Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Workout


I did Zuzana's workout again today. Click here for the full details if you would like to give it a try. Instructional videos are included.

I had to make a few modifications due to lack of equipment and activity level.

I started with 2.25 mile run for warm up.

Then I went into Zuzana's work out. I increased the length of interval from 30 to 50 seconds and then shortened the number of rounds from 6 to 4. Also, I alternated exercises each round rather than doing all of the same exercises in a row since I knew I would be too week and thought I would get more benefit this way while I'm still building a base line of strength. My scores were as follows:

Dynamic Squats: 26, 28, 28, 27.5
Reverse Pushups: 11, 14, 12, 13 (my treadmill has the perfect handles for this exercise)
Dive Bombers: 6, 7.5, 6, 9 (these are hard, my form sucked but I'll stick with it until I get better)
Prisoner Get Up: 4, 3.5, 5, 5 (I had to use my hands to help on the last 2 rounds as I wasn't getting anywhere)

Cool Down was 30 minutes of a Yoga Flexibility DVD with Rodney Yee. I did in front of the fireplace to enhance relaxation.

Total workout calorie burn all together was 493 calories!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Worst Road Trip Ever

I can safely say that yesterday was the worst road trip we've ever had. Even before it started it was already going downhill. Don was sick the night before so not only did he go to bed early and leave me with the majority of the chores, packing, and car rearranging, but then he ended up being up most of the night with alternating chills and sweats, upset stomach, you name it, so we were already starting off a 10 hour road trip with almost no sleep for either of us. I couldn't get everything done by myself so the following morning we were still rearranging the car, getting dishes done, etc and left more than an hour after I would have liked to which only concerned me because snow was in the forecast and we wanted to maximize daylight hours.

But things mostly progressed well enough until we hit La Grande, OR and all of a sudden hit a road block out of nowhere that said road closed, use alternate routes. So we barely veered off the freeway in time and when faced with one sign that said West and another that said south, we opted for south. I quickly hopped on the internet and began investigating the closures and alternate routes. Oregon DOT website was completely useless as was their phone recording. The internet said that I84 was closed for a 70 mile stretch! But reports from the local Fedex driver led us to believe this was not the case. We found a route that took us through a little town called Union and led back to I84 about 15 miles south of La Grande. We figured it was worth checking out as we had nothing else to do. So we moved along and got back on to find a free flowing freeway. Victory! Or so we thought.

Things were looking optimistic and we moved a long for a good 15 miles before we hit a dead stop. Weather conditions were worsening and we figured there must have been accidents related to weather. So we pulled over and put on our chains. What an adventure! I'd recently gotten my car stuck on Chris Duppenthaler's hill in the snow and ice so we attempted to use Don's chains to get my car out, however they were too small for my car. But the 30 minute trial and error process before we figured that out, at least helped us figure out how they were supposed to work if they did fit my car. Thankful for this base knowledge, we at least started with some understanding and were out in the snow digging around the tires and using all our strength to get them on. The suckers are a tight fit so it took quite a bit of maneuvering to figure out how to get them all spaced perfectly enough to close the loop. Once the traffic started moving along we were able to tread forward confidently that these chains certainly weren't going to come off.

Sadly, the moving along was not to come for quite some time -- about 3 hours to be specific at a dead stop. Finally we started inching along at three miles an hour, stopped a few more times, and then eventually caught up to officials pulling all the trucks over and requiring them to put on chains, and another mile ahead of that an accident with a 3 Semi Truck pileup. After that the traffic opened up, but still we were only able to go 30 miles an hour with the snow and chains. Eventually the road and weather conditions thinned out enough for us to take the chains off and we gradually increased our speed as our elevation declined and the conditions improved.

I managed to keep a positive attitude during the majority of the traffic jam. It was a helpless condition and nothing we could do about it but wait it out. We were lucky that we had gassed up and used the restroom right before hand so were quite aware that it could have been worse. Poor Don though already not feeling well and with a headache too boot. It just plain sucked. Cordy and Seumas needless to say HATED the whole arrangement. Seumas kept letting out this totally frustrated and stressed out groan/moan/cry from the back seat, followed by heavy sighing. All Don and I could do was laugh and shake our heads because he was just verbalizing what every single one of us felt like in the car. The traffic jam was one thing, but the worst part of it was knowing that we were so close to our destination and yet once we got going it would still be several hours until we were there. So basically, we drove 8 hours to begin with only to have the last 100 miles take nearly 6 hours in and of itself. We are so glad to be here now and glad that we have a long week before we have to head back again. Bring on the Christmas Vacation.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Makin' Moroccan

The great thing about Moroccan food is that it smells as good as it tastes while it's cooking. this slow braised meal full of delicious spices like Cinnamon, Turmeric, Cumin and Cayenne had Cordy doing back flips to get my attention. She was about coming out of her skin desperate to get me to let her share in the feast. Today I am glad to be of a superior species with opposable thumbs because, Cordy Girl, You are missing out!

