Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vacation Day 3

Today was a travel day. We got up, ate leftover pizza for breakfast and headed down the road to Montrose to spend Christmas with Dev's mom. 

We always stop in Grand Junction because it's the halfway point.  REI was our first stop (to look at ski racks for the car), then we spent some time in Barnes and Noble. 

We waited to have lunch at Colorado Boy Pizza in Montrose. Their spinach salad is to die for (spinach leaves, walnuts, roasted red pepper and gorganzola tossed in a pesto vinaigrette).

After lunch we went to Devin's mom's house. We sat around and talked til dinner time. She had made BBQ ribs, scalloped potatoes and cranberry salad. It was delicious!  I forgot to take pics. 

That was about it. We all hit the living room and watched TV until we were too sleepy to keep our eyes open. Then we went to bed.

Vacation Day 2

So let's see... Day 2 was not very active. 

I made homemade buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. 
They are always a hit. 

Lunch was less spectacular. I made boring tuna fish sandwiches. 

In the late afternoon, we went to Glenwood Springs to see our friend Greg play rec league hockey. Then we headed out for pizza after the game. 

It was still a pretty good day!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Vacation- Day 1

I have set a goal for Winter Break.  While I recognize the need for rest and relaxation, I don't want to sit around like a lump on the couch the whole time.  I want to get out and do something active most of the days we're off.

Today, we were off to a great start!  My alarm went off at 7am (a full hour and a half later than normal), but we stayed in bed for about another 30 minutes.   For breakfast, I decided to make migas.  I had never heard of this dish before I moved to Alamosa, CO.  I'm assuming it has it's beginnings in New Mexico.  I find it's a great way to use up the crumblies left in the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips.

I start by heating some oil (olive or canola) and putting the dredges of the chip bag in the pan.  I let them sizzle around and toast until they are light brown.  Then I throw in some chopped onion and fresh jalapeno.  After the onion softens, I put in diced tomato (this time of year I use canned- in the summer, I use fresh).  After the tomatoes have warmed through, I throw in 3 beaten eggs that have been seasoned with salt, a little milk and about a tablespoon of sriracha chile sauce.  After the eggs are scrambled, I plate it with garnishes of pico de gallo, fresh cilantro and lime juice.  This morning I also added to the plate some sliced oranges, and sliced avocado (seasoned with salt, lime and crushed chile de arbol).

After breakfast I sat down and almost finished a fingerless mitt I'm working on for a friend.  I also watched 2 episodes of "Top Gear" on BBC America.

For lunch I wanted some soup, so I made tomato.

There are a zillion recipes for tomato soup floating around on the interwebs.  I decided to wing it and clean some stuff out of the pantry and fridge.




I started with half a chopped onion.  I sauteed it in olive oil until it began to soften.  Then I added a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and about a cup of chicken stock.  I let that come to a simmer and added some Greek seasoning blend I had in the spice rack.  After about 10 minutes of bubbling, I put it in a bowl and added a handful of cubed home made bread that I sauteed in olive oil to crisp up.  On top of the bread cubes I put a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.  I popped the bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds to melt the cheese.  I garnished with the last of the chopped fresh cilantro.
In addition, for my bowl, I added some diced avocado and just a bit of Greek yogurt.

After lunch, we took a nap.  About 3ish we bundled up and went cross country skiing.  While I like being outside, skiing really isn't my thing.  I spent the vast majority of the time face down in the snow.  And I do not have the strength to pull myself up without taking the skis off.  That makes for a long afternoon.

I think dinner is going to be a pickled beet and goat cheese salad.  I hate to undo all the good I did out on the golf course!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Veggie Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce

My oven has stopped working!  I had no idea how much I depended on it until I couldn't.  I sat around all day, moping about what to make for dinner without my oven.

Then, I remembered the package of refrigerated udon noodles I picked up at the store this weekend.  I decided I'd whip up a peanut sauce and stir fry the noodles with veggies.

That's how this dish was born.  It was really good.  Like I could eat this once a week and be happy, good.

Here's the recipe for the peanut sauce.  It is really simple and I had all the ingredients on hand.  Oh- and I added about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil to the list- as well as subbing vegetable broth for the chicken.   I only used the sauce recipe- I didn't follow the rest of it.

While the sauce festered on the stove, I thinly sliced half an onion, about 4 large cremini mushrooms and about a cup of sugar snap peas.  I heated a non-stick skillet to medium high and put a couple of tablespoons of olive in.  When it was piping hot, I threw all the veggies in.  When they began to soften I opened the package of udon noodles and tossed them in as well.  I stirred them around, then poured the sauce on.  I let it cook for about 3 minutes, letting the noodles absorb as much of the sauce as possible.  I served it with a garnish of julienned carrots, fresh cilantro and toasted peanuts.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Holidays are here again...

So today I finished my Christmas shopping and began my Christmas baking.  I'm not doing too much this year, mostly because I get so busy at school, I don't have time.

I concentrated on 3 recipes.  All of them are insanely simple, but have big impact.

The first recipe I did is called "Firecracker Cheez-its."  I found the recipe on one of the many blogs I read.  If you're interested in giving them a try, go here.  But be prepared to become addicted.

The next recipe I chose is an old standard- Oreo Truffles.  The recipe could not be simpler- one- eight ounce block of cream cheese, softened, and one bag of Oreo cookies.  I put the Oreos in my food processor and whiz them around until they look like sand, then cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces and toss it in with the cookies.  Whiz it all around until it becomes a dark, black mass of yumminess.  Form the dough into whatever size balls you want, then you have lots of choices!  I like to roll them in chopped salted peanuts, but unsweetened cocoa is good, as is dipping them in melted dark or white chocolate.

