That's the place to go for my new and improved blog. Say Goodbye to I'm a Food Blogger and Hello to I'm a Blogger!


More Walmart Wine

Ahhhh, $3 wine. I wanted some wine tonight, but didn't want to open one of my decent bottles, so I stopped by Walmart and thought I'd try more cheap wine, just to see what it's like. I almost laughed when I saw they had a line of $3.97 wines that included a Malbec, which is a wine I usually very much love. So, how is the cheapest Malbec in the world? Well, it's not great. Will probably not finish the bottle, but probably will finish the glass. I mean, I've had worse glasses of wine.

Oh yeah, but not only was it cheap, but it has a cute label. Two signs that the wine may be less than tasty.

Put Your Hands in the Air

Hey! It's Friday morning! Today's plan: work for many hours, stop by the gym, come home and pack to go back to Illinois for the weekend. I'm going back to pack my stuff for moving into the duplex next month.

Right now on the local Fox morning news they're talking to this French hairstylist with a heavy accent, and the female anchor is just swooning. Entertaining.

Anyway, I am taking my camera this weekend. We want to go to that winery that was closed last weekend, play tennis, and maybe go back to our favorite pizza place. Otherwise, I'm really going to try hard to stay focused and pack. I tend to be a major procrastinator when it comes to this type of thing, so I really hope I can just get it done.


Speaking of Old...

Y'all, I'm having an experience I really shouldn't be having at my tender age. I'm 336 pages into this stupid novel I'm reading, and I can't recall if I've read this book before. This book was first published in 2008, so if I've already read it, it couldn't have been too long ago, even. Everytime some big thing happens in the story it kinda seems familiar, but I don't know what's going to happen next, but I kinda feel like after I finish the book I'll be like, 'oh yeah... NOW I remember this book!'

I guess it doesn't matter so much if I've read it before, I like to re-read books, but the fact I have no idea at page 336 is a bit of a nuisance.

Also, storms!!


Old Timey Photo

And look at this! It's me and Phil circa a long time ago. You can tell because, well, you can just tell it's from about a decade ago. Obviously we are at Henry's.

So Ill

Henry and I went back to southern Illinois for Easter weekend, and Henry liked it so much he stayed. We (by this I mean Phil and I) decided it was better for Hen to live with Phil for now, since he's got the big fenced in yard. I quite miss the little dog, but I know he's happier and more relaxed where he is. When I move next month Hen will come back then. So, 'till then, it's just quiet and a bit weird here at this sublet. I will probably not do a three month sublet again.

Anyway, I'm here to blog about the great So Ill weekend. Phil's mom and stepdad came for the weekend, and it was very beautiful and sunny and warm. Phil's mom brought pickled eggs (is that what they're called?) so Phil and I had pickled deviled eggs for lunch Sunday.

After lunch we went out to the last couple of wineries we'd never visited. The first one we went to was rustic and set back off the road and was so gorgeous... too bad they were closed for Easter-- I really wanted to sit on this porch and drink in the sun.

Luckily there's no shortage of decks along the Shawnee Hills wine trail; we ended up at one of one of the larger wineries, Von Jacob. I had a mediocre glass of Chardonel and Phil had a water. It was a lovely, though very windy, day.

We went back home and grilled some delicious ribeyes and a ton of veggies. We had a foil packet of potatoes, onions, and carrots, a foil packet of Indian-spiced sweet potatoes, and a foil packet of bell peppers and mushrooms. Phil'd got a bottle of wine on our wine trail trip that afternoon, so we had a nice local bottle of some red, Chambourcin? Chancellor? I don't remember. Next trip back to So Ill I'll try to remember to bring my real camera, so I won't have to rely on my cell phone. These pics don't look too too bad though, I guess. But here, I'm moving my camera to a clearly visible spot right now.

Oh, the crappiest thing that happened today: I was nuking a bowl of soup at work and when I went to take the soup out of the mike I somehow spilled it all over the inside of the microwave, under the microwave, on the shelf the mike sits on, the counter below, the floor, my clothes... that was, um, frustrating.

The best thing that happened today was that when I got on the elliptical at the gym a good episode of the Office was just starting on TBS, so I got to watch that.


Warning: Blogging May Be Hazardous to Your Health

I'm typing this entry one-handed, because I have what I believe to be a wicked case of tendonitis in my left wrist. I think part of why I'm in such pain is my stupid laptop. I put my wrist in a bit of a weird position to use that little mousepad, and that coupled with recent employment that requires frequent mousing and typing is too much for my little wrist to handle, I guess. I'm seeing an orthopedic doc in a couple of weeks (after that all-important insurance kicks in), at which time my theory may be shot to hell, but I don't really care... I just need relief! FYI: The hardest things to do with my non-dominant hand: teeth brushing and using a knife.

Phil recommended I drink plenty of wine to help the pain. It can't hurt!


Pizza Sauce

I was at my dad's the other week and they had just finished roasting the ingredients for the homemade pizza sauce they use for their Friday night pizzas. It smelled incredible, and I will be making this as soon as I get my own kitchen and kitchen things.

4 lb. quartered roma tomatoes
1 c. chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
2 t. salt
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. sugar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, red pepper, and sugar in a baking casserole dish. Toss with olive oil, roast for 40 minutes, 'till tomatoes have softened. Remove from oven, mash with masher, immersion blender, or stick in a food processor, depending on preference. Stir in basil. Use or freeze.