The recipe was inspired by this recipe here on Epicurious, but I adopted a few variations and made it my own.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Roasted Shallots and Mixed Dried Fruit

4 chicken thighs
4 chicken legs
1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 Tablespoon Flour
8 Shallots, peeled and left whole
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1 orange, juiced
1/4 cup Mediterranean Mixed Dried Fruit (dates, apricots, tart cherries)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat peanut oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and dust with flour. Brown chicken about five minutes on each side until golden brown on all sides. Be careful not to crowed the pan, it's best to do in two batches as ideally you do not want the chicken pieces to touch while browning. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add shallots to the pan, lower to medium heat and saute several minutes until golden brown. Add spices (cinnamon sticks, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne) and saute stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and orange juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 18 minutes until shallots are soft. Add the chicken back to the pan, cover and summer another 25 minutes until chicken is done (juices should run clear when stabbed with a fork in the thickest part of the meat.) Remove the chicken and shallots to a serving bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.

Turn the heat back up to medium high and simmer the broth until it thickens slightly. Add the dried fruit and cook another two minutes until well heated. Stir in the Cilantro. Pour over the chicken and serve.

We had this with roasted delicata squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed, and dotted with butter and brown sugar. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes until done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gaming Dinner

Since Don and I moved back to Bellingham, Gaming has been a regular part of our weekly routine. We currently have three campaigns going which we rotate between Tuesdays and every other Friday. It's been a vital part of our social life as not only do we have great fun with an activity we enjoy so much, but it's with some of our closest and dearest friends. Shortly after we moved here and joined the group we started doing weekly dinner rotations on gaming nights. Seriously, we have a schedule and everything. It's been an exciting adventure as we have some very culinarily talented friends among our group so each gaming session brings a new variety of home cooked delights as we each try to one up the last hosted dinner.


This week Don and I happened to be up for rotation and we stole this one straight from Cora Reuter which she prepared for us when we were in Tacoma last week. Not only is it delicious but it's inexpensive and feeds an Army. Cora, if you are reading this I was SHOCKED after I mixed all the noodles, veggies, cheese, and sauce together in a giant bowl that it all actually fit in my pyrex dish! Thanks Cora for bringing this recipe into my life and I'm excited to pass it on. The recipe is called "Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables" is by Giada de Laurentiis and can be found on the Food Network Website. No huge modifications or improvements here. This one is perfect exactly as written. Follow the instructions and you can't go wrong. It's even vegetarian friendly.


The other thing that is great about Gaming Nights and every once in a while entertaining for 8 to 10 people is that it gives you a great opportunity to use up things like a giant head of red cabbage that it would take just the two of us weeks to get through. Last night I made a warm red cabbage salad seasoned with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with feta and toasted sunflower seeds among other surprises.

Balsamic and Feta Warmed Red Cabbage Salad

1/4 cup of Sunflower Seeds
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 head of red cabbage, quartered, cored, and then shredded into thin strips
Olive Oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese
2 Tablespoons dried currants
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Couple of springs of fresh chopped rosemary
1/4 cup Pomegranate Seeds

Toast sunflower seeds in a small warm dry skillet over medium heat. The seeds are done when slightly golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside to cool so they do not burn.

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium high heat, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Saute red onion and garlic a few minutes until softened, stirring frequently so as not to burn he garlic. Add shredded cabbage and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook cabbage tossing with the tongs frequently until cabbage is moist and softened but not totally wilted. Remove from heat. Add sunflower seeds, feta, currants, Balsamic Vinegar and chopped rosemary and toss thoroughly until all ingredients are incorporated. Serve immediately and sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish.



Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Night Burgers with Rosemary Roasted Beets and Pomegranate Almond Dressingless Salad

There are many reasons that I love my husband. But on this particular night, at the top of the list is the fact that he had this awesome meal ready and waiting for me when I got home from Church Council tonight.

Monday Night Burgers

Olive Oil
1 Pound Ground Beef
Salt and Pepper
2 Thick slices sweet onion
Lettuce
Tomato
Hamburger Bun
Dijon Mustard
Prepared Horseradish

The burgers couldn't have been simpler and so tasty after a hard workout followed by a long council meeting. Don cooked up the patties in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. Then sauteed the onion rings in the same skillet after the patties were done cooking. We served on lightly toasted buns with lettuce, tomato, dijon mustard, and prepared horseradish for garnish.

