Posted by: thewoobdog | April 10, 2014

Slacker Slacker Slackface

Man, I’m slack. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in *cough* seven months *cough*.  It’s so hard to make myself write a post [whine], but I love having written a post, and I especially love going back and reading old posts.  It’s such a great way to remember – just reading what I wrote or something silly and random that I posted takes me back to where I was then, good or bad.  I’ve always been terrible at journaling (why the heck would I want to write a bunch of blah blah blah that no one is ever going to read?) – it always seems to end up being excessively self-indulgent (my feelings written by me about me to me) and too often I end up being maudlin and disgustingly self-reflective (some self-reflection is a good thing, but you can only ride that pony so far).  Blogging, for me anyway, is more outward-focused.  Granted, I’m writing about my life or things I enjoy or random stuff I find amusing and want to share, but it’s filtered through a different lens – and quite honestly, I find that what I blog about ultimately has more meaning to me when I go back and read it than some sappy schmaltz I wrote in a journal.*

Moving on. I’ve been following some amazing blogs lately – some new (to me), some old favorites (as seen on my sidebar) – and I really feel the urge to start keeping up with this thing again.  I’m crazy busy right now (tax season, ugh), but I’ve got a new year’s resolution post coming up soon.  It’s non-traditional, I know, but I never really know what my goals are or what direction I want to head in on January 1.  I’m always recovering from the holidays and just trying to get back to a normal routine – trying to all of a sudden add resolutions for new and improved me to the holiday bounce-back is an exercise in futility and never ends well.  This year I’ve been pondering changes and goals and positive paths for a few weeks or months and I think I’m finally at the point that I can actually articulate the things I want to implement in my life. My birthday is coming up this month so what better time to make my new year’s resolutions?  Stay tuned…

Posts with pictures are always fun, so on a completely unrelated note, here, I made this**:

Mitered Cowl

* Note that I am not dissing journaling in general – I know a lot of people find it healing and cathartic and absolutely essential for their mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. I’m just saying I’m not one of those people.  Who knows, maybe I do it wrong.  Whatever. Just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, so please, don’t flame me.

** Modeled by my lovely sister.  Pattern here (not mine, I’m not that creative), yarn is Classic Elite Yarns Liberty Wool in colorway 7890.

 

Posted by: thewoobdog | August 21, 2013

We Interrupt This Blog for a Favorite-Author Plug

Ok, I know this isn’t a literary blog (it’s not really an anything-blog, it’s just sort of little random snippets of my life and occasional scary insights into my sense of humor), but reading is a huge part of my life and has been ever since I learned that letters make words and words make stories.  For as long as I can remember, I have devoured the printed word, and I discovered early on that fantasy and science fiction were my favorite kind of literary escape –  I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was nine and from that point on I was hooked.  My tastes now are wider-ranging, but a huge part of my personal library (and the selection of books I read over and over) is still in the fantasy/sci-fi genre.

It was probably two or three years after discovering fantasy that I came across Robin McKinley’s Blue Sword in my school library, and she instantly became one of my favorite authors of all time (and she’s pretty much stayed right up there, even decades later).  One of my prized possessions as a child was my very own copy of The Door in the Hedge that I found at the used-book store and kept until it eventually disintegrated into a pile of dust and limp gritty pages (I had to rely on the library for most books as a child, so any that were mine-all-mine were guarded as carefully as treasure).  Once I got a job and started earning money, my book collection increased exponentially and Robin’s books were some of the first I bought.

Throughout the years I’ve continued trying to round up every McKinley book I can get my hands on (and some aren’t easy to find, let me tell you!).  I’ve found that even if one of her books falls outside my normal interest-zone, I know I’ll like it just because she wrote it.  She has an intriguing and snarkily amusing way of looking at life and her books are always excellent and never mundane (much like her blog – you don’t even know how excited I was to discover that she not only had a blog, but that she updates it regularly. I can’t even describe how happy this makes me.)  Her world-creation and character development are masterful and despite often dealing with real-life issues, she never succumbs to the temptation to allow her writing to devolve into stuffy and stilted idealogical rambling (something I really wish I could say about all authors).  Her ramblings are always thought-provoking and well-suited to the characters, situations, and worlds she’s writing about and never fail to add to the storyline rather than detract from it. ;-)

Go. Buy her books.