What Happens When a Bunch of Wallaces Get Together?

Three guesses.

Like you need the other two...
Cousin Annie was in town last weekend, so the Indianapolis branch of the Wallace family met at Easley Winery downtown. We tasted many of their wines then took a tour of their little operation. They produce a lot of wines, but their space is remarkably small.

After the winery, Annie and I made fish tacos, beans and rice, and sauteed asparagus for Aunt Sandy and Uncle Phil, but you'll just have to take my word for it, as no photographs exist.


Clean Dog

Henry is not a fan of baths, therefore I do not really enjoy bathing him. He stands there in the tub shaking, afraid to move... it makes me feel bad to put him through such an ordeal. To reward him for a job well done, he got a new toy today.

Henry also does not love to be photographed.


Funny Dog

Ah, it's nice to have Henry around. Tonight he was super excited and full of energy when I got home, so we ran around the house playing that funny game he likes, kinda like hide and seek mixed with chase. Then it was dinner time and he did this newish thing he's been doing... he takes a few pieces of food and puts them in a different room and comes back to them at a later time. Here are pics of the food he left and him coming back to get it later.


A New Home, You Say?

Indeed. Henry and I are moving into a duplex in the Cottage Home neighborhood in May. We're signing a year lease (I guess technically I'm the only one signing), so when Phil is done in Illinois he'll come live with us too!

Well, I tried in vain to get a map of the area up here, but again, the computer is smarter than I. If you want to see where it is (a bit east of Mass Ave, a bit west of my brother's house), use your favorite online map and input '930 N. Highland Indianapolis'

Maybe this weekend I'll get over there and take a picture of the outside, at least. Maybe I could even get a photograph of the inside of the sister unit, because my friends Crystal and Chad live there! Yes-- we're moving in next door to friends! Henry will get to share the fenced in backyard with Silas, their adorable lab/shepard mix (I think?) with huge ears that are so cute. Once we move there I'm sure Silas' photo will be on the blog sometimes. We've got covered, off-street parking, backyard deck, loft-style upstairs bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms, updated kitchen, washer/dryer in unit, great stained wood borders around the doors and windows, etc. Very excited to be in a cool apartment, to live near friends, to have a fenced in yard, and all the other stuff.


I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Today I came home at lunch to enjoy some quality time with Henry, so I was able to go to the gym after work! Normally I don't like making unnecessary trips (like driving home on my lunch hour), but something's got to give here, and I think this is the best way to make this work. Henry and I are looking forward to May, when we move into a permanent residence in a neighborhood with sidewalks. Until then, we're just going to do what we can. I'll come home at lunch, and Henry will be the adorable, loving pet he is.

Also today, I figured out what to eat and when during the day to keep energy levels high and not be starving when I get home for the night. I can't figure out a way to correct that run-on sentence-- sorry. Because I know how curious you are, here it is: 8:30am coffee; 10:30am PB&J on whole wheat; 2:30pm whole wheat pita with turkey, hummus, and olives and a thing of greek yogurt; 6:30pm frozen dinner with veggies and rice; 9pm 4 whole wheat crackers (pre-workout); 10:30pm that smoothie from a couple entries ago. I know it seems a bit high on carbs and a bit low on veggies, but I'm working on it.


The Challenge

Ok, I'm now a two-being household. That means my comings and goings mean something not only to my schedule, but to Henry's as well. So.... right after Henry on the list of priorities comes to gym. It seems to make the most sense that I get up and go to the gym before work, come back home and get ready for work, then come straight home after work. But that requires waking up, which is not something I'm very good at. Today Henry let me sleep until 9am; I thought he'd wake me up at 7 or 8. I went to the gym as a single dog owner before, so why does it seem more difficult now? This week I'm going to try the morning work out. If this doesn't work well, I'll try to make a night work out schedule (which I prefer), but I think it's better for Henry if I do a morning work out. So just do it and quit making excuses!

This is Henry telling me to quit whining and start sweating.


Power Breakfast

My mom told me about this smoothie recipe that Food Network personality Alton Brown likes, so I made a couple of adjustments and plan on using it most days for breakfast.  If you want his original recipe, which uses bananas and does not use protein powder, you can look on foodtv.com and search through his recipes.  I don't like bananas and do like protein, fyi.

Power Smoothie
1/2 c. skim milk
1/2 c. mango/peach juice
1 c. frozen berries
1 scoop your favorite vanilla flavored protein powder

Put all in blender jar and blend till smooth.  I use my stick blender... just put all ingredients in a plastic mug and immerse the blender and blend till smooth.  

This drink has under 400 calories and you can drink on it for an hour-- it makes a lot of smoothie.  Also, it packs a ton of protein and fiber.  And it's delicious!  Great way to start the day.  A couple of days ago I  used blueberry juice, and the drink was just SO BERRY-Y.  Using the mango-peach juice (V8 Fusion brand juice) lightened it up the perfect amount.


New Fob

I got a new fob, and I am able to access the gym 24/7, although I don't take full advantage of that.  The fob even works, I used it last night.


I'm Trying, Y'all

See that light grey appendage on my keychain?  That's my fob.  It's function is to let me into my gym during non-staffed hours.  I went last night after work, around 9pm, and wasn't allowed in.  Spirits undaunted, I went home and did lots of push ups and sit ups, vowing to wake up early to go in the morning when a staff member was there.  Woke up, got ready, went to the gym... still no entry, and apparently no staff member was there, because the door was locked.  Went back to my car and called the gym.  The manager answered, saying she would be there at 9:30am, could I wait in the parking lot?  Well, not really, 'cause I have to get ready for work.  So I'll stop on my way to work, get a new fob, then workout tonight.  I'm not giving up!


