30 August 2009

One big happy family.

I had another Sunday kitchen marathon. And it felt nice. :) Haven't done anything too hard core in a while, so it was good to spend a few hours gettin down to business. Plus, Beth is here for a few days, and her boyfriend was over, so I had a whole family to feed! Brad requested lasagna, so Beth and I headed over to Arbor Farms to get the provisions. As we were walking in, they had a huge display of local peaches. Who could resist that? We decided a pie was in order.

Back home, had to make the crust first. I used my go-to recipe (thanks, Jess) and threw that in the fridge to set for an hour. Then back in the kitchen to chop the peaches and put the pie together. Nothing fancy, literally "simple peach pie." I suppose someday I should venture beyond simple, but right now, while all the fruit is so fresh, do you really need anything more? Once that was in the oven, it was time to start putting the lasagna together.

It's been six weeks since I've eaten any meat. While I came to the conclusion the other day that I'm not prepared for a life without a single gyro more, I'm not ready to give up yet. What I'm exactly "giving up" on I'm not sure. But it feels like I would be giving up. Anyway, this just means a veggie lasagna was called for. I didn't really follow a recipe -- I honestly just threw it all together w/o paying too much attention.

Like always, simple simple. A spoonful of tomato basil sauce on the bottom of the pan, topped with a layer of yellow squash. Then noodles. Then about 2/3 a container of ricotta (I didn't even buy low-fat! eep!), a handful of chopped onions and purple (!) peppers, a scattering of zucchini, a handful of fresh spinach, and some sauce. More noodles, a ball of mozzarella, sauce, noodles. On top, basil, Parmesan, and the rest of the sauce. In the oven for 40 minutes or so.

I can smell the yumminess by just looking.

Luckily, given my just throwing-stuff-togetherness, the lasagna turned out quite nice, and we ate the whole thing, save one piece for Brad's lunch. It was light and tasty fo show. Next time, though, I would have an extra layer of noodles and use lots more cheese -- I forget, when portioning cheese, one person is not eating ALL that cheese, so it's ok to use more. :) Duh! I think I'd also use a tad more spinach, too. But as it was, it was a lovely Sunday dinner.

Time for pie!!!

I made sure to get whipped cream, as Brad cries like a girly man when there is no whipped cream for pie. I even whipped up real whipped cream for the occasion. I have such vivid memories of my mom, and my grandpa even, I think, whipping up cream for pie on holidays. Never had that silly can stuff! So I always think back to those days.... And, is it not just so satisfying to take something from liquid form and make it whipped?! I like it.

As for the pie..... Look... at.... this...

YUM!! The crust was perfect, the filling was the perfect consistency, and the peaches tasted SO lovely! I think this might be the favoritest pie I've ever made! Between the four of us, we killed nearly the entire pie. Simple pie or no, I could eat this every night -- the peaches were so strong and tasty. I can't wait to make another one soon. Mmm.

Beth enjoys dessert.

And now for a quick knitting update:

The "Beth" hat for Bava.

Another men's hat for Xmas donation.
This one reminds me of mint chocolate bubbalicious from the '80s.

25 August 2009

Patty's patties.

I had salmon patties LONG before I ever had a piece of salmon (I honestly don't think I had salmon salmon until at least mid- to late college). My mom made salmon patties when I was growing up, and I remember them fondly as a dinnertime favorite (along with goulash that isn't really goulash -- never any leftovers that night!). Interesting side note, while I'll eat a salmon fillet, I far prefer raw, smoked, or cooked-in-a-patty salmon.

Anyway, I've made salmon patties a handful of times over the years, but I was always skeeved out by the layer of mushy bones on top of the salmon in the can. Well, recently I stumbled upon cans of salmon.... NO BONES! I snagged them right up and happened to think of them this the other morning. Sunday officially became salmon patty night.