Go read Chalice if you like books that challenge you as a reader (I promise you won’t figure out most of what the heck is going on til you’re at least two-thirds of the way in). Go read (for the love of all that’s holy, you must read) Blue Sword if you have any affection at all for fantasy (this is a great book for younger readers, too – nothing objectionable or parental-advisory-worthy).  If you like contemporary vampire fic, go read Sunshine (the only book she has released in this genre at this point).  Want a completely unexpected and reimagined retelling of a fairytale? Go read Rose Daughter or Spindle’s End (trust me, neither is anything you’d ever imagine and you won’t be disappointed).  Want to gnash your teeth and curse at an author for leaving you gasping with a b*tch of a cliffhanger? Go read Pegasus (thankfully the first of a trilogy, or Robin’s fans would have lynched her by now). ;-)  There are so many more and they are all worth reading, for young and old alike.

There are plenty of Robin’s books in publication right now – all of the above and more – so go grab one (or twelve) to keep you occupied for the next few weeks, because on September 26 her newest book, Shadows, hits the shelves (I’ve already pre-ordered it on my Kindle, but you can enter to win a free signed copy [as I've done and am doing!] – details here).  I’ve shamelessly cut-and-pasted the description (from the Amazon page) below:

A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End,Pegasus and Sunshine

Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

You can read a little excerpt from the beginning of the book here.

Seriously – do yourself a favor and pop over to your local bookstore or library (or friendly Amazon Kindle page) and grab yourself (and maybe your kids) some McKinley.

Posted by: thewoobdog | August 2, 2013

Just a Quickie

Just a quick update - I promise I will elaborate further in the (hopefully-near) future.  The secret that I have been fighting to keep behind clenched lips is that for my hubby’s 50th birthday, we are going to London!  It’s the top on his list of places he’d like to visit (me, I’d probably pick somewhere more exotic, but I’m still excited), so for the past three or four years (because, you know, I kind of knew in advance that he’d be turning the big 5-0) I’ve been tucking away money whenever I could.  I did all the final planning, purchased tickets, found a hotel, etc, this spring and I made a little WalMart photobook with our itinerary, pictures of our hotel and the places we’d be visiting, general tourist information, etc, for him to open on his birthday.  Suffice it to say, he was surprised – I counted four “Are you kidding me?!” and three “No way!” comments while he flipped through the booklet, HAHA.  We’re going in October, so at some point around there expect to be inundated with pics from across the pond.

Image

TBear’s Birthday Surprise

Notice the British-themed box I wrapped it in?  Thank you, TJ Maxx.

Posted by: thewoobdog | June 25, 2013

Veg Overload

Okay, so the CSA share thing?  Awesome.  I love knowing that we are eating fresh, local, organic produce and supporting local farmers.  I love having a whopping big load of vegetables handed to me twice a week without me having to make any purchasing decisions.  I get what I get and that’s that – it’s based entirely on what was ready for harvest on the farms that week.  This is why I knew it would make me try new things – like, somehow I ended up with like a pound and a half of kohlrabi.  I’ve never cooked (or eaten) kohlrabi in my life - I always just thought of it as that weird space alien vegetable hanging out in the produce section.  Thank goodness for my Victory Garden Cookbook - it’s organized alphabetically by vegetable and has tips on harvesting, yields, and preparation, not to mention dozens of recipes for every vegetable (even kohlrabi).  I’ve currently got bread n’ butter pickled kohlrabi (with some zucchini, shallots, and onions thrown in) hanging out in the fridge courtesy of a VG recipe.

