Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Martha strikes again

Just when I think I am getting the hang of this blogging thing and perhaps even occasionally being witty and helpful - Martha goes and shows me up. No no - not even that - Martha's friggin dogs Francesca and Sharkey show me up. They have a blog. It is called The Daily Wag.

Here are my issues - and yes - some of them are a little personal.

I love love love french bulldogs - they are dignified and dopey at the same time - so endearing. In fact - Adam and I have pre-named our future dog. She will be a frenchie and her name will be Petunia. If all goes well - her life companion will be an english bulldog named Winston.

I am a sucker for animals in clothes. Seriously - put a duck in a hat and I am happy for days. I met my dear husband because of a monkey wearing a fez hat. True story.

Sharkey and Francesca know how to turn it out. They are always dressed appropriately for every occasion (ball gowns, rain gear, felted sweaters with pearl trim) and seem to put more thought into their appearance than I do. This makes me feel lazy - they are dogs. I am somewhat consoled by the fact that they are French. The French always dress better than Americans right?

Their lives are pretty exciting - significantly more exciting than me own right now. Their days are filled with television appearances, skunk encounters, dog fashion shows and they seem to have no end of topics to write about. Whereas - I am writing about cooking up pre-marinated tri tip and organizing my bookshelves. Alas!

Francesca and Sharkey's blog is genuinely funny. I enjoy reading it and browsing through their outfit photos. I should not like these things as much as I do.

These little dogs are outshining me in fashion, humor, experience and even class. Oh and thousands of people read their blog everyday - I can't even get some of my closest friends to look at mine consistently.

Alas - I can never really be mad at them - look how cute and stupid they look. Awwww.


All photos from marthastewart.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

FOOD - beef tri tip and roasted brussel sprouts

Tri tip and roasted brussel sprouts - sounds fancy right? We all know I am nothing if not posh. Oh but how easy it was - all because of my secret best friend - the fulfiller of all my wishes, hopes and desires - Costco.

The meat was pre-marinated - brand is Morton's of Omaha - sold unfrozen in the deli case for roughly $4.50 per pound. The hardest part is finding a cut as that is not intended to serve an intimate dinner party for 30. Usually I can find one just over 2 pounds and that is ideal.

The easy part? Cooking. Preheat the oven, put the meat in fat side up and cook for 1 hour. Done and done. It is mind blowingly delicious - it is almost too good to be true but we savoured every bite.

One tip - be very very careful disposing of the wrapping the tri tip comes in. Do not - perhaps - accidentally spill bloody meat juice all across your kitchen floor and somehow the front of the oven - then have to spend 20 minutes cleaning it up.

As for the brussel sprouts - these requires a teeny bit more work than opening the bag and slapping into the oven. Here is the recipe - courtesy of my friend Marissa.

Ingredients -
fresh brussel sprouts (6-8 per person for a generous portion)
olive oil
garlic, diced

Directions -
preheat oven to 350 degrees
Wash and trim the ends of the sprouts
slice each in half vertically
in a bowl - drizzle with oil olive, a little salt and garlic
toss well
place flat side down on a baking sheet (another use for the silpat!) or roasting pan
bake for 20-25 minutes

These also turned out amazing - nutty and toasty and delicious. In fact - Adam - who swore he hated brussel sprouts was stealing them from my plate since he devoured his.

All in all it was a great dinner - simple, unfussy, flavorful food - done with less than 15 minutes of prep time and very little clean up (not counting the meat juice incident). There was also a ton of leftover meat - enough for 2 sandwiches for lunch and a tri trip caesar salad for three the following night. All for just about ten dollars.



ps - photos above from epicurious.com

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I ran I ran as fast as I could

Fog? Check. Rain? Yup. Wind? Of course! Butt cold temps? Done. That's right - all the conditions for a perfect race day.