Beet It!

This was not so much cooking as it was heating, but it's still something I did in the kitchen, so there.  This piece of stuffed salmon is from Trader Joe's.  I think the stuffing was cream cheese, shrimp, and dill.  Tasty.  But the beet!  I was astounded by the yumminess of the beet.  I cleaned the beet well, keeping the skin in tact so the color inside was preserved.  I also rubbed a bit of olive oil over the beet before loosely wrapping it in foil and baking at 425 for about an hour... I removed it from the oven when a knife slid into the beet (through the foil).  I worked the skin off, then cubed the beet and sprinkled it with a spice mixture from, you guessed it, Trader Joe's.  300 calorie dinner, so I had a glass of wine with it.


Technical Difficulties

Ok, it should work to comment on posts again, but I can't get it to put those little checkboxes under the entries... I've told it to enable this feature, but it's not enabling.  I'll keep trying.  Also, CSI Miami tonight directed by Rob Zombie is cool.  That red-headed guy with the sunglasses on this show just cracks me up.

Also, while at the gym today I watched Deepak Chopra  talking about people's need for instant gratification.  He said when a person is thinking about eating a piece of cake right now, even though it may contribute to heart disease or diabetes in the future, he'll eat it.  He said don't think about 20 years from now, just think about one hour from now.  If you eat a big plate of onion rings or something, odds are in an hour or tonight before bed you will feel bad.  I'm going to try to think like this.

Exclamation Points!

Back from the gym, had a big, bad workout. Started with 25 minutes on the elliptical then 35 minutes of resistance with a trainer. Planks, crunches, windmills, etc... I'm out of shape!! But I feel really great now. We discussed nutrition a little bit, and I'm ready to do this! Ok!

Let's Go!

Ok, reader(s)... who has a gym membership but doesn't use it enough? Who has a treadmill at home that's being neglected? Everyone, that's who. So let's just do the right thing and use our memberships and at-home fitness equipment, alright? It's got to be a little easier if we all do it, don't you think? I'm going to the gym now, and I'm going tomorrow, too. Ugh, this is so hard to get into, but after a couple of weeks, it's alot easier.

And the show V is coming back on at the end of the month!

February's Over!

March 1 at last! The longest month with the fewest days is gone for almost a year, thank goodness! I'm kinda figuring out a routine here in my new job and temporary place to live, but things will change next week when Henry comes to live with me again! I can't wait!

Saturday I took lots and lots of musculoskeletal MRIs.
Sunday Aunt Sandy and I explored a bit of Indianapolis. We started at the Indiana State Museum, which had a traveling Abe Lincoln exhibit from the Library of Congress. The exhibit contained a lot of neat stuff, but it was so dimly lit even my young(ish) eyes had some difficulty reading everything. The rest of the museum was like a ghost town, so we were able to linger over the exhibits detailing Indiana's history of running the natives off their land and later wearing white KKK robes and hats (I feel like there's a better word than 'hat' to use here, but I can't think of what it is). But really, there was a bunch of interesting stuff there. They had the timbers from that loch they dug up in New Haven back in the 90's, and old mail order catalogs from the early 20th century. Oh! My favorite part was the 3rd floor where they had all sorts of taxidermied animals posed in little tableaus.
Then we went to a restaurant Crystal and Chad took me to a couple of weeks ago-- Bosphorus, a Turkish restaurant in the Fountain Square area. We had delicious, spicy lentil soup and shared an appetizer platter. My favorite is the baba ganoush, and Sandy really liked this eggplant relish and the hummus.


She Was Bored


This picture, from a NYC trip in 2005, is one of my favorites of my sister.  


Thoughts from the Sick Bed

You know, I've been moving around a lot the past year or so, and I've kinda learned about what I do or don't mind having in my house.  Like, not having a dishwasher isn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Same for not having cable tv.  Life is definitely better, however, with an in-home washer and dryer.  And the two little but necessary kitchen requirements: toaster and microwave.  I really like both of those appliances.  I also don't miss parking in a garage as much as I would've thought.  I might feel differently if I had a nicer car, though.  

These are the things I think about as I wonder around this new house, sneezing.

Other People's Kitchens Revisited

It looks like a lot of the cooking I'll be doing in the next few months will be in someone else's kitchen.  So, here's more of that. 

After Saturday's full day of seeing the sites and crowds of the big city, Crystal and I went back to her place to see what she had in her kitchen that we could make into a great dinner.  Using a couple of Joy of Cooking recipes as starting points, we made a yummy spaghetti alla carbonara and cute little salmon croquettes with a caper-dill sauce.  

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1/2 lb. bacon
1 lb. spaghetti
1/3 c. grated cheese (goat or parm are good choices)
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. pasta water
half a bag frozen peas

Boil and drain pasta. Fry bacon, remove bacon when done.  Keep 3 T bacon grease in skillet, add pasta and toss.  Add peas.  Mix eggs, cheese, and pasta water together, then add to pasta.  Stir around over medium until eggs are cooked through.  Stir in crumbled bacon.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with additional grated cheese.

