26 February 2010

Five Things Friday


In an effort to help me be not only motivated, but organized enough to blog everyday, I have decided to add another weekly column, if you will, to the blog. Thursdays, you may have noticed, have become the Cookbook Showdown Days. It's nice to have a schedule I think, for me and for you too! So from here on out Fridays are now going to be know as Five Things Fridays. I'll present you a list of Five Things. They may be things I am thinking about, or dreaming about or thankful for or just random, inane, useless knowledge about myself. Whatever the case maybe I'm fairly certain that it will be entertaining. I think highly of myself, like that. Without further ado, here is the first installation of Five Things Fridays!

Five Ways I Combat the Winter Blues:

  1. Head to the gym. Nothing like a little sweat to make the day seem a little brighter. Or if I'm feeling particularly lazy I just spend some time in the sauna, then take a shower. I'm flexible like that.
  2. Dance in a Patch of Sunlight. The little lady and I often crank up Pandora and dance the afternoon away in the kitchen. This is particularly fun while I'm cooking dinner.
  3. Take some Vitamin D. Chances are if you live in the Northern Half of the World and it's winter time you are a least a little bit deficient. I'm not a Dr. but a little extra Vitamin D never hurt anybody.
  4. Make Dinner with a Friend. It's hard enough to convince me to leave the house at night this time of year, it's even more difficult if you tell me that I have to change out of my jeans and sweater. But at a friends house you can rock the jeans, share a glass of wine and kick out some mean comfort food like Creamy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.
  5. Take a hike. Or at least a walk around the block. The sun is fleeting and the rays weak, but if you bundle up good a quick jaunt around the block is possible. The extra sunshine, the fresh air, it will do you good. Take some nice deep breaths, close your eyes and pretend you're on your way to get an ice cream cone. Too soon? Well, hopefully in the next few weeks!
Enjoy your weekend everyone!

25 February 2010

Cookbook Showdown- 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes, Carol Gelles

Welcome to this week's edition of Cookbook Showdown. As we continue with this experiment in my cookbook collection, you'll see a large number of vegetarian cookbooks. This is because when I started out cooking I was a vegetarian. Funny how that works out, huh? We still eat a lot of veggie meals, it's just something we're used to. Feel free to add a chicken breast or some ground beef if you feel so inclined.

This week we're cooking Spicy Barley with Mushrooms. It's pretty straight forward, which is exactly what I needed on a Tuesday night.

It's hard enough to cook dinner some nights, let alone have an attention span long enough to actually follow a recipe.

For this recipe you basically brown some onion and mushrooms until they get nice and golden brown. You want all of that yummy, mushroomy flavor to come out.

Then you add the barley and some water (I used some stock) and let them meet and mingle for almost an hour.

While you're waiting go ahead and grate some Pepperjack Cheese. Or just some Monterey Jack cheese if you can't take the heat.

Once the barley has soaked up all of that liquid, add the cheese. Stir it around and let it all come together. Cheese is kind of like that girl in school that was friends with everybody; it can make friends with anybody.

What you end up with looks a lot like risotto, but tastes even better.

It's creamy, it's mushroomy (I'll make that a new word yet), it makes a hearty, filling end of Winter meal.

End of Winter? Who am I kidding, Winter lasts until the 4th of July in this part of the world.

I bet this would be good with a nice chicken breast on the side, or maybe even a spinach salad. I wouldn't know. I ate two bowls for dinner and called it delicious.

So over all, how did this cookbook rate? If I had to do it over again, I don't think I would spend the money. Many of the recipes in it are too finicky or fussy or just aren't things that I would normally stock in my kitchen. It has some good ideas, but nothing that you couldn't get out of another, more comprehensive cookbook.

*Just a little disclaimer. I'm not getting paid to write these "reviews". These are all cookbooks that I have in my kitchen. I am not going to post the actual recipes because I'm pretty sure that would be copyright infringement and I don't really feel like going to court today. Or any day really. If at any time I do receive a cookbook from an author or a publisher (wouldn't that be grand!) I will give you a full disclosure; and my honest opinion.

24 February 2010

Sharing is Caring


One of the most difficult things to teach a toddler is sharing. They think everything in the world is theirs and they ever want to part ways with their "favorite" thing (or the favorite of the moment). In our house we try to talk about how we share with our friends because we want our friends to share with us, we share because we can't play/hold/have everything at once and we share because, indeed, everything is not ours. It's tough for a little kid, but a necessary skill to learn.

Sometimes I think it's harder to share for adults than kids.

Overall, generally, for the most part; I don't care if you use my stuff, take it, use it, return it or not. I'm not attached to it. Where I start to get ornery is when I have to share my time. I don't mean volunteering or giving my time to help a friend. I'm talking about when I have something planned, or I get a bit of precious "me" time and something or someone comes in the way of it. I want to throw a drop-down, drag-out tantrum like the best no-nap toddler. Tell me I can't leave, I can't see my friends, I can't make a cup of coffee, I can't write a blog, well you best be on your way before I count to ten. I've found that even when I set aside time to clean or organize if I have to spend my time doing something else, well, let's just say it's not pretty.