After a quick trip to Arbor Farms, I started on the sauce first, a lemon dill sauce. I had canola mayo (which ended up working just fine, although I was skeptical), so I mixed 1/2 cup of that with the juice of a lemon and a half. Then I dumped in about a tablespoon of fresh, chopped dill. Mix mix, and in the fridge to cool.

As for the patties, I know there are all sorts of fancy pancy recipes, but I went simple. Two cans of salmon, some chopped onion, 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, an egg, and some salt and pepper. Mix mix mix. I drizzled in a few drops of lemon juice to moisten the mixture up a little. Then I patted the mixture into six small patties and sprinkled some chopped dill on top. Into the skillet (with a tablespoon or so of oil), just a minute or two on each side.

Simple simple, but super tasty.
I shall add these to the regular repertoire. I also had two patties left over, so the next day I made a bagel sandwich with them and the leftover sauce. Just as delish!

24 August 2009

Girl's best friend.


Happy 3rd birthday, Heidi pooch!


Heidi was my first Lab. My first dog. My first pet. I never ever would have expected to fall so in love. But I did. We did. She really is our little princess, and I can't imagine my life without her. In the past three years, we've never really been apart. When she was a pup, I was lucky enough to be able to take her to work with me. Then for the next two years, I worked from home. Now I'm just always home. She's my little shadow, my snuggle partner, my troublemaker.... And I love every second of it.

Meeting our baby for the first time.

Sneaky already.

But so darn cute.

Already at home and comfy.

And already a princess.

And already a goof.

Three years later, she's still all of the above.

23 August 2009

Unfan.

I like white bread. I don't like wheat bread. You will never change my mind. Wheat bread is gross. BUT I have found a white bread that is not fantastic at all. And, unfortunately, it's a Trader Joe's bread.

We are constantly running out of bread, so last week I planned ahead and picked up THREE (maybe even four!) loaves of TJ's organic white bread. Left one out, threw the rest in the freezer.

*Sigh*

It almost tastes sweet (so maybe it would be ok for a pb&j) -- which does NOT mix with my current favorite sandwich of avocado (a whole one! yeah, you heard me), mushrooms, cheddar, sprouts, cucumber, and tomato. I've been avoiding it most of the week, opting for bagel sandwiches instead, but we had bagels for breakfast today so I couldn't very well have a bagel sandwich, too, right? Yuck. The taste is still stuck in my mouth.

Don't buy that bread.

20 August 2009

Spank yer pita.

While I'm in this no-meat phase right now, I'm always trying to think of new things to make for lunch and dinner. I'm also a golf widow on Thursday nights, so I can eat whatever the heck I want for dinner then. On a recent scour-the-shelves trip to Trader Joe's, I happened to notice a frozen spinach pie. I never buy frozen food (other than veggies on occasion), so I was certainly skeptical. But a quick look at the label showed me that this was in fact low fat, at just 4 g a serving (the pie serves 4). Check. Calories? Only around 230 a serving. Check. Sodium... about 18% a serving, but I've certainly seen worse so it didn't totally deter me. Check. I grabbed it. Stuck it in the freezer for a rainy day.

Tonight was finally the night.

Head's up -- it has to cook in the oven, and it takes nearly an hour. Plan ahead.

I'm officially a huge fan now. The phyllo stayed crispy, it was super cheesy -- honestly, it didn't taste much different than most restaurant spinach pie I've eaten. (I also recognize this is super easy to make from scratch, but it's just me... I'm not cookin' a pie just for me.) I was also worried I'd have to eat the whole thing to get my fill, but I ate just about half (2 servings) and I'm stufffffed. And happy. Sigh.

18 August 2009

ABC easy as 123.