The third recipe isn't going to happen today.  The couch and a cup of hot tea is calling my name.  But when I get around to it, I will make a recipe of my mother's pound cake recipe, and bake it in little gift-loaf pans.  I love having those around for last minute gifts.

I'm kinda glad to be aiming low this year, so I have time to enjoy the season.  What kind of baking plans do you have for this Christmas?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vegetarian Product Review- Morningstar Farms Maple Flavored Sausage Patties

So here's my first vegetarian product review.

One of the things I crave for breakfast is a breakfast sandwich.  I used to make them with a fried egg, ham or a sausage patty, cheese and an English muffin.

Since I'm trying to cut out cheese and eggs, I've been looking around for some vegan substitutes for any or all of those things.  These aren't really vegan, because they contain some egg white, but I'm doing this gradually, so that doesn't really bother me.

I tried these for breakfast this morning.  If blindfolded would I mistake them for real maple sausage patties?  No.

Would they make a decent stand in for sausage with other ingredients in a breakfast sandwich?  I hope so!  I ate them by themselves this morning with some hashbrowns, but the next test will be the breakfast sandwich.

If you are looking for something with the texture and flavor of real sausage, you are barking up the wrong tree here.  I used the recommended cooking method- 10 to 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  They were soft, but not exactly meat-like.  Nuking them is a huge mistake.  It hardens them and makes them like wooden hockey pucks.

I would buy them again, for the aforementioned breakfast sandwich making, but I won't be eating them by themselves again.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekend Travels

We took off for Montrose this weekend.  It was good to get out of the house.  I haven't traveled anywhere since my foot injury in August.

My vegan diet had quite a set back.  I didn't want Dev to tell his mom I was trying to go vegan.  I knew she would freak out and not know what to cook.  But that means we had meat and cheese all weekend.

I took some pictures while we were driving home, so I thought I'd post them here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tempeh Sopas

So tonight's dinner included two new things- sopas and tempeh.

This was a rather involved dish- not hard- but it had several steps.

First, I cut the tempeh into strips and put it in a marinade of orange and lemon juice, a bit of soy sauce and chile powder.  I let it marinate for about 2 hours.

Next, I fried some green tomatoes.  I use a pretty standard breading technique- seasoned flour, then egg wash, then seasoned panko crumbs.

After the tomatoes were done, I fried the sopas according to the directions on the package.

I put the sopas and tomatoes in the oven on warm and began working on the filling.

I put some olive oil in a skillet and added the tempeh.  I let it brown a little, then added chopped onions, chopped yellow squash, sliced cremini mushrooms, a can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed) and about a cup of roasted grape tomato sauce I put up a few weeks ago.  I added some dried oregano, chile powder, garlic powder and onion powder.  I stirred it well and let it simmer away for about 15 minutes.

I had a half of an avocado in the ice box, so I mashed it with some fresh lime juice and salt.

To assemble the sopas, I retrieved the sopas from the oven, then put a layer of mashed avocado on the bottom, then 2 fried green tomatoes.  I piled the tempeh filling on that, then garnished with a dollop of Greek yogurt (I have about half a container left to use up!) and some chopped scallions.

Verdict on the two new products......

The sopas were not that great.  Maybe I'll bake the ones left in the package.  Frying them just made them heavy and thick.

The tempeh was ok.  I would like to try it again in something less complicated, so I actually taste the tempeh itself, instead of all the other strong flavors.

The overall dish was great!  I am taking the leftovers to school tomorrow, and I'm betting it will be ten times better after it festers for a while.

Decisions...

I have made a big decision.  I have been struggling with it for a few weeks now.

Anybody who knows me, knows I have struggled with weight all my life.  When I was younger, it was pretty much all vanity.  But now that I'm older, it has more to do with my health.

A few weeks ago I went to our school district's health fair and had blood drawn.  I got the results back a few days later and was pretty pleased with the results.  For my age and weight, I'm in fairly ok health.  But I was also taking 2 medications for blood pressure, and another prescription to help me sleep.  Not to mention I'm wearing a black boot because of nerve damage (not necessarily health connected- but I'm sure recovery would be easier if I was lighter and more positive).

I went to see a new doctor not long after that, and told her I'd like to get to a point where I don't have to take any medications.  That's when she started talking to me about being vegan.

It made total sense.  When I came home, I looked at the resources she had given me, and did some digging around on my own.  I contacted friends who were vegan and asked questions.  The more I learned, the more I knew I needed to move in that direction, but began thinking of all the foods I love that I'd have to give up.

At this point, I have decided to do it, but gradually.  I have an ice box full of dairy- yogurt, cheese, milk.  As things run out, I'll be looking for vegan substitutes.  I also dearly love eggs.  So I am not going cold turkey- but trying some new things and looking for ways to tweak existing dishes and make them more vegan.

So far, so good.  I haven't had any meat in over a week (I won't miss it that much).  I did have some sushi on Friday- so seafood will be a challenge.  But I'm keeping a positive attitude.  I am trying to eat mostly plant based Monday - Friday, then allow myself to eat as I'd like on the weekends.  Hopefully as each week passes, the weekends will be less like a binge and more like an opportunity for an occasional treat.

My plan is to share the recipes I make here, and also give my opinions on the vegan substitutes I buy and use.

It will be an interesting journey.  I hope you stick around to take it with me!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Peanut Butter Toast with Apples

So this doesn't really count as a recipe, but I thought I'd share it because I had never thought about putting these things together before.

