french ovens vs. dutch ovens

Apparently they're the same thing.  My parents sent me a red French oven for Christmas which I immediately tested by cooking stuffing. I don't have a lot of experience cooking with cast iron.  First of all, wow it's heavy.  Second, it cooks evenly!  I was able to brown the sausage and vegetables on the stove top then transfer the pot into the oven to finish cooking.  Win!  I'm going to have a lot of uses for this pot.

In other news I slept 11 hours last night and it felt amazing!  I'd been working long hours at work and needed the rest.  I'm looking forward to having a more normal schedule in a week!  My blogging frequency definitely decreased on this crazy schedule I've been working.


getting into the holiday spirit

I feel like my eyes are always doing something weird.  I'm either squinting or blinking.  Whatevs.

Anyway, my job has been going really well and even though I don't work on the Adventures I was itching to try one.  This one was Wreath Making and Three-Course Lunch at Smash Wine Bar in Wallingford.

When we arrived, we went inside where we had a choice of hot buttered rum, hot chocolate or cider.  They had a breakfast spread laid out with the best banana muffins either of us had ever had.  They were super moist and had a complex sweet and spicy flavor.  While people nibbled, they went over a wreath-making demonstration.

Because I thought "arrive 20-30 minutes early" was for noobs, we arrived promptly at 11.  It hadn't occurred to us to arrive early to secure your wreath-making station.  So we had stations outside in the 35 degree cold.  Fair enough- sort of our own fault.  Each station had a gigantic pile of fir for your base plus pine, juniper, holly, and eucalyptus for accents.  Making the wreaths wasn't as hard as we thought.  All of the tools we needed were provided plus other accents like bows and pine cones.  The glass of wine that was served during the wreath making helped as well.  It turned out to be a fairly physical activity and only my feet were cold.

When we moved inside for lunch, there was one little two person table right by the window that was perfect for us.  We warmed up while enjoying a delicious three-course gourmet lunch.  I had mixed greens with apple and cranberry, buttermilk crispy cumin turkey tenderloin beside sweet potato frites (their description lols), and chocolate caramel lava cake topped with cranberry sauce served with ice cream.  Since the Adventurers had the whole restaurant, the courses had a nice, natural pace.  No rush to turn over the tables.

The whole event was organized and the staff was super helpful.  I felt like it was definitely worth the money and I'm happy we tried it.  Our wreaths are making the house smell like Christmas!  


10 years can fly by

Well almost 10 years.. 2 days shy of 10 years.  Today I finally downloaded Spotify and have been poking around listening to some newer music.  Something about the a Kings of Leon song triggered an Incubus flashback for me.  I was remembering how I could not wait to buy Morning View and I was counting down the days to the release.  Then out of curiosity, I looked up when it was released: 10/23/2001.  Holy crap, it's already been 10 years.  I can't even remember the last time I bought a CD.  Do people even buy CDs anymore?  This particular CD was in and out of my CD player so much it was scratched so I'm pretty excited to be listening to it on Spotify.  And I don't care that no one seemed to like this album.  This was a good album dammit and it's going back in my rotation!


good bye for now, asparagus

It's definitely the end of the line for local asparagus this year.  Before moving here, I had no idea Washington was so big on their asparagus crop but I have ended up eating it quite a bit.  For dinner last night, I made roasted asparagus and prosciutto pizza.  It takes about 10 minutes and was a win.

Because I hear pictures make a blog more interesting, here are the ingredients:

Manchego cheese
Garlic naan

 Preheat the oven to 400F.  Trim off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and lay them out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle them with olive oil and salt/pepper.  Go light on the salt because the prosciutto is salty.  Pop them in for about 5 minutes to start the cooking process.  In the meantime, shred the cheese on the naan and arrange some torn pieces of prosciutto.  When the asparagus comes out, chop it as small as you like and add it on top of the naan.  Put it back into the oven until it's done to your liking.  I did about 5 more minutes because I wanted a soft and chewy crust. 

