Monday, April 19, 2010

Sometimes you just have to make it work

In the spirit of my friend's Make It Work Mondays, I spent today making it work. I've been tired, a bit under the weather, and a bit down for a while now, and today I was just going to be happy, darn it.

This is a great goal, but not the best plan for a New Hire Monday at work, because those days mean an early start, lots of things going wrong, and me putting out fires and never getting enough done. But I persevered and made my Monday work, and brought smiles to people's faces, and had a smile on my face for at least a portion of the work day. And you know what the best part of getting to work an hour early? Getting to leave an hour early!

So I get home early, excited to get started on some delicious dinner prep and maybe even take in a yoga class! I decide, yes, this is the day to sign up for a free week at the hot yoga place next door, Sol Yoga. I take a quick trip to Trader Joe's for a few dinner ingredients, and then get home to prep the savory bread pudding I will make. Only to find out that the bread cubes I prepped have gone moldy. After a closer examination I determined that only about a quarter were bad, so I made it work with the majority that were still good. Of course, all the picking through each and every bread cube took some time, so I didn't get any other prep for dinner done before I headed to yoga.

Which was crazy packed, and my first day, but I squeezed in, and proceeded to have a wonderful workout and did a lot of deep breathing and deep thinking. And a LOT of sweating. Maybe you didn't need to know that.

I return home to finish making dinner, make some adjustments to the recipe to account for the smaller amount of bread cubes, and discover that my dill has been eaten by some sort of bugs. At this point I am thinking that maybe the universe does not want me to make Savory Asparagus Bread Pudding, but I will not be stopped. I use instead a dill mix seasoning (looks like bugs don't like lemon, garlic and jalepano with their dill), and make it work. (Note: click through to the blog to read the recipe and see the pretty photos. Her food blog is one of my favorites, you should definitely check it out)

Now that it's out of the oven, I think I'll enjoy my (very late) dinner and finish out my Monday feeling pretty good. How was your Monday? Did you make it work for you?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I have to say I'm not impressed with Brown's work. I remember reading the Da Vinci Code when it came out and everyone was gaga for it, and I unimpressed then too. I had heard this one was better, but no.

Although the plot moves right along and is engaging, I found myself laughing at the writing most of the time. The first bit that clued me in to the bad writing was the description of the protagonist, along with the revelation of his nickname. Come on, really?

Another unintentionally laughable moment:"He never suspected that later that night, in a country hundreds of miles away, the information would save his life."

And my favorite ridiculous statement:"The marble cushioned his fall with all the grace of cold steel."

Seriously? This was a NYT best-seller? I give it two stars because it had some redeeming moments (the scene with Vittoria and her adoptive father discussing girls doing math was the best moment of the whole book) and it certainly was a fast read. But for guilty-pleasure reading I liked the Twilight series better - she does better cliff-hanger chapter endings and she appeals to the 13 year old girl in me. You should skip this one, really.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner

Of all the meals during the day, breakfast is my favorite. I could literally eat breakfast at every meal and be quite happy. I restrain myself most of the time, but tonight I felt like it was a breakfast night, mainly because the ingredients were there and I was feeling pretty lazy.

After an early work day, followed by cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, and messing about with our fussy vacuum cleaner, I was not feeling very inspired or full of zest to create a challenging meal. I examined the fridge, the pantry, the freezer, and found my inspiration in a half package of Soyrizo that I had frozen for a later meal. Well, the later meal is now, it turns out. I had eggs, and baby potatoes and onion, and that meant I had breakfast for dinner.

Soyrizo and eggs are just delicious, and quite easy. Soyrizo also is so much better for you than Chorizo, and tastes very very very (very very) similar. I can't really distinguish the difference except for noticing less grease, but I'm sure my Chicana friends would disagree. :) However, it suits my mostly veggie needs, and tastes darn good. Cooked up with scrambled eggs, it's a great source of protein and packed with flavor.

The roasted oven potato recipe I got from Vegan with a Vengeance, by the same woman who brought us the best cookbook ever, Vegan Cupcakes take over the World. VwaV is a fun little cookbook, with all sorts of great ideas, but it seems like some of the recipes have not been tested or proofed as well as they should have been. I feel the same about her other cookbook, Veganomicon. Just do a sanity check before actually starting any of the recipes to make sure that all the bits are there, is all I'm saying.

Anyway, my new favorite breakfast potato recipe is this one, and it's quite easy and so delicious. Give it a shot next time you're serving brunch, or just want to have delicious potatoes for dinner! My favorite bits are the crispy crispy onions - yum!

