30 July 2007

The House of the Unique Stink

Well, friends, it's over. I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm so sad it's over, but so happy I found and read it. I read a lot, but it's rare something actually moves me (yeah, I'm a cold-hearted snake). This book inspired me, amused me, and touched me. Please please read it, and you'll be able to "awwwww!" with me over the last few pages. Seriously, I was "awwwwing" out loud. So sweet, I almost want to hatch some baby turkeys of my own.

And perfectly juxtaposing the completion of this book, a new episode of Bizarre Foods is on, and Andrew Zimmern was just "beaten" by food for the first time. What was it you ask? Worms? No, he gets those down no problem. Balut? Rooster balls? Heck no. It was stinky tofu in Taiwian, at the above-mentioned House of the Unique Stink. While this show fascinates (and repulses) me, it makes me so grateful I can take a quick drive down the street and pick up fresh and beautiful blueberries -- not rotten, not fried, or mixed with grubs. Just plain old yummy blueberries.

"Advanced chicken butt eaters eat the whole thing." -- Andew Zimmern

It's like poetry.

29 July 2007

I don't want to lick my finger! You lick my finger!

What a weekend! Birthday celebrations have ceased and now it's back to normal, just sitting here with Brad eagerly awaiting the start of Shark Week. I woke up this morning, pulled out my lovely plastic lounge chair, and came pretty close to finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I don't think I've ever been so sad to finish a book. I'm planning on drawing it out a few more days... I'm just past the part where the turkeys get. it. on. Interesting stuff. On a related note, my new plants are still alive (they made it a whole day! I'm on a roll). I even realized I hadn't lost the care card and now know I have to keep the "strawberry" plant moist. I also borrowed a few gardening books from my mom today. I have no aspirations to be a gardener (ha! me?), but I am curious about plants and stuff. I can't wait to crack this the 1961 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book.

Bday Recap 2
Mexican Fiesta Bday BBQ

I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon chop chop chopping for the quesadilla fixings, which is just fine by me because I love to chop (I need to find me a big awesome chef's knife!). Luckily, I remembered the handy little gadget I picked up this winter and haven't had a chance to use yet: a tomato slicer, which works equally as well with onions. Just be careful, or you'll end up with a multi-sliced finger, too (luckily my "worst" knife tragedy so far). The time saver was great because I had a ton of tomatoes to chop, as I was making salsa and guacamole from scratch. I've found it's nearly impossible to find store-bought anything that doesn't have garlic in it, so homemade is safer. The guac was a big hit, and I was quite a fan of my first-time salsa impromptu recipe. Both were super simple but tasty and fresh.

Steph-Safe Guacamole

6 avocados
Juice of 1 lime
1 small tomato, chopped
Salt, pepper, oregano

That's it! Just mix it all up (I like to leave some avocado chunks) and dig in. It makes enough to fill a medium-sized bowl; enough for 12 people to munch on for approximately two hours.

Steph-Safe Salsa

5 or 6 small tomatoes (or, I suppose, 2 or 3 large ones! ha ha)
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 jalapeno
Fresh basil
Salt, pepper
1 small onion

Same as above, just chop and mix! With the tomatoes, make sure you don't lose the juice that runs onto your cutting board as you dice -- dump it all in the mixing bowl. I chopped all but two, which I literally squooshed with my hands in the bowl to give the salsa some sauciness.

The main course was grilled quesadillas, but I also cooked up a dozen ears of corn. I prefer to grill them in the husk, but for efficiency's sake, I baked them in the oven (in the husk, at 375, for 25 minutes). Props to Brad for being the evening's master griller!!

BBQ Quesadillas

Anything goes! Here are the fillings I put on the buffet (to feed 12):
2 green peppers
2 red peppers
1 jalapeno
1 small onion
1 small tomato
1 package sliced mushrooms
1/2 sliced eggplant

2 packages big flour tortillas
Bowl melted butter
CHEESE (we potlucked the cheese, asking everyone to bring a block of their favorite kind!) -- I like smoked Gouda best!