It's been a weird summer. I've admittedly been pretty unmotivated, wasn't eating great, and ultimately just haven't felt that well most days. Things culminated recently and I had kind of a scary week. I eventually ended up at the doctor, then at the pharmacy getting a hodge podge of drugs and accoutrement. At the pharmacy, there were mixups, misunderstandings, and me in a bit (ok a lot) of a tizzy -- but those ladies hung in with me, took care of business, and ultimately got everything taken care for me, including researching and making phone calls on my behalf. I can't tell you how big of a difference little things make in a panic moment like that. I love those ladies, and I appreciate their patience and understanding. This is brought to mind because I just came home from another trip to the pharmacy, just picking up a monthly refill. I had to laugh when the pharmacy lady (it's always the same two ladies) found my scrip and then kept looking for more. :) "I just wanted to be sure." She remembered me, my bag o' ungoodies, and asked how I was feeling, noting that I was actually smiling today. And I could honestly respond... I feel better than I have in months.

(If you need drugs, go to the Waters Rd. Target pharmacy! The lovely ladies!)

Brad's been on me for months to this that and the other. And I must give credit where credit is due, he was right. About all of it. And I finally just didn't have a choice. Among other pharmaceutical changes, I haven't eaten meat in almost a month, I have had just two mini sodas in probably three weeks, I've eaten at least an apple a day, I've been eating as many veggies as I can, I eat a healthy breakfast, and while I've only made time for one long walk on my own, I've been joining Brad every night when he walks the dogs. I've also been drinking water nonstop, so I've been joining Brad in constant bathroom rotations. I don't know if it's coincidence, or if I've really shaped up, but I feel good. Which makes me less cranky, which makes Brad happy. So I think we're a happy little pair right now!

So getting back to that whole eating thing...

Rachel and I had a meeting tonight at Arbor Brewing Company, so Brad decided to come meet me afterward so we could finally try out their new menu. We haven't eaten there since college probably, and we didn't have great memories. But they recently revamped the menu, focusing on local and organic ingredients. Intriguing. The menu isn't endless, but the items all sound tasty, the monthly specials in particular. During our meeting, Rachel ordered the special vegetable and tortellini salad. Local made tortellini and veggies, and each bite looked delicious (and Rachel said it was as tasty as it looked). There was also a yummy sounding veggie ravioli on the specials menu, but we've had pasta the past few nights so I decided to take a pass. I ended up ordering the nachos off the regular menu and Brad went with the Cajun chicken burrito.

We both were pleasantly surprised. In fact, I think we both loved our meals. My nachos looked so beautiful, I really wish I had a picture. Dang! These were definitely classy nachos. I'm all for a good greasy bar nacho, but tonight I was very excited for my classy, not-at-all greasy nachos. The beans were nice and spicy, and all the toppings were actually spread out over all the chips (not just a giant clump of cheese on the top five chips). Brad gobbled up his burrito and soothed his fire mouth with an ABC beer he also seemed pleasantly surprised about. We were totally stuffed, so I am sad to say we did not order the monthly dessert special -- chocolate berry crepes. Mmmmmmm. But man. Boo! Anyway, two thumbs up on the new(ish) ABC. Looking forward to going back again and trying more.

15 August 2009

Starry-eyed surprise.

I have mixed feelings about it, but my full-time housewife status is likely to be a-changing soon here... A few months ago I applied for a freelance copyediting job, one of a million other jobs I've applied for. I promptly forgot all about it. Well, last week I got an email saying I'd been moved to the "next level" and they sent me editing tests. I sat down to do them and have to admit I enjoyed it. It's been a while since I'd been able to really stretch my editing muscles, and it felt good. I sent the tests off, confident I'd aced them, but apprehensive because, well, things just haven't gone as planned these past few months. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I began to fantasize about heading off to the coffee shop to work, picturing myself in a leather trench coat with cute yellow heels and my new personal laptop (none of which I have). I reminded myself how often I am sick, and how often I am sick for days on end, and how that just doesn't fly in an office. I researched the company and it seemed legit. I began to get pretty attached to the idea. But I was still nervous. Well, I came home from working at the toy store Thursday afternoon, and I had an email from them. "Congrats! You've been approved!" It was pretty anti-climactic actually, but still, good news!