So all that’s great, and I’m trying new things and eating more vegetables and the local organic fresh thing is just dandy, but

I work full-time.  I don’t own canning equipment.  My fridge has two (count them – two) crisper drawers.  My household consists of me and my husband – in other words, two (TWO) people.  My mom and I went in together on the CSA thing this year so we could try out two different ones, so we essentially get two full shares each week and split them.  The problem is, my mom’s out of town a lot in the summer (and much less adventurous in the kitchen than I am, due in part to the fact that neither my sisters nor my dad like trying new things), so for the last couple of weeks I’ve ended up with two full shares of produce.  Now, the description says that a half-share is good for a couple, and a full-share is good for a family of four or a couple that eats a lot of vegetables.  Thankfully, the growing season has gotten off to a slow start here this year, so the shares haven’t been bursting with veg for the most part, but still - two full shares is waaaaaay too much for two people to eat in a week, and my fridge is full to bursting with greens and vegetables. 

If I didn’t work, I could probably figure out some way to cook/preserve/prep/freeze most of it, but I’m getting buried in produce here.  With Saturday’s share, I ended up having to just chop the greens off most of the root vegetables (even though they’re edible, yes, I know) and give to the thriving colony of rabbits that lives near our house, since there was no way we could manage to eat all of those greens in addition to the swiss chard, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and broccoli rabe we got (and not even considering the pound of braising greens, collard greens, head of butter lettuce, and two bunches of swiss chard still in the crisper from last Tuesday).  So I kept the salad turnips, carrots, beets, and kohlrabi but guiltily tossed their nutrient-rich, healthy, leafy tops…

I pick up our other share this afternoon… HELP!

Posted by: thewoobdog | June 24, 2013

Beet It

I know, I know – incredibly unoriginal title.  I only have a minute, though, and I wanted to write down the recipe I came up with (inspired by a Williams-Sonoma recipe) to utilize the bounty in my Saturday CSA share a couple of weeks ago.  The share contained baby beets, beet greens, spinach, green onions, radishes (which my mom took – she goes nuts for fresh baby radishes), two heads of young leaf lettuce, and a half dozen eggs.  I’ve never eaten beet greens (it just never occurred to me to that they could be eaten), so this whole getting-a-CSA-share-to-get-me-to-try-new-things is really paying off.

Anyway, here’s last night’s experiment:

Spinach and Beet Green Salad with Roasted Baby Beets:

Approx 1 pound baby beets, washed well

1 tsp coconut oil (or oil of your choice)

Salt & pepper

Two bunches of young beet greens, washed well, stems removed

A couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves, washed well

1/4 c. slivered mint leaves

2 Tbsp. green onions, sliced thin

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Segments cut (avoid membranes) from two small oranges (about 3/4 c.)

1/2 oz. feta, crumbled

2 Tbsp. toasted pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts

Trim beets, toss in 1 tsp oil of your choice, season lightly with salt and pepper, and wrap tightly in foil.  Roast at 425 for about 25 minutes.  Cool, peel, and dice.

Combine green onions, mint, vinegar, mustard, and 1/4 c. olive oil in a jar; shake well.  Toss beet greens and spinach with vinaigrette.  Separate into bowls and top with orange segments, diced beets, feta, and pecans.

Posted by: thewoobdog | June 3, 2013

June Already?

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since March. Gaaaah. Slacker. Come to think of it, I haven’t done much of anything since March – tax season forcibly hijacked any semblance of focus or attention I had managed to cultivate and I’ve been pulled randomly from this thing to that thing ever since. I’ve started a lot of stuff and I have all these big plans to actually accomplish stuff over the next few months, but I have yet to actually follow through with anything in a realistic way. I figure a procrastinatory post is better than no post at all, so I thought I would write down the items in my mental scrapheap and maybe by listing them I’ll actually be inspired to, you know, do something to further them along:

I’ve started a couple of baby afghans, only one of which has any hope of being finished (I decided I hated the yarn for the other and cut my losses before I had too much time invested) – these are for my nephew who will be making his debut sometime in early August.  It’s much harder to find cute baby patterns to knit for little boys than for little girls, especially since I refuse to knit something for a baby that can be purchased cheaper, more practically, or cuter in a store.