Browsing through Pinterest the other evening, I found a picture of something very similiar to this, except the person used almond butter.  I am currently out of that, but I did have a jar of natural peanut butter in the ice box, and an apple in the crisper drawer that needed some attention.  I put them together on a slice of home made bread, toasted.  This was great!  I really wanted bananas, but I didn't have any.  I'm kinda glad I was out, because this was really fantastic!  I think I like it better than peanut butter and bananas.  It has more texture and is brighter.  I didn't get hungry until right before lunch that day, either.  So it sticks with you for a while.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

This isn't the greatest picture in the world, but it sure tasted good!

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal was another Pinterest find.  Since I've been on Pinterest, I haven't felt the need to buy as many cooking magazines or cookbooks.  This recipe is a good example of why that is.

So I can't take credit for it, even though I wish I could.  It's that good.

Here's the link to the recipe.  Seriously, you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right now.  And even if you don't- play around!  I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, but I did have fresh whole nutmeg and cardamom pods and cinnamon.

Oh- and I did add one ingredient I felt was missing.  I added about a half teaspoon of kosher salt.  I find that even sweet things benefit from a little dash of salt to help them taste more like themselves.  I also subbed almond milk for the regular milk in the recipe.  It turned out just as creamy and delicious.

I plan to make a double batch of this tomorrow afternoon so we can reheat it and eat it for breakfast next week!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

sunday afternoons


sunday afternoon, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

This is what it looks like around our house on Sunday afternoons...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Veggie Tortilla Soup

I needed a quick dinner.  I had not planned ahead.  This is nothing out of the ordinary.  But now that the weather is getting cooler,  I have the perfect excuse to throw together some soup!

I started with some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  I added half a large chopped onion and one clove of minced fresh garlic.  When that was soft, I added 2 corn tortillas I had cut into small squares (this acts as a thickener and adds some corn flavor).  I added 2 handfuls of kale out of the garden.  I poured in a few glugs of Will's beer to help the kale wilt, and let it cook down for about 5 minutes.

After that, I added a can of diced tomatoes and about 2 cups of chicken stock.  I threw in some toasted and ground cumin, ground chile arbol and some chile powder.  I let it simmer about 10 more minutes.  Lastly, I threw in a few handfuls of frozen white corn.  It hung out and simmered another 5 minutes.

I served it with a dollop of Greek yogurt and diced yellow tomatoes from the garden.  On the side we had the last of the chicken cheddar muffins.

Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

breakfast dagwood


breakfast dagwood, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

I love breakfast sandwiches! This one was easy- just bread, ham, tomato and scrambled eggs- smothered in melty muenster cheese.

More old family photos....


aunt tee, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

I think this is my Aunt Tee and her husband, but honestly, I don't know. I love this photo, though.

Awesome Sunday Lunch


sunday lunch, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Here's a cheese and fruit plate.

Black Rice Salad with Whiskey-Braised Swiss Chard and Feta

Devin loves black rice (sometimes called Forbidden Rice).  He found it at Whole Foods a few months back.

To me, it has the texture of wild rice, but is much sweeter.  I have used it the same way I would use regular or brown rice.  I usually make it in my rice steamer, using the same 2:1 liquid to rice ratio, but adding a little extra liquid to make sure it gets done.  It is definitely toothier than white rice, though, so don't be expecting soft rice.

So here's what I did:

I cooked about a cup and a half of black rice in my rice steamer, using half chicken broth, half water as the liquid.

During the last 10 minutes or so of its cooking time, I went out and grabbed a few handfuls of swiss chard from the garden and chopped it into strips (I usually chop off the long stems, roll the leaves up and cut them- like a chiffonade).  I put on my skillet and used a little olive oil and a little bacon drippins, then chopped up a clove of garlic and 2 shallots.  I don't turn on the heat until the fat and aromatics are in the skillet- that way as the fat renders, it picks up the flavors of the garlic and shallot.

When that was sizzling, I added the swiss chard, then a few glugs of whiskey. I threw in a few dried cranberries, then turned up the heat a bit and let it wilt down.  It probably took about 10 minutes.

I roughly chopped about a cup of sugar snap peas and threw them in to get warmed up, and then let it go about another 3 minutes.

When the rice was done I put it in a large bowl, then added the chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta (about a cup), and dumped in the swiss chard mixture.  I dressed it with a little balsamic vinaigrette to bring out the sweetness of the rice.

I served it warm- but I packed the leftovers to take for lunch tomorrow- I'll probably eat it without warming it up.  I'm sure the flavors will have festered and it will be twice as good tomorrow!


Aunt Bessie on the Porch


aunt bessie porch, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

The girl on the far left is my Aunt Bessie. I think she is beatiful! And the scenery in the background couldn't be more classically Southern.

The only thing I know about the picture is it was taken somewhere on Isle of Hope.

Scattering his ashes...


ash scattering 4, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

This is a picture of my mother scattering my father's ashes in the Savannah River.

More Family Photos...


ann mcginty, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Here's my beautiful cousin, Ann McGinty.

Chicken Cheddar Muffins

This morning I wanted to try something new, but I didn't have a recipe for what I had in mind.  Not that I've ever let that bother me before...

I have been trying to clean out my pantry and get rid of the things I bought on a whim, but hardly ever use.  Bisquick is one of those things.  I bought a giant box of it a few years back and it's been sitting in the pantry ever since.

I decided to make muffins with some leftover rotisserie chicken.  I shredded the chicken and grated about 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese.  The Bisquick box didn't have directions for muffins, so I decided to wing it.

I put what was left of the Bisquick in a bowl (I'd guess it was about 2 cups, maybe a little more).  Most of the directions for stuff on the box called for milk, but I had some buttermilk in the ice box I needed to use up.  Amount?  I have no clue.  I put the dry mix and the cheddar and chicken in a large bowl and added Bisquick until it looked like a stiff muffin dough/batter.