It's a bit more difficult to write out how we did the croquettes, because we didn't measure much of what we used.  It pretty much went like this:
We took a large can of salmon and picked out the bones, then added a small can of tuna to make up for the several ounces we lost due to bone tossage.  We added a diced half onion and celery stalk that had been sauteed with a few garlic cloves.  Oh, at the end of the sauteing, I stirred in about 1/2 t. garam masala. Crystal diced a tomato and threw that in, we mixed in a couple of eggs, then added bread crumbs until the mixture was the right consistency to make little patties.  Poured a bit of olive oil in a skillet and browned the patties on each side.  Crystal made the dipping sauce, but I think she took plain yogurt and added capers and dried dill until it tasted great.  This croquette picture is from a google search, but this is pretty much what ours looked like.  But, you know, photographed much more prettily.  
Also, I'm still sick.


Market Day

I did indeed make it to the Indy Winter Farmer's Market today. There were a lot of neat local vendors with all sorts of goods... honey, soaps, lotions, baked goods, tea, eggs, coffee, pasta, soup, herbs, meats, sandwiches, cheeses, beets. The beet guy was pretty cool, actually-- I got a jar of pickled beets from him. There was a bunch of really neat stuff there, but the crowds made it difficult to spend too much time looking around.

After that market, Crystal and I went to Goose the Market, an upscale grocery/deli type place with a good beer selection. We had yummy sandwiches there for lunch (mine was smoked pork loin with carrots, fennel, pesto and chimichurri sauce). Their cases look really cool:

After lunch we drove out to Mallow Run winery to meet Dad and Mollie. We drank some shiraz and listened to the guitar player they had entertaining the masses. The winery was also very crowded... I guess Crystal and I knew where the people were today. This is what it looked like at the winery. The sky and the ground are pretty much the same color.

Also, I'm sick this weekend.


Another Town, Another Farmer's Market

The coolest thing about moving too much is exploring. I like going to new places and trying new things, so that's what I'm going to try to do in my new town. I think I'm going here this weekend:


and if it's cool I'll blog it.


What Do I Do When I Don't Cook?

I work, I guess. I've been working (!) this week, so I haven't been cooking, and therefore haven't been blogging. Last night I had a fun time at a Pacers game and then the Old Point Tavern with Crystal. You know how much Crystal and I are into the NBA, right? A few days before the Pacers game I was in the crowd at my cousin's basketball game. That's what it's like here in Indiana-- basketball basketball basketball!

(pictures courtesy my camera phone, which doesn't seem to take good pictures. But my readers demand photos, and I oblige!)


Ever Wonder What Old People Think?

Well, I've never really wondered either, but this blog is kinda neat. But is it really old ladies, as some of their commenters ask? I guess there's no way to know.


Thanks to my Aunt for this link.



Wow, look how different the blog looks! Also, there is this little thing at the bottom of each posting, have you noticed it? There are three little check boxes next to three words. If you find the blog entry you just read to be funny, interesting, or cool, you should put a check in one of those boxes. I don't know who is reading this besides Mom, Aunt Deb, and Matty, so if you just check a box it'll let me know that someone is reading these words. That's not to say that my three best commenters cannot check a box if they feel like it-- go ahead, guys.


Other People's Kitchens

Had a great Valentine's weekend in Fort Wayne. I spent Friday night at Mom's, where she and I had a good time making my current favorite meal... cardamom chicken, saag paneer, and cuke-mint yogurt with pitas. Yum! I forgot to add the salt to the saag paneer, though, so it was not as tasty as it should have been. :(

Saturday morning I had coffee and donuts at Laura's house real quick before she had to go to work; that was a fun way to start a day that ended in a different kitchen-- Aunt Deb's. I went over and made a pasta bake dinner, and she made a salad and a Rachel Ray recipe for garlic bread. And of course we had Uncle Nick's birthday cake, which was sugar cream pie. Although I had my camera in my purse all weekend, I took no pictures. I guess you'll just have to take my word that this following recipe will produce a meal.

Pasta Bake
a box of penne or ziti or whatever pasta you like
one large or two regular jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce
a stick of pepperoni
an onion, chopped
a green pepper, chopped
a hunk of mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350. Boil and drain pasta. Saute veggies in a bit of oil on medium for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Cut up the pepperoni into small, bite-sized chunks. Combine pasta, veggies, and pepperoni in a 9x13 pan, then pour some sauce over and mix the sauce in. Pour in as much sauce as you like, and you can freeze the rest of the sauce, if you have leftover. Cut mozz cheese into slices, and lay on top of the pasta (you can use shredded if you want, but I just like to use the block of mozzarella). Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted. Keep it in 10-15 minutes longer if needed to get it nice and browned, or if you're hungry and don't want to wait anymore, finish it off under the broiler for a minute or two.
(This is a picture I found online when I did a google search for 'pasta bake.' This is pretty much what it looks like when I make it, but this one looks to have ground beef in it instead of pepperoni. Also, the cheese is really piled on in this pic. Tastes good, but I usually don't use quite that much cheese.)


A Brunch of Fun

This is another variation on a recipe from the Noble Pig website. It's a very easy and fun way to bring something completely new to breakfast.