I have big plans to eat right and get active this summer – my CSA share pickups started a couple of weekends ago so I have fresh, organic, local produce to work with every week, which I’m hoping will encourage me to start cooking lovely fresh meals again (a laudable habit that I unfortunately got out of in the craziness of tax season). I got out of the habit of doing Zumba during tax season, too, because I had to work so late most nights.  I want to start going to that again a couple of times a week, but I also re-activated my gym membership and I want to start doing cardio-weightlifting again at least twice a week.  I firmly believe that the purchase of a new iPod Nano will motivate me in my fitness endeavors (cute new toys are statistically proven to increase exercise time by at least 30%, right? Right?) (we will ignore the fact that by this reasoning, I would be a marathon-runner with 14% body fat, given my past purchases of whatever DVD-cute-weights-MP3-player-new-workout-clothes-matching-shoes-fun-accessories I just KNEW would motivate me to be all fit, all the time).

I want to plan a surprise (hopefully – watch him start reading my blog now when he hasn’t for five years) 50th birthday party for my husband (only a month left to get this one marked off – ack). It’s a milestone so I feel like I should go a little beyond the standard immediate-family-in-the-backyard-cookout thing (apparently dashes are my thing today – makes a nice change from my normal obsession with ellipses).  I get tired just thinking about it.  There’s no way we can do it at our house, so I have to somehow find another place to have it that will hold 40 or so people but not cost the earth.  I’m thinking for the food part of things that I’ll do a hot dog bar – I can grill/broil/pan-fry/steam/boil the hotdogs in advance and keep them warm in a covered pan on a grill or something, and put out every condiment and topping imaginable so people can just go to town and make whatever kind of trashy hot dog they want.  Then I can have guests bring whatever random side item they feel like making.  It’s the easiest, least-expensive option I can think of and hot dogs are one of his favorite foods, so it’s a win-win.

I’m trying to plan a surprise trip for his birthday – I won’t disclose any details here, just in case.

I have never in my life worn (or had any desire to wear) a shawl, but I have this new book that actually has patterns in it I like and I bought the yarn to do one.  I started one yesterday and I’d really like to finish it by fall (it’s in sort of autumn-y colors) – I know that sounds like plenty of time but I’m a very ADHD knitter. I am constantly distracted by new yarn or patterns. SQUIRREL.

I want to clear out my pantry – I have so much food in there that I’ve bought and then never used, and I’ve decided that from now on (ie, from the time I get around to cleaning out the crap I already have) I’m going to start just buying what I need when I need it.  Sales don’t save any money if you throw out or don’t use half of what you buy.  Ditto the fridge and freezer.  I have more blasted condiments in the fridge than I can count (how many kinds of mustard do I really need?  I mean, seriously).

I’m working on brushing up on my Spanish and learning French and German (the first I have a degree in, the latter two I had a couple of years in but never grew proficient).  Thankfully, this is made much easier by Duolingo, which I found out about from a presentation on TED.com - this is a fascinating video, you should totally go watch it (I promise, it is riveting stuff).  Who even thinks this way?  Brilliant, brilliant people. Seriously.  Blows my mind just thinking about it.  My small, small mind.

Wow.  This has actually turned into a legit blog post.  I love it when that happens.  I think I’ve rambled enough, so I’ll go now.  Hopefully I will not wait months to blog again.

Posted by: thewoobdog | March 28, 2013

Noro – Great Yarn, Lousy Virus

So this past weekend my husband went off for a three-day manstravaganza with several of his buddies – he and two of his best friends have milestone birthdays this year (30, 40, and 50) and they decided to have a big celebratory get-together.  There were nine guys total, from all over the globe (I mean that literally – while some flew in from Colorado and Kentucky, one guy came over from Guam and another took a break from his job in Antarctica to come be a part of this faux-bachelor weekend), all happily grilling, drinking, and playing Disc-golf, when the unthinkable happened - one by one, they all fell victim to the norovirus. 