Herb-Roasted Potatoes
from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
serves about 4

3 lbs small red potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced 1/2 in. thick
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp coarse sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 tsp rosemary, fresh, chopped
4 tsp thyme, fresh, chopped

Preheat oven to 450. Place the potatoes and onions on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with oil and salt and pepper, toss to coat. Roast for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the herbs, and toss to coat again. Roast about 20 minutes longer, until brown and tender.

For this evening's rendition I used baby red and yellow gold potatoes, and only thyme since I was out of fresh rosemary. In the past I've used just large yellow gold potatoes chopped up into chunks about 1 1/2 in or thereabouts, same with larger red potatoes. It's a very forgiving recipe, and scales very well either up or down (I just make enough for J and I for dinner/breakfast).

And now with a tummy full of breakfast, I wind down for the evening and get ready for bed. Seems a bit backwards, somehow, yet also so very comforting.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Pleasant Weekend

There hasn't been near enough blogging going on here, and I apologize for the lack of updates. For some reason January was a pretty blah month for me, and I'm hoping that I've turned the corner to a better mind-set. I've certainly been exercising more this week, and that is helping quite a bit. I also got some sun today, at our local farmer's market.

Flowers from the market

J and I love the market, and it's every Sunday year round here in La Jolla. Today we picked up some baby potatoes, golden beats, apples, dried apricots, fresh pasta, and ate some delicious veggie chili and a cheese tamale. I also picked up some beautiful flowers, from my favorite flower vendor. I feel very lucky that I live someplace where I can buy local fruits and veggies, get some sunlight, and take in the wonderful weather almost every week. I know a lot of the country is under several inches (feet?) of snow right now, and that may very well be me next year (who knows where the winds will take us); but I am very happy with where we are right now, and am trying to live in the moment and appreciate what we've got.

Cali appreciates the flowers from the market...
but not the flash I had to use to capture this before she pulled the greenery right out of the vase.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Magic Scone Recipe

I love making scones. I've been making scones for years, and the recipe I use is really just a starting point to whatever flavors or ideas I've been wanting to try out. On New Year's Day I baked almond-apricot scones. I figure if I wanted to set a good start to the year to take it in a positive direction, I couldn't do much better than baking scones.

Apricot-Almond Scones

3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 tsp baking baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup butter, cold
1 egg
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
1 tsp almond extract
about 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds
about 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet (I use the wax paper that I take off the stick of butter I am using)

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spice). Feel free to use brown sugar, or other spices. I found that 1/2 tsp of cardamom was not enough, and I would use more next time.

Cut in butter, either with one of those handy pastry cutter widgets, or two knives.

Beat the egg and 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl with the almond extract. Stir this into flour mixture until moistened. Add more milk a little at a time until the dough holds together well, but is not too wet. Add the almonds and apricots and knead into the dough while in the bowl.

Now you'll want to knead the dough just a bit on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half, and press or roll each half into a circle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Put the wedges on your prepped baking sheet, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (you may have to press the sugar a bit into the top to get it to stick).

Bake about 15 minutes, until they are golden brown and the smell is driving you mad. Enjoy with butter, jam, clotted cream or just a glass of milk.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Pampered Evening

I've been meaning to post again. In fact, I've been meaning to post two or three more recipes that I've made recently. But for one reason or another I haven't. Tonight was another opportunity, and yet today was not a great day, and by the time I got home I was raging hungry, which meant I was grumpy, which meant that my plans to make a delicious gourmet vegan meal went out the window. J went to get us Chipotle instead, our stand-by take-out meal.

Food definitely helped, but the combination of work disappointment, grumpy-brain and PMS did not succumb to the tasty guacamole. So I felt it only right that a little pampering was in order.

The ingredients: a hot bath with yummy smelling LUSH products, several cookies and a cup of milk, and an oft-read book. Steep one hour, then put on PJs and relax in bed.

What's your recipe for a pampered evening?

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 Year in Review - Books

According to Goodreads (which is a great site that you should join, by the by) I read 42 books in 2009.

Of those 42 books, 23 of them were a first time read for me. 5 were graphic novels/comic volumes. I read several complete series last year: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Earthsea Cycle, and yes, Twilight. I also read two of the three Millennium books (the third hasn't come out yet).

It seems like less reading than I thought I did, but I don't count how many Manga series I devoured like so many delicious candy cane jo-jo's. Let's just say that it was a lot.

That being said, I do want to read more books this year that I haven't actually read before. The problem with that plan is... which books? I want to read books that are good, so I'm not going to pick up a book and read it if it hasn't been recommended to me. So, know any good ones?