I haven't officially started, but I've gone in and created my online profile (I had to write a bio -- eep!). I set up my payment account. Filled out my tax forms. Read (well, mostly read) the 56-page introductory document. I read (ok ok skimmed) the 10 different style guides for the different types of articles. The downside is that the company uses AP style, which is newspaper style, which is my nemesis. No serial commas? How will I do it?? Ahhhhh!!! That panic has mostly passed, but it's been years since I've worked with AP, so I want to breeze through that before I get started. So I think Monday is the day. The cool thing is that I can work as little or as much (so they say, still waiting for confirmation on the how much is as much!) as I want, whenever and wherever I want, which leaves flexibility for me to look into other freelance projects, or even another part-time job (I applied at the library recently). The work itself is for Demand Studios, which provides content to web clients like Youtube, trail.com, livestrong.com, and Golflink. How-tos, Abouts, Strategy, those are the kind of "articles" I'll be editing. And the fun thing is that in my online profile, I was able to select my "expertise" areas, and those types of articles will automatically route into my editing queue. Right now there are articles about Mexican holiday costumes, Valentine gifts for teen boys, how to collect rubber stamps, a few about new medical drugs... I'm actually excited to get started. AFTER I brush up. Must repeat over and over... no serial comma no serial comma no serial comma........

In related news, on the VERY same day, Mr. Wandercraft, my dear friend Matt, also got a job! Three cheers and a million hugs to Matt and Sara -- wish I could be there to celebrate with you. August 13 is our lucky day! :) Sending you love and California rolls.

In other housewifey news, I just finished Keeping the House.

It covers three generations of a prominent family in small Midwestern town, the history unraveling through the eyes of a 1950s housewife who moves to town and falls in love with their old abandoned house. I love a good family saga, with mystery, of course, and this had some humor too, as Dolly (the housewife) tries to follow the advice of books and magazines of the time about how to be a good wife. My favorite part about that whole bit is that for the first two years of marriage, she tracked her daily menus on a calendar, with the goal of only repeating recipes x amount of times in one year. And can you imagine getting up every morning and fixing your husband breakfast before he went to work? HA!!! Anyway, I absolutely loved every second of this, and I think you all would too. So go get it. Now. (I promise I will return it to the library tomorrow even!)

And finally, a must-do suggestion for my AA peeps (and thanks for the tip, Observer). Last night, courtesy of the University of Michigan Student Astronomical Society, we were treated to a free show at the Angell Hall planetarium and access to the rooftop observatory. Open from 10 to 12 pm, planetarium shows run every 15 minutes or so, but if you go, go early (and on the nose). We missed the first showings but made it into the 10:45 show with maybe 15 other people. When we came out, there were at least 50 people milling about waiting for the 11 show. The show is given by an astrology student, so it was lighthearted and fun, and interactive -- and only slightly annoying when the yahoo next to us called Jupiter "Juniper," the North Star the "Shore Star," wanted to know exactly what was meant by "collision course," and couldn't believe the poor kid didn't know why the surface of the ceiling was just so.

Afterward we headed for the roof and got to look through the telescopes at Jupiter and the tail of the big dipper. We were all briefly transfixed by a gaggle of balloons that floated by; it took the astrology kids far too long to accept that they were balloons, not birds, and we got a good laugh over the whole thing. A lovely evening, for free -- keep an eye on the schedule for upcoming open houses.

Oh good. Brad is done watching Whale Wars so I can get back to enjoying my Saturday night with him. :)

11 August 2009

Ta-dah!

I hope you are enjoying the lovely new blog header bestowed upon me (AND uploaded, score) by my very own crazycrafterdesigner dearest friend Sara. What a fun and special surprise she shared with me today. (And I'm sure she sat down and just threw it together in five creative seconds -- that Sara is beyond words!) Love it, love her. Muwah!

Northern exposure.