I over filled a 6 muffin tin (after adding Spongebob cupcake liners) and put it in a 450 degree oven for about 18 minutes.

The resulting muffins were pretty darn good!  I can't wait to try a ham and swiss version that doesn't have that weird chemical Bisquick flavor.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Dog has School Spirit!


bear wig, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Bear was helping me decorate my new classroom over the summer.

roast tomato prep


roast tomato prep, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

I just like this picture. It makes me feel fancy. :)

Uncle Jack


Uncle Jack, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

A very handsome picture of my Uncle Jack.

Jeffrey and Jackie


Jeffrey and Jackie, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Here is an old picture of my cousins, Jeffrey and Jackie.

chicken chili



chicken chili, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.
This was Devin's birthday dinner. I found the recipe on Pinterest, of course.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, except for the bacon. I didn't add any because I was too lazy to cook it.

Here's the link to the recipe..

I really liked it. It might become my regular chili recipe for the fall. You can use any kind of meat, not just chicken!

Skillet American Chop Suey

This is one of those dishes everybody ate as a kid- or at least some version of it, anyway.  There are as many variations as there are home cooks.  I've never used a recipe to make it, as I'm sure my mother didn't.  It was a way to use up odds and ends in the fridge and get dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.

So this version started with a large onion, and a clove of garlic, chopped.  I also added about 5 sliced mushrooms (they were getting very close to science project status in the crisper drawer), and some red pepper flakes.  Once that got started, I threw in a pound of ground hamburger and let it all cook until the meat was no longer pink.  At that point, I poured in what was left of a bottle of red wine.  If I had to guess, I'd say maybe a cup.  I let that cook over medium heat while I put the egg noodles on to boil.

While the noodles were cooking, I added a can of crushed tomatoes and about a cup of leftover marinara sauce to the pan. I checked for seasoning and added a little salt.  After the sauce had tightened up a little, I added the now-cooked egg noodles and mixed it all up.  I topped it with sliced of fresh mozzarella, then put the whole skillet under the broiler to melt the cheese.

I served it with some grated parmesan cheese.

Pics from Summer 2013


low country boil, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

This is the low country boil my Uncle John put together while I was home in Savannah this summer.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Family Pictures...



bobby, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.
This is my half-brother Bobby.

blueberry waffles with blueberry compote



blueberry waffles, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.
So this breakfast was a total cheat. For some reason, I had a box of blueberry pancake mix in my pantry, and I really wanted to get rid of it. So I mixed the waffles up according to the package directions (except I used buttermilk) and I added some fresh blueberries. While the waffles were working, I made some blueberry syrup/compote by putting the rest of the basket of blueberries in a saucepan with some dark brown sugar and about half a cup of water. I added a dash of cinnamon and let it work away until all the waffles were done. At the last minute I mashed the compote with a potato masher, then served them together.

Devin loved these!

blackened steelhead on corn salad


So for this super quick dinner, I made a quick corn salad by cutting the kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn and sauteing it with some Vidalia onion. After a few minutes I added some halved grape tomatoes and turned off the heat. Then I crumbled in a handful of feta cheese.
For the fish, I took 2 pieces of steelhead trout, and seasoned them with Zatarain's Blackening Seasoning. I quickly pan-seared them and served them on a bed of the corn salad.

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy



biscuits and gravy, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.
Here's a shot of my last batch of cream biscuits and sausage gravy. The biscuits are made with heavy cream and self rising flour. The sausage gravy uses a pound of ground breakfast sausage, broken up and cooked. Add a few tablespoons of flour and let it cook for a few minutes. Then add a couple of cups of milk, a bit of fresh nutmeg, salt and lots of ground black pepper.

My Beautiful Boot!



beautiful boot, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.
Here's my boot in all its glory.

Air Plant

This is an air plant.  My friend Diane sent it to me as a get well soon gift earlier this summer.  I think I've finally found a plant I can't kill!  It doesn't require any water- just air.

So far it is doing just fine. :)

That 70s Christmas

I was going through the pictures on my phone this afternoon, and came across some old pics my mother and I found while we were cleaning things out at her house over the summer.

This pic shows our living room in the early 70s.  Christmas doesn't get much groover than this.

Reflections on the Summer of 2013

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on Pinterest.  Around Labor Day I began noticing a trend in the blogging community- everyone started posting their reflections on their summer.  I read many of them. I really only liked one.  This particular blog post did the obligatory indexing of summer activities, but toward the end, the writer began to look back over summers past.  The blogger ended with a charge for the reader- think back and remember the summer that changed you.

As I thought about it, I realized that at least in recent memory, the Summer of 2013 is that summer for me.

But I can't categorize it easily.  I can't say it was the worst summer of my life, but I certainly can't say it was the best, either.  As a matter of fact, I feel like I wasted the whole thing.  If I had known at the beginning of the summer what I knew by Labor Day, I'd request a do over.

So- what about the Summer of 2013 changed me forever?  On August 7 I woke up from a routine colonoscopy and found my right leg pretty much useless.  Apparently, during the procedure I suffered a stretched nerve.  I had no feeling from my knee down.

I don't remember much about that first day.  The doctors all reassured me that it was temporary and the feeling would return- but it might take a while.  I vaguely remember 2 ladies coming to see me about physical therapy.  I spent about 15 minutes with them and received a pair of crutches and a wheelchair ride out to the car.

