bit, but it went on the floor fairly quickly.



I've also started making jello from fruit juice, which I feel better about giving him than the regular stuff. I heat 1 cup of fruit juice to boiling, then add one packet of plain Knox gelatin and stir until dissolved. Then I add one cup of cold fruit juice, and pour it in little cups like usual. It's a lot less sweet than regular jello, and doesn't have the other added artificial stuff. Carter seems to like it just as well! We've tried apple and grape juice so far, and both turned out well. I've had wine jello at a restaurant before, so now I'm thinking that would be a fun thing to try. Of course, that would be for me and Doug, hee. :-D
I get nostalgic in the fall; I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the approaching holidays that remind me of my childhood, or maybe it's the cooler weather that makes me yearn for comfort foods, which in turn reminds me of times gone by. But every fall, I find myself wanting to do things differently, to return to the simple traditions I knew as a child: making jam, canning vegetables, baking, knitting, sewing.

Last night we had fried chicken and collard greens for dinner. How southern is that? :-D I wasn't happy with how my greens turned out, and I am going to work on that. I have some ideas for replicating the unbelievably yummy collards at Stubbs BBQ. Anyway, I also made some cornbread to go with those dishes. I don't have the right sized cast iron killet, but I do have a bunch of mini iron skillets. And so I present: mini-corn pones. :-D )

Another thing I've been thinking about in the last six months or so is how to cut back on my energy use. It seems like a no-brainer for someone like me, but I'd gotten lazy. I'd stopped thinking about switching off lights or turning up the thermostat. We've been much better about those things since Carter was born.

But one we hadn't thought much about was laundry. We have an HE washer and dryer, and the dryer is natural gas-powered, so we haven't thought much about energy or water use with laundry. We cloth diaper, though, and so that means a few more loads of laundry every week than we would do otherwise. I feel fine about the water use -- what we really need to do is change out our toilets to double-flush ones. But those diapers take a looong time to dry, at least two cycles on high. And geez, that's crazy!

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to start line drying my diapers. I put some of the natural fiber ones in the dryer for a short cycle to soften them up (they are pretty crunchy otherwise), and then hang them outside, but the fleece pockets and microfiber inserts go straight on the drying rack. Wipes (which I had stupidly been drying and then re-wetting to go back in the warmer!) get folded, wet a little more, and put in the warmer again.

This has benefits other than saving energy, I've found. Sunlight is an amazing disinfectant and bleach. Stains just disappear, like magic. My diapers have smelled a lot cleaner, to my surprise. And there's just something cool about hanging them out to dry. )

Greenling!

Aug. 25th, 2008 12:00 pm
I recently started subscribing to a local service called Greenling that offers home delivery of locally-grown, organic produce. I love buying at farmer's markets and supporting local farmers, but all the good farmers markets here are on the far side of town, and I've yet to be able to get us up and out the door to go to one since Carter was born. But Greenling is sort of like a farmer's market that delivers, so that's perfect!

I signed up for weekly delivery of the "local box", which costs $35 (including delivery charges). We got our first one on Friday. Pictures! )

Anyway, I love the idea of getting a box of random veggies every week and then figuring out what to cook with them. We had fun with that over the weekend. For example, last night I made a vegetarian lasagna that turned out really well, using the eggplant, squash, onion and tomatoes. The melon was amazing, OMG. Fun!
As a Foodie and a lover of authentic Italian food, I'm sort of embarrassed to admit this, but I love canned Chef Boyardee ravioli. The classic, beef kind. It's kid food, really, and the least authentic ravioli ever, but seriously? Yum. I think it's a comfort thing.

When we were little and staying with our grandparents in the summers, my Grandma would split a can between my sister and me for lunch. She would carefully count out the raviolis, and if there was an odd number of them she'd cut that last one in half so that we'd have exactly the same amount. I'm not sure why that was so important to us at the time, but it was.

But when she heated it up, she'd add a can of water. I'm not sure why; I was an adult before I realized that it wasn't part of the directions for cooking it. Maybe it was a way to stretch it a bit further, which would match up with the rest of her Depression-era sensibilities. But I still add water to my ravioli to this day. It's just a half-can now, but enough to get that watery tomato soup for the raviolis to float in. And then I eat the whole thing with a big-ass spoon.