I'm trying to get better, really, I am.

I think since becoming a mom my life is over-structured, over-routined, set in a schedule. Before the little lady came I never carried a planner, never wrote down a thing, lived and did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I embraced the idea that kids need a routine to feel secure and comfortable; I whole-heartedly agree! The problem I have is that now I feel need to put everything in a schedule, including our down time and when I schedule in some personal time and it goes awry I get a little cranky.

Ok, a lot cranky.

So, I've decided that as I teach the Tiny Toddle Tornado to share, I'm going to take a page from my own book and re-teach myself to share as well. Take a step back and let life happen a little more, not get so crazy when life gets in the way of me getting a break. Because you what? I get the time I need, one way or another, and I don't need another thing to stress about.


23 February 2010

Time


Posting has been rather spotty around here lately. Have you noticed? I try, with the best of intentions, to pop out a blog post durning nap time everyday. However, nap time has been non-existent around these parts lately. I think I've finally figured the nap equation out again, so hopefully we can get back on schedule.

The other thing is that I have felt lately that I just don't have enough time. I'm trying to become more organized, prioritize what I really want to get done, be a present mom, get some "me" time in, go to the gym, spend time as a family, go back to school, be a good friend, put the house on the market, plan for a potential move, decide if I want another kid and generally just be happy.

Hmmm. No wonder I'm running out of hours in the day!

I feel like my house has become more organized; I've been committed to cleaning out closets and purging them and the other areas of junk collection in the house. It's not perfect, but it's getting there. The other 500 million things? Well, they're getting there. The problem is that it's hard to prioritize this blog when the house is a mess and someone is yelling, "Mooom, mommy! Mama, mom!" I like to think that this space qualifies as "me" time, however I just need to make time in my hypothetical, non-existent schedule. That's one of the things about having kids. They are on a strict, do not veer from, do or die routine. The problem is that they switch it up once every couple or weeks or so. Just in case parenting wasn't hard enough in the first place.

So bear with me for a little bit as I try to re-organize (or just plain organize...) my life. I should be back to regular scheduled posting soon. Or whenever this little lady decides that napping is part of her regular scheduled programming again.

18 February 2010

Cookbook Showdown- How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman

Skillet Pork Chops and Flopped Potatoes

Let me just start off saying this. I love Mark Bittman. My friend Amy turned me on to him about a year ago and I haven't looked back. It is one of two cookbooks that I keep on my kitchen counter, because I use it daily. If I can't remember how to cook something, what temp I should cook something at, if I need a different way to cook something; I turn to Mr. Bittman. You really do learn how to cook everything, plus. Plus! He's funny and reading his commentary makes every recipe just a little bit better. So without further ado, let me introduce to you the story of the most awesome pork chops ever and the potatoes that flopped.

Yes, that says Eight Ways. That's one of the other reasons I love Mark Bittman. After almost every recipe he tells you how to change it up, make it better, more exciting, not mundane. Tonight I decided to make the Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce. Yum, my belly just did a little dance.

The recipe called for four pork chops, but the package I had languishing in my freezer only had three, so we went with three. Just more yummy sauce to spoon over the top later.

Now here's where you pretend my camera battery didn't die and you see the pork chops happily simmering away in my nice black pan with some garlic and chicken stock. Makes a pretty little picture, doesn't it?


After the chops are cooked you take them out, keep them warm and work on the sauce. There's the host of characters up there. Capers are also awesome in the sauce, but I didn't realize I was out until I opened the fridge. Oh well, next time.

You see, I cheated a little. I've actually made these a couple of times before. (The first time with capers, delicious!) The Mr. was at a dinner meeting, the Little Lady was happily eating crackers for dinner and I had these pork chops that needed to be cooked. Don't hate, it's just how it happened. Doesn't that sauce look lovely?

Then you add the chops back into the sauce and let them love each other for a little bit. It's good. So good that I ate the third little fella for lunch the next day. On a sandwich. With the sauce as a spread. Whoo-boy. It was good.

The flopped potatoes. See what that Mark Bittman did again? Ten ways to do potatoes! Who doesn't need to know ten ways to make braised potatoes? For this I chose to make the Cheddar and Horseradish Braised Potatoes. Sounds divine, doesn't it?

It seems easy enough. You brown some potato chunks in a little bit of oil, cook them with some chicken stock and then add in the cheese and horseradish.

Well, somewhere between perfectly done potato chunks and creamy, silky, cheesy goodness; this recipe went all down hill for me. There was too much liquid, not nearly enough salt and I had to add heaps of extra horseradish to even taste it. I was about to throw the whole dish. I was so disappointed. I was upset that I wasted almost a whole quart of chicken stock. But then I had an epiphany.