There's no real recipe per se, it's just a bunch of stuff thrown together and put in the oven until done. Well, I guess that's what a recipe is. Anyway, the basic ingredients are: dinner rolls (about the size of your fist, maybe a bit bigger), eggs, cream or half and half, cheese, herbs, salmon, and anything else you want to use. I first cut across the top of the roll to make the top straight, to make a little bread-lid. Then I cut a circle in the top of the roll and dug out the bread that filled the circle. Leave a thin layer of bread in the bottom of the roll... I guess you could say this has become a bread bowl. In one case we put the salmon on the bottom of the bread bowl then put the egg on top, and in the other case we put the egg in first then topped with shredded cheese and herbs. In both cases I put about a teaspoon of half and half or cream in with the egg, which added a wonderful, well, creaminess to the egg. Also in both cases I put salt and pepper on the egg. The egg took longer to cook when it was on top of the salmon-- it took about 30 minutes in a 350 oven. I put foil over the roll after about 20 minutes so the bread wouldn't burn. In the one with the egg, cheese, and herbs I took it out at about the 20 minute mark-- had I taken it out at about 17 minutes the yolk probably would've been a bit runny (I don't like that, but if you do, take it out at 15-17 minutes).


No Pudge!

If you haven't tried this fat-free brownie mix, you probably should (unless you hate brownies, but really, no one hates brownies). I've previously seen this mix at Trader Joe's, and was quite happy to see it at Kroger today. So, check your local stores, if you don't have a local Trader Joe's. You just add a bit of fat-free vanilla yogurt to this mix and you've got great brownies. I'd like to try it with coffee-flavored yogurt, but I chickened out today. Now I've got a stupid thing of coffee-flavored yogurt in the fridge. If you want this yogurt and will be seeing me in the next week or so let me know and I'll bring the yogurt to you.

My Fav-o-rite Things

My favorite tv show is Project Runway (especially now that the Office and 30 Rock are hit and miss). I love to make fun of Heidi, her weird phrasing, and her love of the short, tight and shiny. I love love to watch Tim scrunch up his face when a designer does something stupid, and I love love love to hear Nina and Michael's merciless critiques of the garments that come down the runway. Also I love wine, cheese, and smoked salmon.
Part of why Phil is so great is his appreciation of all that stuff, too. We have a semi-ritual of drinking wine and eating cheese and smoked salmon while we watch Project Runway (sorry if you're embarrassed I'm writing about this, Phil). This week was the best ever, because we got this smoked salmon that was seasoned with black pepper and dill. We made a spread of capers, red onion, and cream cheese, smoothed that over slices of baguette then topped it with salmon. Deelicious. Also, Phil put together the daddy of all cheese plates. We had brie, dill havarti, this honey-habanero cheese we just got from the co-op, jarlsburg (my current fave), and a horseradish cheese accompanied by some salami. Phil was artistically inspired by a plate of cheese and snapped this:
And did you know that you can watch full episodes of Project Runway on mylifetimetv.com? I did-- that's how we watch it every week.

Are You Still There? 'Cause I'm Still Here!

Hola. My blogging career is undergoing some changes. The main change is that I am blogging less frequently, but I'm not saying this change is permanent. I've got a little change in mind that I will probably implement in the next week or two. Anyway, we actually had a fun culinary adventure last weekend, and I'll probably write about that in the next day or two. I'm currently watching a show on the Food Network in which Bobby Flay is challenging some California hippie cook to a paella cook-off. Man, that paella looks good. I can see trying to tackle this dish in the near future. The hippie chef used little octopuses in his paella, which I would love to do. I know they carried octopus at Central Market in Texas, but will I be able to find it in the midwest? If I can, you know I'll blog about it here.


Big Ol' Butt

Man do I love pork when it's done right. But that's the trick, innit? Doing it right. I was quite intent on finding an exemplary pork roast recipe, so when I saw this recipe by food scientist Shirley Corriher, I knew I was in for a good dinner. Of course living in the sticks as I do makes it difficult to find specific things sometimes. Like, I went to Walmart, no pork butt, and no butcher counter at which to inquire. Went to Kroger, no pork butt, also no meat counter, but a guy in a white coat who told me the only pork butts they had were these gigantic 15 pound monstrosities. Finally broke down and went to the expensive store, and they not only had a meat counter, but pork butts in normal-sized packages. If you talked to me that day, you know all I did was complain about the unavailability of pork butt. Anyway, I bought at 6 lb. butt and cut off a couple of pounds before cooking. Sorry if this is too talky... I'm home alone tonight and on my second glass of wine!

Piece o' Heaven Pork Butt

4 lb. pork butt (trim as much fat as possible)
1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. apple juice
1/2 t. salt
a bit of pepper

Put an oven rack just below center and preheat oven to 400. Place roast in a roasting pan that is just a smidge bigger than the meat. Spoon Worchestershire sauce over all sides of the roast, then use a spoon to press brown sugar into all sides of the roast. Pour apple juice into bottom of roasting pan, making sure not to pour the juice on the meat. Cover pan, and put into oven, immediately reduce heat to 200 degrees and don't open the oven for 5 hours. At 5 hours, take roast out and if it easily pulls apart it's done. If not, put it in another 30 minutes. Check again. Repeat this until it easily pulls apart (my roast was ready at he 5 hour mark). Remove the meat to a large bowl, toss bone, then add salt and pepper to pan juices. Mix up and pour over meat. Yummy!!