Luckily - despite the miserable conditions - I had one hell of a running partner in "mean" Wendy - my longtime trainer and now friend. Not only did she volunteer to run this race with me (and got up at the crack of dawn on a rainy Sunday) - she pushed my naturally lazy ass to do my best - even resorting to jokes and a little singing on the hills. In fact - when running up the big hill on the approach to the bridge - she was giving advice to other runners!!

This race was more than a 12k, more than those 7.4 soaking wet miles - this was a personal accomplishment - the first race I have competed in since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and going on those months and months of steroids. It feels really good to know that I am back in control and able to push myself again.

I am glad I did it? Absolutely. Am I happy it is over? Abso-f*cking-lutely. Somehow I agreed to do a half marathon at the end of May. Must have been drunk. Stay tuned!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

THREAD - the first of a flock

There are multiple patterns out there for birds and even better - bird mobiles - and I do love a good ride on a bandwagon - especially one as cute as this - bird mobile.

I have been completely tied up with my quilt (which should be finished and posted very very soon) and my upcoming run (tomorrow - wish me luck) once that is complete I will be all about some birds. I do love me some birds.

Look for the full flock soon.

Oh - and Adam thinks this bird looks like a space whale which completely baffles and slightly offends me.



Monday, March 9, 2009

I would like you all to meet Gladys

Gladys is a beauty - an aged beauty. She originally belonged to my Aunt Mary Celine as a child and through time and life she got packed away and forgotten. Aunt Mary recently found her again and - knowing me so well (we did have sock monkeys on our save the date) - decided that I could give her the proper home in her retirement. I will be forever thankful.

It was love at first site. First off - she immediately needed a name - which is where the husband came in. Adam gives everyone their proper name - he has been known to give new - more appropriate names to things that already have names - such as my parents' dog (his name was Wally, now it is Walter Joseph, sometimes referred to as Johan). He took one look at her and immediately said - Gladys - and it just works.

Then through a group effort of Adam, my mom, myself and some wine - Gladys was given a back story. Given her plump lips, intense eyebrows and ample derriere - it was determined that Gladys has had a bit of a hard life. A life filled with stress smoking, diner waitress gigs and not always the best husbands. She is a survivor with a good heart and a weakness for love. She takes pride in her appearance - getting her eyebrows and eyeliner permanently tattooed on and always wearing a fresh coat of her signature red lipstick.

I hope you all can meet her some day.


Friday, March 6, 2009

FOOD - chicken tikka & pilau rice

I'm branching out - going ethnic - and we are not talking burritos here people.

With my hand being firmly held by my cooking ambassador Suniti - I was able to make my first Indian dishes - chicken tikka and pilau rice. I do say - both were delicious.

Having really only eaten Indian take-out or Kennedy's (Indian curry house/Irish pub) over the years - I was really surprised how simple the dishes were to make and how healthy. Both were made with just one main ingredient layered with spices - simple, very very flavorful and uncomplicated.

Here is the recipe for the chicken tikka -

ingredients -
1-1.5 pounds fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes

marinade -
1 cup lowfat plain yogurt (we used Indian yogurt - it is thicker than most standard yogurts)
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp red chilies
1/4 tsp fresh green chili

directions -
  1. mix all ingredients for the marinade together
  2. add chicken and thoroughly mix and cover each piece with the sauce
  3. place chicken on baking or broiling pan covered in foil - ensure each piece has plenty of sauce
  4. set oven to broil, leaving door slightly ajar
  5. broil chicken for ~10 minutes or until top of chicken begins to brown
  6. use tongs to flip all the chicken pieces over and then continue broiling until chicken is cooked through
  7. eat!!
Things to note -
Suniti mixes everything by hand - no wooden spoon or anything. She says it is important to feel the food as you cook. This makes sense to me but still challenges my fussy nature.

Taste taste taste as you go along - we would add a pinch more of an ingredient a few times as we went along.

Watch those chilies - I can handle foods with a little kick (not going to be signing up for a pepper eating contest anytime soon though) and the 1/4 teaspoons of red chilies and green chili (with a dash more added as we tasted) were plenty. They really kicked up the flavor but anymore would have completely taken out the taste of the other ingredients.