Unbeknownst to me, I was lucky enough to pick up an Alaskan fan somewhere along the road. Meg, Liz, and Sarah's Aunt Sally has been peeking in at my blog, even without anyone bribing or threatening her. :) And, to my utter delight and surprise, she sent me treats, too!

First up, homemade rhubarb relish (with accompanying recipe). I haven't tried this yet, but I can't wait to. This has certainly been the year of rhubarb! Anyone have any delicious and non-meat suggestions for what to serve the relish with?

Next up, salmon jerky. Seriously. Salmon. Jerky. OMG. Smoked salmon is my faaaaavorite, so I was so excited to receive this one. I was saving it because I knew as soon as I ate it it would be gone (logically! haha), and I didn't want it to be gone! But I just tried my first bite this afternoon.... Just opening it caused an uncontrolled "oh my god" sigh. Just from the smell! It smells that good. I forced myself to behave and only ate one piece, but I think I will have another as soon as I next get up. I don't know how to describe it, other than it tastes exactly how you think it would. And it is soooooooper yummy. I don't think I will share it with Brad.

A million thanks to Aunt Sally for thinking of me, and for being a fan! Hope to get to meet you someday. :)

Here's what else I've been up to lately:

Peach crisp for True Blood night at Sarah and Mike's.


Fresh market peaches on the bottom (with the peels), mixture of French vanilla granola, um, this is why I should write things down sooner.... ha! I'm pretty sure I just mixed the granola with 3 tablespoons of butter (chopped) and 2 tablespoons of water. Then I spread that on top of the peaches, popped it in the oven, and cooked it for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. At Sarah's, we scooped it into four bowls, so it made four perfect servings. I'm pretty sure it was a hit. :) The peaches were just delicious, and the French vanilla granola is my new favorite. So together.... Yum.

Lemony zucchini goat cheese pizza, at Sara's recommendation.

The recipe is from here, and I strongly suggest you make it. Now. Yum.

Raiding Aunt Sandy's basement.

I. Love. This. Pot. And it was my grandma's, so it's all authentic and stuff, too.

And...

This jerk(s) lives under my porch!!!! I hate you snake(s).

02 August 2009

Birthday shenanigans.

I've had just about a week to settle in to being 31. It's not so bad. In fact, it's pretty much the same as 30. But I've been thinking a lot about what it's like to be in your 30s, versus what it's like to be younger, at least for me -- even the differences between 30s me and mid-20s me. And as much as I joke about being old, and being old sucking, and my occasional woe-is-me-I'm-old-sick-and-jobless days, I'd take 31 any day. I like to knit and bake and sit on benches at parks and go for Sunday drives and stay in on Saturday nights watching Dateline and go antiquing and window shop. I'm a calmer more content person at this age (yes, it's true Brad, so shut it), and here's to hoping I can remember that through all the craziness!

As a 31-year-old, I am also very lucky to have so many loving people in my life. While some are far away (boo!), I'm so glad to have friends like I do, and a pretty awesome husband to boot. Many of you helped me celebrate this year, and I'd like to think a good time was had by all. Now, let's talk about cake!

Have you ever seen anything like that before?! Brad enlisted Lisa Z's awesome cake-making skills, and we were all shocked (not in "I can't believe she pulled that off" way, rather a "no one else but Lisa could pull that off!" way) with the outcome. A mini-ish birthday cake, an individual Mr. Hootie cupcake, and hordes of matching owl cupcakes. I'm still in awe. Of the thought, the detail, and, of course, the deliciousness. And I'm still pretty sure there was some sort of wizardry involved in the making of the rainbow cake. A million cake kisses to my Lisa!

As for snacks, I tried to keep it low-key, but, as I mentioned, it was hard for me to stick to my "just hot dogs and chips" plan.

