Friday, October 18, 2013

30 Things I Wish I'd Done Before I Turned 30: #26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20

#26 Become a certified yoga instructor
I love yoga.  It upsets me a little when I think about how rich my practice used to be in comparison to what it is now.  I love to teach.  One day the planets of time and money shall align.

#25 Found a Good Crafty Hobby and Stuck with It
Someday I'd like to be able to knit more than a lopsided scarf.  Or really hone my origami skills.  The problem?  I'm a flighty craft-er.  

#24 Written a Book
Because seriously, I have wanted to write a book.  This book would be somehow loosely based on my time spent working in the Homicide department.  Shit, just throw some gritty sex in there and I could probably have a best-selling trashy eBook romance novel going for myself.

#23 Been to Asia
It could be the fact that I read a book about India almost once a month.  Sometimes I even read a book about India while eating Indian food.  I KNOW.  I well understand that my experience with Indian food IN India might be entirely different, but I still want to go there.  And to many other places in Asia, in fact.

#22 Visited All 50 States
This has been a personal goal for a long time.  I have yet to experience Maine, Washington, Arizona, and Hawaii.

#21 Learned to Scuba Dive
The ocean terrifies and fascinates me.  Part of what terrifies me is that I cannot breathe underwater, thus an oxygen tank.

#20 This:

30 Things I Wish I'd Done Before I Turned 30: #29, #28, #27

Two days left in my 20s and I realized I need to add quite a few more items to this list! 

#29 Studied/Lived Abroad
Yes, I can speak another language besides English relatively fluently, but if it hadn't been for learning it since I was six years old I'd be in bad shape because...I never studied or lived abroad when I was in college.  It is a mark of shame that I wear and reluctantly bring up when it inevitably is asked of me.  I say no.  People are surprised.  I'm surprised.  Really, I have no good excuse other than being young and dumb.  I was in a long-term relationship, that didn't work out by the way, and the thought of leaving my beloved was just too much to bear.  Looking back on all of that I'm pretty disgusted with my former self, but hey, you live and you learn.  Or you learn how you should have lived.

#28 Hiked a 14,000 ft Mountain
I look at one EVERY DAY.  What a slacker that I haven't even attempted to climb my lazy ass to the top. 
Excuses, excuses.
#27 Seen a Whale
This may seem small to you, but ever since Kindergarten when our teacher Mrs. Foster taught us about whales I have wanted to see one.  In the wild, not the zoo.  I want to know they are still there.  Any whale will do.   

Monday, October 7, 2013

30 Things I Wish I'd Done Before I Turned 30: #30

I'm turning 30 in about 13 days, and although I don't view the weeks to come as some proverbial tunnel into the despair of 'old age,' I have been giving some thought to three decades alive and where I would want to be versus where I thought I would be on the other side of it.

It's easy to get bogged down at the Guilt Fest, where the headliners are all the things you wish you'd had time to do.  All of the adventures you were supposed to have.  It's easy to forget all of the truly great things that have happened by choosing to focus on the things that haven't.

At 30, some people think their youth is over, but I'd venture to say it is just beginning.  We are more independent, our brains have finished fully developing, we've survived the soul-crushings and all-nighters of our 20s, and maybe now we're ready for something more.  Maybe we're even 'successful' by now. Whatever that means.  Regardless of your definition, I think we can all identify to with the desire to enjoy life to the fullest.  How we fill it is perhaps where all the fun is...

#30. Attend Burning Man
Yes.  I want to go.  I hate outdoor music festivals and the smell of cheap Patchouli, but something about this decades-old desert arts frolic has me intrigued.  I love dressing up in fun costumes, looking at large art installations, meeting new people, and of course, dancing.  So, next August, you might find me on the Playa...    