Unless you are Suniti's 80+ year old mother who makes her naan everyday from scratch - go ahead and buy frozen or fresh naan from the store. Throw it in the oven at 400 degrees for 2-3 minutes and you have yourself some toasty warm tasty bread.

Next time we are going to make samosas - I cannot wait!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

THREAD - drool worthy baby bib

Since I am now a sewing addict - I needed a quick sewing fix and this was the perfect project. From the first fabric ironing to the final stitch I was done in less and an hour and a half and I am by no means a fast sewer.

I took a few patterns and tutorials I found online and morphed them into this final project. One tutorial had a pdf for the pattern - just need to print, trace and cut. Another recommended adding a layer of flannel in the center for extra absorbency (given baby Leila's almost camel-like spitting issues this is a good thing) so I added a layer thin cotton batting. Finally - there was the issues of ties versus snaps versus velcro for the closure. Obviously - stick-on velcro was the way for my lazy-ass to go.

Since these are so easy to make and friggin adorable - I expect baby bibs to be the new fingerless glove - I wont be able to stop until my hand turns into a claw.

Enjoy -

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

LOVE - strange birds & glass jars

There are many things I am randomly a fan and/or collector and obsessive of - here are two current favorites.

1. random strange birds
I counted - there are more than 20 birds in our apartment in various species, sizes and mediums. Above are two of the most unique.

The one on the left is ceramic and supposedly a dove - to me - it looks like an albino pigeon. At work it was on a lamp between a few desks - everyone would move it around so it would not be overlooking them directly (its beady eyes are a little disconcerting).

When I first took it home I put it on a shelf in the bathroom but Adam made me move it - he said the bird was watching him shower. Then I tucked it onto the radiator in the living room right in front of the window so it looked like it flew into the apartment. This is where it currently lives although nobody has yet to think it is real - alas! I'll admit it is a bit creepy but there is something endearing about it and I do love that it is ceramic.

The bird on the right is metal and heavy and is a nutcracker. Like a good bird it cracks nuts in its bird beak. You cannot beat form and function right? I love the heft and the simplicity of it. The nutcracker birds lives - perfectly content - on the butcher block table under a large ficus tree in the kitchen.

2. glass jars of various sizes
For as many birds as there are in the apartment there are just as many - very possibly more - glass jars. Itty bitty to two feet tall - there are jars everywhere and I love them. They are pretty and useful and unexpected.

The jar collection started with good intentions - I gathered a few at a sample sale to put holiday treats in - for $1 apiece they were a gorgeous environmentally friendly very Martha Stewart way to present cookies and biscotti and other holiday deliciousness. But then I gathered more (they were free!!) and soon people at work would find more jars as the office was closing and started to bring them to me - then I got a few more for my birthday. It was a death spiral of jars.

Now they almost all serve a purpose - to display fancy soap and matches in the bathroom as in the photo above - to hold knitting needles, thread and ribbon in my crafting bookshelf - filled with leftover ornaments at Christmas for decoration (stole that from a Martha cover a few years ago) - and on and on. There is a simple functional beauty to them especially since they are scattered around the apartment.

I guess it is the simple - slightly odd - things make me happy and truly make our apartment more personal.


P.S. - I even have one glass jar filled with small glass bird figurines. My passions collide!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

YARN - one pair of mittens - this time with fingers!

With a little persuading by Sarah - I finally made a pair of mittens with finger and thumb covers. On a rainy Sunday filled with Dim Sum and yarn shopping - Sarah picked out the yarn and I got to work. I love the coloring on these - they are made from just one skein of yarn but it was hand dyed - making for that great variation in color from mitten to mitten.