Rosemary Roasted Beets


1 Red Beet, peeled, chopped, and stemps removed
Couple of sprigs of chopped rosemary
2 Cloves of Garlic Sliced
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

The roasted beats were all for me as Don will have no part of this vegetable. We are blessed to be in a marriage where neither of us are picky eaters and both excited about trying new things, but this singular produce item remains the one thing on his 100% boycott list. But we received one this week in our Organic Delivery so I was excited to try it out. I have never had a fresh farm to table red beet in my life, though we experimented with a couple of golden beets we received last winter. I was excited to see how different it was from the canned variety. Don simply tossed the beats together with fresh rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Then roasted in a baking dish on 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I loved them!

Pomegranate Almond Dressingless Salad

2/3 Bunch Green Leaf Lettuce, Torn into bite size pieces
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup whole plain almonds

The salad perhaps was my favorite part. By the time I was done eating my burger and beets, I didn't feel like dirtying another bowl so I considered skipping the salad all together. However, as I was standing over the salad bowl, I reached in absent mindedly for a few bites and discovered that this salad needed new dressing. It was delicious as is. The fresh green leaf lettuce rapped easily around the pomegranate seeds and almonds for an easy appetizer finger food. The sweetness of the pomegranates combined with the crunch of the nuts, and the fresh earthy crispness of the lettuce were too good to be true. Before I knew it, I ended up eating a whole servings worth right out of the serving bowl and saved myself an extra dish to clean up.

Getting Retarded

I've discovered a new website called http://www.bodyrock.tv/. I was searching for free exercise videos on You Tube and stumbled upon Zuzana. She posts new exercise challenges and workouts every day. I am totally in love with her site. Her challenges are insane but inspiring. And there is endless variety so you don't get bored. There are live instructional videos, and excellent photographs showing proper form and technique (not to mention super cute workout clothes and a body I would die for.) It all translates to motivation. So I have tried a couple and am fired up to keep it going. Right now, being not so much in shape, I am having to do some modifications.

Like today for instance. The challenge was to do 300 jumping lunges. Well I fatigued after 30 jumping lunges so I had to finish the last 270 as regular lunges. But did you hear what I just said? I did 300 lunges today!

I also took a little additional inspiration from the Black Eyed Peas and played their live version of "Let's Get Retarded" on You Tube. A lot of people know the song better from their more P.C. remake version called "Let's Get it Started." As I was listening to the original version, I couldn't help but think that I really truly was getting retarded because no sane person sets out to do 300 lunges just because some girl on the internet whom I've never met told me to.

I also connected with the song in a new way that never would have crossed my mind. Many people would shun the song "let's get retarded" thinking it's derogatory slang for people who are mentally challenged and therefore inappropriate and insensitive. I'm not blind to these issues and I believe in respecting the humanity and dignity of individuals with physical and mental disabilities. However, the song hit me today in the most positive way. In the song, "getting retarded" really is about letting go of conventional wisdom, dismissing societal expectations, stepping out of your box and away from your filters and just being, grooving, experiencing, and enjoying in the purest of ways as one who lives in the moment and does think about past mistakes, future obligations, pleasing others or getting ahead. Today when I stepped outside of my box, shed my filters, and embraced the insane, it felt great.


Thanks, Zuz. Looking forward to your next challenge.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fettuccini with Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts and Cinnamon and Dried Fruit Port Sauce

I found the inspiration for this recipe on www.foodandwine.com when I was googling new recipes and uses for swiss chard. We have varied it slightly and posted our revised recipe below. It was quite simple to make and such a fun combination of flavors you wouldn't normally expect to go together. It's also a great vegetarian option.

3 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bunch Rainbow Swiss Chard
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped dried appricots
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup tawny port
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 ounces spinach fettuccini
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°. Toast the pine nuts until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the Swiss chard and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook until the chard is wilted and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the apricots, currants, port, and cinnamon and simmer until the port is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the fettuccine until just done, about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce, Parmesan, pine nuts, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken Piccatta with Kale and White Beans


This was declared the best dinner we have had in quite some time. The ingredients are all so simple but oh so flavorful. It get's high marks in all the major categories: taste, quick, easy, and frugal. I present to you:

Giada De Laurentiis' Chicken Piccata

with

Sauteed Greens with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

Click on the links for the full recipe.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seumas has a new best friend

video

video

Amber's First Video

Take One
video

Take Two
video

Take Three


video

Apparently the process of capturing a picture frame while also conducting an interview is quite complex for a 5 year old. Not bad for Amber's first video.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Don's Most Perfect Stir Fry Ever

We just had the most delicious stir fry. It's an improvement on a former recipe we tried from Epicurious called Stir-Fried Beef, Broccoli and Yams. Our additions and revisions are definitely for keeps and have earned this a permanent rotation in the early household. Wanted to write it down while it's still fresh.