This was super tasty and quick.  I'm kind of bummed though because I think I'll need to wait until spring before the asparagus is back in season to make it again. 


roasted green beans

We stopped by the library yesterday so I could get more cookbooks.  The Tyler Florence one had a recipe for roasted green beans.  To be honest, it never occurred to me to cook green beans in the over but it's so good!

Making them could not have been easier.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Put the green beans on a baking sheet and toss in a little olive oil.  Grind some pepper on.  Grate on a good amount of parmesan cheese.  Cook about 8 minutes.  (Note: the recipe said 10 which translates to 8 in my oven.) Eat.

*Don't cheap out on cheese.  It's only like $5 to buy a good block of parmesan that can last you all week and it's worth it.  I grate it on a microplane so a little bit goes a long way though I'm probably dulling the crap out of my microplane.
*Don't use pre-ground pepper.  The disposable Mccormick pepper grinders are actually pretty good.  I use it for everything and it lasts several months.

To go with it, I butterflied a chicken breast and pounded it flat.  I breaded it in a mixture of plain bread crumbs, more grated parm, and red pepper flakes.  It baked at the same temp but went it 6 minutes earlier (so 14-15 mins total.) Poured on some store-bought chicken gravy.  Super tasty! 


bad dream

I had a dream that I was driving around Seattle and found a Publix.  It was lunch time so I was super excited to get a Publix sub.  The sub tasted like it was from Subway and the manager yelled at me when I tried to bring it back and explain how the subs are made in Florida.  So sad.. it doesn't get any tastier than a Publix chicken tender sub! 


it's official

I hate gardening.  I even took it out of my Facebook profile.  That's how much I hate it.  I have 75 bulbs that need to be planted and about 75 already in the ground that I need to avoid destroying.  Sigh...


when you've got to feel it in your bones

I'm pretty sure this is one of those albums I'll still be listening to in my 50's reminiscing about how things used to be.  I feel like this one doesn't get the credit it deserves because all these years later it can still make me feel exactly like I did the first, second, and hundredth time I listened to it.


new job

We've been super busy and I haven't had a chance to catch up with this.  We went to San Francisco and then I turned around and went to DC to train for a new job.  Once I'm settled in I'll be able to keep up on blogging more! 


my favorite jeans

I'm resisting the urge to make an obnoxious "Dear denim manufacturers" Facebook status and instead venting here.  This past week my favorite jeans got the tiniest rip in the knee and suddenly it's a gigantic hole.  These were my dressier jeans and I'm sad to see them go.  (Please note that in Seattle dark denim is considered dressing up.)  They were perfectly worn in and were just the right waist/hip ratio. 
Replacing them will be impossible because Express, like every other company, changes the sizing and cut of their jeans every other second.  I've been burned by other stores in the past (I'm looking at you, American Eagle) so this time I bought both washes in hopes that new colors would come out before the store decided curvy is out again and skinny little boys are in.  Sadly this didn't happen.
I'm going out tomorrow in hopes of finding a new pair of favorite jeans.  Wish me luck! 


if you had windows phone 7, you could be playing wordament

This is the most addictive app ever but it's only on Windows Phone 7. The concept is just like Boggle. You get 2 minutes to find as many words as possible and your score is based on the point values of the letters you've used. There is only one game going on at any time, hence they call themselves You vs. The Internet. At any given time there are 200-400 users playing. My best ranking was second place but one day I will win!
Learn more about it here: http://wordament.com/


stop unwanted phone books or as i call them "door stops"

We get tons of phone books. Who uses phone books anymore? I need one to keep as a door stop for when I want to open the windows on the porch and the rest just get trashed. City of Seattle has partnered with Catalog Choice to help us cut down on unwanted phone books and junk mail. It takes less than 5 minutes to do:

Catalog Choice

Some other cities appear to be participating. It's free and it reduces waste and hassle!


prosciutto and leek pizza

I've been blogging a lot about food lately! Today I made this tasty pizza. It has a whole wheat crust and the only toppings are mozzarella, prosciutto, leeks, and parmesan. I was unsure about pizza without sauce but it didn't need it. I love the mild onion flavor of leeks. Just make sure after you slice them you wash them really well. Leeks get tons of dirt stuck between their layers.