Thursday, September 6, 2012


  Do you love pizza as much as I do?  We probably eat it as least once a week for dinner, not to mention the countless leftovers, and that's because it's easy to make and even easier to customize however you like.  There are so many great combinations, and using what you have on hand can make for some pretty amazing creations, though my advice is to keep it simple.  Sauce, cheese, and one or two toppings generally make the best pizza, in my oh so humble opinion.  
  While there are some great dough recipes out there, I've fallen hard for the convenience and quickness that accompanies Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast.  No waiting for dough to rise, minimal kneading, and no snap-back when you try to spread the dough in the pan.  And all you add is flour, salt, water, and olive oil.  Seriously simple.

   So you've made the dough.  Now what about goes on top?  I like sauce on my pizza, and the more of it the better.  You can make your own quick batch OR you can always buy a jar of pre-made pizza sauce in the pasta sauce aisle at the grocery store.  Or you can even forgo the sauce if you're in the mood for white pizza.
  It may sound boring to you, but my favorite pizza is the Pizza Margherita: Good quality tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, a grating of fresh Parmesan, and a sprinkle of fresh basil.  If you're like my sweetheart, you prefer at least SOME meat on your pizza.  (He's a bacon and black olives kind of guy.)
Bacon + black olives + mozzarella + basil
 Or if you're feeling really fancy, you make crispy Prosciutto bacon and take your preconceived notions of pork to an entirely new level.  Combined with creamy, part-skim ricotta, you've got Pizza of the Gods.
Prosciutto bacon + part-skim ricotta + Pecorino + basil
Bacon (I'm noticing a trend here) + fresh mozzarella + basil + Pecorino
Prosciuotto bacon + Pecorino + part-skim ricotta + heirloom tomatoes
Here's how to do it yourself...

Prosciutto Bacon
 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Tear thinly sliced prosciutto into small pieces and place on a baking sheet.  Brush each piece lightly with olive oil.  Place prosciutto in oven and watching closely bake until deep golden brown and crisp.  This takes about 7 minutes.  Rotate halfway through. 
  Let cool.  Now you have fancy bacon to put on pizza, salads, anything!

 Follow directions on the yeast packet.  Add any toppings you desire.  Bake.  Be happy!
 Here are some interesting combinations worth trying:

Prosciutto + White beans + Red onion + Rosemary
Broccoli + Pesto + Red pepper + Mozzarella
Blue/Purple Potatoes + Asparagus + Goat cheese + Parmesan 

 All this writing about pizza is making me want to throw a pizza party!  How fun to have guests make individual pizza pies.  Have them bring the toppings, you supply sauces and dough.  Sounds like an event in the making...  Let me know if you want an invite ;-)


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cooking Ahead

Steak Salad with Corn and Poblanos Two Ways
  This steak salad is a perfect example of what you can do with leftovers.  Eat some of this for dinner, then turn the rest into satisfying and simple salads for lunch over the next couple of days. 
  Here's how:

Simple Steak Salad with Corn and Poblanos Two Ways
Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe

  • 1 1/4 pound Tri-tip steak, skirt steak, chicken, tuna, tofu etc.
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Salad greens
Using a grill pan or grill, grill shucked corn and poblanos over high heat.  Grill until charred, but peppers still firm, 3-5 minutes or more.  Cut corn from cob.  Place corn from one cob in blender, reserve the corn from the other cob in a bowl.  Seed and chop the poblanos, placing one chopped poblano in blender and the other in the bowl with the corn.  Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of water to blender.  Blend to form a chunky sauce.  Mix together reserved grilled corn and poblano.  Set aside.
Grill meat.  Slice against the grain, and cut into smaller pieces.  Serve with corn and poblano mixtures.
Refrigerate remaining meat and sauces.