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce*
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound Ribeye Steak (sirloin or flank would work nice too)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil, divided
  • 3 Stalks Celery, sliced diagonally
  • 4 cups broccoli florets (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon bottled ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon bottled ground cloves
  • 1 small box of Trader Joes Pad Thai Noodles (save sauce packet for another use)

  • Stir first 4 ingredients in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Set sauce aside.

    Season Steak with salt and pepper.

    Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in large wok over high heat. Add beef ; sear on both sides about two minutes until no longer pink outside. Transfer beef mixture to cutting board and let rest.

    Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet. Add broccoli, yam, celery, garlic and ginger. Toss to coat; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add sauce. Cover, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add beef mixture. Toss until sauce coats beef, and beef is to desired degree of doneness. Add noodles and toss until well coated. Serve immediately.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    4 for 4

    Today was our 4th morning of our new fitness challenge. Proud to say we are right on target and it's been quite an adventure. The 6:15 wake up call is not as hard as I thought it would be. I've figured out that the biggest challenge to getting up that early (for us Early's) is the mental challenge. So basically I just don't give my brain a chance to think about it and am up at the sound of the buzzer. It's such a simple act really. Putting one foot out of bed, then the other, and then shifting your weight and standing up. Once you're up and moving, my brain usually follows within a minute or two and I'm alert enough to start the day.

    The walks themselves have been quite the variety, mostly relating to weather and daylight, or lack thereof. We started with the worst of possible scenarios last Monday, rainy and stormy with quite the not-so-gentle breeze. But we aren't wicked green skinned witches and we didn't melt. Thanks to a great weather proof REI jacket handed down to me from Brie gifted when we moved back to Bellingham, I've kept both dry and warm. And I'm glad we started off with the worst because every day since then has felt like a treat.

    The walk we are doing is a 2.7 mile loop that circles Lake Padden. We start off from the trail head opening at the dog park and head clockwise in a Westerly direction. (I'm pretty sure "westerly" is not a word but I like the way it sounds so I'm sticking with it.) The western side of the lake is thickly forested with moderate hills. We get that part out of the way first of course. Our halfway point is marked by a great reward - a view point that breaks open from the trees with a dock going out over the lake. Here we have a full view of the lake and open skies and get a taste of what the day was going to be like. On Monday when it poured, we barely took a moment to shine our flashlights out. Yep, dock's still there. Keep going .... But Wednesday we were rewarded for our commitment with the clearest of skies displaying the stars and slivered moon in all it's glory. Friday was dry yet again but cloudy skies. So while we couldn't see the stars, we did at least get to see just the faintest glow of lavender sunrise reflection bouncing back off the water at the very end of the hike looking back. And this morning, with the shift in daylight savings, we actually had... dah dun duhhhh.... Daylight! The water shimmered like glass as the ducks foraged and we even caught a crane privately bathing among the reeds.

    So far only 1 out of 4 days have we had company. A grad student from Western joined us last Wednesday with her border collie and we had a good time chatting. But we've been garnishing interest and I think we may get some other people up and out of their beds to join us here along the way. We put a notice also in our church newsletter and have had one or two people asking about it who may join us once the holiday bazaar is over next week.

    The most precious part of the walks is the hour or so afterwords where I'm up and alert and have time to use how I see fit before I actually start my work day. Having a real breakfast, time to blog, showering and sometimes even putting makeup on before I start my work day, I can't tell you how well that does for my psyche. It's easy for those of us work-from-home folks to fall into lazy patterns.

    The early mornings have been harder on Don than they are on me. It goes a lot deeper against his natural body clock and his day demands a lot of personal energy. So he's still finding his way with that and some mornings he'll dip back in bed for a quick power nap and still struggle through his day in a bit of a haze. But I'm proud of him and his commitment. I hope by the end of this exercise his body will respond a bit kinder to him. I'm glad to know for the first time in our marriage, we are getting regular cardio exercise together, both for us and the dogs. We're being good to ourselves and good dog owners. I know a lot of people who have a lot more aggressive fitness goals than walking 3 miles three times a week. But this is the right goal for us, that fits the lifestyle we're trying to achieve, and I'm proud that we're doing it. Together.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Goal Achieved, On to the Next One.

    I can't believe it's been 40 days since I posted the financial challenge Don and I decided to take on a little more than a month ago. The specific challenge was to not eat out for breakfast or lunch for 40 days and only very sparingly for dinner. The challenge was quite a success! We weren't 100% perfect but at least 95% which is still a strong A. The most rewarding part of the process I think was just the feeling of taking on a challenge together, both being on the same page about it and working together to accomplish it. I mainly took responsibility for making sure we had lunch options in the house, Don made a commitment to come home for lunch rather than eating out, and if ever he had a busy day we tried to plan ahead so that he could take food with him or occasionally I brought lunch down to the office. It also had a nice side effect of getting to eat lunch together almost every day and forcing both of us to take a real quality break from our hectic work schedules.

