Monday, November 15, 2010

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Ok, today was just one of those days.

You, know, a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day where EVERYTHING seems to go quite wrong.

So there I was, in the midst of my terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day, when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, like the good blue fairy or Ben & Jerry's ice cream, this fell out of the sky and MADE MY FRIGGIN' DAY.

Yes, folks, it is dun, dun, dun...a recipe for butterbeer, found by none other than one of my best besties in the whole world, Jen "Harry THE Potter/ Ha-la-lay-la"Scott. Jen, a million thanks. Tonight I will make the butterbeer, and the sun will shine again.

Oh, and I'm also going to carve a pumpkin because I forgot to carve it in October.

Over and out.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Re-runs


Today my weekend treat was to re-watch “Julie and Julia.” After about fifteen mouthwatering minutes of the film, I had to rush to the grocery store. Then, my hands smelling of garden-fresh tomatoes and cradling a baguette like a baby, I rushed home to make bruschetta so my taste buds and I could finish the movie together. Every scene is a delight, especially the moment when Julie takes the stuffed duck out of the oven in its perfect crust…that gets me every time I watch this movie.

Julie Powell (whose autobiographical book, Julie and Julia, is the basis for the film) is shown as a rather whiny loser who at 29 finds herself in a dead-end job, living over a pizzeria, feeling like a failure and sinking into hopelessness. But the spark of an idea --the decision to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook and blog about it—changes her life completely. I love that concept. And who couldn’t love Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child? After reading My Life in France, I can see even more that her characterization of Child is perfect. Oh, and let’s not forget the Childs’ love story: a gangly and rather comical spinster measuring 6’ 2” meets an older, balding yet dapper man, and they fall madly in love and travel the world together…she adores him and he supports her in everything she does, gives her wings and watches her fly. It’s pure sweetness because it really happened. That concept of delighting in your spouse as a person, of doing everything you can to make their dreams materialize--I see that in my husband, and I love the movie even more for that reason.

Yes, yes, I’ve written about the book and movie before…but darling, I’m rather obsessed. I have the lamentable of habit of becoming immersed in an idea, book, movie, life story, or, of course, a food item. Often the fascination never goes away. My poor husband should be sainted for showing unflagging interest in my babblings about each obsession. I was going to treat you to a list of them, but then I would probably bore you so much, dear reader, and what have you done to deserve that?

Happy weekend, all. I hope your favorite sports team beats the opponent soundly in the skirmish, as Brian Regan would say. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stephanie Nielson, A Virtuous Woman

I can't stop reading Stephanie Nielson's blog at http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com.
Stephanie is amazing. Reading her story has changed my outlook on life, and I pray that she will be blessed for her fortitude and strength.

For anyone who doesn't know her story, Stephanie survived a plane crash in 2008. She was in a long coma, and was badly burned. Her face and body are covered with scars. It is hard for her to do everyday things like open a ziploc bag or take a shower. I watched an interview with Stephanie at http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Blogger-Stephanie-Nielsons-Daily-Struggles-Video. It was truly heartbreaking to hear her adorable little boy saying "Mommy, pick me up. I want you to pick me up," and to hear her say "I can't pick you up, sweetie." I choked up when I saw the Nielson family picture taken before the plane crash--a beautiful mother, handsome father, and four sweet children. I cried when Stephanie (in her blog) told of the day that the carpet cleaning man accidentally saw her naked after she was leaving the shower. Embarrassed and ashamed at the distressing incident and her disfigured body, she cried for thirty minutes and snuck out of the house so that she wouldn't have to face him.

I feel so guilty for any time that I have felt dissatisfied with my appearance for any reason. From now on I want to just be grateful for my normal and therefore beautiful face, my normal and therefore beautiful body, my ability to use my hands, hug a child, kiss my husband. I want to focus on how much God has blessed me, and not concentrate on what I lack.

Stephanie is amazing. Reading her story has changed my outlook on life, and I pray that God will bless her for her strength and fortitude in the face of this devastating trial. Like me, Stephanie belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She says that her love for God has increased, and that He gives her comfort when she has difficulty. Bless you, Stephanie! Bless you for reaching out to others through talks, interviews and blogging when you could just hide away in bitterness and pain. Bless you for sticking with your faith and your God, even when life can be unbearably hard for you. You are an inspiration for all of us, and my prayers are with you during these dark days of your life. Thank you, you wonderful, virtuous woman. "For who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is far above rubies...Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:10, 30-31)

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Special Sauce

What a weekend! On the first weekend in October and the first weekend in April, we see broadcasted to the world the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hear the words of the Lord's prophet, apostles and disciples. The words were uplifting and comforting to our souls. It's truly a time of spiritual renewal and personal guidance. If you didn't get a chance to watch it, go to http://lds.org/conference/sessions/display/0,5239,23-1-1298,00.html.