Garlic Spinach
2 10 oz. bags of spinach (or 20 oz. loose leaf spinach)
a bit of cooking oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. pepper
1 T. butter

Clean and dry Spinach (it's ok if there's a bit of water still on spinach). In a large, deep pot, coat bottom with extra virgin olive oil (it has a high smoke point) and saute garlic for a couple of minutes on medium. Add all the spinach as well as the salt and pepper, mix around, then cover for a couple of minutes so the spinach can steam. Uncover, stir around, turn heat to high and stir for about a minute, until it's all wilted. Lift the spinach and garlic out with a slotted spoon into a bowl and pour any accumulated water out of the bowl. Add the butter and stir around until it's melted, then squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the spinach. Serve immediately.

Also prepared polenta that night, about which I'm not blogging. It was ok, but I think the next time I make it I'll do better. It was a bit over-cooked, I think... not creamy enough. It was pretty good, though, and quite pretty, especially next to that vibrant spinach. It's basically cornmeal mixed with water and/or milk with a bit of cheese or herbs or whatever you want.

That pork was so tender and flavorful and had a crispy crust-- yum! And it made the best hash ever, for real. The next time I make that pork roast maybe I'll use it all for hash, that's how good the hash was. Hash recipe is in the blog entry "Christmas Take One." I cannot stress enough how good this is in hash.


Very Bad, But So Good

Well. These are freaking great, I think. They are chock-full of sugar and not light on the butter, but man are they good. I found this on a website called the Noble Pig, and made a few changes (she used all regular, white flour and a bit more sugar). We had them for breakfast this morning with coffee, which seems to be the perfect way to enjoy these delicious treats.

1 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cinnamon
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. veg oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 c. milk
12 t. jelly/jam

for topping
2-3 T. melted butter
1/3 c. sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350, spray PAM in muffin tins. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, stir together. In a smaller bowl, combine sugar, oil, egg, and milk. Stir wet stuff into dry stuff until just mixed. Fill greased muffin tin cups each half full. Put 1 t. jam on top, then cover the jam with remaining batter-- each muffin cup should be about 3/4 full. Make sure to cover the jam well, or it will leak out during baking. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes. When done baking, remove muffins from tin and (as soon as you can hold them without burning your fingers) dip the top of each in melted butter then into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Do the dipping while they are hot, though, so the sugar gets all melty.


Reference Website

I've been looking around through websites and books the past day or two in search of a good slow-roasted pork recipe. I somehow got to this website which is not so great visually but has a lot a lot of neat information and recipes.


Also, Guy Fieri, is that his name? He really bugs me. He might make good food, but I will never use one of his recipes. A blogger I like to read calls him 'the personification of cheese fries.' I love that.

Salsa, Guac, and Leftovers

During Mexican Fiesta week a few weeks ago I made a yummy Pork-Black Bean Stew which made a ton of food. We ate it for several days, and I put a good amount in the freezer. Last night's dinner was made from that left over, thawed out stew. Took some soft taco sized flour tortillas, stuffed them with the stew, folded them up, sprinkled shredded cheese on top, then baked at 350 for 20 minutes. Threw a little chopped cilantro on top. Good stuff!
The more, well, fun part of dinner was making the pico and guacamole for the side. I know everyone thinks they do everything the right way, but I really think my way of doing guac is pretty good. First off I make pico...

Pico de Gallo
6 roma tomatoes, diced (I don't like seeds, so I also de-seed)
1/2 onion, diced
juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lime, depending on how much you like lime
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds removed
2-3 T cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

Mix it all up and let sit an hour or two before serving. When you first make it don't put in the jalapeno seeds (where the heat is), but mix some in a bit at a time until your desired heat level is attained. Also, a bunch of tomatoes like this will need salt, so don't be shy with the shaker.

Once you have your pico, take a ripe avocado or two, scoop the flesh out and mash it up, then add a few spoonfuls of pico and maybe a little extra lime juice and cilantro, if you like those things. I was watching Rick Bayliss right before I made my guac, and he too was making guac. He said make it a couple of hours before serving, so the flavors and blend well. Of course, when you put it in the fridge, press some plastic wrap right down on the guac so no air can reach it and turn it brown. Of course, if it does turn brown, it's ok to just mix the brown in with the rest and eat it.


Carry-in Query

I got an email from a loyal reader today (doesn't that sound better than saying 'my aunt emailed?') asking if I had any ideas for a side dish to take to a dinner at her kid's middle school. It is kinda a good question... normal side dishes we eat at home are straight from the oven or microwave, but in a situation like this, where lots of people are bringing lots of food to set on a long table, of course your green bean casserole or whatever will be cold and gross by the time it is eaten. So, here are some ideas for food that does not require cooking or warmth to be delicious.

Quick-n-Easy Salad
one head lettuce, chopped or torn in bite-sized pieces
1 bunch green onions, chopped
8 oz. shredded mozzerella cheese
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Combine all in a large bowl, right before serving toss with favorite Italian dressing.... currently I really really like this Kraft dressing called Tuscan House Italian or something like that... it has Tuscan in the name.

That salad is so simple and basic, but is really delicious. I took it for Christmas to Phil's dad's and it got a lot of compliments.

Another side dish I like to make is an Antipasto Pasta Salad. Corkscrew pasta mixed with chunked pepperoni (at the Walmart deli counter if they cut it at thickness 4, it will be good for cutting into chunks), chunked muenster cheese, sliced olives, and I think adding a bunch of chives, cut in about 1" lengths, really makes this salad. Again, toss in favorite Italian dressing.

A quick but different dip tray: hummus, pita chips, and sliced or baby carrots.