    I also feel like we have truly formed a new habit where we are mindful about not wasting money and resources at lunch time but eating quality food together and taking a real break. I feel like we'll be able to go out to lunch occasionally now as a conscious choice together without overspending and not because of poor planning or wastefulness. But for the most part, we'll continue this new lifestyle of eating together at home and making use of our leftovers.

    We were so pleased with results, that we decided to come up with a new challenge for ourselves. A specific commitment that we could set, stick to, and that would improve the quality of our life for the better. This time, we decided to focus on fitness which is sorely lacking in our lives on any consistent basis. We wanted to take on something in the mornings. This way we would get our day off to a good start, which would hopefully spill over to a successful and focused work day, and would leave us free to relax and enjoy our evenings. To really formalize our commitment we wanted to invite other people to be a part of it also. We figured, if we were leading a group, there's no way we would be able to skip out. So we coordinated with another Meetup Group called Bellingham Fun and Fitness and are hosting a sunrise morning walking group at Lake Padden, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 6:15 a.m. Yes, I know it's a crazy time of year to start outdoor activities, but that's what weather gear is for and the colder it is the more calories we'll burn. Plus this way we can include the dogs who also need their exercise (yes, they have rain coats too). Finally, in the ever increasing spirit of good financial resourcefulness, the activity doesn't cost us any expensive gym memberships and is something multiple people can do at multiple activity levels. We start Monday, November 1st and have decided to continue this one on up to Christmas week.

    I'm looking forward to connecting with my husband through exercise, a hot cup of coffee in front of the fireplace after a cold morning walk, a quality shower before I start my work day instead of rolling out of bed and starting work in my pajamas, beautiful scenes of nature in the morning such as rain drops on the lake, foggy paths, and snow covered trees if we get so lucky, how good it will feel to sleep in on Tuesdays and Thursdays as if we have earned it, meeting more people and inspiring others to exercise, and discovering what new and unexpected delights come out of this just like the serendipitous surprises that came out of our last challenge together.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Roasted Red Cabbage, with Carrots, Apples and Sausage

    We adapted another recipe winner tonight. This started as a post from Epicurious called Roasted Sausages, Apples, and Cabbage. I changed the type of sausage and used carrots instead of red onion to make the most of ingredients we had on hand. The best part was that I had it ready for Don and served up by candle light after getting home from an extremely long 11 hour day of work. It definitely was the right thing at the right time and really hit the spot. We served with crusty rolls and a cold glass of dry Strongbow Hard Cider. THE PERFECT COMPLIMENT. Next time, I would serve this along side mashed potatoes for sure.

    Roasted Sausages, Apples, and Cabbage with Caraway Bon Appétit October 2005

    Serve this hearty meal with mustard, a side of mashed potatoes, and ice-cold dark German beer.

    Yield: Makes 2 servings
    Active Time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 35 minutes
    ingredients
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
    3-4 carrots, cut lengthwise and then cut into two inch sections
    1/2 head red cabbage sliced into 1 inch thick wedges
    2 small apples (we used Gala), quartered, cored
    1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, divided
    3 Italian Chicken Sausages, casings removed and crumbled

    preparation

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix oil, thyme, and caraway seeds in small bowl. Arrange carrots, cabbage, and apples on heavy large baking sheet. Drizzle oil mixture over. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle 3/4 teaspoon vinegar over cabbagemixture. Roast 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium frying pan over medium high heat. Saute sausage crumbles until lightly browned. Add sausages to baking sheet; cook until sausages brown and cabbage is crisp-tender, turning once, about 10 minutes longer.



    Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/printerfriendly/Roasted-Sausages-Apples-and-Cabbage-with-Caraway-232875#ixzz11S9X9gJ9

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Mushrooms, Red Onions and Garlic

    In the past I have searched for recipes by going to my favorite cooking websites and using their intra search options. Since we've resumed our Dandelion Deliveries however, I've decided to go wider on the world wide web and see what comes of just entering a few key ingredients on Google. It's been quite exciting and has led me to lots more independent and adventurous hobby bloggers like myself. The above photo comes from a blog called "For the Love of Cooking" and came up from a simple search of "roasted fingerling potatoes." By the way, they don't call them "fingerlings" for nothing. I really did feel like I was slicing up a bunch of fat juicy digits. I have to give the blogger credit for this award winning combination and perfect carmelization and presentation as well. I roasted mine a little bit too long so some parts got a bit charred but it was still delicious. However, not quite as photogenic. I hope the blogger doesn't mind that I stole her photo since I'm using it to promote her website anyway. Check out the blog, and do try this recipe. It will not disappoint!