Serve leftover meat and corn-poblano mixtures over salad greens. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Desperately Seeking Spice

Cardamom Iced Tea
  Quite often in life memories are linked to specific smells, tastes, or sounds.  For me, if something is worth remembering it probably has a connection to what I was eating at the time.  From the sweetly steaming bamboo baskets of Vietnamese delights during a last dinner in Paris to making tea sandwich cookies with my grandmother, my memories are steeped in food.
  One of my fondest recollections (and cravings!) is the Friday special from a small Middle Eastern restaurant located in Indianapolis's City Market.  The Market has tons of food booths and other businesses that mostly cater to the downtown lunch crowd.  Pretty much anything you're hungry for is available: pizza, sushi, Philly cheese steaks, get the idea.
   No matter what I ate the rest of the week, on Friday I knew I was getting the 'Special' from Ameer's.  The 'Special' consisted of rice and lentils with sauteed onions, a small salad with a tangy, yogurt dressing, and tea.  Not just any tea, but their special cardamom iced tea.  In the bedwetter Styrofoam size, please.  And then there was the just-spicy-enough cilantro sauce that I squirted all over pretty much everything...
  There is no Ameer in Colorado.  Yet my craving for the Friday Special remains.  That's where Food52 comes in.  Haven't heard of this genius?  Well, let me enlighten you: Food52 is the creation of accomplished foodies, Amanda and Merrill, who have created an online food community offering recipes, cooking supplies, cookbook is almost a Pandora's box for the epicurean devotee.  It is also where I serendipitously (I use this word whenever possible) discovered the recipe for my beloved Ameer's 'Special!'
Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt
  Jasmine rice, Puy (French) lentils, and loads of caramelized onions turn simple ingredients into complex flavors.  Top it off with spiced yogurt sauce and you have a meatless meal to die for.  Watch those onions; I burned mine on the first try, forcing me to make the entire recipe over again.  What a shame.  Click on the caption below the picture to be directed to the recipe.

  Nothing is better on a hot day than this tea!  Cardamom is a seed commonly used to flavor food and drinks throughout Asia and the Middle East.  In South Asia it is also used to treat infections of the gums and mouth, prevent throat trouble, and treat digestive disorders.  Plus, the aromatic flavor is enchanting.  Tastes great with mujaddara, too.

Cardamom Iced Tea
  • Black tea- enough for a pitcher.  Tazo makes black tea bags specifically for making a pitcher of iced tea, which is what I used.
  • 6-10 Green cardamom pods, crack open with the handle of a knife or heavy object to release flavor
  • Ice
  • Water
 Boil water for tea.  Place cardamom pods in pitcher along with tea bag(s).  Pour hot water over tea and cardamom mixture, let steep for time specified.  Add ice, chill.  Strain cardamom pods out, or leave in for added flavor.

Sweet Shaka in his kerchief
  The next recipe I'd like to share also came from Food52, but since we ate it all before I had a chance to take a picture here's our Ridgeback, Shaka Zulu, instead!  He's cute enough to suffice, right?

  Before I get down to the nitty-gritty, let's learn some new terms:
Merguez- Red, spicy North African lamb sausage spiced with chili pepper and/or harissa (for definition, see below).  You can make your own or Whole Foods will make it for you.  (I had previously thought lambs were too cute to eat, but I may have changed my mind!)
Ras el hanout- Popular Moroccan blend of spices used throughout North Africa; Think cardamom, clove, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, etc. (I found some at Whole Foods.  Organic, to boot!)   
Harissa- Tunisian hot chili sauce made with piri piri, serrano, other hot chilis, and spices.  Varies from region to region. 

  Okay, now you get to use ALL THREE to make Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs.  Imagine: A sweet, savory, heartwarming stew with the creaminess of poached eggs adding depth and earthy flavor.  Also imagine sopping up every last bit with slices of crusty bread, and you're close to picturing the satiation that is coming your way.
  *Suggestion* I made merguez meatballs, because Whole Foods will only sell the cased sausage merguez in 3 lbs. increments or more.  I actually think I liked meatballs in this dish more than I would have liked slices of sausage, but I'd like to try both.  If you can't find merguez at all, try substituting Spanish chorizo or even Soyrizo if you'd rather not have any meat.    

  You think your palette has tasted it all, only to discover that there are endless flavor combinations, preparations, and applications.  Maybe the flavors I've described in this post are familiar to you, or maybe you are wondering if you will even like them.  Either way, I invite you to step outside of your food comfort zone and try a new food, ingredient, or recipe.  Not only will you be broadening your horizons, you'll be making memories and possibly, future cravings!