Anyone who has ever been married, had a serious boyfriend, or even just been really good friends with a guy will know that they do not handle these things well.  The strongest man will become the most pitiable little boy when laid low by a stomach virus.  Picture nine of them in a house with no women, no clue, and no medicine (gin and tonic doesn’t count) – I am so glad I wasn’t there (although I felt awful about my poor husband being laid out sick two hours away and me unable to do anything about it).  I am also glad I am not the wife of the guy whose house they were at – not something I’d want to come home to, if you know what I mean.  On the same token, maybe it’s karma – when the outbreak started amongst the guys, it was revealed that the whole family of the guy whose house it was (the only guy who didn’t come down with it this weekend) had it four days before, but somehow that little tidbit of information never came up before the get-together.  It would have been nice to know, especially since the guys were sleeping in the kids’ beds and using the kids’ bathroom and basically living in the heart of the prior weekend’s vomitorium.*

Anyway, my 6-foot tall, 195-pound husband lost ten pounds in three days, missed two days of work, and still isn’t quite back to normal.  He managed to drag himself home Sunday, and to aid in his recovery I went out and bought Gatorade, ginger tea, mint tea, four liters of ginger ale, and all the makings for homemade chicken noodle soup, which is kind of the roundabout reason for this post.  I thought I’d share, just in case anyone else ever felt the urge to stuff a loved one with hearty, healthy, rejuvenating soup (it’s the only thing TBear could keep down for days, so I must be doing something right):

Homemade Chicken Soup (for the Body, not the Soul)

For the stock:

5-lb whole chicken (with or without skin – I usually remove the skin from the body and leave it on the legs and wings)

12 c. water

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

ends and leavings from the rest of the vegetables cut up for the soup

For the soup:

4 large carrots, cut into 1/2″ chunks

4 parsnips, cut into 1/2″ chunks

2 turnips, cut into 1/2″ chunks

3 ribs of celery, cut into chunks

1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half, rinsed well, and sliced into 1/4″ slices

2 onions, cut into 1/2″ chunks

1 bunch of parsley or just the parsley stems, tied together

3 – 4 cups of wide egg noodles (measure before cooking)

leafy dark greens – I used kale, swiss chard, and spinach, about 1/3 lb total (it looks like a lot but shrinks down to almost nothing in the soup)

1/2 c chopped fresh dill

Place chicken in large stockpot, add water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 30 – 35 minutes.  Remove chicken from pot, remove skin (if any), strip meat from bones, cut into bite-size pieces, and reserve in fridge to be added back to the soup later.  Add chicken bones back to water in stockpot, add garlic and any leftover vegetable ends  (I threw in an old bell pepper, the celery tops and ends, the carrot ends, half a red onion that had seen better days, turnip ends, parsnip ends, the dark green tops of the leek, etc – all of this will be strained out later but adds flavor and depth to the stock during the cooking process, so take this opportunity clean out your vegetable drawers without feeling like you’re throwing food away).  Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 1/2 hours, skimming top occasionally to remove fat or impurities if needed, stirring occasionally.

Strain your stock to get out the bones and vegetable pieces – I saved the bones and assorted flotsam in a separate bowl because I ended up needing more liquid, so I was able to pour hot water over the bones and veg, let it sit for a few minutes, and strain out to get ‘stock’ flavor in my added liquid.  Put stock (minus all the stuff you strained out, of course) back in stockpot, add carrots, parsnips, turnips, onion, leek, and parsley, and let simmer 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water in a separate pot, about two minutes less than package directions (cooking the noodles separately keeps them from hogging all the moisture in your soup, but undercooking them slightly leaves them able to absorb flavor and not disintegrate once in the soup), drain.  After the 15 minute soup simmer is done, remove parsley/stems, add noodles, dill, leafy greens, and reserved chicken, and heat through (see beginning of this paragraph if you need additional liquid – you can use my method or just add some canned chicken broth).  Serve immediately.

