Sunday, August 28, 2005

pink and green pilaf

This makes about 3 "side" servings, or 2 main course servings. You could increase the amount of green peas if you want more protein in the thing, too!

1. Plop a little olive oil in a medium saucepot and heat on medium heat. Add most of a green pepper, finely chopped, half a medium onion, finely chopped, freshly minced garlic if you have it (or use garlic powder like I did -- tragedy! I have been out of fresh garlic for almost a week now, and am slowly becoming culinarily depressed.) Saute this a few minutes just until the veg start to turn translucent.
2. Add half a cup of whole wheat couscous (uncooked) to the pot. Stir and cook a few minutes, until the couscous is lightly toasted.
3. Stir in half a cup of frozen green peas, and nearly a cup of liquid (I used tomato juice I had drained out of a can of diced tomatoes last week, plus enough water to equal about 7 ounces,) the juice of one lemon, and salt (if your liquid is not salted.)
4. Bring this all to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Remove the pilaf from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving. (I suggest garnishing the pilaf with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Yum.)

Now obviously, if you use some other sort of liquid like broth instead of the tomato juice, your pilaf will not be pink. So you'll have to come up with your own catchy name, I guess!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

poor timing for cooking projects

Aw, what was I thinking? I just spent half an hour washing a sinkfull of dishes, and what did I think when the kitchen was clean? "Hooray! Room to cook something!" That feeling, coupled with a lack of something interesting to take for lunch tomorrow, prompted a quick pasta salad throw-together of available ingredients. With very happy results. Here goes:

1. Cook some small shaped whole grain pasta in salted water until tender. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Shake it about for a bit to remove most of the excess water.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl (if you have one with a lid, even better -- no transport needed to a plastic container when you're through mixing up the salad!) make a simple vinaigrette: few good shakes of red wine vinegar, juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, fresh garlic if you have it (which I didn't -- crisis! -- I used garlic powder instead,) and extra virgin olive oil. Whisk well to combine.
3. Add the pasta with half a large cucumber, sliced and quartered, a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (well drained,) a can of quartered artichoke hearts (again, well drained,) about a cup of cooked white beans, and 3 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled roughly with your fingers. Use a spatula to toss it all together -- and a magic thing happens! The goat cheese just sort of falls apart (I don't quite know why,) and creates this delicious, creamy sauce. I tasted a small bite . . . heaven!

I love it when food magic happens. Off to do the dishes (again!)

P.S. I made pancakes and a fantabulous blueberry sauce to go over them last night! Sauce was VERY easy: plop 1 small bag of frozen blueberries into a saucepot. Add a couple good sized squirts of honey, a shake of cinnamon, and the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a high simmer. Spoon out some of the blueberry liquid (maybe a half cup?) into a small dish and cool slightly. Combine this liquid with about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, then stir the cornstarch mixture back into the pot. Bring the blueberries to a boil and cook until the sauce thickens up. Dump a big spoonful over pancakes (even better when you put a layer of peanut butter in-between them!) and dig in! (This might also make a nice dessert/ice cream sauce -- angel food cake, pound cake, shortcakes, it would even be great mixed in with some vanilla yogurt and granola!)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I heart tofu today

I just made the most amazing, delicious, and possibly irreplicable tofu dish for dinner that I am going to attempt to describe here. Be patient -- it's quite a culinary story.

First, I created a marinade: rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, a few smashed cloves of garlic, a thumb-sized piece of smashed up ginger, and some red pepper flakes. I then cubed up half a package of extra firm tofu, lightly squeezed it dry between paper towels, and set it to soak for about 20 minutes in the marinade.

Then, in my cold cast iron fry pan, I poured a good amount of peanut oil. I added a few additional cloves of garlic, minced, another thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced, about half a small onion, minced, and a big handfull of "snowflake coconut."