I remember everything about the second day.  It was awful.  I was hoping to wake and find out it had all been a dream.  But it wasn't.  I laid in bed all day and ate nothing.  I was trying to maintain my composure, mostly for Devin's sake.  I could do nothing by myself.  I could not walk well on the crutches, so I could not walk to the bathroom by myself, I could not shower because I could not stand very long with all my weight on my left leg.  I laid there and thought about having to start work in 4 days.  I thought about the fact that I live in a 2 story house, with both bathrooms upstairs and the only TV downstairs.  It was hard for me to think about the situation as temporary- considering I had a dead leg and no other information.

On the third day, I decided I needed to advocate for myself and call the hospital.  I called the office of the surgeon who had performed the procedure.  I told her that I didn't feel like I was being helped very much.  I explained about the severe limitation to my mobility and my general state of mind as far as not knowing anything about what was going on with my leg.  She was very helpful, and immediately phoned in some medication to help me sleep, then set up a physical therapy appointment for the next morning.

Physical therapy was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I go 3 days a week and will probably be continuing therapy for the foreseeable future.  At that first appointment I learned how to use my crutches the right way, and I received a boot for my foot.  The boot has made all the difference in the world.  While wearing it, I have a right leg.  I can put weight on the leg and even walk quite a bit without the crutches.

A month went by, and I hadn't seen any appreciable improvement in my leg.  I went to a specialist to confirm that I wasn't dealing with something more permanent.  The second doctor assured me it was temporary, but could take the better part of a year to even approach normal functionality.

Luckily, in the last 2 weeks, things have taken a turn for the better.  I can wiggle all 5 toes a little, push down slightly, and with the help of electrode therapy, lift my foot just a skosh.  Sensation in the calf and foot comes and goes.  I have a constant feeling of pins and needles when I put pressure anywhere, and my muscles twitch and ache, depending on how much I've been up on my feet.  But these are all good signs, so as aggravating as they can be, I am thankful.

I think everyone, at some point or other, makes deals with God- even if they profess not to believe in one.  I'm sure they all sound similar to the deals I've been making.  "If you'll give me back _______, I promise to___________ (exercise more, lose weight, volunteer, quit smoking, etc)."  But I really do think this situation has changed me permanently.  If I ever get back to normal, I have quite a bit of work to do.

What will be different when I can walk again?  For starters, I'll do it more often.  I would give anything to be able to climb my stairs or walk around the block.

I will do more and sit around less- give up some TV.  Travel.

I will quit putting things on my Bucket List for some unknown time in the future, and start planning to tick a few things off the list now.

I'm even thinking of doing some volunteering with the physical therapy people at the hospital.  Maybe I could bake muffins for them to take to patients when they have sessions.  My therapist, Randi, has given so much of my life back to me, I feel like I should help her help others.

So right now I'm healing and exercising and trying to stay positive.  I am surrounded by wonderful people and I will let them help me through this.  My husband has been amazing through all this.  My friends here in Rifle have brought dinners for us, covered duty for me so I don't have to stay on my foot all the time and most importantly, kept me laughing.  My students have also been great.  They volunteer to run errands for me, practically run the classroom by themselves, and don't mind me sitting behind my desk with my foot propped up on my trash can most of the day.

My friend Chris convinced me to write all this down and put it out there for others to read.  He reminded me of the many things for which I am thankful.  Mostly, I feel thankful for him and for my friends and family who are always there to help me through the tough times.

Who are you thankful for today?

So I've Been Gone for a While...

I haven't posted here since July.  Not that uncommon, really.  Just about everyone knows my soul and spare time are owned by the Garfield RE2 School District, so regular posting almost never happens.  But this time, I have a pretty good excuse.  An excuse that I haven't been comfortable, or able, really, to talk about in depth until recently.

I had almost decided not to post about it at all, until a very dear friend of mine convinced me it was a good thing to do.  I'm hoping by writing it out, I can process what happened and how I truly feel about it- make my peace with it.

So I will re-read my journal and put it into some intelligible format for you.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ramen Noodle Deluxe

Confession:  I love Ramen Noodles.  Actually, I love any noodles.

But I hate the salty flavor packet that comes with the noodles.  I'm not even sure why they label them with different flavors.  They should all just say "Salt Lick."

But hating the flavor packet does not stop me from buying and using them.

To me, it's all about building flavors for the liquid in which you are going to boil the noodles.  You've only got 3 minutes, so you need to pack a wallop right off the bat!

To a small sauce pan of water (just enough to cover the noodles), I add 2 chopped Thai red chiles, one small smashed piece of fresh ginger, a smashed piece of lemon grass (I get mine from Amazon- you could also use the paste from the grocery store) and a smashed clove of garlic.  If you've got some kefir lime leaves, crush a couple and throw them in, or you can use some pieces of lime zest.  Do this while the water is cold.  Then put it on medium heat.  Let it sit and fester for a good 5 minutes at least (you want a pretty good simmer to extract the flavor from your solids).  Fish out the solid materials if they freak you out when you eat the noodles.  Then lemon grass and lime leaves/zest are the only non-edible things, though.  Then turn up the heat and bring it to a boil.

Throw in the magic noodles and boil them for their 3 minutes.  While the boiling is going on, I like to contemplate my add ins.  Sometimes I dice up firm tofu, sometimes shredded rotisserie chicken... any meat or veggie will do.  Actually, sometimes I just want the broth and the noodles!  After putting the soup in a bowl, I usually add a few dashes of soy sauce, some chopped scallions, maybe some sesame seeds, or even a little teriyaki sauce (especially with chicken or shrimp).  Oh- don't forget some fresh cilantro or parsley right before you sit down to eat it.  The fresh herbage makes a difference!