Why not mashed them up and make them the most delicious, silky, cheesy mashed potatoes ever! So that's what I did. The Mr. was beyond words when he sat down to eat this hearty little supper. It was tasty, easy, and except for the extra liquid with the potatoes, exactly what I've come to expect from Mark Bittman.



*Just a little disclaimer. I'm not getting paid to write these "reviews". These are all cookbooks that I have in my kitchen. I am not going to post the actual recipes because I'm pretty sure that would be copyright infringement and I don't really feel like going to court today. Or any day really. If at any time I do receive a cookbook from an author or a publisher (wouldn't that be grand!) I will give you a full disclosure; and my honest opinion.


What?! You're still reading? Go out and buy this cookbook already!

16 February 2010

Five Reasons Why I Love the Olympics


  1. All sorts of good will and happiness about your own country and the world in general. During the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Nations everyone was cheering for everyone else. Nations that don't recognize each other in political life (I'm looking at you China and "Chinese Taipei") can come together in the spirit of competition. I think I just teared up a little.
  2. Bob Costas. From the sports coats he pilfered from my grandfather's closet, to his attempts at making jokes; watching the Olympics just wouldn't be the same if Bob Costas wasn't sitting behind that desk.
  3. Sports that you will quickly forget about ten seconds after the Closing Ceremonies finish. Curling, Skeleton, Luge, Cross Country Skiing, Bobsledding, Ski Jumping, Speed Skating, anyone?
  4. Being an expert in an event after watching two competitors finish and listening to thirty seconds of commentary. "Look Mr.! Look how tight her knees are, how her head doesn't even bobble up and down. Wow, she got a lot of air on that heli...she's in it for the Gold."
  5. Being able to watch something on TV that everyone else is watching. What can I say? Sometimes being the only one not watching "Project Runway" and "The Real Housewives of ..." can make a lady feel left out. At least this way I can keep up with the chatter at the water cooler.

15 February 2010

Thoughts on Parenthood


"One might as well try to ride two horses moving in different directions,
as to try to maintain in equal force two opposing or contradictory sets of desires."
-Robert Collier

11 February 2010

Food Blogs and a New Feature


I.am.addicted.

I'm sitting here trying to think about what to write about, staring out the window at the lovely sun and sneaking quick peeks to my other open tabs. Would you like to know what those tabs are?


Are we seeing a theme here?

I am obsessed with food. Making it, looking at it, planning it, eating it, sharing with those I love. Anything that has the slightest, the smallest iota or connection to food, I want to know about it. It's getting a little ridiculous I think. I have cook books I've never used. A whole folder in my bookmarks of saved recipes I've never made.

The thing is though, I don't usually cook from a recipe.

I browse recipes to get ideas. To think about flavor combinations. To see what others are eating. To learn new techniques or types of food. The only time I totally follow a recipe is if I'm baking or trying a written recipe for the first time. And then there are usually still substitutions or additions. When I was in college one of the Mr. and my favorite things to do was to sit at Barnes and Noble and just look at books. Sometimes for hours. He would often grab some science fiction or historical book. I would head straight to the cookbook section. I had a notebook that I would write down flavor ideas and the occasional recipe. I kinda wish I knew where that notebook was now.

So in an attempt to "help" my addiction or, probably more accurately, give it some purpose I'm going to start cooking from one of my cook books every week. Not every night, let's not go crazy, but at least two recipes a week I'm going to cook from a book in my "collection". I'll take pictures and do a write up about what I think of the recipes and the book overall. I'm going to tag these posts with "Cookbook Show Down". Why? Because I write this blog and I can.

Once I run out of cookbooks maybe I'll start writing about my favorite food blogs. I'm pretty sure I won't lose interest in food/cooking for a long time.

09 February 2010

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars



The makings of these bars was really a comedy of errors. I didn't have enough oats. I thought I was making a 13x9 pan of bars, but really it was an 8x8. All of the pictures I took of the process and the finished product came out a little wonky. Most of them were blurry. And then, when I tried to find the recipe so I could post it with the pictures... I couldn't find it.

So, I should be telling you to go out and make these bars as soon as you can.

That they are the best combination of PB, Oatmeal and Chocolate Chips...

...Ever.


Instead I'll tell you that I'm searching and searching for the recipe and I'll post it as soon as I can find it. Hopefully soon, so I can make another pan.

08 February 2010

Cures for the Winter Blues


As I promised last Friday, I spent all weekend coming up with ideas that will make the rest of this long, cold (and now, super snowy) Winter go by just a teensy bit faster. As I said, not all are fun; however, they are all ways to either get you out of the house, or make you more productive inside. Take a peek at my list, won't you?