Today we hit Seafood Fest in downtown Ballard and it was great. Tons of vendors were set up in addition to the regular Sunday farmer's market. In addition to all of the mobile food vendors, the regular restaurants added seafood items to their menus. The most intriguing was a seafood cupcake at the vegan bakery. I'm not really sure how that was supposed to work. The live entertainment was decent and the weather couldn't have been better. It's finally feeling like summer in Seattle.

See more about Seafood Fest on MyBallard.


wild rice salad

I've been spending a lot of time cooking and researching new recipes lately. I like this one because it gets better the longer it sits and you can adjust the amounts of the ingredients however you like.

The components of the salad:
Cooked wild rice
Yellow pepper
Pecans (toasted)
Dried cranberry
Raspberry vinaigrette
Salt and pepper

The process:
Cool the rice completely. Since we were cooking for two we use these:

I am rice challenged so this stuff is great. Inside the box is always a coupon for your next box too. Anyway, after the rice is cooled, just mix all of your ingredients together. You can see I chopped everything about the same size. I used a store-bought raspberry vinaigrette because I couldn't find any raspberry vinegar to make my own. The Marie's brand in the refrigerated section was very tasty. A lot of salad dressings have a chemical aftertaste to me but this one was just the right combination of sweet and tart. I just kept adding and tasting it until I liked it. Here's the finished product:

We ate this as a main dish but you could definitely use it as a side. You can shred up some left over chicken if you want to add some protein but we found it satisfying as is. I like that this is more of a method than a recipe because you can swap out ingredients if you have something different. I put in roughly the same amount of everything but put in as much as you like until it tastes good to you.


cilantro pesto

I love basil pesto but I usually just get it from the jar. My food processor is small and doesn't like to chop basil. I like pesto sauces because they're very bright tasting and are healthier than creamy sauces. Last week I experimented with making pesto from cilantro.
It's super easy and I didn't follow an exact recipe. If you've made pesto before, you know what I mean. You have a rough idea of the ratios but you make adjustments based on texture and taste as you go. Here's about what I did:

2 cups cilantro
1/8 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup manchego cheese
2 cloves garlic
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Combine in the food processor until everything is evenly mixed then start streaming in extra virgin olive oil. I made mine thick because I used it to stuff chicken breasts and spread on sandwiches. You can thin it out if you're making a dip or a pasta sauce.
I've seen a lot of variations online using different vinegars, red onions, shallots, different cheeses, parsley, etc. Just make sure your cheese is a hard cheese. I've seen recipes using cheeses like cojita which have a higher water content and if heated will turn your food into a gluey mess. If you've never made pesto, I suggest following a cilantro pesto recipe you think sounds good first and then make adjustments to taste from there.
I want to experiment and see what other leaves make good pesto since this small batch has gone a long way.


spicy chickpea patties with cilantro, lime and chilies

1/8 cup canola oil or olive oil
1/2 medium red onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (15 3/4 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
3 scallions, minced
Juice of 2 limes
Salt to taste
Extra chickpea flour for dusting cakes
Cooking spray

On the stovetop, saute the onion, garlic, jalapeno, curry powder, and cumin for 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the food processor and mix for 20 seconds until coarsely chopped. Add chickpeas, chickpea flour, bread crumbs, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, and salt. Mix for 20 seconds more or until a thick paste (below) forms. If you have a small processor like mine, you'll need to do this in batches.

From here, you can choose the size of patties you want to make. I went for silver dollar sized so there would be more crunchy surface area. Form the paste into your desired patty size and dust each size with flour. If you are cooking them on the stove top, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Put a thin layer of oil in the pan and fry on each side for about 4 minutes or until golden brown. If you are cooking them in the oven, preheat the oven to 375F. Spray the patties with cooking spray and bake for 10 minutes, turning them halfway through.