Fire up the grill to medium.
Lay your tortilla flat, layer half with your fixings, and fold over.
Brush melted butter on each side, then grill for 2-3 minutes, flipping halfway through.

A pizza slicer comes in handy for the perfect quesadilla cut!

Brad and I made these solo a few weeks ago, so they're quick and easy for just two people, but it's also a fun way to feed a big group -- everyone seemed to like it, too. Then, of course, there was the ice cream cake Brad bought me. Mmmmmmm.

Thanks to Brad, Birgit, Lisa, Amy, Ryan, Rachel, Don, Fred, Tracy, Jason, Krissy, and Tony for coming and joining in for the bday fiesta fun. I'm lucky to have such great friends, and I love you all!

Anyway, it was a really nice time, and you can always count on Fred for the quote of the evening (see this blog's title). Heidi even enjoyed herself, staying out of trouble for the most part (sorry about your quesadilla, Lisa!). And I officially feel 29. Not in any particular physical way. I just woke up this morning, looked at myself in the mirror, and felt 29.

To top off the weekend of celebration, Brad and I drove out for Chinese dinner with my mom, Larry, and Jordan. And more cake. Ha ha! Jordan is such a sweetie, and his personality develops more and more every time I see him. I'm upset because I forgot to take my camera (I never forget to take my camera), especially when Jordan fell asleep mid chew at the dinner table. Funny little guy. An interesting side note, apparently I'm the only person Jordan will pose for photos for. And if you've seen my photos of Jordan, pose he does. Love that little guy. I also love visiting Manchester more and more, hoping some day Brad and I can find just the right house out in the "country" but still be five minutes away from Target.

28 July 2007

Richard Marx Blows!*

Since starting Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I've seriously been so conscious of what I buy, eat, and where it came from. Yesterday I was in Target and needed some cheese, and I actually struggled with whether or not to just go without until I could make it downtown to pick up some freshly made cheese. We ate lunch at California Pizza Kitchen yesterday and had taco bell today, and I honestly felt so weird about it. Talk about processed foods! This is good, though. Even if it's silly, it at least serves my belly well. I've found over the past few weeks when we've been eating in more, and eating loads of fresh fruits and veggies, my guts have been much quieter, especially after a few really rough weeks. I can't wait until next week when I can get back to a normal, non-birthday schedule of cooking. Which reminds me, I still haven't done anything with that eggplant...

Tonight is the big Mexican Fiesta Birthday BBQ, where we shall grill up quesidillas. Another struggle came today -- ignore the hungover belly and hit the Farmer's Market for veggies....... or just go to Fresh Seasons?? I figure Fresh Seasons is at least a lesser evil than, say, Meijer, so off I went. It seems a lot of the items do come from Michigan, so that made me feel a little better about things. While there, I discovered all the plant items were on sale. Now, you all know I'm like Ted Bundy when it comes to plants. But I so badly want to have a green thumb (as long as worms aren't involved), so despite my better judgment, I picked up a few new plants for the front porch. I'll have to ask Krissy for some care tips! I'd like to see if I can actually manage to keep these alive for longer than two weeks. At least I should be able to manage with the spidery cactus I bought for my office. HA!

Bday Celebration Recap 1

Last night, Birgit, Brad, and I went to Grizzly Peak for a pre-birthday celebration. The bar in "the Den" is our favorite place to go, as the two bartenders, Justin and Nick, are super awesome. Not only do they pile on the free drinks, they're great guys. While Brad stuck with his usual (beer, boring), Birgit and I killed who knows how many pink birthday concoctions. Justin is the more brutal of the two, also sending over random shots of stout and whiskey. It was a slow bar night, so we chatted up all the servers and everyone at the bar--definitely a super fun pre-birthday. Even when the cocktailers kept turning the '80s channel off on us, once even daring to try the reggae channel. Ugh! Needless to say, a lovely evening, but I couldn't quite manage the sobriety test Brad gave me. Man, walking a straight line is tough!