I used the same pattern from Martha Stewart that was noted in my original post for fingerless mittens http://housewifebyaccident.blogspot.com/2009/02/yarn-lots-o-mittens-none-with-fingers.html. Since this yarn was much thicker than the original pattern and Sarah has petite paws - I reduced the cast-on stitches from 39 to 30. With a stroke of luck I finished the mittens with just 6 inches of yarn to spare.

In our adventures Sarah and I stumbled upon the greatest little yarn shop called Urban Fauna Studio http://www.urbanfaunastudio.com/. The place is about the size of my bedroom but filled top to bottom with treasures - 2 inch tall knitted robots, felted centipede toys, ceramics that look knitted and the most beautiful yarns - most hand dyed, sustainable and/or organic.

There are no stuffy pretentious old ladies there - nobody to judge the quality of your cable knit. Instead it is owned and operated by a guy in (maybe) his early 30s who acts surprisingly like my brother who is a tattoo artist in Portland. Seriously - he was wearing a t-shirt with a hot dog dancing with a mustard bottle.

He was incredibly helpful and truly passionate about his store, art, yarn, knitting, spinning and the culture of just experimenting and playing with material. It was very refreshing - especially for me - I often just pick up yarn and let it tell me what I should make - I rarely go into a shop with some grand preconceived plan.

I have quite the stash of yarn now. Luckily it has been cold and rainy so I can justify sitting around happily knitting away.


FOOD - chicken caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons

Pop quiz - you have - 5 pounds of frozen chicken breasts, a loaf of stale sourdough bread and 6 heads of romaine lettuce (obviously I just cannot resist shopping at Costco)
- what do you make for dinner?? Chicken caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons - so easy - so delicious.

Since I used dressing from a bottle (cheating I know but it is good, really good - I promise) the only real prep was baking up some chicken and making croutons.

I looked up a bunch of crouton recipes and then sort of created a hybrid of my own using a little less butter, a lot more garlic and larger cuts of bread - no dainty uniformed-sized croutons in my salad.

Here is the general recipe I followed for the croutons -

1/2 loaf of french bread (I used a loaf - not a baguette - of sour batard), cut into 1-1.5" squares
5 tablespoons butter - either salted or unsalted
2-4 large cloves of garlic, minced

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees (if you are me - remember to first remove all the baking pans you store in the oven, much easier to do before they get hot)
  2. in a large saute pan - brown butter, add minced garlic, cook for ~1 min until coated not yet browned.
  3. add bread to butter/garlic mix in pan, toss to coat.
  4. Spread coated bread onto baking sheet (on a silpat if you have it, otherwise use an uncoated baking sheet)
  5. bake for ~15 minutes until dry and crispy. Check them frequently after 5 mins of cooking to shake them around and prevent any burning.
  6. season with a little salt - less if you used salted butter.

A few notes -
Although the croutons look and smell amazing (seriously my apartment smelled like freshly baked garlic bread for hours) try to stop yourself from popping one in your mouth immediately after pulling them out of the oven. They made not feel super hot to the touch but I have the burn on my lip to prove that they are.

There will be a lot of loose garlic bits on the baking pan when you are done. I just tossed this into the salad with the croutons. It added a nice baked nutty garlic kick.

I did a simple baked chicken with lemon, pepper and a little salt since the dressing and the croutons are so flavorful there was no point in going all out with the chicken. I sliced it thin, restaurant style similar to what is shown in the photo above.

Many of the crouton recipes called for olive oil instead of butter. I had more butter on hand than olive oil and love the way that browned butter tastes. If you prefer olive oil - do a quick search on epicurious.com or marthastewart.com and you will find numerous recipes.

I made the croutons a day ahead - then my dear husband took the bag to the couch and proceeded to eat them like chips (crunchy butter soaked baked garlic chips). Luckily - I had no shortage of stale bread, butter or garlic around (thanks Costco!) so I made another - larger - batch the next day for dinner.

There is a Martha Stewart recipe that uses cookie cutters to shape all the croutons into hearts. How ummm sweet - I don't think I will be doing that anytime soon.