Abandoned roses in Ladd's Addition, Portland, Oregon


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

6 Things I've Learned Along the Way

  Growing up ain't easy.  There are so many things you learn in such a short span of time that sometimes it's hard to grasp it all.  Some life lessons are obvious ones, and your parents or some other adult in your life can at least warn you of them if not fully prepare you for them.  This list of things I've learned along the way is by no means comprehensive or authoritative.  I'm quite sure that it's also far from complete.  It's simply a collection of lessons I felt like sharing.   Make time to notice your place in the world, and how it may or may not have changed since the last time you stopped to take note.     
Enjoy the ride.

    1.  Pick your battles.
Life is too short to spend all of your waking hours arguing with people whose minds you will never change.  Even a brief introduction into the real world as a young person will have you reeling at what you, at that time, perceive to be the absolute ignorance of your elders.  If you're opinionated AND outspoken, it can get even harder to resist the temptation to bite at all of the bait that will drift your way.  My advice?  Only pick the juiciest, plumpest bait that has the greatest potential to enable positive change to occur.  Resist the urge to engage in the same, tired debates about issues that will likely remain controversial for many years to come.  That doesn't mean you have to give up entirely though.  Chances are, there are a lot of other people who think like you, and chances are even greater that they organize to do something within their community.  Get involved!

     2.  You can be humble and self-confident at the same time.

There is a special place in Hell reserved for the people who started making other people feel dumb for being smart.  I know that you know what I mean if you've ever been surrounded by others that are threatened by your intelligence.  Since when did stupid become the new smart?  I don't buy it.  This economic pit of despair that our country is currently languishing in has clearly shown us that education is one of the most clearly defining factors that separates those with the jobs and those without.  So be proud of your smarts, and remember that education is a lifelong process.
That being said, many of those same 'educated' are equally languishing in their cesspools of student debt, which leads me to the next portion of this lesson: Be humble. You may not immediately start working in the field of your dreams, and you may have to do some less than desirable jobs along the way to getting there, but never, never quit.  Self-confidence and humbleness don't make quitting an option.

  3.  There are certain things in life on which you do not skimp:
  •   Haircuts- There is a reason people go to school to learn how to cut and style hair.  Choose a professional!  You might spend a little more on the cut/color, etc. but people notice your hair, and as one of my favorite sitcom characters Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock says, "After all, your hair is your head suit."  I don't mean this in a superficial way, and of course I know that hair will grow, but it's hard to feel self-confident when you're worried about your hair.
  • Toilet Paper- There's a reason that those singular, paper-wrapped rolls are so cheap...because they will rub your ass raw!  Seriously, when it comes to hygiene, splurge a little.  
  • Pet Food- Crappy pet food can KILL your precious animals and even make you ill as well.  Choose pet food that is made without grain, corn, or soy. 
  • Your Food- You really are what you eat, so eat a vegetable or two.  When it comes to olive oil, buy organic extra virgin olive oil.  I know it costs more, but so what.  Simple, fresh ingredients make the best food, as I've said time and again.  Quality over quantity generally always applies when it comes to something that is supposed to nourish and sustain you.  Plus, you'll probably save money if you buy more produce because it usually doesn't require any packaging.  Did you think companies wouldn't pass that cost along to you, the consumer?  Think again.
  4.  Edumahcate yourself, aka, Read a Book!

  Learning doesn't stop the minute you graduate from high school.  If you didn't even make it there, then I don't need to tell you how hard life is, you already know.  College is not for everyone, but education IS.  Be informed, stay informed, get empowered.  If you plan to reproduce, just know that 50% of your genes are going to be passed along to your offspring.  You should also know that children born into homes with less-educated and/or parents living below the poverty line have lower vocabulary levels, tend to struggle more in school, and have less access to health services.