If you haven't discovered Great Harvest, I suggest you get on it. I picked up some Guinness cheese bread and jalapeno cheddar corn bread, and I can't recommend them enough. Cornbread is certainly a favorite of mine, and then you add in cheddar and jalapenos? Perfection. I also couldn't resist the gigantic watermelons I spotted at the farm stand across the street from the dog park (and I'm so glad there was enough to share with Petunia the piggie!). Thanks also to Melissa S. for bringing what I like to call "the best brownies in the world." Half cookie, half brownie, I could seriously live on them.

Honorable mention goes to Tabi's Dan who supplied the J├Ąger
for all the July birthdays. :)

We ended the night with an anniversary showing of Birthday Bloodbath. I sense the start of a tradition! (But even with yearly hugs and kisses, I still can't possibly convey my amazement and awe and smooshiness for this movie and those of you sneaky sneaks involved! xoxo)

A few days later the real birthday came and I was officially IN my 30s. Brad woke me up with a very special birthday gift... A chicken sponsorship! After seeing Food Inc. and having food guilt, especially chicken guilt (I still haven't eaten any meat except for accidental chicken broth and perhaps a bite of pork at Chinese last week), Brad sponsored a chicken for a year at Sasha Farm. I got a little package introducing me to Marti the chicken, including pictures and a certificate indicating what the sponsorship entailed (food, vet care, and, most importantly, general feather styling!).

Seriously! How sweet is that Bradford of mine? He'd also taken the day off, so I got to spend the day with my no. 1 guy. We got bagels, went to the bookstore, went to Gallup Park and watched the geese and hummingbird moths (have you ever seen anything like that? Crazy!)... Then, in true senior citizen fashion, we went to Vinology at 5:30 -- but hey, we caught happy hour and each got a 1/2 off glass of wine!

I'd been hesitant to return to Vinology after hearing of Chef Johns' departure and the medicoreness of their restaurant week meal. But we've loved it for so long, my heart still skipped a beat when Kristal and Rick presented me with a gift card (smooches!!!). And, I must say, my worries have been completely shattered. The menu had almost all new items (I was worried they'd stop changing it with the seasons) and I was excited before I even ate a bite.

Yes, that says cheesy poofs!

I could have easily ordered nearly every one of the small plates, but I narrowed it down to three, and a salad (I'm a sucker for anything with pine nuts and dried cherries!). I ordered my items and the bartender (we like to sit at the bar, that's young and hip, right?) started to walk away. Silly man! That was just for ME!

I like that Brad's arm looks like the Lobster Boy.

I, of course, HAD to get the goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, as their run on the menu is always so short, and, obviously, because they are delicious. And still are. I was a nice girl and shared these with Brad, who loved them, too. Much better than when I try and duplicate them at home. I don't often order scallops, but I had an immediate hankering for them upon seeing them on the menu so I went for it. They came with a lemon risotto, which was just to die for. And very lemony, very very lemony. I'd never have thought it would taste so good, but I could have eaten a whole meal of that alone. And finally, a wild mushroom tartlet, which was so sizable and filling it could have really served as a meal with a salad. I couldn't place the exact seasoning (and had forgotten what the menu said), but the flavors were very reminiscent of the wild mushroom pizza at California Pizza Kitchen (that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement ha ha but I mean it in a good way!). Unfortunately it also had a good enough amount of garlic that I could actually taste it (usually I can't) so I wouldn't order this again, but the good news is that I enjoyed it while eating it and it only caused the mildest of tummy aches. And then..... (and no and then!), free dessert. The best kind.

I don't eat donuts, I can't. It's like instant death. But as soon as I saw homemade donuts on the dessert menu, I knew I had to have them. My stomach was already a little upset, so I figured what the hell. And I'm so glad I did (they did not, I'm happy to report, make the belly any worse!).

Warm, just out of the oven. And in a bag! How cute is that? Chocolate sauce, cream, and raspberry -- all delicious, but, of course, chocolate was my number one. By far (and that's saying a lot) my favorite dish of the night. For now, Vinology will have to remain a special occasion restaurant, but I'm so glad to know it's still as yummy as ever.

We were home by 7:30, with plenty of time to work on my knitting. :)