Sorry I don’t have a picture, but this is a very hearty, chunky soup that is nonetheless very delicately flavored and not overly rich.  It’s an easily-digested powerhouse of nutrition for an under-the-weather loved one or just a comforting pick-me-up on a dreary winter day.  Everyone in my family and extended family loves it and I think they secretly pray for someone to get sick just so I’ll go to the trouble of making it…

 

* I don’t want to give the impression that this is a dirty family – the mom keeps a crazy-clean house, and I know she probably scrubbed every inch of every surface.  I certainly wouldn’t have thought a stomach virus could live through either a thorough cleaning or several days of waiting – I can’t even tell you how surprised I was when I looked up the norovirus and found out it can live in carpets and linens for TWELVE DAYS even when they’ve been washed with normal detergent – household cleaners won’t clean it from hard surfaces, either.  This thing is a beast – the only thing that touches it is concentrated bleach solution.  Yeesh.

Posted by: thewoobdog | March 20, 2013

Easily Amused

I am ridiculously excited about my CSA shares for 2013 – every year I mean to sign up for a share or two, and every year it completely slips my mind until after tax season, at which point it’s usually too late.  This year an article in the local paper reminded me and I actually remembered to follow through with it – my mom and I went to the CSA fair at the Agricultural Center this week to meet the farmers and see what options were available, and between us we selected two to try this year.  Our plan was to get shares from two different farms or co-ops so we could compare and get a little variety, and we’ll split the goods and cost so we each essentially have two half-shares.  Next year we’ll either stick with one or both of the ones we tried or we’ll try new ones, depending on our experiences with the ones we picked for this year (I have a good feeling about them, though).

We met farmers from several different farms, including some that were meat-inclusive or meat-only, but we ended up choosing shares that highlight produce because fresh, local produce is what we really want to have a variety of this summer.  We went with Springhouse Farm, a certified organic farm, for a full produce share, and with High Country CSA, a co-op of farms and farmers who grow organically but are not necessarily certified, for a variety share that includes produce as well as locally produced items such as cheeses, breads, and honey.  We decided that now that we know the local farms that sell pasture-raised, organic meats, we can plan to place our meat orders with them on an as-needed basis so that we can control the quantity and pick the cuts of meat we need.  Since I’ll be picking up at least one of our CSA shares at the farmer’s market, I can also just buy any meat or extra produce we need on those days straight from the market stalls.

You don’t even know how excited I am about getting boxes of local, fresh, organic produce every week – the growing season is so short up here that even in summer, most vegetables in the super market come from Mexico or California and rarely have much flavor.  Getting produce that is grown locally on small farms that choose their varieties by taste rather than shelf-life is going to be a huge treat, and I love the ‘grab bag’ aspect of it that will force me to try new things and encourage me to experiment with new ways of cooking familiar things.  Hopefully this will provide much blog fodder, as well. 

[bounces up and down in chair with excitement]  I feel like a kid at Christmas – it’s so cruel that I have to wait until May to reap the benefits of my newly-purchased CSA shares!

Posted by: thewoobdog | March 12, 2013

Random Recipe Tuesday

I’m cheating – I’m not actually posting the recipe here (for copyright reasons), but since I found it online I’m posting the link.  Soooo delicious and actually quite healthy, so long as you’re not watching sodium intake.  I think you could substitute chicken breasts, skin removed but with bone left in, if you have a family of picky chicken eaters (growing up we only ever ate white meat chicken, since my dad hates the dark meat) -  I happened to have a pack of boneless, skinless thighs in the freezer so I made the recipe exactly as stated.  Next time I might substitute cauliflower for the potatoes (and add it in about halfway through the cooking time so it doesn’t turn to mush) so I can serve it over spiced Indian rice without overloading the whole meal with starchy carbs.  I’m thinking about roasting a spaghetti squash and seeing how the stew goes with that, since we’ll be eating on this a few nights this week.  Anyway, this is a delicious and easy stew and I highly recommend it.