You don't even have to go Asian.  You can make them many flavor you want!  Why not try a little leftover marinara and freshly grated parmesan with some fresh basil leaves?  Or more traditional chicken soup with thinly sliced celery and carrots and onions (that broth may need to boil a little longer to soften the veggies before you add the noodles). You might even want to throw some celery seeds in the broth as well.

If you really want the flavor of the packet, you can make your own.  I've added chicken base, celery seeds and salt to the broth and it tastes pretty close.  Just don't use the packet.  It's gross.  And gross for you.

Life's too short to eat bad food!

Strawberry Shortcake

So after making a big batch of biscuits the other day, I've been trying to find ways to use them all.

My husband would eat dessert three meals a day if he was allowed, so he's always in favor of a sweet breakfast option.

I used my biscuits as the base, then threw together a strawberry compote-ish kinda thing.  It actually came out like a really thick strawberry syrup.

Here's what I did...



I chopped about 8 strawberries in smallish chunks and put them in a small sauce pan with about half a cup of dark brown sugar.  To that I added a good dash of fig infused balsamic vinegar and a wee dash of Calvados apple brandy.  I stirred it occasionally and let it boil on medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Next, I whipped some heavy whipping cream in my mixer with about 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar.

I split the biscuits, buttered them and added a few spoonfuls of the strawberry mixture.  I put the tops on and dolloped the whipped cream on top.  I added a fresh strawberry for garnish.

These tasted really good.  You could use this method to make compote/syrup out of any fruit.  I think I may try blueberries next!  I may even use my emulsion blender and strain out the seeds.  Then I'd have a luscious fruit syrup.  To eat out of the jar with a spoon.  :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Veggie Dinner

Tonight I wanted to have a meatless dinner.   As I looked in the icebox for inspiration, I remembered that Devin had sprouted some mung beans for me, and I needed to use them before they rotted in the container.  One of my favorite uses of bean sprouts is fried rice- so that's what I made!

The thing I love about fried rice (well, I can say this about most things I cook) is that you can put anything in it.  Fried rice is the ultimate ice box cleaner outer.

There are millions of ways to make fried rice.  I do not make any claims of authenticity with this recipe.  I bet I never do it exactly the same way twice.  But I know that I've never made a batch we didn't gobble up.

Here's a pic of the set up, or mise en place...
An important thing to know about fried rice is- always have everything ready to go before you even turn the heat on.  This dish is easy to make, but once it starts, there's no time for chopping.

I made a batch of rice in my rice cooker.  I always make double the amount I need and freeze the leftovers.  Having cooked rice in the freezer is like a get out of jail free card during the school year.  I am never more than 15 minutes away from dinner if I already have cooked rice!

To me, the secret to a good batch of fried rice is building layers of flavor.  You can't stir fry everything then dump 2 gallons of soy sauce on it and expect it to taste good.  So over the years I've learned a thing or two about the flavors I like and how to develop them.

I make this in a non-stick skillet.  Would it be easier in a wok-type pan?  Yes.  Do I have one?  No.  Sometimes life isn't fair.

Before I turn the heat on, I put 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in the skillet.  You can use whatever oil you like- canola, olive, whatever.   To the oil in the cold pan I add about a tablespoon of fresh ginger (I keep a hand of ginger in the freezer at all times- I buy it at the grocery store, chop it into inch long pieces and put them in a zip lock bag), zested on a microplane grater (I don't even skin it); 2 Thai chile peppers, chopped, seeds and all (they aren't that hot); a tablespoon of minced fresh garlic; lemon grass paste (I get mine at the grocery store in the produce section); Thai red chile paste (you can get it at the grocery store in the Asian food section); and about a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil (also available in the Asian food section of the grocery store).  Then I turn the heat to a little past medium.  Don't touch anything until the stuff in the oil starts to sizzle.  Once it does, use a wooden spoon or spatula and start moving stuff around.  At this point, you are infusing that oil with all those yummie flavors.  Let it cook for a minute or two- you don't want to burn the garlic.  

When the first layer of flavor is going, I add my veggies that take a few minutes to cook; I used half a chopped Vidalia onion, about 2 cups of chopped green cabbage, bell pepper (a little yellow and a little red), and chopped carrot.  After those work for about 5 minutes, I add the sliced mushrooms.  Let this go for a few minutes over moderately high heat.  We want a little charring.  I usually add a little soy sauce at this point, but not enough to make it wet- the stuff needs to stir fry, not boil.

After a few minutes, I push the veggies to the side of the pan and make an empty space in the middle.  I beat 2 eggs, then pour them in the middle of the skillet.  Let them sit for a minute or two to begin cooking.  Shake them around with the spatula to scramble them.  When they start solidifying, stir the veggies back in.  

At this point I get about 3 scoops of rice out of the rice cooker and dump them in the pan with the veggies.  Before I start mixing I add a few splashes of fish sauce (available at the grocery store), a few splashes of soy sauce (I use low sodium), a few splashes of teriyaki sauce (not too much because I don't want it to be sweet), the aforementioned mung bean sprouts
and a handful of toasted sesame seeds.  You can also throw in chopped peanuts, but I didn't have any.  Mix everything together.  Be careful, because at this point it's usually too much food for the skillet I chose.  This is why I want a wok.  :)

Let all that work over moderate heat.  Again, you want the rice to char a little.  Taste it and make sure it doesn't need a bit more soy, or something else.  

At this point you have a batch of fried rice that beats the heck out of any take out fried rice I've ever had.  If you want to add meat to it, chicken and shrimp are excellent candidates, as is tofu.

Tonight I made this and on the side I added an experiment.  