Between Conference sessions, my husband and I enjoyed experimenting with a new recipe for dinner. We made stuffed bell peppers with mole sauce (pronounced "mo-lay", it is a Mexican sweet/spicy mixture). They were excellent, and I had to share the recipe. I found this at allrecipes.com.

Note: Don't have all the ingredients on hand? Never fear, I have a list of excellent substitutions at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!


Stuffed Bell Peppers with Special Sauce
Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 cup water

4 large Anaheim chile peppers (I used red, yellow and green bell peppers...yum!!!)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons hot chili powder
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 (1 ounce) square bittersweet chocolate, chopped

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  • Place the chicken, taco seasoning mix, and water into a resealable plastic zipper bag, seal, and massage the bag with your fingers to mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
    Cut the stem and top 1/2 inch from the top of each pepper, and carefully remove the seeds without cutting holes or breaking skin of the peppers. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and immerse the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes; cool immediately in a bowl of cold water. Drain the peppers and set aside.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the chocolate until it melts and blends into the sauce. Allow the sauce to gently simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain the marinated chicken breasts, and place into a skillet over medium heat. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes; remove chicken to a bowl, and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat, and lightly mix in a bowl with Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, and cilantro. Stuff each pepper with 1/4 of the chicken mixture, and place on a baking sheet.
    Preheat the oven's broiler and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
    Broil the stuffed peppers until blistered and hot, about 4 1/2 minutes per side. Serve with sauce.
Substitutions and Additions:
  • If you don't have cream cheese, use 1 cup of plain yogurt.
  • If you don't have cilantro, use parsley and celery salt to taste (mostly parsley with a little celery salt).
  • If you don't have bittersweet chocolate, use 3 tbsp. of cocoa powder with 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. of sugar.
  • I also recommend adding red pepper if you like things spicy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don't let the title turn you off:

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb

"Marry Him" is wonderful! My husband and I have been reading it aloud together. It's fast-paced, informative, surprising, funny, heartbreaking, and appeals to both men and women. I think that any woman age 18 to 45 would especially profit from it. If you have the time, I recommend reading it along with "Why He Didn't Call You Back" by Rachel Greenwald, which is really fun and will give you even more context for this book.

Why He Didn't Call You Back

Why He Didn't Call You Back: 1,000 Guys Reveal What They Really Thought About You After the First Date by Rachel Greenwald

Even though this book is geared toward single women in the dating world, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found some helpful tips for my own life. Fun, short, practical advice for any woman, especially if you're wondering how to better attract "the One."

PS This is NOT a "you can't get a man, you poor thing" book AT ALL. It just helps daters be more aware of the image they are presenting. After reading this, we see the negative things we accidentally may be conveying, and we learn practical ways to eradicate them. It's not about putting on a fake face, but about changing any accidental bad impressions.

Rolo truffles

My new favorite treat is the simplest thing on the planet: put some pretzels on a cookie sheet that's covered in tin foil. Put one rolo on each pretzel. Bake at 250 degrees for 4 min. Put 1/2 pecan on each rolo. Let cool, and serve. Voila! Delicious, dainty, and 5 minutes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

All About Eve, All About Bette


If there's anything I like better than reading a dead (and/or great) actor's biography, it's reading a dead (and/or great) actor's biography while watching a great classic movie starring said actor. Today it's "All About Eve" and Bette Davis' biography. What fun! When I get a chance, I think Christopher Plummer will be next.



Image from ctscanhollywood.wordpress.com/2009/10/

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recipe Retraction

The recipe I posted for sushi rolls was not the one I meant to share (it's one I haven't tried), so I edited that post and put the right recipe in (the one I've tried and loved).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

3 Essential Recipes to Indian Food Bliss

Well, I've posted a phenomenal recipe for mango chutney, and if you're going to eat chutney you need some stellar curry and raita recipes. So, here they are: chicken coconut curry, spinach curry, and cucumber raita. I recommend eating them all at once, but that's just me. May you have an amazing Indian night. Namaste.

