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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Making it official

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So, the wedding is only about two and a half months away. After months and months of putting things off or figuring that we (read: I) would “get around to them,” we’re now having to put together all those last pieces. It feels real now, and it feels good. Also a little crazy. Who gets married? What are we– grownups?

The invites have been sent (and we got our first RSVP last Friday! Hurray!), the florist has been booked (he is five feet, two inches of pure delight– and got me more excited about flowers than I thought I would ever be), the dress is here (and pending alterations, which apparently don’t happen until about six weeks out), and our tasting is on Wednesday (more of a formality, fine, but yay for food!). This is going to happen, really happen. I have known this, of course, for over a year now, but getting all of these to-do’s accomplished makes me feel like we are making visible progress toward it, not just checking off days.

We’ve been meeting with and talking to officiants, which has made me a little regretful that I haven’t attended church (or been particularly religious) for about fifteen years– the choice would be so easy then! The idea of having a friend or family member officiate (something that we can do through the online ULC certification or through a county deputy commissioner thing) was quickly rejected because everyone has enough to do that day. But we are using all the power of the internets to try and find that Perfect Person to lead us through our vows. The first one we talked to was very thorough, having us fill out a questionnaire about why we thought our marriage would last, what we have learned from each other, and how we think of marriage. Our phone call lasted about an hour, and she seemed so interested in what we had to say, very committed to making our ceremony feel different. The second call, with another officiant, was yesterday morning. It was much shorter, she sounded (and is, I believe) younger, has definitely been doing this for a much shorter time than officiant #1. Then, yesterday afternoon, we met with yet another officiant, the first (and only) man we had on the short-list, and liked talking to him, too! The icing on that interaction was that he sent a follow-up email to GP saying that he “I know[s] [our] life together will be filled with lots of happiness. [We] are one of the few couples [he has] met who really KNOW themselves. That is such a refreshing quality.” I will admit it, I teared up at my desk. I know that, whoever we choose, we will have a great ceremony (that I will cry just about all the way through, no matter what)…I just wish the choice were easier! We have another meeting (our last) tonight, with officiant candidate #4. I’m sort of hoping that she’ll be awful, to make the choice simpler, but I am afraid she will be lovely. Yeah, I know, this is not a real problem.

All you married or about-to-be ladies and gentleman– how did you pick your officiant?


Whip It Up! Healthy Options

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Ah, our good friend, the Healthy Dinner. In the name of impending wedding as well as better health in general, most dinners in our house have been of this type in the last ten months or so, so there is a big fat stack of “recipes to try” that fit neatly into the healthy category. Having been tempted by on-sale eggplant at the market, and knowing that GP would never permit the long and hot oven journey to an eggplant parmesan (a recipe that is, now that I think about it, not new to me– hence, not WIU-eligible– but is a favorite nonetheless. I’ll share later.), I knew what I had to do: ratatouille!

Not just because we are rabid Pixar fans (seriously, friends, we have all the movies and the shorts, and an unhealthy obsession with John Lasseter), but because we are enthusiastic eggplant fans, I knew this would be a hit. I chose a non-traditional recipe that contained chicken because GP is so rarely enthusiastic about meatless meals (in a very “Where’s the beef?” sort of way). Without further ado, I give you…

Chicken Ratatouille
(adapted from a recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium chicken breast halves, skinned, and fat removed, boned, and cut into 1″ pieces
2 zucchini (about 7″ long), thinly sliced
2 medium eggplants, cut into 1″ cubes
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, but into 1″ pieces
4 medium tomatoes, cut up
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoons dried crushed basil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large Dutch or French oven. Season chicken with salt and pepper, add to pan and saute about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

2. Add zucchini, eggplant, onion, and green pepper. Cook, covered, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add tomatoes, garlic, basil, and pepper; stir and continue cooking about 5 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

Et voila, you have ratatouille for days! Seriously, this recipe makes a ton.