I served them with Thai chili sauce and peanut sauce. It would also be good with a curry sauce.

I will need to work on my food photography skills! This batch was made in the oven. Next time I'm going to try to fry them.

From my favorite cookbook: The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide ot Natural Foods with 350 Recipes
[I got this before I knew what Whole Foods was so don't hold it against the book that it's Whole Foods!]


what aisle IS velveeta on?

By far, the top search query that leads people to this blog is the above question.  In response, I'm going to start compiling a list of grocery stores and their Velveeta aisles.  I've only seen it near crackers so far, but I have seen varying locations of the crackers so I'm also listing other products on the same aisle.  This is for the original block of Velveeta and not the mac and cheese packages or slices.

1. Albertsons- crackers, sports drinks, gold fish
2. Fred Meyers- crackers, cookies, gold fish
3. Publix- soup

Please add your grocery store/Velveeta aisle in the comments and I'll update the list.


um... bus?

Today both my morning and evening bus were MIA.  You know what makes a commute difficult?  The bus never coming.  It wouldn't be a big deal if I worked somewhere where I could just stay later to still work a full 8 hours but that is not an option.  I hope my regular bus driver is having a nice vacation and not reassigned or no longer working!


navigating costco

We're becoming pros at navigating Costco on a Saturday. When we arrive, we already know exactly what we need. I'm not sure why they make us walk through the electronics to get to the rest of the store other than they are cruel people. I almost got distracted by a laptop and Nate got me moving. Laser focus!
We were rewarded for our effort. Somehow we managed to arrive at the sample stands just as they were putting out the fresh food. Some notable samples were Bagel Bites (which I hadn't had since childhood) and Falafel (which I was able to sub for meatballs in a recipe last night). We pretend sample calories don't count.
Costco Gas has been a win as well. $3.76/gal unleaded is definitely the cheapest I've seen in Seattle so I was pumped! (Ho ho ho pumped. I'm sorry.)
When we remodel the kitchen, the big fridge is definitely going to need to go on the list because we are in need of more space for our Costco bounty.


i ate salad

I finally found a salad recipe that I can have again and again. From the Food Network website:

Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad


  • 1 bulb fennel, halved and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 5 slices pancetta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces (about 6 to 7 cups) mixed salad greens
  • Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, toss together fennel, pancetta, garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the ingredients on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cook until the pancetta is crisp and the fennel is caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, place the salad greens, crumbled pancetta, and caramelized fennel. Toss the salad with the Red Wine Vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: scant 1/2 cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

On a work night I'm lazy and just use store bought salad dressing and it's still really good. I get the Boarshead pancetta from the deli counter. You can ask them to just cut a few slices and it's far tastier than the prepackaged kind. The taste of the fennel mellows out from roasting it so it's not an overwhelming flavor. I'm not sure how healthy it is but I'm definitely a fan of this salad.

smart phones part 2

Since my last post, it was brought to my attention that I sounded cranky. Maybe that's true. It's frustrating when you're expectations aren't met- especially when they seem reasonable.

Exhibit A:
From PC World
Smartphone Etiquette: Mind Your Manners for the Holidays

"Rule 4: Holiday parties are a time for socializing, not social networking. Seven out of 10 respondents think it's unacceptable to check emails, send text messages and make phone calls while in the company of others, let alone while on a date. And more than half said they would be offended if they were at a holiday party and someone secretly tried to tap the Internet at the table. I'm assuming they would include tweeting and playing Texas Hold 'Em on the iPhone as inconsiderate, too."

Exhibit B:
The Emily Post Institute is generally considered an authority on manners. Welcome to the new world of tablets and smartphones

"How are my actions affecting others and how am I perceived? Both are important aspects of good etiquette. If you are perceived as being disrespectful it can be as damaging to a relationship as actually disrespecting someone. Be clear with the people around you about how you are using your new device so they don't assume the worst."
Exhibit C:
Debrett's is another authority on manners.
Mobile Phone Etiquette
"Don't carry on mobile phone calls while transacting other business - in banks, shops, on buses and so on. It is insulting not to give people who are serving you your full attention."