Chicken Coconut Curry
( I like to simmer this in a crock pot for hours...the longer you cook it, the better it tastes.)

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed, diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
Directions
  1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear.
  3. Pour coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar into the pan, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. (or, as I said earlier, simmer for hours in a crock pot)



Spinach Curry

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp ginger
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3/4 cups carrot, grated
2 cups tomatoes, finely diced
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped well
4 small potatoes chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup sour cream (plain yogurt works great)
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Directions:
1. Heat 3 Tbsp of butter or oil in a large frying pan
2. Add: ginger, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, and stir.
3. Add sour cream and stir.
4. Add spinach and salt, then saute it all for a few minutes.
5. Put the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth.
6. In a different pan, heat 2-3 Tbs. butter or oil and saute potatoes until a little brown.
7. Cover and cook until golden brown
8. Add spinach mixture, stir together, and then saute for a few minutes.
9. Add fresh chopped cilantro and serve with rice, raita, or chutney...or all of them!




Cucumber Raita
(This recipe is really very much about your preference. Play with it!)

Ingredients
  • 1-2 hot house cucumbers (the long skinny kind)- peeled, seeded and thinly sliced (number of cucumbers based on your preference)
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (normal plain yogurt works great)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped (again, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar (I like less than this...again, to your taste!!!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
Directions
  1. Stir together the cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, mint, cilantro, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours, preferably overnight. (Short on time? It's great after 15-30 min. of refrigeration, too)


Chicken curry recipe from allrecipes.com
Raita recipe a mixture of two recipes from allrecipes.com
Spinach curry from a friend of mine.

Bruschetta

We had Italian night the other day, which consisted of bruschetta, tomato-basil soup, and homemade gelato (aka, dark chocolate brownie caramel ice cream coated in oreo bits). That was a night to remember. Here's bruschetta, the way I like it (adore it, actually, but I digress).

Feel free to modify according to taste. If it's unclear, let me know.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf french bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or as much as it takes to cover your loaf)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (or as much as it takes to cover your loaf)
  • 1-3 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped (the number of tomatoes depends on the size and your preference, but make sure you have an equal amount of basil)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil (or more, based on your taste and number of tomatoes)
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven's broiler.
  2. Slice bread loaf in half. Brush each side with olive oil and garlic. Broil, oil-side up, until barely golden. Remove from broiler pan and cool. Cut into pieces
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together roasted tomato, basil, and a few sprinkles of vinegar. Allow it to marinate for 5-10 min. Sprinkle mixture evenly on each toast portion. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.
This recipe from allrecipes.com, with A LOT of modifications by moi.

Honey Ginger Shrimp

I mentioned this dish in my last post as a good companion for sushi rolls, so I thought I'd post the recipe here. It is off the hook!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • red pepper flakes to taste (Note: red pepper is very hot, so be careful. I like 1/2 tsp or less.)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped (Note: I use 1 onion, and love it. See what works for you)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon honey (Note: I like to double and sometimes triple the amount of ginger and honey, but again, do what your taste buds tell you)
  • 1 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and honey; cook and stir until fragrant. Add the shrimp, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring as needed, until shrimp are pink and opaque. Serve immediately.

This recipe from allrecipes.com, with a few additions and subtractions by moi.

Sushi rolls

If you, like me, love love love sushi rolls, then this is the recipe for you. Surprisingly easy to follow, it gives you restaurant-quality sushi rolls. Delish!!!! My husband and I had these with hoisin sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger on the side, and honey-ginger shrimp. Seafood/sushi heaven, I tell ya. (Don't get freaked out when it mentions a bamboo sushi mat. You can use a dish towel instead).
Warning: One batch makes A LOT of sushi rolls (probably serves about four people comfortably as a main dish)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked short-grain white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup imitation crabmeat, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 sheets nori (dry seaweed)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 cucumber, cut into thin spears
  • 2 avocados - pitted, peeled, and sliced the long way