What do you do to ward off the Winter Blues?

05 February 2010

Winter Doldrums


It's the beginning of February and we in the Northern Half of the World have another solid two months of winter left. I've stayed positive up until this point. Days filled with activities. Mornings at the gym. Projects at the house. Lots of good snuggles and movies. Anything to fill the days. But I think the truth has started to sink in.

We have cabin fever.

Even on the days that we do have a full day planned, we still end up at home. What was once a wonderfully cozy, happy to be, laughter-filled home has become boring, messy, I can't wait to leave house. Eh. I would say overall I still feel pretty good, but... But...

I think I'm ready for Spring.

So I've decided that I am going to beat this funk. No down.in.the.dumps.February for me this year. I'm going to get organized, motivated and beat this winter at it's own game. On Monday I'm going to have a list of ways that you can beat your own mid-Winter slump. Ways to stave off boredom and crazy, house-bound looniness. They won't all be fun. No siree, but they will help you get motivated and hopefully take your mind away. Yes, together we will beat this Season. Until then, have a fantastic weekend. Go out and enjoy the new snow, the warm(er) weather and the Super Bowl commercials. I'll be back here Monday, throwing you all a life line.

02 February 2010

My Perfect Morning


I sleep in late (ie. 8am). As my eyes struggle to stay open I smell the delectable, nay divine, scent of a pot of coffee already made and waiting for me in the pot downstairs. The house is quiet. I stumble down the stairs, already anticipating that first sip of coffee. I open the fridge and my favorite creamer is on the door. I open the cupboard, my favorite mug is clean and waiting for me to pour the hot, brown goodness inside.

Nothing like the first sip in the morning. Especially if you didn't have to make it yourself.

I walk around the corner where I see the Mac is up and running. My favorite blogs/websites are sitting open. Ready for me to peruse and comment. As I click tab after tab, I revel in the warmth of the coffee, the click-click of the keys as I type and the silence that abounds. As it turns out, all of my favorite pages were updated over night. Those bloggers--they sure are an insightful, funny bunch.

I stand up to stretch and notice that my book for book club is sitting, waiting, for me on the side table. And who refilled my mug? Those mischievous little sprites, I'll let you live in my house any day if you continue to keep my cup full and warm. I settle in to read a few chapters. The only sound I hear is that of the paper scrape against my hand as I turn a page. I chuckle out loud. My lady friends sure do know how to pick a good book.

I glance at the clock and realize that it's almost eleven. Technically I would suppose that the morning is almost over. Guess I missed breakfast. Oh well, I guess I'll have to catch brunch. I return up the stairs only to find that all of my clothes have been washed, pressed and put away. Sweet. No rummaging around for something to wear today! I put on something comfortable, put in a pair of earrings and head out the door.

I take a deep breath in and revel in the sunshine. Spring is finally here and the grass is just starting to get green. I hop in the car and head to my favorite brunch spot. Lucky me! My favorite outdoor table was just vacated and I slide in as the busboy is wiping it down. I order my cup of coffee and lounge back into my chair. The people watching in this part of town never fails to captivate me. I place my order and stroll inside to find the newspaper. I glance around the busy room. Aha, I found a stack of papers on a newly empty table and swipe them before the other paper seekers can grab them. I browse the headlines, nothing new, and continue looking for the crossword puzzle. Usually, by this time of the morning, they are already completed or the only answers left are the insanely difficult ones that only the trivia junkies can answer.

Believe or not, the puzzle is still empty.

I dig around in my purse, vainly trying to find a pen to use. That's right, I use a pen for the crosswords. I can't stand to write in pencil. Near the bottom I find one. Whew. I would hate for this puzzle to go to waste. I start at the bottom and work my way up. I can answer about every third clue. Not too bad. As I start to get frustrated, my eggs show up. Saved by the large plate of food; I dig in. I think brunch is the best meal of the day. You're combining two meals, so you feel justified in eating a little bit more, a little bit richer. And, since you haven't eaten all day, you're hungry. Food always tastes better when you're hungry.

Satiated, I drain my coffee cup and check my watch. It's half-passed noon. The morning is officially over. That's a good thing. Any more relaxing and I'd have to crawl back into bed. And I've got things to do today.

01 February 2010

Happy Birthday to Me...


Today is the day when I was born into this fantastic world we live in. Usually for my birthday I want to go out, out, out. Dancing and drinks, fabulous dinners and staying up late. This year I opted to celebrate last Friday with a quiet night at home with good drinks, friends and food. This morning I got my free latte from a local chain and renewed my license at the DMV. It actually felt great to get things done. Tonight I'm staying in with the Mr. and the little lady. For some reason take out and a movie just sound perfect this year. I'm looking forward to a year full of big changes, exciting adventures and relaxing moments. Just the way life should be.

Happy Monday everyone!
Enjoy the day of my birth.

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