*That which prompted cocktailer to permanently veto '80s channel.

27 July 2007

Here, groundhoggy!

Last night was Humane Society night, and it was unusually tiring, lots of boisterous dogs ready to be walked! Heidi has trained me well, though -- the other volunteers were impressed with my killer arm strength, walking Sasha without a harness and even getting her to sit. Oh yeah, who's a beast?

Speaking of Sasha, if anyone is looking to adopt, this sweet girl has been with us for TEN weeks. She's very energetic and strong, and so sweet. She needs a good home -- those cages are no place to be for that long.

Anyway, some days you go and get caught up in the routine of it -- unlock cage, get dog, walk dog, put dog back. But sometimes, one of them looks at you with such a look, you remember why you're really doing this. I went and opened Ginger's cage, a sweet little fluffball, and she just looked up at me with such sadness and sweetness in her eyes. That look stayed with me all day.

Oh, yeah, and I hate groundhogs!

The little bastards are all over the Humane Society grounds. There are three of them: building bastard, gazebo bastard, and woods bastard. Apparently, one was sunning itself right on the floor of the gazebo the other day!!! Yesterday, one was just chilling in the grass in front of my car when I pulled up, another one almost got squashed by Sasha, and another was hiding in the grass when I was walking around. Just sittin' there, no rush to move it, like they own the place!

25 July 2007

Dance for Me, Neil!

I must say, I had quite a lovely morning, afternoon, and this evening is shaping up quite nicely as well. The morning started off with emails from our new friends at Planned Parenthood, where our names were passed along and eventually included in an invitation to help plan this fall's beer-tasting event -- with the possibility of also creating a committee to plan future events to reach other young professionals and encourage their support. We have our first meeting early in August. Looking forward to doing my tiny part to help out. Mine and Rachel's brains were buzzing today with ways to get the word out.

Despite the crazy rain, this afternoon brought another visit to the Farmer's Market, where I met up with Krissy and Bava.

Things I learned:
  • Amish kids can wear braces.
  • There are different varieties of peaches. Who knew peaches aren't just peaches!
  • Green onions are the same thing as scallions.
While my green beans are kind of a disappointment this week (they just don't have the crunch they did last week), I scored lots of yummies. My two favorite items of the day are my cute little red pepper, which I sliced up for my lunch sandwich and it just smelled heavenly, and the most enormous zucchini I have ever seen. It's nice to go on Wednesday when it's not quite as busy -- you actually have a chance to chat with some of the vendors. The woman selling said ginormous zucchini was quite the saleswoman, suggesting stuffing it with sausage. Who could pass that up? Both Krissy and I bought one. Oh, I also bought an eggplant. I've never had it before, so we'll see how that goes....

Dinnertime rolled around, and it was time to attack the zucchini. Check this baby out! Even Heidi wanted in on the action.

Trial and Error Zucchini

Gigantic zucchini (or sma
ll, whatever)
Links of sausage (I used sweet Italian)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Remove sausage from casings and place meat in a heated skillet; brown
3. Chop tomato, basil, and shred mozz
4. Slice zucchini in half, longways
5. Scoop the innards (again, I used my spoked ice cream scoop)
6. In the scooped zucchinis, put a layer of tomato, then basil, then the cooked sausage. Top with cheese.
7. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Enjoy! Can be sliced or eaten as a sandwich. The options are endless!

While tasty, this ended up tasting very zucchini-y. Next time, I would scoop a little bit more of the flesh to leave a thinner shell. I would also use a third link of sausage (I used two) and mix in some of the zucchini flesh to make a more substantial filling. And, of course, more cheese never hurts.

Now it's time for So You Think You Can Dance! Weeeee!

24 July 2007

Sex, People!