Non-organic Food

Everyone's always talking about organic foods, and which foods are best to buy organic, but here's a list of foods that don't need to be organic. I think I will start shopping these fruits and veggies more frequently-- with the small amount of pesticides involved in growing these foods, it will almost be like they are organic, but they're cheaper than their pesticide-free cousins.


I'm on the list of daily(ish) emails from The Daily Green, and sometimes there's some kinda interesting stuff. They have alot of slide show lists... like this one, or '10 quick healthy breakfasts.' I like their slide shows because the photography is great. The information is not always as exciting.


Really Great Kale Pasta

Kale is one of those super healthy superfoods, and this is a fun way to eat this leafy green. I know the bacon and the brie significantly detract from the goodness of the kale, but whatcha gonna do? This tastes really incredible, and is kind of a treat around here. When we buy kale we use most of it in healthy soups, so this is our reward for being good.

Pasta with Brie and Kale
4 slices bacon
1 c. skim milk
1 T. flour
1 onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
6 oz. brie cheese, chunked, rind off
1/2 box whole wheat penne
about 10 leaves of kale, coarsely chopped

Fry bacon, set aside. Boil and drain pasta, set aside. Put about 1/2 T bacon grease in a second pan to saute kale with 1/2 the garlic. Saute kale and garlic about 10 minutes on medium, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, keep just a bit of the bacon grease in the first pan and saute onion and remaining garlic for about 5-7 minutes over medium. Keep on medium, add milk and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add flour and cheese, stir till melted and bubbling. Add a little salt and some pepper, then add kale, pasta, and top with crumbled bacon. Serve!
I think this would be good with a hearty white wine, like a full, medium oaked Chardonnay, or maybe Vignoles.


I Heart Wine

As the snow began to fall last night, we stopped at the liquor store and the food co-op to stock up on wine, cheese, and bread, suspecting our cars would have to be dug out if we wanted to go anywhere this weekend. And yes, there's no going anywhere today; good thing we've got plenty of wine! Luckily the PBS-Create channel had the same idea we did, I guess, because they've been showing wine-related shows all day. We watched a couple episodes of the Ted Allen (you know, from Queer Eye) hosted show, Uncorked, in which he gave a introduction to French wine. Here's what I learned from Ted and a little additional internet research.

There are seven major wine producing regions in France: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Loire valley, and the Rhone. The Alsace region is over near Germany in the shadow of the Vosges mountains. This region mostly produces the aromatic, light white wines Riesling and Gewurztraminer. There is also some production of dry Pinot Noir rose. These wines are typically not made in oak barrels, so the taste is usually very pure in character. It is a legal requirement that Alsatian wines are bottled only in tall, slender bottles. Riesling was my first 'favorite' wine-- I just loved the spicy-floral quality. And I'll never forget the first time I tried Gewurztraminer... a friend in Las Vegas served it at his house, and I was just blown away. It reminded me of Riesling mixed with champagne, and seemed very exotic. Here in the midwest, Traminette is a very popular grape. According to the wine steward at Oliver winery in Bloomington, IN, Traminette is in the same family as Riesling and Gewurztraminer. I believe her.

Bordeaux wines (known as Claret to the British) are made in the northwest part of France, very near the Atlantic ocean. About 90% of wines from Bordeaux are red wine blends- primarily Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, and Cabernet Franc. When in France last fall, Bordeaux was my favorite nightcap. On the PBS show I watched today, some guy said Bordeaux wines were for the physical senses, they are usually powerful, bold wines. The small amount of white wine that is produced in this area is mostly the sweet Sauternes, which is a blend of Semillion, Savignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. At the end of June, Bordeaux has a four day wine festival. This is my latest "I'm definitely going here someday" travel desire.

According to the guy on PBS, if Bordeaux is for the physical senses, Burgundy is for the emotional senses; these wines are delicate and subtle. Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) is in the east-central region of France, where unpredictable weather produces variations between yearly vintages. Red wines of this region are primarily Pinot Noir, and whites are usually Chardonnay. Both Chablis and Cote d'Or white wines are made in this region from Chardonnay grapes. There are 4 tiers of classification of Burgundy wines: Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village, and Regional. Some of the most expensive wines in the world are Grand Cru Burgundies. Often, Burgundy wines will benefit from 3-4 years aging.

The Champagne region is a small area in northeast France. I think we all know by now that technically only wines produced in the Champagne region of France can carry the label 'Champagne,' and all others must be called 'sparkling wine.' Classifications for Champagne are a little confusing... Brut is the most dry variety (Brut Natural or Brut Zero are the driest of the dry), Extra Dry is a little sweeter, and a label that has the word Asti, Sec, or Demi-Sec denotes a sweet Champagne. Also, Champagne is served in those narrow glasses so the wine does not become over-oxygenated and lose it's effervescence. That's all I care to say about Champagne. I really like Champagne (or, more accurately, sparkling wines), but that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

The Loire Valley is a little strip of land around the Loire River, from the Atlantic ocean into central France. This region is very diverse in it's wine making, and mostly features Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc, and a lesser amount of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Malbec. I've seen Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, and Reuilly on menus or in liquor stores, and now know that these are all made from Savignon Blanc grapes and are great with goat cheese. Sav Blanc is another wine I love, so I look forward to trying one of these. Vouvray is also a wine I have heard of but know nothing about... it's dry or off-dry and pairs nicely with shellfish; also the dry white Muscadet is prevalent in this region.