    Mustard Marinated Bison Flank Steak dipped in Horseradish

    Don and I went on a local farm tour a few weeks back and we discovered a great Bison Farm in our area. We picked up the Steak Lovers Pack and have been experimenting with this new meat. Last night we tried the Flank Steak and it has been my favorite so far. Honestly, I couldn't tell the difference in taste from your standard beef flank but I sure didn't mine that it was a lot lower in calories! We marinated in a zesty mustard marinaded and then served sliced thin across the grain with a dab of prepared horseradish for dipping. What a combo!

    Mustard Marinate Bison Flank Steak Dipped in Horseradish

    Ingredients:
    3/4 pounds Flank steak
    3 Tablespoons Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
    3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
    2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
    1/2 Teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
    Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

    1 Tablespoon prepared Horseradish Sauce on the side for dipping

    Preparation Instructions:

    Mix mustard, wine, vinegar, oil, herbs and pepper in a shallow dish with a whisk. Add the meat to the marinade sauce turning to coat, cover or seal and place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or leave overnight. Preheat BBQ to high. Cook for 4. Let stand for 10 minutes, cut into thin slices across grain and serve with a dab of horseradish for dipping.

    Sweet Cucumber and Radish Salad

    Our Dandelion organic deliveries are back and we have been having some fun in the kitchen again. I love this recipe which combines sweet salty vinaigrette with cool crisp vegetables. It makes a great simple side salad year round. For complete recipe visit: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/photo/Sweet-Cucumber-and-Radish-Salad-241171.

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Weekend Road Trip

    Don and I have a great three day weekend ahead of us. We're headed down to Portland today for a brief family reunion. Reunion is a bit formal of a term for the gathering. Basically we have extended relatives visiting from Sweden and anyone who can make it is meeting in Portland for lunch today so that Oregon and Washington family members can both make it. I'm actually not even sure how I'm related to the Swedish relatives but I'm looking forward to finding out. When I was a kid I used to pen-pall with some of our distant cousins. Sure will be neat if they are there and I get to meet them for the first time in person.

    The timing couldn't have been better for a trip to Portland as it serendipitously happened to coincide with the arrival of Jeremy and Katy, our good friends from L.A. who we miss terribly. They have hopes on moving to Portland over the next year and are coming to check it out first hand. So we've booked rooms in the same hotel and will be hanging with them tonight and tomorrow morning, doing a few get to know Portland type things. We can't wait to catch up. We're being adventurous and staying in a 2 star hotel to save money. You certainly can't call us snobs!

    Tomorrow night then it's out to Fort Worden in Port Townsend for a great annual event, Ben Dobyn's Murder Mystery Party. It's become a legendary annual event, for which this will be the first time Don and I have gotten to participate now that we are back in the northwest. We've seen the fantastic photos in the past, and we can't wait to finally experience it first hand. We are playing a wealthy Egyptian art collecting married couple. I get to wear a head covering which in this case is a pretty green scarf borrowed from Jessica. Thanks Jess!

    The dogs are going on their own adventure this weekend too. We're driving them down to Portland and then handing them off to my sister who lives in Seattle but is headed to Eugene after the reunion. So they get to spend the weekend in Eugene with the whole family and then she'll bring them back up where we can pick them up on Sunday in Seattle and head back up to Bellingham. They're asleep in the back of the car right now as we are heading south on the I5 corridor. They don't know what's about to hit them. Kristy said she would watch them as long as Seumas doesn't cry the whole way. I sure hope he holds up his end of the bargain!

    Lots 'n lots o' fun ahead! It's shaping up to be quite the exciting weekend.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    40 Day Financial Challenge

    Don and I had one of those talks about finances tonight. He had been to a great presentation today on life insurance and was concerned that our coverage was insufficient. When you work in the industry and talk to people on a daily basis who have had to collect on a death benefit, the ability to compartmentalize and think 'it will never happen to me,' goes right out the window. We got some quick figures together and then pulled out our budget to see where we could fit it in.

    We knew that we had not been sticking much to our budget lately so we actually went through the exercise of pulling up Quicken and looking not just at our projected "goal" budget but what we were actually spending on an average basis. Boy were we shocked! We were way farther out than we possibly could have imagined. There was no room in our budget for additional expenses! We knew we had set an aggressive and unattainable budget to begin with that had required us to have exceptional discipline and did not account for unexpected expenses. And at the end of the day we were mostly being frugal with just a few occasional impulse buys so the idea of what to cut and where was a bit overwhelming.