Directions

  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water until the rinse water is no longer cloudy, drain well, and place in a covered pan or rice cooker with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover the pan. Allow the rice to simmer until the top looks dry, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let stand for 10 minutes to absorb the rest of the water.
  2. Mix the rice vinegar and sugar in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved, and stir the mixture into the cooked rice until well combined. Allow the rice to cool, and set aside.
  3. Mix the imitation crabmeat with mayonnaise in a bowl, and set aside. To roll the sushi, cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic wrap. With wet fingers, firmly pat a thin, even layer of prepared rice over the nori, leaving 1/4 inch uncovered at the bottom edge of the sheet. Sprinkle the rice with about 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and gently press them into the rice. Carefully flip the nori sheet over so the seaweed side is up.
  4. Place 2 or 3 long cucumber spears, 2 or 3 slices of avocado, and about 1 tablespoon of imitation crab mixture in a line across the nori sheet, about 1/4 from the uncovered edge. Pick up the edge of the bamboo rolling sheet, fold the bottom edge of the sheet up, enclosing the filling, and tightly roll the sushi into a cylinder about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Once the sushi is rolled, wrap it in the mat and gently squeeze to compact it tightly.
  5. Cut each roll into 1 inch pieces with a very sharp knife dipped in water.
Remember, If you do not have a bamboo sushi mat, the easiest way to roll the sushi is to use a clean dish tow

Recipe from allrecipes.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mango Chutney

I have an obsession with chutney, and so when I found this quick and easy recipe, I had to blog it immediately! :)
I found it at soupandbread.org (an awesome food blog I mentioned earlier). It takes five minutes to prepare, and looks delicious. Bon appetit!

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized ripe mangos, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 small firm, tart apples (gala, granny smith etc.), diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. peeled ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/3 C. cider vinegar
  • ¼ C. panela, jaggery or other natural, dark sugar
  • 2 small dried hot chilis, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • ¼ c currants or raisins
  • 3 peppercorns
  • Seeds from 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Combine first 10 ingredients (through cardamom) in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mango begins to break down and some of the vinegar boils off (about 5 minutes).
  • Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Serve cool. Chutney can be stored refrigerated in a sealed jar for up to a month.
from: http://soupandbread.org/?p=180

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review

I just finished reading "Shelley, also Known as Shirley," the autobiography of Shelley Winters. Although I had seen only two of the movies that Ms. Winters was in, I found myself immersed in her biography from page one. Friends with Howard Hughes and Marilyn Monroe; wooed by the likes of Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn, and Ronald Coleman; Shelley Winters keeps her readers fascinated--and a not a little disbelieving--from beginning to end. Did Errol Flynn really call the police to help her get more publicity? Did Marilyn Monroe really, at Shelley's suggestion, pretend to break her leg to get out of the clutches of a terrible director? Who knows, but it's great fun to read.

This book taught me a lot about the inner workings of the Hollywood studio system in the early 40s and 50s, and furnished me with a list of classic movies that I must see-- it even satisfied my appetite for classic movie/actor trivia...for now. :)

Fiery Carrot Dip and a fun new blog

I have just discovered a delightful blog called "Soup and Bread" at soupandbread.org. On the site I found this intriguing recipe for "fiery carrot dip," and I thought I would share it with you here. After you try the recipe, check out the blog--it's fantastic!



From http://soupandbread.org/?p=328
Fiery Carrot Dip

"It’s great on pita chips, but we served it the other day on a kalamata ciabatta and it was delicious. From time to time I’ve served it sprinkled with feta and olives, but it’s beautiful on its own as well, with just a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper on top.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs carrots
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Roughly chop carrots and boil in salted water until very tender. Strain and puree the carrots until smooth with all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Serve with bread or pita chips, plain or topped with kalamata olives and feta cheese.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A month ago I saw the movie "Julie and Julia," and I fear my life will never be the same again. The movie chronicles the story of Julia Child, the famous cook/TV personality, and Julie, a modern-day woman who decides to cook all of Julia Child's recipes (from her cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking") in one year. She begins blogging about the experience and finally begins to find passion and purpose in her life. The movie's portrayal of mouthwatering dishes nearly left me in a puddle of drool, and the story of Julia Child's life deeply intrigued me.

I bought Mrs. Child's autobiography, "My Life in France," and devoured it in one gulp. This fascinating woman, her interesting experiences, tenacious and cheerful spirit, unbelievable recipes and delightful writing style made the book a veritable feast. As I read, I fell in love with what Julia describes: the French reverence and passion for food, their careful preparation and insistence on fresh ingredients, their "food clubs" and friendly arguments about recipes...their willingness to stand in line for hours for a fresh-made sausage.

It's official: I simply must go to France and experience all of this--at least once. At the very least, I will buy "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and do my best to recreate the recipes with the best of the woeful, sterile, frozen American supermarket ingredients that are available to me.