On the show Uncorked they discussed the wines grown in the southern, Mediterranean area all together, and I will too. The three wine-growing regions here are Rhone Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Provence. The Rhone Valley is thought to be the birthplace of the Syrah grape. Also grown in this area are Grenache, Viognier, and a variety of lesser known grapes known simply as Rhone varietals. Languedoc-Roussillon produces a variety of grapes including Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Savignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. 40% of French wine is from this region. Lastly, Provence produces all of the above, as well as dry Rose. I think I have the least real-life familiarity with wines from this area. Much of the stuff I read about this large region discussed grapes I've never heard of.

I think it would be neat to concentrate on one area for awhile, say, Bordeaux, and try and compare many different wines. After a foray into Bordeaux, do the same thing with Loire valley wines, etc. Anyway, it's well after noon now, and all this writing and reading about wine has made me thirsty! As they say in France, a votre sante!


Smoked Turkey Soup

It seems like a lot of the stuff I make is rather time consuming. This one takes a few hours, but very little work is required-- most of the time is just waiting. My favorite part of this soup is that it tastes really really good but is really really healthy. Sometimes I see smoked turkey legs at grocery stores, sometimes I don't; usually if I'm at a store that's got them in stock I'll pick up one or two to freeze for future use. They taste remarkably like smokey ham.

Smoked Turkey Soup
To make broth:
1 smoked turkey leg
1 carrot, cut in quarters
1 stick celery, cut in quarters
1 onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns

Put all in big soup pot and cover with water. I left the end knob of the leg uncovered by water, but the rest was submerged. Bring to boil then cover and simmer for about an hour and a half. Remove and set aside turkey leg, and remove and discard veggies and spices. I used my hand strainer to remove veggies and spices, you also could use a colander and strain the broth into a different big bowl or pot. Cover and put broth outside to cool for a couple of hours. Once leg is cool, remove meat from bone, cut into bite-sized pieces, and put in fridge. Bring broth inside and skim the fat off the top.

To make soup:
1 c. rinsed lentils
3-4 carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
10-12 stems of kale, leaves only (not stem or spine), well-rinsed and cut into bite-sized pieces
S and P

Bring broth to boil, then add lentils and a pinch or two of salt and some pepper, reduce to simmer and cover. If the lentils are green or split black, cook about 12 minutes. If the lentils are red/orange or split black without skins, cook about 7 minutes. While broth is coming to boil, saute carrot, celery, and onion in olive oil in a skillet on medium-- this will take about 10 minutes. Remove veggies from heat when they are mostly tender. After the 12 or 7 minutes of lentil-simmering, add the sauteed veggies, kale, and the cut up turkey leg, continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Test a lentil at 10 minutes... if it seems too firm, continue cooking and test again in a few minutes. Soup is ready when lentils are tender.
I used split black lentils, and as soon as I poured the lentils in the broth got all dark. I guess the black skins gave me dark soup. Still tastes great, though!

Cardamom Clementine Cookies

Well duh, we really like cardamom around here, so why not put it in cookies? I love these cookies; they taste super good with coffee or tea. These cookies have browned butter in them... I don't know if I browned it right, because it didn't look brown, but I cooked it until it got little bubbles, and they taste great.

C-C Cookies
1 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. clementine zest (or orange zest)
1/2 t. ground cardamom
2 T. milk
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. powdered sugar blended with 1/2 t. ground cardamom

Melt butter in saucepan over medium. Cook, constantly stirring and watching, till just golden brown and starting to bubble. Immediately pour into medium mixing bowl and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to overnight.

Heat oven to 350, combine cooled butter and sugar, beat with mixer on medium till well mixed. Add egg yolk, vanilla, 1/2 t. ground cardamom, citrus zest, and milk, mix. Change speed to low and slowly add flour, beat until fully incorporated. Dough will be crumbly, but should be easy to press into balls. Shape into 1" balls, place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 11-13 minutes, until starting to get golden on top. Cookies will have some cracks in them. Immediately remove, cool a minute, then roll, while quite warm, in the powdered sugar/cardamom blend. Set on wire rack. Roll in sugar mixture again when cool. Store in single layers separated by wax or parchment paper in a loosely covered container.


Darling Clementines

If you were with me during my Parisian vacation last year, or if you just heard me talk about it, this dessert might sound familiar. One of my favorite things to do is order a unique-sounding dessert, eat it, love it, then go home and try to re-create it. When I was in Raleigh last year for my birthday we had this INCREDIBLE, exotic dessert at a Lebanese restaurant, and I feel my interpretation is pretty close to the delightful original. I'll blog about that soon. This blog is about a very simple dessert I loved in Paris. I don't know what to call it, though. If anyone reads this, feel free to come up with a name for this dessert and that's what I'll call it.

Clementine Dessert
1 c. grapefruit juice
1 T. honey
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1/2 whole star anise
clementines (one or more per person)
whole star anise (one per serving)

Combine juice and honey, microwave 30 seconds or so till the honey melts and can be incorporated. Add cinnamon stick, cloves, and the half star anise, sit in fridge for a couple of hours so flavors can combine. When it's time to serve, peel and section a clementine (or two, if you're hungry) per person, arrange in a little ramekin or small bowl. Add a whole star anise in the middle for decoration, then drizzle enough of the flavored juice to cover the fruit about halfway. Bon appetit!