I don't expect perfection from people and I've certainly been guilty of peeking at my phone while in a social setting before. I'm just requesting others to be considerate of how that distraction can be perceived by others.


smart phones

Most people I know have a smart phone now so it's time to establish some basic usage guidelines. When you're in a social situation, stopping what you're doing to text or check Facebook is just as disruptive as talking on the phone. Our manners haven't caught up with technology apparently. I'm always shocked when I'm out with friends at how much time they spend looking down at their phones instead of paying attention to the live people in front of them. When I get home and look at Facebook, entire conversations between the people I was just with have taken place online instead of just speaking.

I think it's selfish and inconsiderate.

If there is an important text or email, excuse yourself before you respond. Even if it's something quick, I feel I deserve an explanation for the interruption. "My mom had a question." "It was my sister." Something.

I'm curious to know how other people feel because it's obvious not everyone thinks it's rude to check Facebook every 10 minutes while out with friends. What is acceptable smart phone usage in a social setting?

This is important because I love technology. Clearly, I love Facebook. All I'm asking for is some balance.


a visit from my parents

My parents just left after a 10 day stay with us. It's really nice to have family around. I didn't have any time off work since the trip was moved to accommodate their home sale but we still spent weekends and nights together.

We walked around Discovery Park which was beautiful. The park is only 5 minutes from Ballard but we'd never been before. You can hike a trail that follows a ridge overlooking the Sound.

We finally hit the 70's so the weather was perfect. The grill got a lot of use and we did tons of walking. We've been here almost 3 years and haven't run out of things to do yet.


grilling season is here

The best time of the year has arrived: Grilling season!!

I got Nate a Weber charcoal grill for Christmas because that's what I think of when I think of summer grilling. The weather is finally starting to get a little warmer so we can BBQ on the weekends. Friday night we had some beer brats at another couple's house and Saturday we grilled burgers here. Nate even toasted the buns which was a nice touch.

The weather hasn't improved to the point that you want to eat your food outside but it's getting there. And when it does, we need to be ready with a patio set which we've yet to purchase. I always thought of it as "fake" furniture so I didn't expect it to cost as much as a regular dinette set. Clearly I was mistaken. I'll be keeping my eye on the circulars for a sale!


syttende mai

Swedish Pancake Drill Team

Kids on unicycles

On Tuesday we went to the annual Syttende Mai parade. Ballard has the largest Syttende Mai celebration outside of Norway. The weather was perfect, though the pictures came out a little dark because I was in the shade.


no more leaks!

After having our house leak in various places nonstop since November, we are finally free of leaks! The latest leak was in the shower. It's over the unfinished part of the basement so we just stuck a plastic bin under it and let it be. We were deciding whether or not to fix the leak or bite the bullet and redo the whole bathroom. After we checked the 20 qt bin and found it completely full of water, we decided to call the plumber and just do the leak. A $75 service fee + $125/hr later it turned out the shower head needed to be replaced. We are officially plumbing noobs.

In other news, Pandora keeps throwing Kings of Leon at me.. wearing me down. They're starting to grow on me...


most practical baseball souvenirs

This is a bit of a late post but a couple of weeks ago we went to two Mariner's games. The weather was terrible. They had to close the roof for one game. However, we got these awesome souvenirs- compost! Cedar Grove Compost was giving out free bags which were made partly of waste from Safeco Field. Compost isn't cheap so I made everyone grab some!
We forgot about it in the trunk until yesterday when I got in the car and gagged from the smell. Don't leave compost in your trunk.


tulip festival 2011

We drove up to Mount Vernon for the tulip festival today. As you can see, it's a bit sunnier than last year but the rain was lurking just up the road. Afterwards we had a nice picnic lunch. They looked to be blooming about a week later than last year because there were still several rows that hadn't bloomed and no rows had been cut. I ordered several new varieties to add to my garden.