Was the recipe easy to follow? Yes! It is as simple as “cut stuff up, put it in a pot until you think it’s done, and eat it.” While that would read ridiculously in a cookbook, that is basically how this one goes. I saved myself some time (I think) by prepping everything ahead of time, cooking-show style, all cut up and in little bowls. Take that, Giada!

Was it good? It was a hit! We are still eating it a few days later, and it has only gotten better– definitely one of those dishes that improves as all the ingredients hang out together.

Would you make it again? Sure would! I can see myself adding and subtracting ingredients based on what’s on hand and what’s in season. I think I could even manage to sneak a meat-free version under GP’s nose…those eggplants were beefy!

Whip It Up! Regional Favorites

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Being a native and likely lifelong Californian (though of course I am not ruling anything out…), I knew immediately that my “regional favorite” had to be something that contained avocado. This week, I decided to concoct what is essentially a no-cook recipe– a delicious chilled soup, perfect for the entire summer, of avocado and cucumber. Also included in the process? An opportunity to use my immersion blender, one of my favorite (so far) registry gifts.

Cucumber Avocado Soup
via Gourmet Magazine, July 2007

1 lb of cold, seedless cucumbers
1 large firm-ripe avocado
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves [I used dried, and just let them hang out with the buttermilk for awhile before blending everything together– but I bet the fresh mint would be even better]
½ cup chilled buttermilk [which, at my local market, is only available by the quart. Bonus: buttermilk waffles on Sunday morning!]
coarse kosher salt

Cut cucumber into 3 equal pieces, then coarsely chop 2 pieces. Quarter avocado lengthwise, then pit, peel, and coarsely chop one half.

Blend together chopped cucumber, chopped avocado, scallions, minutest, buttermilk, water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Chill soup, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Cut remaining cucumber and avocado into 1/4-inch pieces and stir into soup. Season with salt. Thin with additional water if desired.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Sure was!

Did the dish taste good?
Yes. Not not mention the fact that it was hot as blazes outside, so a chilled soup was just the thing.

Would you make it again?
Absolutely. The leftovers didn’t stand a chance, so I foresee this soup becoming a regular in the rotation.

Pint night!

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I’m officially hopping on the Green Monster train, albeit minus very many supplements, for now (though I do have my dad out on a flax-procuring errand). This one is a banana (frozen, because I never manage to eat the whole bunch when they’re fresh), half a small can of crushed pineapple (an artifact from when we used to have roommates), about a cup of unsweetened Almond Breeze, and a couple handfuls of spinach (it was a shockingly-low $1.99 at the Lucky near my parents’ house). It is delicious! I love that I am able to get a whole mess of fruit/veggie goodness and freak GP out simultaneously, and the fact that it is a tasty and cold treat is just the icing on the cake (oh, cake…I miss you, cake!).

What strange-looking but delicious foods are you a fan of? Any suggestions for my next GM iteration?

Whip It Up! "Guilty" Pleasures

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So, friends, here is the thing: I am getting married in exactly three months. It is exciting and sort of terrifying, but the reason that I am mentioning this is because, well…even though my dress fits now, I am basically in full-on freakout mode as far as diet and exercise are concerned. As such, there is very little room for actual guilty pleasures (chocolate, cheese, wine…how I miss them!)– I just have to be satisfied with healthful versions of things I usually gorge myself upon, at least for the time being. This led to a Facebook-status APB about healthified guilty-pleasure foods, and a friend-recommended recipe for “healthy” potato skins (disclaimer: I probably could have made this even healthier, but a girl needs some parmesan and real bacon every now and then, right?). The recipe is from some show on Lifetime called “Cook Yourself Thin“– I’ve never seen it and probably never will, but do appreciate their selection of online recipes!