Fragrant Garam Masala Chicken Stew

Sorry for the dearth of posts this month – tax season has struck again and I consider myself lucky if I can even figure out if I’m coming or going.  Stringing words together into coherent sentences and sentences into (gasp!) paragraphs is more than I can handle (plus I hate sounding like I’m whining and so it’s just better if posts are few and far between during tax season).  Maybe soon I can manage a picture-post soon of all my holiday knitting projects – I always have to keep them super-secret before the holidays so I never post pics on the blog, but then after the holidays I forget.  I think I did actually manage to get pics of most of them this year, though, which is almost unheard of.

Posted by: thewoobdog | February 26, 2013

Food Frenzy

Cooking it, not eating it.  I had some serious kitchen wins this weekend – I cooked all our meals for the week on Sunday (that’s the only way I can manage to fit workouts into the weekdays), and for once I picked all winners in the recipe department and all my modifications worked perfectly.  I present the following for your inspiration (alas, this is a pictureless post – words will have to suffice):

Seeing as it’s looking like a cold, wet/snowy week here, I really wanted to make a hearty stew so I turned to my friend Doug’s Slow Cooker Beef Stew - I actually bought an eye of round roast and cut into cubes rather than buying packaged stew meat.  I’ve been disappointed with stew meat lately – it always seems to have weird fatty bits and connective tissue, and is cut completely randomly with some pieces being huge and some just little flaps – so I thought by trimming and cutting a lean roast myself I could produce a better stew.  Boy, was it worth it – because the meat is browned slightly before putting in the crockpot, it holds its flavor and moisture and the result is amazingly tender.  Another change I made was adding some paprika to the flour before dredging the beef, and substituting about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of dried oregano for the cloves (personal preference – having grown up with a certain flavor profile in beef stew, I tend to prefer it; I’ve tried the recipe as written with the cloves and it was tasty, I just happen to prefer the oregano).

In my small crockpot (yes, I have two - since a lot of times I’m only cooking 2 – 4 servings of recipes, having the small crockpot pays off) I made Potato and Canadian Bacon Chowder, which turned out to be delicious.  At the end of cooking, I removed about 2/3 of the vegetables, pureed what was left with a hand-blender, and then added the vegetables back – this made the broth a little heartier but left plenty of chunks for that chowder feel.  Also, I portioned this into four servings rather than six to make for more substantial dinners.

I figured I’d do salads with dinner each night to get our veggies in, so I whipped up a batch of Roasted Yellow Pepper and Basil Vinaigrette, a recipe I found this summer and fell in love with (I had about eight varieties of basil growing in my raised garden bed this summer, having given up on trying to raise vegetables).  Since I really didn’t feel like roasting my own peppers (so not gonna happen), I used jarred roasted bell peppers (in water, not oil or vinegar, patted dry before using).  The one caveat here is that the first time I made this, I happened to have jarred roasted yellow bell peppers handy (courtesy of a random TJ Maxx purchase), but this time all I could find in the supermarket was roasted red bell peppers.  They are not as good in this vinaigrette as the yellow bell peppers – they’re a bit more assertive and the dressing is a bit on the acidic side, whereas the yellow gave a milder flavor to the dressing and was more balanced.  That said, I threw together some butter lettuce (my favorite), baby spinach, fresh chopped orange bell pepper, and feta cheese and tossed it with this vinaigrette last night (and less is more – too much dressing overpowers, whereas slightly underdressing the salad works perfectly) and it was amazing.  The fresh bell pepper gave a juicy sweet crunch to the salad and the feta balanced the dressing out perfectly, while the addition of the baby spinach helped the butter lettuce hold up to the assertiveness of the vinaigrette.  My husband actually finished his salad before his potato chowder, which borders on the miraculous (normally he’ll eat a few bites of salad then snarf whatever else is available, leaving most of the salad until last and only eating it if he’s not full by then).

It is so much more rewarding to spend an entire day (and a weekend-day, at that) cooking when you get good results and actually look forward to eating what you’ve made.  Too often lately the new recipes I’ve picked (we will not speak of the horrible pureed broccoli sauce-on-linguine) or the adjustments I’ve made have been awful, and it’s a real letdown to spend a lot of time on something and have it turn out to be crap.  I’ll just be off basking in this week’s successful glow for a bit if anyone needs me…

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