    We wallowed in the stress for a bit. Then we tried a few brainstorming exercises about what it is we want out of life and how finances will help us get there. A few things that came to mind were more traveling, less job stress, the ability to go out and experience life, and of course a nicer wardrobe. But we just couldn't latch on to a singular driving motivation that would keep us focused and disciplined. So you'll never guess what we decided to do. We decided to give more money away. It sounds a bit antithetical to what we were trying to achieve. But it's the only way we could think of to stop obsessing about the limited means we do or don't have and how we are going to make the most out of it. I couldn't think of a better way to reconnect with the value of our hard earned dollars then to increase our tithing. (Mind you this is not bragging as we are still way far off from where we should be but it is a step in the right direction nonetheless.) When faced with the option of eating out at an expensive restaurant, or feeding 10 people who otherwise might not have a meal tonight, well, suddenly those dollars have value in a whole new way. And there is the motivation we needed to inspire us to do better with our budget.

    So the sacrifice we are taking on is a rather exciting challenge. We've decided that for 40 days we are absolutely committed to not eating out for breakfast or lunch (we may allow for one or two dinners especially since we have some really good coupons). It will be difficult with Don's work schedule and traveling and will require quite a bit of planning ahead and working together. But with the right motivation, which I think we have found, I think this will be a great exercise in financial growth for the two of us. I am hoping there might be others who want to take the challenge and share in a similar journey. We'd love to all celebrate together when it's over with a potluck or something else low cost of course!

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Grilled Salmon with Raspberry Pinot Sauce

    Last night Don and I hosted a potluck at our house for our wine tasting group. We had a great evening with delicious food and some excellent wine pairings. Of course the company was stellar as always. Don and I were in charge of the main entree. We decided salmon would be a good crowd pleaser and something fun to grill. Since it was for our wine club, I also searched for a recipe that featured wine in the cooking itself. MyRecipes.com features a five star user rated salmon recipe with a Blackberry Cabernet sauce so I started with that as my base recipe. I had a hard time finding blackberries, however, so I ended up picking up a flat of fresh raspberries instead. Then I went to the Co-op with recipe in hand and asked their wine expert for advice on what wine would work best with the recipe. As soon as I said raspberries his eyes lit up and he had the perfect suggestion. They had just gotten in a new 2007 Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley called Second Floor with light body and strong raspberry undertones. The recommendation was spot on and the sauce came out deliciously with many requests for the recipe. Below is a link to the base recipe but feel free as I did to explore with various berry and wine combinations. I still am quite interested to find out what the Blackberry-Cab tastes like and can even imagine a blueberry sauce might be fun to try as well.

    Grilled Salmon with Blackberry-Cabernet Coulis

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Grape and Feta Salad


    This is one of my favorite salads. Ingredients are as follows:

    Spring Mix Salad Greens
    Green Grapes, halved
    Red Grapes, halved
    Crumbled Feta Cheese
    Crumbled Walnuts
    Prepared Raspberry Vinaigrette

    Delicious Cooking Light Dinner


    Our delicious dinner tonight. Click on the links below for the full recipes.

    Bacon, Arugula, and Shrimp Salad

    Yellow Pepper Soup

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Slow Cooker Shredded Chipotle Barbecue Beef

    So, I have no idea how appetizing this does or does not come through on camera, but if you could smell it through the computer, you would be selling your soul to me for a bite. This is, from my perspective, the best crockpot dinner I have ever made. So easy, so tasty. And while it was a bit of a rush to get it put together before work this morning, I loved the luxury of knowing all day long that dinner was going to be ready and waiting for me at the end of the evening. Will absolutely, positively, make this again and again.

    1 3-pound Beef Rump Roast
    1 Large Walla Walla Sweet Onion, chopped
    3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
    1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
    1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
    1 Tablespoon Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
    1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
    2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
    1 Teaspoon Dried Italian Herb Seasoning
    3 teaspoons ground ancho chili powder
    1/4 Teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    Brown Roast on all sides in a heavy cast iron skillet heated with canola oil. Remove roast and place in crockpot. Saute onions and garlic in the skillet for a few minutes until softened. Stir frequently to scrape up all the browned bits of meat on the bottom of the pan. Pour over roast in crockpot. Combine next 9 ingredients (tomato sauce through pepper) in a small mixing bowl and stir with whisk until fully incorporated. Pour over roast in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Shred meat with a fork and stir in juices. Serve opened face over a whole wheat bun to sop up all the juices. Delicious!

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Baked Tilapia with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

    Frozen Tilapia Fillets
    Roma Tomatoes, sliced
    Fresh Basil, whole leaves
    Olive Oil
    Parmesan Cheese, shredded
    Lemon Wedges

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place Tilapia Fillet's in a baking dish. Lay whole fresh basil leaves on top of the fish, covering the surface. Lay tomato slices on top of that. Drizzle with Olive Oil, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and squeeze lemon juice over. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

    Cindy's Roasted Potatoes with Spinach & Gorgonzola

    One of my all time favorite masterpieces:

    Ingredients

    • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
    • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided
    • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 6 small red potatoes (about 3/4 pound), quartered
    • 1 Orange Bell Pepper, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
    • 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
    • Cooking spray
    • 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

    Preparation

    Preheat oven to 450°.