:-)

Diet update

Apr. 2nd, 2007 10:42 am
Weight loss at eleven pounds and holding. And that's not bad at all, because I stopped being really careful in the last week. Actually, after Doug came home Wednesday, I wasn't really careful at all. :-P

Considering that my goal was to lose ten pounds before IVF, that's pretty good. I'm more interested in making sustainable changes in my diet than I am in losing another twenty pounds at this point. I'm hoping to be pregnant in June, so losing a lot of weight in the next couple of months would be a bit pointless. But if I can be a little healthier by the then, all the better, and that's definitely happening. My clothes are all looser, and I can even squeeze into jeans the next size down, which is cool. (They aren't wearable yet, but I can zip them up. ;-))

In other news (and perhaps contradictory to the above), we finally bought a BBQ grill! We haven't had one in almost five years, and spent a lot of time going back and forth on where we'd put it, how nice of one we'd get, whether we'd have it hooked up to the natural gas or just buy a propane-fueled one. We decided to just buy a medium-priced one and see how much we use it. If grilling out becomes a big part of our life, then maybe we'll save up for the awesome outdoor kitchen set-up in another five years.

We found our grill at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago. (It's amazing how much the prices on grills have come down since the last time we bought one!) It was delivered while Doug was OOT, and then this weekend it finally stopped raining long enough to move it out of the garage. We have it out on the patio by the pool in an out-of-the-way spot. So last night we grilled and ate out at the table by the pool, something I've wanted to do for almost five years. Hee! Tonight we'll grill hamburgers and watch The Game. See how my diet is about to go wrong?

Cryptic message to a family member. )

My husband is about to go to Israel on business. Israel is about to go to war with Lebanon. Should I be concerned about this?

I just realized that I will be home exactly 6 days between tomorrow and August 19.  0_0  My poor kitties.  *points to icon*

I am getting better and better at cooking Italian every day.  I have been trying a lot of new things since we got back from Italy, incorporating the things I learned in our cooking class.  Tuesday night, it was Pasta alla Norma (tomato sauce with eggplant and cheese) and tiramisu.  Last night it was an incredibly heavenly caponata and cacio e pepe with homemade pasta (basically just cheese and pepper over pasta).  I've been making pasta for years, but last night's batch was about as good as I've ever made it.  And then I had to go and screw it up by rolling it out too thin !  *sigh*  Tonight it will be marinated fresh anchovies with carmelized onions and raisins (assuming I can get the fishmonger to clean the fish for me because ew) and a seafood risotto.  We had a seafood risotto during our cooking classes last week, and I was amazed that I like my version better!

My cousin Julie is getting married on Saturday!  I can't wait to see her all glowing and gorgeous!

And one more thing:

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 86% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test


Grandma would be proud. ;-)

COFFEE!

Jun. 19th, 2006 12:28 pm
So, I love coffee. For those of you who know me well, this is hardly a surprise.

For a few months now, I've been thinking about getting a one-at-a-time hot drink machine for my office. I have a regular coffee maker, but I usually just want one cup or something special and I end up spending far too much money at the local Starbucks. So I decided to look into the pod machines, just to see if they'd be an option.

After a bit of research, I settled on Tassimo. It had gotten some great consumer reviews and it pairs with Gevalia and Twinings for its pods, so it seemed perfect for me. (I have been a faithful Gevalia customer for about 12 years now.)

So I bought my Tassimo machine about a week ago, and OMG I love it! I'm seriously all, Star-who? I can make an incredible mocha at home for so much less, hah. (Well, the machine itself was expensive, so it'll actually take a while before I will be saving real money -- but hey, having a coffee shop in my own office is quite cool.)

It's at home this summer, but I'll probably take it to work this fall. *sips*
We're home again after spending a little more than a week in NC with my family. My sister and her husband were gracious enough to host us for more than a week, and it was great to stay with them.

I'm posting a few things here by request. I was telling my sister about chef clogs, which I am so thrilled to have discovered. They're very lightweight, comfy plastic clogs that professional chefs wear while working. If you have ever spent a good deal of time on your feet in the kitchen, you know how achy your feet can get. Chef clogs make awesome house shoes, and they're really cheap -- $11 a pair on the site linked above. Doug and I have a couple of pairs each, and we wear them all the time.

We cooked for various people in our family while we were there, and several people asked for some recipes. Here they are!

Roasted squash soup )

Bucatini All'Amatriciana )

Let me know if you try out those recipes. I'd love to hear how it turned out! :-)

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