Next, I turned on the heat to about medium. (My stove gets quite hot quite quickly -- you may need to adjust the heat accordingly. You want the onion/garlic/ginger stuff to lightly brown, but not too quickly.) When the onions are just turning soft, add the tofu (just the cubes -- not the marinade.) I cooked the tofu, stirring once or twice, until it was nice and brown. Then I sprinkled over a generous amount of sesame seeds, and added about a half teaspoon of red curry paste. Stir this about until the sesame seeds toast nicely. Then I added two big spoonfulls of peanut butter and some leftover cooked whole wheat linguine. I stirred this around until the peanut butter was all melty and everything stuck together in a big mess. (!) I added what looked like a nice amount of salt. Then I poured in enough water to "deglaze" the pan and added a couple of big handfulls of spinach. (I would have prefered to use veg broth, but alas, I was out.) I cooked it all down until the spinach was wilted and it had a very thick, almost paste-like sauce. I am now devouring this peanut-coconut-spice covered tofu noodle concoction with a side of steamed broccoli. Mmm........!

Saturday, August 20, 2005


After the "healthy cookie" incident, I decided to try my hand again at updating/creating a healthy (or less bad for you) baked good. Adventures in brownieland began.

1/2 cup natural/raw sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
10 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Stir in:
1/2 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt (soy yogurt could be used if you'd prefer)
2 tablespoons low-fat milk (soy milk could also be used)
1 tbsp light oil (safflower, canola, whatever)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the ingredients well and pour into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Makes 16 brownies (or less, if you cut them larger.)

Now, the "healthy cookies" were too much of a good thing -- I tried to do too many healthy things with that recipe. I have since read up on healthier baking, discovered ground flaxseeds as an egg replacement and whole wheat pastry flour, and thus these brownies are . . . FABULOUS. Good and chocolatey, not too sweet but plenty sweet enough to feel like a dessert, with a slightly grainy or "nutty" texture from the flax. They would be excellent with a half cup of chocolate chips stirred into the batter before baking, as well. :) Or dried cherries. Or nuts. Or 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract instead of the vanilla. Or 1/2 cup white chocolate chips. Or 1/2 cup peanut butter chips. Better get ready to eat a lot of brownies!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

TWO quotes for today

And miraculously, they are both about food :)

"Food is not a chore; it's a gift." (Anna Thomas, from "The New Vegetarian Epicure")

"Life, she thought, was never so simple as when she started to cook." (from the novel "How to Cook a Tart" by Nina Killham)

In other slightly related news, I picked up four zebra tomatoes at the Wedge the other day, and chopped two of them up just now for a snack (with some toasted bread cubes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.) Frankly, they aren't that great. I may have jumped the gun a bit -- I'll wait a few more days before I attack the other two. (They are slightly crunchy and WAY acidic -- and my favorite part about zebra tomatoes is usually their sugar sweetness. Hmm . . . ??)

Oh -- and I tried pan-frying a serving's worth of tofu nuggets today . . . I'll just say I prefer them baked. So not a dish to try when it's a million degrees out . . .

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

soy I went to the co-op . . .

And bought a TON of yummy looking food, including a couple packets of tofu. So, I made one of the recipes from that cookbook I was talking about. (You can find more of her recipes on Here it is:

Makes: 4 to 6 kid-sized servings
These breaded nuggets become firm and chewy as they bake. Kids enjoy dipping them into their favorite sauce.
16-ounce tub firm or extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
Marinara or barbecue sauce (warmed), or ketchup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Blot well between clean tea-towels or several layers of paper towel, then cut into 3/4-inch dice. Combine the wheat germ, cornmeal, and seasoned salt in a mixing bowl. Add the tofu chunks and stir gently until evenly coated.
Arrange the tofu on a lightly oiled non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice during this time, or until golden and firm. Serve at once with sauce of your choice for dipping or topping.

(I also made sweet potato oven fries which, when dipped in ketchup, I cannot distinguish from white potato fries. Yum!) So, the nuggets are a little . . . odd. Crispy outside, and chewy inside -- almost like a cheese texture. They remind me more of mozzarella sticks than chicken nuggets. But, I like them and will make them again! (Tofu is definitely an acquired taste -- one which I plan to acquire!)