Nate's brother bought an X-Box with a Kinect and we had a good time testing it out today. The video chat worked really well and has a feature where the camera will follow you if you move. We also tried out online play with the Adventures game. The competitive events worked really well. The cooperative ones- not so much. It's hard to steer a river raft with someone in another state, even though the device does have a microphone so you can chat in the game. The Kinect snaps photos of you while you're playing and you can trade them with your opponent afterwards so there's an added level of interaction. I had a really good time and can't wait for more games with the online play option.


financial housekeeping part 2

It's that time of year again when taxes and finance are on the mind. Today we sat down and evaluated exactly where our money goes each month and what our goals are.
When we divide out how much we spend per month on home repairs and renovations it's like a second mortgage payment. We joke that we could have just spend more for an updated house and saved time and energy. I think after 2 or 3 more years it will be pretty well updated though with the mortgage payment of a smaller house so I still think we did it the right way. We're on super saver mode to get the kitchen and bathroom knocked out since they are failing on us quickly. Once those are done we can ease up a bit and do other projects at a slower pace.
I know finances can be stressful for a lot of people and they procrastinate going over them but I truly find it relaxing. Even when we find we ate out too much one month or had an unexpected expense, it still feels a lot better to be aware of what's going on so we can make adjustments for the next month.
I made a similar post last year so I wanted to follow up with something related. I think it's really important to be honest with yourself about what you spend your money on. I found it really helpful to take some of our larger expenses and divide them by 12 to see what they would be as a monthly expense. Sometimes "one time" expenses can add up to quite a bit over the course of a year.
I also found it helpful to look at our loans in terms of what they will cost if we pay them off as scheduled. If you already have an emergency fund, it might make more sense to direct extra money towards a loan with a higher interest rate. Our loans are all higher interest rates than we make in our accounts at the credit union. With online payments it can get tricky to make sure your payment is applied to principle so read the instructions carefully!
This has been your annual reminder that money is not your enemy and you should befriend and nurture it so it will work for you not against you. =)


jury duty update

I got back a response from King County Court that my jury duty was rescheduled and there is no fine or penalty! I felt so ridiculous for missing it since I looked at the date so many times. So I'm officially announcing that it's on June 15.
That's June 15.

It doesn't tell me what time or place but by God I will be somewhere on June 15.


amazon- subscribe and save

I discovered a whole new area of Amazon.com while re-ordering my favorite tea last night. You can now set up subscriptions to common household items and get 15% off the regular Amazon price and shipped free at the interval of your choosing. Visit the site: here.
This seems like it could be competing with Costco on the bulk prices. We just got a Costco membership from my parents and went on Saturday. First, OMG what complete madness. Families had multiple overflowing carts and weren't afraid to use them to jockey for position in the sample line. Second, you have to really pay attention to the unit prices. Some items were half off of the price we typically pay at Fred Meyer and others were about the same. Since we have a small freezer, we had to be somewhat selective about what we got.
I like this Amazon option because Costco doesn't have everything. I reviewed the set up and cancellation looks easy. You get an email before your delivery so you have a window of time to skip the shipment if you need to. Though at the rate I drink green tea I don't think that will be necessary.


something to sleep on

My parents haven't seen it yet but they bought me a new bedding set for my birthday. We got a really nice fluffy insert for the duvet cover and I slept so well last night. Before this we had several queen-sized blankets layered on our king-sized bed. When we moved into the house we splurged on a Tempurpedic mattress which has been one of the best purchases of all time. We also splurged on really high quality sheets and now we've got this nice bedding. The problem is the bed just sits on its box spring on the ground. Cats are destructive so we don't want to do any bed that has space under it. I've seen a couple of storage beds that are basically a platform bed with drawers underneath. I'm debating whether we should spend the money on it and get it over with or continue feeling like we're sleeping on the floor.