Earlier this week Devin and I had lunch at an Asian restaurant.  We ordered the spicy edamame.  To say it was good is an understatement.  Angels sang.... the heavens opened up..... It was perfect!  It hit me right in the umami sweet spot.  It was spicy and garlicky and wonderful.  I knew I had to figure out how to replicate the flavor profile at home.  I decided to give it a whirl using sugar snap peas.  The bonus being you can eat the whole pod.

Here's a shot of both recipes on the plate:
So the peas didn't turn out exactly, but they were really good.  I blanched the sugar snaps in boiling water for about 3 minutes, then shocked them in ice water to lock the color and stop the cooking.

I used the same pot I blanched them in to do the rest.  Again, before I put the pan on the heat I added about 2 tablespoons of canola oil, lots of fresh minced garlic (like 5 cloves), some red pepper flakes (depends on how hot you want this to get) and about a tablespoon of the Thai red chile paste.  I put the pan over moderate heat.  After it started sizzling I stirred the spices around so the oil would soak up all the flavor.  I let it sizzle about a minute (don't burn the garlic), then dumped in the sugar snaps.  I threw them all around in the pan, letting them get coated in the spicy flavored oil.  I stir fried them about a minute more- just to heat them through and coat them well.

I immediately plated them with the fried rice and that was dinner!



Veggie Frittata

Frittatas are becoming my go-to meal if I'm in a pinch.  A frittata is the lazy girl's omelette.

There is no recipe- or at least I don't use one.  It's more of a technique than a recipe.

Here's what I did for this particular one.....

I chopped up some swiss chard from the garden, about 4 mushrooms, half a tomato (leftover from sandwiches the day before), half a Vidalia onion, and a wee bit of fresh garlic.

I crumbled the leftover bit of feta cheese from the icebox.

I beat 4 eggs together with a dash of salt, a splash of milk and a smidgeon of hot sauce.

I sauteed the veggies in a pat of butter until they were soft.  I poured in the egg mixture, then dumped in the feta.  I scooted it around in the pan with my spatula until I had everything where I wanted it.  I let it cook on the stove top over medium heat for about 4 or 5 minutes, then I moved it to a 400 degree oven for another 10 minutes, but I started checking for doneness after 5.  It's done when the middle doesn't giggle anymore.

When it was done, I scooted it onto a cutting board and cut it into 4 wedges.  It fed Devin and I with one triangle leftover- which ended up between two pieces of home made bread later that day.

Seriously, you can put anything in this and it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.  What's not to love?

Cream Biscuits

I've seen the recipe for these biscuits everywhere lately.  I'm not surprised, because these are so easy and the resulting biscuits are delicious!

The recipe I used was out of Nathalie DuPree's Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, but like I said before, if you google it, there are dozens of sites out there with recipes.

The allure of this recipe is that it only uses two ingredients- heavy cream and self rising flour.  That's it.

I had to play with the recipe a little because I am in a much drier climate than Ms. Dupree, therefore I had to use almost half again as much cream to get my dough to come together.

I put these biscuits together in about 5 minutes, including the cutting.  They baked about 12 minutes.  That's home made biscuits in about 15 minutes- crazy!

In a large bowl I mixed 2 cups of self rising flour.  I made a well in the center, then slowly poured in 1 cup of heavy cream.  After folding it in very carefully (NEVER over mix biscuit dough!), I realized I needed more cream.  I used about a half cup more.  When the dough starts to come together in one big lump, tump it out on a well floured surface.  The directions said pat it out and fold it over.  I was afraid my dough would be overworked, so I skipped that step and went right to patting it out until it was about 1/2 an inch thick.  Then I used a 2 inch biscuit cutter and cut out 14 biscuits (that included gently putting scraps back together for the last 4 biscuits)- don't twist the cutter while you punch them out or the biscuits won't rise properly.  I put them on a buttered cookie sheet and baked them at 450 degrees for 12 minutes, spinning the pan half way through.  If you want softer biscuits, crowd them together in a pan.  I wanted biscuits that were crispy on the outside.  When they come out of the oven, slather them generously with butter.  Try not to eat one standing at the oven.  I dare you!

Possible variations- you could add chives and cheddar to the dough, smoked gouda and ham, any herbs, garlic (or slather the tops with garlic butter when they come out of the oven).  I think to make an even crispier biscuit, next time I'll baste the tops with melted, salted butter before I bake them.  It doesn't matter what you do to them- just make them!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Time Suck

You know, because my life needs another time suck to go with Pinterest and Facebook.

It's embarrassing how long this took.
I found this website the other day through one of my favorite blogs, epbot.com.  It 's a site that lets you create your own steampunk characters.  It took me forever to create this one because I was trying to figure out how everything worked.  It would be a great activity for some night when you can't sleep.  Here's the link to the site.  Have fun!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Korean Beef with Marscapone Grits

This was an amazing dinner!  Back a few weeks ago Will and I hosted our school's food club at our house.  The theme was "small plates."  I made this Korean Beef for the party.  Will fell in love with it, so I wanted to make it again.  The great thing about this recipe is it is ready in about 15 minutes.  Plus- you can serve it with lettuce leaves or tortillas.  The recipe is available here.  I highly recommend you give it a try.  I was thinking you could do this with any ground meat, tofu, tempeh, grated veggies....almost anything!

I wanted a side dish to go with it, so I decided to make some stone ground grits.  I wanted to try out a recipe I found on Pinterest (which is where I get most of my new recipes to try).  The recipe is here.  This is very similar to the way Southerners make their grits.  My mom always used milk, so this method using heavy cream wasn't that strange to me.  I also love that it uses stone ground grits instead of quick cooking grits.  When you cook really good grits for a long time, they get so soft and flavorful.  I think quick grits always have a dry, gritty texture.  If more Yankees tried these grits, they wouldn't be just a Southern specialty.