    Combine 1 teaspoon oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, thyme, peppers, potatoes, bell pepper, and spinach in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450º for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 10 minutes or until veggies are done and cheese is melted.

    Cream Cheese Pesto Toasts with Sliced Tomatoes and Onions

    Here's another one from memory:

    French Bread sliced thin
    softened cream cheese
    prepared pesto
    sliced tomato
    thinly sliced red onion
    salt and pepper

    Spread a layer of cream cheese on the french bread slice. Spread pesto over cream cheese, top with alternating slices of tomato and red onion. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

    Peppered Steaks in Beer and Garlic

    An old recipe from memory we used to make. Wanted to capture it while it was on my mind.

    1 bottle Dark Oatmeal Stout
    1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
    8 Cloves Minced Garlic
    2 Tablespoons Whole Mixed Peppercorns, slightly crushed
    2 to 4 Steaks

    Rub combine brown sugar, worchester sauce, garlic and peppercorns. Rub evenly over steaks pressing into the flesh. Marinate in beer for 2 to 8 hours. Grill to desired doneness.

    Sunday, May 30, 2010

    Getting Back to My Roots

    Here's a quick snapshot of the hairdo. Chopped the length, adopted a new style, and went from blonde to brunette. I love everything about it, not the least of which is the fact that it now takes me 1/3 the time to dry my hair as it did before. Time for a wardrobe color palette shift.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Ham, Collard Greens, and Egg Noodle Bowl

    Once again, I have to give my friend Camille credit for this recipe. She posted it one time in her blog and I have been dying to try it. The recipe actually originates from the March 2005 Issue of Cooking Light and can be found on http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1031673.

    Begin by cooking 3 1/2 cups organic egg noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tablespoons butter in a large dutch oven. Saute 2 cups smoked diced ham about 5 minutes until well caramelized.

    Add diced carrots, onion, celery, red bell pepper, crushed garlic, and dried thyme. Stir and saute another 5 minutes until vegetables are just softened.

    Add greens and stir constantly for 60 seconds (Collard Greens is recommended but we used Kale.) Add 4 cups homemade organic chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Add egg noodles, freshly ground black pepper, stir and heat through. Serve immediately.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Oysters & Poker

    Yesterday was Jessica's 30th Birthday and we decided to top off her celebration weekend with a BBQ and Poker Night. We have been itching to BBQ after the beautiful weekend and walk around the lake, and Jessica just happened into FIVE DOZEN OYSTERS! Talk about a winning combination. Don played Grill Master while Chris shucked and Jessica prepared delicious seasonings of melted butter, crushed garlic, freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, and habenero hot sauce. I'm not a big shelfish person so I reserved most of the delicacies for everyone else, but even I could tell this was some quality grade seafood. Again, we were so impressed by how delicious the food was that we were able to make at home, how much fun we had preparing it, and how friggin' much this would have cost if we had tried to order five dozen oysters at a restaurant. We served with Garlic Bread and a Mount Baker Vineyards Rosetta Wine. And Don went to bed smelling like a campfire. This is a good thing. Forget Old Spice and give me campfire smell any day.




    One of the best things about Oysters, I have decided is the easy clean up! Aside from a few plates, these little guys come in natures own serving platters so clean up was a breeze.




    And the winner is Ian! He beat my King/Jack Two Pair with a surprise Diamond Flush on the River. Way to go Chaotic Neutral!

    video
    Seumas getting into the Party Mode during the BBQ! Cordy on the other hand, little miss trouble maker, hid under some logs she had been obsessing over and didn't come out until after we had walked all over the neighborhood searching for her. Won't be letting her off the leash any time soon.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Turkey Burgers with Grated Zucchini & Carrot

    I sometimes like to sneak vegetables into my diet. Even though I know they're there, I feel so subversive, like I'm getting away with something. This recipe was once served to me by Camille and I just tried them on my very own for lunch today. Turkey burgers incorporate shredded zucchini and carrots with a little bit of egg for binding and dried thyme, salt, and pepper for a delicious seasoning. Be careful to cook all the way through. Keep the setting on medium and cook slowly about 5 minutes on each side until all traces of pink are gone. For a full printout of this recipe, please visit http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1617870. Even though our hamburger buns came from the freezer to Don's disdain, he still declared them "good stuff."


    Lake Padden

    Can you believe we live here? Lake Padden is only about a mile from our house. We headed out with the dogs on Sunday for some much needed sun and some much needed exercise. This is why we moved here. Be still my heart.