the golden beetle

Yesterday was my birthday and we had an excellent dinner at a new restaurant in Ballard. The Golden Beetle is a new Mediterranean restaurant from Maria Hines. She has an impressive resume. She beat Morimoto on Iron Chef, competed in Top Chef Masters on Bravo, and won the 2009 James Beard award for best chef.
The food lived up to the hype! It's described as elevated street food and I think that's an appropriate description. We started with wood fired pita bread and hummus. The pita bread had the perfect soft, spongy texture almost like a crumpet. I could have just had that with different dips all night. We also had spinach cigars (kind of like spanikopita), falafel, and ground beef skewers. Everything was so good so we'll definitely be paying them a happy hour visit soon.


civic duty fail

I accidentally missed jury duty yesterday. This was my first jury summons ever and I've known about it for 6 weeks. I'd notified my employer and put it on my calendar at work. Unfortunately, I had it on the calendar for today and it was yesterday.
I'm not sure how I went 6 weeks continuing to read the date wrong, but I did. Since they don't provide any phone number with a live person or even a voice mail, I just wrote them back with an explanation and the card to request to be rescheduled. The card says very specifically that intentionally not appearing can be a fine or jail time! I promise I'm not intentionally absentminded. ;)

In other news, today is my last day of being 25. We have reservations at The Golden Beetle tomorrow night and I'm very excited to try it.


you need a keurig

When I'm having trouble sleeping, I watch QVC because I find it soothing. I typically don't buy anything, but it makes good background noise. They finally sold me on this Keurig brewer and it's great!

You need one of these if:
- You brew a pot of coffee every morning but don't finish it
- You are too lazy to wait for a tea kettle to heat up to make tea

A cup of coffee or tea brews in under a minute and actually tastes really good. They come in portioned k-cups that you pop in the top of the machine. Because they are in their own containers, you don't have to clean the machine to brew a different drink.

The package from QVC came with 48 k-cups (mostly coffee) to start with and I stocked up on jumbo packs of my favorite teas from Amazon. It also came with a reusable k-cup to brew your own coffee which is much cheaper to do and creates a lot less waste. We're excited to brew some Dunks with it.

I'm really happy with it because I'm drinking a lot more tea and a lot less Diet Coke.


how to not fall asleep on the bus

Everyday is a struggle to not fall asleep on the bus. Risks include getting robbed, unwanted snuggles, and missing your stop. I've compiled several images that help ward off bus naps:

(The best part is around 3:00)

I've also
- been on a bus that side swiped the street car and kept going
- sat next to a man wielding a samurai sword
- stepped on a banana peel (the bus did not spin in circles like Mario Kart)
- witnessed numerous fights

Public transportation is certainly more entertaining than sitting by myself in my car everyday.


high school reunion

I got an invite to my 10 year high school reunion on Facebook. They are planning early because it won't be until 2013.
1. Do we really need reunions now that we have Facebook?
2. I don't recognize the vast majority of the names. (And all of the faces are pictures of babies.)
3. Isn't the purpose to compare lives and see how everyone turned out? If yes, see #1.

Wouldn't it be cheaper if we all agreed to make our profiles public for a day and read about each other? Or better yet, could we all be comfortable enough with ourselves that we don't need to confirm that the people we disliked got what was coming to them?


back from hawaii

Hawaii was excellent! I put up tons of photos on Facebook. We spent a lot of time just relaxing on the beach and reading in our cabana but we also ventured around the big island as well. I was in an SPF 85 force field the whole time and did not tan one bit.
I haven't been able to readjust my sleep schedule since we've been back. The time difference is only two hours, but we couldn't sleep on our turbulent red-eye home on Saturday. Also we've come home to a bit of chaos.
Our pipes were leaking. Not from where they connect, but they were so deteriorated they were just leaking out of the pipes themselves. We already had a leak in the pipe outside the house so we ended up having to completely re-plumb our house. Once it was finished we realized we no longer have hot water because apparently draining the water heater killed it. Sure, it was 19 years old which is ancient for a heater but I really can't take a shower in 40 degree water. So now we have a new water heater too.
I was hoping that I could ease back into real life after the vacation, but apparently that won't be happening. It's been one thing going wrong after another so at this point my goal for tomorrow is to not have to write a huge check to someone to fix something in the house. No such luck on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday so maybe Thursday will be our lucky day!