Healthy Potato Skins
Makes 2 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bag baby spinach
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 slices turkey bacon [I used real bacon…but it was center-cut, so there was slightly less fat]
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk [subbed with a nonfat milk/white vingear concoction— a handy kitchen stand-in when you don’t want to buy some ingredient that is totally single-use]
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil [skipped. Probably not necessary, but lube up if you like.]
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and onto an oven rack. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until fork-tender.

3. Meanwhile, in a deep saute pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the entire bag of spinach and scallions, cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until the spinach has wilted.

[I have to share these pictures because I feel like wilting spinach is just. So. Magical.]


4. In another saute pan cook the turkey bacon until crisp and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. When cooled, chop the bacon into small pieces and reserve.

5. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, let them cool for 5 minutes. Carefully slice each one in half and scoop out inside of potato into a bowl. Add cream cheese, buttermilk, salt and pepper, and mash together until smooth.

6. Using a pastry brush, coat the outside of each potato skin with the vegetable oil. Fill each of the shells with the filling and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Transfer each skin back to the baking sheet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the skins are crispy. Top with bits of turkey bacon and serve.

[Guess which ones are mine, and which ones are GP’s. Now imagine my face when he asked me what “else” was for dinner. A big plate of shut up, that’s what else!]

Now, the all-important WIU questions:
Was the recipe easy to follow?
Yep! The fact that the potatoes are baking while other prep is going on makes me feel like a kitchen maestro.

Did the dish taste good?
Even GP was satisfied– and this man likes his meat! Meat-scantiness aside, I was really pleased, and didn’t really find the bacon to be that necessary for the overall quality of the dish. It was really filling, and wonderful in the way that sweet potatoes always are (and believe you me, this new “being healthy” thing means that I eat a ton of sweet potatoes).

Would you make it again?
Sure would! I feel like this is a recipe that lends itself to endless variation– in fact, I felt a little silly using a recipe in the first place, as I feel like dressing up a potato is best done free-form. But this case proved me wrong, as it was a great jumping-off point to what I imagine will be numerous versions of this dish.

Whip It Up! Holiday Food

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When I initially started thinking “holiday food,” there were definitely thoughts of turkey-cranberry-stuffing sandwiches dancing in my head (yeah, I get the holiday itch every midsummer), but soon after realized that, hello! There is this whole holiday right here in front of me! I love the Fourth of July– the fireworks, the barbecues, the endless Sousa marches playing eeeeverywhere… We grilled with friends today, and here is what I made, via (oh– and our awesome meal was deliciously completed by a certain raspberry tart. So. Good.):

Black Bean Veggie Burger


    1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
    1/2 onion, cut into wedges
    3 cloves garlic, peeled
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1 tablespoon cumin
    1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
    1/2 cup bread crumbs


If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.

In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.

In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.

Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.

If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Notes: I used yellow bell peppers, because that’s what I had on hand– and I used the remainng half to top the burgers. Also, I ended up with seven patties, which seems a little crazy, given the stated yield in the recipe…but I am ok with the leftovers! Oh, and remember to spray whatever surface you’re cooking on, because there was definitely a good deal of “Aw, crap, it’s going to be destroyed!” going on.

Now, for the WIU questions…

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Certainly. I mean, you mush and mix and form things. There is a good deal of stickiness, but the instructions are clear and it is easy to prep.

Did the dish taste good?
Oh, yes! I am attempting to do this thing where I have only one “meat meal” per day, in an attempt to push myself into healthier food– different proteins and whatnot, more colorful veggies, so I thought that this would fit the bill. I was pleasantly surprised that the “burgers” had a good amount of spice and, while they certainly didn’t try to taste like meat, I think that makes me respect them more. Yeah, I respect the black-bean burgers. Shut up.

Would you make it again?
Sure would! We grill so rarely that I think it would probably be easy to bake or make these on the stovetop, so I imagine that future outings will only be more successful. (I ended up freezing four of the seven patties, so there are certainly more of these in my future– GP is not buying into the “less meat” diet idea.)