Well, there appears to be a thunderstorm brewing outside, so I'm going to log off here and shut down the computer.

just not that

So I just finished reading the book "He's Just Not That Into You." What a hilarious read! (I have been wanting to read this book for ages, and it far surpassed my high expectations!) It was funny, to the point, and incredibly truthful -- an all-around good combination, if you ask me! Although I'm not in a relationship or anything right now, (or really dating for that matter -- gah!) it was nice to have a bit of a wake-up call. Honestly, I don't think I've made many of the mistakes in the book, nor do I think I'd make them in the future, but who knows? I think the main thing I took away from the book is . . . (drumroll please . . . ) GUYS MEAN WHAT THEY SAY AND NOTHING MORE! Greg, one of the authors, keeps talking about how uncomplicated guys are -- they say what they mean, and that's it. Women (myself included) make the mistake at times of reading more into what guys say (well, reading more into what everyone says, for that matter,) than is actually there. HA!

Three other pearls of wisdom: if a guy likes you he'll let you know (novel idea, eh?), guys are lazy and will stick around in a sucky relationship rather than break it off, acting like a jerk to try to get you to break it off, AND, have faith! (Ann always amazes me in this area -- she has faith in spades, and plenty to share around if need be!)

So, the moral of the story is, I liked the book. Everyone should read it, even if you're not single, because it's just so darn funny!

Well, it's nearly eleven, and my plan for today is to take a shower and go grocery shopping. Then, who knows? Man, I love vacation!

Monday, August 08, 2005

I went to the dentist today . . .

. . . and I have a cavity. The first cavity of my life! My dentist was very sad to tell me this news, since up until now I have had what he called "perfect teeth." I have to go back on Thursday and have it filled. Bah!

Otherwise, today was a fine day. I went to the library and checked out eleven books, (4 cookbooks, 2 nonfiction books, and 5 novels) and have been parusing Nava Atlas's "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" for most of the rest of the afternoon. (I also made a tuna sandwich. Reading cookbooks always makes me hungry!) It's a really fabulous cookbook -- offers lots of ideas for every day vegetarian recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, gives pretty complete nutritional information for all of the recipes, offers ideas for adapting recipes to make them vegan, and also offers ideas for getting picky eaters (in her cookbook she talks mostly about kids, but I think many adults could be considered "picky," too, and would need a little help adapting to a more vegetarian lifestyle!) to eat veggies, tofu, and other healthy veg fare. (Chelsea, I keep thinking of Jon when I stumble upon the "picky eaters" sections of most of the recipes!) Anyhow, it's a fantastic book, whether you are vegetarian or not, and whether you have a family or not. I think most of us could use a few tips to help incorporate more healthy foods into our diets!

The big thing for me in this cookbook was learning how to work with tofu. I may have to buy a copy of this cookbook in the not so distant future!

Should I give you my recipe for tuna salad? It's pretty basic, but pretty good. Here goes:

(For 2 servings):
1 can water-pack tuna, drained (I give the "tuna juice" to the kit-cat and he gobbles it up)
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced very fine
1 to 2 tablespoons additional chopped veggies (I like celery and bell pepper, and carrot is also good)
1 tablespoon chopped slivered almonds
salt and pepper to taste
minced fresh herbs if you have them around (parsley and basil are both nice)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (if you have half a lemon hanging about)
1 rounded tablespoonfull low fat mayo (I hear soy mayo is actually quite good, and I may try it in the future!)

Mix it all up and stuff it into a pita, half a hollowed-out tomato, make a tuna melt, or enjoy it "old school" -- on bread with lettuce.

This is completely random, but I have read you are supposed to limit your intake of albacore tuna (the yummy, white tuna,) and if you are pregnant you aren't supposed to eat it at all. I guess since the kind of fish that that tuna comes from is so much larger than regular tunas, it has a much higher concentration of pollutants and gunk we're not supposed to ingest if we can help it. So, although it doesn't taste nearly as good, I buy regular old "light" tuna now. But I do miss the gorgeous albacore!

Happy Monday, folks!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

18 days left and I'm exhausted already!

So today I helped Ann move a bunch of stuff into her new apartment. It's friggin' hot on top of that, so I'm all worn out right now. In a few minutes, I might just plonk down on the couch with dinner and a movie (or a book!) for the rest of the evening.