I went with the original version and used marscapone- the person on the blog substituted cream cheese, which I'm sure was good, but I used the real thing because I had it on hand.  The only change I made was to throw in a handful of grated parmesan for a bit more salty, nutty flavor.

These two very different things went great together!  I will do this again soon.

Saturday Breakfast!

This was the start to my weekend.  I made hashbrowns with onions and mushrooms; toasted a bagel and fried 2 eggs.

So good.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cold v.2

So I think I've come down with another cold.  I just had one about 3 weeks ago.  Sigh.

Today's eating journal:

Breakfast:  cheese quesadilla (stuffed with yesterday's fromage forte) with enchilada sauce, topped with a fried egg- earl grey tea.

Lunch:  Ramen noodles with home made seasonings (chicken base, soy, ginger, etc).

Dinner:  Jalapeno popper quiche and a strawberry/kale salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

Snack:  small snickerdoodle brownie

I'm not quite ready to share recipes for the cheese quesadilla with eggs or the jalapeno popper quiche.  I wasn't happy with the first versions.  After a little tweaking, I'll tell you all about them!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break- a great time for Fromage Fort!

Yay!  I know I started a blog eating diary, then promptly didn't post again for a week.  Believe it or not, there is a logical explanation for this.  I've been out of town, without access to the interwebz!  I figured I would hate it, but it turned into quite a restful experience.

Anyhoo- I will pick up where I left off.  The good news is, even though I haven't been blogging what I eat, I haven't had any fast food!

Today I had home made waffles, sausage and Earl Grey tea for breakfast, then a cheese quesadilla for lunch (filled with gruyere cheese).

When we got home earlier today, I realized I had a cheese drawer full of odds and ends of cheeses, all of which were very close to inedible.  Whilst trying to figure out what to do about them all, I remembered an old episode of Alton Brown's show "Good Eats."  In this particular episode, Alton uses up a bunch of cheeses by making Fromage Fort.  I figured I'd give it a try and see how I did.  He says you can use any cheeses.  I had these laying around:  gruyere, provolone, parmesan, Raspberry Bellavitano and Drunken Goat.  I used a Riesling because I didn't have any dry white wine around.

The spread turned out very well.  I predict we will be snacking on it happily for the rest of the week.  I'll take a pic of some later, when I feel like getting up off the couch!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Disgust

That's the only word I can think of to describe how I feel.

When I was younger, it seemed I had endless amounts of will power. I walked 3 miles a day after school and managed to understand and stick to reasonable portion sizes. Those days are gone.

In spite of my knowledge of cooking- and my militarism about food sourcing- I still manage to eat crap on a daily basis and talk myself out of most forms of exercise.

Maybe if I share what I eat daily on my blog, I will be shamed into making better choices. Lunch is my weakest time of day. I am usually hungry and aggravated. This is a perfect storm for an emotional eater like me.

Here's my first eating diary entry!

Breakfast- a juice glass of chocolate milk and a snicker doodle brownie ( in my defense it as made with unbleached organic flour!)

Lunch- beef taco salad from Taco Bell

Dinner- Tom Kha chicken soup and Tofu Pad Thai from Chang in Glenwood Springs. I shared green tea ice cream with Dev for dessert.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dinner Last Night- BBQ Chicken Quesadilla

This dinner was a triumph over one of my biggest weaknesses when Dev is out of town- junk food.  I really wanted to order pizza and be done with it.  But a small voice inside me said "Don't do it."  I decided to make due with what I had.  And to be honest- it turned out to be one of the best quesadillas I've ever had.

I heated my small non-stick skillet over medium heat and added one large sliced shallot.  I let it caramelize for about 5 minutes, then chopped up the meat from on  roasted chicken leg quarter and added it to the carmelizing shallot.  I let those go for 5 more minutes, then dumped in about 1/8 a cup of bbq sauce (use whatever you have- I had Sweet Baby Ray's Spicy) and the juice of half a lemon.  I turned the heat on low and walked away.  Actually- "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" was coming on and I like that show.  I let it sit and slowly bubble for probably 45 minutes.  Do you have to do that?  No.  Am I glad I did it?  Yes.  The bbq sauce got reduced and glazed the pieces of chicken.  There were little bits of crunchy, charred sauce on the edges.  Yum.

I took one 6" flour tortilla and put it in my cast iron skillet with already heated olive oil.  I put the quesadilla on the bottom of the skillet and sprinkled on a fair amount of grated mozzarella cheese.  I put the chicken mixture on that, and finished with more grated cheese.  I cooked it over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then flipped it and let it go until the cheese on the other side was melted.

I plated it up with half a sliced avocado.  The combination of the sweet, spicy, crunchy meat and tortilla with the creamy, cold avocado was life-changing.  Seriously- make this soon!

Another Great Breakfast

This was my breakfast this morning.  IMHO, this is bread and egg elevated to their highest and purest form.

I started with two small slices of Dev's home made, no-knead bread.  I melted about a tablespoon of salted butter in a non-stick skillet and toasted the bread on both sides to get it nice and dark and crispy.

I put the toast on my plate, then added about a teaspoon more salted butter into the pan and added one farm fresh egg.  I spooned the spitting butter over the white part for a few seconds, then put a pan lid over the skillet to firm up the white part of the egg.  I didn't let it go very long, because I wanted that beautiful yolk to break over the toast when I ate it.  When the egg whites were firm, I slid the egg from the skillet and put it on top of the toast.  A little grated parmigiano reggiano (I think I spelled that really wrong- but I meant REAL parmesan cheese- not that crap out of the green canister).  I peppered it at the table and dug in.
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