maple-bacon oven pancake

Dinner tonight was this maple-bacon oven pancake. I recognize that it's supposed to be a side dish, but tonight it was a main dish. The maple syrup gives a hint of sweetness to complement the saltiness of the bacon. This was super cheap and easy to make.


happy 2011

Happy New Year!!
I hope everyone had a fun night. We went to a party with friends and had a nice time. Our new favorite game is Wit and Wagers which is trivia game where you bet on correct answers. You can complete a round in about 20 minutes and you don't have to be good at trivia to win- you just need to make smart bets.

My resolution this year is to learn some of the recipes of my family. Whether they turn out successfully or not isn't that important. I just want to make an effort to try.
Yesterday I tried to make pastizzis. Mine came out pretty tasty, but no where near as buttery and golden as they are supposed to be. Part of the challenge is the older generation of Maltese women didn't really write down the recipe. Our family has a video of my great grandmother making them (filmed in the 90's) and she doesn't measure anything. A quick You Tube search shows that apparently that's all anybody has to go off of.
My recipe was as follows:
Combine 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of cold water, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a bowl. When it forms a ball of dough, refrigerate for 30 mins. Roll out the dough as thin as possible and rub Crisco over one side of the flattened dough. [Two things here- 1. I could not determine how much Crisco to use from the grainy videos available. I did a very thin layer. 2. I had to split the dough ball in 3 and repeat this 3 times due to lack of space to roll out the whole ball.] Roll the dough up so it ends up as a tube shape (as if making cinnamon buns). Rotate the tube of dough 90 degrees and roll out as flat as possible again. Crisco that layer and roll up like a pinwheel again. The idea is to create layers and alternating direction helps make it flakier. After 3 roll outs, take the final tube and refrigerate for 1.5 hrs. [Again, in my case I had 3 tubes since I'd split my dough.]
While that is cooling, make the filling. These are traditionally made with either cheese or meat. The cheese filling is just ricotta, egg, salt and pepper. My estimate is about 1 egg per small (I think it's 16 oz) tub of ricotta. I used 1 tub of ricotta and did not need all of it. The meat filling has a lot more variation. Brown ground beef (about 1/2 lb) and drain well. Place it back in the pan on medium. Add enough tomato paste to make it sticky. I needed about 2 heaping tablespoons to do so. Here you add some frozen peas and there is no exact science to this part. Just add however many peas you want to have in your filling. My filling was probably only 10% peas total but you can use more if you like. Frozen peas only need to cook for about 2 mins. The seasoning of the meat filling differs by family. Mine uses a small amount of cinnamon and I think salt and pepper. I didn't have cinnamon so I used allspice and garlic power (2 parts all spice/1 part garlic powder) until I liked the flavor. Other recipes call for curry which would also be good. Once the peas are cooked, remove the meat mixture from heat. It will be easier to work with if it's cooled so you may want to just leave it on the counter until you need it. It's important that both mixtures are not wet.
Once the tube of dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375. Cut the dough in 2 inch pieces (just like making cinnamon rolls). Use your fingers to flatten each piece into a circle about 4 inches across. You want to try to create more layers as you do this so flatten it from top to button, not turning it to the spiraled side. Scoop filling into the center of the circle and pinch closed in a half-circle shape. This is just like making a dumpling or ravioli. The amount of filling is however much it takes to fill the pastry and still allow you to close it. Coat the pastizzi in another layer of Crisco and bake until golden brown.

As you can see, I did not achieve the flaky golden brown texture I was supposed to. [If you are unfamiliar with pastizzi, do a search online to see what they are supposed to look like.] It should be as flaky as a croissant and these appeared more bread-like. Next time I will use about twice as much Crisco in my layers. These actually did have flaky layers when you bit into them, so my roll out technique was right. I just didn't have enough fat to create the golden brown color. I'm going to definitely make a second attempt in the future because I feel like with some tweaks, this could be correct.