  5.  Find a purpose, benefiting yourself and hopefully others, and do it.

  This one isn't exactly easy, but it is essential to a life well-lived, in my opinion.  Maybe it takes you awhile you figure out where you fit into this and how you can make a difference in your own life and the lives of others, but chances are you know what you're passionate about.  Sometimes it takes doing something you loathe to find what you are born to be doing.  Maybe, hypothetically, you once worked for the Homicide Department in a large, metropolitan area and day after day were confronted with violence, suffering, and rage.  Then maybe one day you had an epiphany and realized that you'd much rather be a librarian.  You figured out what it would take, and you did it.  While this does not define your happiness, it does shape your future.

  6.  "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."  -Randy Pausch 

  Without being too cliche, sometimes what you want isn't always what you need.  One thing I am sure of is that all we are is a result of how we react to what comes our way in life.  You can run the gamut of emotions- you can be upset, you can be bitter, or you can take things in stride and grow from the defeats as well as the triumphs.  Even the beautiful lotus blossoms up from the mucky depths.
   What have you learned along the way?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Best Egg Salad EVER!

  Do you love egg salad as much as I do?  Well, I have the recipe for you.  Hands-down THE best egg salad I've ever eaten or made.  The part I enjoy the most is that I'm not eating a load of mayonnaise because, wait for it,
no mayonnaise was used in the making of this egg salad.

  What's that you say?  No mayonnaise?  Yes, you read correctly.  Substitute low-fat ricotta and 2% Greek yogurt for a creamier, healthier, even better salad.  After all, you're really just eating it for all that choline, protein, and Vitamin B12.  Right?  
 Perfect Egg Salad (Adapted from the Power Foods cookbook, from the geniuses at Whole Living.)
  • 8 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 3 Tablespoons of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons of 2% fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard or other mustard 
  • 1 Tablespoon of snipped chives
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper 
  • Ideas for Additions: Chopped dill pickles; fresh dill in place of chives; diced celery; diced red onion...Have fun!  
First hard-boil the eggs.  Fresher eggs are more difficult to shell, so I don't recommend using farm fresh eggs for egg salad.  Grocery store eggs work fine.  Place eggs in a large pot and cover with water by about an inch.  Place over heat and bring to a rolling boil.  Once water is at a full boil, remove eggs from heat, cover, and let stand for 12 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare ice bath and after 12 minutes have passed drain eggs and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.  Shell the eggs once cool enough to handle.  Place yolks in a bowl and crumble.  Reserve whites, finely chop, and then add to yolks.

In a small bowl, mix together ricotta, yogurt, mustard, and chives.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the mixture to the egg and gently fold to incorporate.

  And since I couldn't leave you without dessert...
Ripe plum crostata with fresh whipped cream
  Make the most of ripe plums- Colorado has some mighty tasty ones right about now.  I just happened to have some heavy whipping cream languishing in the fridge, so I decided to whip some up, sweeten it with vanilla and a bit of sugar, and put a dollop on top of the crostata slices.
**Make sure when making fresh whipped cream that you use a small to medium-sized bowl with a tall, narrow opening.  Put the empty bowl in the fridge while the crostata bakes.  Your cream will whip up much faster and fluffier in a cold bowl.**

  This recipe comes from a recent edition of Food & Wine that features Colorado chef, Kelly Liken, and the recipes she makes during 3-day horseback excursions from Vail to Aspen.  Sounds heavenly, I know.  When I have an extra $1200 lying around I'll be sure to let you know how it is!  However, you can make the crostata at home with some very simple (and cheap) ingredients.  View the full recipe here.  Try the tart with a different stone fruit if plums aren't available, and don't be afraid to substitute lemon zest for the orange zest called for in the original recipe.  Either way, the zip of the citrus can't be missed so don't skip it!

Cactus flower in bloom
 Currently Reading: In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
 Currently Listening to: Chimes of Freedom- The Songs of Bob Dylan

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about the Middle Eastern recipes.  I've just been doing lots of sampling...