ALSO, Ann and I went to Target and I picked up some new bedding (using some of the money from my property tax return that will be arriving very shortly!) Here's a link if you'd like to see what it looks like! (The colors are much more vibrant in person, and it all goes nicely with the green walls in my bedroom.) Ann helped me think ahead, too -- I got a full sized duvet cover and duvet, since I plan on purchasing a full sized bed sometime in the not so distant future, and two sets of full sized sheets that match, which I will just store until then. (I also got a set of matching twin-sized sheets, and the sheet sets were only ten bucks apiece! Awesome. And they are those cozy jersey sheets, too!) So I will just be drowning in my bed for a while until I save up for a new mattress set. (There's this really great one at IKEA I've been eyeing . . . it's a wooden base spring mattress with legs that screw into the bottom -- very minimalistic, and very cool looking! And also very CHEAP! Another added bonus.) The mattress will have to wait for quite some time, however!

So, that's about all of the excitement I've had for today. I'm ready to be done with all of this art fair nonsense -- parking is beyond worse than usual, and there are random folks wandering around aimlessly and dashing out in front of oncoming cars. GRR! Only a couple more hours.

Off to pull my new bedding out of the dryer and make my new and improved bed! Yay!

Oh -- and I forgot to mention the coolest thing about the duvet cover and shams -- they have SNAPS! No buttons or silly flap pockets to speak of. Very cool surprise when I opened the package.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I'm melting . . .

Too much sun today! The art fair was PACKED, (Tony and I discovered going early doesn't beat the crowds AT ALL, and the "scenery" is significantly less fabulous early in the morning,) and then I ran around and played soccer with the kids at Sumner's birthday party. Wee! At least there was ice cream, and it was really good to see the kids (and their parents), too!

Now I know I've brought this up before, but I'm SO thankful for my air conditioner right now!

I talked to my Dad today and he may be shipping me a (nearly full sized) keyboard and my mom's guitar. Crazy! (Well, basically because we decided it would be cheaper for him to ship them to me than for me to drive back to Milwaukee and pick them up!)

Anyhow, off to eat dinner and shower before going to the show tonight.

Isn't it awful when you have to do laundry in order to have sort of nice clothes to wear out? I'm just glad I figured out my laundry situation with enough time to do something about it, or I would be wearing a sundress to the Cabooze. HA!

18 and a half days left of vacation . . . !!!!!

nineteen days left!

So, last night I ended up watching a movie because I was so tired I couldn't think about what else I might want to do. "The Color Purple" was fantastic! I have been wanting to read the book for ages, but struggled with the fact that it was written in nonstandard English. (I have started it probably half a dozen times and put it down within the first few pages.) Well, now that I've seen the movie and thought it was great, I'll have to try again with the book.

Today, I have lots of things to do! Tony and I are going art-fairing this morning, and then I have a former student's birthday party to attend! (It's a family party so it will be more low-key than a kid birthday party, and his mom was pretty specific about no presents. I like that!) Then this evening, Ann and I are going to see Tim Mahoney and Epic Hero at the Cabooze. Hooray!

I'm still sort of in denial about how much time off I have here. I still feel like I have to go back to work in a couple of days! (Well, technically I do have to go into work on Monday because I forgot my lunch and also a class list, since I need to start calling families for initial conferences.) But, I have to head down that direction anyway on Monday, so it's not really a big deal.

Friday, August 05, 2005

vacation at last!

Indeed, it is time for vacation. Nineteen days of vacation, to be exact! I'm so excited, but so tired, that I don't know what to do with myself! Hooray for time off!

I will probably be posting furiously over the next nineteen days, because I'll probably be cooking like crazy and also (after a few days) bored out of my mind so I'll need something to do.

For those of you NOT approaching nineteen days of vacation, enjoy your weekends. I'll try not to gloat too much!

(Just in case I didn't mention it enough earlier, I have nineteen days off. Nineteen days in a row!)


Wednesday, August 03, 2005


You know, I've received two emails this week (one from Lauren, one from my mom,) saying they tried to post comments to my blog but were unsuccessful. I find this strange. If any of you have a free moment and could try to comment, that would be great! (Let me know if you can't comment via email and I'll have to contact blogger.) Thanks for your help!

P.S. I mailed out my very last year end report today (thanks to helpful folks at work for editing them for me!) and we only have one more day of summer camp. Two more work days and then . . . VACATION!!! WAHOOO!