Okay, yeah, two posts in a day. I don't really like to hear myself talk that much -- ha ha! But I just had such an afternoon! Long story short, I ended up being invited to tour the new Planned Parenthood facility in Ann Arbor, and I invited Rachel to join me. First we met with the education director, who wanted to hear about our experiences, then filled us in on a lot of their programs that probably a lot of people aren't aware of (they send computerized babies out to high school students? awesome!) -- and interestingly, but not surprisingly, learned of the resistance they get from Saline High School. Go figure. Anyway... Next we all met with the office advocacy person and learned more about that side of things. Then we spent an hour just chatting about all sorts of issues.

Who knew you can get a vasectomy at PP? (you as in you men) And they have a support group/clinic service for pregnant/delivering Hispanic women that don't have family support. And how cool is this -- they recently held a "mom party" where one mom got a group of her friends together and a PP representative went and talked with them about talking to their kids about sex.

Oh, and Rachel and I might get to be in the newsletter. We're on our way to being staaaaaas, dahling.

Vroom Vroom!

Finally! Brad and I were able to book our chunnel tickets from London to Paris today. That train is nuts -- tickets just went on sale and all the times are already starting to sell out. So FYI, anyone planning to take the chunnel, buy your tickets as soon as you know your date! We decided to go this route rather than take a quick flight because we only have to be at the train station a half-hour before boarding, so we don't waste our whole day at the airport. Plus, it's not much more than flying. Why not? I'm excited to take the train. (Assuming it ends up being nothing like the train-travel situation in EuroTrip and Hostel! har har!) I haven't really taken one since sixth grade on the way home from Toronto.

We leave London at 2 pm on Wed Nov 14 and get to Paris around 5:30. I'm so excited to see both our hotels -- Brad did a ton of research, so I hope we've picked winners!

The Zetter, London
*Note, "porno pink" lights and champagne in the vending machines!

Hotel Mayet, Paris

Anyway, in my head, I'm envisioning the train going straight through the water, like a submarine. How cool would that be?! We'd see all the crazy water creatures, like Snorks.

Hurry up, November!

22 July 2007

Round Balls

So, here I am. I've been toying with the idea of doing this for awhile because MySpace is kind of a joke for blogging, and I really like to talk about my three favorite things: food, my dog (and dogs I walk at the Humane Society), and traveling. Of course, I like my husband, too. So mostly self-serving, just a place to post the random pics I take of all the new recipes I cook up and ramble about the cute pooches I meet each week (and my own pooch, Heidi). Plus, I so enjoy reading Sara's blog that it's convinced me I can do this, too. Speaking of Sara, she not only inspired me to start a blog, she also inspired me to pick up Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which has changed my life! Okay, dramatic, but it's forcing me to think a lot about what I eat and where it comes from. It's my year's goal to start eating more locally, if for no other reason than it tastes so yummy. So Krissy and I hit the Zingerman's-sponsored Farmer's Market last Thursday (dodging storms and tornadoes), where I picked up the most adorable big, round zucchini. So tonight I cooked up some stuffed zucchini, mish-mashing a few recipes to make it my own. I served it up with some fresh cucumbers and green beans, and even Heidi enjoyed all the scraps she was snuck under the table.

Steph's Stuffed Zucchini

Two round zucchini
Any other veggie you may want to put in

2 cups-ish rice
Fresh basil

Oregano (fresh of course, but I used dried)
Grated cheese (I used romano)

1. Cook rice

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
3. Cut the top off of the zucchinis (these make lovely hats for husbands)
4. Scoop the flesh out of the zuc., leaving a thick enough wall to hold all the goo (I used a spoked ice cream scoop [hs grad gift from Sara!] to scoop)
Chop tomato and basil (and whatever else you want to throw in)
6. H
eat a pan, throw in some olive oil, and cook zuc. flesh, other veggies, and spices (throw in some oregano and pepper) for 3 minutes
7. Mix goo with rice, toss in a handful of cheese, and scoop mixture into zuc. and place them into a baking dish
Note: I cook WAY more rice than is needed. I like leftover goo for lunch the next day!
8. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes

9. EAT! Mmmm.